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Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Porceps.
up a system o' darkness an’ delusion,” to sanction my opinions by reference to a amang the ancients, an'
the moderns maist eminent for the extent o' their learnin' an' the soun'. ness o' their judgments?-Gif ye aye keep to guessin', Mungo, ye'll never be ca'd a warlock, though ye had a' the ither“ marks an' qualifications o' ane;" an’ were as auld—an'as wrinklt-an' as poor, as Nanse Howlet; “ an' had a black cat, and dwalt in a wee bit reeky crooe, that hunkert in a howe, at the neuk o' a craig, anang trees.”
Å fore I tak’ fareweel o'ye, Mungo, I maun gie you an advice; ye seem a pious, weel-meanin' man, an' 'll thole a word or twa though it be gay an' serious. Though there's muckle sense in what auld Nanse telt you, there's ae pairt o't that ye
sud hae gien your ain opinion about. Ye were young whan she said it, bet ye're auld now, Mungo, an' experienced, and surely ken better. There's nane o' us a' kons the ways of the Almighty weel aneuch to say positively, whether He wha allows murderers, tyrants, an' ither wicked men, sae mony opportunities o' harmin' an’ wrangin' their brethren, disna, for wise an' gracious purposes, permit higher degrees o' power to be the emissaries of the cnemy, « who goos about seeking whom he may
devour.' Ap' that “ Satan works only within us,” is what naebody kens. Gin it werena anticipating what I may do on a future occasion, I could tell how the bible speaks o' them wha were distressed “ in outward estate;" and maybe show, that though we canna estimate a' the beneficial effecks o'believin' that he does sae still, it wad for ae thing help to mak' us trust less to oursel's than mony o' us do, an' mair to Him“ who is mightier than all that are against us.
You are an auld man, Mungo, an' I wad be laith to say sic sair things to you as ye took the liberty to write o' me: but dinna olaim the privilege of age in future. Gin I were a preacher I wad be
angry for the application o' the silly proverb in the cong; clusion o'
letter. I'm no a preacher, an' nıy essay ye should' hae minded, Mungo, is no ą sermon ; though you must have seen that the opinions I advanced were avowedly entertained by preachers, and, in most cases, are quoted from Sermons.
I know weel that proverbs an' ither general aphorisms, will not always bear to be literally interpreted, an' I hae owre high an opinion o' your good sense, as weel as o' your piety, to insinuate that you meant that proverb to be applied to such men as
Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Forces .
Dr. Owen, or Bishop Leng, or Dr. Isaac Barrow. At the same time, Mungo, though it suited you unco weel, an' was very witty, I canna help thinking, it was very unfortunate, pardon me for saying very imprudent, in you to write, when alluding to opinions which derive so great support from the Sermons, of such eminent Divines, " The lambs should tremble when the foxes preach.” The direct application of such language is the only application ignorant people in general make; designing people never make
other when it suits their purpose, and as there is a close, in the estimation of the majority, an inseparable connection, between the teachers of religion and religion itself, I again repeat it, the use you made of that silly proverb was both unfortunate and imprudent. The world should be taught to reverence those who have so ably advocated the cause of Christian truth, both against the assaults of open infidelity, and against the corruptions of a bigotted and enslaved superstition. If this be your opinion also Mungo, beware in future of speaking slightingly or of leading others to suppose that you intend to speak slightingly of men who were an honour to the age, and will ever be esteemed an honour to the country that produced them.
The above observations, Mr. Editor, were written long before the appearance of your 5th No.-I heartily congratulate my old friend Mungo on his accession of force. His “ gathering cry" has been heard : “ the fiery cross” has not been “ sped” in vain;
“ Fast as the fatal signal flies,
Mungo himself has actually succeeded, we are told, “ to a certain extent, in crushing” the discomfited Vetus “ under foot,” and nothing was wanting to his final overthrow but a o' lear” to thrust him througl
secundum artem, “ wi' the wapon o' truth.”_
It was one of the inconveniences inseparable from the old system of mustering that the pibroch did not always sound pre
Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Forceps.
cisely at the time it was most convenient for all those that heard
“ With changed cheer the mower blithe
The hunter left the stag at bay;"
in the conflict without his “ wapon". I feel quite disposed to give Forceps full credit for all he has done. Though he has displayed marvellously little, considering the subject, of what Mungo “ houped" so fervently for, “ lear”—and though he has given you and your readers, nothing more than his worthy co-adjútor would with becoming modesty, have called, an inklin' o' his min' on the subject, referring as little as a man of the most moderate calculation could expect a professed refuter to do, either to the point in dispute or to the opinions and arguments of those who have defended it ;—it is notwithstanding a very neat, gentlemanlike, superficial, sort-of-an-answer; and in several places, particularly where he alludes to the effect of circumstances, in awakening superstitious feelings, his observations are not only beautiful, but natural, ingenious, and, as far as I can at present judge, correct.
After deducting from his paper some things that are quite unconnected with the present stage of the enquiry, and some things, that after more mature reflection he will himself see to be erroneous: and some things which a second reading of the Essay he has answered will enable him to discover are precisely my own sentiments differently expressed, and some things in which he has followed his leader" Mungo, and of which, after the lecture I have given him, Mungo will point out the impropriety-- there remains very little to animadvert upon. . But as it would be injustice to so respectable an adversary to pass him over with neglect, I shall with as much regard as possible to brevity, direct his attention to the three following particulars.
1st. He is equally reprehensible with my other (fponent, and far less excusable for his vague ard unphilosophical use of language. For instance: “ Does Vetus mean to advocate a single one of those absurd. cpinions which arise from the black ness of
Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Forceps.
ignorance, the excrescences of a disordered imagination, and are justly and properly denounced in the long list of “ lying wonders.” This is worse than declamation, no one can read it twice without feeling that it is the siliest trifling; does Forceps need to be told, that neither Vetus nor any other person ever meant to advocate what is absurd* or imaginary? no Sir, and never shall I be found supporting what can be shown “ to disagree with Revelation," or to be denounced” in Scripture. But besides being essentially ridiculous, that quotation, when taken in connection with what precedes it, is faulty on other accounts. As an argument it is sophistical, for it assumes the very subject of discussion, that the belief, namely, in Supernatural Powers is absurd, imaginary, and unscriptural; and it is unfair, (1 am sorry to say not the only instance of unfairness in the
under consideration) regarded in a controversial light; for it has very much an appearance as if Forceps intended to charge on the person of his opponent the absurdities which are supposed to follow from the hypothesis he (from motives that no person has a right to scrutinize) chooses to support. I paid no attention to Mungo when he pronounced me " a dupe o' Superstition an' credulity," because he knew no better ; but Forceps knows well he can assume no right whatever to ask what “ really and seriously imagine," (believe, I suppose he means) respecting a hypothetical question, in support of which I have yet attempted to advance only one presumptive argument :-and that if he judges of my sentiments by what I have written, he can find nothing that can warrant himn to state that I “ seem to be a believer in all the mysteries of Supernatural Powers.” No, nor even to say more, perhaps, not so much as he says of himself, (p. 187) that “ he does not believe that all the opinions usually styled superstitions, are pure unmixed error altogether," and admit “ that certain appearances and events not to be accounted for on the supposition of mere natural causes, have really taken place.” I will not stop to inquire how far such admissions are reconcileable with other parts of his paper;
but I cannot pass them over without noticing whạt no person will deny, that they are both logical inferences from the argument arising from universal consent, and the only inferences which I
* Absurd, as I understand it, is applicable to that alone which can be shown necessarily to involve a contradiction.
Observations on the Letters of Mungo Morris and Forceps.
" defined ac
again and again stated, it was my object in bringing forward that argument, to establish.
2d. The second particular refers to what Forceps describes as my “only error of consequence, that an Essay professedly on Supernatural Powers should stoop to defend the whole class of opinions usually styled superstitions." Both of my
adversaries have mistaken me here : they never look upon my essay as a single isolated argument bearing but slightly on the subject of debate: they find it more convenient to regard it as a full proof of specific facts. Had I stated it as such, it is liable to much stronger censure than that of not having curately the limits” which seem to me to distinguish truth from
To define these limits I never attempted, and perhaps will never attempt ; and my essay (must I repeat it so often?) should be answered as it is, not as it is possible to conceive it might, could, or should have been. Besides that all the parts of this subject are, as I before stated them, “ in general supported by the same arguments, and all without exception, met by the same objections” besides this, the view I have taken is sufficiently definite to answer every purpose to which it is applied, as the inferences of Forceps himself along with other circumstances abundantly prove.
In establishing the point I set out to prove, namely, that they who believe in
preternatural appearances and supernatural powers actually at work around us” have the strong presumptive argument of universal consent in their favour, I followed what I still esteem a very plain and simple method, showing 1st, That there is no period in the history of mankind, no age, nor country, no state whether of barbarism or refinement, of which we cannot predicate the indisputable fact that this belief possessed a general, I might have said an universal hold on the mind; 2d. That the profoundest reasoners of ancient or modern times without one dissenting voice, have esteemed consent of this kind an unanswerable argument for the truth of that, whatever it be of which it can be predicated: and 3dly, That some of the most eminent Divines this country can boast of, have actually drawn the logical inference from these premises in the question we are now discussing;
It is a simple syllogism :- What all men believe is true-all men believe the existence and operation of Supernatural Powers; therefore, Supernatural Powers exist and operate. Or reduce the syllogism." What most men in all ages and countries be