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able to lend it their avowed and earnest aid; but notwithstanding these individual exceptions, experience proves, that the principles which man adopts, have a considerable and direct influence on his character and life. We do not assert that they determine his moral character; but that they have an important influence. The human character is subjected in the world to various circumstances of moral influence ; and truth and error are far from being the least powerful. Error leads to sin and truth is in a high degree conducive to virtue.
It will be found, and after the acknowledgment which has been made, it will not be deemed uncandid to say, that the false views of christianity, to which we have referred, have actually the effect on the character which we should expect them to have. Infidelity and scepticism tend to vice; looseness of principles produces looseness of morals; and an instance can hardly be found, in which profligacy of life has not been accompanied with unbelief, and a virtual, though perhaps seldom an avowed, atheism. In innumerable cases of vice the axe has been laid at the root of the tree; the religious principles early instilled into the mind have been first demolished, and not till these have been either effectually removed or shaken, has the corruption been able to make any considerable progress. If the history of men could be thoroughly known, it would be discovered that the doctrine of natural depravity has served to many as an apology for their sins ; that the sentiment that man could do nothing for bis own salvation has induced many to do nothing in the way of their moral improvement; and that the sentiment that human virtue has no worth, has made many persons quite worthless. The doctrines of fatalism and the necessity of human actions have had the most pernicious tendency on the morals of men, have removed all sentiment of responsibility, a most effectual guard to human virtue, and often led to the most dreadful crimes. On the other hand, correct principles of morals and religion form the only certain basis of a virtuous character, the best security against temptation, and a sure guide to whatever is excellent and useful.
We are bound then to regard with the utmost care the principles which we adopt. We should shun error as we would shun vice. We should look upon those who would corrupt our religious sentiments as the worst enemies of our virtue, and as aiming to introduce a moral poison into our system, which must effectually diffuse itself through the constitution. We should endeavour continually to learn more and more of the truth, and to understand the character of the religion, which claims our confidence as a perfect rule of life, and an infallible guide to honour and felicity.
Parents cannot too assiduously watch over the trust, which God has committed to them, and which he will require under the most solemn penalties at their hands. Let them beware lest the susceptible mind of youth should be infected with the virulence of corrupt sentiments; and let them be assiduous in their labours, that, so far as depends on them, the minds of their children may be early imbued with those principles, which form a sure foundation of respectability, usefulness, and happiness. Let those who give a tone to public sentiment, vigorously withstand the circulation and influence of opinions, which are false, and prejudicial and destructive to human virtue. Let them cherish with extreme solicitude those principles which lie at the foundation of social order and happiness. Let them feel that these are the strongest motives to learn the true character of that religion, which presents itself as the best friend to human virtue, and to individual and social welfare. Its truths are infinitely important; and when understood, felt, and conscientiously applied, they confer inexpressible digoity and excellence on the human character; they prove the medicine and balm of life, and if they could have their full influence, they would transform mankind into angels of light, render earth a paradise, and leave us little else to ask of God than that immortality below, which is revealed to our faith and hopes beyond the grave.
REMARKS ON A MATHEMATICAL ARGUMENT FOR TRINITARIAN
FOR THE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE.
A WRITER in a recent number of the Christian Observer, (May, 1821,) undertakes the defence of certain reputed mysteries of revelation, which have been said to involve contradictions and impossibilities, by an argument drawn from the science of the mathematicks. * How can the Divine Being exist in three persons ? How can God and man be one Christ ? &c."
66 To these questions," the writer remarks, " it will be time enough to reply, when we are informed, how many apparently contradictory propositions in science are reconciled; how, for example, space can be proved ever divisible, and yet it be proved that no straight line can be drawn from the tangent point dividing the space between the circumference of a circle and a line touching it ; how again two lines, the assymptotes of curves for instance, may be always drawing nearer to each other, yet never meet ; with many other illustrations." New Series-ool. IV.
I have seen the argument stated in various shapes in the writings of the orthodox, and I should think from the frequency with which it is adduced, that a good deal of stress is laid upon it. But the answer is really extremely easy, and, it appears to me, perfectly satisfactory.
1. I deny, first, that there is any proper analogy between theological propositions and those of the mathematicks. The latter, as is well known, admit of being proved by demonstration, a spe. cies of evidence which forces conviction on every mind capable of appreciating it. Whoever should undertake to deny the truth of either of the propositions contained in the above extract; or of any other propositions which are susceptible of demonstration, however wonderful, or even apparently contradictory they might be; would convict himself of an entire ignorance of the subject. But the case is widely different with the doctrines of the christian revelation. For I suppose no one will contend that even the general truth of Christianity is susceptible of demonstrative proof. The evidences are sufficient to produce conviction in every fair and unprejudiced mind. But they do not amount to demonstration. They are not connected together like the successive steps in a complete demonstration. On the contrary, they are drawn together from various sources, which are perfectly distinct and independent of each other, so that it requires no inconsiderable study and pains to estimate their collected weight. According to the different circumstances in which the inquirer may be placed, and the disposition of mind which he brings to the subject, the evidences of Christianity may produce any degree of belief, from the lowest presumption to the highest moral certainty. Nor is this all. Admit that Christianity is true ; it does not necessarily follow that all and every part of those writings which are found in the New Testament, have the sanction of divine authority. The evidence of the genuineness of different portions of the Christian writings may be extremely various. Every theological student is aware that some books of the New Testament are supported by stronger evidence than others; and that of none does the evidence amount to mathematical certainty. But admit that each book is genuine and authentic, and properly belongs to the Canon of Scripture ; it does not follow that the received text is immaculate, that every verse and every term is precisely as it stood when it proceeded from the pen of the Evangelists and the Apostles. Or, should this be admitted, it remains to be considered whether the authorized English Version of the Scriptures is in every instance faithful to the original.
It were easy to bring examples in illustration of these remarks. Thus I might say, that, with the most perfect conviction of the
truth of the Christian Revelation, many writers of eminence have doubted of the genuineness of several of the Apostolical Epistles ;* that many more have rejected particular texts and terms as unquestionably spurious; and that no scbolar claims for the Authorized English Version an entire exemption from error.
It appears then, that no doctrine of Scripture, however well supported, bears any analogy to mathematical truths ; that even should it be enunciated in direct and intelligible terms, it would not force every man's assent like one of the propositions of Euclid, about which there can be no dispute ; since it may be found in a book or passage of doubtful authority, or may derive its support from an obvious mistranslation.
2. But this is not all. It is not necessary to resort to this argument in order to show that the doctrines in question derive no support from the analogy to which I have referred. I will admit for the sake of argument, that the general truths of Christianity and the genuineness of the several books of the Old and New Testament, rest on evidence as certain as mathematical demonstration. Still the question recurs as to those particular propositions. What is the evidence on which they rest ? Do you show by incontrovertible proof that they are contained in these books? If not, if you cannot absolutely demonstrate them, the argument from mathematical analogy is weakness itself. “How," asks the writer, “ can the Divine Being exist in three persons ? How can God and man be one Christ? It seems to be admitted that no solution can be given. None is even attempted ; and the writer would have his reader infer, that they have nothing to do but to receive those doctrines with implicit faith, while he labours to convince them that the apparent contradiction and impossibilities which they involve, need give them little concern, so long as there are propositions of a similar character in the mathematicks which admit of satisfactory proof! It is just like requiring a mathematician to receive a problem in spherical astronomy, which has never been demonstrated, on the ground that he has seen a satisfactory demonstration of one in geometry, apparently as difficult.
Look at it attentively for one moment further. Here is one proposition :-The Divine Being erists in three persons. It is a mystery. It appears to involve
a contradiction or an absurdity, -Over against this is placed one borrowed from the science of the mathematicks :-Two lines of a particular description continu
* Such are the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of James, the second of Peter, the second and third of John, the Epistle of Jude, and the Revelation. “These,” says Dr. Lardner, “should be allowed to be publicly read in Christian assemblies, for the edification of the people, but not be alleged as affording alone sufficient prooi of any doctrine."
ally approach each other, yet if produced ever so far will never meet. This too it must be admitted seems somewhat paradoxi. cal; and ove unskilled in the mathematicks may be tempted to pronounce it at once absurd or impossible. Yet this proposition is susceptible of the most satisfactory proof. The truth of it is as evident to the mathematician, as that of one of the simplest propositions in Euclid. But can this be said of the doctrine of the Trinity? Where is the unquestionable proof of that doctrine! lo what'part of the Old or New Testament do we read that the Divine Being exists in three persons ? Let him, who would avail himself of this argument, point to the very chapter and verse in which the doctrine is clearly contained. Who will pretend that such a passage can be found ?-No one ;--the doctrine is but an inference at the best. The term trinity is not a scriptural term. As Calvin justly says of it: Il is barbarous, insipid, profane, a human invention, grounded on no testimony of God's word; the Popish God, unknown to the prophets and apostles. The text which bears the most striking resemblance to the doctrine (1 John v. 7.) is rejected as spurious by learned trinitarians themselves. There is no other which has the appearance of being an enunciation of it. And yet its evidence is set by the side of mathematical demonstration, and we are told that it will be time enough to reply to the question, How can the Divine Being exist in three persons ? when we are informed how many apparently contradictory propositions in science are reconciled; how two lines, the assymptotes of curves for instance, may be always drawing nearer to each other, yet never meet."
The case stands thus :
On the one hand, a paradoxical proposition in mathematicks, which is demonstrated to be true.
On the other, a paradoxical proposition in theology, which is incapable of demonstration from the very nature of the subject, and which possesses only a disputed and uncertain share of that kind of proof of which it is susceptible.
And it is gravely said, that we are not to question the latter, because we cannot question the former!
To the question then, How can the Divine Being exist in three persons ? I would reply at once, that I cannot tell ; and further, that I cannot find that the Scriptures authorize the use of such language in reference to the One Jehovah. And I should do it with a great deal of confidence, fully persuaded as I am that the doctrine in question is not from God, but a human fabrication. And I should make the same reply to the question wbich follows: How can God and man be one Christ? I find nothing of the kind revealed in the Bible. I do not believe the