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cruel. This we most positively deny. That certain transactions which we find in the Seriptures may to us, short-sighted mortals, appear to partake of cruelty, is freely admitted: yet we contend that this very appearance is attributable to our limited knowledge of the ways, intentions, and government of Omnipotence. It should never be forgotten, that correct opinion, or correct judgment, is always in proportion to the degree of knowledge we possess, of the act, or article, to be appreciated, judged, or valued.
In reference to many of the acts of the Deity, where the lives of men, women, yea, children, have been, by His authority, taken away, we are apt to lose sight altogether of the misery, wretchedness, trouble and anguish, from which these may have been delivered, and the eternal happiness, where sorrow cometh not, into the possession of which, they may have been put. How often does it occur, that a parent, when his child has come, by his wickedness, to an untimely end, wishes heartily, that his child had died when an infant! How much better would it have been for thousands, yea, tens of thousands of men and women, now alive, had they died in infancy, had they been swallowed up by an earthquake, carried off by a pestilence, or their mothers killed ere they were born! When we reflect on these undeniable, wellknown truths, we cannot reasonably say, such or such a transaction was actually cruel, not knowing the real, and ultimate, and incalculable good, that those persons may have derived from the very act which we deem cruel. For example—A child, or an ignorant person, happens to witness a surgeon taking off a limb. The operation itself has all the characteristics of cruelty-much blood lost-great pain given, &c. The child considers it a great act of cruelty! Why so? Because he understands neither the reason, the necessity, nor the ultimate good to be derived from it. He does not know, nor can he understand, that this operation was indispensably necessary in order to save the life of the patient-nor that it was performed, not out of cruelty, (whatever appearance of such it might possess,) nor for the purpose of giving pain, but with the benevolent intent of saving life of putting an end to pain-of producing ultimate ease, comfort, and happiness! Just so, short-sighted men too often view the acts of the Deity—they merely consider the nature of the act, without taking into consideration, either the necessity for it, or the ultimate and (probably) incalculable good to be derived from it. Let us philosophically investigate this subject a little.
In order to judge any thing, or to form a correct opinion or judgment of any transaction or occurrence, we must know something about it.—In proportion to what circumstances is judgment generally, yea always, proportionably correct? You answer in proportion to knowledge. Exactly so. Then if man knows but little of any thing, in proportion, will he be likely to form an erroneous opinion. Judgment or capability of forming a correct opinion of any thing or object, depends upon the degree of knowledge we have of the thing or object presented for our opinion. If we know but little of its nature, of its operations, of its designs, of its effects, our judgment will be of little value--yea, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, our judgment or opinion will be erroneous and incorrect; and this universally admitted fact, gave rise to the old, but very true adage, that “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” On the contrary, if we know much of a thing, of its nature, operations, &c., there is a probability of our forming a correct opinion. Every department in business, and every transaction in
life, prove incontrovertibly the truth, the correctness of this principle. Suppose you wanted to purchase a ship, a horse, a piece of land, and that you yourself knew but little about them, you would not purchase them without applying to some one else for his opinion. Why so? Why not depend on your own judgment? you reply, “ because I know but little about them.” Exactly so— that is, you are so convinced that a thorough knowledge of the article to be purchased is so indispensably necessary to form a correct opinion of its value, that you will not depend on your own judgment, (although you are the most interested in it, but will have recourse to the opinion of another. And then, whose opinion will you take ? not the opinion of your nearest or dearest friend, if you think he knows but little about it! no, no; friendship without knowledge will not answer here. Will you take the opinion of the man most celebrated and admired for his honesty and integrity? No, you reply, honesty and integrity (however invaluable,) will not do in this business without knowledge. The fact is, you will take the judgment of the man whom you believe knows most of it: and that for the obvious reason that correct opinion or judgment is always in proportion to the degree of knowledge of the thing to be judged. Again I appeal to you, would you submit a piece of mechanism, of the value of which you entertained a high opinion, and for which you expected a high premium, to the decision, judgment, or verdict of a man, or number of men, whom you believed were ignorant of its nature, of its structure, of its operations, and of its effects? You reply, certainly not. I ask you why not? You answer, because you have no confidence in their judgment. And I again ask you, why not have confidence in their judgment? and you reply, because they know little
or nothing about it. Nor, lastly, would you depend in a case of critical disease, on the judgment of a physician, or of a surgeon, whom you believed ignorant of the human body: for the very same reason, viz. that you know judgment is in proportion to knowledge. Now all this satisfactorily proves the foundation of my position, viz: that judgment or capability of forming a correct opinion of any thing, act, or deed, is in proportion to our knowledge of it. I trust you will admit I have not used sophistry: this is only common sense—it is what must be self-evident to the judgment of every man, even of the lowest capacity. Will not this reasoning be admitted? I am sure it will, by every reasonable individual,
How much, think ye, do we know of the will, ways, works, and ultimate intentions, of Him, who made all things, who sustains all things, whose ways are unsearchable, and whose paths are past finding out? Do we know much or little of them? Little or nothing! And it is remarkable, that in proportion as men advance in knowledge, in proportion do they candidly confess the little or nothing, comparatively with what remains to be known, they actually know: while in proportion as men know little or nothing, comparatively with what other men know, do they think they know a great deal, and often act as if they knew all things! Who boasts of his knowledge like the empiric? But let us try and render this part of our argument somewhat mathematically demonstrable. Let us suppose a scale of our knowledge divided into a number of degrees, 5, 10, 20, 30, &c., like Fahrenheit's or Wedgewood's instruments, from 0 to 1000. Then if our knowledge of any thing or object be placed at any one of these degrees, say at 20, our correct judgment will be in proportion: that is, if our knowledge of the transaction or object, be at 20, and the thing to be appreciated at 1000; then the chances of an incorrect or imperfect judgment will be as 20 is to 1000, that is, there will be fifty to one that our judgment will be erroneous! Now what scale shall we invent in order to try our judge ment of the works and ways of the Creator? Shall we say a scale of 1,000 degrees, or 10,000—or 100,000 degrees, will answer? No, verily, if even we place a Newton's genius and knowledge at zero, we should rather say our knowledge of the ways, government, and ultimate intentions of the Deity, is as a grain of sand to the sand on the sea-shore; therefore our incapability (which depends on this degree of knowledge,) of judging correctly, His ways, is rendered manifest, and incontrovertibly proved. How fallacious, then, how idiotic, how insane, is it for any man to presume to judge, much less to condemn, the acts of the Deity as recorded in the Bible; and still more absurd is it for him to deny the authenticity of that book, because forsooth it relates transactions which he thinks unbecoming or inconsistent with the character of the Creator! I before alluded to the fact of men always flattering themselves that they know a great deal, just in proportion as they really know little or nothing. This great evil exists in all departments of life, and in all classes, professions, and trades; among lawyers, physicians, and divines; among chemists, astronomers, and philosophers. This self-conceit, this fallacious pride, this mental hallucination, is one of the greatest curses on the earth: it is the chief engine which the great enemy of man makes the most successful use of, in the rebellion he excites and carries on in mankind, against their great and merciful Creator: it is by this means he causes them to dare to list their arm of flesh in war against the Most High God. Who boasts so much of his courage as the