Imatges de pàgina

The authority of this book is certainly not such as alone to establish a doctrine, but it is assuredly great enough to afford no mean confirmation to that interpretation of other parts which it favours.

on the simple Unitarian hypothesis of Christ's being by nature a man, and not a pre-existent spiritual being. I consider this view of his person as the doctrine of the gospel, and perfectly consistent with that of the propitiation or atonement for sins, as explained above. To conclude, may the Father of Light so guide us all, that we may do nothing against the truth, but for the truth!

T. F. B.

Your correspondent comes to a conelusion from which I feel myself obliged very seriously to dissent. "What then," he asks, " becomes of the Scripture doctrine of redemption by the blood of Christ?" He confesses that, according to his views, it comes to nothing, which is just what I have been endeavouring to shew: "that it cannot be

justly said that there is any such doc

trine in the Scripture." As we have already been engaged in reviewing the testimony of the Scripture to this point, I shall not revert to it now; but if Mr. Acton be correct in this assertion, I know not how any doctrine is to be found in Scripture, for it seems insufficient that it be repeatedly stated in its very terms, and still more frequently in words of parallel import; in short, that it occurs in almost every book of the New Testament. But let us now turn to your correspondent's own view of the subject. He states it thus: "The doctrine of the Scripture is this, that if men repent of their sins, and turn unto God in contrition of heart, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance, he is always mercifully disposed to forgive their past transgressions, and to restore them to his favour; and that Jesus is the mediator between God and men, by whom this joyful assurance has been proclaimed and confirmed to the world." Now, undoubtedly, all this is the doctrine of Scripture; I deem every syllable of it true, in the most unqualified and absolute sense. But where is there any inconsistency, if I add another clause, and say, that the Divine Wisdom required that Jesus should previously submit to death, as the most proper way of his dispensing this great forgiveness? I do not, therefore, regard such views as your correspondent's as false, but as inadequate; as too limited and reduced, as incommensurate with the real ends and reasons of the death of Christ, as unfolded in the Scriptures.

It is hardly necessary for me to observe, that through the whole of the foregoing argument, I have reasoned

2 M


Essay on Truth.

(Concluded from p. 219.)

moral As all mo


Fruths have their origin

in the relations which subsist between man and man, it is evident that it will be necessary, in the first place, to ascertain what those relations are before we can determine what are, and what are not, moral truths. But, to enable us to accomplish this, much previous observation and investigation is required. It will be necessary not only to examine ourselves in a most careful manner, to mark all our various desires and propensities, and how these desires and propensities manifest themselves in our actions, but we must likewise observe the actions of others, and mark all their various modifica tions in every possible situation. This being done, the next step is to compare our own with the observed actions of others, and on finding from this comparison that other men act in the same manner as we ourselves would do in similar circumstances, we necessarily infer that other men are similar to ourselves, and are actuated by the same desires and propensities. This being established, by considering how we would act, or how we would wish that others should act by us, in any given situation, we know how others would act, or how they would desire us to act, in the same situation. By thus pursuing our inquiries, by considering what objects are desired by others as well as ourselves, and by observing the present constitution of things, we cannot fail to discover that


man can enjoy the advantages arising from the society of others without sometimes sacrificing his own inclinations to their wishes; that mankind are inclined to retaliate upon him who injures them; that we are

desirous of pleasing those who contribute to our happiness; that he who contributes to the happiness of others employs the most certain means of increasing his own; that it would contribute greatly to the happiness of mankind in general, if every one would do to others as he would that they should do to him; that it is the interest of every person to do so, &c. It consequently follows that a prudent man, one who takes an extensive and enlightened view of what constitutes his true interest upon the whole, will regulate his conduct accordingly.

Now, if we examine the evidence on which we assent to the truth of these moral maxims, we shall find that it is of a much more complicated nature than in any of the foregoing kinds of truths. We know our own desires and propensities by consciousness and memory; we become acquainted with our own actions as well as the actions of others through the medium of our senses; and it is by our senses that we determine that our own actions are similar to those of other men in similar circumstances; and, lastly, the inference that other people are actuated by similar desires and propensities, and will act in a similar manner with ourselves, evidently rests on the two metaphysical maxims that equal effects must have equal causes, and that equal causes must produce equal effects. Hence the evidence on which we assent to the truth of the above moral maxims is compounded of consciousness, memory, the testimony of our senses, and of the evidence for the truth of that class of maxims which were examined under the article metaphysical truths.

6th. Of religious truths. As all truths of this kind originate in the relations which subsist between man and his Maker, the first thing must be to determine what those relations are; but, as it implies a manifest contradiction to suppose that any created being can fully comprehend the nature and powers of its Creator, it follows that the utmost we can expect to arrive at in this case is to discover a few of the most obvious of those relations.

Every man is firmly persuaded that there once was a time when he himself, or any other particular individual, had no existence: he must, therefore,

have had a Maker, and this Maker must have been possessed of power and intelligence sufficient at the least to produce him. As it implies a contradiction in terms to suppose that there can be more than one being which exists necessarily, or is selfexistent, it follows that this being must have been the origin of all things; and consequently his power and intelligence are the sources of all power and intelligence. This being must likewise be a benevolent being: for if we examine all nature, not even a solitary instance can be adduced of any contrivance, the principal object of which is to produce pain and misery, while almost innumerable cases might be pointed out where the manifest intention is to produce pleasure and happiness. Indeed, every class of creatures seem placed in those circumstances most congenial to their nature, and best calculated to secure their happiness. From the mighty monarch of the ocean to the smallest animalcule, we perceive such evident marks of health, activity and liveliness, as must convince us that life, even in the stormy deep, is crowned with many enjoyments. If we extend our inquiries from the tawny tyrant of the forest in the burning plains of Africa to the grim polar bear enveloped in continual snow, from the stupendous elephant to "the poor beetle that we tread upon," we every where discover evident traces of paternal care and tenderness. The eagle soaring amid the clouds and the sleek mole in its burrow are both provided for according to their natures. When we hear the lark caroling its morning lay, the nightingale pouring forth its midnight melody, and myriads of insects humming their evening hymn, is it possible to believe that all this enjoyment is merely accidental, that the great Author of it had no intention to produce happiness, that he is not a benevolent being?

If we prosecute our inquiries, we shall find that health, the greatest blessing in life, is so generally diffused through animated nature as to be deemed the natural state of every living creature: and when we consider the amazing number of parts of which the body of any creature is composed; that all these parts must have been arranged in one particular order and

no other; and that provision must have been made for retaining them in this order before that state, which we call health, could be produced in any creature whatever, can it be any wonder that there are always a few individuals that do not enjoy health? The only wonder seems to be that any one should enjoy it. Indeed, it appears absolutely impossible to account for the general diffusion of health on any other supposition but this, that a degree of power and wisdom far above our comprehension, directed by benevolence, which extends to every living creature, must have been exerted by the great Giver of life. This conclusion will be considerably strengthened by reflecting that the organization of our bodies is such as to have a natural tendency to rectify any partial derangement of its parts; that where this derangement is too great to admit of being perfectly restored, it is so ordered that custom alone has a natural tendency to lessen the pain attending it; that many things which, at the moment, were considered as great misfortunes, have really been blessings in disguise; and, lastly, that hope which closes the wounds of present pain and suffering has been given to all. And if we take into consideration the circumstance that even those parts of the present system of things which at first sight appear to militate most strongly against this supposition, when properly examined, either become arguments for it or at most are neutral; the conclusion that the Supreme Being is a benevolent being becomes quite irresistible.

connected with natural religion has the same foundation as the evidence for moral truths; with this difference only, that it requires a much more extensive examination of the works of nature to enable us to draw correct conclusions.

Again, as we are entirely dependent upon his power, and cannot possibly avoid detection if we do any thing contrary to his will, does it not necessarily follow that it is our interest to endeavour to please him? But when we reflect that his benevolence induces him to care for us, even as a father for his son, ought we not to feel love and gratitude for such endearing kindness, and to make his will the rule of our conduct, to endeavour to obey him in all things? These are a few of those maxims which have been called religious truths.

This brief view of the subject, and of the mode of arriving at the conclusions, will, I believe, be sufficient to shew that the evidence for the truths

But to be satisfied of the truth of divine revelation, to be a Christian from conviction and not from prejudice or the force of example or education, requires a still more varied and extensive view of things. The existence of the Supreme Being must be firmly established as before; that he is powerful, wise and benevolent, must be shewn to be probable. The state of mankind at distant periods of the world must be inquired into. The insufficiency of reason, in the early ages of mankind, to serve as a guide, and the wisdom and goodness of giv ing to man more explicit directions by which to regulate his conduct, and of setting before him stronger motives to action, must be clearly shewn. The necessary tendency of these directions, if followed, to increase his happiness, must next be made to appear. And, lastly, the evidence that such directions were actually given, and have been preserved uncontaminated by any foreign admixture, must be carefully examined.

Before I quit this subject, allow me to observe, that, even supposing an individual after the most diligent inquiry should not be able to give his assent to the truth of revelation, it by no means follows that he reaps no benefit from it; for, if the truths revealed be of such a nature that reason, although it did not of itself discover them, decidedly approves of them when thus brought to light, such truths have evidently all the force of the dictates of natural religion and are equally binding, and consequently he thus becomes possessed of additional lights to guide him in the paths of virtue and happiness. And this circumstance clearly shews of what incalculable advantage revelation may have been, even to those parts of the world where it is not received as of divine authority.

Having finished the examination of the various kinds of truths, and of the nature of the evidence on which we give our assent to them; we are better prepared to appreciate the value

of truth in general; to point out the advantages we derive from a knowledge of each particular kind of truths; and the almost incalculable benefits which arise from the whole taken collectively.

When we view man, in the savage and civilized states, we can scarcely bring ourselves to believe that he is the same creature. In the former, we behold him a wanderer, without a home and almost naked, exposed to all the fury of the contending elements, or sheltering himself perhaps for the moment under the branches of a tree, in the cleft of a rock, or in some damp and dreary cavern. Driven by his wants, we now see him attacking some wild animal, probably at the risk of his life; and then gorging himself like another beast of prey. The noblest pleasures, those arising from the society of his fellow-crea tures, are almost entirely unknown to him; and, indeed, he appears scarcely capable of enjoying them. From his situation, he almost necessarily becomes reserved, gloomy and suspicious in his disposition; impatient and irascible in his temper; ready to take offence, and slow in forgiving it: retaliation is by him deemed justice, and the most sanguinary revenge, enjoyment: dreading an enemy in almost every one he meets, he is in a continual state of warfare with others; and must be constantly upon his guard, to preserve himself, even in this miserable state of existence. While, on the other hand, let us examine our own situation. Sitting by a cheerful fire, enjoying the company of our friends, or partaking, perhaps, of a comfortable cup of tea, and amusing ourselves with friendly chat or instructive conversation; we hear the "pelting of the pitiless storm" without, but feel none of its effects. Should the pleasures of a fine evening tempt us to walk abroad with a companion, we are at full liberty to enjoy all the beauties of nature: we ramble about without even thinking of danger: we are not haunted by the chilling dread, that some unseen enemy may perhaps be lurking near, and ready to burst upon us, when we are least aware of it. All is peace both without and within, unless we ourselves, by our own misconduct, disturb the tranquillity of the scene.

This amazing difference, between the external circumstances in which man is placed in savage and civilized life, naturally leads us to inquire into its cause; and a very little reflection will be sufficient to convince us, that it is entirely produced by the different degrees of knowledge which he is possessed of in these two states. It must be evident, that no man could exist without knowing some physical truths, that is, without knowing the nature of some things; for if he had no knowledge of those bodies which he devours to satisfy his craving appetite, he must, in a very short time, either be poisoned, or perish for want of sustenance: and it is from this cause, from not being acquainted with a sufficient number of these facts, or physical truths, that the ignorant savage is so frequently in danger of the one or the other. But view man, in civilized society, when possessed of all the resources arising from the knowledge and combination of physical and mathematical truths; and we shall find his power has become so great and extensive, that you would think him almost omnipotent. Every thing is made to serve his purposes: all nature appears to be subservient to him. The majestic horse and the mighty elephant have become his servants; the lowing herds and bleating flocks supply him with food and clothing; from the insignificant silk-worm, as well as the enormous whale, he draws warmth and comfort: every creature, from the cooing dove to the roaring lion, is made to contribute to his pleasure or his profit. His own bodily powers indeed are still very limited; but see him mounted on the stately courser, and he literally outstrips the wind. View him armed with the various mechanical powers, and we see him raising immense masses, tearing rocks to pieces, or whirling them through the air at his pleasure. Neither the strength of the rhinoceros, nor the fleetness of the antelope, can protect them; he sends the messenger of death after them, swift and resistless as the bolt of heaven, and they lie stretched at his feet. At one time we see him rolling along at ease in his chariot, and at another, skimming on the surface of the deep, making the winds and the seas to serve him. Behold him mounting in the air, and

sailing along on the wings of the wind, leaving the eagle in its boldest flight far below; or penetrating into the bowels of the earth, and from its dark recesses bringing forth the means of light and splendour. Nor are his physical powers alone increased; his mind seems to expand as the means of extending his inquiries become enlarged. We this moment find him measuring the claw of a mite; examining the curious and wonderful mechanism displayed in its construction; or meditating on the power which could supply it with all its minute bones, muscles, tendons, veins and arteries; and the next instant, perhaps, he is engaged in determining the figure and magnitude of the earth; or in drawing down the thunder-bolt from the clouds and examining its nature and qualities. Whilst a Black or a Priestley is investigating the properties of some invisible fluid; a Herschel is perhaps determining the orbit of the Georgium Sidus, or ascertaining the place of some telescopic star, at such an immense distance, that even its light requires centuries to reach us. On one hand, we may perceive a Dalton, a Davy or a Berzelius engaged in examining the minute changes which take place in bodies, or in comparing the atoms of which they are composed while, on the other, a Newton or a La Place is employed in measuring the distances and magnitudes of the sun and planets, or in weighing them as it were in a balance.

which we conduct ourselves. But we can only learn how to conduct ourselves as we ought to do, by making ourselves acquainted with moral and religious truths. So that our happiness depends upon our practising those rules, which we deduce from this knowledge. It is from this source, that we derive the cheering expectation, that this short and uncertain life shall not terminate our existence. It is the "still small voice" of these truths, that raises in the mind the enchanting hope that we may, nay the ecstatic conviction that we shall, be happy through the endless ages of eternity, if we follow its directions. When we are once fully satisfied that "all things work together for good" to those who obey its dictates, the sharpest arrow in the quiver of adversity falls blunted to the ground, and, instead of murmuring or repining under our trials, we bless the hand which directs our present sufferings. These are the animating hopes and convictions that render life happy and death not terrible; which support the sufferer in his last struggle, and enable him in triumph to exclaim, "O grave! where is thy victory: O death! where is thy sting?"

If such be the fruits arising from the knowledge of these various kinds of truths, when this knowledge directs our actions; it must surely be a mark of true wisdom te endeavour to acquire it, and make it the rule of our conduct. This, I apprehend, is a truly philosophical conclusion, legiti mately deduced from the premises, and in perfect unison with the advice of the wise man, when he says, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding." H. A.

These are a few of the effects, resulting from a knowledge of physical and mathematical truths: but astonishing as they may appear, they are of trifling importance when compared with the benefits which we derive from the knowledge of moral and religious truths, provided we regulate our conduct by them. That an acquaintance with physical and mathematical truths increases our power to an astonishing degree, must be acknowledged by all; but it by no means follows, that it necessarily increases our happiness: for, if we employ this power improperly, we shall only be enabled more effectually to torment one another. It therefore follows, that our happiness does not so much depend upon the degree of knowledge which we possess, as upon the use we make of it,-upon the manner in

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