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use their good sense so far as to say, to those who urge such matters upon their belief,— to say freely, as they could say truly, 'We know nothing about these things, and therefore we cannot make ourselves anxious upon the question whether they are true or not. They may be interesting to you; they may be things, as you say they are, into which the angels desire to look; but as for us, who are plain and unlearned men, we know nothing about them.'
But there is one thing upon these points, which they are entitled to say, not in the form of a bare negative, but directly and positively. They may say, and with great justice, "If you urge such matters upon us as the essential and fundamental things of the gospel, without a reception of which we are to be called heretics and unbelievers and cannot hope to be saved,- whether we are entitled from our actual investigation to reject such doctrines or not, we do hold ourselves entitled to reject such teaching. We cannot receive this for the simple, gracious, and affecting doctrine of Christ. We cannot receive it as the substance of the Christian instruction. We cannot believe, that a system of metaphysical theology which it requires years of study to understand and defend, that a few speculative points which it requires more than half of the labors of the clergy to clear up, and any way to maintain in the public mind, can be the fundamental truth of a religion professedly designed for the poor, the ignorant, and the unlearned. Whether truths or not, they cannot be fundamental truths. The very justice and mercy of the gospel bear us out in this conviction; and we can no more be anxious about such speculations, than about any of the subtilties of metaphysics and philosophy.'
And let us tell our readers, that the exclusion of these theological mysteries will not cut them off from high themes, and themes that will try and task all the powers of minds. To rise to purer and finer discriminations of conscience and duty, to comprehend the spiritual beauty and greatness of the character of Jesus, to enter into deeper and deeper, and more glorious and ineffable views of the holiness, the love, the blessedness of God, to learn how we may approach nearer and nearer to him, how we may contemplate him more perfectly, and more entirely resemble him, these will be subjects and occasions of lofty effort and unspeakable joy.
S. VOL. VI. NO, III.
The themes of religion are infinite. To us, we confess, it would be a dull and disheartening prospect, if we anticipated that all the subjects of our investigation in this world and the future, were limited to any peculiar and exclusive system of theology. No; the themes of religion are infinite. We may pursue them here, for a few coming years ; and we anticipate that pursuit with great satisfaction and hope. But when we shall all pass away, when the theme shall drop from mortal tongues, and shall no longer fall upon the ear, nor kindle in the eye, our trust is, that the freed spirit shall rise to pursue it, through the boundless regions of knowledge for ever and ever.
4. In the fourth place, while it is not important to the stability and peace of our minds, that we should decide ters beyond our reach, we speak for those who have not time to be theologians or philosophers, - it is essential that we should be established, and that too upon sufficient consideration, in some great and sustaining truths of religion.
We say, upon sufficient consideration. The time for implicit; traditional, presumptuous faith has gone by. If we are a people that can not, or will not think at all, if we will not examine with any attention the grounds of our faith, we are not prepared for the age and country in which we live.
There have been ages of ecclesiastical domination and slumbering acquiescence, and men were then safe from absolute skepticism, in the power of the priesthood, and in the absence of all religious inquiry. But the iron rule alike, and the leaden slumber of centuries, are breaking up, and men must now resign their faith, whatever it is, or defend it. Whatever may be thought of this state of things, whether it be welcomed or deprecated, - one thing is certain, it cannot be helped. There is no longer a question about permitting it; it has come; and we must meet it as we can. We must be prepared, as they were exhorted to do in the primitive age
of our religion, to give a reason of the hope that is in us,' let that hope be orthodox or heterodox, of this church or of that church, of the sect of the many or of the sect of the few.
Nay, the question which some are adventurous enough to agitate, is not about sects, it is not even about Christianity, but it is, whether there shall be any religion at all. There is a spirit abroad, bold and reckless enough to assail every thing venerable and sacred, not only in the acquired,
but, as we may say, in the native faith of the human heart. There are those who profess to doubt, nay, who publicly deny, the very being of a God.
We give no importance whatever to this extraordinary demonstration of the free spirit of the age and country, considered as an effort to unsettle the faith of mankind in so evident a truth. We only refer to it as a matter of insane speculation, which the freedom of our institutions and of the age permits to be presented, somewhat more prominently than it ever has been before in a calm state of things, to the public mind. We
say, therefore, that since this doctrine, the foundation of all religion, is assailed, men must, upon sufficient consideration, be established in the belief, that there is a God. Happily, to any reasonable mind, it needs but little argument. We have occasion only to put an atheist to the proof in a single one of the thousand comparisons that arise, to show how weak is the ground on which he stands. We have only to ask him to look with us, for instance, at the machinery of one of our manufactories. And after having surveyed it throughout, all its curious contrivances, all its exact adaptations of one thing to another, and of all to the ultimate purpose, we have only to say,
will convince us that all this machinery had no designer nor former, then we will listen to you. To descend to particulars, when you
will convince us, that all these wheels, rollers, bands, with all their complicated movements, happened to resolve themselves into these forms and motions, that the substances of which they are composed, the wood, the iron, &c., happened to form themselves into this exquisite adjustment of one thing to another, — and then, that the raw materials, the wool, the cotton, happened to become connected with the machinery, and to work out the convenient and beautiful fabrics before uswhen, we say to the atheist, you can convince us that all this proves no design, nor designer, nor former, but is a work of mere chance, then will we prepare ourselves to listen to your argument.' And yet how inadequate is the comparison ! The mighty globe is filled with mechanism, with contrivance, with adaptations, as much-more various, vast, minute, exact, and wonderful, as skill divine
that which is human. The same argument proves the moral perfection and the
providence of God, and in these it is necessary that we should be established. There is no stability, without a belief in these things, but in utter and brutish stupidity. To be ourselves but accidents in this scene of things, and the sport of accidents, as the atheist will have it, would be, indeed, to involve our minds in total darkness and distress. Yet it would be no improvement of our condition to be the victims of design, if that design were not good. The supposition that infinite malevolence had, however curiously, contrived this state of things for our misery, or with a total disregard of our happiness, would only add unspeakable horror to distracting confusion.
No; we must be settled in the belief, that God is good; that he made us with a gracious and kind purpose ; that he provides mercifully for our welfare ; that he hears the cry of our want and weakness, and helps our infirmity, and compassionates our sorrow; or our minds can have no comfort, peace, or strength. We know of nothing so much to be pitied, as the reflecting mind that distrusts the kindness and providence of its Maker. This we must avoid, if we value the peace of our own hearts. We must yield ourselves to the kind and gentle teachings of nature. Not blindly; for the more we reason, the more we reflect, the more shall we feel their power. We hesitate not to say, that he, who, with a right mind, with a good heart, should go forth in any summer season, and commune with the spirit of all living things around him, would feel, beyond all doubt, and beyond utterance, that God is good. He would see his goodness in the light, he would feel it in every fragrant breath of air ; he would perceive it in the boundless growth and beauty of the earth; he would be assured of it in the kindling joy of his own heart; the argument would gently insinuate itself through the medium of every sense ; it would press upon his mind in a weight of gratitude and love ; and with all these gracious ministrations, these fair and beauteous messengers of God's goodness around him, he could no more doubt it, than he could doubt his joys, his senses, his very existence.
It is not our business now, however, to argue at large for the doctrines of the divine goodness and providence. We only say that a reliance on them is essential to our religious stability and peace. On this point we have the following observations in a letter of Dr. Franklin to Thomas Paine, who had sent him a part of the manuscript of one of his infidel publications. The testimony is the more unexceptionable, as Franklin was not an advocate for any one of the prevailing systems of religious faith. I have read your manuscript,' he says, ' with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular providence, though you allow a general providence, you strike at the foundation of all religion. For without the belief in a providence that takes cognizance of, guards, and guides, and favors particular individuals, there is no motive to worship a deity, to fear its displeasure, or to pray for its protection.'
Finally, in order to any stability or peace of mind, we must believe in a revelation. We are not now to argue for the fact of its having been made. We only say, that a belief in this fact is essential to the comfort and support of our minds; and this itself, indeed, is no weak argument for its reality. If we are asked, how it is, then, that this revelation is not made to all minds, we answer, that we see, in the very discrimination used, an evidence that it came from the Father of Spirits. The Christian communication was made at the very time, and to the very nations, where the progress of the human understanding made it needful, and it is now possessed by all those portions of the human race, that, from their intellectual wants, peculiarly require it. Nay, and it is gradually spreading itself among other nations, as they are prepared to receive it, to feel its necessity, and to reap its benefits.
But we repeat, that it is not our business now to defend this revelation, but only to maintain the indispensableness of a belief in it, as a refuge and support to the mind. This, at least, is our own deep and entire conviction.
The great positions in this revelation on which our own minds rely, are the messiahship of Jesus, or, in other words, the fact of a divine and merciful interposition for our spiritual nature, and the doctrine of a future life. These, to be relied on, must be matters of revelation. We might hope they were true, but we should be very far from the needful assurance. Even Plato was obliged to doubt to the last, whether his own gifted mind was not, in this imperfect life, taking its only chance of being.
Besides these doctrines of interposition, and of immortality, there are many things, no doubt, in the New Testa