« PreviousContinue »
« from all commerce with their fellow-creatures, " and then mortified and (piously)--half starved & themselves to death ;"--but likewise from the many austere and fantastick orders which we see in the Romish church, which have all owed their origin and establishment to the same idle and ex travagant opinion.
Nor is it to be doubted, but the affectation of something like it in our Methodists, when they descant upon the necessity of alienating themselves from the world, and selling all that they have--is not to be ascribed to the same mistaken enthusiastick principle, which would cast so black a shade upon religion, as if the kind Author of it had created us on purpose to go mourning, all our lives long, in sackcloth and ashes,--and sent us into the world, as so many saint-errants, in quest of adventurers full of sorrow and affliction.
Strange force of enthusiasm !--and yet not altogether unaccountable. For what opinion was there ever so odd, or action so extravagant, which has not, at one time or other, been produced by ignorance, --conceit,--melancholy !--a mixture of devotion, with an ill concurrence of air and diet, operating together in the same person !--When the minds of men happen to be thus unfortunately prepared, whatever groundless. doctrine rises up, and settles itself strongly upon their fancies, has generally the ill-luck to be interpreted as an illumination from the spirit of God ;--and whatever strange action. they find in thenıselves a strong inclination to do,--that impulse is concluded to be a call from heaven; and consequently,--that they cannot err in executing it.
If this, or some such account, was not to be ad. mitted, how is it possible to be conceived that christianity, which breathed out nothing but peace and comfort to mankind; which professedly took off the severities of the Jewish law, and was given us in the spirit of meekness, to ease our shoulders of a burden which was too heavy for us ;--that this religion, so kindly calculated for the ease and tranquillity of man, which enjoins nothing but what is suitable to his nature, should be so misunderstood; or that it should ever be supposed that he who is infinitely happy, could envy us our enjoyments; -or that a Being infinitely kind, would grudge a mournful passenger a little rest and refreshment, to support his spirits, through a weary pilgrimage ;or that he should call him to an account hereafter, because, in his way, he had hastily snatched at some fugacious and innocent pleasures, till he was suffered to take up his final repose ! - This is no improb. able account ; and the many invitations we find in scripture to a grateful enjoyment of the blessings and advantages of life, make it evident.--The apostle tells us in the text,—" That God's command. “ ments are not grievous :"-he has pleasure in the prosperity of his people, and wills not that they should turn tyrants and executioners upon their minds or bodies, and inflict pains and penalties on them to no end or purpose :~that he has proposed peace and plenty, joy and victory, as the encouragement and portion of his servants; thereby instructing us--that our virtue is not necessarily endangered by the fruition of outward things ;-but that temporal blessings and advantages, instead of extinguishing, more naturally kindle our love and gratitude to God, before whom it is no way incon- sistent both to worship and rejoice.
If this was not so, why, you'll say, does God seem, to have made such provision for our happiness Why has he given us so many powers and faculties for enjoyment, and adapted so many objects to gratify and entertain them !--some of which he has created so fair, with such wonderful beauty, and has formed then so exquisitely for this end, that they have power, for a time, to cliarm away the sense of pain, to cheer up the dejected heart under poverty and sickness, and make it go and remember its miseries no more.-Can all this, you'll say, be reconciled to God's wisdom, which does nothing in vain ?-or can it be accounted for on any other sup. position, but that the Author of our being, who has given us all things richly to enjoy, wills us a comfortable existence even here, and seems, moreover, so evidently to have ordered things with a view to this, that the ways which lead to our future happiness, when rightly understood, he has made to be “ ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace ?"
From this representation of things, we are led to this demonstrative truth, then, that God never intended to debar man of pleasures, under certain limitations.
Travellers, on a business of the last and most important concern, may be allowed to please their eyes with the natural and artificial beauties of the country they are passing through, without reproach of forgetting the main errand they were sent upon ; and, if they are not led out of their road by variety of prospects, edifices, and ruins, would it not be a senseless piece of severity to shut their eyes against such gratifications ?_“For who has required such “ service at their hands ?”
The humouring of certain appetites, where mo-rality is not concerned, seems to be the means by which the Author of nature intended to sweeten this journey of life, and bear us up under the many shocks and hard jostlings which we are sure to meet with in our way ;-and a man might, with as much reason, muffle up himself against sun-shine and fair weather-and, at other times, expose himself nake ed to the inclemencies of cold and rain, as debar himself of the innocent delights of his nature, for affected reserve and melancholy.
It is true, on the other hand, our passions are apt to grow upon us by indulgence, and become exorbitant, if they are not kept under exact discipline ; that, by way of caution and prevention, 'twere bet. ter, at certain tines, to affect some degree of needless reserve, than hazard any ill consequences from the other extreme.
But when almost the whole of religion is made to consist in the pious fooleries of penances and sufferings, as is practised in the church of Rome (did no other evil attend it) yet, since it is putting religion upon a wrong scent, placing it more in these than in inward purity and integrity of heart, one cannot guard too much against this, as well as all other such abuses of religion, as to make it consist in something which it ought not.-How such mockery became a part of religion at first, or upon what motives they were imagined to be services acceptable to God, is hard to give a better account of than hat was hinted above ; namely, that men of melancholy and morose tempers, conceiving the Deity to be
like themselves, a gloomy, discontented, and sorrowful being, believed he delighted, as they did, in splenetick and mortifying actions, and, therefore, made their religious worship to consist of chimeras as wild and barbarous as their own dreams and vapours !
What ignorance and enthusiasm at first introduced,—now tyranny and imposture continue to support ;--so that the political improvement of these delusions to the purposes of wealth and
is made one of the strongest pillars which upholds the Romish religion ;-which, with all its pretences to a more strict mortification and sanctity,--when you examine it minutely, is little else than a mere pecu. niary contrivance.-And the truest definition you can give of popery, is --That it is a system put together and contrived to operate upon mens weaknesses and passions,--and thereby to pick their pockets, and leave them in a fit condition for its arbitray designs.
And, indeed, that church has not been wanting in gratitude for the good offices of this kind, which the doctrine of penances has done them; for, in consideration of its services,—they have raised it above the level of moral duties, and have at length complimented it into the number of their sacraments, and made it a necessary point of salvation.
By these, and other tenets no less politick and inquisitional,-popery has found out the art of making men miserable, in spite of their senses and the plenty with which God has blessed them.
So that in many countries where popery reigns, -but especially in that part of Italy where she has raised her thronethough, by the happiness of its