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ject of religion in general, and that it is his earnest desire to shew, by a uniform attention to the subject, how sensible he is of the obligation which has been conferred upon him.
From the preceding account the following conclusions will be admitted to be just.
In the first place, that this plan is well adapted to teach an accurate, connected and critical knowledge of the Scriptures.
Secondly, that it is no less calculated to inbue the mind with the principles, and the heart with the affections, which it is the great design of the Christian religion to impart. The tendency of the business and the pleasures of life to weaken those principles, and to counteract the influence of those affections, has been felt and lamented by every reflective and pious nind: but it is scarcely possible that in the early period of life, (and it is only by intelligent and ingenuous youth who have the wisdom to desire clearer and deeper information on the most important subjects, and ardour sufficient to enable them to make some sacrifices to accomplish the best and noblest wish of their heart, that this plan can be expected to be adopted,) it is scarcely possible that in the early period of life, the mind should daily contemplate, with seriousness, for the long space of six years, the enlightened and pure and benevolent principles of Christianity without the happiest effect. It is scarcely possible that a human being should grow up under an influence so truly benignant, without his heart becoming enamoured of whatever is really excellent; without his having a clear and strong and instantaneous and unerring perception of whatever is great and good in feeling and conduct; without his having an unconquerable aversion to every thing that is base and selfish and servile. That such a man should always be found on the side of whatever is humane in legislation, of whatever is free in political institutions, of whatever is pure in religion, is no more than that an effect should follow its cause. That he should ever be a slave, or a tyrant, or a bigot, or a persecutor, is no more possible than that the beam of the sun should cease to give forth light, or than that a mind im
bued with the spirit of Jesus Christ should be capable of engaging in war, or of giving its sanction to the infliction of death on an erring fellow.
Perhaps it may not be improper to add, that there is an obvious and important application of this plan which entitles it to the peculiar attention of the Unitarian body. Many Unitarian congregations are incapable of supporting a minister in comfort; but there is not one of these, however poor, which does not possess too much knowledge and cultivation to be satisfied with the services of a religious instructor who is not a person of education. It is obvious, that by this plan persons may be trained to fill such stations with perfect ease to themselves, without at all interfering with their ordinary occupations, and with exceeding satisfaction and advantage to the church.
And it is probable that nothing will ever be devised better calculated to train up missionaries, to give them the information, and to form them to the habits which are necessary to enable them to perform the duties of their office with ability and zeal.
There are many and great advantages in the institution of a separate order of men for conducting the public services of religion. It is on every account highly proper that such persons should have that regular and thorough education, that deep and accurate learning, and that clearness, elegance and eloquence of style, which will render their services attractive to men of literature and science, and qualify them to defend with success the cause of religion and truth, both against those who disbelieve and who misbelieve. But so rare are these endowments, and so much time and labour does it require to mature them, that, under institutions the best adapted to develope the faculties, and with the dedication of the whole of life to their cultivation, there are comparatively few who possess them in great perfection: it is, therefore, scarcely reasonable to expect that they would exist at all were that time and labour considerably abridged.
But while the value of men thus gifted, must be admitted, it is difficult either to understand the principle, or
to sympathize with the feeling which would render them absolutely essential to the performance of the services of religion, and exclude all others, in their absence, from the exercise of their functions. It is surely as disgraceful as it is inconvenient, that when a minister is prevented by sickness, or any unavoidable engagement, from performing his stated duties, there should be in a Christian congregation, in the present day, no Christian man both able and willing to fill the office of his pastor with edification to the church. And were the excellent plan which has been stated, to become at all general in our congregations, such a state of things could not possibly exist.
In the last place, this plan is obviously capable of being applied to the acquisition of any kind of knowledge whatever. Literature, science and philosophy might be cultivated in this manner with the greatest success, and without any material inconvenience by those who are actively engaged in the business of life. In a word, the more it is examined, the more it will probably appear to be one of the most simple and effectual means of unlearning what is erroneous, of acquiring what is true, and of diffusing the blessings of knowledge over the face of the whole earth, which the wise have yet projected, or the benevolent attempted to carry into execution.
"Be not righteous overmuch." HAVE been favoured with the perusal of Influence, a Moral Tale," the production of a very amiable lady. It is from the school of sanctity; and, on returning the work, I took the liberty of appending to it the following note, which perhaps may be honoured, as of general application, by a place in your Repository.
I know not what else his meaning could be than this,-Do not debase religion by spreading it ostensibly over the ordinary concerns of life, and, by making it of trite occurrence, lessen the veneration which would be attached to it, if less familiarly introduced and appealed to. As a man of real courage does not "wear his dagger in his mouth," neither is it, in my humble apprehension, requisite for a Christian, habitual as his sense may be of the Divine presence, and of the necessity of conforming all his actions to the will of that Being whose inspec tion of them he is conscious of,-to make that consciousness the burthen of his hourly song. Religion is a subject that no man ought to shrink from, but, when superinduced upon all others, and as it were mechanically, it is apt to become a lambent flame, neither lighting nor warming. A talkative piety, in what differs it from that of the Pharisees? A deep and settled piety will be more felt than expressed. Religion is a concern chiefly between man and his MakerI had almost said a confidential oneand though a Christian should not be slow to avow the intimacy which he humbly cultivates in that quarter, when required by any serious occasion for it, I do not think those the best Christians, who are in the habit of professing to do all and every thing to the glory of God, which (whatever be meant by it) can have no connexion with a great majority of the transactions of life, and can only be impli cated in such as involve morality of conduct."
T is a practice to which I have long
wherever it is to be found; and if I can discern any chance of meeting with a satisfactory answer to my inquiries, I would consult the pages of the Unitarian Repository, or of the Evangelical Magazine, with as much readiness as the more imposing tomes of orthodox theology. Locke's Essay on the Understanding, you may probably know, is one of our standard books of examination at Cambridge, and hence the members of this University are sometimes found to indulge in metaphysical speculations which
would probably be discountenanced in any other seat of learning on this side of the Tweed.
It is an opinion which prevails among a numerous class of Christians, and more particularly, I believe, among those of the Unitarian persuasion, that a future state cannot be satisfactorily proved except by revelation. I confess that I never could concur in this sentiment; for, without having recourse to any arguments which have been deduced from the immateriality of the soul, I conceive that this most important doctrine is capable of convincing proof from an attentive consideration of the Divine character. This is not the place for entering into the question with the minuteness which it deserves, and I must, therefore, content myself with merely suggesting a few hints. It appears to me to be utterly impossible to establish the equity of the Deity without recurring to a future state of existence, and to the ultimate happiness of the whole human race. A preponderance of evil allotted to any sentient, and much more to any rational being, taking the whole of his existence into consideration, appears to be totally inconsistent with all our ideas respecting justice and equity. The case of a single in dividual in these circumstances is equally strong with that of a multitude, and, in my apprehension, equally militates against the benevolence or the power of the Creator. Now it cannot be denied, that if death is to be the final termination of our existence, many human beings will be found to have undergone a much larger share of misery than of pleasure, and will, therefore, present a formidable difficulty in our views of the Divine administration. And this difficulty nothing, in my opinion, will remove, but a future state of retribution. On the other hand, admitting the truth of a world to come, the common belief of an eternity of punishment will enhance instead of diminishing the objection; for it is clear, even from the language of Scripture, that by far the greater portion of the human race will unhappily incur the sentence of condemnation. And the case will appear in a still stronger light when we consider, that, both on the Liber arian hypothesis as well as on that of Necessity, the situation of every moral
creature must be ascribed to the will of the Omnipotent; as I apprehend that the inference will remain unal tered, whether the present course of things is simply permitted, or ex pressly ordained. The doctrine of final annihilation is, I ain aware, maintained by some persons, but though preferable to the notion of never-end. ing punishment, it is by no means sufficient to satisfy the mind on this momentous question.
Of the benevolence of the great Parent of the universe, who that has ever contemplated the beauties of nature or the structure of the human frame, can entertain a moment's doubt? But if benevolent at all, it follows, as a necessary consequence, that he must be so in an infinite de gree. Limit the extent of this, or any other of the Divine attributes, and you destroy the fundamental proof of an uncaused, self-existent Deity. How then can the infinite goodness of the Supreme Intelligence remain unimpeached, if any of his creatures be compelled to endure physical and moral evils which do not terminate in good? And how is it possible that these evils should thus terminate, un less we admit the truth of an existence hereafter, and of the final restitution of the whole rational creation? I would ask, therefore, first, why a fu ture state cannot be as satisfactorily proved to the mind of the philosopher by necessary inferences from the known attributes and character of the Deity, as to the unlettered Christian by the declarations of Scripture? In the one case, the proof consists in the legitimate deductions of the reasoning faculty; and in the other, in the testimony of competent and unbiassed witnesses. For the multitude, the
moλ, (as we Cambridge men are in the habit of saying,) the latter I admit to be the only effective means of producing a salutary conviction; but for the intellectual and specula tive part of the species, I should wish to know why the former mode of proof is not to be considered as adequate to the production of the same effect?
I would likewise ask, secondly, whe ther the strictest impartiality does not form a part, and a very n material part, of the Divine character; and if so, how we are to reconcile with this
On a Translation of Eichhorn's Opinions rèspecting the Book of Genesis. 427
attribute the striking fact, that a comparatively small portion of mankind are conducted in the path of virtue through this life, to the possession of eternal happiness in that which is to follow, while the great mass of human beings are ordained (for it will not be denied that external circumstances are the true efficient causes of moral cha racter) to pass through those scenes of vice and misery by which they are inevitably corrupted in the present world, to the endurance of the bitterest pains and torments reserved for them in the next? The only answer that can be given to this question, I should imagine, must be, the final restitution of the iniquitous to virtue and happiness. But even on this supposition, how widely different will have been the treatment of these two disproportionate divisions of mankind, which in the Calvinistic system are emphatically termed the elect and the reprobate? To the one is granted the substantial enjoyments of both states of existence, with no other alloy than the transitory evils "that flesh is heir to;" while the countless myriads who constitute the other class, are doomed to experience, not only the horrors of sin and wretchedness in the first stage of their being, but all the unspeakable and protracted miseKries of the next, though, we will believe, they are finally to be restored to participate in the felicity of their more fortunate brethren. It will probably be said, in mitigation of this strong statement, that the eternal duration of that happiness will infinitely more than compensate for the experience of former pain, and that the every recollection of suffering will be come gradually evanescent; but still it is impossible not to observe a manifest and marked difference in the conduct of the Creator, whom we must believe to be all-just, benevolent, wise and powerful, towards these two distinct classes of his moral creatures.
This question may probably be as difficult of solution as that of the origin of evil; and any attempts to dissipate the clouds which encircle the one, may be followed with as little success as the hypotheses which have been framed for elucidating the other.
Indeed, I am decidedly averse to the practice of introducing theological points of an abstruse nature to the notice of persons of little leisure, and of as little requisite information. With the great bulk of Christian believers, the tendency of these discussions is rather to unsettle the principles than to enlighten the mind, and to engender a love of disputation rather than a genuine desire of discovering the truth. But among the thinking few, among men of learned education and of enlarged views, I conceive that these objections do not exist to the same extent; and if our inquiries are at length baffled, and our strenuous efforts totally fail, we desist from the pursuit with a deeper conviction of the follies resulting from human pride, and of the contracted powers of the human intellect.
Should the subject of this communication call forth the remarks of any of your correspondents, more conversant with these topics than myself, I have only to observe, that I shall read them with pleasure, and consider them with attention.
July 13, 1822. HAVE to apologize to your correspondent R. W. [p. 284,] for not having replied earlier to his letter, calling upon me (or some one more qualified) to forward to your Miscel lany, a translation of Professor Eichhorn's opinions respecting the book of Genesis.
If none other of your various correspondents (one or two of whom I recognize by their signatures as being fully competent to the task) anticipate me, I shall feel most happy to accept R. W.'s invitation, and furnish the materials after which he inquires, in the course of a month or two, leaving it to your superior judgment to insert them or not, as may be found most suitable to your views, and the design of your Magazine.
This signature being pre-occupied, we have subjoined the numeral for the sake of distinction. ED.
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