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you, chequers thc volume of the brightest and best spent life, his mercy will obscure them from the eye of his purity, and our repentance blot thein out for ever,”
MR. OWEN. This gentleman is not so universally known as to render bis opinions so imposing as those already quoted, but he has acquired such celebrity for philanthrophy in his extraordinary exertions to meliorate the condition of the poor, in which charitable work he is now zealouslyengaged, that I am induced to give his very rational views respecting religion, in answer to a correspondent of the Limerick Chronicle.
“ For nearly forty years,” he says, “ I have studied the religious systems of the world, with the most sincere desire to discover one that was devoid of error; one to which my mind and soul could consent; but the more I have examined the faiths and practices which they have produced, the more error in each has been made manifest to me, and I am now prepared to say that all, without a single exception, contain too much error to be of any utility in the present advanced state of the human mind. There are truths in each religion, as well as errors in all, but if I have not been too much prejudiced by early education and surrounding circumstances, to judge impartially between them, there are more valuable truths in the Christian Scriptures than in others-but a religion to be pure and undefiled, and to produce the proper effect
upon the life and conduct of every human being, and to become universal, must be so true, that all who run may read, and so reading may fully comprehend. A religion of this character must be devoid of forms, ceremonies and mysteries, for these constitute the errors of all the existing systems, and of all those which have hitherto created anger, and produced violence and bloodshed throughout society. A religion devoid of error will not depend for its support upon any name whatever. No name, not even Deity itselt, can make truth into falsehood.—A
pure and genuine religion, therefore, will not require for its support, or for its universal promulgation by the human race, any name whatever, nor ought, except the irresistible truth which it shall contain. Such religion will possess whatever is valuable in each, and exclude whatever is erroneous in all, and in due time, a religion of this character, freed from every inconsistency, shall be promulgated. Then will the world be in possession of principles which, without any exception, produce corresponding practices, then all shall see, face to face, clearly and distinctly, and no longer through a glass, darkly. In the mean time, however, while the dangers shall be gradually working in the minds of those who have been compelled to receive error mixed with truth, it is intended that no violence shall be offered to the conscience of any one,
No. 18. Vol. XII.
and that in the proposed new villages, full provisions shall be made for the performance of religious worship, according to the practices of the country in which the villages shall be situated.”.
ELIAS HICKS, Elias Hicks, a celebrated Quaker preacher, at New York, in a letter addressed to the Rev. Dr. Shoemaker, dated 3d mo. 31, 1823, speaking of the atonement, and those who believe in it, writes “ Surely, is it possible that any rational being, that has any right sense of justice and mercy, would be willing to accept forgiveness of his sins on such terms? Would he not
forward, and offer himself wholly up, to suffer all the penalties due to his crimes, rather than the innocent should suffer? Nay, was he so hardy as to acknowledge a willingness to be saved through such a medium, would it not prove that he stood in direct opposition to every principle of justice and honesty, of mercy and love and show himself a poor selfish creature, unworthy, of notice ?" Towards the conclusion of his letter he says, “ I may now recommend thee to shake off all traditional views that thou hast imbibed from external evidence, and turn thy mind to the light within, as the only true teacher; and wait patiently for its instructions, and it will teach thee more than men or books can do, and lead thee to a clearer sight and sense of what thou desirest to know, than I have words clearly to convey to thee.”
In his discourses the following sentiments have been noted and published; “ That the death of Jesus Christ was no more to us than the death of any other good man; that he merely performed his part on earth as a faithful son, just as any other good man had done; that he did not believe any thing contained in the Scriptures merely because it was in them; that although the miracles might have been a proof to those who saw them, yet they could be no proof to us, who did not see them. Is it possible, said, he, that there is any person, so ignorant or superstitious, as to believe, that there ever was on earth such a place as the garden of Eden, or that Adam and Eve were really put into it, and turned out of it for eating an apple ? My friends it is all an allegory.”
Mr. Hicks. I understand, is far advanced in life, and is a great favourite, as a preacher, not only among his own sect, but with others of different denominations. He is said to be a man of the strictest morals. His doctrine is void of trifling puerilities, and disgusting hypocrisy, the greatest impediment to human improvement. It is plain, honest, common sense. Such as one would suppose would be adopted by all people, not burdened with an expensive priesthood.-Hired priests, no doubt, consider themselves in a measure bound to deal out to their hearers a great deal of school divinity, consisting of perplexing metaphysics, in order to convince them that they get the worth of their money,
Plain morality would not command a high price among those who are in search of mysteries, miracles and spiritual nonentities.
Religionists seem to think that there can be no religion unattended with mystery and miracle. They require a name to uphold their religion; and the person who bears it must have performed miracles to entitle him to their respect. The simple principles of moral virtue have no charms for them. Their religion must be involved in clouds and darkness, to make it difficult to be understood, in order to enhance the merit of believing it. Such a scheme, as they callit, of religion is well adapted to priestcraft, because it gives the high priests of the establishment an opportunity to play off a sort of necromancy to deceive and gull the multitude. It would require no ministers, with high salaries, to explain the plain creed of Dr. Franklin. It does not require, like complicated and mysterious religions, to be taught, as a school boy is taught grammar.
The morality contained in what is called the gospel, unconnected with the Old Testament, is unexceptionable.* ' It is the doctrine of Deism; as Dr. Tyndal has shewn, in his work, entitled, “Christianity as old as the creation, or the Gospel a republication of the religion of nature.” The same sentiments, however, had been promulgated long before the gospel had existence. CONFUCIUS, the Chinese philosoper, who was born 551 years before Christ, said, “ Human nature came to us from beaven pure and perfect; but in process of time, ignorance, the passions, and evil examples have corrupted it.-All consists in restoring it to its primitive beauty; and to be perfect, we must reascend to that point we have fallen from. Obey heaven, and follow the orders of Him who governs it. Love your neighbour as yourself : let your reason, and not your senses be the rule of your_conduct; for reason will teach you to think wisely, to speak prudently, and to behave yourself worthily on all occasions. Do to another what
you would he should do unto you; and do not unto another what
you would should not be done unto you ; thou only needest this law alone; it is the foundation and principle of all the rest.
“ Desire not the death of thine enemy; thou wouldst desire it in vain; his life is in the hands of Heaven.
Acknowledge thy benefits by the return of other benefits, but never revenge injuries."
In the precepts of PHOCYLIDES, written 540 years before Christ, we find the following.“ Let no favour or affection bias thy judgment; reject not the poor; nor judge any man rashly; for if thou doest, God will judge thee hereafter.”
“ Give not thy alms to the poor with grudging, nor put him off
* There is nothing good in the system of Christianity, but that which has been borrowed from those Pagan Moralists, whom Christians have charitably sent to their hell as the agents of their devil. There is nothing new in the New Testa, ment, but new features of vice and wickedness, unknown to those who are now abused as Pagans and Heathens.
till to-morrow: have compassion on the man that is banished, and be eyes to the blind.”
“ Shew mercy to those that are shipwrecked; for the sea, like fortune, is a fair, but fickle mistress." Comfort the man that is dejected : and be a friend to him that has no one to help him. We are all liable to misfortunes, up to day, and down to-morrow.
In what are called the Golden verses of PYTHAGORAS, who died 497 years before Christ, we read as follows “ Do not an ill thing, either in company, or alone; but of all, respect yourself first; that is, first pay the duty which is due to yourself, to your honour and to your conscience; nor let any foreign regard make you
deviate from this faith." “ Presume not to sleep till you have thrice ran over the actions of the past day-Examine yourself, where have I been? What have I done? Have I omitted any good action? Then weigh all, and correct yourself for what you have done amiss, and rejoice in what youhave done well.'
" Whatever evils thou mayest undergo, bear them patiently, endeavouring to discover a remedy. Aud let this reflection console thee, that fate does not distribute much of evil to good men.
“ Men apply the art of reasoning to good and bad purposes; listen, therefore, with caution, and be not hasty to admit or reject. if any one assert an untruth, arm thyself with patience, and be silent.
is When this habit has become familiar to thee, thou wilt perceive the constitution of the immortal Gods, and of mortal men ; even the great extent of being, and in what manner it exists. Thou wilt perceive that nature in her operations is uniform, and thou wilt expect only what is possible. Thou wilt perceive that mankind willingly draw upon themselves evil. They neither see nor understand what it is wise to prefer; and when entangled, are ignorant of the means of escape. Such is the destiny of mar. They are subjected to evils withoutend, and are agitated incessantly, like rolling stones. A fatal contention ever secretly pursues them, which they neither endeavour to subdue, nor yield to.
“Great Jove ! Father of Men! ( free them from those evils, or discover to them the demon they employ! But be of good cheer, for the race of man is divine. Nature discovers to them her hidden mysteries, in which if thou art interested, and attain this knowledge, thou wilt obtain with ease all I enjoin ; and having healed thy soul, thou wilt preserve it from evil.
Abstain, moreover, from those unclean and foul meats, which are forbidden, keeping thy body pure, and thy soul free.
• Consider all things well, governing thyself by reason, and settling it in the uppermost place. And when thou art divested of thy mortal body, and arrived in the most pure æther thou shalt be exalted among the immortal Gods be incorruptible and never more know death."
Laurence Sterne, in his Coran says, " I had conceived, that'to
love our enemies was a tenet peculiar to the Christian religion, 'till I stumbled upon the same idea in the writings of that rogue Plato.” And it seems that the rogue Pythagoras, as well as Plato and others, taught the doctrine of immortality long before its promulgation in the gospel, although the merit of it is ascribed exclusively to Jesus by many of his followers.
Quotations to the same effect might be made from the writings of Socrates, Plato, Cicero, and others, who lived anterior to the time of Jesus Christ. In fact, it'seems apparent, that the moral sentiments contained in the gospel, have been derived from philosophers who lived at. periods remote from the time of its proinulgation. The morals of Epictetus, Seneca, and Antoninus, whom christians call heathens, are not inferior to those of the gospel. ANTONINUS observes, “ It is the peculiar excellence of man to love even those who have offended him. This
will be disposed to do, if you reflect that the offender is allied to you; that he did it through ignorance, and, perhaps, involuntarily ; and, moreover, that you will both soon go peaceably to your graves. But above all, consider, that he has not really injured you, as he could not render your mind, or governing part, the worse for his offence.
“ A man may be more expert than you in the gymnastic exercise; be it so; yet he is not superior to you' in the social virtues, in generosity, in modesty, in patience under the accidents of life, or lenity towards the foibles of mankind.”
Moral principles are the same in all countries, and at all times. Neither time nor place can change them.
Although sects were formed under the names of some of the ancient philosophers, which caused great disputations among the disciples of the respective leaders, it does not appear that they were carried on with such rancor towards each other, as those which have distinguished the followers of men who have given names to various denominations of christians. Among these, at least, reason has been perverted by a blind zeal to support the favourite dogmas of spiritual guides, and christendom has been kept in turmoil, for 1800 years, by the wranglings and persecutions of sectarians.
When philosophers speak favourably of the morality of the gospel, they are far from vindicating the cruelties committed in the name of its founder, or the arrogant pretensions of its ministers. In fact, they evidently do it as a salvo against persecution for their unbelief in its divinity and their disapprobation of the vindictive spirit of its supporters.
The following are the only books of note which are esteemed by the various nations of the earth as of divine origin,
Shu-king. or sacred book, of the Chinese.