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Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Forceps.
lieve is probable ; most men in all ages and countries believe ili Supernatural! Agency; therefore, Supernatural Agency is probable ; that is --There is a strong presumptive argument in support of it; which is all for which I have
yet contended. Now what is the logical way of answering this? Is it bringing charges of weakness or "superstition," or " credulity," against those who dare, in defiance of popular opinion, state the premises and draw the conclusion ? Is it the sneer of scepticism? Is it the sinile of derision? Is it the dissent or the silence of those who, when they cannot meet the argument, evade its force? Is it showing that things may be terned supernatural which are imaginary, and therefore false; or founded in ignorance, and therefore erroneous? Is it proving that many fiulse pretencas have been made to Supernatural Power; or that actions and events have been ignorantly ascribed to it which were the result. of natural causes? Is it,' in short, writing or saying any thing that my opponents have written or said, or which it may be possible for thein to write or say, unless they completely alter their mode of attack? I can only be answered by denying my major preposition, or disproving my minor. My adversaries must either show that all
may believe to an equal extent what is false, and so refate what is argued (p.94) or they must point out a country in which, left to the natural guidance of unassisted reason, a belief in Supernatural Powers has not found a residence. Till this be done my argument is immoveable; ten thousand testimonies, though all of them were howled in concert, and each swelled by the voices of a Morris and a Forceps, would ass by as the thundercloud over Mungo's habitation--and if it were done my opponents would have little cause to exult, for it would merely divest the subject of one, and that the least important, of several arguments that it is easy to bring forward in support of it.
3. My most serious charge against Forceps (a charge which the full exercise of charity cannot enable me to express in gentler terms than either ignorance or unfairness) is the little ceremony with which he has every where treated the most eminent anthorities ever cited in support of any similar doctrine. Ho commends Mungo, Morris for entertaining a “ laudable con tempt for misapplied authority”; and he hints the impropriety of my “pressing forward the names of respectable authors in support of idle fancies.”. What does the gentleman mean? That I have speciously endeavoured to sanction a flimsy argumevt by
Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Forcepsa
the false or unwarranted citation of high names ? I have made inple references, Sir, and it was his duty in the double capacity
man o' lear,” and the self-constituted exposer of whatever he imagines erroneous in the papers your correspondents, -it was his duty, in both these capacities, either to prove me guilty of misapplying authorities, or, since he is conscious of his inability to do this; to show how their tremendous weight is to be supported, or counterbalanced, or neutralized,
The learned Forceps, Mr. Editor, writes too hurriedly for a controversialist, and seems besides not to have sufficiently reHected that he who " presses himself forward” to answer such arguments as he has now attacked, should deal not in declamation and general assertion, vaguely expressed and loosely applied, but in close, particular, direct refutation. If he find this, for causes that I don't pretend to hint at, inconvenient, Lid him keep silence.
I am almost provoked to guess, that he applauded Mungo for his laulable contempt of my authorities, that he might stand upon his shoulders while he vociferated the following admirable burst of reasoning : “ Neither argument nor authority can ever establish a rational belief in that which is seen to disagree with the light of Revelation, and carries besides its own confutation along with it. The latter part of the truism, in conjunction with the preceding sentence to which it forms an addition, may be reduced to the following sophism: “absurd opinions which arise from the blackness of ignorance, and which are the very excrescences of a disordered imagination,” carry their own confutation along with them:-“ If Vetus means to advocate a single one of those absurd opinions which arise from the blackness of ignorance, and are the very excresences of a disordered imagination,” he carries his own confutation along with him: therefore, Vetus carries his own confutation along with him!! Excellent! If—The former part of the quotation is reducible to so many false syllogisms that it would puzzle Aristotle hiinself to find frames for them: that which seems to me most specious is this:-“ Neither argument nor authority can ever establish belief in that which is seen to disagree with the light of Revelation;"—the arguments and authorities of Vetus tend to establish belief in that which is seen to disagree with the light of Revelation. Therefore, his authorities are misapplied, and his arguments futile. Yes! But he forgot to prove his minor proposi. lion, the ground (if ground it can be called which is a mere aşı
Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Forceps.
port of it.
sertion of his own,) on which alone his conclusion ought to rest. So far from admitting that the doctrine Forceps wishes to explode
seen to disagree with the light of Revelation,” I am prepared to show that many pious and learned men have not only proved it to be actually implied in sacred scripture, but have derived from that source the clearest and most direct arguments in sup
My observations have already extended to a much greater length than when I sat down I had any idea of. I am unwilling however, to lay down my pen without adverting to another very exceptionable part of Forcepe' Essay, contained in page 185. It is an inference in his own peculiar way, from what he has proved in the two syllogisms last noticed: “ In general as to the authority on pagan and superstitious writers, (he is as inconsiderate as Mungo Morris) relative to omens, and actual apparitions, &c. since in most cases we are by no means satisfied that the pretended witnesses were not themselves deceived, I am not dis
posed to yield to it any thing like implicit submission. Let them have been as powerful as you please in all the departments of knowledge properly within their reach, and let them have acquired the utmost skill in distinguishing between truth and falsehood, in as far as things subject to human discretion are concerned : yet, in regard to things confessedly beyond the sphere of mortality excepting only in the judgment required on the fidelity of witnesses, (Forceps forgets that he denied them this judgment in the last sentence) their little superiority is altogether lost in the immense distance and magnitude of the objects in question. Nay, when such writers, with all their credulity about them, presurne to apply their accustomed scrutiny to matters of pure revelation, they are almost certain to err," &c. This I say is in his own peculiar way. He sets out with questioning the competency of witnesses to judge of actual apparitions : eirboldened by this he next advances to the insinuation, that such things are confessedly beyond the sphere of mortality; and this gives him countenance in making the bold and sweeping assertion that they are matters of pure revelation. I am glad, Sir, he stopped here; where the next leap would have placed him, it would be a delicate, as well as a difficult question to answer. Coming froin a different quarter, and applied to a different subject, one might venture to say that the drift of all this sophistry was to deny the competency of the most honest and learned in.eu
Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Forceps.
to draw direct conclusions from ocular demonstration. Bccause some men have been deceived (not in what they witnessed, but) in drawing proper inferences from what they witnessed, therefore the evidence of the senses is not to be believed.
Forceps will “ shudder to contemplate the consequences" of countenancing a conclusion so false and unfounded, when he recollects to what uses David Hume and other infidels applied it. Forceps contemplated and intended no such consequences; but every person ought to conteinplate the consequences of what he writes, before he assumes such high ground, and especially before he 66
presses forward" Revelation to his aid, without condescending even on one text, lest, I presume, we should find it misapplied. One fault generally leads to another; and this happens no where so remarkably as when a writer makes groundless assertions and then argues from them on the assumption of their truth. So it is with Forceps: in a page or two, after he has wrought himself up to a belief that his ground is tenable, he winds up his whole chain of reasoning to the following dangerous conclusion, never once reflecting on the dilemma in which it leaves him.-No jury of names however respectable, are to be believed, even when they return an unanimous verdict, (and no respectable jury would return an unanimous verdict, without cooly, deliberately, impartially sifting the matter to the bottom, and being convinced of its truth) if the subject of investigation be an apparition. I recommend Forceps to consider what have been the most specious as well as the most unfounded arguments ever brought against Revealed Religion : and why it was that the miracles of our Lord and of his apostles, both at the time they were wronght, and since, have been called in question by sceptical men! What, Sir! Men with eyes incompetent to judge of actual apparitions ! The very terins include a contradiction, (vide note p. 221.) Pray, what is an actual apparition? And, since I am got among questions, suffer me, Mr. Editor, to put a few to your correspondent, both with the view of obtaining a key to what he has already written, and to hint to him the propriety of being more cautious in his use of terms, and more guarded in advancing assertions, that he may not be able to substantiate. What is superstition? To what subjects and opinions, is the epithet superstitious, applicable? Whence arises the universal propensity, (which you think “ most forcibly" proven) to credit the existence of powers superior to
" How can you
man?"-If this propensity is innate, as you seem to take for granted, what does it prove ?—What is there in this innate propensity to make us presume that “ superior beings hold invisible (but not visible intercourse with ourselves ?” prove that a belief in preternatural appearances (or apparitions if you find it easier) is “ seen to disagree with the light of Revelation ?"
How are we now sure that miraculous (that is supernatural) intercourse with the other world has long ago ceased? -N. B. If you ever answer Essays or arguments again, define your terms, keep to the point, and refer to author
I was on the point of advising him, Mr. Editor, to get his assertions printed in Italics, to distinguish them; but as you are sensible how troublesome that would make his communications to your fraternity, with his itch for writing, you are at liberty to put that advice in your pocket. Glasgow, Feb. 9th, 1819.
Rude laughter's the hickup of fools,
Before I proceed with the few remarks that I mean here to offer on this subject, I shall premise that I do not by any means intend inquiring into the physical cause of the affection called laughter. Not deep researches, but obvious matters, are what I mean to mention, and endeavour to elucidate. I should have reason, however, to fear, if some of
readers were of the opinion of a character drawn in one of our novels: “ That because laughter is said to distinguish men from brutes; therefore he who laughs most or loudest must of course be the
un;" I say, in such a case, I might apprehend that I should be laughed at for my dissertation, But as I do not know that this will now be the case, I shall go on with my strictures.
I think G. A. Stevens has said, “ that by all the laws of mirth, people have a right to laugh,” or somewhat to that pur