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[Origen Bacheler's Address to the Reader forms the Introduction to the First Volume of this Discussion.)
TO THE READER.
It is not free and impartial enquiry we deprecate : it is hasty and arrogant prejudgment
Bp. of Killaloe, (Knor): Two Serm. p. 39.
If the word Prejudice, as in etymological strictness it must, be interpreted to mean, a judgment formed before examination, then must we regard as prejudices his opinions, however true, who has neglected to weigh them against their opposites, however false.
It is not enough to inherit even that richest of treasures, truth, as we would a legacied fortune or a patrimony. It behoves us diligently to earn truth for ourselves, not supinely to heir it from our forefathers.
But if we are thus to earn it, we must make acquaintance with other beliefs besides our own, and be introduced to more doctrines than we have been cradled in. We must become citizens of the world of opinion; free to extend our voyage of discovery beyond the inland sea of our own sect or party, and ready to listen to the foreign language of reply and rejoinder.
Is it thine own opinions, friendly reader, or is it truth thou art in love with ? If thine own opinions, get thee some other book, where they shall be sheltered from scathe or harm: visit some literary aiena, where a favourite partisan may venture an entrance unchallenged, and effect an exit unassailed; rejoicing in self-complacent security; threatened by no antagonist more deadly than the phantom-opponent he himself conjures forth-the convenient scarecrow which he deftly dresses up in cast-off rags that nobody will own, and then demolishes with a comfortable ingenuity that every body admires. There shall thy pet opinions be gently nursed, unvisited by the winds of controversy, and curtained even from the sunshine of reason.
But is truth thy mistress? Will it suit thee to hear thy infallibility questioned-to see the fortress of thy opinions besieged? Then this book of ours, perchance, may please thee. Here are no antagonist scarecrows set up. The Christian, the Sceptic, each dresses out, in his own manner, his own arguments, and himself defends the legitimate offspring of his own brain, or the favorite of his own adoption. Here, is no prizefighter's mock attack on an effigy. The contest is conducted, in courtesy we trust, but in earnest also.
It is in such considerations as these, that we find apology for adding another to the thousand volumes of which the prolific press of this book-loving age is daily delivered. Among these thousands, how few that imitate the impartiality of a court of justice, and give both sides a free hearing, ere judgment is recorded!
I am not over-sanguine as to the effect that this volume may produce, in disseminating the opinions which I myself feel to be true and useful. The time is past with me -the early age of enthusiasm—when I dreamed of thousands of converts, and imagined that what seemed self-evident to me must therefore so also seem to all my fellow-creatures.
ROBERT DALE OWEN.
AUTHENTICITY OF THE BIBLE.
TO ROBERT DALE OWEN.
New York, June 12, 1831. SIR, We now approach the discussion of the question which, to Christians and Sceptics both, is of incalculable importance—a question in which their highest conceivable inte rests are involved, and upon which turn numerous other questions. A subject so momentous, and involving so many considerations, ought to be examined with the greatest possible candour, and with the most intense desire to arrive at a correct conclusion.
But before commencing this discussion, I would make a few remarks in relation to some points contained in the last l'eply to me, upon the Divine Existence; some of which, however, will not be irrelevant to our newly commenced subject of discussion, tending, as they will, to show the necessity of revelation.
Moral courage and mere "generosity,” are very different things. The former is the braving of opposition in the discharge of duty; the latter is the performing of a gratuitous act of excellence which strict duty does not re. quire. These gratuitous acts may be performed or dispensed with as the individual sees fit; but duty is not a gratuitous thing, it being absolutely required; hence it
can never be innocently omitted. And, should a period hereafter arrive when, as in former times, Christians shall be compelled to relinquish their religion or their lives, that same religion will again urge its claims, and hold its true disciples firm and faithful unto death. But surely 'tis no "jest" to denominate the slander, reviling, and abuse so profusely lavished by Sceptics on Christians, some persecution, though less than that beforementioned—the misapplied Inquisition case to the contrary notwithstanding.
My assertions respecting the superficial acquaintance of some of the most noted infidel writers with the religious subjects on which they wrote, are sustained by the best of all evidences - their own confessions, and their own wri-. tings. Now mark:-Hume owned he never read the New Testament with attention. Paine, by his numerous misquotations of scripture, showed the same in relation to himself. The memoirs and diary of Gibbon show that he never perused any able defence or judicious exposition of Christianity. And Voltaire, with all his genius and wit, betrays in his writings, not only his superficiality on religious, but likewise on literary and scientific subjects. And were it not that multitudes are dazzled by wit, prejudiced by ridicule, and bewildered by sophistry, Christians would never take the trouble of refuting the productions of men of this description.
I have no where said, that it would be proper for God to cause moral evil, or that moral evilthus produced would promote the Divine glory. Waiving the consideration of that point, as properly belonging to the Hopkinsian controversy, I have merely spoken of the permission of such evil, and the causation of suffering. Nor is it to be taken for granted, that God is “able,” consistently with his infinite wisdom,“ to render his creatures perfectly good and happy," by preventing the one, or forbearing to cause the