Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

protests against all human authority in the Church, and renounces doctrines that have the sanction of civil law, he is benceforward accused by the mouth or pen of some representative of the dominant class—some one, probably, who has earned bis estimation with the majority, by the desertion of early principles-of a moral and wilful incapacity of patriotism-of having an evil eye upon his country-of suffering the affections of his heart to be politically poisoned-and of being an alien, and even an enemy, in the land of his fathers.

“In England, there are stronger worldly interests bound up with the profession of a particular creed, than in any country upon the face of the earth. The Established Church is not only legally connected with the State, but also interwoven with the wealth and the prospects and dependencies of the whole of the upper classes of society, and of a large proportion of those that stand highest in the middle orders. The education which is deemed indispensable to every man of rank, to every great proprietor, to every one who is allowed to indulge what are called high expectations, and to every one that is ambitious of eminence in any profession, is one continued homage to the National Éstablishment. Exclusive tests which have been abolished by the Legislature, are yet kept up in our Universities; and the religious conformity which is no longer required by the Government, is still exacted in our public schools. Learning acquired elsewhere, is scarcely allowed to be learning; insomuch, that where new establishments for education are founded upon free principles, the supporters of them sometimes think it expedient, in order to ensure their success, to model them in a degree after the reigning prejudice. This prejudice is further sustained by the law of fashion, the strongest in this country of all laws, and the door of society is closed or reluctantly opened to him that makes himself obnoxious by declared and active dissent. He is looked down upon with almost involuntary contempt, by those that occupy, as they imagine, a higher place in the legal establishment; whilst if he carries his non-conformity one step further than the limits of orthodox dissent, or the dissent of the greater number, he is no longer owned as a Christian brother by his fellow dissenters. They that know nothing of his principles and arguments, can form an estimate of his singularity, which is attributed to some obliquity of mind. He surprises them if he does what others do in social and civil life, and it rarely happens that he can do enough, unless, perchance, he turn accuser of his former brethren, to wipe away the original stain of nonconformity.

“ Persons in humble life, who, as in our Lord's time, are so far blessed as to be secure from some of the strongest temptations to violate conscience, may smile at a trial of which they know not the severity or the painfulness. Many of our families, raised to opulence or distinction, have nevertheless found this a fiery ordeal. Some few have hitherto preserved both their integrity and their good repute; others, alas! the larger number, have shrunk from the trial. Instances there have been—the recollection of which might call up and would justify our tears—in which parents who have maintained the struggle for themselves have fainted for their children: they have been ashamed of setting them out in the world bearing a religious denomination which the world does not acknowledge: and probably the names and stories of ancestors, who in other times were confessors of the faith, and which in infancy their own eyes glistened with all the best affections to hear related, are the exact names and stories to which their children are total strangers. The declension, however, commonly begins with the young, who cannot bear the world's frown, much less its-dread laugh. Little instructed, it may be, in the elements of truth, the word of God, and held back by no religious attachments, they rush into the crowd, and are lost to the religion of their fathers. Their children are of course brought up, without doubts or scruples, in the prevailing faith and worship. When the times of reformation come round, some of these will, in the nature of things, obtain deliverance from prejudice; but in their struggle for emancipation from spiritual bondage they may be tempted to ask the question-and let the families that are beginning to run the race of fashion anticipate it with as much satisfaction as they can!—why their parents fell from their state of knowledge and freedom, and put their children back in the road of improvement, and left them the inheritance of detecting errors which fathers' fathers had renounced, and of discovering truths which a former generation had held as a treasure, and had fondly bequeathed as their dearest possession to their unknown posterity?

[ocr errors]

Surrounded by these discouragements, many that sincerely love truth are ready to sit down in despair, and few of its friends are sufficiently alive to the duty and the necessity of lending their habitual countenance and support to its more public advocates. It would be unjust to make a sweeping complaint of the Unitarian laity, amongst whom are to be found not only some of the brightest ornaments, but also some of the most able and successful pleaders of our cause. But I may be excused for reminding them, that Divine Truth belongs as much to them and their children as to their ministers. They and theirs have a vital interest in the common defence. Let them, then, be slow to censure and ready to support those that undertake the public task. Let them remember the penalty which every one that stands forth among the people as the advocate of long lost truth, is always doomed to pay, and give him the compensation of their kindness. Let them bear in mind, that the whole of the mental labour and strife of those that are called to maintain the cause of Christian truth, can never be known to the world, or to their friends, or even to their families: conjunctures there are when forbearance tries the soul as much as exertion; and occasions are of constant recurrence, when to do good they must work without being seen, and when much of their virtue and usefulness depends upon their hiding the hands which are making strenuous exertions on behalf of reason and benevolence."

The Detector.–No. 4.

" If there's a hole in a' your coats,

I rede you tent it,
A chiel's amang you takin' notes,

And, mind, he'll prent it.”-Burns. “Oh, an' you talk of conscience, I must have mine eye upon you.”.

Shakspeare. In the “ Sixteenth Annual Report of the Directors of the Glasgow Royal Asylum for Lunatics," just published, occurs the following passage:

“ Another cause of lunacy, which, within the last year, appears to have been more actively in operation than formerly, and which has served to increase the number of our Patients, is, the influence of erroneous impressions of religion. Mental derangement never can be produced by just views of the essential truths of the Gospel, but intense

and long protracted meditation on abstruse points of religious doctrine, or on prophetic mystery; remorse in highly sensitive minds on account of supposed unpardonable sins; and, above all, innovation in established religious belief, have been fruitful causes of insanity. In a recent publication, an eminent Physician, of great experience in the treatment of mental derangement, remarks, · Were I to allege one cause which I thought was operating, with more force than another, to increase the victims of insanity, I should pronounce, that it was the overweening zeal with which it is attempted to impress on youth the subtile distinctions of theology, and an unrelenting devotion to a dubious doctrine. This practice is an alarming error. It is growing to an excess fatal to the preservation of intellectual sanity, and in a manner, especially dan. gerous to the rising generation. We would recommend to parents and guardians, to use their best efforts against the influence of new and questionable religious doctrines. The mental distress occasioned by the conflict between such doctrines, and earlier religious impressions, ends often in confirmed maniacal melancholy; or, as there is a tendency to reaction in our moral as well as in our physical nature, we have seen a sudden transition from the deepest self-abasement to triumphant confidence, with belief in supernatural communications, miraculous gifts, and all the phantasies of an insane mind. Such madness is lamentable in itself; but, in some instances, doubly lamentable, when the Patient awakes from his delusion. His religious opinions are then unsettled; and it would be well, if he could return to the consolations of that quiet and soothing faith, which has given peace to Christians in all ages.'

This is a most important and honest statement, and issuing from such respectable authority, cannot fail, if it be properly considered, of exciting inquiry into the nature and tendency of the common theological systems of this country. To ascertain the causes of the most distressing malady with which human nature can be afflicted, is, of all investigations of this kind, most important; and when ascertained, to find a body of “Directors,” though professing the popular theology, yet of moral honesty sufficient to express their convictions of its pernicious and maddening tendency, adds new strength to the conviction, that religious error will eventually give place to Christian truth. Well and truly have the Directors declared, that “ Mental derangement never can be produced by just views of the essential truths of the Gospel;" I believe so too. The doctrines, that God is love that he is the Father of creation and of man- that he wills human happiness, and that that happiness is alone to be found in virtue-that Jesus is the ambassador of Heaven's mercy, and the divinely appointed “ Saviour of the world”-that to love the Lord his God with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and his neighbour as himself, and to testify that he does both, by doing unto others as he would that others should do unto him,—this is the whole duty of man, and is, I think, to possess “the consolations of that quiet and soothing faith, which has given peace to Christians in all

ages. “ The Directors,” indeed, after enu. merating various causes of insanity, point out “above all, innovation in established religious belief.” But it is the “established," the prevailing “religious belief," and plan of religious education, which, on the Directors' own showing “ have been fruitful causes of insanity.” “Innovation,” therefore, here, as in many other cases, is a positive blessing, not a curse.

Was that little indefinite sentence introduced as a palliative for some of “the Directors," because they feared their “Report” was going too far? Was it levelled at Christian Unitarianism, and the 6 no small stir about that way,” which has been excited in this city? If so, I tell the Directors, they know nothing of that which they malign." That quiet and soothing faith which has given peace to Christians in all ages, ," is Christian Unitarianism. All Christians of all sects believe Christian Unitarianism to be true, for it is the foundation of all the varied systems which are professed. Happy for mankind, had they rested contented with the holy and benevolent doctrine. But it is the superstructure which sects have reared on that sacred foundation, “the subtile distinctions of theology, and an unrelenting devotion to a dubious doctrine"" long protracted meditation on abstruse points of religious doctrine, or on prophetic mystery, remorse in highly sensitive minds, on account of supposed unpardonable sins”-“sudden transition from the deepest self-abasement to triumphant confidence, with belief in supernatural communications, miraculous gifts," which “ have been fruitful causes of insanity.” Remove the cause, and the effect will cease.

« AnteriorContinuar »