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I guess substantial preferment in the Church, when we attended the divinity lectures together in the University. “Plague on these divinity lectures," said he," they really do one more harm than good: they suggest doubts that would never bave arisen ia one's own mind : and however satisfactory or clever the answers to the objections that are brought forward, seem at the time to be, there is something so much cleverer and more striking in the objections, that I find the objections haunt my remembrance, when I have quite forgotten the answers.”
I have heard the sentiment of this complaint, frequently adduced as an apology for declining all treatment of the historical evidences of Christianity, from the pulpit. I have heard it most strenuously urged by a Reverend Doctor of Divinity whom, when I was a believer, I knew to be an unbeliever, but who when I became an unbeliever, turned on me, and became one of my most furibund and implacable persecutors.
But surely the sentiment is utterly incompatible with moral honesty. If the preachers of Christianity were satisfied that its pretended evidences were calculated to command the conviction of an honest mind, is it possible that they could feel any greater pleasure, or be bound by any paramount duty to that of frequently and earnestly bringing the subject before their hearers; and even seeking, courting, and making occasions to confront unbelievers, and to expose the futility of their arguments and the inaccuracies of their information? Their declining to do so, be accounted for, on no other principle, than that of policy and management. They preach to the people what they do not believe themselves. i defy the power of imagination itself to imagine any other principle of their conduct.
On this principle one may fairly venture to give for them what they will never venture to give for themselves,
AN ANSWER TO THE CHALLENGE.
Why! Christians ?-Because your preachers are right well aware, that by such an opposition, they would have every thing to lose, and nothing to gain, while those whom you call on them to oppose, have every thing to gain and nothing to lose.
Because, your preachers are right well aware, that the evidences of Christianity really are rotten and indefensible, that any attempt to defend them, would only serve to betray to public notoriety how bad and weak they are ;—that the admissions that they themselves would be obliged to make, would make more Infidels in one discussion than Taylor and Carlile could make in a year ; and because, -as in all such causes, « least said soon€8t mended."
Because, the reasons why your preachers should nol enter into any discussions with Taylor and Carlile, nor with any other Infidels who shall at any time call on them so to do, are equally cogent and valid, whether you presume that your preachers be sincere in their professions, or hypocritical, or partly sincere and partly hypocritical :-in one or other of which distinctive states of mind, every professing Christian necessarily must be.
1. If your preachers are sincere, they must sincerely believe in their right and duty to keep the means of influencing the public mind, as exclusively as possible to themselves, and that so formidable a panoply committed by a partial Providence to their hands, is not to be put in hazard, surrendered, or shared with the Ministers of Satan. They have texts of Scripture enough, and more than enough, to justify and oblige them to depart from the tents of the ungodly, “ to have nothing to do with us,”-" to come out from among us and be separate." The very first verse of their first Psalm, is directly aimed against the principle of free discussion, and forbids the giving a hearing to any parties whose opinions square not with the rule of orthodoxy. “'Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners,-nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." - Persuading themselves that they have the cure of souls, and that they are to “watch for the souls of their flocks, as they that must give account:" they cannot but upon that persuasion, sincerely apprehend that it would be a breach of ministerial fidélity, should they by their presence or example, seem to countenance the dangerous curiosity which might issue in loss of faith and consequent loss of heaven, to the souls which their example might allure into the atmosphere of Infidelity.
2. But if your preachers be insincere, and all of them together, as great hypocrites as the majority of them cannot be doubted to be ; so much the rather, and all the stronger are the reasons, why, they should not expose themselves to the bazards of a condict, the adverse issue of which to themselves, they must be so much the more before hand, able to anticipate.
The arguments of Infidelity can hold out no exciting attraction of novelty to them, to lure them to the lists of a controversy in which they have no laurels to win, no advantages to gain, no rewards to hope :—but contrariwise, have to fear the detection of their fallacies, the exposure of their craft, and the peril of the emoluments which that craft secures to them.,
Who would be so weak and fatuate, as to put arms into the hands of an enemy: or hazard an engagement, when all the advantages that victory could give, were his, without a struggle? : 3. To your preachers of the mixed state of mind, that is, to those who are partly sincere and partly hypocritical, whose faith and policy swing in equable oscillations, like a pendulum ; all
the reasons and motives both of hypocrisy and of sincerity, blend their united cogency in forbiddance of their accepting the challenge they have received. The decussations of the distinctive motives of piety and policy, like the warp and woor, blend in the firmer texture of the good reason they have for avoiding all confict with us. And were that argumeri a thousand-fold more flimsy than it is; the willingness of the people to be deceived, and the indifference of those whose interference would be formi. dable, as to whether the people be deceived or not, serves sufficiently to wax over and fill up its gaping interstices, to sustain its consistency, and to conceal its weakness. If they doubt whether they be on the right side; they cannot doubt that they are on the safe side. The misgivinys of conscience, are made up by the calculations of interest, and the hesitation as to whether it be right, to leave our challenge unnoticed, is settled by their conviction that it is certainly prudent to do so.
Never then, never at any time will the priests of any religion that is, or ever shall be on earth, whether they be supposed the best or worst of men, whether they be honest or dishonest, good, bad, or indifferent; never will they surrender the ascendancy which they have once gained over the minds of the people, never will they cease to consider the people as their property, or come down from the pedestals of their assumed infallibility, to subject themselves to the shock of the collision of mind with mind.
I had supplied those reasons for them, immediately previous to the coming to hand of the annexed report of our proceedings up to yesterday evening, which appears in the LEEDS Patrtor of this morning June 27th. It is in a subdued spirit, and far gentler phrase than the envenomed scurrility of the Intelligencer. The admission in charity of the probability that I might be an amiable enthusiast savours of a cadence to which my ears are wholly unused, from such a quarter I have hardly ever heard it admitted, that I had any lot or part in humanity. But my friend and brother apostle St Richard, is to pay for this. At his expence am I burthened with this approximation to civility. The oil is poured on me, to point the shaft levelled at him. According to the adage, they are for robbing Peter to pay Paul. But as our friendship is not a combination in wickedness, the hope of severing us can only be realized upon the emergence of some individual having superior claims on our mutual confidence and esteem, than we have reciprocally upon each other. When I can find a better man, one more honest and more able in this cause, one who being with me at all seasons and “who in suffering all, has been as one who suffered nothing," I'll be the first to show Mr. Carlile, as I would shew the best man I ever knew or shall know that he shall never hold a place in my esteem, that a better man may challenge from him.
(From the Leeds Patriot of June 27, 1829.)
" THE INFIDEL M188IONARIES.
“ The Infidel Missionaries as they style themselves, have during the week addressed circulars to the clergy and ministers of every denomination in Leeds, challenging them to public discussion on the truth of our Christian religion. The walls of the town have also been placarded with a copy of this challenge. Another placard has also caused some sensation, it runs thus in very large letters :
Christians! Why don't your preachers go and oppose the Infidels, Taylor and Carlile ?
“ These placards have given rise to a question, on which there is a difference of opinion, viz. that it was the bounden duty of the clergy and Ministers to meet the challenge, and defend the faith which they professed that they are ready on all occasions, where no opposition is expected, to come forward, and talk per hour; but now, when their talents and erudition were likely to be put to the test, they shrunk from the contest. Others again assert, that by the attendance of the clergy and ministers, a dangerous consequence would have been given to the Missionaries, which, on many accounts, it were wise and prudent to avoid. “We confess ourselves to incline to this latter opinion, and think the reverend gentlemen have acted wisely in keeping aloof; not that for one moment we suppose they were inadequate to the task, or that their bosoms were not fired with proper zeal in the servide of their Lord and Master; but simply, because the judges who were invited to decide on so important a controversy, included all persons who could afford to pay one shilling. In discussing points of faith, no man would attend to the opinions of any but the learned and the pious ; and when the truth of the Christian faith itself was proposed as a fit subject for discussion, it were only an additional insult to Christianity, to suppose for one moment, that the “ Shilling" Tribunal was a proper one.
“We would, in charity, dissever Mr. Taylor from Carlile. The former is probably an amiable enthusiast, who in after years may possibly regret the attempt at schism he has made; but "the man without a God”—the avowed'Atheist, Carlile-the man who dares deny his Maker, whilst above him his thunders are abroad, and around him on every side the earth is teeming with the bountiful dispensations of his never-ceasing benevolence. No! No! Mr. Carlile, our fingers tremble to record your blasphemy. What Sir, did you fancy the men of Leeds, were below even the savages of North America, or the various pagan nations of the earth? that they were not equal to the followers of
Zoroaster or Mohammed-all, all of whom, acknowledge and own the great Spirit, the everlasting God.
“Go home, Sir, to your infamous colleagues at Charing Crossand compose another filthy “ Every Woman's Book”-to the everlasting disgrace of the press, and of the age in which we live; but we trust that in your intended peregrination through the West Riding of Yorkshire, you will be shunned as a pestilence by every man who would not tamper with his allegiance and loyalty to Heaven."
The argument against us, involved in the sarcasm of our being "a
shilling tribunal” might be subscribed in all its signiticancy, if it were our fault, that it is a shilling tribunal, or if there were reason to suspect that we should be unwilling to be the possessors of a magnificent edifice, so as to be enabled to throw its doors open to the public, without any anxieties, or necessities on our part of looking to the means, of meeting the responsibilities incurred.
The advocates of a system sustained by annual millions drawn from the pockets of involuntary payers, impugn our claim upon the liberality, nay upon the justice of those who can only pay as they are willing to do so. The takers of millions of pounds, begrudge us the necessities of existence. The believers in Omnipotence, expect from us, a miracle, which they hold to be too much to be expected from Omnipotence himself, even that our cause should stand its ground, as his cause could not. That we live without means of living, and present a respectability of appearance, without expence. I wish too much of this ungenerous and mean sophistry, vastly too much of it, were not found in minds, that affect to be with us in sentiment, and to wish the success of our cause.
On the conclusion of a most animated and evidently interesting oration, with which I closed the business of yesterday evening's discussion, I received all the amends that gratulation and admiration could make, for the absence of every other consideration of labours not to be surpassed, animated by a sincerity and zeal that I see no where equalled; my apostolic brother only excepted. A gentleman who, I understand, was one of the first, if not the first who 'subscribed to my support in prison, assured me that “ I ought to form no judgment from what I then saw, or had seen in Leeds on the state of feeling and sentiment on the great question 1 had come to agitate: that I could have no idea how many and good friends, and ardent admirers, I, and our good cause, and our good chivalry in that cause, had, in this neighbourhood, that thousands beyond what I could think, were with us in heart and soul, though they dared not show their attachment openly.”
O yes ! yes ! So the poor have in the fable had many friends,