What is the purpose of learning history? For most of us it is to avoid the repetition of mistakes, to advance our learnings based on the experiences of others. However, there is one additional proposition that needs to be presented. History itself offers visible proof of the existence of a Creator, a power greater than ourselves. History can answer the questions of why we are here and define our significance and purpose to this earth.
William Paley (1743-1805) was an English theologian, born at Peterborough near Northampton. In 1758 Paley entered Christ College, Cambridge. Paley was made a prebendary of the cathedral church of Carlisle in 1780, he became archdeacon of the diocese in 1782, and chancellor in 1785, the year he published Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. He wrote “Horae Paulinae” (1790), in proof that the New Testament is not a cunningly devised fable, and A View of the Evidences of Christianity (1794), for which he is celebrated. Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (1802) also achieved great popularity. In 1825 a complete edition of his writings was published by his son, Edmund Paley. He died at Lincoln May 25, 1805.
William Paley may be most noted for his “Parable of Paley,” a logical view offering proof that God exists. It is noted below.
“In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there: I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever; nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, — that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case, as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; …This mechanism being observed (it requires indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand it; but being once, as we have said, observed and understood), the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer: who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.” (Paley, 1807)
If God Himself gave us history then for a reason, it is worthwhile to look at how to use history to do more than laying out of a chronological set of dates, places and events. History should lead us to a higher level of learning, one that strengthens the students to seek the evidence that defines our very existence. To do that effectively, we need “Common Sense.” For this, we look to another notable theologian, Reverend Thomas Reid (1710 – 1796).
As Reid saw it, all human inquiry must have a starting place, and the natural starting place is a set of principles, implanted by God, that make up ‘common sense’. Because philosophy, like any other branch of knowledge, is dependent on those principles, any attempts it makes to find foundations for them, or challenge them, will be incoherent. The failure to realize this, Reid claimed, was responsible for many of the debates and absurd conclusions people reach. Reid’s philosophy was pervasive during the American Revolution and served as a stabilizing philosophical influence through the education of our founding fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. 1Robinson, Daniel (April 2007). “The Scottish Enlightenment and the American Founding”. Monist 90 (2) Summarized, Reid stated these principles of education, to teach:
- There is a God
- God placed a conscience (a moral sense) into every individual – (as part of Natural Law)
- God established “first principles” such as law, government, education, politics, and economics, all to be discovered by “common sense.”2https://lostpine.com/home/passions/patriots/thomas-paine/ – 3Consider the printing or purchase of a reproduction of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” Great discussion piece to use with your class. You can purchase one from http://18thcenturybibles.org/
- There is no conflict between reason and revelation – both come from God and revelation fortifies and clarifies reason.
Why start Patriot Camp with Paley and Reid? It is the attempt to do more than entertain or amuse our youth. The events of history, when woven correctly, can strengthen one’s common sense. Patriot Camp’s goals are to show that the rights of freedom are part of every human’s soul, placed there by God. When those rights are withheld, when liberty is missing, when oppression is present, the human soul responds. To the teachers, reenactors and helpers that decide to conduct a Patriot Camp, it is this author’s hope that you use our nation’s history to fortify the future citizens you have before you with the skills to keep our great nation prosperous and free.
Presented Below is Patriot Camp
- 1Robinson, Daniel (April 2007). “The Scottish Enlightenment and the American Founding”. Monist 90 (2)
- 3Consider the printing or purchase of a reproduction of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” Great discussion piece to use with your class. You can purchase one from http://18thcenturybibles.org/