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is proved, and its doct r es ascertained ; and have either intirely rejected, or reasoned very imperfectly concerning it. But Dr. Priestley's genius is equal to all subjects; and remarkable for selecting only the strongest and most suitable arguments upon every one that he handles, and applying and arranging them with exquisite method and simplicity; so as to be intelligible to every capacity, and seldom to fail to work conviction in the unprejudiced mind. It may
indeed be faid of his writings, as has been said of some others, that persons may learn from them to reason justly without having recourse to formal treatises of logic. I speak not this in the way of panegyric. I could name some of the first masters of reasoning in this kingdom, and who are allowed to be so, who attribute this excellency to our author's compositions. And hence it is, that as his singular probity, and his discernment, will never let him undertake a subject which he does not believe himself capable of supporting by just argument, it has seldom failed but that in most of his controversies, he has generally had the voice of all intel
ligent and unbiassed readers with him. And I cannot suffer myself to doubt of finding the same dispositions in you, with regard to the charges, which Dr. Horne, in your names, advances against him; which we are proceeding to consider.
S E C TI O N IV.
OF THE CHARGES AGAINST DR, PRIESTLEY FOR
HAVING NO FIXED CREED.
Important truth not to be concealed. Offence
wrongly taken at Dr. Priestley's publication of the progress of his inquiries. Impartial inquirers have no fixed creed. Service of Dr. Priestley's writings to the cause of the gofpel. Reasons of Dr. Horne's not seeing this.
The famous Burnet of the Charter-house, after having delivered his own sentiments, with great force of argument, from reason and scripture, and in a most affecting strain, against the eternity of future punishnents, closes the whole with this caution; with
which he says some of the ancient fathers, who were of the same sentiment, always accompanied the declaration of it:
(0)“ However freely. (says he to his readers) you may thus fee cause to think • concerning hell, and the future punish
ments of the wicked, in your own breast and in your closet; you must be careful • to use the commonly received language *concerning them, in public and before the • people. For the bulk of mankind are so
(0) “De inferno, et futuris impiorum suppliciis, hæc dixiffe fufficiat, modo fubjicias illud monitum, quod a præfatis patribus, ubi hoc tractant argumentum, fæpius adhiberi folet. Nimirum, quicquid apud te ftatuas, intus et in pectore, de his pænis, eternis vel non ; recepta doctrina verbisque utendum est cum populo, et cum peroratur ad vulgus; præceps nempe in vitium, et fola formidine pænæ a malis abfterrendum. Præterea, inter bonos etiam funt infantes et adulti, laele, vel cibo folidiorez pro cujusque viribus, alendi. Horum pon minus habenda eft ratio ; nec temere mutanda eft parvulorum aut infirmorum diæta, ne intemperies oriatur, et in morbos incidant. Progreffum providentiæ, in mundo fenfim ad perfectionem promovendo, et illuminanda gente humana, semper ante oculos, semper in consiliis habere oportet : atque pari passu procedendum in ftudiis et conatibus noftris, donec eo perventum fuerit, ut quod in aurem audivimus, in folariis prædic are liceat.”
Burnet de Stat. mort. et resurgent. p. 311. 312.
violently bent on vice, that they are only • to be restrained and affrighted from it by • a dread of punishment. Even among those • that are better characters, you are to at• tend to their case, and feed them with milk,
(1 Cor. iii. 2.) or strong meat, as may fuit, and not ralhly alter the diet of weak chris
tians, lest they be hurt by the change. • And herein we are to imitate the methods • of divine providence in enlightening manskind, and bringing its schemes to per• fection; and to manage the fruits of our • studies and researches in the same way, • till things come to that state, in the which, « what we have heard with the ear, we may Speak on the house-top"
This learned person's reasons for caution and filence
upon this subject, however well intended, have something unfound in them; and are by no means to be approved. For,
1. You are on no account to declare or to teach any thing, which you do not believe to be true. But this is what he recommends, viz. to hold forth the popular language concerning hell-torments, when you do not believe them to be eternal.
2. On the contrary, when you are led to treat upon the subject, you should with mildness and good temper, if it be your persuasion, thew, that the language of the scriptures is misunderstood, when men would infer from it the endless duration of the sufferings of wicked men; and also that such a doctrine is wholly incompatible with the ideas we cannot but entertain of the infinite goodness of God: and there you are to leave it, without fear of any harm to the morals of christians resulting from it, and without any doubt but that the most lasting punishments certainly denounced against the evil and impenitent, though they be far from eternal, cannot but have effect upon all that are capable of being deterred from their vicious practices.
3. With respect to the methods of divine providence, they are no rule to us in such things. Our time is Tort, and our business is to make known important truth to others, as it is discovered to us. It has been, owing to a prudence of this kind not always to be commended, that there is still fo much darkness and supersition among christians, and the scripture so little understood.