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superstitions,—into symbols and things, moving in harmony with the unchangeable laws of an endless cycle ?
The Dr. thinks the “Infidelity” of to-day, is hydra-heatled ; coming from all directions-setting in one strong current against, and threatening to overthrow, the foundations of a supernaturalistic Christianity. Now whether a supernaturalistic system of Christianity will be hurled from its foundations, in the opinion of Dr. B-., will be decided and determined by what he defines that foundation to be. If he defines the foundation or.basis of Christianity to be the Bible ; then he may rest assured that supernaturalism, as the world defines it, will fall ere long to the earth. But on the other hand, if he resolves, like the Greek philosophers, the superstitions of Christianity into symbols; and, like the so-termed Harmonial Philosophers, accepts the foundation of Christianity as resting wholly upon PRINCIPLE, then he can also rest perfectly assured, that the ten thousand and one currents may set in against it, but its power upon the human heart will surely be all the more augmented. For assuredly, in this comprehensive sense, Christianity was eternally laid in the Wisdom of the Infinite Mind—“in whom all things consist.”
The gospel of “Combe on the Constitution of Man," will contain—if the Lecturer comes to this rationalistic position, no injurious or anti-Christian doctrines; though it proves crime to originate in organization, “confuses,” according to his assertion, “duty with penalties and benefits,” and leads the reader to social re-organization, as a means of redemption from sin and misery. Surely, Dr. B. will not desire or attempt to refute these doctrines. A little calm reflection will certainly convince him that mental organization and social situation has much to do in molding and destinating the individual. If the Lecturer comes to see truths just as and where they are: he will inevitably think better of “Socialism” so-called; better of “ Revelations about the Spheres” through magnetism; better of “necromantic conjurations” and spirit-seeing; better of “ Unitarianism,” though it does tardily accept the miracles, believes in a remote Christianity, and rejects the person of Christ as a “Redeemer,” in the orthodox signification. But whether he does, or does not, come to see truths just as and where they are, is a question which his present course of lectures will eventually determine. I, for one, await the result with no little interest; and I can only breathe forth an indwelling prayer, that he may work out a system of reform.
In conclusion, I again affirm that this criticism is not a matter between two individuals. It is human freedom and independence against a new modification of an old form of conservatism ; the misapplication of which, to the present wants of mankind and the Age, is the ground of the present controversy.
Dr. B. referred to the ingenious manner with which the Greek Philosophers detected and dissipated the prevailing superstitions. I would ask, if he remembers the historical statement, that SOCRATES was condemned to swallow the juice of hemlock, for teaching the Athenians the existence of a Supreme Being ?-a doctrine in which I apprehend the Dr. to be a firm believer. The inspiration, then, of God—of the doctrine of the Unity of God—was extended to the soul of a Greek Philosopher! Even so, as “ all scripture is by inspiration,” may not the philosophers of to-day,—having the wisdom and experience of the past before them, and receiving the increasing influx of fresher truths from superior spheres into their souls,—bring out a fairer faith, and a PRINCIPLE of greater saving power, than the forms and faiths of the present age, which are the bequeathments of superannuated centuries? It seems, according to his expressed declarations, that Dr. B— is not jealous of science, nor yet at enmity with the general materialistic tendencies of this age. He seems to contemplate a reconciliation between Nature and Revelation. This is possible only on the ground which I have already defined ; which would, of course, be identical with the one we at present stand upon ; viz.—upon Rationalistic Christianity; not upon “Supernaturalistic Revelation,” as generally defined as truly orthodox, by the Christian world. But what Dr. B-. is destined to accomplish, in the capacity of a modern LUTHER,—as a theological refor. mer,-is yet to be developed to our perceptions and understandings. We may say to him, however, and with the most fraternal inclinations, too, that Christianity, as received by the citizens of Hartford, will never prove itself to be a satisfactory system of redemption. For if he will philosophically and dispassionately analyze the origin and nature of man's vices and passions, he will surely discover, in the ultimate analysis, that the worst manifestations of character are fortified in the strong entrenchments of religious and social institutions. And the remaining and ordinary evils of mankind, he can legitimately trace to the improper or ignorant procreation of our species. I respectfully request Dr. B-'s attention to a calm consideration of the above propositions.
If the high-minded man—who penned that precious “gospel on the constitution of man”-was here, he would speak to us, in his own familiar language, and say :The clergyman assails the vices and inordinate passions of mankind by the denunciations of the Bible ; but as long as society shall be animated by different principles, and maintain in vigor institutions whose spirit is diametrically opposite to its doctrines, so long will it be difficult for him to affect the realization of his frequently urged precepts in practice. Yet it appears to me, that, by teaching mankind the philosophy of their own nature and of the world in which they live --by demonstrating to them the coincidence between the dictates of this philosophy and true Christian morality, and the inconsistency of their own institutions with both,—they may be induced to supplant their bad institutions by good ones; thus to entrench and strongly fortify the moral attributes of man; and then the triumph of virtue and Religion will be more complete and certain. Those who advocate the exclusive importance of a supernaturalistic religion for the improvement and redemption of mankind, appear to me to err in overlooking too much the necessity for complying with the natural conditions on which all true improvement depends. I anticipate that, when schools and colleges shall expound the various branches of this philosophy as portions of the natural revelations of the Creator-when the pulpit shall deal with the same principles, show their practical application to man's duties and enjoyments—and when the activities of life shall be so arranged, as to become a field for the pleasurable practice at once of our philosophy and our religion; then will man attain the position of a rational being, and Christianity achieve her highest triumph !
KNOWLEDGE is progressive; but faith is conservative. I mean that faith which the mind has been forced or educated to accept in its early years; a faith which has attained a high place in the affections, where Reason is seldom allowed to enter. There that conservative opinion stands, venerable with age, an idol of the mind; supporting itself by two staffs which it holds in its hands-one composed of the sanction of Time; the other, of the authority of great names. Now it frequently happens, that when we hear a clear voice cmanating from the professional preacher, having all the common features and semblance of pure reason, and causing us to imagine, for the time being, that Reason, " that heavenlighted lamp in man," is really the source of what we hear; yet, after all, we discover that we merely hear the affection. ate and conservative voice of that venerable Idol; whose substance is derived from past dogmas and whose life is absorbed from the weaker elements of the mind.
But then there is a far truer faith ; a pure and progressive faith; one which should be forever enshrined in the soul's affections—a faith, I mean, which is generated by appropriate and adequate EVIDENCE; a free-born child of the understanding! The fair child of reason is never afraid to expose itself to the inspection of the world ; never shrinks from the thought of displacement, should another and a better offspring, from the same parent, seek to occupy its seat in the