« ForrigeFortsæt »
tute practical measures to bring happiness among men ? Does it do any thing conspicuously toward the banishment of oppression and crime? No! But it sends forth wordy
? invocations to heaven-long and loud prayers to God, that his harmonious kingdom might come on earth.
What was it that refreshed all New York city? What saved the inhabitants from fearful fevers and epidemics? What introduced the greatest blessings into and through that extensive city? Was it prayers? Was it invocations to the living God? It was the energy, and enterprise, and intelligence of her citizens that “smote the desert rock,” and caused to flow, into the darkest recesses and loftiest dwellings, the pure and healthy WATER. So likewise, this human world will come to see that praying and sermonizing will never refresh and cleanse the moral condition of man, and unfold the “ kingdom of heaven” on earth; but it will come to be seen that all this, and more than this, will be yet accomplished through the progressive development and welldirected energy of the human soul.
The Church, I repeat, is constantly praying for the will of God to be “done on earth as it is in heaven,”-that is to say, that the laws of God be as much obeyed in this sphere as they are in the spheres above. But, friends, I am impressed to say that we should come here to organize ourselves into a form, or body, which shall tend to develop this harmonious condition in ourselves and in human society. We should come here to develop into form and order the great fundamental and essential principles of Christianityto make every man a law unto himself, and a doer of righteous deeds. By a living fact, as an illustration, the reader will obtain the import of this personal doing of good.
In an obscure street in the city of B-, there lives an honest, simple-hearted mechanic. He belongs to no organization, no moral reform association, or temperance society. He has no President to “call him to order," no Secretary to "record his movements,” no Treasurer to “collect and preserve” his funds; and yet that one man has alone and mainly unassisted, defended, bailed out of prison, and procured healthy employment for about seven hundred criminals and licentious men and women. I have met this unpretending man on his mission of love to the haunts of vice-to the cell of the prisoner, and have asked him, “Who sends you, my friend, on this blessed mission ? who directs you how to proceed? who supplies you with the necessary means to accomplish all this good ?" Said he: “Something here (pointing to his breast) tells me when to go and what to do; and when I need money, I ask the first apparently rich man I meet for it—and then another, and another, and so on; and I soon get all I need."*
Now, this is the divine principle upon which we should come together — the principle which should actuate and control all our thoughts, our deeds, and movements. Think of it! SEVEN HUNDRED vicious and criminal individuals saved from a life of bondage and personal degradation, and furnished with useful and healthy employment—all by one poor, honest-hearted mechanic. And I have heard this man say, that, in all his familiarity with these so-called “depraved characters," he has not yet met with one single instance of absolute ingratitude, or positive indisposition to personal reformation. This is very significant. What, think you, is this man's opinion of the human heart? What view does he entertain of man? My friends, I have heard him say, in substance, that he believed the human heart to be pure, and man to be capable of endless development in good. ness! Who, then, believes in " total depravity ?” The answer is too plain! It is believed and inculcated by the multitude of clergymen-by those who never make it their business to bail out of prison, and procure employment for, seven hundred criminals.
* My impressions now embrace two individuals in the city of Boston, veritable brothers in the field of human suffering-John M. Spear and John Augustuswho, in their efforts to be and to do good, are truly examples of what I mean by being a law unto ourselves.
Most of the evils that afflict the world to-day did not originate in the fabled garden of Eden; nor yet among the youthful types of mankind; but they spring out of ignorance, out of defective social and religious institutions. For example: one evil in this world, is disease. How did it originate? Shall we go to Genesis to inquire ? Shall we seek the information from the pulpit? · Nay; because we find the origin of this evil in our very midst. Ignorance leads the individual to violate the laws of his being; by the injudi. cious use of food, of sleep, of air, of occupations, &c.; or, in this state of social isolation and unorganized industry, many persons are constrained to engage in labors which daily vio. late nature and generate disease. Licentiousness, or inconstancy, is another evil in present society. How does it originate? Is it a supernatural sin? Is it an evil ? ACcording to my impressions, the domestic discords, arising from this cause, could—and in the future will—all be prevented by congenial marriage relations. But why not prevent the evil which grows out of these relations to-day? Do you hesitate because you are all totally depraved ? Far from it. Every man, who has progressed to the moral scale of feeling, yearns to eradicate it at once. But ignorance of human nature,-ignorance of the principles and attractions of the human mind,-stand between you and the institution of a proper marriage. But inconstancy, or love of change, when properly and philosophically understood, does not at all apply to the institution of marriage, or to the conjugal affections; in this sphere it is seen in its subversive or misdirected attitude,-giving results, like the wrongly used
mechanism, which seem evil and disastrous to human happiness. Every man has a disposition to alternate the exercise of his physical and mental faculties. This is a wise and good inclination; because it maintains health and a proper equilibrium in both body and mind; and this is the proper sphere for the manifestation of inconstancy by alternating employments. Hence the evil of licentiousness is easily traced to its origin. To my mind all excesses are vicious
-that is, injurious and hurtful to man and society-whether in individuals or institutions. It is an easy thing to sit in judgment upon our neighbors, as clergymen presumptuously preach against and vilify mankind; but it is quite another thing to be on the throne of wisdom, and to judge with a righteous judgment—not from appearances, but from truths!
You ask: “Does not this philosophy of evil relieve the individual of moral responsibility ?” Mankind, I reply, are as a family, in which diverse inclinations and opinions are constantly manifested—one against the other. All discords are traceable to society; because, without association, there could not be any war, any theft, or cupidity, as now evidently flow from the contact of relative tastes and situations. If association is the cause of individual disturbances, association must furnish the cure. The individual finds himself, after attaining to the years or period of discretion, (?) placed between two antagonistic forces: the discordant laws of society, and the harmoniously imperative Laws of Nature! The former constrain him; the latter yield him liberty, ease, and
; happiness. As to the extent to which the individual should be held morally responsible by society for his deeds, is an arbitrary question, which the highest wisdom and benevolence of every Age will and must decide for its own special regulation or government. Our duty surely is to study
This is the commencement of wisdom, and the vestibule of a temple of truth; whose vast interior and divine possessions may occupy your spirits for countless ages The more we study man, the more certain will it become that there is no positive evil in existence ; only the local disturb ances and social imperfections which are consequent upon a progressive system of human development in minds and morals. “Then,” you inquire, “if this be true, how shall we rebuke evils and remove misdirections ?” Plainly; you who have outgrown the causes of discord should teach others how to follow your example, and help them to do so. This effort to remove evil, however, when confined to the individual power of accomplishment, will not work out onetenth of the good which would be an easy result of organization. One individual can not vote influentially unless he belongs to a combination. Hence, on this principle, all merely individual efforts to cure great evils will be little ; whilst an associative movement, or a combination of indi. vidual forces, is certain to achieve greater and more permanent results. These are common-place aphorisms; but clergymen, in their sermons, generally neglect them; and denounce the individual as willfully sinful and degenerate!
Those who have progressed above the present semicivilized and transitional stage of human society,—which produces or nourishes the fungus productions, termed orthodox theology and supernaturalistic Christianity,-should openly avow the new truths manifested to their vision, and teach the people also how to ascend the glorious eminence of religious and spiritual freedom. Among the numerous reasons why we are moved to free our minds of the existing forms and institutions of supernaturalistic theology, are the following:
It assumes to be-or to possess within its organization and cardinal doctrines—the medium or totality of inspiration ; and arrogantly proclaims itself to be the supreme and sovereign authority. It. arbitrarily determines upon what book,