George Berkeley’s Argument From Desire Saturday, Feb 21 2009 

Spoken by Euphranor, in reply to Alciphron’s objections to aspects of the claims of Scripture:

…And indeed, when I consider that the soul and body are things so very different and heterogeneous, I can see no reason to be positive that the one must necessarily be extinguished upon the dissolution of the other ; especially since I find in myself a strong natural desire of immortality, and I have not observed that natural appetites are wont to be given in vain, or merely to be frustrated.

– George Berkeley, Alciphron, or, The Minute Philosopher in The Works of George Berkeley Vol. II, ed. Alexander Campbell Fraser (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1871), p. 244-245.

Two Kinds of Sceptic Sunday, Dec 21 2008 

    There are two kinds of scepticism,—that of the heart and that of the intellect. The former is adapted to make unbelievers; the latter, to make Christians. The fomer will not look at the hands and the side, because it is determined not to be moved morally and spiritually as they would move the honest soul; the latter insists on seeing the wound-marks, because it wants to know the precise truth, and therefore avails itself of whatever evidence God has given. The scepticism of the heart hates the light, and will not come to the light, lest its deeds be reproved. The scepticism of the mind is that which cannot believe without sufficient evidence. It proves all things, and holds fast that which will stand the test. It examines both sides of a question, and adheres to that which imposes the least strain on its belief. Such a mind needs only to have the evidences of Christianity fairly presented, to yield to it entire and cordial faith. Many of the firmest believers, many of the ablest defenders of the truth as it is in Jesus, belong to this class of minds. In this sense, Lardner, Paley, and Butler, whose contributions to the Christian evidences are invaluable, and will be so for generations to come, were pre-eminently sceptics. They would not believe, without examining the hands and the side, trying all the witnesses, testing the objections against Christianity with the opposing arguments, weighing coolly and impartially the evidence, real or pretended, on either side; and the result was a faith in Christ, which sight could hardly have rendered clearer or stronger.

      God has made many such minds, and they are among the noblest and best of his creation.


— Andrew P. Peabody, Christianity and Science (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1874), pp. 250-51.

Watts – The Obligation to Improve One’s Understanding Monday, Sep 1 2008 

Here’s a quote from Isaac Watt’s book The Improvement of the Mind. (It’s a shame that Watts is usually known only for his hymn writing.)

NO man is obliged to learn and know every thing; this can neither be sought nor required, for it  is utterly impossible: yet all persons are under some obligation to improve their own understanding; otherwise it will be a barren desert, or a forest overgrown with weeds and brambles. Universal ignorance or infinite errors will overspread the mind, which is utterly neglected, and lies without any cultivation.

Skill in the sciences Is indeed the business and profession but of a small part of mankind; but there are many others placed in such an exalted rank in the world, as allows them much leisure and large opportunities to cultivate their reason, and to beautify and enrich their minds with various knowledge. Even the lower orders of men have particular callings in life, wherein they ought to acquire a just degree of skill; and this is not to be done well, without thinking and reasoning about them.

I’ve found Watt’s Improvement to be an encouraging read, challenging me to fight off the weeds and brambles in my own mind. (I printed out this abriged edition for the clarity of the scanned images.) But don’t take my word on this book – take Samuel Johnson’s:

Few books have been perused by me with greater pleasure than (Watts’) Improvement of the Mind, of which the radical principles may indeed be found in Locke’s Conduct of the Understanding; but they are so expanded and ramified by Watts, as to confer on him the merit of a work in the highest degree useful and pleasing. Whoever has the care of instructing others, may be charged with deficiency in his duty, if this book is not recommended. (Quoted in the preface of Improvement)

Take Up and Read … Sunday, Nov 18 2007 

Welcome to Tolle, Lege. As the name suggests, this is a blog that will encourage you to take up and read great (and often forgotten) books from centuries past, with a particular focus on Christian thought. Think of it as an electronic library tucked away in an obscure corner of the internet, a place where you can browse without being disturbed, where you can take home any volume you like and make it your own — and it will still be there on the shelf for other readers to enjoy.

Our proximate benefactors are the people who have made these works available electronically: Google Books, the Internet Archive, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, and other people who understand that one of the best things about cutting-edge technology is that it provides us with a better window on the best that has been thought and said in ages past. And of course we are indebted to the libraries that have permitted their resources to be scanned and placed online for our use.