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Bramin in his mosque, all addressing the same deity, I feel love and respect for each, and venerate the duty they are engaged in, without any comparisons whatever; and I believe, that if the different religions of the universe were fairly appreciated, few or none would be found that do not contain large portions of good for the happiness of man. They all possess a sovereign power over his mind, and he acts under a delightful impression that connects him with the deity and a future state, things agreeable to his nature, and that make him cheerful, and satisfied under the misfortunes of life.
To a truly philosophical mind it is by no means a vain hypothesis, that the soul is an emanation of the divine nature; since it does appear, when abstracted from worldly pursuits, to contain a great share of purity. The mind of man is not then, perhaps, what the great Mr. Locke has conceived it to be, a mere tabula rasa, a blank sheet; but rather a space occupied by the divine essence, and which contains the attributes of the divinity love and truth. Hence, perhaps, our lively impression of a deity, which is the effect of outward perception acting on a predisposition to receive what is true. The attributes of the deity, engraven as the characters of a talisman on the mind of inan, may then be gradually called forth from childhood by a proper education, which may en. courage the predisposition to good, or it may
become injured and defaced by improper education, bad examples, or habitual vice. Another strong argument
in favour of this doctrine is, that the principle of good appears primary, and agreeable to the nature of man, and the principle of evil, negative and contrary; for the mind ever receives a bad impulse unwillingly, and merely consents, a sufficient proof surely that evil is not congenial to the mind of man.
On the contrary, a good impulse is entertained without reluctance, we do not blush or hesitate, and we feel that it is right. The principle of good also frequently exerts itself in the most depraved minds, and struggles for its lawful sovereignty, and, perhaps, gains it for an instant, until its activity is again destroyed by fresh temptations, or the habits of vice.
The pure and sublime conceptions to which the human mind reaches at times, when abstracted from the business of the world, or engaged in contemplation, is a proof of the existence of a creator ; when the mind becomes thus pure, it seems to mix with the nature of the deity, and evil retires altogether, as if unable to exist in so pure a state of the mind; it is then that man feels that he is immortal.
The principle of truth fills and pervades the universe; it governs and directs the movements of nature; it has given instinct to the animal creation; it instructs men in the shape of reason, and flows still more plenteously into his mind through the medium of religion. In nature it displays itself in the symmetry and harmony of her works ; in man, in the harmony of his mind, and wherever one or the other is
disturbed, a shock is felt in the organization, which
appears to be the great business of providence to
The principle of truth is so valuable and benign in its nature to man, that were it possible for him to regulate his actions by it, moral and physical evil would almost become extinct. This from the weakness of his nature cannot happen. The principle of truth might however become more known and established in the world, and moral and physical evil would decrease in an equal ratio. If men were better agreed in the business of their own happiness, ambition would have nothing to do, blood would be no longer spilt in war, man would not oppose his brother man in the ranks of slaughter, and the invading foe, in disgust with their leader, would lay down their arms and present the olive branch. The family of the commonwealth would enjoy itself, the poor would have their comforts, and the rich cherish the substantial blessings of life, morals would guard the actions of men better than laws, adultery, drunkenness, profaneness and fraud would be forsook, and to do unto another as you would wish he should do unto you, become the wisdom of the world.
It is then from the want of fixed principles that we are wretched, nor is there any thing that can temper
the mind like religion; since the proposition is self evident, that whatever tends to the happiness of man is good, and that therefore if religion, by its pre
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 prin. ciples.
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,
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 imagine, 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