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for no other reason, save that it is absurd, and who have obtained those marvellous gifts of a spirit which infallibly teaches them all knowledge, except the very simple and obvious fact, that they never knew any thing; these all were sucked, with wonderful facility, into this new Maelstrom of faith, and drawn with becoming velocity towards the conjuring spirits at the centre in Kirtland, Ohio," pp. 36, 37. The information which the book furnishes is such as no intelligent philanthropist or christian ought to be without. Mormonism is not confined to Nauvoo and vicinity. It is gathering its deluded victims by thousands from every section of the United States, and no portion of our country seems to present a sufficiently elevated grade of religious intelligence, to secure its population effectually against this delusion. We have no right to remain ignorant of the nature, history, and true causes of such a moral malady. In this point of view, therefore, it seems to us, that this work has no insignificant claims to the general attention of the patriot, the christian and the philanthropist.
But the book has claims to the attention of the periodical journalist, on other, and, it seems to us, still higher grounds. Such outbreaks of fanaticism as have so often occurred in the history of the past the history of Christendom certainly not excepted), bear a close analogy to unnatural excrescences in the body. As the latter result from some diseased action in the system itself, so the former are the consequence of some moral malady widely pervading the body politic. They are too generally the carrying out of false principles, extensively prevalent, to their natural and perhaps necessary consequences. A system of religious imposture, to be successful, must be adapted to the religious fallacies of the time, with as much care as the machinist adapts his machine to the medium in which it is to be worked ; and on this adaptation must depend the success or the failure of every attempt at religious imposition.
In the work before us Prof. T. has endeavored not only to expose Mormonism, but, as his title intimates, to disclose those depraved principles of human nature, which have produced like developments in all ages of the world-and to indicate those popular errors now prevalent, through which this particular form of fanaticism derives its nutriment from the religious body politic. In discussing each of these topics he must needs traverse a region of thought, which is of permanent interest to the philanthropist, and the christian moralist and philosopher. The
unthinking man or the skeptic may perhaps pass by with indifference or contempt, the religious follies and absurdities of our brethren of the human family : but the wise man and the christian will surely regard them with a sympathizing solicitude, as the symptoms of that moral disease, which pertains in a greater or less degree to every specimen of human nature; and endeavor so to trace them to their true moral causes, that if possible the disease may be cured by the application of a timely remedy.
In this point of view, the occurrence among any people, of a successful attempt at religious imposture, is an event full of interest and instruction to that entire people. How often, at such a time, are the great mass of a community looking with expressions of pity or contempt upon a few deluded men, whose only peculiarity, after all, is that they carry out to their logical consequences, false principles, which they hold in common with a community or perhaps an age. To any compassion which be felt for a band of misguided fanatics, we make no objections: it is appropriate and right: the expression of contempt is unphilosophical and unchristian. There is, however, another view of every such case, which it is incumbent on every good man to take, and which a wise man will not fail to take. The occurrence of such a phenomenon reveals and proves the existence of a moral malady, wide spread through our religious body politic -proves it by an argument which is not subtle and abstract, but very practical and tangible. It does more than this. An examination of the first principles, the fundamental assumptions of any spreading fanaticism would generally lead us to a knowledge of the true nature and extent of that disease, by exposing to public view, some great religious fallacy, held by the deluded few, in common with millions who are preserved by the grace of God from being drawn within the circle of fatal enchantment, and who may be convinced that it is a fallacy, by tracing its effects in the deluded few, when carried out to its ultimate logical consequences. Such an examination of this and every other form of successful religious imposture is therefore important, not only as affording the only hope of a remedy for the particular evil, but as likely to be in a high degree instructive to the entire community.
To what extent Prof. Turner has succeeded in these inquiries we shall leave, for the most part, to the judgment of the reader of his book, without attempting to forestall his opinion by any remarks of ours. All will, we think, agree with us, that he
has presented much material for grave thought; and if he has not in every instance“ worked it up” to the taste of the reader, we hope he will at least have been successful in calling the attention of other minds to a class of topics, which, it seems to us, have been greatly neglected.
But there are two points upon which we purpose to examine the views of the author a little more in detail. The first of these is the nature of the evidence on which we are to receive the Scriptures as the word of God. This is a subject which Prof. T. was compelled to discuss, or fail in one of the leading objects of the book. There is in our country an immense mass of skepticism, which is the direct result of familiarity with a factious and sectarian religion. We have among us thousands and tens of thousands, who see nothing in religion but the conflict of opposing, and often, to a greater or less degree, fanatical sects. Such men regard religion as having little or nothing to do with argument or conviction, and as belonging altogether to the imagination and the passions. To their minds, all religious sects are only so many different forms of the same vulgar weakness. -all alike devoid of any claims to truth, and destitute of any authority over such enlightened and liberal minds as their own. Hence, when a new fanaticism springs up, however gross, how . ever devoid of one plausible argument in its favor, it seems to them only the rising up of a new sect; childish and absurd, indeed, but no more so than each and every one of the “ numerous crop” already in existence. Now to all this class of readers, what avails it to demonstrate a thousand times over,
you please, that Mormonism is false and absurd, and a base imposture?—so they always regarded it: and to have demonstrated the falsehood, and absurdity, and hypocrisy of one form of religion, goes far to confirm their confidence, that all others would prove equally unworthy of confidence, if examined with equal thoroughness. All this class of minds will, therefore, be decidedly confirmed in their infidelity, unless at the same time that you demonstrate the falsehood of the newly risen imposture, you also demonstrate that the religion of the Bible rests on entirely another and more substantial foundation. With this army of skeptics the Christian church has to deal, and while she continues to present to the world her present aspect of schism, faction, and contention, will always have to deal with it. As often as she is called to encounter the outbreakings of fanaticism on one side, she will at the same time be forced to SECOND SERIES, VOL. IX. NO. 1.
repel the envenomed shafts of infidelity on the other. Both these hostile influences are the direct consequences of a distorted and factious Christianity; and the former will never be left to make its onset upon the Christian faith, without the full and vigorous co-operation of the latter. He who would expose the one, must, therefore, look well to it that he does not at the same time abet and encourage the other.
This numerous class of skeptics are accustomed to make their attack in the form of a definite and tangible argument, which, though it is exceedingly flimsy in the judgment of the wellinformed Christian, is to unthinking thousands specious and convincing. We have received, say they, one religion on the testimony of Jesus and his twelve apostles, and why not another on the testimony of Joseph Smith, Jr., and his eleven witnesses? If human testimony was a foundation broad enough to support a new religion eighteen hundred years ago, why not now? This is indeed but reiterating the favorite argument of the Mormons themselves; and it cannot be successfully denied, that thousands of Christians are found in the several sects, who are unable to answer it; as well as thousands of irreligious men, intelligent on other subjects, who are ready to pronounce it sound and conclusive. It is no wonder then that Prof, T. felt the necessity of taking decisive ground on the relation of human testimony to the evidence of revealed religion. This he has done in the following language:
“ The fourth false ground of religious belief is mere human testimony; on the naked dictum' of some one or more of our fellow men. This subject merits a careful consideration. We have already proved by reasoning from past experience, that, however worthy of belief the human race may be in all else, in matters of faith they have, as a race, proved themselves liars, and utterly unworthy of all credit.” p. 117.
The word testimony is, perhaps, in some degree ambiguous. It may mean simply the evidence, which is conveyed to the mind, of the reality of any alleged fact, by the mere assertion of one or more individuals; or it may include along with that evidence, all the circumstances which tend to produce the conviction that the individuals spoke the truth. We might become convinced by various circumstantial evidence, that an individual had in a given case spoken the truth, though he was notoriously destitute of veracity; so that on his simple say-so we would not believe any thing. Perhaps in such a case we might, in a
loose and popular use of language, be said to believe the facts stated, on that man's testimony. But however that may be, Professor Turner has left us no room to doubt his meaning.
mere human testimony, or the naked dictum of some one or more of our fellow men." The latter clause explains the former. When, therefore, he objects to the reception of any religion on mere human testimony, and declares such testimony utterly unworthy of credit when employed for the purpose of giving currency to a new religion, he is to be understood to mean by testimony, " the naked dictum of some one or more of our fellow men.” He is also to be understood to speak of the direct testimony of friends to the system, and not of the indirect testimony of enemies. This might also be shown by quotations, but it is unnecessary. On another page we find the author making a distinction between believing “in” testimony, and believing "ON ACCOUNT" of testimony. He claims that we believe in the testimony of the apostles, but not ON ACCOUNT of it. His meaning here is, we think, very obvious in view of the considerations already stated. We do not receive the facts of Christianity, because certain men have testified that they are true: the mere naked assertion of five hundred, or five thousand witnesses, could never have produced conviction. But we do believe in the testimony of the apostles,—the circumstances of the case,—the attendant developments of divine Providence are such, as to render unbelief in the highest degree unreasonable. This we suppose to be the author's obvious meaning. Still it is evident that, in a certain sense, we believe on account of their testimony. That testimony is an indispensable link in the chain of evidence. Had they not testified, we should never have known the facts at all; and consequently could never have believed them. The notorious liar, who testifies before a court, may tell a truth of which the court could never have had knowledge without his testimony; and, although that fact would not be received on the simple ground of his word, attending circumstances may establish it beyond a doubt. This is what we suppose the author to mean when, on page 119, he admits the use of human testimony" in transmitting
a genuine scheme of faith.”
Is this, then, a just view of the subject ? Does our belief in the facts of Christianity rest at all on mere human testimony, using the word in the limited sense in which it is used by Professor Turner ? This is an important question, and we shall