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The Rights of Animals
In undertaking the Editorship of this periodical, I am conscious that I have entered upon a work of much labour and care; that I have enlarged the circle of my duties, and widened a field of exertion, already sufficiently extensive in my own congregation and neighbourhood. But I have ever regarded the existence of a periodical, devoted to the advocacy of Religious Liberty and Gospel Truth, as a matter of primary importance to our holy
The press is now equal, if not superior, to the pulpit, in its power of instructing and improving the popular mind; and the words of truth, reason, and charity, contained in a small, cheap periodical, may enter many a home, and enlighten many a heart, that prejudice would have rendered for ever inaccessible to the voice of the living advocate. Without a periodical, the liberal Presbyterians of Ireland would be overwhelmed with misrepresentations, which they would never be permitted to contradict, and with calumnies, which they would have no means of confuting. Do we not all remember, how in the course of the severe struggle for religious liberty, which resulted in the formation of the Remonstrant Synod, the newspaper press, with but one exception, quailed before the excited fanaticism of the day; and refused to publish for
the unpopular party any justification, however reasonable, or any defence, however moderate? The one solitary and noble exception to this general injustice I need not mention; for as long as honour, justice, and indomitable integrity, are esteemed among men, every friend of religious liberty, of every political creed, will remember with gratitude the name of the Northern Whig.
Conscious, then, that a periodical is absolutely necessary to defend our cause from misrepresentation, and ourselves from calumny, and having learned that the devoted and zealous young Minister, who has conducted the Bible Christian, almost unaided, during the last three years, in so creditable a manner, was determined to resign his charge, and finding that no one could be had to undertake it, I considered it my duty to accept of the Editorship, and thus prevent the extinction of so useful a work.
In conducting the Bible Christian my primary object shall be, the advocacy and defence of Religious LIBERTY, not regarded as a boon enjoyed by toleration, but as a God-given heritage, the inalienable birth-right of every freeman. In the second place, I shall labour to advance the cause of Bible Christianity, in opposition to creedworship; and try to recommend to the understanding and the heart of every reader, the pure and primitive Gospel Truth, “ the Truth as it is in Jesus."
Whilst such subjects, however, shall continue to occupy the greater part of every number, I think that the work may be rendered more generally interesting by the insertion of a few articles of a literary and moral, rather than a religious and controversial cast. Finally, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that for the opinions and sentiments which may be contained in the Editorial Articles, I alone am accountable.
W. H. DOHERTY,
UNIFORMITY OF OPINION.
Of all the absurdities by which the intellect of man has been bewildered, that of striving after perfect uniformity of opinion is the most ridiculous. Is not all knowledge, religious as well as scientific, gained gradually? Are not all inquirers after truth advancing, and striving to move forward as rapidly as possible? In the very nature of things, there must, therefore, be a difference of station in the army of Truth: a vanguard, a centre, a rear. The most vigorous thinkers will lead; the next, in point of independence and acuteness, will follow; and the weakest, most ignorant, and bigotted, will form the rear. Now, to establish uniformity of opinion, you must thrust back all human souls to the level of the very lowest. It is utterly impossible to cause the uneducated mind to comprehend and entertain the truths to which a higher order of intellectual power and culture may arrive. You cannot compel the weak and feeble runner to keep pace with the vigorous and active; and if you desire to make their progress uniform, you must try to repress the powers of the strong, and cause the feeble to lead, no matter how slow his pace may be. The root of the strange error that has missed the world for centuries is, a mistake concerning the meaning of the terms “ opinion,” “ belief,” &c.
Now, what do we mean by the term, a man's religious opinions”? If we mean any thing, it must be, the amount of knowledge which he has attained concerning Christian Truth. His opinion or his belief simply means his knowledge. What he knows, he believes; what he believes, is his opinion: the terms have the same meaning. This point we regard as settled; for surely no man will say that he believes what he does not know; or, that his opinion on any point differs from his belief. Now, all will admit, that knowledge is gained gradually; that there neither is, nor can be, uniformity in knowledge, and that the amount of knowledge which any individual has attained, is continually changing. But if knowledge, belief, opinion, be, as I have shown, words of the very same meaning, it follows, that the uniformity so eagerly desired by many churches is a vain fancy; which, in the very nature of things, it is impossible to realize. There is one method, indeed, by which we might hope to attain a greater degree of uniformity of opinion with respect to religious truth than at present exists in the world: that is, if every individual would honestly and earnestly devote himself to the pursuit of truth; if every one who discovered a new truth might avow and advocate it without loss or injury; and if the wise and learned would labour to instil truth, and nothing but truth, into the minds of the ignorant. It is, no doubt, impossible to produce equality of knowledge, and the very attempt displays gross ignorance of human nature; but if we are to agree on any points of faith, it must be with respect to proved and palpable truths, not mysterious dogmas, or empty unmeaning formulas.
Observe the wonderful absurdity of trying to produce religious uniformity, by means of a common creed, which all are forced to assent to. The subscribing of a creed cannot, in any way, change or modify a inan's belief. It does not increase his stock of religious knowledge. It does not, in the slightest degree, tend to equalize the quantities of knowledge possessed by each: and unless these quantities are equalized, uniformity is impossible. “ What more than verbal unity can there be,” says a modern writer, “ in the profession of faith by the child, and by the man? The same terms do not convey the same ideas in the different stages, even of an individual progress, still less can they in the progress that society makes, as knowledge is continually advancing. Of all vain attempts, the attempt to embody what men shall believe, to define it, to perpetuate it from age to age, is one of the vainest; and the only result has been, that the same ingenuity, the same jesuitry of interpretation, which the makers of creeds have often bestowed upon the words of Scripture, have been bestowed subsequently upon those creeds themselves. Articles have been tortured as texts were tortured before, and the whole power of human ingenuity put forth in order to cover hypocrisy, or even to deceive the mind itself; and all this under the notion of the intimate union of salvation with opinion.”
There is yet another view of this subject which has often occurred to us, and by which the inefficacy of creeds will more fully appear. Both reason and Scripture look upon
all men as sinners; and we have never met any man of sound mind, who would venture to deny the truth