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that thought true, though in many respects it gives weight and importance to it. As to him who conceives it, it determines his moral right to utter it, and stamps him, in some degree, as a truthful man or a liar.
Lambert.—“Thought must be judged with reference to its truth, and not with reference to the honesty of him who thinks it."
Granted; but who is to be the ultimate judge of its truth?
Lambert.—“This plea of honesty in thinking is a justification of every error or crime, for we must, in the very nature of the case, take the thinker's word for the honesty of his thought.”
Not always; for his acts may give the lie to his words. But what is the Father warring with, and what is his doctrine on the subject of “free thought?” Mr. Ingersoll has said that we know little of the infinite, but that all have an equal right to express their honest thoughts on the subject. Does the Father deny this proposition ? Can he do so without laying his logical axe at the very root of the tree of religious liberty ? Such denial would imply that the fires of the inquisition are only smouldering, and are ready to break forth into a flame whenever and wherever bigotry becomes the ally of physical power.
Lambert.-" The right to give an honest thought implies the right to realize that thought in action and habit."
Here two distinct things are confounded; namely, moral right and legal right. Which is meant? The moral right to do what one conceives to be a duty can only be denied by affirming that a man is morally right in refusing to do what he believes to be right, and in doing what he believes to be wrong. Guilt may be incurred by insufficient examination in regard to the moral quality of thoughts and acts, for no man has the moral right to neglect opportunities of enlightenment; but can any one affirm that a man should do what he thinks
is wrong, or refrain from doing an act which his conscience tells him he should do? The solution of the apparent difficulty is this: the moral nature of an act is not determined by the mere act itself, but, measurably, by antecedent circumstances and conditions, proximate and remote.
Lambert.-"I take it, then, that in claiming the right to give your honest thought you claim the right to promulgate that thought and put it in practice in the affairs of life.”
In a general way, yes. But what is the negation of this right? You have no right to promulgate your honest thought, nor put it in practice in the affairs of life! But if certain honest thoughts we may and others we may not express, tell us, pray, those we have license to utter.
The truth is we have no standard of right and wrong to which we can appeal without liability to error. "yes, the will of God." But how do you determine that will? Protestants say, by the Bible alone, and may add, in the words of Chillingworth, “the meaning of the Bible is the Bible.” But has that “infallible rule” brought Protestants to an agreement in regard to important doctrines, or kept them from perpetrating deeds in the name of religion at which we shudder ?
The Catholic rule is the Bible, tradition, etc., as interpreted by the church. But has that standard stayed the hand of persecution, or kept the church and its most honored adherents from perpetrating what are now regarded as the most revolting crimes ?
The standard of right and wrong, whatever rule may be professed, is in the mind and heart of man, and has varied froni age to age as he advanced from the barbarism of the past to the comparative enlightenment of the present. As our knowledge of natural science, so our knowledge of the rules of morality, has come to us by slow degrees, and is not perfect yet. By the old rule it was right to cremate witches and heretics. Witches, under the present regime, are regarded as phantoms seen through the mists of ancient superstition, and heretics are considered as sincere even if mistaken men.
If the tree be known by its fruit, what shall we say of “infallible rules" as adopted and applied by the religious world ? They have nourished superstition, fostered moral cowardice, repressed knowledge, blinded the eyes of reason, inspired wars the most deadly and unrelenting, manacled the slave, crucified free thought, and put to death, by tortures the most cruel and ignominious, the noblest heroes who ever flashed the light of intelligence and moral truth, in their grandest aspects, upon this benighted world.
When through the vista of past centuries we view the darkness which enveloped humanity as with a pall in contrast with our present enlightenment, moral and intellectual; when we see proscription giving way to freedom of thought, love supplanting hate, and holy deeds of charity performed between descendants of those who tortured and killed the living and dismembered the dead, we justly glory in the light of our present civilization. But let us not in self-gratulation forget those martyrs of the past, free in thought, truthful in word, holy in purpose, noble in deed, whose funeral pyres, ignited by the hand of persecution, created to so great an extent that light which is the glory of the past, joy of the present, and hope of the future.
IN REPLY TO CHAPTER IV.
The Common Scold—The Cotton of Catholicity-The Argument from “ De
sign"-Eternal Succession of Being-Plurality of Gods-- The Fall of ManIs it Just that Animals should Endure Uncompensated Suffering because “ In Adam's Fall we Sinned All?”-Divine Mercy not a Sin-License.
THERE is so much of the method of the common scold in the "Notes" that the task of review becomes an unpleasant
Ingersoll.—“ It will not do to say that the universe is designed, and therefore there must be a designer."
Listen to the profound comment of the Father:
Lambert.—“Why not, if all have a right to give their honest thoughts?"
Is such stuff the cotton of Catholicity with which it closes the eyes and stops the ears of its votaries ? Does not the Father know that the words, “it will not do to say” imply only that it is not logical to say, but by no means that those who believe in the argument from design have no moral right to advance it ?
I am not indisposed to admit that there is great force in this argument. John Stuart Mill advised the theist to stick to it as his most available defence against atheistic encroachment. Dr. James McCosh, who, in his work on “Christianity and Positivism,” gives one of the strongest presentations of the argument, referring to Mr. Mill's remark, says (I quote from memory), that, in this instance, he will follow the advice of an adversary.
Still, the argument has its difficulties, as some of the most learned of the advocates of Christianity have admitted. Rather in a spirit of exposition than disputation I will mention some of them. Briefly stated the argument from design is this: the works of nature show design; design implies a designer; hence God. Some have believed in an eternal succession of being; and, unless disproved by science, it is difficult logically controvert the possibility of such succession.
We can as readily apprehend the idea of a chain composed of successive links co-extensive with space as we can the infinite extension of space itself. Again, the belief in a plurality of gods meets us as a doctrine held by some of the greatest minds of antiquity, and which in former times was believed in by the great majority of the ignorant and educated. Even the Jews believed that the heathen gods were real deities, though far inferior to Jehovah. Christian theology, also, affirms that there are three Gods, co-equal and infinite in every divine attribute, although declaring that the Three, in some inexplicable sense, are one. But in the statement of this doctrine and its consequences Catholics and Protestants do not agree: the one holding that Mary was the Mother of God, the other repudiating this dogma. Nor is this divergence of belief barren of important differences; for, if the Catholic be correct, the Protestant is withholding praise from one to whom reverence is due as unto the next to God in glory and honor; while, if the Protestant is right, Mariolatry is idolatry.
Ingersoll.—“Was there no design in having an infinite designer?”
Lambert.-“None whatever, because there can be nothing back of an eternal designer.”
Certainly not; but the “eternal" part of it is the very ques