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to suppose every evil in religion is in their. train. Let him look o himself, to that deadly formality—that idolatry—that selfishness, which he may witness among those he
those he may call Chris. tians—let him look to the wars, murders and bloodshed_to the fire and gibbets—to the dungeons of the Inquisition-to the persecutions of various kinds, which have sprung from written rules in religion, and will he not pause before he condemns ? will his eyes be so far jaundiced, as not to see the one, while they are open to the other ? will he continue to trust rather to these rules, which are often so de. structive to the buddings of true religion, and to his own feeble efforts to correct the aberrations of fancy, than to the power of God in the soul.
From these excentricities there is nothing to fear, the calm operations of “ unbiassed reaşon,” may be more safely trusted to correct them, than any force that can be applied. The Anabaptists of Germany met the most cruel deaths with heroic firmness, neither the sword, nor the flames that were kindled upon them, turned them from that fanaticism and enthusiasm, which yet yielded to the operations of principle within themselves.
From the efforts of imagination errors may
spring; men, whose minds are enlightened to see the formality and idolatry that exists, náturally begin to think of reformation; but the bigotry that would reform, by other means than those of conviction, is alike in all cases, whe. ther it proceeds from an effort to regulate men by creeds, or by feelings in the mind distinct from them, it is still some standard which may not be true to others.
The Anabaptists, and Crusaders to recover the Holy land, as it is called, were actuated by similar motives, they both undertook to overcome infidelity by force, each were alike zeal. ous, and their efforts equally failed. The latter cost Europe hundreds of thousands of lives, and every kind of enormity was tolerated, in the hope of establishing Christ's kingdom upon earth.
If we were to reason from these things, we should conclude, that there was no true reli. gion in the world; but here we are met by internal conviction, which tells us of its reality; and the conclusion is not to be drawn that there is no standard of truth in the mind, because men sometimes act under their own natural feelings, who profess a belief in it. Are we to doubt it when there are so many instances of men of every age, whose virtue has been so
conspicuous under its operations; and above all, when every feeling within us bears testimo. ny to the truth of it.
" Can storms or tempests quench the eye of day.” So tenacious is priest-craft of the hold it has upon men, that we often find a disposition to impute error to particular persons, when the real difficulty has been, an extension of views, beyond those with whom they were associated; thus persons who in after-times have been con. sidered saints, were martyrs to the popular opinions of the day; and died in the full confidence of truths, which it was reserved for afterages to appreciate and acknowledge; and yet in the present, as in generations which are passed, there are those who call every man an innovator, and fancy danger from his doctrines, who pursues the course that those whom they themselves revere of former ages have done be. fore him.
The pious man will look calmly on errors of every kind, as his mind is stayed in a confidence on God, he will be at peace amid every eccentricity, which may proceed from the flights of imagination on one hand, or the formality of sectarians on the other.
Some of my views may be considered subversive of all religion, and sectarians may take
pleasure in condemning them. Let them do so if they please : though but partially unfolded in these hasty sketches, they stand on a basis not easily moved ; and are written under feelings, which, while they would freely unmask the idolatry of sects, have no disposition to divert any man, from pursuing that course he may deem right in his conduct towards his God—whether it may lead him to condemn, or to approve-to build up priest-craft or pull it down.
It is not indeed by destroying priest-craft, that men are to be made better; that is more the effect than the cause of evil the root is deeper than this, and so must be the remedy, but if it is consistent with the state the world is in, there is yet no reason why those who see its errors, should be united to societies who
Individuals may rejoice that they themselves are free from the thraldom of sects, without judging how far it may be proper for others to be united to them.
I trust none will believe, that I have the most distant view of lessening true religion, it is not reasonable to suppose, that in taking away false coin, that which is genuine will either be of less value, or less sought after.
If the views I have taken, direct the mind
from superstition and tradition, they may tend to dispel those clouds which obstruct a clear perception of our duty to God; but even if this should be the case, nothing will be gained without practical piety:
Religion consists not in speculation but in reality; the man who is called a Deist or an Infidel, and who professes to follow nature, may have more real piety, than others, who may turn from him with abhorrence, at what they deem his infidelity; and this we must believe to be true ; unless we realize, that a nominal belief, is of more consequence than works of peace and righteousness. Yet heresy and infidelity is imputed to the one,, and not to the other.
There is but one remedy for every evil, and that is a daily dependance upon the power of Divine love in ourselves. This was the reli. gion which was so divinely inculcated by Jesus Christ; this is the religion of my heart, to which every feeling responds.
It is not one, of dogmas and rituals, nor bounded by the narrow confines of sectarian prejudices, but one of universal benevolence and charity, which views all mankind as bre. thren, alike the subjects of Divine regard. It is a spiritual religion, existing in the mind;