Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

in their embracing liberal sentiments. I might here refer, if it were necessary, to the immortal names of Newton, Milton, and Locke; who are known to have given the whole force of their prodigious powers to the investigation of religious truth, and to have rested at last in the adoption of liberal principles. I might also say the same of some of the most distinguished statesmen, and jurists, and general scholars of our own country, living and dead. Nor is it difficult to account for the fact that the religious inquiries of laymen should more frequently terminate in the adoption of liberal views, than those of the clergy; as laymen must be supposed to be more free from sectarian biasses, and to have fewer personal interests to warp

judgment, perhaps unconsciously; and besides, the layman derives an advantage from an intimate acquaintance with the world and human nature, which the divine, with his reserved and recluse habits can hardly hope to acquire. As, therefore, there is no place in the world where the opinions of laymen have had so much influence in deciding the public mind on the subject of religion, as in New England, we cannot wonder at the prevalence it has given to Liberal Christianity. I may also be permitted to add, that as the testimony of laymen for the truth of Christianity in general, other things being equal, is admitted by all to be of more weight than the testimony of the clergy, inasmuch as the former cannot be suspected of professional leanings; so likewise their testimony for any particular form of Christianity is deserving of the more regard for the same reason.

The truth is, that the change which has taken place in religious opinions in this quarter is owing much more to

what the people have done, than to what the clergy have done. The clergy, as a body, never yet led the way in improvement, and never will. Here, as elsewhere, the people were before them, and are before them, and probably always will be before them. It is much the fashion with some men not unfriendly on the whole to Liberal Christianity, to speak however of the change it has introduced, as a great and hazardous experiment. But who are referred to as trying this experiment? The clergy? If so, it is contradicted by what we have just said. Be sides, it is in no proper sense an experiment, that any body is trying. It is no more an experiment, than the revival of letters was an experiment. It is no more an experiment, than the Reformation under Luther was an experiment. It is no more an experiment, than the American Revolution was an experiment. It is the natural, and I may add, the necessary consequence of an advanced state of society in every other kind of knowledge, enabling and requiring it to make a corresponding advancement in religious knowledge. It is not the work of passion or caprice, nor the influence of a few powerful individuals, nor any preconcerted plan of a refined policy; but the natural and necessary result of the progress of the human mind. It is the progress of mind; and this again has been carried on by the combined action of a million of causes operating together as certainly and irresistibly as the laws of nature.

Thus do I trace the rise and progress of Liberal Christianity in New England to the same general causes, to which we are also indebted for almost every thing else, that distinguishes our condition as a highly favoured people.

1

Well may we have confidence in views, that are making progress in the world by such means. And as we profess to hold doctrines, that approach nearer than any

others to the instructions of our blessed Lord, let us endeavour to make our characters and our lives approach as much nearer to his example. It has long been felt that Christianity is destined, in the providence of God, to affect much more directly and powerfully the social and moral condition of mankind, than any of its forms heretofore established have evinced a capacity for doing. If we have found that form which possesses this capacity, let it appear. Let it elevate the tone of moral feeling in the community. Let it save our youth from the pollutions of a sensual life. Let it make the conduct of our men of standing and influence more decidedly religious and christian. Let it reform and purify the public amusements, which have so much to do in forming the character of a people. Let it increase the abhorrence felt against war, and against all the anti-christian practices of communities and states. Over all, and above all, let it induce a spirit of humble, ardent, and enlightened piety. Then shall be fulfilled the prediction of our fathers; that in the feeble churches, which they were planting in a strange land, there should spring up a light, such as had never dawned on the corrupt establishments of the old world. Nor will its blessed influences be confined to any kindred, or country, or tongue. But He, who ruleth in the earth, “shall destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations."

REMARKS

ON A

POPULAR ERROR

RESPECTING

THE LORD'S SUPPER.

BY F. W. P. GREENWOOD.

SECOND EDITION.

PRINTED FOR THE

American Unitarian Association.

BOSTON, BOWLES AND DEARBORN, 72, WASHINGTON STREET.

Price 2 Cents.

BOSTON, Isaac R. Butts and Co. Prin ters.

« ForrigeFortsæt »