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as one of the most eminent of the clerical defenders of Christianity. You, perhaps, were not aware, that, prior to the abdication of James II., he had made himself obnoxious to that monarch, from his steady opposition to the Papists, and afterwards became equally so to his successors, from his conscientious adherence to the exiled king; and, in consequence, was reduced to great distress, towards the conclusion of his life. not think him, then, worthy of belief, when you find him writing thus, with what he believed would be “the last effort of his pen?”
“If, in writing so much, and on so many subjects, mistakes have crept in, I hope they are not of importance; and, such as they are, could I examine and discover, I should readily retract them, and disown nothing but artifice and malice, from which my own conscience acquits me, and God, I hope, who is greater, will not condemn me. I have always thought it my duty to follow truth as closely as I could, without straying after worldly interest; and, though the providence of God, infinitely wise and righteous, hath, for a great part of my life, excluded me from the public exercise of that sacred office, to which I was called, yet I have the comfort of having endeavoured, in some degree, to serve, against its various adversaries, the cause of God, of religion, and of that church, in which I was baptized, educated, and received into holy orders.--And, being now in a point of time, to which eternity is near, you will believe me, if I declare (and to the world I would declare it), that, in this communion, I resolve to die, and expect to be saved, by the merits and mediation of Christ Jesus.”—Leslie's Theol. Works, folio, Pref. Ep.
Edward. Still, allowance must be made, for habits of thinking too favourable to the side they espoused-professional predilections.
Mr. B. A little more close examination will show you, that even the
habits of life, of several of the most
50 What is related of Leslie ?-51 What question is asked of him ?52 What is the substance of the quotation from his writings 2–53 For what does Edward think, that allowance is still to be made
eminent of these men, were unfavourable to your argument. What tendency had the mathematical pursuits of Watson and Paley, to soften the severity of their judgment, with regard to Christianity? What tendency was there in the pursuits of Clarke and Butler, to this end? Was “slashing Bentley,” think you, a man likely to be deceived, in his critical investigations, or cowed into silence, as to their results?
Edward. But, their reputation, and literary character, might become involved in the defence.
Mr. B. How, then, came their reputation to be so involved? Was any necessity laid upon them, to connect : it with a weak argument? Were they likely men to do so? Had they felt the weakness of the cause, would they have dared to court a full investigation of it? Had Bentley and Warburton no enemies? Were there none living, who would have rejoiced to triumph over them? Why did they trouble themselves about the controversy, unless they believed it to be so important, that, at all events, investigation ought to take place, and the truth made manifest-unless they, also, regarded their own side so safe, that they feared no consequences--and, their own conviction of the truth of Christianity, was so strong, that they were willing to risk their own credit
Edward. That their own reputation was dear to them, cannot be questioned; and, it is no harsh inference, to conclude, that they would not lightly risk it for a doubtful cause; but, some allowance must be made, for expectations of preferment, in case of success.
Mr. B. To establish that, you must first show, that they were so keenly on the watch for preferment, and, that there was a hope of it, arising from the line of conduct, which they pursued, sufficient to have induced them to pursue it, which I am persuaded you are unable
54 What questions does Mr. B. ask, of Watson and Paley-of Clarke and Butler—and of Bentley ?-55 How does he reply to the intimation of Edward, that their reputation was involved in the defence ?-56 What individuals are named, as illustrative of his reply?-57 What expectations, does Edward think, might have influenced them ?-58 To establish that, what does Mr. B, say he must do ?
to do. But, even were this the case, would it follow, that there were no other, no shorter roads, to preferment wor, that none, but this, was adapted to the temper of their minds? If they felt the cause weak, could they imagine, that those above them, (who must have known it, also), would thank them for forcing it into noticeor, that they should serve their own interests, more effectually, by turning aside from those paths of science, and general literature, for which nature appeared to have intended them, and in which they were fully conscious of their own power? Again, have you a right to assume such a want of upright principle, in so numerous a body as the defenders of Christianity have now become? Can you, for a moment, imagine, that such an uncertain hope would prevail against reason and principle; that, men of talents, of learning, and of acknowledged integrity, in other points, would suffer their minds to be so biased, by an uncertain hope of this kind; that, they would run the risk of exposure, nay, even court it, when the other means of rising into distinction, were before them? Common sense tells us, that such men, would not so act; that no wise, or able man, would risk his character, unnecessarily, for that, which he barely believed. We must, therefore, conclude, that the labours of such men, would not have been undertaken, without a full and overpowering conviction, of the truth of Christianity, and did not arise from a belief so feeble, as to require the aid of church emoluments to strengthen it. This subject has occupied a considerable portion of our time; but, as I wish you to examine the original works, rather than to rely on the arguments I may select from them, it is of great importance, that you do not suffer the conviction, which I am confident those works will produce, to be weakened by unfounded assertions, as to interest, and prejudice, in the authors; assertions, easily made, but forming a miserable reply to the works in question.
59 What question is asked, respecting them, on the presumption, that they considered their cause weak ?-60° What one is asked by Mr. B., relating to their integrity ?-61 What reply is given to it?-62 What does he desire Edward to do, for his own conviction on the subject ?
Edward. Is it not, however, to be regretted, that, in controversies on this subject, the defenders of Christianity had one very material advantage over their opponents, in that it was their principal study?
Mr. B. But, is this advantage unfair? Can it, or ought it, to be objected to? With whom does the fault rest, if the parties are unequally matched in point of intellectual strength and acquirements? Whence are the defenders of Christianity to arise, if not from those, who give up their lives to its service? What would be the result, if the professors of arts and sciences, in general, were suspected in their statements, merely because they were professors? Am I to reject the experiments of Newton, and refuse to look at his Principia, because he was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge? Am I to question the accuracy of Porson, because he was Greek Professor? I cannot pretend to make the experiments in the one case, or to consult the manuscripts in the other; and I might be told, that each of these great men was interested and prejudiced; yet, who would not laugh at me, were I, therefore, to resolve, I would pay no regard to either? We cannot believe, that the love of emolument, prejudice, or vanity, could so bias such men as to induce them to make false assertions of facts, in which they were liable to detection by all who envied their talents, coveted their situations, or disliked their peculiar views. Why, then, should I doubt the accuracy of the critics of the New Testament, or turn a deaf ear to the argumentation of Butler and Paley?
Edward. But, had the enemies of Christianity been as well versed in these subjects, as its clerical advocates, the result might have been very different.
Mr. B. This is mere assumption; and I have equal right to assume, in reply, what appears to me a much fairer conclusion; that, had the enemies of Christianity read and thought more, they would have written less.
63 What advantage does Edward say the defenders of Christianity had over their opponents ?-64 How does Mr. B. reply to it !65 What is the allusion to Newton and Porson ?-66 What cannot we believe, respecting them ?-67 Under what circumstances does Edward say, that the result might have been different ?-68 Is this probable ?
In some cases, we know, that increased knowledge of the subject, has produced a very different result; it has not only silenced, it has converted, the enemies, into the friends of Christianity.
Edward. Do you, then, think, the works of its advocates are to be received in the same manner, as if they had been the productions of persons to whom the result were a matter of indifference?
Mr. B. I think, considerable allowance is always to be made for prejudice, as arising from the circumstances of birth, education, disposition, and habits of life; in the case of the clergy, also, from attachment to their profession; and, in some cases, for a predilection to certain courses of study, in preference to others, and to peculiar lines of argument, which they have, themselves, invented, or greatly improved. But, I think, they ought to be fully acquitted from the sweeping charge, of acting from those interested motives, which their enemies delight to impute to them; and, am fully persuaded, that nothing, but strong conviction, would have produced the greater part of the many very able treatises, which have been written in defence of Christianity. To their works, therefore, I would give all the attention, which the character of the authors as well as the importance of the subject, demands; remembering, however, that, as men, they were liable to be mistaken as the abettors of a system, still more so. Their statements of facts, in cases where I was unable to verify them, by an appeal to the original sources of information, I should be disposed to admit; their reasonings, on those statements, I should wish to examine as strictly as possible; and, mere declamation, I should reject altogether.
Maria. With this, I shall be quite satisfied.
Mr. B. Perhaps you may; but, I am not: for we have, hitherto, considered prejudice, and interest, as directed
69 What changes has an increased knowledge been known to produce ? 70 For what, does Mr. B. admit, an allowance is to be made, in consid. ering this subject ?-71 But, of what should the advocates of Christianity be acquitted ?-72 How, under this view of the subject, is Mr. B. disposed to proceed in the investigation ?--73 What does he presume in this respect, of the enemies of Christianity ?