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they possess evidence of its truth. We are often told that belief is free, that a man has a right to hold and express any opinions he chooses on religious topics. But his liberty of speech does not release him from the duty to refrain from affirming that to be true which he does not know to be true, at least when its truth is disputed.
Thus, if a man had a right understanding of the moral obligation of veracity he would see that it would be wrong to say with Dr. Watts, without the prefix, “I believe ”—
There is a dreadful hell
And everlasting pains,
In darkness, fire, and chains,”
unless he knew it to be true. It is not sufficient, for example, for him to point to a similar statement in any book of the Bible, as proof of its truth, unless he has previously proved that every statement in that book, or by its author, is true.
We do not condemn as guilty of untruthfulness those parents and ministers of religion who make such affirmations in good faith, even though they have not sought for evidence of the truth of the proposition affirmed, but we say they err through ignorance of what veracity requires of them, and that their act of thus seriously affirming a statement whose truth they have not verified, is, considered in itself, a wrong act Many ministers of religion need to have this doctrine of the supreme importance of truth and truthfulness, and what is involved therein, pressed home on them; they need, many of them, as they preach to others, to be preached to themselves, and to have their consciences, on this so often dormant side, stirred and awakened to sensitiveness.
HOW MAY WE OBTAIN KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS ?
SINCE it is important that each one of us, learned or unlearned, should come to the knowledge of the truth respecting Jesus, or since it is, at least, desirable to ascertain what we can know of him, we have next to ask—where may we get the satisfaction we require? How may we obtain knowledge of Jesus ?
Certainly not from his own writings. Jesus did not write, or if even he wrote a few letters it is allowed nothing has been transmitted to us which we can depend on as having been written by him. But there are other celebrated names of antiquity, borne by men who likewise did not write-take, for instance, the famous one of Socrates, or the infamous one of Nero. How may we learn anything of them ? The probable reply will be—by consulting their biographers or historians, by reference to the pages respectively of Zenophon and Tacitus. True, and then you may know what Zenophon wrote of Socrates, and what Tacitus wrote of Nero. We desire, let us say, to form a just estimate of the character of Queen
Elizabeth, and for that purpose consult Hume. Do we, then, know what Elizabeth was? No; we only know that Hume wrote thus and thus of her. If, on the contrary, we had read Lingard and adopted his judgment of that princess, it would differ from that of Hume. And Hallam would lead us to a conclusion different from that of either of the others. It is notorious what dissimilar verdicts have been pronounced on Mary Stuart; but the case which has struck us most forcibly is that of Madame Roland. In our first chapter a quotation was introduced from the Quarterly Review respecting her; it was this :
that she was without fault would be to say that she was not human.” A reader of this passage thus meeting her name for the first time, would surely form an exalted opinion of her character. If, then, he happened, afterwards, in reading Carlyle's "French Revolution,” to see her there termed “the noblest of all living Frenchwomen" (vol. i. p. 263); and to remark, in vol. ii. p. 78, “Envious men insinuate that
“ the wife of Roland is minister, and not the husband; it is, happily, the worst they have to charge her with,” that opinion would be confirmed, and he would be almost inclined to think “the force of Nature could no farther go.”
Yet let an ingenious youth who has thus learned to think of Madame Roland meet with another who has only heard of that lady from the Regius Professor of Modern History in Queen's College, Belfast—Mr. Charles Duke Yonge—and in the following words,
“ It was in more than one point of view characteristic of the party” (the Girondins) “that the person who, of all others, had the greatest weight in its councils was a woman of the name of Roland, the wife of one of the Norman deputies, and of so sanguinary a temper that as early as the summer of 1789 she had recommended the assassination of the king and queen, while they were still in fancied security at Versailles, and that, in the course of the next year, she plotted the assassination of one who was by far the ablest of her husband's colleagues, because he was not prepared to acquiesce in the measures of extreme violence which alone found favour in her eyes" (p. 229). This one will probably
” regard her as simply a monster of ferocity, the other thinks of her as a spotless heroine. And each can quote, in his own support, the verdict of history. Alas for us, if our “life eternal” must depend on these things!
Where we are greatly interested in getting at the truth, we must not, it is clear, confine ourselves to one writer, nor only to the writers on one side, but having consulted each, it rests with us to decide between different authorities. We must ask, what were the sources of information open to the several historians or biographers ? Did they avail themselves of them? We ask this of each ; and, further, is he careful or careless about writing what is true? Has he any bias likely to mislead him ?
By thus using the true key to the treasures of