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THE

ORACLE OF REASON:

ECULAR UNION

SCOTTISH

EDINBURGH Or, Philosophy Vindicated

" PAITH'S EMPIRE IS THE WORLD; ITS MONARCH, GOD; ITS MINISTERS,

ITS SLAVES, THE PEOPLE."

No. 1.)

EDITED BY CHARLES SOUTHWELL.

[PRICE 1d.

66

INTRODUCTION.

those only have the right to teach truth, who

dare do it in the teeth of fanatic prejudice, and A SOBER and humble distinction, says Lord public odium. Every man has a right to do Bacon, must be made betwixt the oracles of what he will with his own,” said my Duke of Sense and Faith ; unless mankind had rather Newcastle, and he might have added, with anyshoose absurd religions, with fictitious and ro- bodyelse's own, could he enforce it. All abstract mantic philosophies. Now, as by an Oracle of rights being pure chimeras; the question of Faith is meant, something delivered by super- actual rights resolves itself into that of actual natural wisdom,orabove nature: this paper will powers, as it is evident that all are at perfect not pretend to teach sueh unteachable things, liberty, and have clearly the right--to fly in the it Inying no claim to supernatural wisdom; air, if they can. Lord de Warren proved his so by “ORACLE of Sense, or REASON,” is title to certain broad lands by an appeal to his meant something delivered by natural wisdom; sword, a very sensible kind of appeal; for pens, that busies itself with the comprehensible, or tongues, and swords, are, and have been, the är Dr. Chalmers expresses it, the knowable originators and maintainers of rights-in short, and leaves the incomprehensible, alias, un- powers, physical or mental. knowable, to shift for itself: all your mysteri- Whether this paper, that will give all kinds ous, or hidden somethings, belonging, as Hobbes of speculation as speculation, all sorts of well observed, to the kingdom of darkness. realities as realities, and deal out Atheism

So much by way of explanation as to name as freely as ever Christianity was dealt out to and general character of the work; its the people; whether a paper in which there PRINCIPLE cannot be so shortly disposed of, will be no attempt to gloss over, evade, --for this fine word principle, though upon the or slide from the whole truth; in which tip of every tongue, passed from mouth to mouth the abandonment of a high position, that a with wonderful glibress, so thrust forth in every present evil may be avoided at the expense of page that familiarity has almost bred contempt future good, will be disdained as unworthy of for it, yet what it means or involves few seem to an honest mind; whether' a paper that shall know or care. Voltaire said of Rosseau, that he cast off the swindling kind of morality, that talked so much about truth and virtue, that at frames itself to all occasions, including all the last no one knew what truth and virtue were ; abominations of Jesuitry, without its character, it may, with a keener eye to truth, be affirmed grandeur, or consistency; whether such a that our modern liberals have written and talked paper will be permitted by the authorities of so much about principle, that no one knows what this country, time alone can determine. If a principle really is—they have written and de- it meet with public support, such support will claimed the people out of it; so magnified and not be the wages of dishonesty, paid for want of glorified it in theory, and so illustrated it by principle, or its abandonment. Starting with example, that, as some one has paradoxically the axiom, that every human being should be at observed, the principle now a-days is to have liberty to express fully and freely his honest po principle. Those who admire their artful conviction, the letter of the text will be adconduct, will sreer at this paper, the object hered to, the battle of philosophy fought inch by of which is to illustrate the truth, and abide by inch with its opposers, and the right to publish it at all hazards; not in season and out of sea- any and every kind of speculative opinion,

son, for that would be folly; but, in these coolly but determinedly maintained. | columns truth never will be out of season : like If men have not yet known, they should now the evergreen, its leaves will kuow no winter.. be taught, that it is neither creditable nor dis

The right to preach and publish truth without creditable, honourable nor dishonourable, to be mystery, mixture of error, or fear of marr, like an Atheist, a Christian, or a Mussulman. One inany other grandiloquent phrases, has been man's speculations are just as good and "no much used, but not conscientiously acted upon, better than any others; and none but the mere orits value fully understood. All the world ought lunatic would think of esteeming equally a disto know, that when we speak of practical rights, honest believer in the existence of a god, with weinclude the idea of practical powers, for power an honest disbeliever in such existence. Society 1 as necessary to the establishment of a right has not, never had, never can have any right, os to the maintainance of 4t; hence it follows, founded on justice, to dictate to individuals 1

[SECOND EDITION.]

what they shall believe or disbelieve; and in a symbol of things, called Syrinx, was held til principle it is just as vile to frown as to rack be even more precise and accurate, as copying men into professions of orthodoxy.

with exactness the lessons of nature. It is hardly necessary to add, that all articles Philosophy must gain by simplicity and admitted into these columns will be studiedly clearness, while Fiction will lose in equal proplain and simple, for as the subject matter to portion, for if the supernatural or fictional be be treated will involve highly important con- likened to the kingdom of darkness, philosophy siderations, growing out of questions at best-may fairly be to the kingdom of light; it deal sufficiently abstruse and difficult, Ilains will be with realities, and has no other basis that taken to be intelligible. The least reflection things known. And whether the rationalist will make it obvious that to convey knowledgé, seek to determine the existence or non-existwhether by speech or writing, a definite and ence of God, the truth or falsehood of this or fixed meaning should be attached to the words that religion, he takes nothing for granted, savo used ; for the wretched practice of employing his own existence, as also the existence of that the same words in every kind of sense, breeds universe of which he forms a part. This is the endless confusion, and at least nine-tenths of common ground which each is at liberty to apblunders in philosophy. This, and the sense- propriate-the rest can only become the proless affection of cant terms, and a very out-perty of those who search, with an ardent and landish mystical jargon, have gone far to drive unquenchable love of truth, into the nature of the people crazy, to the great regret of honest things. men, and the glory of knaves.

As the opinions to be set forth in these coThe mental foppery above alluded to re- lumns will be anything but palatable to anduces the art of writing to a mere trade of sen- thority, and perhaps involve consequences of a tence concocting, where sense lies buried beneath serious nature, all articles without name or the weight of ornament, and the mind, called off initial attached to them the reader will please from its proper functions, is attracted by the to place to the account of the Editor, who is tinsel and glare of language, whilst the solid perfectly willing to bear the brunt of the battle, gold of idea is neglected. By this it is not and champion what he conceives to be truth, meant that no art is to be used in the most in defiance of all opposition. sublime of arts, but plainness and force are the essentials; besides, the grandest triumph of art, is not to appear as art, and any laboured at

IS THERE A GOD ? tempt to astonish or excite admiration is ever

I. offensive. The happy use of terms is an es

“Men believe in God, only upon the word of thom sential talent to the oracor or writer, for what who have no more idea of any such being than themexpression is to a picture, significant phrases selves. Our nurses are our first theologians."

COMMON SENSE. are to writing, which may be called a picture of human ideas ; nor can it be denied that the Our treatment of this question will at least eye of the mind, like the eye of the body, is have one merit, there will not be the shadow of strangely affected by the colouring of the artist. equivocation in it; no attempt at subterfuge; Words being but pictures of human ideas, their no taking refuge behind the coward's defence, right use stamps character and expression upon a loose and mean-anything phraseology. We ! the production, and where, in the use either of agree with a writer in the Foreign Quarterly, the pen or the brush, genius is displayed, it ex- that an esprit fort (strong mind) should be cites the sense of the sublime, warming the be- fort throughout; and that he ought to have holder into admiration. Even smoothiness of no mental weakness, who, like Spinoza and diction and polished phrase, if it want clearness Strauss, can man his heart and say, that he and strength, depraves the taste and weakens not only imagines but understands the Eternity the understanding, leaving the mind no firin of the godhead. For ourselves, who see no resting-place, as it were foating on a sea of solid reason to believe in a godhead, or the wordy uncertainty; but to continue our analogy, eternity of anything but matter, our heart is as in a picture, the roughness of outline or care- manned to make the declaration, which Spinoza lessness of filling up is lost or forgotten in ad- and Strauss, it is more than probable, would miration of the bold and vigorous touches of a have made had they not feared the opinions of master hand, so nervous and clear writing often the multitude, that three-headed monster, and seems to acquire additional lustre from sen- most hellish Cerberus called public orthodoxy, tences which, though conveying a noble idea, who requires a sop of absurdity, however small, are yet, in themselves, rough and rugged. before he will permit any to pass the portal

Truth is, or ought to be, the grand object of leading to private honours and public respect- 1 all teaching, by which word truth should be ability. The truth is, Spinoza did not believe understood an exact image of things, set forth in, and, therefore, could not pretend to underin speech, or writing ; by speech, when the stand, the eternity of the godhead; but he felt sound is the echo of the sense, echó being ele- the weight of public prejudice, and bent beneath! gantly called by the ancients wife of Pan, that it. As Voltaire has remarked, "Spinoza did! is, nature, as repeating its words ; but writing, not acknowledge a god; he probably used the

expression, and said that we ought to serve and loose against us; even the noble debauchée, to love god, only that he might not frighten my Lord Rochester's linesmankind.As to Dr. Strauss, who calls what

Men, before certain instinct, will prefer is written by divines about creation from no- Reason, which fifty times for one doth err; thing, a weightless definition for speculative Books bear them up awhile, and make them try

To swim with bladders of philosophy-thinkers ;" who contends that in eternity there is no fixed point from which a beginning could will be quoted with ecstatic delight for the depart; who labours hard to prove a substan- benefit of souls in general, and christian souls tial, material god, and then asserts that the in particular. All of which excellent authority, whole root of the supposition which made the with sundry charges of presumption, lewdness, real nature of God as the matter out of which horrible profanity, and so on, will be levelled he made all things, was destroyed by Spinozism; against us, which certainly cannot be justified how far such a philosopher is from being an on the ground of decency or consistency ; for Atheist, let those judge who please, but cer- not to dwell upon scriptural injunctions, to tainly the writer in the Quarterly is not far prove all things, if reason cannot grapple with out when he declares, that the author has at the subject, why do our systematic divinitarians once boldly thrown off the mask, and from the theologasters, as an old writer terms them, Deist, which the “ Leben Jesu” (Life of Jesus) attempt to prove the existence of a god by reademonstrated him to be, he has, by an easy son; or why have they challenged inquiry into the mutation, passed into the Atheist. Thus it is matter? for, in the name of sense, if a Fontethat men intellectually but not morally great nelle, a Clark, or a Paley pretend to demonsuffer all the odium that attaches to an honest strate the existence of a god ; if they protest declaration of truth, without the reward of that they have shown, and the honest Atheist conscious integrity ; for stopping short in the equally protests that he has not seen ; why is midst of their career, they cover themselves he to be denied the right of sincerely stating with the mantle of mystical jargon and absurd his conviction and the reasons which sustain it; conceit, instead of taking the bolder and more not seeing the flood of light such writers cast honourable course of daring all things in the upon the great deep of the mystery, is it uncause of right reason; gallantly pressing for- reasonable that he should be allowed to say ward and reaching that goal or rock of truth, so much? What are the laboured reasonings against which the surges of sophistry and fa- of your Clarks, Newtons, and others, but atnaticism may dash in vain.

tempts to prove, logically and morally, that To reason, says Burlamaqui, is to calculate, there is an uncaused god, who caused by his and, as it were, draw up an account, after ba- will everything else. An eternal, infinite, unlancing all arguments, in order to see on which changeable, uncaused being, the cause of all side the advantage lies; and can any who things else! for, as Dr. Clark says, in his readmit the right to inquire, show good reason ply to Leibnitz-“ 'Tis very true that nothing why reason should not be employed to deter- is without a sufficient reason why it is, and mine on wbich side of the argument the ad- why it is rather than otherwise ; and therefore, vantage lies with regard to the question-Is where there is no cause there can be no effect. there, or is there not, a god? or, to state it But this sufficient reason is sometimes no other ivith even more explicitness—Is there more than the mere will of God." How he came at a reason to believe than to disbelieve in the ex- knowledge of the mere will of a god, except by istence of a deity? The belief in angels, says way of experience, evidence, and observation, Schleirmacher, is now a “dead tradition; a man's head may split before his brain would a belief in a god or gods will, one day or other, work well enough to determine, but it is clear share the same fate ; and it is our deliberate the sufficiency of a reason can only be proconviction, that neither of these beliefs, nor nounced by reason ; and if it be objected that indeed beliefs of any kind, is necessary for the revelation came to the aid of the worthy doctor, peace, preservation, and general happiness of and gave him insight, or second sight, into the society. We may be told that the discussion supernatural, the difficulty will not by that be will only produce vexation of spirit, irritate shuffled off; for talk as we may about revelaand unsettle, not soothe or convince; that it is, tion proving the existence of a god, reason must, besides, a question with which reason has nothing after all, determine which is or is not revelation. whatever to do; and all sorts of abuse will be Bolingbroke asks,“ Can he be less than mad, pressed into the service of true religion, that is who boasts a revelation superadded to reason, Christianity, the believers in which will find no to supply its defects, and who superadds reason difficulty in collecting excellent christian au- to revelation to supply the defects of this too, thority to prove their religion is the sheet at the same time?' No wonder Addison called anchor of bappiness, without which all would him “ the cankered Bolingbroke,” after asking {* wrecked amill the storms and tempests of such unpleasant and unanswered questions. life; while philosophy will be scouter, or borne How, then, can those who appeal to reason realong by a whirlwinii of contempt and indig- fuse to abide by its decisions ? and surely, to zation. All being fish that comes into the use the lightest kind of censure, it is nothing acred net, every kind of authority will be let | less than indecent in those who pretend that

the existence of a god is demonstrable by rea- | idea. “A perfect Atheist (says he) is one who son, not to be content with the weapons drawn believes nothing of a designing principle or from its armoury. Your divinitarians, like mind, nor any cause, rule, or measure of things, cowardly cocks upon their own dunghill, crow but chance, so that in nature neither the inlustily over those who, not having the law on terest of the whole nor of any particulars can their side, cannot, like Mahomet, when the be said to be in the least designed, pursued, or heap wont come to them, go to the heap; but, aimed at.” Not ourselves believing in any deto cut short this cock and heap part of the signing principle, mind, intelligence, cause, or story, it is strangely inconsistent and absurd in what you will, distinct from the material world; such reasoners to check discussion, when they believing, on the contrary, that something must pretend to long so ardently for it; or to shun have been from all eternity, therefore uncaused, the most searching investigation of the argu- and that uncaused something the universe-we ments in favour of their god, creeds, and sys- are perfect Atheists. But to guard against tems, if they amount to a moral demonstration. a misconception of the above definition, it may

The existence of a god, it is allowed, is a be well to warn the reader that the word chande knotty point to prove ; but those who think is not accepted by the Atheist as meaning an by the rood upon these subjects, have a knack effect without a cause; for if we allowed such of cutting all knots they can't untie by the a stupid notion as that to prevail, theologasters tongue or the teeth ; but when wagging the would speedily lay us by the heels; no, no, the tongue or showing the teeth, or doing both weazel is not to be caught asleep; this worel together, don't answer, then our divines ape chance means nothing so absurd as an effect Alexander in their dexterous use of the long without a cause, but an effect the cause of which sword called the sword of state, which speedily is not perceivable by our senses. According settles all questions, and removes every kind of to Voltaire, we have invented the word to exdifficulty that hangs about such vulgar things press the known effect of an unknown cause. as logic and argument; nothing so demonstrat- If the word chance be used in any other sense, ing the truth of their demonstrations as the it is by religionists not Atheists ; perfect Athesword of state and the strong arm of the law. ists having no objection to make them a present

For ourselves, not desiring any armour but of it; but reserve to themselves the right not that of evidence and experience, no sword but to use words in a manner so wildly absurd. the long and sharp one of reason, no kind of The Atheist does not deny that the word cause shelter save that of wit, evidence, and logic, we always implies an effect, the term effect equally without scruple throw aside the ingenious ob- implying a cause; but the error of supernataljection of Wyttenbach, that no man can pro- ralists lies here, they PRESUME the universe to perly be called an Atheist, till it is deelared what bean effect, and argue as though their presumpis meant by the term god; because the deriva- tion amounted to proof. Spinoza, Vanini, tion of the term Atheist shows it to apply to Bacon, Locke, Voltaire, in short all who have one who is without god in the world. This in- written for or against the existence of a god, direct apology for the Atheist is rejected, not agree that something is uncaused, and therefore because it is insufficient, but because Atheism external. Spinoza establishes clearly that someneeds no apology. Christians as well as Deists thing exists, and from its existence argues its admit that no one hath seen their god at any eternal existence. When Dr. Clark tells us, in time, Moses and the hinderparts notwithstand- his fourth reply to Leibnitz, that the Epicurean ing, or can by searching prove such existence, chance is not a choice of will, but a blind neso that those who pretend to have ideas of god, cessity of fate, he wrote at random; for though if they have them, have ideas without an arche- chance can never be a choice of will, the word type, which is an impossibility. Supposing meaning as above noted, a perceived effect of the existence of an uncaused being, the cause an unknown cause, it is foolish as unjust to and support of the visible universe, which may talk of the Epicurean notion of chance as signibe called god, or anything else; the idea of fying “a blind necessity of fate;" all Epicureans such existence must first be produced in the knowing that necessity is neither blind nor seemind before it is possible such a being could be ing. The word necessity is expressive of the known to exist; so that those who are athe- general truth, that matter does now, ever did, istically inclined, and do not choose to avow it, and ever must act definitely and uniformly. may safely defy the whole world of intellect So much for the word chance, which has and faith conjoined, logically to show that they been dragged forward upon all occasions by suare so, though every man of sense may be pernaturalists as positive proof of the absurdimorally sure of it; for, as before shown, proving ties of Atheism; but if they had taken the a man to be an Atheist logically, is contingent pains to understand Atheism, they would have upon a clear certainty that he is without a god known that its advocates contend that in nature in the world. This nice little quibble of lo- there is no such thing as confusion, the whole gicians, we disdain to make use of; at once being necessarily what it is, and acting in agreçing to the definition of an Atheist given virtue of its inherent properties. A chaos. by Lord Shaftesbury, as being complete, in- as remarked by Voltaire, never having existed, telligible, and quite in harmony with our own except in the minds of a Homer or a Hesiod.

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2345 THE ORACLE OF REASON.

3.564 occupied themselves in the solution of it; and if you do not say that merry-andrews would have gone a better way to work it will be odd indeed; for like those creatures that by a certain sort of instinct, to avoid pursuit, darken the medium through which they pass, so have our clerical swimmers in the sea of kuowledge a happy knack of leaving a long tail of obscurity behind. Instead of carefully collecting facts, and opening their mental exchequer to receive something solid in the way of experience, they in general rest contented in most shameful ignoraxce, rather than their pride should be mortified by any discoveries in science, hostile to their cherished opinions. Solicitous, for their own advantage, to maintain what they call the honour of the human species, and its superiority over the brutes, all that could flatter and soothe the delightful idea is that alone which has been said and collected. Any attempt to establish a relationship, however remote, between man and the inferior animals, has always been scouted as impious, an insult to the creator, in whose image they tell us we are made, and little short of blasphemy against the holy ghost. Hundreds of sermons have been preached against the unlucky Bulliver, wlio insisted that in his day there was a Kentish famiy all tailed. Anathema after anathema was heaped upon

Lochner,who, in his MiscellaneaCuriosa, relates, (Fossil Man.)

with great gravity and minuteness, the case of

a boy with a monstrous tail. As to Dr. PerTHEORY OF REGULAR GRADÅTION.

riar, who considered that the os coccygis pust sometimes have an accidental elongation, and

Dr. Grindant, who published many cases tend'I will show you how the earth has been peopled; how ing to give strength to the opinion that our organic formation after organic formation has taken forefathers were at first taileci auimals also ; pince, passing gradually from simple to compound both those gentlemen have been very roughly bodies, and covering itself, as at this hour we find it, with plants and animals. In following matter through handled. The last-named doctor states, among all its changes, noting its fftetamorphoses, from the other facts, as he styled them, that the islands most simple organization to the most complex, we of Moluccas, Formosa, and the Philippines,were shall find, without doubt, that point where man, vrutish and savage, as at 'first he must have been, at one time inhabited by whole races of men trok rank among the creatures of the universe.”- with tails. But to pass by all these, and the Free Translation from "L'HOMME FOSSILE” (Fossil flagellations they received from our spiritual Man), or Boitard.

whips,for setting forth such degrading opinions, ForhinG is more fatal to a common-sense we need only refresh the reader's memory with view of things, than the very prevalent habit the case of the famous Monboddo, who had of considering consequences before investigating such a predilection for monkey-men that he und determining principles. It is not only il- has taken vast pains to prove that they formerly hogical but absurd, and highly prejudicial to did wear tails ; for insisting upon which antithe cause of truth; for it fills timid minds poetic notion he has been as soundly abused as with alarm, lest by a resolute and persevering any man that ever lived. That his theory was stareh into the properties of matter and the incomplete and erroneous in many important nature of opinions, they may light upon results particulars, it is presumed these papers will disastrous to their prejudices and perhaps fatal show; but that there is some truth in it will be to their hopes of "singing hallelujah above the as clearly proved. Lord Monboddo was ignoclouds." The rightly balanced, well ordered rant of many particulars, without a knowledge mind has the strongest assurance-an assurance of which he could not but blunder, as the foldrawn from the great fountain of human ex- lowing, from the “ Origin and Progress of Lan

rience and the general analogies of things, guage,” will show : “Ă whole nation, if I may coat neither truth nor virtue are empty names, call them so, have been found without the use dat real, substantial blessings, whatever clerical of speech. This is the case of the curang-oumbstructives may preach to the contrary. Take tangs that are found in the kindom of Angola, Ge question, the regular gradation of the hu- in Africa, and in several parts of Asia. They 2an species, and note how philosophers have are exactly of the human form, walking crect,

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I.

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