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cepts, engages the heart to acts of love and virtue, it must tend to the happiness of man, and is of the highest value to him; and that religion is the best which is best suited to calm the passions, and to make those impressions that serve to establish right principles.
It appears plain enough to a candid mind, that all religions are derived from the same grand principle of good, and are all engaged in the same cause—the glory of their creator, and the happiness of man. Why then shall trifling differences of form dissever beautiful analogies, which might reciprocally tend to the happiness of all in the intercourse of men and of nations.
But a still more dangerous attempt has been made against religion than the warfare of sects, and that is from the atheist, the enemy of all, who would endeavour to separate her from, and hold her nature to be inconsistent with reason; when the truth is, that reason and religion never appear to so much advantage as when they are hand in hand together; they seem then to encircle and embrace all that is good and delightful for man, and under their joint influence he is safe and happy.
The fact is, after all, that nothing has ever yet been said against the beauties and advantages of religion; it has been its deviations, the absurdities of priestcraft, the cunning or ignorance of its teachers, that have despoiled its fairness and purity, and done
it injury. Men, desirous of as little restraint as possible in their actions, have willingly listened to this false evidence against her for their own corrupt ends, and to clear the way for licentiousness.
To pursue the chain of reasoning that, that religion is best that is best calculated for the happiness of man. After allowing full justice to the purity of other doctrines, it will not be difficult to prove that the christian religion is the best. It is the most perfect, because it agrees most with reason, and by the doctrine of mediator, relieves man from the doubt and dread in which the weakness and infirmity of his nature had involved him.
But the christian religion, pure as it was in its primitive state, became in the hands of ambitious and wicked men a medium for the commission of crimes, and of all manner of indulgencies, until the protestant faith cleared it in a great degree from the dregs of superstition. Yet hear an enlightened catholic discourse, and you will find that he disowns the absurdities, or explains them satisfactorily to reason; thus the kneeling down to an image is not, as the vulgar ima. gine, to worship it, but merely to engage the mind to a contemplation of a heavenly subject, and to keep it from wandering and distraction; and confession, on which protestants lay so much stress, nothing more than the unburthening of the mind to a good man, who gives his consolation, advice, and prayer
' ; and which is the same thing used by protestants when
they have a clergyman sent for to a dying friend. Strip then any religion of the superstitions and absurdities priestcraft has introduced, and it will every where be found of a pure nature, though perhaps not in the same degree. It is unjust and unfriendly in man to hate his brother because providence has made him the inhabitant of another soil, and follower of another faith; teach him the greater excellence, if he will listen, but do not call him heretic or unbeliever; even the deist deserves pity, for his mind is in a state of privation from the greatest solace of religious hope, and in denying a mediator he becomes forlorn and wretched.
The christian religion is pure in all its parts, and the Sermon on the Mount a perfect system of morals. The judicious restraints which are imposed upon the passions of men set the limits perhaps too narrow for human weakness absolutely to keep; but the boundaries are those of safety: thus when it is said, “ that if any man smite thee on the one cheek, turn unto him the other also,” it is not meant in its literal sense; but to shew that it is better not to resent violence with violence, and to shew also the strength of meekness, which in the just is an impregnable tower that nothing can successfully assail.
The next maxim against which new philosophers have cavilled, with as little justice as the former, is the one, “that if any man sue thee at the law and take away thy cloak, let him have thy coat also;" but the
experience of common life among those who have been involved in litigation, shews the true wisdom of the precept; indeed the whole of the Sermon may very well be said to comprise the lesson of how to live, as well as how to die. What is wanting in the world is more of love and charity, and there is nothing that can disseminate them better than the precepts of christianity; I do not say this hastily, but in a long and mature consideration of the subject, I have seen the course of happy and tranquil hours that have attended upon families accustomed to the duties of religion, blessed in the disposition of their minds, and in all the circumstances of their lives content and happy.
I hope that the Man in the Moon will not be thought sententious or grave; I assure my readers that it is not so, I am as merry and cheerful as they could wish; but I do not like to see religion, that should bind all men to each other, unjustly made a barrier to their friendly intercourse; it is not the character it deserves, and man alone perversely misunderstands it.
The communication froin the Man AT THE MAST HEAD will be in the
the next Number.
MAN IN THE MOON.
“ NAUTICUS CANTUS.”
Saturday, 3d Dec. 1803.
IN a former Number I believe that I urged the expediency of employing all the latent military talent that could be found in the country. That I was not wrong in such recommendation I feel more satisfied every day. The volunteer corps ought certainly to have been officered chiefly from the line, that the influence of soldierly example might have made men soldiers. It is my duty now to speak of another department, of the spirit and talent to be found in the English navy; and here it is grateful to give a tribute to bravery and merit. The character of a naval officer is finely formed; it comprises a high sense of honour and courage, with a friendliness of nature and generosity of mind that is conspicuous even to an enemy. Our seamen are rough, hardy, and honest; regular in the points of their duty, disdaining all fatigue and danger when the service requires it. The bad part of a ship's company are only a few landsmen, who may be found among what are called wasters, or afterguard, and who may have been desperate characters on shore.