صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Christian Church would have been a history of virtue and kindness, instead of being stained with blood and revenge.

No axiom can be more evident, than that every form of persecution should be excluded from the cause of Christianity—even if for no other reason, yet for the great fact, that persecution checks and destroys freedom of mind, to the free exercise of which, we are indebted not only for advance in Christian truth, but also for the developments of every other department of knowledge. It is the free exercise of mind which has made astronomy a science; has explored the surface of the earth, both in geography and geology; has opened the mine, and brought gold, silver, iron, and coal into effective use; has applied steam to the ship and the car, and fashioned the useful machinery every where in operation; has developed the wonders of chemistry, the intricacy of physiology, and the beauties and powers of literature. In fact, it is to the free exercise of mind, that the white man has a dwelling so much superior to the hut of a Hottentot; is so far advanced in knowledge beyond the savage; and instead of bowing to a senseless idol, like the blinded pagans, kneels with intelligent worship before the Spirit of the Universe. Now, if God intended that these results should be brought about only by the free

and generous exercise of mind, did he not also intend that the mind should be free in obtaining Christian truth? When God said, " come now, let us reason together"-when Messiah said, "why, of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?"-when Paul said, "prove all things; hold fast that which is good"—we discover that man is desired to exert his intellectual faculties in order to define Christian truth.

Oh, how many men in days that are now past, have toiled long and faithfully to secure to themselves the privilege of freely subjecting Christianity to the voice of reason, and at last, have sealed their labors with martyrdom. And yet, notwithstanding their sufferings and sorrows, there is no scene in nature more sublime than the efforts of mind to acquire perfect freedom in religious matters. We may behold the ocean heaving in its fearful grandeur-we may look upon the evening sky glorying with its countless hosts of suns and worlds—we may gaze at the raging waters which thunder down Niagara's front, in the deep bass of nature's awful voice-but yet, to see individuals patiently enduring tribulation, and at last, courageously meeting death, rather than give up the freedom of their minds to a wicked and fanatical superstition, is more noble than all these. It is the struggle of right against wrong; of good against

evil; of Christ in the soul against satan in the passions; of mind against spiritual wickedness; of freedom of thought against slavery of the intellect. And when the victory is won, and man stands forth, mildly but independently, and with generous charity for others, to avow his faith without any fear of his fellows, it is a more ennobling sight than all pageantries and shows.

But it needs no considerations to prove that cruelty, revenge or persecution, are never of right to be used by the professed Christian in attempting to become ruler over the consciences of others. It never succeeded in making a genuine believer; and it never can make one. It may make slaves-it may chain minds, and compel them, through fear, to give assent to the faith presented them-but an understanding belief cometh not from persecution; it comes from perfect freedom in the examination of Christianity. On the subject of toleration, the following tale, said to be from the pen of Dr. Franklin, is full of the noblest instruction. "And it came to pass after these things, that Abraham sat at the door of his tent, about the going down of the And behold! a man bent with age, coming from the way of the wilderness, leaning on a staff. And Abraham arose, met him, and said unto him; ‘turn in, I pray thee, and wash thy feet, and tarry all night, and thou shalt arise ear

sun.

ly in the morning, and go on thy way.' And the man said; 'nay, for I will abide under the But Abraham pressed him greatly: so he turned, and they went into the tent. And Abraham baked unleavened bread, and they did eat. And when Abraham saw that the man blessed not God, he said unto him: 'wherefore dost thou not worship the most High God, creator of heaven and earth?' And the man answered and said, 'I worship the God of my fathers, in the way which they have appointed.' And Abraham's wrath was kindled against the man, and he arose and fell upon, and drove him forth with blows into the wilderness. And God called unto Abraham, saying: Abraham, where is the stranger? And Abraham answered and said: Lord, he would not worship thee, neither would he call upon thy name; therefore have I driven him out before my face into the wilderness.' And God said, 'have I borne with him these hundred and nety years, and nourished him, and clothed him, notwithstanding his rebellion against me; and couldst not thou, who art thyself a sinner, bear with him one night?" And Abraham said: 'let not the anger of my Lord wax hot against his servant; lo! I have sinned; I pray thee, forgive me.' And Abraham arose, and went forth into the wilderness, and sought diligently for the man, and found

6

[ocr errors]

him, and returned with him to the tent; and when he had treated him kindly, he sent him

away on the morrow, with gifts."

The thought thus expressed by the venerable philosopher in the style of Scripture-composition, is as worthy of him as it manifests the true spirit of Christian toleration. It is the great fact which the world so slowly learns, that one individual possesses no right to persecute another individual because he differs from him in faith, for they both have equal privilege of cherishing their respective opinion. If error is abroad; and undoubtedly there is much of it; the most certain mode of paving the way for its destruction, is, for the sects to avoid abusing and misrepresenting each other, and to exhibit the most enlarged kindness to all followers of Christ, of whatever sectarian name they may be. In this manner the harshness and inveteracy of the sects would cease, and their members, by consequence, would gradually come into that Christian and intellectual frame of mind, which would prepare them for vigorously following out the sublime and important question, WHAT IS TRUTH? This tolerating kindness is the more necessary, from the fact, that as community is now situated, with a vast many influences all operating to make people differ in opinion, it is impossible to bring them to a unity of faith at pre

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »