Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

changing their principles for contriving to outlive the storm and aggrandize themselves),-let not any well intentioned believer “ lean upon that broken reed,” that the previous instruction of the people in the “ doctrine" that “ man's character is not formed by himself,” and therefore it is “irrational (and consequently impossible in a CONSISTENT NECESSITARIAN !) to quarrel with any man on account of opinion." Did the necessitariun doctrines of the Covenanters and Puritans of old prevent them from feeling anger towards the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians ? No! a “credal infidel” necessitarian in power, if he did not quarrel with a man “on account of opinion,” would be very apt to quarrel with him for acting upon his opinion : he might, indeed, be quietly allowed to secretly think anything until a “necessity” arose for his becoming more " enlightened ;” but, the moment he appeared to be under a “necessity" to say, or write, one word to express dissent from the “credal infidel" creed, that moment would the believers in that creed feel themselves under a “necessity" to be as angry with him as if they really thought he could have resisted the “ necessity” of differing from them. Whether this inconsistency would arise from practical infidelity to the “necessity” mystery, or from the testimony of nature against “the utility, and therefore the authenticity," of the doctrineis what we will not stop to inquire, but leave that task for those better versed than we are in the mysteries of the “credal infidel” creed.

Having given several instances of the credulity, fanaticism, and inconsistency of “ credal infidels” (and we could so multiply them as to show that, upon their own principles, a total stop to the business of life ought to take place),-men who are so ready to charge Christians with being credulous, fanatical, and inconsistent, and many of them hypocrites besides, we are naturally led to examine a little how “credal infidels” stand about consistency, in reference to the proverb, “ People who live in glass houses should not throw stones." "Is there no practical infidelity to the “credal infidel” creed? One of the tenets of this confession of faith (at any rate it is a doctrine in the mouths of most modern infidels) is that there ought to be a community of goods. We may see instances of men living in common in the Jewish sect of the Essenians, in the primitive Christian Church at Jerusalem (though there the practice was not compulsory, and was soon afterwards superseded, as we find by St. Paul's recommendation of a weekly collection for the poor), in the conduct of several ancient rich bishops, and their clergy, after the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, and also in the monastic institutions; but in all these instances, except the Church at Jerusalem, celibacy more or less preFailed, and there were many other peculiarities, and particularly with regard to responsibility in a future life. We have also an indication of something like the principle of a community of goods in what is recorded of Minos and Lycurgus, neither of whom, however, much resembled those modern “credal infidels,” who appear fond of claiming them as authorities, and the latter of whom was certainly not a republican, in the modern sense of the word. Now in cases of rich men, like St. Augustine, we see something like sincerity: they did not wait till the rest of the world were likely to follow such example. On the contrary, without going into the question of numbers, “credal infidels" have it as an “ascertained fact," that there are several instances of men of their creed, who have property, or business, yielding them more than sufficient to maintain their families. It ought, we should say, to be reckoned a great concession in a community casuist, to allow such men to retain a bare sufficiency, and pay over the remainder towards a common fund (for the true consistency would be, either to join, or to establish upon whatever scale their means allowed, a community); but is even this very generally the case? If not, (and it will hardly be asserted that it is the case,) “ one phase of practical (or real,' as some more correct philosophers would say) credal infidel infidelity to the community doctrine is the preaching, or advocating, of a certain thing, and the practice of its contrary,--this is the infidelity of several rich credal infidels : in this they are antagonists to the doctrine of community of goods; and that, too, not after the most unphilosophical meaning of the term." But the argument of the practical infidelity of these men may be carried down inuch lower upon their own principles ; for, to be consistent with the “necessity” article of their creed, they ought to petition parliament to so far alter the law, as that no one of their body should be allowed to sue a debtor, or prosecute one who committed any outrage whatever, either upon himself, his family, or his property (if, indeed, he can be allowed to possess the last); and that killing one of them should be no more regarded. than was the extra judicial killing of a Christian regarded by the Roman Government at various periods of the first three centuries of the Christian era; seeing that the “ characters" of debtors and criminals “are not formed by themselves," and that they are under a “ necessity” to act according to their opinions, and that it is “ irrational to quarrel with a man on account of opinion." But really “ credal infidels” should be more placable towards Christianity, if, as they say, (the idea is not original, for Mahomet talked very like it,) it is with them an " ascertained fact,” that, with all its supposed imperfections, it was destined to pave the way for communism; a system of education, attraction (and we would suggest, to make it a less imperfect description, the antagonist quality, repulsion), and prevention, which is, consequently, a more perfect, and a practising religion."

There is a short extract from the writings of one who may be called the High PRIEST of a numerous body of “credal infidels," which seems held by them in such great veneration as to be adopted as a motto.* This motto mystery, therefore, may be safely reckoned one

* For deficiency in pompous ceremonies the “credal infidel" religion seems to try to compensate by a most voluminous collection of mysterious tenets in their creed, one of which we must mention, to say that, in arguing with people of other persuasions, it ought to be clearly stated that it is merely a quotation of a mystery, as otherwise the unenlightened reader may be tempted to suspect a "credal infidel" writer of “ignorance, even of words, and much more so of things." The apparently “ misty and extraordinary'' doctrine is, “general progression is analogous to civili. zation." The mystery being properly explained, the word “ civilization" is no doubt intended to represent every thing good, and also every thing evil, and thus to reform the world from the prejudice (perhaps originally contracted in the “dark ages''), that, so far from general progression being analogous to civilization, there may be a “ general progression" towards drunkenness, towards sophistry, towards of the cardinal doctrines of the “ credal infidel" creed. Let us see whether there are no practical heretics-nay even speculative-with regard to this tenet, and the mysterious but “ ascertained facts” it contains. “SILENCE WILL NOT RETARD ITS PROGRESS; AND OPPOSITION WILL GIVE INCREASED CELERITY TO ITS NOVEMENTS,” that is, to the movements of the modern “ credal infidel” system. The faithful part of the “ credal infidel" sect may receive as “ ascertained facts” whatever mysteries their High Priest may propound; but to plain, “ ignorant" men it would appear, that, if the latter part of this sublime prophecy is true, or an “ascertained fact," the former part must be false, for in that case silence will negatively retard its progress by not changing itself into opposition. To such plain, “ignorant” people, therefore, it will appear not improbable that the leader of these " rationalists" is not always quite sure of his own meaning, and that he has to trust to the good natured credulity of his disciples to receive as “ ascertained facts” propositions so “incongruous" as to be “real” mysteries.-Before we show a picture of heresy to hang opposite this picture, we will just remark, that, may we presume to suggest a better motto, we would recommend “ Cæcus iter monstrare vult ;or, if this is too “Chesterfieldian for their taste,"—too scholarlike, or “scholarly," as the more correct “ credal infidels” would say, and as they are great quoters of Scripture, in their own peculiar “fair” way, the motto might run thus:-"Let us alone; we be blind, leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."* We have lately read a publication by a prominent “ credal infidel,” which received the direct sanction of the motto mystery people, in which the writer professes so strong faith in “ the truth of our great principles," as to “call upon the Government and the Church, and should they refuse, upon the aristocracy and great landowners, capitalists, manufacturers, the middling and the working classes, to immediately adopt them,” and as to call his High Priest “great and benevolent,”—yet, with all this apparent firm faith in his creed, the writer is downright heretical with regard to the motto mystery ; for, so far from im bibing the “ pap of doctrine" that “ silence will not retard the progress of his system, and opposition will give increased celerity to its movements," he is dreadfully alarmed at the idea of passive “opposition"_"silence"--and prophecies accordingly,—“Something effectual must be done speedily, or a bloody revolution may drive us all back into our original barbarism.” The prophet adds, that “the only effectual remedy (or something') is the adoption, in practice (we suppose without the motto), of the credal infidel principles," which, he adds, “would be, when effected, the greatest and best of all reforms." "Ignorant” persons are sometimes right by accident; there

Tanity, and many other things, and that the exceptions are only apparent, as when the world (if it can do so, indeed, now it is “growing a man,'') goes back to some formerly discarded thing, and we can, with regard to the dates of the two changes, call it retrogression, because even then, though relatively it is retrogression, abstractedly it is progression, seeing that men turn round in preference to walking backwards. For our parts, we expect to see critical acumen arrive at such an acme of perfection one day, as for “credal infidels" to adopt the phrase, “new natural

world."

[ocr errors]

fore we venture to humbly suggest (as the prophecy is to be re-published) that some of the phraseology, if adopted, “would not be the greatest and best of all" [grammatical] reforms," but would rather

drive us all back into our original barbarism," such as “ would have required," instead of “ will require," and similar “misty and extraordinary” expressions, nearly twenty in thirty-four lines.

Another contemporary prophet beats to nothing the preceding example of a believer in a creed of “ ascertained facts" descending to the supererogatory practice of prophesying (we suppose the “authen. ticityof “ credal infidel" prophecies is, till they are accomplished, to be taken for granted upon a principle of " faith"), for, under the not very appropriate head of “ANTI-SUPERNATURALISM,” he propounds, as an “ascertained fact," the following introductory mystery, even a beginning before the beginning : “To Strauss and Hennell must be attributed the origin of the controversy to which we have alluded, and which had its commencement in the delivery of a lecture in Brixton Unitarian Chapel, on the 18th of October, 1840, by the Rev. Thomas Wood, on the Mission of Jesus Christ.'”

Little conversant as we are with the mysteries of the “ credal infidel” school, we may, in our “ignorance,” take for blunders, such as a parish school-boy would be ashamed of, what are merely sublime mysteries, or the quintessences of doctrines of the purest charity, or irresistible evidences of knowledge “even of words, and much more so of things." We are, therefore, puzzled in trying to interpret the two following specimens of " credal infidel” phraseology.—The first is in an article on the “ Medical and Surgical Professions," to which we shall have to again advert, in which the writer, who appears to be a most enthusiastic “ credal infidel," says, “ If the patient died in China, his bewailing family could not be sued as in England for the physician's fee;" and, in the very same paragraph, we are told by a quotation, that in England these litigious physicians take “their fees before they have performed the cure, and of course before they attempt to perform a cure which is not effected, unless it is meant that English physicians are equal, and yet inferior, to the Chinese physicians in the capability to “tell, and judge of, the nature, the cause, the durability, and the fatalness of the malady."--The second specimen does not proceed from any writer in particular, but seems common to all modern “credal infidel” authors, viz. the frequent use of the word “religionists." Is it meant that the zeal of every man professing belief in the tenets of any religion (or, not to strain the matter, suppose we say any form of Christianity) is necessarily blind? Or is it that “credal in fidel” writers are so “ignorant, even of words, and much more so of things, that they are, of course, incongruous ?” We confess that it appears to us that both questions may be answered in the affirmative, for they talk of “rational religionists" sometimes, and praise some American Christians who profess to agree with much of their polity, as if the possibility of a man being religious without being a religionist was admitted, while “ modern saints," evidently meaning all Cliristians who attend public prayers, are called “hypocrites, who go to church, confess their sins, and straightway (that is immediately afterwards) go and make a repetition of their former deeds." We were so “igno

rant" as to think it possible that sometimes sins are not repeated by individuals, as intoxication, duelling, and many other things; but perhaps those initiated into the mysteries of the “ credal infidel” system have a way of their own of reconciling their antagonist “ascertained facts;" for is it not a system of attraction ?"

There will be other instances of practical infidelity to the “ credal infidel" creed embodied in our remaining observations, which we more especially address to any readers of the Monthly who feel a leaning towards being convinced by the many sceptical arguments with which the present age abounds, that is to say, to those open to conviction, to those honestly in search of truth. To bigots, or to those pretending to be bigots, it is useless to say a word : it is more hopeless than trying to reason with a drunken man. There are, however, some men (and we hope of some sceptics the same may be said), whose real objects are truth and the promotion of the good of their fellow creatures; who, if they are wrong, are more so from placing too implicit confidence in their leaders, and not confidence enough in their own powers of reflection. We fear, however, we must class among the number of those, of whom there is little hope, those who profess to imagine that certain essentially anti-Christian tenets and the profession of the Christian religion are compatible with each other; for one would think that the 15th chapter of Deuteronomy, and the 11th verse of the 26th chapter of St. Matthew, would be sufficient to show such men, that, though it is our bounden duty to endeavour to relieve the poor, and to diminish the numbers of the poor, yet that it is a practical disbelief of the revealed plan of Providence to suppose that, in this state of probation, any scheme can be devised which has a chance of wholly exterminating what, it is so expressly said, shall always exist to some extent, said, too, for wise reasons, as the true Christian will have the humility to believe, although he may not be able to fathom them all. “There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." But is poverty an evil without much countervailing good? There is one reason for the decree that poverty shall always exist, most obvious to Christian readers of the Bible, which is, that the misfortunes of the poor shall be the trials of the rich. Another reason may be, that we shall not be too much wedded to this life, as, even with all the ills we are liable to, we see too many unphilosophical enough to be (and mortality, which none can escape, has necessarily a peculiar sting for the man whose only treasure is upon earth). And, as a mere worldly matter, we are inclined to think that many of those qualities we call amiable, would wither out of the world, for want of sufficient exercise, were there no wretched objects of sympathy besides those arising from the infirmities and accidents which are independent of poverty; for, though we may feel, to a great degree of acuteness, sympathy with the sufferings of a rich friend, it is a feeling 80 mixed with the consciousness, though also the consolation, that he has the command of everything necessary in his case, that, if it does not end in indifference, it is contrary to all experience to conclude that those rich, who know only the sorrows of the rich, arrive at that

[merged small][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »