« EelmineJätka »
the glory of civil society is not to encroach on the moral government of God.
Christianity comes, pretends to come from the God of nature; I look for analogy, and I find it; but I find it in the holy scriptures, the first teachers, and the primitive churches.
In all these, I am considered as a rational creature, objects are proposed, evidence is offered : if I admit it, I am not entitled thereby to any temporal emoluments ; if I refuse it, I am not subjected to any temporal punishments : the whole is an affair of conscience, and lies between each individual and his God. I choose to be a christian on this very account. This freedom, which I call a perfection of my nature; this self-determination, the dignity of my species, the essence of my natural virtue, this I do not forfeit by becoming a christian ; this I retain, explained, confirmed, directed, assisted by the regal grant of the Son of God. Thus the prerogatives of Christ, the laws of his religion, and the natural rights of mankind being analagous, evidence arises of the divinity of the religion of Jesus.
I believe, it would be very easy to prove, that the christianity of the church of Rome, and that of every other establishment, because they are establishments, are totally destitute of this analogy. The religion of nature is not capable of establishment; the religion of Jesus Christ is not capable of establishment : if the religion of any church be capable of establishment, it is not analogous to
that of Scripture, or that of nature. A very simple example may explain our meaning. Natural religion requires man to pay a mental homage to the Deity, to venerate his perfections, by adoring and confiding in them. By what possible means can these pious operations of the mind be established ? Could they be forced, their nature would be destroyed, and they would cease to be piety, which is an exercise of judgment and will. Revealed religion requires man to pay a mental homage to the Deity through Jesus Christ; to venerate his perfections by adoring and confiding in them as christianity directs ; by repentance, by faith, by hope, and so on. How is it possible to establish those spiritual acts ? A human establishment requires man to pay this christian mental homage to the Deity by performing some external ceremony, suppose bowing to the east. The ceremony, we grant, may be established; but, the voluntary exercise of the soul in the performance, which is essential to the christianity of the action,--who in the world can establish this? If the religion of Jesus be considered as consisting of external rites and internal dispositions, the former may be established; but, be it remembered, the establishment of the exterior not only does not establish the interior, but the destruction of the last is previously essential to the establishment of the first.
No religion can be established without penal sanctions, and all penal sanctions in cases of religjon are persecutions. Before a man can persecute, he must renounce the generous tolerant dispositions of a christian. No religion can be established without human creeds; and subscription to all human creeds implies two dispositions contrary to true religion, and both expressly forbidden by the author of it. These two dispositions are, love of dominion over conscience in the imposer, and an abject preference of slavery in the subscriber. The first usurps the rights of Christ; the last swears allegiance to a pretender. The first domineers, and gives laws like a tyrant; the last truckles like a vassal. The first assumes a dominion incompatible with his frailty, impossible even to his dignity, yea denied to the dignity of angels; the last yields a low submission, inconsistent with his own dignity, and ruinous to that very religion, which he pretends by this mean to support. Jesus Christ does not require, he does not allow, yea he expressly forbids both these dispositions, well knowing, that an allowance of these would be a suppression of the finest dispositions of the human soul, and a degrading of revelation beneath the religion of nature. If human inventions have formerly secularised christianity, and rendered such bad dispositions necessary in times of ignorance, they ought to be exploded now, as all christians now allow this theory-The Son of God did not come to redeem one part of mankind to serve the secular views, and unworthy passions of the other; but he obtained freedom for both, that both might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness all the days of their lives. When churches reduce this theory to practice, they realize in actual life, what otherwise makes only a fine idea decyphered in books, and by so doing they adorn their christianity with the glorious evidence of analogy.
Suppose the God of nature should think proper to reveal a simple system of astronomy, and to require all mankind to examine and believe this revelation on pain of his displeasure. Suppose one civil government, having examined this revelation, and explained the sense, in which they understood it, should endeavour to establish their explication by temporal rewards and punishments. Suppose they should require all their subjects to carry their infants in their arms to a public school, to answer certain astronomical interrogations, to be put by a professor of astronomy; as, in general,Wilt thou, infant of eight days old! Wilt thou be an astronomer? Does thou renounce all erroneous systems of astronomy? In particular, dost thou admit the true Copernican system? Dost thou believe the revealed explication of this system ? And dost thou also believe that explication of this revelation, which certain of our own predecessors in the profession believed, which explication the government has adopted, and which we your masters, and parents, in due obedience, receive? Suppose a proxy required to answer for this infant ; all this, I, proxy for this child, do stedfastly believe ; and suppose from this hour the child became a reputed astronomer. Suppose yet further, this child should grow to manhood, and in junior life should be pressed, on account of the obligation contracted in his infant state, to subscribe a certain paper called an astronomical creed, containing, mathematical definitions, astronomical propositions, and so on, and should be required for certain rewards to examine and approve, teach and defend this creed, and no other, without incurring the penalty of expulsion from all public schools, a deprivation of all honours, which he might be supposed on other accounts to merit, an exclusion from all offices of trust, credit, and profit,in some cases a loss of property, in others imprisonment, in others death. In this supposed case, I ask, would not the establishment of this system be an open violation of the doctrine of analogy, and should I not have a right to reason thus ? — The revelation itself is infallible, and the author of it has given it me to examine: but the establishment of a given meaning of it renders examination needless, and perhaps danger
The God of nature has given me eyes, instruments, powers, and inclinations to use them; eyes, faculties, and dispositions as good as those of my ancestors, and instruments better : but all these advantages, which may be beneficial to me, if they confirm the truth of the explication, may be fatal to me, if they lag behind, or ken beyond the bound of the creed. Nature says, a constellation is a collection of stars, which in the heavens appear near to one another. This is a plain simple truth, I open my eyes, and admit the evidence. Revelation says, each fixt star is a sun, the cen