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when we confine our thoughts to the principle, other. He in whom fear predominates, most
itself, we do not apprehend that we can become too predominant, to be too virtuous, being just as inconceivable as to be too happy.
naturally mistakes what God commands, and instead of taking that law for his rule, whose seat is the bosom of God, and whose voice the harmony of the world,'* in a most unhappy manner, becomes a law unto himself, multiply. ing observances, which have nothing to recom
ness; and acting, as if the way to propitiate his Maker were by tormenting himself. He, on the contrary, in whom the hopeful passions are prevalent, no less naturally misconceives what God has promised and pleases himself with the prospect, or persuades himself into the imagi. nary possession, of extraordinary influences and supernatural communications. Both, it is evident, mean to pursue religion, but neither has sufficient judgment to ascertain its real nature. Perhaps, in general, some mental morbidness is at the bottom, which, when of the depressive kind, disposes to the superstitious view of religion, and when, of the elevating kind, to the enthusiastical.
Now if this he true of any single virtue, must it not hold equally good respecting the parent principle of all virtue-What is religion, or devotion (for when we speak of either, as amend them, but their irksomeness or uncouthprinciple, it is, in fact, a synonyme of the other) but the so loving what God has commanded, and desiring what he has promised, as that, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found?' Now can there be excess in this? We may doubtless misunderstand God's commands, and misconstrue his promises, and, in either way, instead of attaining that holy and happy fixedness of heart, become the victims of restless perturbation. But if there be no error in our apprehension, can there be any excess in our love? What does God command? Every thing that tends to our personal, social, political, as well as eternal well-being. Can we then feel too deep love for the sum of all moral excellence? But what does God promise? Guidance, protection, all necessary aids and influences here; and hereafter, fulness of joy and pleasures at his right hand for evermore.' Can such blessings as these be too cordially desired? Amid
The heartachs and the thousand natural shocks
Religion, the religion of the Scriptures, is itself an exquisite temperament, in which all the virtues, of which man is capable, are harmoniously blended. He, therefore, who studies the Scriptures, and draws thence his ideas and sentiments of religion, takes the best method to escape both enthusiasm and superstition. Even infidelity is no security against either. But it is absolutely impossible for an intelligent votary of scriptural Christianity to be in any re
can our hopes of future happiness be too cheer-spect fanatical. True fanatics, therefore, are ing, or our power of rising above the calamities of mortality be too habitual, or too effectual? Such are the questions obviously suggested by the supposition of such a thing as excess in religion. And doubtless the answer of every serious and reflecting mind must be, that in A pure and undefiled religion,' in loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and our neighbour as ourselves,' the idea of excess is as incongruous and inadmissible, as that of a happy life being too long, or of the joys of heaven being less desirable because they
apt to neglect the Scriptures, except so far as they can turn them to their own particular purpose. The Romish church, for example, became negligent of the Scriptures, nearly in proportion as it became superstitious. And every striking instance of enthusiasm, if inquired into, will be found to exemplify the same dereliction. In a word, Christianity is eternal truth, and they who soar above truth, as well as they who sink below it, equally overlook the standard by which rational action is to be regulated: whereas to adhere steadily to this, is to avoid all extremes, and escape, not only the tendency toward pernicious excess, but any danger of falling into it.
But if, instead of cultivating and advancing in this love of God and man,-instead of loving Did we accustom ourselves to exact definiwhat God has really commanded, and desiring tions, we should not only call the disorderly what he has clearly promised in his holy word, religionist an enthusiast; we should also feel, -this word be neglected, and the suggestions that if irrational confidence, unfounded expecof an ardent, or of a gloomy fancy be substituted tations, and assumptions without a basis, be in its room, then the person becomes in the enthusiasm, then is the term most justly applistrictest and truest sense, a fanatic; and as his cable to the mere worldly moralist. For does natural temperament may happen to be san- not he wildly assume effects to be produced guine or saturnine, he rises into imaginary rap-without their proper means, who looks for virtures or sinks down into torturing apprehen-tue without piety, for happiness without holisions, and slavish self-inflictions.
Here then, if I am not mistaken, we may discover the real nature of both enthusiasm and superstition. It is not excess of devotion which constitutes the one, nor excess of religion in general which leads to the other. But both are the consequence of a radical misconception of religion. Each alike implies a compound of ignorance and passion; and as the person is disposed to hope or fear, he becomes enthusias tical on the one hand, or superstitious on the
ness; for reformation without repentance; for repentance without divine assistance; for divine assistance without prayer; and for acceptance with God without regard to that Mediator, whom God has ordained to be our great high priest?
But, while accuracy of definition is thus recommended, let it not be forgotten, that there is need on all sides of exercising a candid judg. ment. Let not the conscientious Christian sus
* Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, conclusion of the first book.
pect, that the advocate for morality intends by the term to depreciate religion, unless it appear that he makes morality the root as well as the produce of goodness.-Nor let the moralist, whose affections are less lively, and whose views are less elevated, deem the religious man a fanatic, because he sometimes adopts the language of Scripture to express feelings to which human terms are not always adequate. We mean not to justify, but to condemn, as a gross defect of good sense, as well as of taste and elegance, that ill-conditioned phraseology, which, by disfiguring the comeliness of piety, lessens its dignity, and injures its interests. Doubtless, a good understanding cannot be more usefully exercised, nor can the effects of mental cultivation be better shown, than in bringing every aid of a sound judgment, and every grace of a correct style into the service of that divine religion, which does not more contain all that is just and pure, than it coalesces with all that is lovely, and of good report.'
religious opinions, without possessing any re-
To show that it is possible to be zealous for
our second James, who renounced three king-
The too frequent abuse of such terms as moderation, candour, toleration, &c. should be pointed out to those whose high station pre-ard of human life. That a prince may be very zealous for revents their communication with the world at large. It should be explained, that moderation, ligious opinions and observances, and yet be so in the new dictionary, means the abandonment defective in moral virtue, as to be both personof some of the most essential doctrines of Chris-ally and politically profligate, is exemplified in tianity. That candour in the same school of philology, denotes a latitudinarian indifference, as to the comparative merits of all religious systems. That toleration signifies such a low idea of the value of revealed truth, and perhaps such a doubt even of its existence, as makes a man careless, whether it be maintained or trampled on, vindicated or calumniated.-A toleration of every creed generally ends in an indifference to all, if it does not originally spring from a disbelief of all. Even the noble term rational, which so peculiarly belongs to true religion, is frequently used to strip Christianity of her highest attributes and her sub-ness of his moral conduct.* The king, his limest energies, as if in order to be rational, divine influences must be excluded. Or, as if it were either suitable to our necessities, or worthy of God, that when he was giving his word to be a light to our paths,' he should make that light a kind of moral moonshine, instead of accompanying it with such a vital warmth, as might invigorate our hearts, as well as direct our footsteps.
Though it would be absurd for a prince to become a wrangling polemic like Henry VIII. or a royal doctor,' like the first James; yet he should possess so much information, as to be enabled to form a reasonable judgment between contending parties, and to know the existing state of religion. And, that he may learn to detect the artifices of men of loose principles, he should be apprised, that the profane and the pious do not engage on equal terms. That the carelessness of the irreligious gives him an apparent air of good humour, and his levity the semblance of wit and gayety; while his Christian adversary ventures not to risk his soul for a bon-mot, nor dares to be witty on topics which concern his eternal interests.
It will be important, on the other hand, to show that it is very possible to be zealous for
Harlai, archbishop of Paris, distinguished himself by his zeal in attacking heresy: so all religion was called except that of the Jesuits. His activity proceeded from no love of piety, but from a desire to make his way at court, where zeal, just then, happened to be the fashion. His religious activity, however, neither prevented, nor cured, the notorious licentious
master, fancied, that to punish Jansenism, was an indubitable proof of religion; but to persecute protestantism, he conceived to be the consummation of piety. What a lesson for princes, to see him, after the revocation of the edict of Nantz, gratefully swallowing the equally false and nauseous compliments of his clergy, for having, to borrow their own phrase, without violent hands made the whole kingdom of one opinion, and united all his subjects to the faith of Rome! Iniquitous flattery, when FOUR MILLIONS of those subjects were either groaning under torture, or flying into exile; turning infidels, if they resolved to retain their property; or chained to the gallies, if they preferred their conscience to their fortune!
As the afflicted Hugonots were not permitted to carry their complaints to the foot of the throne, the deluded king fancied his bloody agents to be mild ministers, and the tortured protestants to be mischievous heretics. But,
It was a fact well known at the court of Versailles,
that madame de Montespan, during the long period in which she continued the favourite mistress of the king, by whom she had seven children,) was so strict in her religious observances, that, lest she should violate the austerity of fasting, her bread, during Lent, was con stantly weighed.
though the kingdom was, in many parts, nearly | preciate its value, she should be taught, that it depopulated by exile and executions, the sword, as usual, made not one proselyte. The subjects were tortured, but they were not converted. The rack is a bad rhetorician. The gallies may harrass the body, but do not convince the understanding, nor enforce articles of faith.*
Under all these crimes and calamities, Louis, as a French memorialist observes, was not ashamed to hear, what Boileau was not ashamed to sing,
L'Univers sous ton regne a-t-il des Malheureux ?
Colbert, who was a wise man, might have taught his royal master, that in this persecution there was as little policy as piety, and that he was not only injuring his conscience, but his country. By banishing so many useful subjects, he impoverished the state doubly, not only by robbing it of the ingenuity, the manufactures, and the labours of such multitudes, but by transferring to hostile countries all the industry and talents which he was driving from his own. If the treachery of detaining the protestants under false promises, which were immediately violated, is to be charged on Louvois, the crime of blindly confiding in such a minister is to be charged on the king.
How little had this monarch profited, by the example given, under similar circumstances, by Louis XII. When some of the pious Waldenses, while they were improving his barren land in Provence by their virtuous industry, had been grievously persecuted, through false representations; that prudent prince commanded the strictest inquiry to be made into their real character; the result was, that he was so perfectly convinced of their innocence, that he not only protected them during the rest of his reign, but had the magnanimity to declare, that they were better men than himself and his catholic subjects.'
Happy had it been for himself and for the world, if the emperor Charles V. had instituted the same inquiries! Happy, if in the meridian of his power he had studied the character of mankind to as good purpose, as he afterwards, in his monastic retreat, studied the mechanism of watches! Astonished to find, that after the closest application, he never could bring any two to go just alike, he expressed deep regret at his own folly, in having bestowed so much time and pains in the fruitless attempt of bringing mankind to an exact uniformity in their religious opinions. But, the discovery was made too late; he ended where he should have begun.
In order to increase the royal pupil's reverence for Christianity, before she is herself able to ap.
* Louvois and his master would have done wisely to have adopted the opinion of those two great ministers of Henry IV. who, when pressed to persecute, replied that they thought it better to have a peace which had two religions, than a war which had none.'
did not steal into the world in the days of darkness and ignorance, when the spirit of inquiry was asleep; but appeared in the most enlightened period of the Roman empire. That its light dawned, not on the remoter regions of the earth, but on a province of that empire, whose peculiar manners had already attracted much notice, and whose local situation placed it particularly within the view of surrounding nations. Whereas the religion of Mahomet and the corruptions of popery, which started up almost together, arose when the spirit of investigation, learning, and philosophy, had ceased to exert itself. That, during those dark ages, both Christianity and human learning were nearly extinguished; and that, as both had sunk together, so both together awoke from their long slumber. The restoration of letters was the restoration of religion also; the free access to the ancient authors being one grand instrument of the revival of pure Christianity.
The learning which existed in the church antecedently to the Reformation, was limited to very few, and was in the general, but meagre and superficial; and the purposes to which it was confined, formed an effectual obstacle to substantial improvement. Instead of being employed in investigating the evidences of Christianity, or in elucidating the analogy of Christian principles, with the laws of the natural, and the exigencies of the moral world, it was pressed into the service of what was called school divinity; a system, which perhaps had providentially been not without its uses at a previous period, especially when under the discretion of a sound and upright mind, as having served both to elicit and exercise the intellect of a ruder age. Study and industry, however they may be misapplied, are always good in themselves; and almost any state is better than hopeless inanity. These schoolmen perhaps sustained the cause of Religion, when she might utterly have sunk, though with arms little suited to make their support effectual, or to produce solid practical benefit, either to the church or the people. Some of the earlier scholastic divines, though tedious, and somewhat trifling, were, however, close reasoners, as well as pious men, though they after. wards sunk in rationality, as they increased in quibbling and subtlety. Yet, defective as their efforts were, they had been useful, as they had contributed to oppose infidelity, and to keep alive some love of piety and devotion, in that season of drowsy inactivity. But, at the period to which we refer, their theology had become little better than a mazy labyrinth of trivial, and not seldom of pernicious sophistry. Subtle disquisitions, metaphysical niceties, unintelligible obscurities, and whimsical distinctions, were substituted in the place of revealed truth; for revealed truth was not sufficiently intricate for the speculations of those puzzling theologians, of whom Erasmus said, that, they had brought it to be a matter of so much wit to be a Chris tian, that ordinary heads were not able to reach it.'-And, as genuine Christianity was not suffi ciently ingenious for these whimsical doctors, neither was it sufficiently pliant and accommodating to suit the corrupt state of public morals.
Almost entirely overlooking the Scriptures, Mr. Hume has been among the foremost to the school-men had built schemes and systems revive and inflame the malignant reports reon the authority of the fathers, some of them specting them. He allows indeed the inflexible spurious ones. The philosophy of Aristotle had intrepidity with which they braved dangers, toralso been resorted to for some of the chief mate-tures, and even death itself. But still they were, rials of the system; so that as the author of the History of the Council of Trent informs us, if it had not been for Aristotle, the church had wanted for many articles of faith.'
The early reformers defeated these sophisters, by opposing to their unsubstantial system, the plain unadulterated Bible. The very text of holy Scripture, and the most sober, rational, and simple deductions from thence, furnished the ground work of their arguments. And to this noble purpose they applied that sound learning, which Providence had caused to revive just at the necessary period. Their skill in the Greek and Hebrew languages enabled them to read the original Scriptures, and to give correct translations of them to the public. And, in this respect, they had an important advantage over the school divines, who did not understand the language in which their master Aristotle had written. It is no wonder, if an heterogeneous theology should have been compounded out of such discordant materials as were made up from spurious fathers, and an ill-understood pagan philosopher. The works of this great author, which, by an inconsistency not uncommon in the history of man, had not long before been prohibited by a papal decree, and burnt by public authority, came, in the sixteenth century, to be considered as little less than canonical!
But this attachment to sophistry and jargon was far from being the worst feature of the period in question. The generality of the clergy were sunk into the grossest ignorance, of which instances are recorded scarcely credible in our day of general knowledge. It is difficult to say whether the ecclesiastics had more entirely discarded useful learning, or Scripture truth. In the place, therefore, of the genuine religion of the Bible, they substituted false miracles, lying legends, purchased pardons, and preposterous penances. A procedure which became the more popular, as it introduced a religion which did not insist on the inconvenient appendage of a good life; those who had money enough, easily procured indemnity for a bad one; and to the profligate and the affluent, the purchase of good works was certainly more agreeable than the practice.
We are far from asserting, that there were no mixtures of infirmity in the instruments which accomplished the great work of the reformation. They were fallible men. But it is now evident to every sincere inquirer, that many of their transactions, which have been represented by their adversaries as corrupt and criminal, only appeared such to those who did not take their motives, and the critical circumstances of the times, into the account, or who had an interest in misrepresenting them. Many of those actions, which, through false colourings were made to appear unfavourable, are now clearly proved to have been virtuous and honourable; especially when we take the then situation of things, and the flagitious conduct of the priests and pontiffs with whom they had to deal into
in his estimation, the 'fanatical and enraged reformers.' And he carefully suggests, through the course of history, that fanaticism is the characteristic of the protestant religion. The terms protestant fanaticism,' and 'fanatical churches,' he repeatedly uses. He has even the temerity to assert, in contradiction to all credible testimony, that the reformers placed all merit in a mysterious species of faith, in inward vision, rapture, and ecstacy.' A charge, to say nothing of truth and candour, unworthy of Mr. Hume's good sense, and extensive means of information. For there is no fact better known, than that these eminently wise men never pretended to illuminations and impulses. What they undertook honestly, they conducted soberly. They pretended to no inspiration; they did not even pretend to introduce a new, but only to restore to its primitive purity 'the old religion.' They respected government, practised and taught submission to civil rulers, and desired only the liberty of that conscience which God has made free.*
But though in accomplishing the great work of the reformation, reason and human wisdom, were most successfully exercised; though the divine interference was not manifested by the working of miracles, or the gift of supernatural endowments: yet who can doubt, that this great work was directed by the hand of heaven, especi ally when we consider the wonderful predisposition of causes, the extraordinary combination of circumstances, the long chain of gradual but constantly progressive occurrences, by which this grand event was brought about? The successive as well as contemporary production of sin. gular characters, calculated to promote its general accomplishment, and each peculiarly fitted for his own respective work! So many unconscious or unwilling instruments made subservient to one great purpose!-Friends and enemies, even Mussulmen and popes, contributing, certainly without intending it, to its advance. ment!-Mahomet banishing learning from the east, that it might providentially find a shelter in these countries, where the new opinions were to be propagated!-Several successive sovereign pontiffs, collecting books and patronizing that literature which was so soon to be directed against their own domination!-But above all, the multiplication of contemporary popes, weakening the reverence of the people, by occasioning a schism in the church, and exhibiting its several heads wandering about, under the ludicrous circumstance of each claiming infallibility for himself, and denying it to his competitor !-Infallibility, thus split, was discredited, and in a manner annihilated. To these preparatory circumstances we may add the infatuation, or ra
with a zeal as furious as if he himself had not been an enemy to the reformation, exhibiting a wonderful illustration of that declaration of the Almighty, that the fierceness of man shall turn to his praise!-The meek wisdom of Cranmer, by which he was enabled to moderate the otherwise uncontrolable temper of his royal master! ity of Elizabeth, which effectually struggled for, and finally established it! These, and a thousand other concurring circumstances, furnish the most unclouded evidence, to every mind not blinded by prejudice, that the divine AUTHOR of Christianity, was also, though by the agency of human means and instruments, the RESTORER of it.
ther judicial blindness, of the papal power: the | errors, even in worldly prudence, committed by Leo, a pontiff otherwise of admirable talents !The half measures adopted, at one time, of inefficient violence; at another, of ineffectual lenity! The temporary want of sagacity in an ecclesiastical court, which was usually remarkable for political acuteness!-The increasing apti--The undaunted spirit and matchless intrepidtude of men's minds to receive truth, in proportion as events occurred to mature it!-Some who loved learning, and were indifferent to religion, favouring the reformation as a cause connected with good letters; the old doctrines becoming united with the idea of ignorance, as the new ones were with that of knowledge!The preparatory invention of printing, without which the revival of learning would have been of little general use, and the dispersion of the Scriptures slow, and inconsiderable!-Some able and keen-sighted men, working vigorously from a perception of existing abuses, who yet wanted sufficient zeal for the promotion of religious truth!
On the importance of religious institutions and observances. They are suited to the nature of Christianity, and particularly adapted to the character of man.
THAT torrent of vices and crimes which the French revolution has disembogued into society, may be so clearly and indisputably traced to the source of infidelity, that it has, in a degree become fashionable to profess a belief in the truths, and a conviction of the value of Christianity. But, at the same time, it has too naturally happened, that we have fallen into the habit of defending religion, almost exclusively, on political and secular grounds; as if Christianity consisted merely in our not being atheists or anarchists. A man, however, may be removed many stages from the impiety of French infidels, and yet be utterly destitute of real religion.
The pointed wit, the sarcastic irony, and powerful reasoning of Erasmus, together with his profound theological learning, directed against the corruptions of the Church, with such force as to shake the credit of the clergy, and to be of the utmost service to that cause, which he wanted the righteous courage systematically to defend!* The unparalleled zeal, abilities, and integrity of Luther! His bold genius, and adventurous spirit, not contenting itself, as the other reformers had done, with attacking notorious errors, and stigmatising monstrous abuses; but sublimely exerted in establishing, or rather restoring the great fundamentals of Christianity! While Erasmus, with that truly classic taste of which he was the chief reviver, so elegantly satirized the false views of God and religion, which the Romish church entertained, Luther's Many, not openly profane, but even entertain. aim was to acquire true Scriptural notions of ing a respect for the political uses of religion, both. Ridicule served to expose the old religion, have a way of generalizing their ideas, so as to but something nobler was necessary to establish dismiss the revelation from the account.-Others the new. It was for Erasmus to shake to its again, who in this last respect agree with the foundation the monstrous system of indulgences; former class, affect a certain superiority over it remained for Luther to restore, not to invent, the low contracted notions of churchmen and the doctrine of salvation by remission of sins collegians. These assert, that, if virtue be practhrough a Mediator.-While his predecessors, tised, and public order preserved, the motive and even coadjutors, had been satisfied by pull-on which the one is practised, and the other ing down the enormous mass of corruptions, the mighty hand of the Saxon reformer not only removed the rubbish, but erected a fair fabric of sound doctrine in its place. The new edifice arose in its just symmetry, and derives impreg-selves from the trouble of religion, and to escape nable strength, in consequence of its having been erected on a broad foundation. Nothing short of the ardour of Luther could have maintained this great cause in one stage, while perhaps the discreet temperance of Melancthon was necessary to its support in another! The useful violence of Henry in attacking the people,
Every elegant scholar must naturally be an admirer of Erasmus. We should be sorry to incur the censure of any such by regretting, that the wit and indignation of this fine genius sometimes carried him to great lengths. Impiety, doubtless, was far from his heart, yet in some of his Colloquies, when he only professed to attack the errors of popery, religion itself is wounded by strokes which have such a tendency to profaneness, as to give pain to the sober reader.
maintained, is not worth contending for. Many there are, who, without formally rejecting Christianity, talk of it at large, in general, or in the abstract.-As if it were at once to exempt them
the infamy of Atheism, these men affect to think so high of the Supreme Being, whose temple is universal space, that he needs not to be worshipped in temples made with hands. And forgetting that the world which he thought it worth while to create, he will certainly think it worth while to govern, they assert, that he is too great to attend to the concerns of such petty beings as we are, and too exalted to listen to our form of his attributes, to fancy that one day or prayers. That it is a narrow idea which we one place is more acceptable to him than another. That all religions are equally pleasing to God, provided the worshipper be sincere.That the establishment of a public ministry is