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Scripture is explicit on the point in question. Just as, if I were discussing a legal question, I should appeal to the Statutes at large. A clear undoubted text of Scripture generally settles the argument, even if it does not convince your opponent; for few persons, in decent society, like to find themselves in opposition to the word of God. If the authority of Scripture is denied, then, of course, the argument is put on a different footing. You may either relinquish it, on the plea that you have no common ground to stand on; or else, if your subject admits of à priori or philosophical arguments, you may take your stand on them. But there are many subjects on which it is very imprudent to venture except on scriptural grounds. Take for instance the Athanasian Creed. Without a full admission on the part of your opponent that he defers to the authority of Scripture, it would be most unwise to discuss it at all. This suggestion you will find important, because I have observed that a clever disputant, when he is hard-pressed, is sure to fly off from the subject in hand, to some collateral topic which cannot be popularly defended. But you must not follow your opponent whereever he chooses to lead you, but keep him to the point in dispute; until you perceive that your arguments have had their due effect on those who hear you, for whom in fact they were intended.
Another rule, which is indispensable to enable a person to maintain his argument, is, never to lose his temper. If your opponent is an ill-tempered, overbearing, or conceited fellow, it is far better to end the argument with a truce. Well, sir, as we are not likely to convince each other, we had better drop the subject ! On the other hand, if you meet with a hard-headed, coldhearted, wary disputant, do not allow him to throw you off your guard, or entrap you into any dangerous admission. If you can avoid this, your zeal and sincerity will give you an advantage. But once lose your temper, and you are more likely to injure your cause than to advance it.
One fault of Churchmen, and indeed of all quiet, peaceable men, is, that they are apt to act too much on the defensive. When you are fairly engaged in a discussion, you should be able to avail yourself of all your advantages. In general, a few plain arguments, or a few words well spoken, are sufficient to defend your own position, and then you may carry the war into your enemies' country. If, for instance, you are arguing with a Dissenter, you have an ample
field to attack him, on the proved insufficiency of the voluntary system, the cruelty of leaving the poor to mere chance instruction, the miserably dependent state of dissenting ministers, the presumptuousness of men taking upon themselves the office of priesthood. I am only suggesting the prudent mode of proceeding when the discussion is forced upon you, and am far from recommending a Churchman to seek for it. Still, in these days, there is such a widespread spirit of cavil and scepticism, and all our most cherished feelings and dearest interests are so continually outraged, that we must make up our minds often to buckle on our armour, although we might greatly prefer to remain at peace.
RIDLEY. I thank you very much for your valuable hints, as well as for your example. I confess, with shame, that I have often let observations pass in mixed company which ought not to have been uncontradicted :—and this from the fear that I should be led into an unpleasant argument. The situation of a sincere Churchman in society is certainly difficult, but by a strict adherence to the rules which you have named, I hope in future to be able to maintain the truth without giving cause for offence.
PINION ON NATIONAL EDUCATION.
“Oh say not, dream not, heavenly notes
To childish ears are vain;
And cannot reach the strain.
And yet the heaven-taught mind
CHRISTIAN YEAR. LORD Waverley was a young nobleman of considerable promise, and likely to occupy a prominent position, both from his active talent and family connexions. He had already appeared before the public with some éclat as an author, and waited only for a fit opportunity to obtain a seat in the legislature. Circumstances had hitherto induced him to espouse the opinions
of the Liberals; but his candour led him sincerely to desire for truth, and it was with this view that he sought the opportunity of discussing his opinions with two such men as Herbert and Ridley; and they, on their part, were rejoiced that one of Lord Waverley's station and talent should show a disposition to listen to their counsel. :
The party at Ridley's house was just such an one as to afford the best possible chance of free and fair discussion; consisting of a small number of well educated persons, too courteous to provoke anger, yet too sincere to suppress the truth.
Their principal topic was National Education, for which Lord Waverley was a warm advocate.
Nothing (said he) can show more plainly the absolute necessity of education than the lamentable credulity and ignorance of the people. Look only at the fanaticism which has lately led to such fatal results in Kent. Conceive the barbarous ignorance which could give credit to the tales of that madman Courtenay.