« AnteriorContinua »
March 18, 1823.
but as I have heard of nothing that
A makepine exertions, during the
Society with an attempt to suppress
The dissent and separation of our predecessors from other professors of Christianity was more on account of conduct than opinions, of internal discline and church government than articles of belief. Their testimony was borne more against hiring the teacher than against the doctrines he taught: it was the making that the privilege and emolument of one which ought
Yarmouth, SIR, March 23, 1823. DERMIT me to make a few re"Bereus," in the Repository for February (p. 95). In the first place, I must entirely acquit the Society of Friends of the charge of attempting to suppress my "Letter." A bookseller, a member of our Society, certainly refused to sell the pamphlet, as he would and has refused to sell other books the contents of which he deems strikingly in opposition to the principles of Friends. Among our ministers and elders a disposition to discourage inquiry and free discussion is, it must be confessed, too obvious;
objected. If others conferred on one the privilege of preaching and praying from his high place at his own discre tion, while they not only submitted to hear him without reply, but consented to pray and to praise only in words that were set down for them, our predecessors thought themselves obeying an apostolic command in permitting all to "prophesy, one by one, that all might learn, and all might be comforted." 1 Cor. xiv. 31. If others were yet wrapped up in formal and lifeless ceremonies, they believed that
the spiritual religion of Jesus imposed no such burthens, but required instead the greatest circumspection of conduct and purity of heart, the strictest regulation of the affections and government of the thoughts. These considerations may, perhaps, account for the circumstance of their language favouring Unitarianism on some occasions, and the popular notions on others. Having, however, alluded to the grounds of our predecessors' separation from other sects, I cannot leave the subject without noticing the fruits of that spirit which elicited these principles. Among the Dissenters of their day, our early friends stand distinguished by the heroical firmness with which they endured persecution; by their thorough knowledge of their religious principles, and the readiness and intelligence with which they adVocated them; and by a boldness of thought and speech and a vigour of mind that bespoke their freedom from
priestly dominion and sectarian credu these honest preachers of righteousness may be found characters, the study and imitation of which may afford the philosopher instruction and the Christian improvement. But what a falling off have we experienced ! Notwithstanding our excellent and Christian institutions and principles, we have descended almost to a level with other sects; we have joined the world in its chief pursuit; have
"flattered its rank breath and bowed
To its idolatries a patient knee;" and have permitted men to assume the office of ministers among us, who, though they may not possess so largely the indolence and covetousness of the hireling priest, have much of his pride and love of authority: men, who, like all other priests, are the enemies of inquiry and discussion, and of that activity and independence and freedom of mind, that are so necessary to intellectual and Christian improvement. These are things worthy the consideration of all our members, but I would press them particularly on the notice of the young friends of inquiry among
Let these reflect, that as much is in our power, our duties are proportionately important. Whatever may be
the result of our inquiries, and the honest convictions of our hearts, we are bound openly and fairly to avow. If we feel apprehensive of the displeasure, or even persecution of our friends, let us take courage and reap instruction from the example of many of our worthy ancestors under similar circumstances: their noble resolutions were uninfluenced by the fear of man. Thus shall we be made the honoured instruments of good in the Divine hand, and partakers of that happiness and intellectual freedom which it has been our most earnest endeavour to promote.
With expressing a hope that neither "Bereus" nor any one else will again trouble themselves to exhibit my name in the useless publication of my private letters, I remain, C. ELCOCK.
West Street, Walworth, March 20, 1823.
41, you have inserted some parti(p. culars, communicated by my friend Mr. Hart, respecting the friendly intercourse between Dr. Priestley and Mr. Winchester when they met in Philadelphia: the following relation may render his account more interesting.
When Mr. Winchester first came to London he was known to very few. As the congregation at Worship Street was then without a pastor, we invited him to supply for us for a year as morning preacher; here he was much followed and highly approved. Afterwards he preached at Glass-HouseYard and some other places; then settled at Parliament-Court Chapel, and was attended by a large and respectable congregation, until he returned to His first introduction to America. Dr. Priestley was as follows: he wished to see the Doctor, who was in a few months to sail for America. We went together to his house at Clapton; he was not at home; Mrs. Priestley said the Doctor wished much to see Mr. Winchester, and if we would call at the Rev. Mr. Palmer's at Hackney, we should find him there. We went and were introduced to Mr. Palmer, Mr. Belsham and Dr. Priestley, who received Mr. Winchester in a most friendly manner. hour's interesting conversation we were
obliged reluctantly to depart, as we
Essay on Truth.
[From "The Newcastle Magazine," for July, &c. 1822.]
WHAT is truth? is a question that has been frequently asked, and to which so many different answers have been given, that some have contended no satisfactory answer can be given to it, while others have asserted that it is a mere name, a sound without a meaning. But that it is something more than a mere unmeaning sound would appear from the importance which the majority of mankind in all ages of the world have attached to it. And that the question does really admit of a satisfactory answer, is rendered something more than barely probable by the single fact, that there is no language with which we are acquainted which has not in it some term or phrase equivalent to our word truth. I therefore propose, in the present paper, not only to investigate what truth is in general, but to point out its most important divisions and subdivisions, to inquire into the nature of the evidence on which we give our assent to each of the different kinds of truths, and lastly to point out some of the advantages which we derive from a knowledge of them.
tion, or assertion, we denote the cir-
But this mode of illustration is not confined to mathematical truths; it may, with equal facility, be applied to any physical proposition whatever.Thus we may take the proposition, a stone will fall to the ground if unsupported, and say it is a true proposition, or it is a truth; or we might, if we pleased, talk about its truth just as in the former example. In this case the idea raised in the mind by the enunciation of the proposition is the sign, and the property or tendency of the stone to approach the earth the thing signified. So that, in this case, as in the former, truth consists in the agree ment of the sign with the thing signified. And as the same mode of reasoning is evidently applicable to every physical proposition, it is plain that when we say a proposition is true, we only use an abbreviated mode of expressing our belief that the assertion, or description, whichever it may be, contained in the proposition, agrees exactly with what really obtains in nature; so that whenever we believe that this agreement takes place, we say the proposition is true, and whenever it does not take place, we say it is erroneous or not true. Conse
As soon as mankind had advanced so far in the art of social intercourse as to be able to communicate their ideas to one another by words, it is manifest, that whenever one person conveyed any opinion to another, to which the latter wished to give his assent, he would be desirous of having the means of expressing this assent in as few words as possible; hence the origin of the words true and truth.Thus we say, that the three angles of every plain triangle are together equal to two right angles, is a true proposition. In this case the proposition manifestly consists in the assertion that every plain triangle is possessed of a certain specific property; and by applying the word true to the proposi
quently in all physical propositions, truth consists in the agreement of the sign with the thing signified. Here it is manifest that truth is opposed to error, and true to erroneous.
But there is another application of the word truth, in which it is used as the opposite of falsehood or intentional deceit, and where true and false are contrary termis. For instance, suppose a person, in order to sell his goods to advantage, should declare that they were in good condition in every respect, at the same time knowing them to be damaged, would not the buyer, on discovering the fraud, have a right to tell him that his declaration was false, or that he had told him a falsehood: while, on the other hand, had he sold them as damaged goods, would we not immediately say that he had honestly told the truth respecting them? In this case words are the signs, and the thoughts or opinions of the speaker are things signified. And here again, as in the two former cases, truth 'consists in the agreement of the sign with the thing signified.
These examples will, I trust, be sufficient to illustrate the original signification of the word truth, and to authorize me, with Mr. Wollaston, to give the following
Definition. TRUTH is the AGREE MENT of the sign with the thing signified.
I would not, however, be understood to say that this, though its original signification, is the only sense in which the word truth either is or ought to be used. Like many other words, it has in common language, acquired a variety of significations, most of which, however, bear some relation to its original meaning. Thus it is frequently used to signify purity from falsehood; it is sometimes used as synonymous with correctness, exactness, fidelity, constancy, honesty, virtue, sincerity and perhaps a few others. It has also been used, by some, to signify all truths or all knowledge, in which sense it is evidently unattainable by man; but this appears to be a misapplication of the term.
From the above definition of truth itself, it would appear that all truths whatever may be divided into two general classes, viz. those whose truth consists in the agreement of our words
with our thoughts, and those whose truth consists in the agreement of our thoughts or ideas of things with the things. But this division having been found too general, mankind have, therefore, proceeded to a farther subdivision; which has mostly, if not entirely, taken place in the latter of these two classes. Indeed, this subdivision could scarcely be avoided, for the things themselves, to which the truths in this class relate, are so very different, that whoever wished to speak or write with any degree of precision, found it absolutely necessary to point out what kind of things he alluded to. The three following appear to be the most important of these subdivisions, viz. such truths as relate to things which have a real existence, as a stone, the sun, man, the Supreme Being, &c.; such as relate to things that exist only in the imagination, as a mathematical point, line, triangle, circle, &c., or cords perfectly flexible, beams without weight, planes completely smooth, &c.; and such as relate to the connexions or relations which subsist among various objects, as, for example, the relations which subsist between man and man, between man and the inferior animals, between man and his Maker, between cause and effect, &c. From what has been said it is quite clear that we have various kinds of truths, as verbal truths, physical truths, mathematical truths, metaphysical truths, moral truths, religious truths, &c.-Now, as our assent to these different kinds of truths rests on very different foundations, it will be proper to examine them more minutely.
1st. Of verbal truths. As verbal truth consists in the agreement of our words with our thoughts, every case wherein this agreement takes place, and where our thoughts or opinions are the only things inquired after, is therefore a verbal truth. Thus the witness who, in a court of justice, was asked whether he believed the prisoner to be an honest man, and who declared that he did, spoke the truth, if he really thought so, whether the fact was so or not. From which it appears that our belief in truths of this kind must always depend on the opinion which we have formed of the speaker, modified by the circumstances in which he is placed. If this be a just descrip
stances which precede our assent to
but had he done so in his old age, it
tion of verbal truth, it follows that it
3d. Of mathematical truths. That
It is manifest that mankind, even in the earliest ages, must have been under the necessity of noticing the various properties of such bodies as they had occasion to use-they must have perceived that the form and magnitude of many of them were essential to their utility; it is, therefore, evident that form and magnitude are two properties which would, in many cases, attract their attention in an eminent degree. It must likewise have been frequently requisite to have more than one thing of the same kind, so that number would then have to be taken into consideration, as well as form and magnitude: hence the origin of mathematics. When any individual was thus, by his wants, compelled to pay attention to the peculiar properties of any particular form, a circle for example, it is natural to suppose, that mere curiosity would induce him to continue his researches; but it is evident, that with such rude and imperfect circles as he would then be able to form, he could make little progress; he must, therefore, have had recourse to some more correct model. Now, although such circles as he
2d. Of physical truths. These are evidently of a very different nature from verbal truths. The latter has been shewn to be variable, so much so, indeed, that what is a verbal truth in one man to-day, may perhaps be a falsehood, if expressed by the same person to-morrow; whereas, what is a physical truth to-day must be a physical truth to-morrow, and must always remain such, so long as the thing, with which it is connected, is suffered to exist.
If we take a survey of the bodies by which we are every where surrounded, we cannot avoid observing the variety of their appearances; and, on a closer inspection, we discover that each appears to possess many different properties, some of which seem to be peculiar to it, and these serve to distinguish it from all other bodies. Now, if the ideas which we form respecting the properties of any body agree in every respect with the properties which that body does in reality possess, we have formed true or correct notions of it.-Consequently the expression of those properties would form a true physical proposition; and the agreement of our ideas of the properties with the properties themselves would constitute a physical truth. It, therefore, necessarily follows, that so long as the properties remain unaltered, so long must that proposition, which was once true, continue to be true. But it is manifest that the properties of bodies will remain unaltered so long as the great Creator of all things is pleased to continue this system in existence. Hence it appears, that physical truths are as fixed and unchangable as the nature of things, and must be coexistent with the present system. Here our ideas of them are the signs, and the properties of the body themselves the things signified.
If we now examine the circum