« PreviousContinue »
practical wisdom to be merited, we have the “ circumstance" of an urwise majority overruling a wise minority. But, even if “credal infidels" can, without any impeachment of their consistency (though we are ignorant of how this can be), contend that polygamy is “ irrational, and an evil which is calculated to "militate against the utility,” though not, in this case, the “authenticity," of the principle of marriage, what becomes of the frequent assertion that the world is little, or no, better, in the way of moral reform, for Christianity? With all the civilization' of the ancients, was not polygamy the rule, and marriage, in the modern sense of the word, the exception? Are we indebted for this to the writings of Socrates and Plato, to the legislation of some emperor, or other ruler, or to the “doctrine" of our Lord Jesus Christ? -But “credal infidels” say, that, when they have improved society, the “motives" of parties marrying will be more “rational," and consequently that few would wish to be divorced, and few commit adultery; which last they ought to be sceptical of being criminal, or even “irrational, under some circumstances : but why have such strong faith in this article of the credal infidel” creed, seeing that it has not been “proved" (we should say at all) in such a manner as that none can possibly doubt?—But " credal infidels” appear to us to believe in a very mysterious, or “misty,” system. Why not go further, and advocate not only polygamy, but also something still more approaching the economy of nature, with regard to other animals? There are two things they might say in favour of both; first, that the wisdom of them can be as much demonstrated as the wisdom of a “credal infidel” marriage (that is, that those who “cannot possibly doubt" the expediency of abolishing the Christian rules of marriage, ought to have as little doubt of the propriety of what Cobbett would call “ going the whole hog");-and, secondly, that they can “prove so that none can possibly doubt,” that, in their improved state of society, what is now called licentiousness would be nothing but INFIDEL LIBERTY. Wives, mothers, and daughters,—"These be your professed protectors !”+ You here see what their principles are, and what, in consistency, they ought to amount to!
But “credal infidels” sometimes try to justify their “creed" by referring to supposed cases of Christian marriages failing to produce their professed objects in the way of virtue and happiness. In the words of some "credal infidel" writers, “this mode of putting the question is unfair," because it ought to be first shown that they are really Christian marriages. The Scriptures no where promise a blessing to any act of profanation; and, concerning marriage, they specify certain motives, which motives are recounted in the introductory part of the Church of England marriage service, and supposed in the marriages of all other Christian sects. The Church of England, moreover, in most plain terms, if we take it in connection with the preceding part of the service, reminds her members in the requisition, “ I require and charge you both, &c.,
* “Neither in Parthia, do the Christians, though Parthians, use polygamy; nor in Persia, though Persians, do they marry their own daughters ; nor among the Bactri, or Galli, do they violate the marriage vow; nor in whatever country they live, do they allow themselves to be enslaved by vicious laws or morals."- Bardesanes, ap. Euseb. Præp. Evang. 6, 10.
+ Exodus, xxxii. 8.
that an ostensible Christian marriage may, in some cases, be no more than a mere civil contract, the breach of which, however, is equally sinful as the breach of a real Christian marriage vow, because the Christian religiou enjoins obedience to the civil power, or “ordinance of man."* Now how are we, and “credal infidels” in particular, who demand“ proof such as none can doubt,” to find out the motives of the parties at the time of marrying? And, besides, the practical infidelity of the parties afterwards on other points may make a difference. The blessing in the Revelation is not to the mere speculative believer, either in life or death: he must not only “die in the Lord,” but he must also be that practical believer as to have, when he dies, such “ works as will follow him” to a state of beatitude.
Again, it is further urged by “credal infidels," as if they knew the feelings of parties better than they do themselves, that some marriages are necessarily opposed to nature and reason; but how absurd ! Undoubtedly it is possible that sometimes a young woman may marry a man much older than herself for money, or rank, more than from affection; but are we therefore to be confident that this (which we can very rarely prove in any case) is generally the case. We have seen very happy marriages under circumstances of disparity of various kinds; and, to carry out the objection consistently, there are many inequalities besides rank, and wealth, and age, to consider, such as, for one example, mental capacity. About disparity of age, we can imagine cases where the union is natural, and creditable to both. The husband may, by his kindness to the wife's father, have rescued the whole family from impending destitution; or he may, in the most heroic manner, have saved his wife, when she was a little girl, from being drowned, or burnt to death. In addition to all this, she may think his person comely, and—what is of infinitely more importanceshe may think him the most good and sensible man of her acquaintance. In fine, instead of blindly condemning all such marriages, the “real love of humanity" would induce us to be slow to “think evil,” or attribute bad motives, and, even in cases of the most apparent inexpedience, to "hope" the best.I
• Ist Peter, ii. 13 and 14.
+ Rev. xiv. 13. Ist Cor. xiii. 5 and 7.-Whether from the want of a more general prac. tice of domiciliary visiting by oppidan clergymen, or from whatever cause, one cannot walk along the streets without observing that there is much most pernicious female ignorance, which must have a great bearing upon marriages. We mean that many females show by their language that they have no idea of modesty, or delicacy, except with reference to actual unchastity, and of this "credal infidels'' take advantage, and say (what is any thing but fair, for it is confounding the abuse of a thing with its proper use), “ Bebold your Christian marriages !” In a note, in our “Revivals, No. III." wepointed out the shameful omissions by some clergymen in the marriage service, which we showed might produce, independent of the questions of duty and edification, legal consequences so serious as only an Act of Parliament with retrospective opera. tion could remove. But, at all events, it is the duty of a clergyman to make every Froman of limited education he marries understand that drinking to excess, swearing, or any thing forbidden in the Gospel, is as wicked as adultery. " For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” “ For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law." “ So speak ye, and so do," &c. (James, ii. 10-12.)
N. S.-VOL VI.
We think we have made it appear that the “credal infidel" is more liable to the charge of fanaticism than the “credal believer ;” and we may with truth add, that of the worst form of fanaticism-bigotry“credal infidels” have their full share. For, if it is true that some of the hearers of a popular preacher would imagine they agreed with any thing he uttered, however contradictory to his usual doctrine, so also is it true that in infidelity (and the same may be said of politics) there are those who confine their reading, and social intercourse, almost, if not entirely, to the side they advocate, and give a blind assent to any argument, whether fair, or, to those who will reflect as well as read, most flagrantly sophistical; which blind assent, instead of calling prejudices, they dignify with the title of opinions.*
But to make a more perfect picture, let us suppose an infidel and utilitarian government, both legislative and executire.- Now, with regard to the “unproved” assertions that man is in his nature "essen tially good," and inclined to “love of man,” we do not, in the first place, see why an infidel government may not be sceptical on these points as well as on the subject of revealed religion, and therefore proceed upon a principle of selfishness, and think no right so valid as that which miglit gives (practically, though not avowedly, there was much of such principle displayed in the old French Revolution). Such a government might, it is clear, study the gratification of its own ambition, avarice, v c., without caring whether it promoted the good, or harm, of the governed ; and, to retain its power as long as possible, it could adopt the example formerly set in this country of prolonging the existence of the parliament, and it might also resort to other devices which will occur to the reader.-But, secondly, granting that an infidel government must necessarily have such a firm belief in the social tenets of the “credal infidel” creed as to act upon the “ doctrine" of utilitarian philosophy, one of the principal maxims of which is to study “the greatest happiness of the greatest number;" in this case, without any check like ihat of the Christian doctrine, which forbids us to say, “Let us do evil that good may come,” the “ credal infidel” government might proceed to any enormities. We suppose we must not insinuate a word about bloodshed, in speaking of disparagers of the “meek and lowly Jesus;"'$ but is there not, with many modern materialists, a dogma about some people whose “organization is so unsound that no circumstances can make them rational ?” This would palpably be a very convenient tool in the hands of an utilitarian government, whereby to confine, as “incurable lunatics,” in little “circles" appropriated for that purpose, not only those detected in drunkenness, or other immorality, but also every man too monarchical, too oligarchical, or too sceptical of the soundness of the “credal infidel” creed, to be likely to become “rational" enough to advocate its system. All this might be done on the principle of “the greatest happiness to the greatest number," and such a government might excuse itself after the manner of Demetrius and his party, of old, “That mad drunkard would, by his example, have corrupted hundreds; that mad Tory, and that mad Whig, and that mad Christian Radical, and that mad Bishop, and that mad Roman Catholic Priest, and that mad Presbyterian Preacher, would, in their several ways, have persuaded and turned away much people;' and so would our · Diana' have become 'in danger to be set at nought, or despised and destroyed :' instead of which, by thus carrying out our sacred principle, The greatest happiness to the greatest number,' or, in other words, 'arbitrary deprivation of liberty and property of the few for the advantage of the many,' not only in this country, but throughout the world,' will be established our religion and polity, including all our maxims of "utility,' 'love of humanity,' and of every thing beautiful;' a science which has been proved to be more perfect and rational, and therefore authentic, than any other system of religion,' or philosophy, -and proved too in such a manner as that none (but lunatics) can possibly doubt' it.” It is true that most of these men at present disclaim "resort to physical force;" but this must be understood with reservation of cases of lunacy, and of things held to be so useful to "the many," that no “rational mind can possibly doubt the uuthenticity of them;" from which it follows that faith would still be kept with all the sane part of the world of not "resorting to physical force” (and even a “credal infidel utilitarian" might doubt the utility of using physical force against his own sect); or else we must say, that several of their expressions, taken in connection (be it remembered) with the proofs they demand (and rationally demand, as they say) of the “utility and authenticity of every system of religion,”and, à fortiori, of their own "more perfect and practising religion,”—or else we must say, that several of their expressions—whether from their “ignorance,” or our own—appear to us “incongruous.” And, after all, granting that the pledge of not resorting to physical force will not bear our interpretation, there is such a thing as a temporary expediency pledge (and we never remember to have seen a mathematical demonstration of the impossibility of any body of men having recourse to it),-a mere "pap of doctrine," though well enough suited to the infancy of the human mind, yet food that “ it will not do to feed the world with after a certain progress, or growth,” towards maturity of mental illumination.
* Romans, x. 2. † Romans, iii. 8.
Matthew, xi, 6 and 29. § Acts, xix. 23-41.
But, besides, the majority of materialist and utilitarian “credal infidels" advocate such a social change, as one would think they must themselves be, upon their own rules of scepticism concerning revealed religion, sceptical of its being “rational,” to contemplate accomplishing-to believe it to be practicable upon a larger scalewithout first, in a country like this, abounding in wealth and property of various kinds, going through a most bloody revolution and famine. †
* Ist Cor. ii. 2.
† It is only just to mention, and particularly as the Owenites do not appear very anxious to undeceive those who labour under the misapprehension, that the system of the late M. Fourier is free from these objections, and is essentially different from the doctrines of Owen. It is neither opposed to religion nor property, and is put forth with talent and consistency. Any reader, who may wish to look a little into it, may derive much amusement, and instruction also (whatever conclusion he comes to), in " The London Phalanx," published by Mr. Doherty, of Catherine Street, in the First Number of which the difference between Owen and Fourier in
We should even say that they ought to doubt ever being able to try the experiment upon a national scale without the previous “ circumstances” of a frightful revolution and famine. Now suppose these abhorrers of “physical force” were to become numerous enough to alarm people of property, and that in consequence parliament passed a very coercive act to restrain, rather than "give increased celerity to, their movements, and that an agitator gained influence enough over the majority to persuade them that moral force had been tried long enough, and that the time was come when physical force ought to be attempted, of what value then becomes the pledge of “not resorting to physical force?” And, to consider the subject further, if they were to quietly submit to such coercive legislation, they would be annihilated as to present means of extending their system, any thing in their motto mystery notwithstanding: if they were to resist, and resist successfully, they would, we are persuaded, be just as far from establishing their system, for the ground must be prepared before we can sow. And how stands the matter in this respect? They would have lo move out of the way those few insignificant weeds, property, real and personal,
the last including not only the national debi, but also a great deal of equally artificial wealth ;-and, through the convulsion and alarm caused by these attacks upon so many having, and throwing into circulation at present, incomes of various amounts, live and dead stock would become depreciated in value for want of purchasers, and the plough and the loom would be equally idle,-ploughmen and mechanics equally penniless. And, as we “cannot reason with a hungry man,” and as a man may catch cold while his clothes are making, these philosophers would soon feel a “necessity” for the “circumstance" of their possessing a magic wand whereby to be enabled to feed the people for two years, or whatever time it would take (and it would obviously be some considerable time) before the people could, in the natural course of things, derive any benefit from the change; or else, without any immediate equivalent to the people for the loss of their present earnings, the cry for bread would produce a cry for blood, as in the first French Revolution ; and when we consider the fury of ten millions (we believe we speak under the mark) of starving people of all classes against them, and particularly the fury of starving tradesmen, and servants, in this metropolis, a military despotism at home, or an invasion from abroad, would stand a much better chance of being the result, than that the nation would be in the humour to give these credulous “credal infidels” that fair trial, without which the most perfect theory must, of “necessity,” fail in practice. And let not any well intentioned believer in the “ credal infidel” creed (for we have no doubt of their being some who secretly agree with us in the impracticability of their system, and trust to a timely adroitness in
thus very truly stated :-" COMMUNITY OF GOODS, and the ABSORPTION OF INDI. VIDUAL PROPERTY, are the ultimate aim of ROBERT EN ; JOINT-STOCK ASSOCI. ATION, and THE EXTENSION OF INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY, are the ultimate aim of CHARLES FOURIER. The system is certainly practicable on either a large or small scale, whereas Owenism, according to our notion, wants the necessary elements of being attempted upon a great plan, except by the aid of physical force, even which, as we have said, we believe would be fruitless.