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Profession of Faith from Rousseau, continued.
What if a man should come and harangue us in the following manner : I come, ye mortals, to announce to you the will of the most high ; , acknowledge in my voice that of him who fent me. I command the fun to move backwards, the stars to change their places, the mountains to disappear, the waves to remain fixed on high, and the earth to wear a different aspect.” Who would not, at the sight of such miracles, immediately attribute them to the author of nature? Nature is not obedient to impostors; their miracles are always performed in the highways, in the fields, or in apartments where they are displayed before a small number of spectators, previously disposed to believe every thing they fee. W ho. is there will venture to determine how many eye witnefles are necessary to render a miracle worthy of credit ? If the miracles intended to prove the truth of your doctrine, stand themselves in need of proof, of what use are they? There might as well be none performed at all.
The most important examination, after all, remains to be made into the truth of the doctrines delivered, for as those who fay that God is pleased to work thefe miracles pretend that the devil sometimes imitates them, we are not a jot nearer than before, though such miracles fiould be ever so well attested. As the magicians of Pharoah worked the same miracles, even in the presence of Moles, as he himself performed by the express com. mand of God, why might not they, in his absence, from the same proofs, pretend to the same authority? Thus after proving the truth of the doctrine by the miracle, you are reçluced to prove the truth of the miracle by that of the doctrine, left the works of the devil should be miltaken for those of the Lord. What think you of this al. ternative?
The doctrines coming from God, ought to bear the facred characters of the divinity; and should not only clear up those confused'ideas which enlightened reason excites in the mind; but should also furnish us with a system of
religion and morals, agreeable to those attributes by which only we form a conception of his essence. If then they teach us only absurdities, if they inspire us with fentiments of aversion for our fellow creatures, and fear for ourselves; if they describe the deity as a vindictive, partial, jealous and angry being; as a god of war and battles, always ready to thunder and destroy; always threatening flaughter and revenge, and even boasting of punishing the innocent, my heart cannot be incited to love such a deity, and I fhall take care how I give up my natural religion to embrace fuch doctrines. Your God is not mine, I should say to professors of such a religion. A being, who begins his dispensations with partially selecting one people, and profcribing the rest of niankind, is not the common father of the human race; a being, who destines to eternal punishment the greatest part of his creatures, is not the good and merciful God who is pointed out by my reason.
With regard to articles of faith, my reason tells me, they should be clear, perspicuous and evident. If natural religion be insufficient, it is owing to the obscurity in which it neceffarily leaves those sublime truths it profelles to teach : it is the business of revelation to exhibit them to the mind in a more clear and sensible manner; to adapt them to his understanding, and to enable him, to conceive, in order that he may be capable of believing them. True faith is affured and confirmed by the un-, derstanding, the best of all religions is undoubtedly the clearest : that which is clouded with myfteries and contradictions, the worship that is to be taught by preaching, teaches me by that very circumstance to distrust it. The God whom I adore is not tho God of darkness; he hath not given me an understanding to forbid me thc use of it. To bid me give up my reason is to insult the author of it. The minister of truth doth not tyrannise over my understanding, he enlightens it.
We have set aside all human authority, and without it I cannot fee how one man can convince another, by preaching to him an unreasonable doctrine. Let'us fupe
pose two persons engaged in a dispute on this head, and fee how they will express themselves in the language generally made use of on such occasions
DOGMATIST, “ Your reason tells you that the whole is greater than part; but I tell you, from God, that a part is greater than: the whole.”
RATIONALIST. “And who are you, that dare to tell me God contradicts himself? In whom shall I rather believe? In him who instructs me, by means of reason, in the knowledge of eternal truths; or in you who would impose on me, in his name, the greatest absurdity ?”
D. “In me, for my instructions are more positive; and It will prove to you incontestibly, that he hath feat me.”
R. “ How! will you prove that God hath sent you to depose against himself? What sort of proofs can you bring to convince me, is it more certain that God speaks b your mouth than by the understanding he hath given
D. “The understanding he hath given you! Ridiculous and contemptible man! you talk as if you were the first infidel who ever was misled by an understanding depraved by fin."
R. “Nor may you, man of God! be the first knave whole impudence hath been the only proof he could give of his divine miffion.”
“ How can philofophers be thus, abusive ?”.
D. ?Ohh but I am authorised to abuse you. I speak on the part of God Almighty.”
R. « It would not be improper, however, to produce your credentials before you allume your privileges.”
D. My credentials are sufficiently authenticated. Both heaven and earth are witnesses in my favor. Attend I pray you, to my arguments.
R. Arguents ! why you do not sure pretend 'to any! To tell me that my reason is fallacious, is to refute whatever it may say in your favor. Whoever refuses to a. bide by the dictates of reason, ought to be able to convince without making use of it. For supposing that in the course of your arguments you convince me, how shall I know whether it be not through the fallacy of reason, de. praved by sin, that I acquiesce in what you affirm? Befides, what proof, what demonftration can you ever em ploy more evident than the anxiom which destroys it? It is full as credible that a juft fyllogism should be false, as that a part is greater than the whole.”
D. “What a difference! my proofs admit of no reply; they are of a supernatural kind.”
R. Supernatural! What is the meaning of that term ? I do not understand it,"
D. “ Contraventions of the order of nature, peophecies, miracles and prodigies of every kind.”
R. “Prodigies and miracles! I have never seen any of these things.”
«No matter; others have seen them for you: We can bring clouds of witnesses--the testimony of whole nations.
R. “ The testimony of whole nations! Is that a proof of the supernatural kind ?"
D. “No. But when it is unanimous, it is incontesti. ble.”
R. “ There is nothing more inconteftible than the dictates of reason; nor can the testimony of all mankind prove the truth of an absurdity. Let us fee fome of your supernatural proofs then, as the attestation of men is not so.'
D. • Infidel wretch ! It is plain the grace of God doth not speak to thy understanding."
R. “Whose fault is that? not mine; for according to you, it is necessary to be enlightened by grace to know how to ask for it. Begin then, and speak to me in its stead."
D. “Is not this what I am doing? But you will not hear me: What do you say to prophecies ?”.
R. “As to prophecies; I say, in the first place, I have heard as few of them as I have seen miracles. And in the second, I say that no prophecy bears any weight with me."
D. “ Thou desciple of Satan! And why have prophecies no weight with you ?"
To be continued.
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