Imágenes de páginas

own land who are called christians. It is about thirty years since a few individuals renounced all sectarian names, discarded all human creeds, and began to preach the simple truths of unitarian christianity. Their increase has been beyond all former example. They have now more than twelve hundred churches in this country, and for piety and morality they will bear an honorable comparison with any

other denomination. Now has our Father given them any special assistance? Some are ready to answer this question in the affirmative. But for one I have no hesitation in giving a decided negative. All this success is the natural result of human instrumentality. The preachers adapted themselves to the condition and wants of the hearers. They talked to them in an earnest and plain and direct manner. They persevered with all becoming zeal; and they soon received the fruit of their labors. I might make similar remarks concerning the methodists. Not only so. If the same means are used to propagate false doctrines very considerable progress will be made. Look at the mormonites. They are most laborious and indefatigable in their exertions. They are making converts to their wild and absurd opinions even in our own vicinity. So in England the power of speaking unknown languages is increasing with fearful rapidity. And how did the Arabian imposter carry forward his ambitious designs? You may just as well consider the prevalence of his religion the result of special divine interposition as to regard the unusual advancement of any one christian sect to be a miraculous favor conferred on its votaries. In all such cases there is nothing more nor less than the natural consequences of great zeal, untiring perseverance and well selected means.

In the second place, look at the prevalence of the cholera. It has shown no partiality to opinions, but taken the hindoo, the mahometan, the jew, the christian and the infidel. It has however observed certain rules in its operation. Those who have violated the laws of their physical nature are the first victims and almost the only victims. Is this pestilence a special judgment for the punishment of mankind? So many have believed. I think the contrary. Had all men observed the laws of their animal constitution the cholera would never have prevailed. Most of the deaths which have occurred in this disease, I regard as the natural consequence of their disobedience. When contagion is increased by great mortality, and many are unfitted for resistance through the influence of fear, no doubt the innocent perish with the guilty. It is also evident that many have inherited weakly and sickly bodies from those who in some way or other violated the laws of their physical nature. So that after you have counted those on whom the vices of their progenitors were visited; and those who had injured their constitution either ignorantly or in a good cause; and those who had not received sufficient nourishing sustenance; and those who had abused their nature by excessive eating and drinking and licentiousness; and those whose unmanly fears prostrated them at once, you will find but a few victims of the cholera remaining. Had there been no disobedience I firmly believe there would have been little or none of this temporal punishment. But if your doctrine of no future retribution be true, I see not but we must regard the cholera as a special blessing to the miserable victims who have been hurried to the grave. Take the great multitude of prostitutes who have been swept away by its ravages.

A more degraded, polluted, miserable, wretched class of human creatures cannot be imagined. They were constantly in a perfect earthly hell. Now if this is the end of all their sufferings; if they can look

back with approbation and delight on their profligate lives; if they enjoy uninterrupted happiness; if their felicity is never to be disturbed by one pang of remorse on account of their unparalleled depravity; then I must regard the pestilence which hastened them from unutterable torments to heavenly glory a very special blessing to their souls. I see not how any benevolent person can take any other view of the subject, on your ground of belief. Although I do not consider any prevailing epidemic to be a miraculous interposition of our Father, yet I believe all events above our control are wisely ordered by his superintending providence. I could go on to make similar remarks respecting earthquakes and tornadoes, tempests of thunder and lightning and all the uncommon convulsions of nature. All these I regard as the natural result of the operation of divine laws, and not as a designed punishment for wickedness.

4. In the fourth place, look at those sufferings which are neither the natural consequences of disobedience to divine commands, nor miraculous interpositions for the punishment of wickedness. Read the history of the world; look abroad into society; enter into the retirement of domestic life; and you will be convinced that the innocent, the virtuous, the righteous have experienced the most severe, unceasing, excruciating sufferings. You will be convinced that these torments were inflicted by their fellow men, and not because they violated the laws of their maker, but for the very reason in many instances that they were pure and holy. How many christian wives are daily made miserable by their brutal and intemperate husbands? How many philanthropists have sacrificed their ease, their influence, their liberty, their life in the cause of suffering humanity? How many worthy reformers have been fined, tortured, imprisoned, and burned for their conscientious adherence to the principles of religious liberty? How many disinterested patriots have shared in toils and hardships and cruelties and death for the benefit of an ungrateful multitude. In every war how many of the innocent are made wretched by the crimes of the wicked ? Time would fail me to mention the instances in which the just suffer the severest torments from the injustice of their brethren. Now how will you dispose of all these facts? Why have so many experienced such dreadful cruelties? Because they have transgressed the laws of their nature? By no means. They suffered on account of their very obedience. What benefit are they to receive for this indescribable' anguish? Perhaps you will say that they may learn by their inflictions to put a firm trust in their heavenly Father, to be weaned from the vanities of this world, and to enjoy the smiles of an approving conscience. All this is very well. But if all men are to be rewarded according to their deeds, how can you call this an equal retribution? I see no way in which you can avoid this difficulty on your scheme but to affirm that these individuals were great sufferers only because they were great sinners. This is the language of Job's comforters; and if it was incorrect in ancient days I know not that the lapse of ages has converted it into truth. Admit the fact of a future righteous retribution and the difficulty vanishes; and without admitting this truth you cannot possibly reconcile the unparalleled sufferings of the righteous with the justice of your heavenly Father.

But are the persecutors always punished in exact accordance with their wickedness? Surely not. For many really believe they are doing God service in their abominable cruelties, and consequently they receive the approbation instead of the reproaches of their own conscience. Others are too hardened in sin to suffer

any compunctions on account of their 'crimes. Now in order to make rewards and punishments equal the merits and deserts of all mankind, must there not be another existence, where the secrets of all hearts shall be exposed; where all circumstances shall be considered; where the blinded bigot shall confess the truth; where the right and the wrong of their present course shall be manifested to every soul, and where every one shall be rewarded and punished according to the deeds done in the body. As I shall have occasion to discuss this subject more fully hereafter I will not dwell longer on this point. I have given you such illustrations of my views of divine rewards and punishments as my limits will permit. Many very important questions I have left altogether untouched. Many more I have but briefly and superficially examined. And none have been treated with that fulness which they really demand. I have said enough however to give you some insight into my opinions on the various topics connected with this branch of my discussion. And I hope you will examine my remarks and statements and conclusions with all

proper freedom and boldness, and embrace whatever of truth may have been elicited and established.

« AnteriorContinuar »