Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Sir,

March 18, 1823. but as I have heard of nothing that A. S it appears to be intended to

can justify any one in charging the make some exertions, during the Society with an attempt to suppress present session of Parliament, to pro- my Letter, I could not let such charge cure the repeal of the Corporation pass without notice. I do not like to and Test Acts, I will take the liberty, let the present opportunity slip withthrough your publication, if you will out an observation on the controversy allow my communication a place in it, between Q kers and Unitarians. The of suggesting to those gentlemen who pages of the Repository have often may engage in the attempt, that there contained articles tending to shew a are Dissenting ministers whose sala- resemblance between the principles of ries will be diminished when those these sects. I think a litile reflection acts are repealed. I am acquainted will convince any one much acquainted with one instance, and it is probable with the religious sentiments of Quathat there are others of a siinilar de kers, that the controversy between scription, in which a sum of money them and Unitarians on the Unity of is paid annually to a Unitarian mi- the Deity, is little more than verbal. nister from an estate, from which, Friends, not excepting the most oraccording to the will of the person thodox of them, have not generally who bequeathed it, it is to cease to be any Trinitarian ideas : their language paid when the Corporation and Test sometimes favours the popular notion, Acts are repealed. The salary of the and the majority of them disclaim minister in question is but small, and Unitarianism; still, when their minds the reduction to which it is liable, are uninfluenced by the fear of heterothough not large, would be severely doxy, their language in private confelt; the case, therefore, seems to be versation, in their prayers and serworthy of attention. I have never mons, and in their epistles will, I supposed, even for a moment, that think, prove that in their ideas the the interests of an individual should Unity of the Deity is not divided, and be attended to before those of the that the Son is not exalted to an equaDissenters at large; neither do I make lity with the Father. It is only when this communication with any feeling pressed on a subject, they would of opposition to those gentlemen who otherwise seldom meddle with, that wish to procure the repeal of those they fly to popular language and amacts. Together with every sincere biguous texts. friend of religious liberty, I approve The dissent and separation of our of their intentions, and join in their predecessors from other professors of wishes, but, at the same time, I am Christianity was more on account of desirous that they may not cause one conduct than opinions, of internal disevil by striving to remove another. cline and church government than ar

J. N. ticles of belief. Their testimony was

borne more against hiring the teacher Yarmouth, than against the doctrines he taught : Sir,

March 23, 1823. it was the making that the privilege DERMIT me to make a few re- and emoluinent of one which ought “ Bereus,” in the Repository for Fe, objected. If others conferred on one bruary (p. 95). In the first place, I the privilege of preaching and praying must entirely acquit the Society of from his high place at his own discreFriends of the charge of attempting tion, while they not only submitted to suppress my “ Letter.” A book- to hear him without reply, but conseller, a member of our Society, cer- sented to pray and to praise only in tainly refused to sell the pamphlet, words that were set down for them, as he would and has refused to sell our predecessors thought themselves other books the contents of which he obeying an apostolic command in perdeems strikingly in opposition to the mitting all too prophesy, one by one, principles of Friends. "Among our mi- that all might learn, and all might be nisters and elders a disposition to comforted.” 1 Cor. xiv. 31. If others discourage inquiry and free discussion were yet wrapped up in formal and is, it must be confessed, too obvious; lifeless ceremonies, they believed that

[ocr errors]

Mr. Winchester and Dr. Priestley.

211

the spiritual religion of Jesus imposed the result of our inquiries, and the no such burthens, but required in- honest convictions of our hearts, we stead the greatest circumspection of are bound openly and fairly to avow. conduct and purity of heart, the strict. If we feel apprehensive of the displeaest regulation of the affections and sure, or even persecution of our government of the thoughts. These friends, let us take courage and reap considerations may, perhaps, account instruction from the example of many for the circumstance of their language of our worthy ancestors under similar favouring Unitarianism on some occa- circumstances : their noble resolutions sions, and the popular notions on were uninfluenced by the fear of man. others. Having, however, alluded to Thus shall we be made the honoured the grounds of our predecessors' sepa- instruments of good in the Divine ration from other sects, I cannot leave hand, and partakers of that happiness the subject without noticing the fruits and intellectual freedom which it has of that spirit which elicited these been our most earnest endeavour to principles. Among the Dissenters of promote. their day, our early friends stand dis With expressing a hope that neither tinguished by the heroical firmness “Bereus” nor any one else will again with which they endured persecution; trouble themselves to exhibit my name by their thorough knowledge of their in the useless publication of my prireligious principles, and the readiness vate letters, I remain, and intelligence with which they ad

C. ELCOCK. vocated them; and by a boldness of thought and speech and a vigour of

West Street, Walworth, mind that bespoke their freedom from SIR, March 20, 1823. priestly dominion and sectarian credu N your number for January, (p.

IN lity. Among these honest preachers 41,) you have inserted some parti. of righteousness may be found cha- culars, communicated by my friend racters, the study and imitation of Mr. Hart, respecting the friendly inwhich may afford the philosopher in- tercourse between Dr. Priestley and struction and the Christian improve- Mr. Winchester when they met ja ment. But what a falling off have Philadelphia : the following relation we experienced ! Notwithstanding may render his account more inteour excellent and Christian institu- resting. tions and principles, we have descended When Mr. Winchester first came almost to a level with other sects; we to London he was known to very few. have joined the world in its chief pur- As the congregation at Worship Street suit; have

was then without a pastor, we invited -" dattered its rank breath and him to supply for us for a year as bowed

morning preacher; here he was much To its idolatries a patient knee;">

followed and highly approved. After

wards he preached at Glass-Houseand have permitted men to assume Yard and some other places; then setthe office of ministers among us, who, tled at Parliament-Court Chapel, and though they may not possess so largely was attended by a large and respectathe indolence and covetousness of the ble congregation, until he retarned to hireling priest, have much of his pride America. His first introduction to and love of authority: men, who, like Dr. Priestley was as follows: he all other priests, are the enemies of wished to see the Doctor, who was in inquiry and discussion, and of that a few months to sail for America. activity and independence and freedom We went together to his house at of mind, that are so necessary to in- Clapton ; he was not at home; Mrs. tellectual and Christian improvement. Priestley said the Doctor wished much These are things worthy the conside- to see Mr. Winchester, and if we ration of all our members, but I would would call at the Rev. Mr. Palmer's press them particularly on the notice at Hackpey, we should find him there. of the young friends of inquiry among We went and were introduced to Mr. us.

Palmer, Mr. Belsham and Dr. PriestLet these reflect, that as much is in ley, who received Mr. Winchester in our power, our duties are proportion- a most friendly manner. After an ately important. Whatever may be hour's interesting conversation we were

[ocr errors]

WHAT

[ocr errors]

obliged reluctantly to depart, as we tion, or assertion, we denote the cir-
had a previous engagement. I was cumstance of its agreeing with the
much pleased with the conversation fact, for every plain triangle does
that took place between these gentle- really possess this property. Again,
men, and could not help wishing that it is quite a common mode of expres-
such friendly meetings were more fre- sion to say that this proposition is a
quent.

TRUTH, meaning thereby that this is
WM. TITFORD. one case in which there is an exact

agreement between our ideas of this
Essay on Truth.

property of the triangle and the real

inherent nature of this figure. But it [From " The Newcastle Magazine,” for is also quite cominon to speak of its July, &c. 1822.]

truth or of the truth of this proposi. THAT is truth? is a question tion, which is another abbreviation,

that has been frequently asked, denoting the agreement of the idea and to which so many different an- expressed in the proposition, with the swers have been given, that some have fact, that is, with the real property of contended no satisfactory answer can the triangle. Here the idea expressed be given to it, while others have as in the proposition is the sign, and the serted that it is a mere name, a sound real property of the triangle the thing without a meaning. But that it is signified; so that, in this case, truth something more than a mere unmean consists in the agreement of the sign ing sound would appear from the im- with the thing signified. And as all portance which the majority of man- the circumstances, from which this kind in all ages of the world have . meaning of the word truth is derived, attached to it. And that the question are common to every mathematical does really admit of a satisfactory an- proposition, it follows that, in matheswer, is rendered something more than matics, the abstract term truth always barely probable by the single fact, signifies the agreement of the sign that there is no langriage with which with the thing signified. we are acquainted which has not in it But this mode of illustration is not some term or phrase equivalent to our confined to mathematical truths ; it word truth. I therefore propose, in may, with equal facility, be applied to the present paper, not only to inves- any physical proposition whatever.tigate what truth is in general, but to Thus we may take the proposition, a point out its most important divisions stone will fall to the ground if unsupand subdivisions, to inquire into the ported, and say it is a true proposition, nature of the evidence on which we or it is a truth; or we might, if we give our assent to each of the different pleased, talk about its truth just as in kinds of truths, and lastly to point out the former example. In this case the some of the advantages which we de. idea raised in the mind by the enunci. rive from a knowledge of them. ation of the proposition is the sign,

As soon as inankind had advanced and the property or tendency of the so far in the art of social intercourse stone to approach the earth the thing as to be able to communicate their signified. So that, in this case, as in ideas to one another by words, it is the former, truth consists in the agreemanifest, that whenever one person ment of the sign with the thing signiconveyed any opinion to another, to fied. And as the same mode of reawhich the latter wished to give his as- soning is evidently applicable to every sent, he would be desirous of having physical proposition, it is plain that the means of expressing this assent in when we say a proposition is true, we as few words as possible; hence the only use an abbreviated mode of exorigin of the words true and truth.— pressing our belief that the assertion, Thus we say, that the three angles of or description, whichever it may be, every plain triangle are together equal contained in the proposition, agrees to two right angles, is a true proposi- exactly with what really obtains in

In this case the proposition nature ; so that whenever we believe manifestly consists in the assertion that that this agreement takes place, we every plain triangle is possessed of a say the proposition is true, and whencertain specific property; and by ap- ever it does not take place, we say it plying the word true to the proposi- is erroneous or not trne. Conse

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

tion.

[blocks in formation]

quently in all physical propositions, with our thoughts, and those whose , truth consists in the agreement of the truth consists in the agreement of our sign with the thing signified. Here it thoughts or ideas of things with the is manifest that truth is opposed to things. But this division having been error, and true to erroneous.

found too general, mankind have, • But there is another application of therefore, proceeded to a farther subthe word truth, in which it is used as division; which has mostly, if not the opposite of falsehood or intentional entirely, taken place in the latter of deceit, and where true and false are these two classes. Indeed, this subcontrary ternis. For instance, sup- division could scarcely be avoided, for pose a person, in order to sell his the things themselves, to which the goods to advantage, should declare truths in this class relate, are so very that they were in good condition in different, that whoever wished to speak every respect, at the same time know- or write with any degree of precision, ing them to be damaged, would not found it absolutely necessary to point the buyer, on discovering the fraud, out what kind of things he alluded to. have a right to tell him that his de- The three following appear to be the claration was false, or that he had told most important of these subdivisions, him a falsehood : while, on the other viz. such truths as relate to things hand, had he sold them as damaged which have a real existence, asa goods, would we not immediately say stone, the sun, man, the Supreme that he had honestly told the truth Being, &c.; such as relate to things respecting them? In this case words that exist only in the imagination, as are the signs, and the thoughts or a mathematical point, line, triangle, opinions of the speaker are things circle, &c., or cords perfectly flexible, signified. And here again, as in the beams without weight, planes comtwo former cases, truth 'consists in pletely smooth, &c.; and such as -the agreement of the sign with the relate to the connexions or relations thing signified.

which subsist among various objects, These examples will, I trust, be as, for example, the relations which sufficient to illustrate the original sig- subsist between man and man, benification of the word truth, and to tween man and the inferior aniinals, authorize me, with Mr. Wollaston, to between man and his Maker, between give the following

cause and effect, &c. From what has Definition. Truth is the AGREE- been said it is quite clear that we MENT of the sign with the thing sig- have various kinds of truths, as verbal nified.

truths, physical truths, mathematical I would not, however, be under- truths, inetaphysical truths, moral stood to say that this, though its ori- truths, religious truths, &c.-Now, as ginal signification, is the only sense our assent to these different kinds of in which the word truth either is or truths rests on very different foundaought to be used. Like many other tions, it will be proper to examine words, it has in common language, them more minutely. acquired a variety of significations, Ist. Of verbal truths. As verbal most of which, however, bear some truth consists in the agreement of our relation to its original meaning. Thus words with our thoughts, every case it is frequently used to signify purity wherein this agreement takes place, from falsehood; it is sometimes used and where our thoughts or opinions as synonymous with correctness, ex are the only things inquired after, is actness, fidelity, constancy, honesty, therefore a verbal truth. Thus the - virtue, sincerity and perhaps a few witness who, in a court of justice, was others. It has also been used, by some, asked whether he believed the prisoner to signify all truths or all knowledge, to be an honest man, and who declared in which sense it is evidently unattain- that he did, spoke the truth, if he able by man; but this appears to be really thought so, whether the fact a misapplication of the term.

was so or not. From which it appears From the above definition of truth that our belief in truths of this kind itself, it would appear that all truths must always depend on the opinion whatever may be divided into two ge- which we have formed of the speaker, neral classes, viz. those whose truth modified by the circumstances in which consists in the agreement of our words he is placed. If this be a just descrip

[ocr errors]

tion of verbal truth, it follows that it stances which precede our assent to must be as variable as the opinions of any physical truth, we shall find that the speaker. Thus, when Luther in this assent rests entirely on our belief his youth, declared his belief in the in the testimony of our senses ; for all divine origin of the papal authority, our experiments to discover the prohis declaration was a verbal truth ; perties of any body are nothing more but had he done so in his old age, it than observations made through the is manifest that the same declaration medium of one or more of our senses; would have been a falsehood or verbal and on these observations alone is our untruth. In all verbal truths, words belief in the existence of such properare the signs, and thoughts the things ties founded; and, consequently, our signified.

belief in any physical truth must be 2d. Of physical truths. These are founded on the same authority. evidently of a very different nature 3d. Of mathematical truths. That from verbal truths. The latter has all men, in all ages, who understood been shewn to be variable, so much them, should have given their uneso, indeed, that what is a verbal truth quivocal assent to truths of this kind, in one man to-day, may perhaps be a is a circumstance so remarkable, that falsehood, if expressed by the same it cannot fail to strike every one who person to-inorrow; whereas, what is pays any attention to the subject, and a physical truth to-day must be a naturally suggests the idea, that the physical truth to-morrow, and must evidence which has thus carrier irre-. always remain such, so long as the sistible conviction to the mind of every thing, with which it is connected, is one who attended to it, must be very suffered to exist.

different from that which gains our If we take a survey of the bodies by assent, or produces belief in us, in which we are every where surrounded, other cases. I shall, therefore, endeawe cannot avoid observing the variety vour to point out wherein this differof their appearances; and, on a closer ence consists, and what it is that gives inspection, we discover that each ap- this kind of evidence its peculiar copears to possess many different pro- gency: perties, some of which seem to be It is manifest that mankind, even peculiar to it, and these serve to dis- in the earliest ages, must have been tinguish it from all other bodies. Now, under the necessity of noticing the if the ideas which we form respecting various properties of such bodies as the properties of any body agree in they had occasion to use they must every respect with the properties which have perceived that the form and magthat body does in reality possess, we nitude of many of them were essenhave formed true or correct notions of tial to their utility; it is, therefore, it.-Consequently the expression of evident that form and magnitude are those properties would form a true two properties which would, in many physical proposition ; and the agree- cases, attract their attention in an ment of our ideas of the properties eminent degree. It must likewise with the properties themselves would have been frequently requisite to have constitute a physical truth. It, there- more than one thing of the same kind, fore, necessarily follows, that so long so that number would then have to be as the properties remain unaltered, so taken into consideration, as well as long must that proposition, which was form and magnitude: hence the origin once true, continue to be true. But' of mathematics. When any individual it is manifest that the properties of was thus, by his wants, compelled to bodies will remain unaltered so long pay attention to the peculiar properas the great Creator of all things is ties of any particular form, a circle pleased to continue this system in ex- for example, it is natural to suppose, istence. Hence it appears, that phy- that mere curiosity would induce him sical truths are as fixed and unchang- to continue his researches ; but it is able as the nature of things, and must evident, that with such rude and imbe coexistent with the present system. perfect circles as he would then be Here our ideas of them are the signs, able to form, he could make little proand the properties of the body them- gress; he must, therefore, have had selves the things signified.

recourse to some more correct model. If we now examine the cireum- Now, although such circles as he

« AnteriorContinuar »