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L ETT ER I.
Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in
you with meekness and fear, is an excellent exhortation of St. Peter's to the primitive church. Christianity is elegantly styled the hope that is in you : this hope, the apostle says, is rationally to be accounted for to every man that asketh. But what an essential in edifying controversy are men directed to meekness and fear! The question and the answer, the accusation and the defence, the inquiry and the apology are mutually concerned in it. Happy for the christian world had she obeyed this admirable direction!
Suffer it to be said Sir, that if your letter abounds with fine reasonings; if those reasonings be made to serve a mistaken zeal ; that generous and patient docility with which it closes is its highest praise, and throws a kind of sunshine over all. Man's whole interest is truth, and the pursuit of it his noblest effort. You blame the late petitioners; you maintain the necessity of subscription; you involve magistrates, ministers and people, in an obligation to support the present system, as if all would suffer in its demolition. Yet after all, you desire to hear what can be said against your arguments; your mind, like a nicely poised pair of scales, being ready to preponderate either way, on which side soever evidence shall fall. Is not this to atone for all your mistakes ? Is not this to possess the finest state of mind in the world? Your friend may without flattery, say that
your behaviour is a comment on St. Peter's advice. Should the answer he given in the same spirit in which the inquiry is made, friendship will cement though sentiments differ,
A friend of yours, a man of infinite complaisance to the ladies, sat down one day to study the opinions of the primitive fathers on baptism; after others, he began Tertullian's book on that subject. That book, you know, is intitled Quinctus Septimius Florens Tertullian,Presbyter of Carthage, on Baptism, against Quintilla. Imagining that the African father was as great an admirer of the ladies as himself, he did not doubt but he should be much edified by Tertullian's addressing QUINTILLA on baptism. Wisdom, gravity and politeness, said he to himself, are united here to be sure. But how would you have smiled had you seen his panic, when he discovered in the fifth line of the first chapter that Tertullian falls to abusing her, calling her a heretic, a viper, a serpent, an asp, a most monstrous creature whose doctrine was of the most poisonous kind. Hah! cried he, is this an African tete a tete ! Is this your spirit Tertullian ! If you're a gentleman, where's your breeding? If a christian, where's your meekness? If a
philosopher, where's your good sense? Well, well, said he, (closing the huge book) perhaps Quintilla and you may be well met. E'en scold it out. I'll
go seek a gentler tutor. The question here is not whether your friend's conclusion from the premises was quite logical ; whether asperity and argument may not be sometimes united ; but whether passionate writers do not generally produce similar effects on their readers. People are naturally prepossessed in favour of a sufferer; they naturally become prejudiced against such a violent pleader; they can't help saying, What's the matter? If your accounts be right why so prodigiously agitated? You surely design to impose on us, and would deter us from detecting you. You are certainly conscious of having maintained a defenceless cause, and you are making effrontery supply the place of argugument; thus giving us brass instead of gold.
People are never safe with antagonists of this fierce temper ; they are formidable beyond expression in some places. Hence that smart reply of Dr. De Launoi at Paris. The Dr. had made free to censure that angel of the schools Thomas Aqui
The Dominicans were exasperated at this, and apologized for their angelical doctor. One day a friend said to De Launoi, “ You have disgusted all the Dominicans, they will all draw their pens against you.” Said he, with a malicious air, “ I dread their pen-knives more than I do their pens.”
Your candid and disinterested pursuit of truth Sir, naturally contrasts itself with the absurd con