Page images

the fury of blind zeal; since several zealots had been excellent men if their religion had not bindered them, if the doctrines and principles of their church had not spoiled their natural disposition."*_“ A just compliment (exclaims the “ Chaplain") to the moral influence of divine faith. The perfect believer becomes a perfect fiend.” Now notice, readers, the inference of Mr. Taylor. Faith, Christian faith, converts, according to the " compliment" of Tillotson, the perfect believer into the perfect fiend. It is the believer, the Christian, inasmuch as he is a believer and Christian, that becomes a perfect fiend. Let us then enquire what Arch. bishop Tillotson really says. He is preaching a sermon on the 5th of November; he animadverts on the influence of Catholicism then lately evinced in the dreadful Irish massacres, and these are his words :-"I'do willingly acknowledge the great piety and charity of several persons who have lived and died in that communion (the Catholic) as Erasmus, Father Paul, Theanus, and many others, who had in truth more goodness in them than the princi ples of their religion do either incline men to or allow of, and yet he that considers how universally almost the Papists in Ireland were engaged in that massacre, which is still fresh in our memo. ries, will find it very hard to determine how many degrees of inpocency and good nature, or of coldness and indifference, are ne, cessary to overbalance the fury of a blind zeal, and a misguided conscience. I doubt not but Pipis's are made like other men; nature hath not generally given them such savage and cruel disposi. tions, but their religion hath made them so. Whereas true Chris.. tianity is not only the best, but the best-natured institution in the world; and as far as any church is departed from good nature, and become cruel and barbarous, so far is it degenerated from Christianity. I am loth to say it, yet I am confident it is true, that many Papists wc-uld have been excellent persons if their religion had not hindered them; if the doctrines and principles of their church had not perverted and spoiled their natural dispositions,” Was there ever a greater perversion? Why take up a sentence in the middle, omitting the part essential to explain what follows? Why change the constraction of that latter part substituting “it will be hard" for “whoever, &c. &c, will ind it hard ?". Why omit a sentence which speaks most honourably of Christianity and of its moral influences? Why ascribe a word “ since" to the Archbishop which he uses not? Why connect altogether in one sentence given as the identical words of Tillotson, when he spreads his matter through several? Why supersede the word * Papist” by one of his own coining,“ zealots," altering the whole meaning of the passage ? I speak, my readers, as unto wise men, judge ye.

It will be pecessary therefore my readers in our further conside

Vide Mr. Taylor's oration," page 4.


ration of Mr. Taylor's statements to use caution and weariness Jest his calmness and impartiality should lead us astray. Mr. Taylor is not content with endeavouring to diminish the reputed number of early Christians, be wishes to deprive us also of the strong argument which is deduced from that fact in favour of the truth of Christianity. Mr. Belsham bad stated on the authority of Heathen authors that a short time after the resurrection of Christ, multitudes professed belief in the divinity of his mission, and evidenced the sincerity of their profession by the endurance of persecution and the surrender of their lives. This part could not be accounted for but on the supposition of the truth of the Christian religion. It is necessary therefore to assume the truth of Christianity in order to account for certain well ascertained phe

This Mr. Taylor chose to designate an outrage on philosophy.' “ What! (he indignantly exclaims) can philosophy then like a crab go backward, thus become preposterous, leap over all premises, assume the very thing to be proved and speak like John-a-dreams, repugnant of his purpose.” Mr. Taylor claims the character of a man of learning and as such must have felt the absurdity of his own remarks. If he knows aught of the nature of reasoning employed in enquiries respecting the laws of nature, he could have written this passage only ad captandum vulgus, to impose upon the uninformed.

To charge an opponent with assuming what he ought to prove, Mr. Taylor knew was the readiest way to secure the verdict of the jury before whom he pleaded his cause. But the subterfuge can impose upon none who are acquainted with the method of philosophizing followed by Sir I. Newton. He investigated the works of nature with a view to ascertain the laws by which their operations were guided. In his investigations he accumulated facts. But how was he to cxplain those facts, how discover the law to wbich they were referable? That hypothesis, which explained all the phenomena that he or others had observed, suggested the law of which he was in search. A stone when thrown into the air returns to the earth; the inhabitants of the opposite side of the globe walk with their feet towards our feet, loose rocks and stones on the surface of our planet fall not away from their places; suppose then that every particle of matter in this globe attracts every other particle, This being assumed, the afore-named phenomena are accounted for, the hypothesis, therefore, is true, the assumption is converted into proof. To illustrate still further the method of philosophizing pursued by our great philosopher. As I am walking over an extended plain, I descry something in the distance whose real nature is not apparent from the indistinctness of its outline, I walk forward, and then suppose the objects to be branches of trees, a few more steps undeceive me, and I perceive they are human beings. It is clear, however, that I shall not join them, for they are advancing in the same direction with anyself. I proceed

onwards and begin to doubt of the correctness of this hypothesis also. The distance between us appears to decrease. They approach still nearer, I perceive my error, and suppose now that they are advancing towards me. A few minutes relieve me from doubt and confirm my last supposition. I assume that we were proceeding in opposite directions because we have met. No other hypothesis can explain the given phenomena, that assumption therefore is true. Such, says Mr. Belsham, is the nature of the philosophical argument that I adduce in favour of Christianity. It must be true or false, I ascertain the rapidity of its early progress. If it had been false it never could have spread so extensively in so short a period, when the best means were possessed for the exposure of its unfounded pretensions. The assumption then of its being false cannot explain the acknowledged phenomena. There only remains one other supposition, that is, that Christianity is true.' If true, it would quickly spread itself: its evidence is overpowering, the favourable opportunities for its investigation enjoyed by the early Christians, were equally favourable to conviction. The hypothesis therefore which supposes its truth is the correct one. That hypothesis I assume; but it explains all facts; the assumption therefore rests on the best possible evidence. Mr. Taylor then proceeds in a more legitimate method of reasoning to assert that the recorded facts may be explained on the supposition of Christianity being false. To estab- lish his point, he refers to transubstantiation, and, asks if thousands of persons would not swe::, and hold themselves ready to die for what they swear, that they had eaten and drank the corporeal flesh and blood of the Deity. Granting the correctness of Mr. Taylor's statement, I cannot imagine that when proved he will - contend that the cases are parallel. The persons to whom Mr. Taylor refers have been educated in the belief of the doctrine of transubstantiation, have cherished it as a tenet sanctioned by antiquity, reverenced by their fathers, conducive to their own best interests, associated with their dearest feelings in the past and their brightest anticipation in the future hose who renounced Paganism had first to render powerless all these interesting associations, then to receive some new thing,' not only subversive of former prejudices, but hostile to former practices also, with which their hearts had never beat in unison, and their understandings connected nothing in this life, but obloquy, desertion, and death. No, never has it been known that men renounced the opinions of their youth, of their fathers and their mothers, received in their stead some unheard of novelty, left home and kindred, exchanged their blessings for curses and contempt, wandered about in want and woe, persecuted and forlorn :- yes, gave their lives a pledge of their conviction and veracity; -and all for what ?-- to propagate a base fabrication of their own, or of their fellows: without ob.

ject, except to deceive; without advantage, except it were found in the pangs of torture and death.

But, rejoins Mr. Taylor, neither the primitive Christians nor " the whole human race,"can evidence the existence of a miracle. Why? Because, man is a fallible creature and may be deceived, he is a perverse creature and may be deceitful.” And as Mr. Taylor is a man, he may possess these qualities, and negative his assertions by his own argument: the more so when be sets himself in opposition to “ the whole human race.” Let them testify to a miracle, says Mr. Taylor, they are men, they are fallible, they are perverse, and I a man neither fallible nor perverse. I tell them “ they lie, though they were millions.” A miracle, he adds, is an impossibility to God himself, as an argument of weakness, not of power. In other words it is an argument of weakness not of power, that a father corrects his child, that a machinist arrests the working of an engine, that a lawgiver deviales from his usual course of procedure. I had thought that ancient fate which was fabled to bind the gods in its iron chains, indicated weakness rather than power. But liberty it seems, full and perfect liberty, to do whatever is most fitting upon the whole and for each particular juncture, liberty is an argument of weakness. Mr. Carlile certainly differs from his friend Mr. Taylor in this respect: otherwise while in prison he was very anxious to diminish his power, by procuring his liberation.

Leaving to Mr. Taylor the office which he has assumed, of precisely defining what the divine being cannot perform, I feel it to be much the safer course to argue from analogy what is within the range of his power.

Mr. Taylor professes himself to be a Theist, and as such, believes, we may presume, in the existence of a supreme and intinitely perfect mind, the Creator of the present system of the universe. How then can he deny that the being who made all things is competent to change those things which he made? Surely he who established the laws of nature can suspend the laws which he established :-he that first made man and breathed into him the breath of-life, has power to re-animate the insensible corse. Admit the creation of man and you have admitted the exertion of miraculous agency. How then in consistency can we deny the possibily of its exertion in other instances? If we might be allowed to measure a miracle by the magnitude of the result, we should be authorized to affirm that the production of this system with all its glorious furniture of worlds innumerable, magnificence unequalled, abounding in animated beings who rejoice in their existence, implies an infinitely greater miracle than is presented to us in the stilling of the fury of the mightiest ocean, much less of a small lake in Galilee. Is it replied that the cases are not strictly analogous, that now there exists an established constitution of na

[ocr errors]

ture which of course had no being prior to the production of the world ? It is true, and still the cases are analogous. Anterior to the use of this system God existed. Then were there worlds and modes of existence, and laws relating them. Yet the supreme interposed, gave a new feature to created existence,and caused the morning stars to sing together for joy at the happiness of the new born world. If he once varied the face of the universe, why not a second time? If he once modified the laws which regulate his actions—whether by extending their application or diversifying their character, he affords us a demonstration that he is at least capable of departing from the ordinary motie of his government. It was for the benefit of those whom he should create, that he added new worlds to the sphere of his agency. Benevolence alone prompted him to exert bis creative power, and if the purposes of his benig. nity may be best secured by a renewed interposal, we are warranted by his previous conduct to expect such an event.

After these preliminary strictures on Mr. Belsham's argument, you proceed to question the facts on which that argument is founded. The first that you controvert is, “ that Christianity had its origin in Judea, in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar,” your object is to show that there is no Evidence, that Christianity did originate then and there, and secoudly that there is Evidence that it did not. In endeavouring to coforce the invalidity of the Evidence, that the Christian religion did originate in Judea, you think proper in a note to give "'a specimen of the extracts from Jewish and Heathen testimonies adduced by Dr. Jardner as evidences of Christianity which he either receives, or queslions or rejects, you exclaim, "cnough! the reader, when patience shall have digested this specimen of what is called the Evidences of Christianity, may consider hiinself possest ot' ali the intellectual wealth of the most laborious work perhaps that was cver written.” What all? two octayo pages contain all the intellectual wealth of the most laborious work that was ever writica? Was Dr. Lardner then a fool, will be the question of every rational man uninformed as to his character and work. This even you cannot pretend. And yet he, Dr. Lardner,--the author of ihe most laborious work that was ever written, produced only two pages and those extracts, only two octavo pages of intellectual wealth.

Respecting the passage in Josephus which has been thought to recognize the existence of Jesus Christ, and the reputed origination of Christianity, I shall content myself by referring you to what I have said, and shall say on that head, in my correspondence with Mr. Carlile. The passage of Tacitus, then, requires our first attention. The words Nero subdidit elos, you thus translate--“ Nero subdued the accused.” Who were the accused ? Nero, of having set fire to the city of Rome. Nero, therefore, subdued himself ! Nay; you will reply, “it was the Christians that he subdued.” Were the Christians, then, in arms against

« PreviousContinue »