Imágenes de páginas

dignified and unbending adherence to opinion, no one who compares the lax professions, the accommodating philosophy, the polite conformity with popular superstition, prevailing of old in Greece and Rome, with the spirit of modern dissent,with the history of covenanted Scotland, her children hunted over moor and mountain, kneeling in the fastness, and sleeping on the sod, rather than bow before the altar of Episcopacy and muller the hated prayer of hypocrisy,—with the exile of the Puritans, who exchanged civilization for barbarism, the domestic hearth for the Atlantic storms, the warm cities of Old England for the bleak rocks of America, the golden fields for the mournful forest, that they might worship with a free soul and be at rest ; -no one, who thus studies the spirit and the fruits of guileless thought and speech, will fail to recognize in them the guardians of knowledge, the liberators of nations, the creators of New Worlds.

Again : this sentiment, of the importance of speculative truth to the human mind, has led men, not only themselves 10 cling to their convictions, but to urge them, often from molives of fanatical benevolence, on others. They have imagined a particular system of ideas to be necessary to the salvation of their fellow-men. But a system of ideas cannot be embraced except by the understanding; and if men must have the ideas, their understandings must be open to receive them. Hence this sentiment leads directly to the recognition of the intellectual and moral nature of all mankind; it contemplates them as capable of thought and of emotion, and as sustaining a like spiritual relation to the Father of all. Notwithstanding all the superstitious notions that adhere to it, it annihilates at once the disposition to regard the ignorant and depressed as having a physical existence without a soul, as machines for production, and creatures for toil; it claims for them the great and high prerogatives of life and of futurity; it humbles the monopolizing pride of knowledge, and proposes to bring to the level of all the portions of truth that most sanctify and


bless. Practically, it is this very idea which has led to the efforts and prepares the triumphs of popular education. It was the desire that all might read the scriptures, that rallied together the advocates of instruction; and had those scriptures never been, who would venture to say how long Europe might have remained afflicted with a besotted population, and immersed in the darkness of barbaric life.

Such I regard as the leading principles, by which Christianity has exerted influence on human morality and civilization. By its sentiment of universal brotherhood, it has nerved the arm of the oppressed seeking to be free, it has produced the benevolence of class to class, and rendered pure and affectionate the interior morality of churches. By the sentiment of the importance of speculative truth to the great mass of men, it has created the virtue of honest speech, and commenced the education of the multitudes.

Who can cast his eye over the nations which profess, and those which reject the Gospel, without beholding in it the benignest of earthly agencies, and the divinest of heaven's gifts! Who can compare the East which it has deserted with the West which it pervades, - the uniform decrepitude of society in the one, with its various moral life in the other, the triumph of violence and superstition there, with the gradual spread of knowledge and just government here, without recognizing in it an influence preservative of the health and conducive to the progress of the general mind? Whether or not its extension throughout the foremost communities of our world be the chief cause of their advancement, whether it be the germ or the fruit of their civilization, there is still an undeniable affinity between its spirit and the noblest tendencies of the human race. What religion ever produced so little misery in its corruptions, and so lofty a virtue by its native power. It has presided, like a creative energy, over the moral world, and constructed new types of character, and new forms of genius, and new visions of ideal good. Science,


poetry, and art have given it the homage of their mingled voices; the sorrowful, the anxious, and the happy have kneeled together at its shrine : the peasant has felt its nobility, and the sage rejoiced in its illumination : and if its name has sometimes spread a shield over the persecutor, in its spirit the persecuted have found the consolation of inward dignity, and the strength of quenchless will.

Faith of our fathers ! whence they drew a divine strength for their toils, and peace in their sufferings; which gave them hope when they fell asleep in Jesus, and opened the heaven where now they dwell for evermore! Faith of bards and philosophers, of prophets, and martyrs, of the best friends of humanity, and foes of misery and wrong !-Faith of Milton and of Howard, which inspired the muse of the one to breathe the strains of piety and liberty at once, and armed the spirit of the other to brave disease, and pierce the prison gloom, that no child of guilt might be without his solace ? Faith of the people! whose generosity priests have been unable to extinguish, and with whose tendencies to freedom tyrants have grappled in vain! Not yet are all thy triumphs won ;--not till the last and lowest victims of poverty, and ignorance, and sin have been redeemed, and raised to the consciousness of intelligence and the sense of immortality! In meek majesty hast thou been borne over the high places of our world, like thy great Author on the Mount of Olives. Descend yet deeper into the vales, where human suffering hides itself and weeps. Still behold the city of our dwelling through tears and pily and make us worthy to join in the exulting cry, Hosannah! to the son of David ! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord !





June, 1836. “My Dear FRIEND,—The constant and almost involuntary employment of my mind on the painful subject of the divisions of Christians, produces an habitual desire to exert myself in the as yet hopeless work of diminishing the sources of that great evil.

“ There is a point from which all writers on Christian liberty seem instinctively to recoil : it is the authority of the Bible. And yet whilst that authority remains undefined, -as long as all Christians are taught to look upon the whole collection, from Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation, as the immediate and direct Word of God, and oracle before which human judgment is bound to submit, renouncing its natural rights,—to talk of spiritual liberty, under such a mental yoke, is almost mockery. I have already stated, in my “Observations on Heresy and Orthodoxy," some of the results of a long and anxious examination of this subject. I have proved, as I conceive, that it would be more consistent with intellectual or spiritual freedom to live under the whole Mosaic routine of external practices, than under the obligation of receiving the philosophy, history, chronology, and astronomy of the Bible. Whoever does not feel this cannot be a judge of this question,

« AnteriorContinuar »