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ANITY, AS NOT BEING A RELIGION FOR THE POOR. It is sometimes confidently asserted, that the views of religion which are held by rational christians, (as they are termed by way of distinction,) are not adapted to the ignorant and unlettered part of the community : that, in a word, our religion is not a religion for the poor. If this objection were founded in truth, it should have great weight ; and, as much as almost any thing, would lead us to distrust the principles which we receive. But We are persuaded that the contrary is the fact; and we will state some of the grounds of that persuasion.

1. It is objected, in the first place, that our religious belief is not sufficiently defined to be made the ground of instruction with the ignorant; and that they require a system, which is exact and tangible.

We acknowledge, that there would be a great convenience in having a complete formulary of faith ; and in being able to show with precision what men ought to believe on every topic of religious inquiry ; but we think there exists with us in this respect no very objectionable deficiency.

The most elaborate creeds are a poor substitute for knowledge and study, of which they commonly take the place. That faith, which is the result of study and reflection, is of a more practical character, than that, which is implicitly received upon authority only. Creeds are hostile to inquiry, and so present a great in. pediment to religious knowledge; for what use or motives are there for inquiry, when nothing more remains to be discovered ?

Nero Series--ool. V.



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These remarks apply to the unlearned as well as to others; for if they are capable of any religious belief, which will be useful, they are capable of reflection and inquiry; and every inducement should be offered them to study their duty and their relations, to enlighten their consciences and to judge for themselves what is right. Among persons of this description we not unfre. quently meet with a soundness and maturity of religious principles, which may well put to shame many, whose advantages have been much superior.

Again, in respect to many topicks of religion, the knowledge of which is desirable, and upon which most of us have formed some opinion, we cannot speak with any positiveness. They are subjects in which the terms that we employ are partially comprehended by us; or if the terms, which are used, are understood, yet our knowledge is so imperfect as to leave us quite at a loss how to reason upon them; and still more as to what we shall peremptorily inculcate on the belief of others. Dif. fidence and a considerable distrust in regard to our most elaborate conclusions on subjects, which are incomprehensible, is indicative of true wisdom. Whatever is connected with the 'modes of the divine existence, the infinity of God, or the operations of his physical or moral government, has an abstruseness, which human sagacity in its most profound researches cannot fathom. The efforts of human genius, when applied to many of these subjects, serves like a lamp in a very dark night, only to render the deep obscurity around us more palpable.

What use then, we may ask, would coine of inculcating opinions on subjects which are absolutely mysterious ? Certainly such pretence of belief cau have no practical influence. We say pretence of belief; for all assent to doctrines absolutely mysterious, is mere pretence of belief. Meu can no more be said to believe an unintelligible proposition, than they can be said to believe a proposition expressed in a foreign language, not a word of which do they understand.

But though we deem it no objectionable deficiency to our views of religion, that they present not a complete system of faith, to which nothing is to be added and from which nothing is to be taken, as though no more light was ever to break forth from 'God's word or works; and which, in order to salvation, is to be alike implicitly received by all men, whether they can understand it or not; and though we have no opinions to offer on

; many subjects, upon which some christians speak with

a peremptoriness and obstinacy, proportioned only to the difficulty and utter incomprehensibleness of the subjects themselves, reminding one of the faith of an ancient father, who believed, he said,

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because the dortrine was impossible ; yet we cannot admit that our faith is without form and substance; nor that it does not embrace many principles, which are deeply interesting, and essentially connected with human virtue and happiness. We believe in God, the sovereign and father of all beings and all worlds ; in his sublime, adorable, and unqualified perfection; in bis moral government; in his oviversal providence; in the fact of his baving had direct communications with mankind; in Jesus Christ

, as the bonoured instrument and organ of those communi·cations ; in the scriptures, as containing their amount and tenor; we believe in the moral character and moral responsibility of man; in his destination to a future and an immortal life; and in an ultimate and complete retribution. It is not necessary bere to enter more into detail; but on these topicks our principles are fixed, and intelligible to the humblest capacity; they are indicated in pature; they are approved by reason ; they are fully illustrated and confirmed in revelation. The teachings of revelation are coincident with the dictates of reason and conscience. We affirm that they embrace every principle of religious belief, which has any connexion with duty and virtue. It cannot be said then that we have not a system of belief, to incul. Cate upon those whom we teach, as definite as human knowledge can make it ; intelligible to every mind capable of reflection ; and as practical as can be imagined. If still it be required of us to inculcate a more exact or complete system of belief, we anşwer only, that when we find such a system in the teachings of Jesus or the writings of his apostles, we will implicitly and confidently teach it in their words and on their authority.

11. We proceed to remark that a religion for the poor, the ignorant, the unlearned, should be practical ;--and this we may say of the views of rational christians, that they are practical in the fullest sense of the term. No religion, no rule of life can be more serious and strict than that which we believe and teach.

We should be unwilling to make any invidious or censorious comparisons; but with respect to a religious systein, which teaches that man can do nothing towards his salvation; that human virtue has no merit in the sight of God; that indeed all the actions of those persons, who are not miraculously converted, are sinful; that every attempt towards the amelioration of our moral character is in vain, and worse than in vain ; that God's favour here, and the condition, in which we shall be placed hereafter, will bear no reference to our moral character; we are at a loss to conceive how such a system can be in any sense of the term denominated a practical religion. We are prompt to acknowledge that among the friends of these sentiments, there are


many of distinguished piety and virtue ; but this is not the consequence of such principles.

With respect to the religion which we teach, we maintain that its great object is to make men good; that the observance of any forms, or the possession of any faith is of no importance other or farther than as it contributes to this object. We maintain indeed, as a principle of the highest moment, that there exists an indissoluble connexion between our character and condi. tion; that our happiness or misery, in a future life, will not be a matter of arbitrary and capricious sovereignty on the part of God, but the natural and necessary consequence of our virtue or

and that men will be happy or miserable in exact proportion as they are good or bad. We call upon men to repent of their sins and to practice virtue, and never to think that they have done enough so long as any thing remains to be done. We maintain that they have the power of doing what the will of God requires of them; and we present them the strongest inducements to exert this power. We maintain, in fine that the choice of life and death, of happiness or misery, of heaven or hell, is presented to every man; and that the momentous decision rests upon his own exertions and attainments; that every action of our lives will be brought into judgment and must produce its own proper

fruits. We maintain, that religion is in the fullest sense of the term a rule of life, applicable and de. signed to be applied to all the actions and circumstances of life; which must mingle with all our pleasures and employments, with all our sufferings and trials; which must guide all our steps, counsel us whenever we need counsel, be the constant companjon of our waking hours and repose with us on our pillows, asşist us in fine, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, to do all to the glory of God.

III. It is objected to our views of religion, in the third place, that they have not enough of terror in them; and that they are deficient in those sanctions of obedience, which inspire in the bearts of the guilty, alarm and horror. This deserves conside. ration ; God forbid that we should in any way weaken the motives to virtue or lessep the fears of sin,

We do not hesitate then on this subjest to employ any of the language of the scriptures; though we think no intelligent read. er of the scriptures will doubt that much of their impressive language in regard to a future judgment, and the coming of the son of man in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and the sounding of the trumpet of the archangel, and the assembling of the universe at the judgment seat of God, and the separa. tion of the righteous and the wicked as a shepherd divideth his

sheep from the goats, is language of a highly figurative and scenical nature; and that the casting out into outer darkness, where there is weeping and goashing of teeth, and the unquenchable fire of hell or the valley of Hinnom, where the worin dieth not and the fire is not quenched, is language drawn from an allusion to well known facts and customs among the Jews. This lan. guage, which addresses itself so powerfully to the imagination, is intended only to impress more forcibly upon the heart the great principles and truths, which it imbodies forth. It was language particularly adapted to the times when and to the people to whom it was addressed.

Further, we are compelled to remark, that as we are not believers in the inspiration of the author of Paradise Lost, and canpot admit the doctrine that God shares the empire of the universe with a being as malignant as he himself is benevolent, and as omnipotent in evil as he himself is omnipotent in good, we are not able to employ in our representations of the future consequences of sin all that diabolical machinery, by which the discourses of many, who believe in no more dreadful retribution than we do ourselves, are so often bristled and inflamed. We are further of an opinion that in all cases that language is mošt impressive, which is the language of the times; and that when we venture to use the language of the imagination, and especially on subjects of so serious a character as those to which we now refer, we should have regard to the prevalent state of feeling, sentiment, and knowledge in the community. If we wished to impresg an assembly of North-American savages with the pains of hell, we might show them a miserable victim, stripped, lacerated and scalped, fastened to the stake, his body pierced with pine spliuters, the faggots kindling, his eyes starting with agony, the smoke of his torments slowly curling around him; and in those frightful intervals, when the yell of his barbarous executioners was suppressed, we might call upon them to observe the writhings of his torture and to let his shrieks of horror enter into their souls; it would be to them a picture of distress, in which they would deeply sympathise. But, in a community, which in its humblest departments, is so enlightened and improved as our own, any such representations, though presenting an image of the miseries of hell by no means too highly coloured, would be received with so much disgust and incredulity as to fail entirely of producing the effect at which we aim. But when men are reminded that they are responsible to God, who knows every thing and forgets nothing of all which they do, or say, or think, or feel; that hereafter the whole history of their lives must be disclosed ; that they will carry with them the character which they

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