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vided we do the same.
*Maria. I do not seo much force in my brother's objections; but there is one, which I have freyuently heard, which appears to me deserving consideration. It is, that men are so differently formed, that they never can believe in the same manner: what is proof to one, is not to another; that, after all, it is a matter of uncertainty, and that it cannot matter what we believe, pro
Mr. B. But this, also, assumes too much: for, though a sceptic may bewilder himself, and all who attend to him, by metaphysical arguments, there are certain things, which our common nature irresistibly inclines us all to believe as true, which, whatever may be said to the contrary, influence us to act in a particular manner; and, after all, it is action, which is the true criterion of belief. I would earnestly recommend to your perusal, Dr, Beattie's “Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, in Opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism; a work, which you will not read with the less interest, because it was the production of the author of the Minstrel.
Maria. O no! I could apply his own words to himself: “But hail, ye mighty masters of the lay,
Nature's true sons, the friends of man and truth! Whose song, sublimely sweet, serenely gay,
Amused my childhood, and inform'd my youth. O let your spirit still my bosom soothe,
Inspire my dreams, and my wild wanderings guide! Your voice each rugged path of life can smooth,
For well I know, wherever ye reside,
Mr. B. As to the second part of your objection, that it cannot matter what we believe, provided our actions be the same; admitting that it were true, as respects our conduct towards each other, and its consequences, a moment's reflection will show you, that nothing can be more false, with respect to the relation in which we stand
65 What new objection does Maria suggest ?-66 What may
sceptic do 67 What work does Mr. B. recommend to Maria ?-68 What does he say of the second part of her objection ?
to our Creator, unto whom all the motives of our conduct are known. Christianity also inseparably unites belief and practice together in such a manner as to render it impossible for a man to practice Christian precepts as such, without the belief in Christianity as a divine revelation.
Edward. But, if inquiry into the truth of Christianity be necessary, from the importance of the subject, and the possibility, that it might be a revelation of the will of God, inasmuch as there was no prima facie absurdity involved in the supposition; still it does not follow, that it has greater claims to our attention than any other religion, of which the same may be alleged; and, if a person is required to spend his time in inquiries of this nature, I do not see why he might not sit down to study the evidences in favour of Mohammedism.
Mr. B. It will not, however, be difficult to establish the claims of Christianity to investigation, in preference to any other religion.
Edward. In what manner?
Mr. B. The great object, in this inquiry, is the ascertaining of truth, not the mere arguing for victory.
Mr. B. If you were sitting down to study astronomy, and wished, from observation, to ascertain the true system of the world, how would you proceed ?
Edward. By collecting all the phenomena, which presented themselves to my attention, by arranging them with reference to their apparent importance and connexion with each other, and afterwards examining them in the most careful manner I could, in detail, beginning with those which, from their importance, or from the peculiar advantages I possessed of examining them, offered the greatest probability of my ascertaining the causes of what I saw.
Mr. B. Will you, then, pursue precisely a similar
69 What does Christianity unite ?–70 What new difficulty does Ede ward introduce, by referring to Mohammedism ?-71 What does Mr. B. say is the great object of this inquiry ?—72 What question is asked, respecting astronomy ?–73 What is the answer to it?-74 How is this applied to the present subject ?
course with regard to the religious world? You will find in it, phænomena equally interesting, and capable of leading you, in like manner, to their causes. What is the state of the world, as to religion, at this present time?
Edward. There are a great number of religions, differing widely from each other, both as to their doctrines, and as to the influence, which they respectively possess. The classification of them would be a very perplexing affair: and then they are subdivided into an infinite number of sects and parties; so that it would be very difficult to ascertain even the mere matter-of-fact as to what was believed, and by whom it was believed.
Mr. B. Nevertheless, make the attempt. All nations either believe in the existence of one God, or of more Gods than one.
Edward. By this means, I am enabled to put them under the heads of Theists and Polytheists, and may discard the latter from further consideration, from the evident absurdity of their tenets.
Mr. B. The Theists you may also range under four heads—of Jews, Mohammedans, Christians, and leists: In what do they agree, and in what do they differ?
Edward. They all acknowledge one God; and the three first allege, that he has made a revelation of his will to mankind: but these again differ, as to the extent of the revelation, and the persons to whom it was communicated; all three agreeing, as to the divine legation of Moses; the two last, also, adding that of Christ, and the last, that of Mahomet. ·
Mr. B. So much for the fact of belief; now consider that of numbers.
Edward. Here, nearly all is left to the Christians and Mohammedans, the numbers of the other two being very small in comparison.
Mr. B. Lastly, take into account character and influ
75 What does Edward think would be very difficult ?–76 What classification does he make ?-77 And bow are Theists divided ?-.78 What does Edward assert, concerning these four divisions of Theists !--79 What is said of tbeir comparative numbers !
Edward. Here, nearly all is left to the Christians.
Mr. B. Then, has not Christianity the first claims on your attention?' Again, if Christianity be founded in falsehood, Mohammedism at once falls to the ground with it, and, in the opinion of all, except the Jews, Judaism also: so, that the question ultimately reduces itself to Christianity, or no revealed religion; as Paley has stated it in the beginning of his work on the Evidences. Further, Mohammedism cannot be from God, inasmuch as it professes to be of universal obligation, and yet commands observances, which, in the nature of things, cannot be universally observed. The religion, said to have been promulgated by Moses and the other prophets, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the nation, was designed for that nation only, and we cannot, therefore, immediately argue as to its truth or falsity. The Jews of modern time, and the rest of the world, differ, however, as to the true interpretation of the religious books of the former; and, if the anti-Judaical interpretation be correct, modern Judaism is untenable, which is rendered almost a matter of certainty, by the fact, that hitherto all their calculations and expectations have proved fallacious. Lastly, Christianity professes to be of universal obligation, and contains, within it, nothing repugnant to the possibility of the assertion. It has also stood the test of time, and has never yet been positively demonstrated to be false. It is held by the most enlightened nations in the world, and hence arises at least some degree of probability for its truth. Now, under all these circumstances, which are mere matters of fact, acknowledged by foes, as well as friends, the advocate for Christianity maintains its preeminent claims to a full investigation. Admitting, for argument's sake, the possibility, that the Deistical creed is correct, according to their own sentiments, as to the importance of truth, they must, out of their own mouths,
80 What would be the consequence, if Christianity is founded in error ? 81 Why may not Mohammedism be from God ?-82 of the religion, said to have been given by Moses, what is said ?–83 How is modern Judaism shown to be untenable ?-84 On what ground does the advocate for Christianity maintain its claim to investigation ?
be condemned of God, for not inquiring into the truth of a religion which, at first, appeared likely to be from Him.
Maria. This is, to me, perfectly convincing. I am only surprised at your arguing so long upon a point, which I was not aware was disputed, as to the claims of Christianity to examination: and, yet, you have not brought forward the consequences in a future state, should the Christian statement prove true. Mr. B. I have not, and for this reason,
--a Christian may tell an unbeliever, that his happiness, or misery, in a future state, depends upon his conduct now, in reference to this religion: but, the sceptic will be little moved by the mere assertion, unless other circumstances give it weight. He would probably
reply, “ All other religions, in substance, say the same. I cannot enter into an examination of the merits of each—it is impossible; and why should I prefer inquiring into one, rather than another? Your arguments can only amount to probability, and other creeds may be supported by equal or stronger probabilities."
Maria. To this, then, your argument answers, that there is, in the first instance, not only far greater probability of its being true, than any other, but, also, strong probability considered merely in itself; and that, as no alleged revelation, of which there is only a possibility of its being from God, can be safely rejected, without examination, so no excuse can remain for a neglect of inquiry into this.
Mr. B. And, now, I scruple not to add, what I before omitted, that the awful consequences of rejection ought to have the greatest weight with every reflecting mind. If there were little chance of Christianity's being true, I grant, that the fear of those
consequences should have little weight; for, it is easy to raise any thing into importance, by attaching to it the possibility of awful consequences: but, when any real probability exists, of
85 What does Maria say of the argument thus presented ?-86 What is supposed a Christian may tell an unbeliever ?-87 And wbat reply "might the latter make to him ?-88 With what additional remarks does Mr. B. conclude the first conversation ?