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RELIGION AND VIRTUE-continued.
Oh! let my nobler wishes soar
Beyond these seats of night;
And permanent delight!
And rising to the view,
As fancy never drew.
Nor airy form beguiles,
Her undissembled smiles. MRS. STEELL.
The Christian doctrine, rightly understood, furnishes the most powerful motives to innocent cheerfulness and harmless mirth. It frees the mind from all needless cares, and inspires it with true courage. It teaches men to be satisfied with God, with themselves, with the world, and with the situation assigned them by Providence; it induces them to fix their attention more upon the good than upon the evil that is in the world, and to enjoy all the happiness they can, whenever, wherever, and with whomsoever it is found; and this preserves them in a gay and sprightly disposition, by opening to them on all sides, sources of innocent, virtuous, and lively emotion:
The sons of God have found
Glory begun below;
From faith and hope may grow.
And ev'ry tear be dry;
To fairer worlds on high.
what it may
Neither degrade yourselves by a blind and slavish obedience, nor by a superstitious submission to the ordinances and traditions of men. Try all things, and cleave to that which, according to the soundest dictates of your judgment, is the best. Shew respect to the great and mighty of the earth, but flatter them not; crouch not in their presence, as if they were creatures of a superior order. Judge of their action's with discretion, but judge of them by the same laws as other men; and neither applaud nor approve of any thing merely because it originates with a man that is surrounded by particular pomp. Reverence the Religion of the realm, its teachers, and its rites, but decline not to examine the doctrines of that Religion, to discuss the decisions of those teachers, and to judge of the propriety or impropriety of those rites. Allow full scope to the progress of human knowledge, discountenance no decent investigation of received maxims and doctrines, be the consequence
Examine the Religion of an unenlightened nation, where implicit faith prevails in regard of the generality of its professors; is it any thing more than a string of sentences repeated by rote, than a round of ceremonies, lip-service, and self-deceit?
Beware of implicit credulity on one hand, and of scepticism on the other. Both these extremes are dangerous; both prevent us from properly cultivating and employing our understanding, and growing in knowledge. He that implicitly believes without any examination what others tell him, does not, properly speaking, use his understanding at all; he lets others think for him, and, at most, speculates upon what they have conceived before him. Generally, however, this does not happen: he is satisfied with retaining in his memory certain words which have been previously uttered to him, and imagines he understands the subject itself, if he can occasionally repeat these words. Thus his faculty of conception is never exercised; it ever remains impotent and inert, and his knowledge is not increased, however extensive it may seem. If, on the other hand, such a man gives himself up to scepticism, he, indeed, exercises his understanding, and particularly his perspicacity, but he does it defectively; and, in opposition to our present mortal state, and our present worldly appointment, he loses sight of the ultimate end for which we should do so, and gathers, no real utility from his efforts. Always wavering between truth and error, from being overanxiously solicitous to avoid the latter, he lets the former vanish from his sight. His knowledge can never become truly vivid and efficacious; since the knowledge of a sceptic never carries with it that certainty of conviction which is necessary to calm his breast and regulate his conduct. Whilst, therefore, you cautiously avoid the by-paths of infidelity, believe no one implicitly without sufficient grounds for doing so, because none, not even the purest, the sincerest, and the best-intentioned, are exempt from a liability to err. Reflect upon what you are told and taught, compare it with what you already know, with what you learn from sound reason, experience, and boly writ: prove all things, according to the precept of the apostle Paul, and hold fast only that, or adopt only that, which is truly good and profitable. Assert in this manner the special privilege which belongs to you as reasonable creatures, of seeing with your own eyes, and examining for yourselves principles in which you are so deeply interested. Determine, and act afterwards upon your conscientious convictions.
Religion sets before us the knowledge of a future life---and what would man be without it? A poor, deplorable, and wretched creature! How must every thing connected with the past, the present, and the future, perplex him! How enigmatical must this life be to him, how inexplorable his destination, how terrible the stroke of death, how frightful the conse: quences of it! . At every step to be drawing nearer to annihilation, or to die under the uncertainty of an existence beyond the grave! How burdensome, how bitter, must not this render life and death to the thinking man! How oft must he be tempted to envy the Jot of the beasts of the field, who, unconcerned and blithe; enjoy the present, and are unable to think on the future!
Without the belief in God and a future state, what a wretched being is man! How miserable and dark are his prospects! Yet some violent spirits in our days, in their rage against superstition, would wish to overturn these grand essential principles of human happiness and perfection. But true philosophy holds fast these precious doctrines, which are strongly indicated by Nature, and demonstrated by Divine Revelation.
No apology is necessary for introducing, at this place, the following beautiful Rhapsody, by Necker. It is entitled, THE RELIGIOUS VADE MECUM.
“ How can I possibly doubt that there is an Intelligence which holds authority, supreme authority, over the universe? I know a little empire governed by intelligence; that intelligence is me.
For the least works, the works of man, an intelligence has been found necessary; and none is to be allowed in the ordering of the universe, none is to be wanted ! How can such a contradiction be admitted ?
“ This universe is nevertheless splendid, it is magnificent. Why then not associate the most stupendous work we know among all visible things, with the most admirable thing we know among invisible ones, --with thought. What order, what regularity, do we see in the whole; what variety in the details; what riches ! every where miracles of wisdom exhibited; every where is the signet of power impressed. Is there any thing that does not answer some end ?—and what is an end, but the result of reflection ?-Is it not then madness to think of abstracting intelligence from the organization of the world?
“O my God! what use do men make of that mind which thou hast bestowed upon them, to the intent that they might partially know thee! They cannot understand thy nature, they say; but the fly who hovers about them does not understand theirs, yet they exist. And why do they say that they do not understand God ?-Can we not form some idea of him in augmenting, hypothetically, the prodigy of our own faculties? The miraculous authority of our will over our actions is not more easy to be explained than those beautiful words of the holy Scriptures, " He spake the word, and they were made ; he commanded, and they were created.” But we see the authority of our will over our actions, and can we not see the same influence of the Divine Will over the ordering and motion of the universe ? Yes, one of these two mysteries is more manifest than the otherat least it is so to us; but the analogy is perfect; and not to believe but from experience, is to reject two great sources of light-imagination and sentiment: imagination which, in its perceptions, stretches beyond the truths discovered by reason; and sentiment, which is our innate science. Shall we, enjoying the finest spiritual gifts, but renouncing the use of them, reduce ourselves to a level with inferior beings, whose looks cannot be raised to heaven, and whose intelligence is subservient only to gratifying the wishes of their senses? The noblest advantage man possesses is being endowed with faculties which, when improved by education, approach him to the idea of God.
“We are very far indeed from being able to form a perfect conception of an infinite Being; but to men of rigorous attention, to men of genius, one degree of increased power, a trifling promotion in the scale of beings, might render evident what they now see confusedly. This time may perhaps come, though it is not come yet; and, surrounded as we are with mysterious miracles, ought we to be very much surprised if the divine essence is still a secret among us? Let there be a league made-a league among all men who are friends of order, among all men of sentiment and sensibility, to strengthen the belief in the existence of a God, to defend an opinion so necessary, an opinion so consoling against all the attacks of the age.
“Human springs are too weak to restrain man within the bounds of his duty; an authority is required which speaks to the conscience, which makes it tremble. O Conscience! thou mighty tribunal in our intellectual circle, thou first tribunal in the moral empire of the world, thou art at once the effect and the proof of the existence of a God.
“ Neither is there any happiness, any repose for us, but in such a belief. If there were no central Mind to this vast universe, we should be, in common with all other beings, the product of necessity; and necessity is an abstract authority, without love, without pity, which cannot be touched with our tears, or won by our prayers,—what a horrible supposition ! But under the idea of a God, such as our mind discovers him, such as our heart receives him, such as our conscience announces him--with this God, greater than his works, but united by infinity with them all with this supreme God, with the full conviction of his existence, we pass through life in the midst of the delights of hope.
“No: let us believe that we are permitted to implore this Divine Master of the world, that we are permitted to love