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1 HAVE read with great pleasure the paper on Miracles in the last Number of the Edinburgh Magazine, and beg leave to suggest to you the confirmation which your opinion receives from the doctrine of the New Testament on that subject. It is quite clear, I think, from many passages in the inspired volume, that what is called the external evidence of Christianity, or the evidence of attested miracles, has no force whatever, except in so far as it is supported by internal evidence; and that neither the evidence of testimony to the truth of miracles, nor even the evidence of miracles actually perceived by the senses, would establish the truth of a doctrine evidently contrary to reason, or evidently pernicious in its moral tendency. "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"-"Go, and shew John those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the dead are raised to life, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them." In this last passage, the internal and external evidences are so connected, as to prove that the last is defective without the former. It is
equally evident that a system of doe trines which elevates our ideas of the character of God, and tends thereby to exalt the character of man, is internally probable; and that the greater
*The above communication came to hand immediately after we had printed the preceding extract from Mr Erskine's va luable treatise. We are happy to avail ourselves of it, as affording some good illustrations of the same important argument; yet we should be unwilling to find ourselves immersed in a controversy, the invariable result of which is, that the disputants on either side push their opinions to an injudicious extreme, and go much farther than they had at first any conception of.-Edit.
this internal probability, the less external evidence is necessary, in order to prove such a system to be true. The clearer, too, our perception of this internal evidence, the less of external evidence is necessary in order to convince us of the truth of the system. It is even possible that the internal evidence may be so strong and so clearly perceived by the devout inquirer, as to render the evidence of testiThe man may believe the miracles, not on the evidence of testimony, but on account of their connection with a system of doc-. trines which he feels to be true. He may believe the miracles on account of the doctrines, not the doctrines on account of the miracles. "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed."- "Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold he is in the desert, go not forth: behold he is in the secret chambers, believe it not. For east, and shineth even unto the west, as the lightning cometh out of the so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." The idea expressed in this last verse is evidently this, that, in a mind rightly constituted, there is an instinctive discernment of moral and religious truth, resembling the instinct by which an animal is attracted to its food. If the Governor of the universe is infinite in wisdom and in goodness, it is evident that that religion which exhibits the most sublime view of his providence is the most probable; and, if a system of religious doctrines came down from heaven for the improvement of human nature, that system is internally more or less probable, in proportion as it is more or less efficacious for the end in view. Now, it is by adding the evidence of attested miracles to this internal evidence of a system the most beautiful in its theory, and the most salutary and powerful in its operation, that the truth of is neither wholly internal, nor wholly Christianity is proved. The evidence external, but a mixture of both, in which the moral beauty of the doctrine increases the probability of the miracles, and the testimony in support, of the miracles strengthens the evidence of the doctrine. "The dead are raised to life, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them."
I think this view of the subject, which seems to be both rational and scriptural, would deserve the consideration of those writers who think it possible to increase the authority of revelation, by undermining the evidence of natural religion. It is with no small concern that I remark an error so vulgar, and at the same time so dangerous, in the works of such men as President Edwards of America, Mr Bowdler, and even Dr Chalmers. There is a passage in one of Bowdler's Theological Tracts, (that on the Eternity of Future Punishment,) in which he adopts the very mode of reasoning which Hume, in his Dialogues on Natural Religion, has put into the mouth of Philo. It would surely be better to allow a single doctrine of our religion to remain doubtful, rather than to adopt a sceptical principle which destroys the evidence of every doctrine, by calling in question our capacity of distinguishing truth from error in these mysterious subjects. It is quite evident, that if we possess sufficient evidence of the moral perfections of God, we are not only at liberty to reject, but bound to reject, every doctrine which, after a candid examination, appears to be inconsistent with these perfections; and that, if we do not possess sufficient evidence of God's moral perfections, or, (what is the same thing,) if we do not understand their nature, or, (what is also the same thing,) if the attributes of wisdom and goodness in God may, for ought we can discover, be totally different from the qualities of wisdom and goodness in men, we can place no rational confidence in any doctrine The that may be revealed to us. whole scheme of revelation may be a contrivance to deceive us; and, if miraculous appearances are produced, they may be a part of the contrivance. Our only refuge against a suspicion so horrible, is our confidence in the moral attributes of God; and our confidence in his moral attributes must be proportioned to our knowledge of them. It is evident, that our confidence in any principle, physical or moral, must be proportioned to our knowledge of that principle; that if there is no knowledge, there can be no confidence; if no confidence, no love; if no love, no moral improvement. It is, therefore, unnecessary to calculate the evidence of testimony
in support of the miracles, since it appears that the miracles furnish no evidence in support of the doctrines, unless the principles of natural religion are established, and the doctrines revealed are consistent with them. The miracles may be real, and the doctrines may, nevertheless, be false. I could wish that every intelligent reader would compare the method of reasoning pursued in the three last chapters of Dr Chalmers's View of the Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation, with the method of reasoning in Hume's Dialogues on Natural Religion. I have written some remarks on the arguments of Dr Chalmers, which, if you insert this letter in the Edinburgh Magazine, I will send to you. If you do not publish this letter, I would be obliged to you if you will publish such remarks of your own, as you may think calculated to guard the religious public against a very dangerous error. I will not dispute with any man upon trifles, and i am convinced, that your opinions are not materially different from my own. There is nothing in the faith of a Christian that ought to exclude free inquiry. On the contrary, it was the spirit of inquiry combined with faith, of which our Saviour declared, that "he had not found such faith, no, not in Israel.”—Luke, ch. vii.
REMARKS ON A HISTORY OF NEW
THIS is a shrewd, clever, eccentric performance-a sort of historical heroi-comic poem in prose-defective, certainly, in unity, and not squaring well with some other of the great Stagyrite's rules, as the author has as
Containing, among many surprising and curious matters, the unutterable ponderings of Walter the Doubter, the disastrous projects of William the Testy, and the chivalric achievements of Peter the Headstrong, the three Dutch Governors of New Amsterdam: being the only authentic history of the times that ever hath been published. By Diedrich Knickerbocker, (Author of the Sketch-book.) London, Murray, 1820. pp. 520.
sumed to himself the liberty of introducing a plurality of heroes, and sometimes even of sacrificing the authority of criticism to what, in the present instance, may be, sarcastically, denominated the truth of history-but, nevertheless, written by a person of keen observation, pointed sense, and solid learning-qualities which are made to tell with double effect, from the happy vein of ironical humour which pervades and enlivens the whole work, and which, while it is divested of every particle of malevolence, managed with a dexterity and address sufficient to convince every reader that, if ridicule be not the test of truth, it is the only certain and infallible exposer of absurdity, folly, and wickedness. Less various, and for that reason probably less amusing than the Sketch-book,' the work before us is more of a sustained effort; and if it betrays less versatility of talent, it unquestionably displays more power. The subject is not, indeed, shifted with the rapidity of the figures in a magic lanthorn, but presents itself to the eye with all the steady and dignified gravity of true history, which, as Dionysius Halicarnasseus has told us, is philosophy teaching and enforcing her lessons by examples: And, accordingly, that the keeping of his work might be as perfect as possible, the author has contrived, with singular skill and effect, to intermingle, with his burlesque narrative, the most profound reflections of political wisdom, and to speak out, from behind his mask, not a few of those harsh and unpalateable truths, which kings and governments should never forget, but which they manage somehow to remember as seldom as possible. Together with its predecessor, this book, certainly forms an era in the history of Transatlantic literature, as it is the first indigenous effort of real taste of which America can boast, and as far transcends, in sterling merit, their boasted Columbiad, as the Principia of Newton surpass the physical vagaries of Sir Richard Phillips. Honest Diedrich Knickerbocker, at a moderate estimate, is worth a whole Congress of Joel Barlows. But his merits will be the less surprising, when we advert to the models on which he has obviously formed himself. He appears to have studied, and fully appreciated, the purest, most finished,
and most classical authors of this country, and to have inspired a portion of the mens divinior, which glows in every line of their imperishable works; and, hence his style is, in a great measure, exempt, not merely from the flagrant faults, but even from the vicious peculiarities that appear in broad prominence on the works of his countrymen. Here and there, indeed, a stray Yankeeism peeps out to remind us of the author's "home and birth-place," but even these slips are wonderfully few-fewer, we verily believe, than the provincialisms that bristle in the works of some of our own most renowned literary dons; but, in compensation, we meet and are offended with no bombast-no affectation-no pedantry-no dogmatism-no perpetual labouring and straining to be fine, learned, witty, and sarcastic; on the contrary, the gentleman, the scholar, and the man of taste, and of the world, stand out in strong relief on every page. If, therefore, wit without effort-humour without malice-irony without scurrility-sense without dulness conscious power without vain glory patriotism without parade or pretension-liberality without prejudicebe qualities estimable in an author, we entertain a tolerable confidence that the work before us will not discredit the warmest recommendation which we can bestow upon it.munta
In common, we believe, with many of our countrymen, we did imagine that there was something in the constitution of American society unfavourable to the developement of literary genius; that the form of their government presented an insuperable barrier to the formation of a standard of taste among themselves, while their absurd and inveterate prejudices prevented them from studying our own classics, and endeavouring to transfuse their spirit into such compositions as they might afterwards undertake; that the establishment of an aristocracy, and a court, were indispensable to a national literature; and that, for ages to come, America, busied in draining her swamps, rooting out her immense forests, and cultivating her waste lands, would no more think of manufacturing her own literature than her own hardware, but would continue to take both, at second-band, from us, who have been accustomed to think
that we could manufacture the commodity cheaper and better than she could do for herself. How far some of these impressions may continue still unobliterated, we shall not very scrupulously define; but, this far we will go, that, if America will pledge herself to be forthcoming, every other lustrum, with a work of equal merit with the present, we, on our parts, will be content to forswear many of our prejudices of oldest standing, and to concede that her capabilities are much more extensive than we had hitherto conjectured.
The reader who expects to find, in the volume before us, a bona fide history of New York, and nothing more, is nearly as much to be pitied as the man, who, in order to study a system of lunar natural history, pored, night and day, over the celebrated theorem of Herschel, and when he found himself making but scurvy progress, betook himself to a close examination of "tides, madmen, and sea-crabs,' the legitimate objects of lunar influence. The fact appears to be, that the book has been written for the purpose of throwing strong ridicule on the labours of the following highly meritorious classes of philosophers and authors: In the first place, the writer of this book, for reasons best known to himself, has launched the full force of his derision against that formidable corps of sages, denominat ed nar ox, the creationists, who seem to believe that they possess, in their laboratories, the anima mundi, corked up and sealed, like Asmodeus in the magician's bottle, and who, if you take them at their own word, must have been of counsel during the whole of the six days' work. In the second place, he grins most bitterly at a very ingenious and convincing class of speculators, who, regarding the biblical story as by far too simple and intelligible for such sublime wits, set about proving it to be altogether fabulous, because, forsooth, it has not said one word of the wonderful comet, which, they allege, produced the deluge, and because it has most audaciously and falsely asserted that "God made of one flesh all the kindreds of men that dwell on the face of the earth"-a most unpardonable and rash allegation, considering that one portion of men are black and another white, which makes all
the difference in the world. In the third place, Knickerbocker celebrates, with all his might, that invaluable class of writers, who, knowing that Noah had only three sons, and that the earth has four quarters, set themselves most laudably to explain, what history and even tradition are silent upon, namely, the manner in which the three great pillars of population, after having learned the languages at Babel, sallied forth and conducted their increasing and multiplying squadrons, to continents, islands, isthmuses, peninsulas, promontories, and creeks;-across vast oceans, dangerous straits, rapid rivers, rugged mountains, and all the other forms of phy-, sical difficulties that must have obstructed and impeded their course, as they proceeded to such remote, but delectable, quarters as Greenland, Nova Zembla, Spitzbergen, and Kainschatka; and, what is worse than all, without map, chart, or compass. In the last place, our author indulges himself, very improperly we admit, in a general tirade against the whole tribe of historians, chroniclers, and expounders of past events, whom he not only taxes with interminably prolix prosings about the physical formation and subsequent population of this unfortunate globe of earth and water, and with masses of learned nonsense on the affiliation of nations, but, when they do come to facts, with distorting and disguising them to suit some sinister and dishonourable purpose, dwelling on things of no importance, and huddling up those of real moment, so that no mortal can distinguish the truth; exaggerating, apologising, defending, softening, extenuating, not according to individual merit or demerit, but as the impulse of faction, or the love of the marvellous, may happen to decide.
In the ample volume of subject thus unfolded, the author finds full scope for the exercise of his uncommon talents, and of his ironical humour; and as nothing grave, serious, or sacred, is, for one instant, the butt of his satire, but, on the contrary, the fooleries and absurdities of men, whether considered as writers, governors, citizens, or actors in the mighty drama of human life, we may be allowed to express the satisfaction with which we have travelled along with him in the execution of his plan, and the
pleasure we have derived from observing the tact, dexterity, and skill with which he has availed himself of every thing that promised to facilitate the furtherance of his object. Si fo
ret in terris, rideret Democritus.
Like the work of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, that of the redoubted Diedrich Knickerbocker contains some finished and graphical portraitures of the manners of the bon vieux temps, as contrasted with those of the present day. Without being exactly a laudator temporis acti, honest Diedrich dwells, with much apparent satisfaction, on the primitive simplicity and still life that reigned undisturbed in the halcyon days of the olden time, when the sovereignty of Wouter Van Twiller, sirnamed Wouter the Doubter, was exercised in moderating the factious feuds of Tough Breeches and Ten Breeches, and in establishing his undoubted right to the glorious title of Father of his Country. But we must now introduce the author to our readers, and allow him to speak for himself.
Our readers will please to remember, that as the learned Diedrich Knickerbocker has undertaken to write, the history of New York from the earliest period of which we have any authentic accounts, namely, from the creation of the world, downwards in a direct line to the end of the Dutch dynasty, he is, therefore, in duty bound, to tell somewhat of that memorable era at which his researches commence. After reviewing a va riety of world-building theories, all of them cunningly devised, (fables,) he proceeds to sum up the case, as the lawyers would say, and, after a word in passing to " that learned Theban," Dr Darwin, recounts the wants, necessities, and bountiful provisions of Providence in favour of philosophers.
bustible imagination. According to this opinion, the huge mass of chaos took a sudden occasion to explode, like a barrel of gunpowder, and in that act exploded the sun-which in its flight, by a similar con vulsion, exploded the earth-which in like guise exploded the moon-and thus by a concatenation of explosions, the whole solar system was produced, and set most systematically in motion!
"But I pass over a variety of excellent theories, among which are those of Burnet, and Woodward, and Whitehurst; regret ting extremely that my time will not suffer me to give them the notice they deserve and shall conclude with that of the renowned Dr Darwin. This learned Theban, who is as much distinguished for rhyme as reason, and for good natured credulity as serious research, and who has recommended himself wonderfully to the good graces of the ladies, by letting them into all the gallantries, amours, debaucheries, and other topics of scandal of the court of Flora, has fallen upon a theory worthy of his com
"By the great variety of theories here alluded to, every one of which, if thoroughly examined, will be found surprisingly consistent in all its parts, my unlearned readers will, perhaps, be led to conclude, that the creation of a world is not so dif
ficult a task as they at first imagined. I have shown at least a score of ingenious methods in which a world could be constructed; and I have no doubt, that had any of the philosophers above quoted the use of a good manageable comet, and the philosophical warehouse chaos at his command, he would engage to manufacture a planet as good, or, if you would take his word for it, better than this we inhabit.
"And here I cannot help noticing the kindness of Providence, in creating comets for the great relief of bewildered philosophers. By their assistance more sudden evolutions and transitions are effected in
the system of nature than are wrought in a pantomimic exhibition by the wonder-working sword of Harlequin, Should one of our modern sages, in his theoretical flights among the stars, ever find himself lost in the clouds, and in danger of tumbling into the abyss of nonsense and absurdity, he has but to seize a comet by the beard, mount astride of its tail, and away he gallops in triumph, like an enchanter on his hippogriff, or a Connecticut witch on her broomstick, to sweep the cobwebs out of the sky."
"It is an old and vulgar saying, about a beggar on horseback,' which I would not for the world have applied to these reverend philosophers; but I must confess that some of them, when they are mounted on one of those fiery steeds, are as wild in their curvettings as was Phaeton of yore, when he aspired to manage the chariot of One drives his comet at full Phoebus. speed against the sun, and knocks the world out of him with the mighty concussion; another, more moderate, makes his comet a kind of beast of burden, carrying the sun a regular supply of food and fagots; a third, of more combustible disposition,
threatens to throw his comet like a bombshell into the world, and blow it up like a powder magazine; while a fourth, with no great delicacy to this planet and its inhabitants, insinuates that some day or other his comet-my modest pen blushes while I write it shall absolutely turn tail upon our world, and deluge it with water!