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propositions and axioms, which practice both entangles and prolongs a dispute. As for instance, if there was a debate proposed betwixt a Protestant and a Papist, whether there be such a place as purgatory? Let them remember that they both agree in this point, that Christ has made satis- , faction or atonement for sin, and upon this ground let them both stand while they search out the controverted doctrine of purgatory by way of conference or debate.
VI. THE question should be cleared from all doubtful terms and needless additions ; and all things that belong to the question should be expressed in plain and intelligible language. This is so necessary a thing, that without it men will be exposed to such sort of ridiculous contests as was found one day between the two unlearned combatants, Sartor and Sutor, who assaulted and defended the doctrine of transubstantiation with much zeal and violence : but Latino happening to come into their company, and inquiring the subject of their dispute, asked each of them what he meant by that long hard word transubstantiation. Sutor readily informed him that he understood bowing at the name of Jesus : but Sartor assured him that he meant nothing but bowing at the high altar : ! No wonder then,' said Latino, you cannot agree,
neither understand one 6 another, nor the word about which you contend.' I think the whole family of the Sartors and Sutors would be wiser if they avoided such kind of debates, till they understood the terms better. But alas ! even their wives carry on such conferences ; the other day one was heard in the street ex. plaining to her less learned neighbour the meaning of metaphysical science; and she assured her that as physics were medicines for the body, so metaphysics were physics for the soul: upon this they went on to dispute the point, how far the divine excelled the doctor.
Auditum admissi risum teneatis amici?
Can it be faulty to repeat
VII. And not only the sense and meaning of the words used in the question should be settled and adjusted between the disputants, but the precise point of inquiry should be distinctly fixed; the question in debate should be limited precisely to its special extent, or declared to be taken in its more general sense. As for instance, if two men are contending whether civil government be of divine right or not, here it must be observed, the question is not whether monarchy in one man, or a republic in multitudes of the the people, or an aristocracy in a few of the chief, is appointed of God as necessary; but whether civil government in its most general sense, or in any form whatsoever, is derived from the will and appointment of God? Again, the point of inquiry should be limited further. Thus the ques. tion is not whether goverment comes from the will of God by the light of revelation, for that is granted, but whether it is derived from the will of God by the light of reason too. This sort of specification or limitation of the question hinders and prevents the disputers from wandering away from the precise point of inquiry.
It is this trifling humour or dishonest artifice of changing the question, and wandering away from the first point of debate, which gives endless length to disputes, and causes both the disputants to part without any satisfaction. And one chief occasion of it is this ; when one of the combatants feels his cause run low and fail, and is just ready to be confuted and demolished, he is tempted to step aside to avoid the blow, and betakes him to a different question ; thus, if his adversary be not well aware of him, he begins to entrench himself in a new fastness, and holds out the siege with a new artillery of thoughts and words. It is the pride of man which is the spring of this evil, and an unwillingness
to yield up their own opinions even to be overcome by truth itself. 1
VIII. KEEP this always therefore upon your mind as an everlasting rule of eonduct in your debates to find out truth, that a resolute design, or even a warm affectation of victory, is the bane of all real improvement, and an effectual bar against the admission of the truth which you profess to seek, This works with a secret, but a powerful and mischievous influence in every dispute, unless we are much upon our guard. It appears in frequent conversation : every age, every sex, and each party of mankind, are so fond of being in the right, that they know not how to renounce this un. happy prejudice, this vain love of victory.
When truth with bright evidence is ready to break in upon a disputant, and to overcome his objections and mistakes, how swift and ready is the mind to engage wit and fancy, craft and subtilty, to cloud, and perplex, and puzzle the truth, if possible ? How eager is he to throw in some impertinent question to divert from the main subject? How swift to take hold of some occasional word, thereby to lead the discourse off from the point in hand ? So much afraid is human nature of parting with its errors, and being overcome by truth. Just thus a hunted hare calls up all the shifts that nature hath taught her, she treads back her mazes, crosses and confounds her former track, and uses all possible methods to divert the scent, when she is in danger of being seized and taken. Let puss practise what nature teaches ; but would one imagine that any rational being should take such pains to avoid truth, and to escape the improvement of its understanding!
IX. When you come to a dispute in order to find out truth, do not presume that you are certainly possessed of it before hand.. Enter the debate with a sincere design of yielding to reason, on which side soever it appears. Use no subtile arts to cloud and entangle the question ; hide nog yourself in doubtful words and phrases; do not affect little shifts and subterfuges to avoid the force of an argument;
take a generous pleasure to espy the first rising beams of truth, though it be on the side of your opponent: endeavour to remove the little obscurities that hang about it, and suffer and encourage it to break out into open and convincing light; that while your opponent perhaps may gain the better of your reasonings, yet you yourself may triumph over error, and I am sure that is a much more valuable acquisition and victory. · X. Watch narrowly in every dispute, that your opponent does not lead you unwarily to grant some principle or proposition which will bring with it a fatal consequence, and lead you insensibly into his sentiment, though it be far astray from the truth: and by this wrong step you will be, as it were, plunged into dangerous errors before you are aware. Polonides in free conversation led Incauto to agree with him in this plain proposition, that the blessed God has too much justice in any case to punish * any being who is in itself innocent; till he not only allowed it with unthinking alacrity, but asserted it in most universal and unguarded terms.
A little after Polonides came in discourse to commend the virtues, the innocence, and the piety of our blessed Saviour ; and thence inferred it was impossible that God should ever punish so holy a person, who was never guilty of any crime : then Incauto espied the snare, and found himself robbed and defrauded of the great doctrine of the atonement by the death of Christ, upon which he had placed his immortal hopes according to the gospel.
This taught him to bethink himself what a dangerous concession he had made in so universal a manner, that God would never punish any being who was innocent, and he saw it needful to recall his words, or to explain them better, by adding this restriction or limitation, viz. Unless this innocent being were some way involved in another's sin, or stood as a voluntary surety for the guilty: by this limitation he secured the great and blessed doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of men, and learnt to be more cautious in his concessions for time to come.
• The word punish here signifies to bring some natural evil upon a person on account of moral evil donc.
Two months ago Fatalio had almost tempted his friend Fidens to leave off prayer, and to abandon his dependence on the providence of God in the common affairs of life, by obtaining of him a concession of the like kind. Is it not evident to reason, says Fatalio, that God's immense scheme of transactions in the universe was contrived and determined long before you and I were born? Can you imagine, my dear Fidens, that the blessed God changes his original contrivances, and makes new interruptions in the course of them, so often as you and I want his aid, to prevent the little accidents of life, or to guard us from them? Can you suffer yourself to be persuaded that the great Creator of this world takes care to support a bridge which was quite rotten, and to make it stand firm a few minutes longer till you have rode over it? Or will he uphold a falling tower while we two were passing by it, that such worms as you and I are might escape the ruin?
But you say you prayed for his protection in the morning, and he certainly hears prayer. I grant he knows it; but are you so fond and weak, said he, as to suppose that the universal Lord of all had such a regard to a word or two of your breath, as to make alterations in his own eternal scheme upon that account? Nor is there any other way whereby his providence can preserve you in answer to prayer, but by creating such perpetual interruptions and changes in his own conduct according to your daily behaviour.
I acknowledge, says Fidens, there is no other way to see cure the doctrine of divine Providence in all these common affairs; and therefore I begin to doubt whether God does or ever will exert himself so particularly in our little con
Have a care, good Fidens, that you yield not too far: take heed lest you have granted too much to Fatalio. Pray