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I said before, are the only part of the morality of the New Testament, which is not borrowed.) never have been obeyed by any but the Primitive Christians; and by the Monks, and Anchorets ; for even the Quakers and Shakers, eminent as they are in Christian morality, have never been able to come quite up to the self denial required by the New Testatment.
Indeed the moral maxims peculiar to Christianity are impracticable, except by one who confines his wealth to the possession of a suit of cloaths, and wooden platter, and who lives in a cave, or a monastry. They bear the stamp of enthusiasm upon their very front, and we have always seen, and ever shall see, that they are not fit for man; that they lift him out of the sphere in which God designed him to move; that they are useless to society, and frequently produce the most dangerous consequences to it. In a word, in these maxims we find commands the fulfillment of which is impossible by any man who is a husband, a father, or a citizen.
It is an outrage to human nature, and to common sense, to order a virtuous man, in order to reach perfection, to strip himself of his property; to offer the other cheek to receive a new outrage; not to resist the most unjust violence, injury, and insult; not to defend himself, or his property, when 66 sued at the law ;” to quit his house and goods, and to hate his parents, and brethren, and wife, and children, for the sake of Jesus ; to refuse and reject innocent pleasures; to deny himself lawful enjoyinents, appointed by the Creator to make the existence of man a blessing to himself and others.
Who does not see in these commands the langnage of enthusiasm, of hyperbole ? These maxims! are they not directly fitted to discourage, and debase a man ? to degrade him in his own eyes, and those of others ? to plunge him into dispair ? And would not the literal fulfllment of them prove destructive to society? What shall we say of that morality which orders the heart to detach itself from objects, which God, and reason, and nature order it to love? To refuse to enjoy innocent and lawful happiness,---what is it but to despise the benefits of God? What real good can result for society from these melancholy virtues, which Christianity regards
as perfections ? Will a man become more useful to seei. ety when his mind is perpetually inquieted by imaginarý terrors, by mournful thoughts, which prevent him from fulfilling the duties he owes to his family, his country, and those with whom he is connected ?
It may be safely said, that Enthusiasm is the base of the morality of Christianity, I say, the morality of Christianity, meaning thereby, not the morality of those called Christians, but the morality expressed, and required in the New Testameni. The virtues it recommends, are the virtues caricatured, and rendered extrav. agant; virtues which divide a man from his neighbour, and plunge him in melancholy, and render him useless, and unhappy. In this world we want human virtues, not those which make a man a misanthrope. Society desires, and wants virtues that help to maintain it, which gives it energy and activity. It wants virtues which render families industrious, and united ; and which incite, and enable every one to obtain lawful pleasures, and to augment the general felicity. But the peculiar virtues of the New Testament, either debase the mind by overwhelming fears, or intoxicate it with visionary hopes, both which are equally fitted to turn away men from their proper duties.
In truth, what advantages can society derive from those virtues styled by Christians Evangelical? which they prefer to the social virtues, the real, and the useful, and without which, they assert, a man cannot please God. Let us examine these vaunted perfections, and let us see of what utility they can be to society ; and whether they really merit the preference which is given them by their advocates.
The first of these Christian Virtues, which serves as a base for all the others is Faith. It consists in believ. ing the truth of dogmas, of absurd fables, which Christianity (according to the Catechisins) orders its disciples to believe. Dogmas, as absurd and impossible as a square circle! or a round triangle! From which we see, that this virtue exacts an entire renunciation of common sense : an assent to incredible facts, and a blind credulity in absurd dogmas; which, yet, every Christian is required to believe, under pain of damnation.
· This virtue too, though necessary to all men, is nev. ertheless the gift of Heaven! the effect of special grace. It forbids doubt, and examination ; it forbids a man the right to exercise his reason; it deprives him of the liberty of thinking, and degrades him into a bearded baby.
This Faith vanishes, when a man reasons; this vir. tue cannot sustain a tranquil scrutiny. And this is the reason why, all thorough going Christians are naturally, and consequently the enemies of Science. This miraeulous Faith, which “ believeth all things,” is not given to persons enlightened by Science and Reflection, and accustomed to think. It is not given but to those who are afraid to think, lest they should offend God..
The next Christian Virtue which flows from the first, is Hope, founded upon the promises which the New Testament makes to those who render themselves misera ble in this life. It nourishes their enthusiasm, it makes them 6 forget the things that are on earth, and reach forward unto the things'—which are in another world. It renders them useless here below, and makes them firmly believe, that God will recompence in Heaven the pains they have taken to make themselves miserable on Earth. How can a man, occupied with such expectations of Heavenly lrappiness, concern himself at all with, or for the actual, and present happiness of those around him, while he is indifferent as to his own? And how can he help this, when he believes, that “ friendship with the world is enmity with God ?”
The third Virtue is Charity. We have elsewhere said, that if universal love, or charity means only, general benevolence, and a desire to make others happy, and to do them good, all this is commanded by reason and the ancient revelation; but if by this precept it is commanded, to love those who hate, oppress, or insult us, we do not at all scruple to assert, that the thing is impossible, and unnatural. For though we can abstain from hurting our enemy; or even can do him good, we cannot really love him. Love is a movement of the heart, which is governed, and directed by the laws of our nature to those whom we think worthy of it, and to those only.
Charity, considered as general benevolence of disposition, is virtuous and necessary. It is nothing more than a feeling which interests us in favour of our fellow beings. But how is this feeling consistent with the peculiar doctrines of the gospel ? According to its maxims, it is a crime to offer God a heart whose affections are shared by terrestrial objects. And besides, does not experience show, that devotees obliged by principle to hate themselves, are little disposed to give better treatment to others ?
We should not be surprised that maxims originating with enthusiasm, should aim at, and have the effect of driving man out of himself. In the delirium of its enthusiasm, this religion forbids a man to love himself. It commands him to hate all pleasures but those of religion, and to cherish a long face. It attributes to him as nieritorious all the voluntary evils he inflicts upon himself. From thence originate those austerites, those penances, destructive to health; those cruel privations by which the inhabitants of the monastick cell kill themselves by inches, in order to merit the joys of Heav. en. Now how can good sense admit that God delights in seeing his creatures torment themselves ?
It may be said to all this, perhaps, that this is mere declamation, for Christians now a days do not torment themselves, but live as comfortably as others. To this I answer that Christianity is to be judged not by what Christians do, but by what it commands them to do. Now I presume it will not be denied, that the New
Testament commands its professors to renounce the world, to be dead to the world, to có crucify the flesh with its passions and desires." Certainly these directions were literally complied with by the Primitive Christians; and in doing so they acted consistently. In those times, the deserts, the mountains, the forests were peopled with perfect Christians; who withdrew from the world, deprived their families of support, and their country of citizens, in order to lead unmolested “the divine life.” It uus the New Testament morality that spawned those legions of monks, and cenobites, who thought to secure the favour of Heaven, by burying their talents in the deserts, and devoting themselves to
inaction and celibacy. And at this very day, we see these very same things in those Christian countries, which are truly faithful to the principles of their religion.
In fine, Christianity seems from the first, to have tak. en pains to set itself in point blanc opposition to nature, and reason. If it admits and includes some virtues ordered, and appointed by God, good sense, and universal experience, it drives them beyond their bounds into extravagance. It preserves no just medium, which is the point of perfection. Voluptuousness, adultery and debauchery are forbidden by the laws of God and reason. But Christianity not content with commanding, and encouraging Marriage, as did the Old Testainent, must forsooth go beyond it, and therefore encourages celibacy, as the state of perfection. God says, in Genesis, 6 it is not good that man should be alone. I will make a companion for him." And he blessed all his creatures, saying, “ increase and multiply." But the gospel annuls this law, and represents a single life to be most pleasing, to the very Being, whose very first command was, “ increase and multiply"! It advises a man to die without posterity, to refuse citizens to the state, and to himself a support for his old age.
It is to no purpose to deny that Christianity recommends all this ; I say, it substantially does! and I boldly appeal,not to a few Protestant Divines,—but to the New Testament ; to the Homilies of the Fathers of the Church ; to the History, and Practice of the Primitive Christians ; to the innumerable Monasteries of Europe, and Asia ; to the immense multitudes who have lived, and died Hermits ; and, finally, (because I know very well, the Protestant Divines attribute these follies to the influence of Platonism, Pythagoranism, and several other isms upon pure Christianity) I appeal to living evidence now in the world, to the only thorough going Christians in it, viz. to the Society of the Shakers, who I maintain, and can prove to be true, genuine imitators of the Primitive Christians; and a perfect exemplification of their manners, and modes of thinking. I adduce them the more confidently, because, being simple, and unlearned, their character has been formed by