Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

did not preach hell fire as the just reward of their backslidings, and want of faith and zeal in the cause of Christ; and in default thereof, would change him for another more orthodox. As is required, they profess a willingness to be damned, provided nevertheless, that the glory of God shall be thereby enhanced. The following are fair samples of the eternal ding-dong upon this subject, with which calvinistic divines regale their hearers. The late Dr. Jonathan Edwards, (whose writings are highly applauded by the English reviewers, who seem to consider it their interest to commend those whose aim is to stupify and besot the minds of the people,) in a sermon on the duration and torments of hell, says,

"Be entreated to consider attentively how great and awful a thing Eternity is. Although you cannot comprehend it the more by considering, yet you may be made more sensible that it is not a thing to be disregarded. Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme pain for ever and ever; to suffer it day and night, from one day to another, from one year to another, from one age to another, from one thousand ages to another; and so adding age to age, and thousands to thousands, in pain, in wailing and tormenting, groaning and shrieking, and gnashing your teeth; with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, with your bodies, and every member of them, full of racking torture; without any possibility of getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your cries; without any possibility of hiding yourselves from him; without any possibility of diverting your thoughts from your pain; without any possibility of obtaining any manner of mitigation, or help, or change for the better. How dismal will it be, when you are under these racking torments, to know assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them."—"The saints in glory will be far more sensible how dreadful the wrath of God is, and will better understand how terrible the sufferings of the damned are, yet this will be no occasion of grief to them, but rejoicing. They will not be sorry for the damned; it will cause no uneasiness or dissatisfaction to them, but, on the contrary, when they see this sight it will occa sion rejoicing and excite them to joyful praises."

The Rev. Dr. Emmons, of Massachusetts, distinguished for his piety and biblical knowledge, gives the following lively description of the joys of the elect, contrasted with the sufferings of the reprobated:

"The happiness of the elect in heaven will in part consist in witnessing the torments of the damned in hell, and among these it may be their own children, parents, husbands, wives, and friends on earth.

"One part of the business of the blessed is to celebrate the doctrine of reprobation. While the decree of reprobation is externally executing on the vessels of wrath, the smoke of their torment will be eternally ascending in the view of the vessels of

mercy, who instead of taking the part of those miserable objects, will say amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord.

"When the saints shall see how great the misery is from which God hath saved them, and how great a difference he hath made between their state, and the state of others who were by nature, and perhaps by practice, no more sinful and ill-deserving than they, it will give them more a sense of the wonderfulness of God's grace to them. Every time they look upon the damned, it will excite in them a lively and admiring sense of the grace of God in making them so to differ. The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints for ever."

Dr. Parish, of the same state, in a sermon delivered in the time of our late war with England, in denunciation of his countrymen who rendered it their support, exclaimed, "How will the supporters of this anti-christian warfare endure their sentence, endure their own reflections; endure the fire that for ever burns: the worm that never dies; the hosannas of neaven, whe the smoke of their torments will ascend for ever and ever!"

Notwithstanding the confidence and apparent self-security in which presbyterian ministers animavert upon the vindictive spirit of the Almighty, and the horrors of that hell, which, according to them, he has prepared for the reception of the greatest portion of his creatures, if reliance can be had upon the view taken of the means necessary for salvation by the late Bishop Hobart, their condenation is inevitable.

The grand panacea for the cure of all evil, and the restoration of man to the favour of the Deity, seems, with the bishop, to consist in the due administration of the rite of baptism. In his Companion to the Altar, he says:

"In this church, the body which derives ite, strength and salvation from Christ its head, baptism was instituted as the sacred rite of admission. In this regenerating ordinance, fallen man is born again from a state of condemnation to a state of grace. He obtains a title to the presence of the Holy Spirit, to the forgiveness of sins, to all those precious and immortal blessings which the blood of Christ purchased." Com. for the Allar, ed. 1824, p. 186.

"Wherever the gospel is promulgated, the only mode through which we can obtain a title to those blessings and privileges which Christ has purchased for his mystical body, the church, is the sacrament of baptism. Repentance, faith, and obedience, will not of themselves be effectual to our salvation. We may sincerely repent of our sins-heartily believe the Gospel; we may walk in the paths of holy obedience: but until we enter into covenant with God by baptism, and ratify our vows of allegiance and duty at the holy sacrament of the Supper-commemorate the mysterious sacrifice of Christ, we cannot assert any claim to salvation." Ib. pp. 189-90.

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

"In order to be effectual, to be acknowledged by God, and accompanied by his power, they (the sacraments) must be administered by those who have received a commission for the purpose from him."- "None can possess authority to adminis

ter the sacraments but those who have received a commission from the bishops of the church.”. "Great is the guilt and imminent the danger of those who negligently or wilfully continue in a state of separation from the authorised ministrations of the church, and participate of ordinances administered by an irregular and invalid authority"-" wilfully rending the peace and unity of the church, by separating from the administration of its authorised priesthood; obstinately contemning the means which God has prescribed for their salvation. They are guilty of rebellion against the almighty Lawgiver and Judge; they expose themselves to the awful displeasure of that almighty Jehovah, who will not suffer his institutions to be contemned, or his authority violated, with impunity." Ib. pp. 198-200: 203-4.

This is all fair as a matter of trade. The rivalry for adher ents constantly carried on among the various denominations of Christians, justifies every divine in endeavouring to draw as many gulls to his shop as possible; and the end must sanctify the means.

From this nonsense, advanced even by wise men, with a view of promoting their interests, it is pleasant to turn to the writings of philosophers who have not the same inducements.

Thomas Jefferson speaks of religion as every man of common sense, not under the influence of early impressions before the mind is capable of distinguishing right from wrong, thinks; and as every honourable man, who wishes to benefit his species, ought to express himself.

The following sentiments are extracted from his correspondence with his old revolutionary colleague, John Adams, whose minds seem in perfect unison on the subject treated of; both must be actuated by the purest motives of humanity, as no sinister views could possibly be entertained at the late period in which the letters were written.

"I remember to have heard Dr. Priestleysay, that if all England would candidly examine themselves, and confess, they would find that unitarianism was really the religion of all. It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one: to divido mankind by a single letter into homoousians and homoiousians. But this constitutes the craft, the power, and the profit of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of factitious religion, and they would catch no more flies. We should all then, like the Quakers, live without an order of priests, moralize for ourselves, follow the oracle of conscience, and say nothing about what no man can understand nor therefore believe; for I sup

pose belief to be the assent of the mind to an intelligible proposition." Vol. iv. p. 205.

"The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrine of Christ levelled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system, which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power, and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them; and for this obvious reason, that nonsense can never be explained. Their purposes, however, are answered. Plato is canonized; and it is now deemed as impious to question his merits as those of an apostle of Jesus." Ib. p. 242.

"The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.

"1. That there are three Gods.-2. That good works, or the love of our neighbour, are nothing.-3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.-4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use. -5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter,

[graphic]

save.

"Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian; he who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus, or the impious dogmatists, as Athanasius and Calvin ?" Ib. p. 349.

"The wishes expressed in your last favour, that I may continue in life and health until I become a Calvinist, would make me immortal. I can never join Calvin in addressing his God. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was dæmonism. If ever man worshipped a false God, he did. The being described in his five points, is not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a dæmon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin. Indeed, I think that every Christian sect gives a great handle to atheism by their general dogma, that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of a God. Now, one-sixth of mankind only are supposed to be Christians: the other fivesixths then, who do not believe in the Jewish and Christian revelation, are without a knowledge of the existence of a God!" 363.

[graphic]

"The result of your fifty or sixty years of religious reading in the four words, 'Be just and good,' is that in which all our inquiries must end; as the riddles of all the priesthoods end in four

more, 'Ubi panis, ibi deus.'" Ib. p. 300. Where there is bread, there is God. That is, whatever religion is most conducive to the interests of the clergy, that they will preach. This is what the professors of every other kind of business do. If any community of people should prefer five wheels to a coach, and would give high prices for such, a coach-maker would act very unwisely to refuse to accommodate them. The clergy are, therefore, not so much to blame as the people who take their quack medicines and pay very dear for them. If praying be of any service, every one knows what he stands most in need of, and should therefore prefer his own petitions, instead of paying others for doing it. And as for moral instruction, there are certainly books enough extant upon that subject, the cost of which is nothing in comparison to what is paid for oral sermons.

Let the people shake off the shackles with which they are bound by the existing priestcraft, and profess a manly religion, founded upon moral virtue alone, divested of all creeds, as the sure and only foundation of happiness here and hereafter, and they would soon find teachers enough who would accommodate themselves to their wishes. In this case, useful, scientific instruction would form a prominent part of the preacher's duty. How much more pleasant and satisfactory would such a course be, than in listening to the eternal repetition of stupid, unintelligible dogmas, which can never be of the least possible advantage.

The religious opinions of Jefferson, Franklin, John Adams, and a host of wise and good men in Europe and America, differ in no respect from those of Thomas Paine. Yet he has been singled out particularly as a mark for the priesthood to aim their most deadly shafts. This, no doubt, arose from fear that his writings would prove more destructive to the craft than those of other liberal writers, on account of the bold, plain common sense which distinguishes his compositions.

Mr. Paine's natural goodness of heart seems to have rendered him sceptical in the prevailing religious dogmas, at an early period. He says, "from the time I was capable of conceiving an idea and acting upon it by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the Christian system, or thought it to be a strange affair; I scarcely know which it was, but I well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon read upon the Redemption, by the death of the Son of God. After the sermon was ended, I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard; it was to me a serious reflection, arising from the idea I had, that God was too good to do such an action, and also too almighty to be under the necessity of doing it. I believed in the same manner to this moment."

Of Jesus Christ he speaks in the following terms: "The morality that he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind; according to his declarations, in the 25th chapter of

« AnteriorContinuar »