Can Change the World Again
With a Praying People.
The Relation of Christianity to the Freedom of Human Thought and Action.
REV. ASA MAHAN, A. M.
PRESIDENT OF OBERLIN COLLEGE, AMERICA;
DELIVERED BEFORE THE
YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION,
IN EXETER HALL,
DECEMBER 4, 1849.
SAMUEL MORLEY, ESQ.
IN THE CHAIR.
JAMES NISBET AND CO., 21 BERNERS STREET;
HAMILTON, ADAMS, AND CO., PATERNOSTER ROW.
Printed by G. BARCLAY, Castle St. Leicester Sq.
Exact reproduction from the original found in the Special Collections department of Pitts Theological Library in Atlanta GA. Call number: 1850 Maha. The only modification is in the font size and type. English spelling and page numbering retained.
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THE RELATION OF CHRISTIANITY
FREEDOM OF HUMAN THOUGHT AND ACTION.
THE subject of my remarks this evening, as my hearers are aware, is the "Relation of Christianity to the Freedom of Human Thought and Action." That we may attain to right apprehensions of this great subject, we must, first of all, obtain a clear and well-defined answer to the question, What is the true idea represented by the words, "freedom of human thought and action?" That such liberty is a sacred and inalienable right of universal humanity, no one doubts. Not even the most strenuous advocate of authority would dare an open and direct avowal before the world of the opposite sentiment. But what is this high and God-given prerogative?That is the question to which a full and distinct answer is now demanded. As preparatory to the attainment of this end, special attention is invited to the following preliminary observation:
Of all existences in the world around him, man alone was created in the image of God, and enjoys the divine prerogative of standing as God's representative amid the encircling universe. Humanity is the last and crowning work of the Almighty; and when God would bring this new and glory-excelling form of being into existence, he did not look without upon the surrounding universe for a pattern after which to mould it. On the other hand, he turned his omniscient eye in upon himself, and copied the laws and susceptibilities of the human after those of the divine mind. Man, in consequence of having violated his Maker's laws, is not what God originally designed. His mental form, however, has not "lost all its original brightness," and appears nothing less than the image of the Divine Majesty in ruins, and "the excess of glory obscured." And fallen in himself though he be, a glorious destiny yet awaits him,a destiny not less glorious than that for which he was originally designed, if he avail himself of the provisions of the remedial system under which he is now privileged to mould his character and determine his destiny. All the teachings of God's Word and Providence, while they tend to magnify our estimation of man's guilt as a sinner, at the same time combine to elevate our ideas of the intrinsic worth of the human mind, and of the greatness of the immortal powers with which it is endowed. A creature cannot become infinite in guilt, the value of whose powers is less than infinite. In the plan of redemption, also, the overshadowing worth of the human should stands distinctly revealed. In finding a ransom for it, God has laid out no wasteful expenditure. The ransom paid, infinite as it is, does not surpass the value of the object purchased. I would here drop the suggestion, though it may seem to be somewhat out of place, whether there is not a general misunderstanding of one important passage of Holy Writ, a passage often quoted,"Whe I consider the heavens, the work of they fingers; the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him? For thou has made him a little lower than the angels, and has crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou has put all things under his feet." (Ps. viii. 3-6.) The common idea seems to be, that it is the object of the Psalmist to diminish our conception of man by contrasting him with the immensity of the creation of God, and especially with that of its author. I would barely suggest the inquiry, whether the opposite is not the real intention of the sacred writer; whether it is not his object to elevate instead of diminish our estimate of man, and whether the following is not a true expression of the passage: "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers; the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what a being must man be if he attains his high destiny,a being of such overshadowing powers that even Thou, the infinite God, art mindful of him, and condescendest to visit him. Moreover, the sphere of thought and activity for which he was originally created, is a revelation, also, of his intrinsic greatness. Thou has made him (for a sphere of thought and action) but a little lower than the sphere occupied by angels, and has crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands." If the works of God are so vast and glorious, what must be the greatness of the powers of the being divinely qualified to have dominion over them?
Another remark that I deem it important to make is this: As made in the divine image, man is capable of an ultimate attainment to a knowledge of all realities, visible and invisible, finite and infinite, within and around him, and of harmonising, in his feelings and voluntary activity, with the nature and character of the realities the realities thus apprehended. No reality is, or can be, which the human mind may not represent in thought, and express in language, the symbol of thought. As thought is the mirror of the universe, and as language is the symbol of universal thought, as our susceptibilities may for ever expand upon the thoughts thus mirroring forth the great truths that lie in the universe around us, and all our voluntary activity may be determined by and harmonise with the truth when apprehended, to think, to know, to feel, and act in harmony with our own sacred convictions of truth, and to symbolise such convictions in language; this is the appropriate sphere of the human mind, the high destiny open to man:
All the powers and susceptibilities of the human mind are adapted to a state of endless growth and expansion. The power of thought, of feeling, and the capacity for voluntary moral activity, that is, for virtue or vice, and the consequent experience of happiness or misery; immortality alone can keep pace with the growth and expansion of these deathless principles in man. Not only are the human faculties adapted to such a state, but their continued growth and expansion is a changeless demand of our nature. Let these immortal powers be brought into a state of permanent stagnation and non-growth, and mind would be hopelessly wretched from the necessity of its constitution.
An immutable law of mental growth and developement next claims our attention. The varied powers and susceptibilities of the mind grow, and can grow, only by exercise upon their appropriate objects, and in conformity to the original laws of our being. If one would possess a physical system strong and vigorous, he must exercise his physical powers upon objects that will tax their energies o the utmost: so of the intellectual powers. They can be developed and consolidated only by being habituated to the endurance of the weight of great thoughts. If mind would grow, it must walk out amid the vast realities around it, and tax its energies in the solution of the varied problems of truth and duty, which the universe of matter and mind, which the word, works, and providence of God, present to its consideration. The individual that will not consent to endure the labour, or rather enjoy the luxury, of hard thinking, will never pass the boundry of mental childhood, and will soon find himself passing through a process of continued intellectual and moral imbecility and deterioration.
Nor can our minds grow by being the mere, passive, unreflective receptacles of the thoughts of others. Thoughts thus laid upon the mind weigh down and palsy its energies, instead of strengthening and developing them. If we do not exercise our own thinking powers, while others, by thinking, are towering up to greatness around us, our minds will wither and become more and more imbecile in the shade of their great thoughts.
Nor can mind be developed by the continued indulgence of an idle, unreflective curiosity in sightseeing,a mental process in which the mere outward senses are chiefly exercised, in which the memory is overburdened with the weight of unexplained facts and events, while the thinking, reflective faculty within is not strongly exercised. The world presents no more melancholy specimens of mental imbecility, than is furnished by those masses of sight-seers, who are continually gazing with unreflective wonder upon the moving panorama of the universe around them, and doing this without attempting to explain to themselves the causes of the events they see in the external world, or the laws which regulate their occurrence, and without turning thoughts in upon themselves, and seriously pondering the great questions pertaining to human duty and destiny,the questions, Where am I? What am I? What ought I to be, and how ought I to act? and what will be my immortal state consequent on my being and doing what I ought or ought not?
Nor, permit me to remark, finally, can the mind attain to a strong and vigorous developement whose reading, as far as study of books is concerned, is chiefly confined to those ephemeral productions with which the world is now being so abundantly cursed. The perusal of such works is rightly called "light reading," and they themselves "light literature," for the obvious reason that they are the appropriate food of light minds which, without expanding themselves, are continuously undergoing a process of which may be compared to circles in the water, where, without ever enlarging themselves, they are continuously "vanishing into nought." I presume that I shall be sustained by the united verdict of this great audience, when I affirm that the young man or woman, whose mind is surrendered to the influence of such works, will not fail to attain to one consummationthe possession of a weak intellect and a corrupt heart. Solid thinking, habitual converse with universal truth in respect to matter and mind, and deep intercommunion with those great thoughts "in prose and verse," which introduce the mind to an intimate acquaintance with the beautiful, the true, and the good, and which tend to qualify us for our high destiny, as the sons and daughters of eternity, must be our chief mental aliment if we would become possessed of strong and well-developed mental powers.
The conclusion to which we are conducted as the necessary result of the train of thought that we have pursued is this. From the changeless laws of our mental constitution,if we would heed the voice of nature and of nature's God if we would be what we all may be, and ought to becomeif, in short, we would accomplish our high destiny as the sons and daughters of time and eternity both, we must, in the highest and best sense of the words, be independent thinkers. We must surrender to no man, or class of men, the prerogative of thinking or judging for us. We must not hold opinions without having ourselves, and for ourselves, examined the foundations on which they rest. If we read, it must be our object to understand what we read. If we hear, we must not listen as the passive recipients of the other men's thoughts, but, with the infallible standard of truth before us, as intelligent judges of what is right and of what is wrongof what is false and of what is true. When we act, our activity must have its basis in rational convictions. On no other conditions can the mental faculties be properly developed, or mind move in the sublimity of its power. Mental imbecility, or the exercise of independent thought, is immutable alternative presented to us all, the least as well as the greatest among us.
We are now prepared for a distinct statement of the meaning of the words"the freedom of human thought and action." The idea expressed by these words may be contemplated in two distinct and opposite points of light,the mental state of the individual whose thinking and voluntary activity are in harmony with this idea, and the laws, institutions, and usages of society, which tend to promote freedom of thought and action, and which protect individuals in the enjoyment of this sacred right of man. An individual realises in his own character the idea under consideration when he is an earnest inquirer after universal truth, when his supreme aim, in all his inquiries, is perfectly to harmonise his convictions, opinions, and judgments with truth itself, and with nothing else, and when his voluntary activity is in sacred harmony with his own honest convictions of what truth, justice, and duty demand of him. The aim of such an individual is, not to think with, or in opposition to, the rest of the world, but to think the truth. He joyfully and gladly walks with the Church and the world when, in his honest judgment, they are moving in the line of truth; and as readily, though not without sadness, parts company with either or both together, whenever, and wherever, in his judgment, they are moving in a different or opposite direction. While he is ever "crying after knowledge, and lifting up his voice for understanding,"while he candidly examines the views of others, and holds himself in equal readiness to be instructed by the child or the philosopher, the savage or the sage, the opinions of no man, or class of men, have authority with him, only so far forth as he himself perceives that such opinions are based upon adequate evidence. He values truth too highly to receive any opinions, sentiments, or doctrines, simply upon trust; he has too much respect for his own immortal powers to consent to think on any subject by proxy. No being, or class of beings, stand between him and the truth and the God of truth, as the Lord of his conscience, of his intellect, or of his will. Equally free is such and individual from all internal biasses which tend to prevent the perception of the truth in the first instance, and its cordial reception when perceived in the next, biasses such as sectarian or party prejudice, or pride of opinion, which render an individual unwilling to see himself or his party in error, to confess the error when perceived. The individual that thus thinks and acts realises, in his own personal character, the great idea designated by the words "freedom of human thought and action." Under whatever form of government he lives, or with whatever party he may be visibly connected, he is himself a free man. The individual, on the other hand, that places any man, or class of men, or any forms of opinion, between himself and the truth, and the God of truth, as the arbiters of his understanding, judgment, conscience, or will, or is controlled in his opinions and actions by any influences or biasses, other than a sacred respect for the truth itself, and the authority of its Author, he is not a free man. He is in a state of mental servitude to that, whatever it may be, by which his mind is swerved from the authority of the truth.
Now, when governments, civil and ecclesiastical, maintain, in all their laws, institutions, and usages, a sacred respect for the right of private judgment, and protect all subjects in its exercise, instead of prescribing for them forms of thinking under the pains and penalties of civil or ecclesiastical censures or disabilities, then such governments also realise in their spheres the great idea designated by the words, "the freedom of human thought and action." On the other hand, when any pains or penalties, any forms of civil or ecclesiastical censure or disability, hang over the subject, to perpetuate the current of his thinking and acting in the channels which authority has already cut out for him, to prevent his discovering any error in the existing creed of his church or party, or avowing the fact when discovered, so far forth he is under a grinding despotism perfectly antagonistic to his dearest interests and most sacred rights as a man and a Christian.
I would here remark, also, that individuals living under a free government may not unfrequently find themselves subject to a public sentiment as really and truly hostile to the exercise of freedom of thought and action as the most iron civil or ecclesiastical censures or disabilities, then such governments also realise in their spheres the great idea designated by the words, "the freedom of human thought and action." On the other hand, when any pains or penalties, any forms of civil or ecclesiastical censure or disability, hang over the subject, to perpetuate the current of his thinking and action in the channels which authority has already cut out for him, to prevent his discovering any error in the existing creed of his church or party, or avowing the fact when discovered, so far forth he is under a grinding despotism perfectly antagonistic to his dearest interests and most sacred rights as a man and a Christian.
I would here remark, also that individuals living under a free government may not unfrequently find themselves subject to a public sentiment as really and truly hostile to the exercise of freedom of thought and action as the most iron civil or ecclesiastical despotisms that ever existed. When the celebrated Harvey, for example, lost his practice as a physician, in consequence of announcing the true theory of the circulation of the blood, and lost it by means of the cry of quackery and empiricism which his own profession raised around him, that great man found himself under a form of tyranny as hostile to independent thought and rational progress in knowledge, as was that celebrated tribunal in the Eternal City which convicted Galileo of heresy, for having announced the true theory of the heavenly bodies. So, when an individual, as is not unfrequently the case, adopts religious sentiments which, in the exercise of earnest, humble, prayerful, and independent thought, he cannot but adopt and avow, and continue to be a God-fearing man,sentiments contrary, in some respects, to the existing creed of his church,and finds himself not met with a candid hearing of his brethren, nor his views shewn to be wrong, by an appeal to reason or revelation, but, on the other hand, overwhelmed by the cry of heresy, such an individual is under a form of spiritual despotism as unrighteous, unchristian, and hostile to freedom of human thought and action, as any tribunal in Rome, or Petersburg, or Turkey ever was.
Having defined and elucidated the idea designated by the words "freedom of human thought and action," we are prepared for a direct consideration of the relations of Christianity to this great idea. That which originated from a being of infinity and perfections must be perfectly adapted to the end for which it was created. And Christianity having been originated and consummated in all its teachings and principles by such a being, and for the express purpose of meeting fully the necessities of man, must, in all its teachings, be in fully alliance with this fundamental demand of universal humanity. Just as far as its influence becomes supreme, it must secure in all alike perfect freedom of thought and action. That this must be the case we may safely affirm à priori. "Jesus said to those Jews which believed in him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." But my object is to shew how our holy religion tends to this grand consummation. In accomplishing his object, we will, in the first place, contemplate its influence upon the individual in freeing him from all influences and biasses, external and internal, which tend to prevent or limit in him the full and complete exercise of freedom of thought and action in the highest and best sense of the words.
And here let me request the audience to elevate their thoughts to a contemplation of the relations into which Christianity, just as far as its spirit is understood and imbibed, places the individual in respect to God. With such a person one idea overshadows all others, and perfectly limits and controls their influence,the idea of his relations to God as a being of absolute infinity and perfectiona being, whose knowledge of all objects is absolutely perfecta being of perfect justice, goodness, and truth, and who will be satisfied with nothing in his creatures but justice and uprightness. To stand accepted with God, through the perfect obedience and sacrificial death of his Son, to harmonise all his opinions and judgments with God's views of things, and all his activity with God's will, nothing else is to him an object of comparative importance. It is a matter of concern infinitely small with him to differ from all the world, if such difference is believed to be requisite to an agreement with God. What is man's judgment in his estimation compared with that of God? Now I affirm it, as a self-evident truth, that it is absolutely impossible for us to conceive of a mind located in a position so favourable to the exercise of the most perfect form of freedom of thought and action, as is the relation of God now under consideration.
1. The mind is, then, most deeply impressed with the infinite value of universal truth, the first and main element of true wisdom. God is ever present to the thoughts, with his infinite perfections, and the universe of matter and mind as his handiwork, as objects of study. The Book of Revelation on the one hand, and of Nature on the other, are laid open for investigation; and how infinite the value of the truths revealed in each alike then appears to the mind. How does the mind thus influenced "cry after knowledge, and lift up its voice for understanding," "Wisdom enters into the heart, and knowledge is pleasant to the soul."
2. The mind, in the relations supposed, is subject to influences, of all others, best adapted to the exercise of the spirit of child-like simplicity and teachableness on the one hand, and of perfect candour and mental independence on the other. The man who places a supreme value upon the truth, and esteems a knowledge of it above all price, as the God-fearing man does, will ever hold himself in readiness, in the language of the great Edwards, to "receive the truth and embrace it, whether it comes from a child or an enemy." With child-kike simplicity and candour will he listen to the reasons and arguments of those who differ from him. Only in the exercise of such candour and heart integrity can he, as he well knows, stand approved with the only being whose frown he fears. At the same time, ever recognising the great fact, that this side the eternal throne there are no infallible interpreters of truth, revealed or unrevealedthat God alone is the Lord of the intellect and conscience he listens to all uninspired teachers, not as a passive recipient of other man's thoughts and opinions, but as an independent judge of what is true and of what is false, of what is right and of what is wrong. His God-fearing mind is swayed, not by the weight of authority, but by that of evidence alone.
3. In the relations supposed, the mind is subject to influences which free it from those internal and personal biasses which are wholly incompatible with the exercise of freedom of thought and action biasses, such as prejudice, pride of opinion, and party. In the immediate conscious presence of the Infinite and Perfect we cannot fail to be deeply impressed with the consciousness of our own finiteness and consequent liability to error in judgment. Hence, we shall ever hold ourselves in perfect readiness to re-examine all opinions which we hold as individuals, as members of any particular sect or party, to detect error where it exists, and confess the fact when discovered. The object of the God-fearing man is not an agreement with his former self, his sect, or party, but with God. He must then be free from the warping influences of those biasses, internal or personal, which prevent the exercise of freedom of thought and action.
4. When we open the Sacred Volume we meet with a positive command, demanding of us the exercise of perfect freedom of thought and action. At the same time we find the most fearful judgments suspended over us in case we admit any many or class of men, uninspired of God, as infallible expounders of truth. "Prove all things;" that is, test for yourselves, as independent judges of truth and error, all opinions and doctrines commended to your regard. "Hold fast that which is good;" that is, ever act in perfect harmony with your own honest internal convictions of what truth, goodness, justice, and God, require of you. Whatever teachers or books, decrees of councils, teachings of assemblies of divines, or articles of faith, may be before us, we are required to test, and to test for ourselves, all their teachings alike, by comparing them with "the law and the testimony," remembering, that "if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." At the same time, the curse of God is upon us, if we hear in any other state of mind. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm."
5. The revealed relation of religious teachers to their hearers tends to impress us with this sentiment. While the preacher is required to "take the oversight of the Church," he is expressly prohibited exercising "lordship over God's heritage;" that is, presenting himself to the brotherhood as an authoritative expounder of God's word. While the hearer, also, is required to esteem the religious teacher "very highly for his work's sake," he is positively commanded to exercise his own judgment in the fear of God, in respect to the character of what he hears. "Let the other [the hearer] JUDGE," while the speaker is delivering his message, is the Divine command. The preacher is not in the presence of the hearers as a judge giving authoritative expositions of the word of God; but rather as an advocate speaking in the presence of judges who are, not for him, but for themselves, to adjudicate upon his expositions.
6. In the same relation of God-fearing freedom and independence does the Bible place us, in respect to civil rulers. While we are to "obey those who rule over us," such obedience is expressly prohibited, where it would imply a violation of fidelity to God and of our convictions of duty. Then our response is to be, "We ought to obey God rather than man."
Now contemplate an individual who unites in his character this love of truth and respect for it for its own sake,this child-like tachableness and candour associated with a manly independence of thought, judgment, and action,this freedom from all pride of opinion and party, and whoever recognises himself as subject to a special command from the only Being he supremely fearsa command requiring him, under the most dreaded penalty, to examine all subjects, weigh all opinions, and listen to all human teachers, and to all requirements of rulers, as a God-fearing judge of truth and error, right and wrong, and to act in full harmony with his own internal convictions thus induced of what truth and duty demand of him,contemplate, I say, an individual uniting in his own person all these divine elements of character, and we have a man who realises in his character, in the most full and perfect sense conceivable, all that is meant by the words, "freedom of human thought and action." None but a God-fearing man can, y any possibility, embrace in his character these essential elements of manly freedom and independence; and such a God-fearing man as this, Christianity, as we see, does and must render every one who intelligently embraces its principles and imbibes its spirit.
Let us now contemplate a community of such God-fearing men associate together as a church or nation. What would be the influence of the spirit which each breathes, as far as the enactment of laws, civil or ecclesiastical, or the generating of a public sentiment, bearing upon the freedom of human thought and action, is concerned? In their church relations all are together as "a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." Each demands in all, and all in each, as the condition of admission to fellowship, the manifestation of such a God-fearing spirit as renders it, with one and all alike, a small thing to be judged by or to differ from any one of the brethren, or all united. This all-over-shadowing fear of God manifested by each and all together is the very bond of brotherhood between them, and the exclusive foundation of their mutual esteem one towards the other. Such, Christianity, in all its principles, teachings, and influences, tends to render the Church, and into this divine and sanctified form will it bring the Church when its principles are understood and embraced.
Equally benign and manifest are the tendencies of Christianity in respect to the freedom of human thought and action in the civil relations of life. A community of free, God-fearing thinkers, would never enact, or, as far as their suffrages extend, allow the enactment of laws hostile to freedom of human thought and action. And how could rulers, themselves fear God, and recognising God alone as the Lord of the human intellect and conscience, attempt by law to cut out channels for thought, or to prescribe rules by which man's God-made and God-endowed intelligence shall judge of what is true or false, right or wrong? The publication of Christianity is a universal declaration of independence in respect to the freedom of human thought and action. There is not a solitary doctrine or principle within the lids of the sacred word that tends in any other direction.
Here I might safely rest the argument; but God has conferred upon the Church the power to exercise discipline for offences against the laws of his house, and upon civil rulers the authority to punish evildoers. If anywhere Christianity is unfavourable to freedom of thought and action, it will be found in the powers of discipline and punishment thus conferred. In the Church all forms of discipline for doctrines held as true must, of course, be exercised under one charge, exclusively, that of heresy. Who then is a heretic, and what is heresy, according to the Bible? To this question the sacred word has given a direct and specific answer. "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself." (Tit. iii. 10, 11.) A heretic is one who holds sentiments, such as the denial of the first principles of moral obligation, the divine authority of the word, or the way of life through Christ,sentiments, the holding of which implies the subversion of Christian character,that the subject has ceased to fear God, and is in a state of total alienation from him and opposition to his will. Heresy is that which no honest mind can hold and retain its heart-purity and integrity. The holding of such sentiments subjects the offender to discipline, on the exclusive ground, that his character thereby stands revealed as a subverted man. On the other hand, the Church is positively prohibited exercising discipline for any doctrines held by her members, and held, as she does and must acknowledge, in the fear of God, and as the result of honest inquiry after the truth. All such she is positively commanded to receive, for the all-authoritative reason that Christ has received them. As his servants, she is expressly prohibited even judging or censuring them. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth." Those who are "weak in the faith she is to receive," but not with "doubtful disputations;" that is, with no disputations even with them, implying or manifesting a doubt of their character as Christians, or a want of respect for them as such. All who give evidence that they are living and acting in the fear of God, and in obedience to his will, are to be regarded by each and all the members of the sanctified family as their "brethren, sisters, and mothers." Were the Church to touch a God-fearing man, even with the end of the rod of discipline, for any sentiments which she confesses him to hold in the fear of God, she would "touch the apple of God's eye;" so sacredly is the freedom of thought and action expressly guarded within the sacred precincts of the Church. Were it otherwise, were the Church authorised to exercise discipline for any sentiment which men who fear God must, with the light vouchsafed to them, hold or renounce the fear of God in their own case, then Christianity would so far forth be in a direct hostility to the freedom of human thought and action. But it is not so: all such power is expressly denied the Church in the sacred word.
Civil rulers are appointed of God, and their authority is heaven-derived. Their powers are given for a specified end, "the punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well." What is there here implying authority to interfere with the freedom of human thought and action? The sword is not a weapon well adapted to hew out confessions of faith or formulas of doctrine which bind the consciences of men whose intelligence is derived from the word of God; and God never put it into the hand of the magistrate for any such purpose.
The argument which I have based on an exclusive reference to the intrinsic tendencies of Christianity might be abundantly confirmed by an appeal to facts of history. All that I need to add on this point is a bare allusion to the universally-known and acknowledged fact, that for all the civil liberty that now exists, or ever has existed, on earth, the world is indebted to Christianity. If we may argue, also, from the past to the future, we are quite safe in the prediction, that, in all future time, civil liberty and our holy religion will traverse the earth side by side;; and that in every age and nation, where the temple of freedom shall be founded upon a sure and permanent basis, Christianity will constitute the "seven pillars" of that temple. Some general reflections, designed to throw additional light upon this great subject, will close this address.
1. I have sufficiently demonstrated the bearing of Christianity upon the true idea of freedom of thought and action. I have shewn that an intelligent, God- fearing man, such as Christianity does in fact render all who rightly apprehend and with heart-integrity and sincerity embrace her revelation of grace, and her principles, must be a free and independent thinker. I now affirm that, from the changeless laws of universal mind, none but such a God-fearing man can by any possibility preserve a state of internal integrity, and freedom and independence, in his judgments and moral activity. There is but one sentiment conceivable that can hold immovably the balance of the mind amid the clamour of passion, the impulse of prejudice, pride of opinion, of sect and party, and the force of corrupting external influences, and that sentiment is the love and fear of God. Mankind will and must elect the laws of their thinking and judging from their own internal, mental, and physical propensities, from the public sentiment of the world around them, or from the throne of purity, truth, integrity, and justice above them. In either of the former positions we are of necessity the creatures of prejudice, and not the free, honest-minded disciples of universal truth. Amid the conflict of warring passions conscience, to be sure, will utter its mandates for mental truthfulness and integrity; but its voice will be unheeded amid the "noise of endless wars" in which the mind is necessitated to think and act, unless that voice is seconded by the fear of God. Rousseau, the prince of sceptics, affirms, that he never met or heard of an honest infidel in his life, one that "would not prefer his own error to the truth when discovered by another;" and who, "for his own glory, would not willingly deceive the whole human race." From the nature of universal mind it could not have been, and in no era of the world's history can it be, otherwise. "The Christian is the highest style of man;" and faith in God and the fear of him are the highest ascent of reason.
2. The question may arise in some minds, in view of the train of thought thus far pursued, Have we not an all-authoritative standard of truth in the Scriptures? Certainly we have. There is nothing but truth in the book of Revelation, or in the book of Nature, and the truths revealed in each alike are truths of God. But where are the authoritative expounders of either of these volumes? To us the teachings of each must be clothed with all authority. But when the question arises, What are their specific teachings on any given subject? every man, with the use of the best light in his power, is to answer that question for himself, and in the fear of God alone. The honest decisions of his own intelligence, in respect to what the book of God does teach, is to him the ultimate and final standard of appeal.
Many individuals mistake the teachings of their creeds or formulas of doctrine for the authority of the Bible. If a doubt be suggested in regard to the truth of any one of the articles of the received formulas, we are at once charged with a denial of the Bible, or a tendency to infidelity. I cannot deny the Bible and be a God-fearing man. I may, however, doubt the truth of much that is taught in existing creeds and formulas, for the exclusive reason, that I am such a man, and as such, as I am peremptorily required to do, have tested the received dogmas "by the law and the testimony."
3. When we turn our eye from the book of God to a consideration of the teachings of uninspired men in respect to what that divine oracle does reveal, whether we refer to the books of the wise and good in all ages, to living expounders of truth, to creeds of churches, decrees of councils, and formulas of doctrines put forth by venerable synods or assemblies of divines, we find a wide diversity and often direct opposition of opinion on great and important subjects. What course would a wise man, in the exercise of a manly Christian independence, and freedom of thought and judgment, pursue under such circumstances? We may, as many do, blindly surrender ourselves to the guidance and teachings of some one leading mind, or in a similar spirit assume the truth of some particular creed or formula of doctrine, and interpret the teachings of inspiration itself in the light of what we have thus assumed that they must teach. In this case an individual most obviously divests himself of the essential elements of a manly Christian faith, and renders it impossible for him to become more than half a man. Or in the next place, we may, as others do, in the exercise of a blind charity, assume that, as good men hold these diversities of opinion, one doctrine is just as good as another, or that, as the wisest and best men differ so widely, there is no such thing as finding the truth, and therefore cease to inquire at all. In either of these cases we divest ourselves of the prerogative of our Christianity and manhood both. The only alternative that remains for us is, as free, God-fearing judges of truth and error, to examine for ourselves, as we have opportunity, all systems alike, and extract what is good and true from them all. In this course, and in this alone, do we assert and vindicate our own Christian dignity and manhood, and obey the divine precept, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
4. The attitude which it becomes Christians, Christian theologians and philosophers, to assume in respect to the progress of scientific research in respect to the universe of matter and mind, next claims a moment's attention. Instead of standing aghast, as some do, at such researches, and crying out against them as tending to scepticism, they should themselves fearlessly advance into the field of universal research and push all such inquiries to their utmost consummation. God has not contradicted himself in the book of Nature and Revelation, and we honor him not, when we betray the least symptom of fear that he has done so. The entire teachings of both volumes lie out with perfect distinctness under his eye. There is, we may rest assured, a divine harmony between them all. God has not dropped an inadvertent thought, or penned an inadvertent sentence in
Christianity has nothing to fear but from darkness and ignorance, limited and partial views, the blunders of philosophers, and "the contradictions of science, falsely so called." Where in the history of the wide world has a great principle of eternal truth, or a fundamental fact, been fully developed, that has not been found to lie in perfect harmony alongside of the teachings of the book of God? When universal science has reached its consummation, and the theology of the Bible has received a full scientific developement, then Christianity and philosophy will be seen together upon some high mount of observation, uniting their efforts in the annunciation of the principles of eternal truth, and a redeemed and sanctified race will see the "head stone of the divine temple laid with shoutings, Grace, grace, unto it."
5. A passing remark is deemed requisite in this connexion upon the character of the popular scepticism, or infidelity, of the present age. I shall speak of it with special reference to its bearings upon the true idea of mental freedom of thought and action. In this country and in the United States it is, as you are doubtless aware, an exotic, an importation from the neighbouring continent. Neither the English nor the American mind ever thought it out; nor can its dogmas be deduced from any principles or fundamental facts which had been, prior to its introduction, established among us. The manner of its introduction is also quite peculiar. Being itself entirely a stranger, and coming among us for the avowed purpose of superseding our former modes of thinking, and of excluding from our minds existing religious doctrines and sentiments, and all this under the high profession of introducing forms of thinking more ethereal and divine, we might suppose that his new-comer would, at least, condescend to shew us his credentials, and give us to understand distinctly his own principles, and the grounds of his high claims. The Normans even gave the existing existing possessors of this island the opportunity for an open field fight, before taking possession of the country, and distributing the soil among themselves. Might we not suppose, then, that this stranger would, at least, bow to his auditory, clearly define his positions, and make some show at establishing his claims to universal dominion, before walking, or attempting to walk, Christianity out of our temples, its doctrines out of our heads, and its benign principles out of our hearts? But he has done no such thing. He claims universal possession by prescriptive right, and frowns indignantly upon all inquiries after his credentials, and upon all demands for the reasons and grounds of his teachings. In the country that gave birth to this our exotic, it is called "the God Imperativus," the God who utters his oracles "with a high imperious tone that scoffs at duty." In his sojourn among us, this strange god has fully sustained his character as the God Imperativus. As the enemy and supplanter of our holy religion, he has never condescended even to "write a book." He has never given us a distinct statement of his own principles, or shewn us the foundation on which they rest. His imperious dicta are found only in treatises, pamphlets, and reviews, pertaining mostly to subjects bearing only incidentally upon religion, and there they appear in the form of bold assertions, sneering insinuations, and sideway thrusts at holy things, and appear in the midst of principles stated in a form so universal that they cannot but be true, and as true are of very little practical importance, and among truths as old as the race, but here baptized with names entirely new, and in this form intruded upon us as wholly unknown to the world before. Self-enthroned in the chair of criticism, philosophy, and theology, he assumes the prerogative of universal arbiter of truth and error. Christianity he admits, like Mahometanism and the superstitions of the Hindoo, was divine in its origin and benign in influence; but is now to be superseded by new and higher forms of thoughtforms of thinking better adapted to the age in which we live. Now, while this God Imperativus thus judges and arbitrates for us, giving us the honoured privilege of standing as passive recipients of his imperious dicta, what if he were asked to shew his own credentials? What, to drop the figure, if the men who are charging our popular literature with sentiments subversive of all the teachings and principles of our holy religion, were called upon as honest men to define their positions, state their principles with distinctness and without disguise, and, above all, to expose the real foundations on which those principles rest? Suppose they are told that there is to be no more place for dogmatisms or assumptions: clear exposition of principles, and proof of their validity, are now expected and demanded. How would those men feel, if thus confronted? The tallest among them, I will venture the affirmation, would feel, as a great philosopher of this school of sceptics in Germany did, when a certain Yankee put himself at his side, as an earnest inquirer after a knowledge of the principles of his philosophy. This son of New England had heard of the German philosophyhad attempted in vain to master its principles for himself; at length he crossed the ocean, and seeking out one of the great lights of the system, put himself by his side, and requested him to give a clear and distinct statement of that system. The philosopher began to expatiate upon the infinite, the eternal, the absolute, the true, and the good. "But stop," said his pupil, "stop right here. This is the very thing I want to understand. What do you mean by such and such a proposition?" The German hesitated a moment, and then began to expatiate as before. "But stop here," said the pupil; "just explain your meaning in such and such propositions." The philosopher becoming confused by vain attempts to explain what had never had any definite form nor shape in his own mind, finding ideas which before had appeared to embody continents of thought fading away into sand-banks, and things even less substantial, under his attempted explanations; and seeing no end to the perplexities arising from the demands of his pupil for what was most manifestly nothing but needful explanations, lifted his hands to heaven and cried out, "Oh mein Gott! forgive Columbus for having discovered America." Now let the infidels to whom I have referred be put to a similar taskthe task of clear and distinct exposition of their principles, and the grounds of their claims to our regard, and the tallest among them would dread such an ordeal. When called upon for exposition clear and distinct, and for evidence satisfactory to honest, independent, and consequently careful thinkers, they would pray, if they had never done so before, and the burden of their prayer would be, to be excused from the terrible task assigned them. There is not a man among them all that would dare come before the world with a clear statement of the principles on which his system is based, and then attempt to defend its claims. I venture the affirmation, that since the world began, there has never been a form of thinking more dogmatical, more reckless in the assumption of first principles, or more careless in respect to conclusions based upon them, in short, less characterised by real independent thought, than is the popular infidelity of the present age. The celebrated Hegel, who brought its principles to their full and final consummation in Germany, remarked upon his dying bed, that in all that kingdom, there was but one solitary individual that had understood his system, and that he had misunderstood it; and yet upon that very system the young men of that country have built their faith, and while they know not its principles, nor the foundation on which they rest, they are now boasting that, being delivered by the system of their master, thus blindly adopted, from all occasion to fear the frown of God, or dread a hereafter, there is nothing left them but to enjoy a merry life. Permit me to exhort the youth in whose presence I am to-night, to avoid such a reckless example. A truly free and independent thinker, remember, is a CAREFUL thinker. We do not ask you to embrace Christianity without perceiving that you have good and sufficient reasons for so doing. But we do ask you, not to repudiate her claims, without being able to assign to yourselves and to all honest thinkers reasons definite and fully adaquate for such rejection. We would earnestly entreat you to beware, lest you rest your immortal interests upon a system which will be to you, when the time for correction has for ever past, what the morning cloud sometimes is to the weary, tempest- tossed mariner, who is waiting with inexpressible desire for the sight of land, and for the privilege of resting in a quiet harbour. As the dawning light dissipates the surrounding darkness, suddenly there opens upon his vision the appearance of a vast continent, with a fine harbour, a great city with high towers and spires, directly before him, and with villages, and hamlets, and orchards, and fields of grain, with boundless forests of waving pines and cloud-enshrouded mountains in the more distant perspective. The joyful cry of "Land a-head!" echoes and re-echoes through the ship; it is headed for the open port; but just as it comes into the heavy swell which it always meets before entering into still water, it suddenly dashes and goes to pieces upon rocks or banks of sand, and the horror-stricken mariner, instead of finding a quiet haven, is wrapped in a winding-sheet of waters, and finds in "the deep, deep sea" his lasting sepulchre. Such will be the sad and delusive end of all those who have not by "repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," laid hold of that hope "which as an anchor of the soul is both sure and steadfast."
6. We are now prepared for a distinct statement of the fundamental peculiarity of Romanism. Romanism does not consist in mere outward relations to a particular sect, but in the principles on which our profession is based. Nor is Protestantism merely that which is outward in the flesh. It is, on the other hand, a principle in all respects fundamentally opposite to the distinguishing characteristic of Romanism. What, then, is the distinguishing characteristic of Romanism? It is this: the assumption, on the part of the self-inaugurated authorities of the Church, of the right to interfere with the rights and private judgment in matters of faith and practice, and to enforce assent to prescribed formulas of doctrine and church usages by civil or ecclesiastical censures or disabilities. The taking of the Bible from the masses is only a means of more effectually securing the subjection of the public mind to authority. The object of such a system is, not to render the members honest, God-fearing thinkers, but orthodox thinkersnot induce among them the unity of obedience, but of belief. Now the peculiar characteristic of Protestantism is the direct opposite of this. It proclaims God alone as the Lord of the intellect, conscience, and will, and consequently denies to the Church and State alike all right to interfere with the rights of private judgment in matters of faith. Its fundamental aim is to promote the unity of faith and obedience, and not that of mere belief. Who does not see that we may be Protestant by profession and Romanist in principle? The Pilgrim Fathers of New England, for example (and what land can boast of a ancestry of higher nobleness?), fled from Europe to preserve to themselves and prosperity the rights of private judgment in matters of faith and conscience, and then inflicted the severest penalties upon the Quakers, for taking the same liberties with their creeds and formulas that they had done with those of Rome, and banished men of God from their territories, for exercising the right of private judgment even on the subject of baptism.
7. The tendency of substituting authority in the place of free, independent thought next claims a moments attention. Whenever human teachings have been placed between the public mind and the book of Nature or the book of Revelation, as infallible expounders off either, the result has ever been, and from the immutable laws of mind ever must be, one and the samea state of universal mental stagnation and non-growth. China, for example has had one great thinker, and but one; and is under its present system of education, it can never, by any possibility, have another. The reason is obvious. The object of the nation is, to think Confucius, and not to think the truth. Confucius put out the mental eye of that entire nation. Where, throughout the dominions of the False Prophet, has there ever been a great original thinker since the Koran was completed? What has been the state of universal mind, as far as Romanism has perfected its dominion over it? It has lain in a state of mental and moral stagnation and immobility, except in the direction of corruption and death, as perfect as the waters of the Dead Sea. Mind, too, has risen towards perfection of mental development, or fallen into that of stagnation and non-growth, under the influence of Protestantism, just so far as Protestantism has been true or false to the principles of God's word and of free, independent thought and action.
8. Here I must be permitted a bare allusion to what I regard as one of the most decisive evidences that the Bible and the book of Nature have a common author: I refer to the obvious and undeniable fact, that in the most diligent original study of each alike, universal mind may and will continually expand upon, but never outgrow, the teachings of either. Mind, in the study of all other books, at length outgrows their teachings. Not so with the book of Nature of the Bible. In the study of these books, as from a common author, universal mind is in a state of perpetual growth and development, the most beautiful, harmonious, and perfect conceivable. Yet the more it studies, the more its powers expand upon the infinite realities which they reveal, the more distinctly conscious does it become of the great fact, that it must attain to absolute infinity, before it can even equal their teachings. God has pencilled out his own infinity equally upon both, and thus has stamped them each alike as his own.
9. It may be a matter of no little interest to the audience to contemplate, for a few moments, the progress in mental developement of two minds, one of which has been educated upon the principle of free, independent thought, and the other to think by proxy. When the mind of the child first opens its mental eye upon the universe around him, what wonders burst upon his vision! what deep and soul-searching problems present themselves to his thoughts, and how intense the desire that glows in his bosom to exercise his powers in their solution! He sees an apple fall from the parent tree: why did that object move towards the earth, and not in the opposite direction? why did the apple visibly move towards the earth, and not the earth towards it? What mysteries are involved in that single fact! And now he walks forth in a cloudless night, when "the everlasting blue" is studded with its myriad gems. What a scene opens his vision here! It would seem as if some tall seraph, standing upon one of the high battlements of the celestial city, had shaken his crown, and now its pearls and diamonds are lying in all their infinite brilliancy scattered over the firmament of heaven. With what feelings of wonder and mental inquiry does that child contemplate this scene!
Oh, that feeling of wonder in man! It is the source of all true greatness, if it is only rightly directed. Now let this child possess and preserve a pure heart, and by the grace of God he may do it without fail; let him become a pupil of universal truth, and preserve in all his researches a manly, sanctified independence, and what a thinker will he become! In his first attempts upon the great problems of the universe he will fall into many a blunder and foolish notion, which subsequent progress will not fail to correct. By and by, however, he will attain to such powers of mental developement that he will handle these problems as playthings. In the greatness of his strength he will go forth, and in thought will "weigh the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance, and measure the sea as in the hollow of the hand." Now his abode is in the deep profound of nature, where he reads the secret laws of matter and of mind. Again, his habitation is amid the revelations of the book of God, where, with vision unveiled, he beholds the face of Infinity. Now he soars upon the wings of the storm and the tempest, and finds out the "secret place of the lightning and the thunder," and holds deep and solemn converse with those dread agents in their dwelling. Again, on the flaming comet as his chariot of fire, he takes the wide circuit of the universe, and pencils down the great facts which he meets with on his voyage of discovery. And finally, amid the ever- swelling chorus of universal nature, in these regions of infinite space,
even there, in thought he is, listening to that music that "makes melody in the ear of God." And when this mind has done with the thinking of time, and takes his place amid the great thinkers of eternity, there
Yes, "sage he stands," with his great bosom swelling with thoughts, the disclosure of which will instruct heaven itself,with music in his soul, the melody of which will charm a seraph's ear, and with a strength and consolidation in virtue adequate to the endurance of that "exceeding and eternal weight of glory" that will then and there be laid upon him. Say not, hearer, I can never ascend to such heights as these. You may do it, in the heaven-directed progress of your future being, and by a proper developement of your mental powers, you may be their associates.
Now, surrender your God-endowed powers to be passively moulded by authorityany form of authority standing between you and the book of Nature or Revelation eitherconsent to think by proxy on any subject civil or religious, and your history may be soon told. Mental stagnation and non-growth will be your inheritance while you remain on the earth, and a long oblivion will cover your memory when you leave it. How pitiful the condition of those who, standing amid the light that is shining upon the world, think it heresy to differ from, and "crime to be wiser than their grand-fathers!" The powers of such persons grow only in one directionthat of standing still while everything is moving around themthe strength of absolute immobility. Such persons are never at home in their own age; they have their habitations among the tombs, where they are ever crying in view of the melancholy fact, that the universe around them is yet in motion, and did not come to a permanent stand-still amid the thoughts of "the Fathers." There are men even in America who never see nor hear the iron horse snorting past their dwellings without heaving a sigh, ab imo pectore, at modern innovations on the venerated institutions, opinions, and usages of their ancestors. Such is the history of the individual that thinks by proxythe individual that would hardly dare to think he had a soul, unless he could find the doctrine clearly stated among the writings of "the Fathers."
Let me not be understood as speaking or thinking disrespectfully of "the Fathers," the great lights of former ages. There are vast continents of thought in their writings, which God-fearing thinkers will be the last of all to fail to traverse. But this I do say that no men, or class of men, so misrepresent those great and good men as those who make their opinions authoritative expositors of God's teachings, instead of carefully testing such opinion's by "the law and the testimony." Those, on the other hand, best represent those men, who do in our age what they did in theirsstand before the world as free, God-fearing inquirers after universal truth. He is the true Calvinist of the nineteenth century, who, with the light shining in this century, discovers and proclaims Calvin's errors, if he erred at alland overturns his whole system, if it is not founded upon the Rock of Truth. I have sometimes thought that were such men as Calvin and Wesley here they would demand an apology of many of their modern followers, as the condition of admitting them to companionship, for having implicitly copied their sentiments, instead of imitating their God-like examples as honest and humble disciples of truth, and yet daring to appear before the world as their representatives,
10. Among those who think that former days were better than the present, much is said of "the old paths," and we are earnestly exhorted to inquire after them. With all sectarians, however, "the old paths" run no farther back than the times of the venerated founders of their particular sects, and are found exclusively in their modes of thinking. Some will refer us for "the old paths" to the good old days of Wesley. Others to those of Edwards, Knox, Crammer, or Calvin. Others would precipitate us headlong amid the utter darkness of the middle ages. Others still, would set us down amid the writings and councils of the more primitive Fathers, whose endless controversies and contradictions, who interminglings of things human and divine, and whose blendings of the pure truth of God with the teachings of "philosophy falsely so called," rolled over Christendom the deep midnight of those long centuries that preceded the Reformation. But where shall "the old paths" after which we are commanded to inquire be found? Nowhere, I answer, this side of an independent study of the Book of God. Take up you abode within the bright territories of that booktraverse for yourself its valleys and hills, and heaven-illumined plains ascend its high mounts of observation, where "God is to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory," and there, in the cloudless light of heaven itself, and in the fear of God alone, as the disciples of Him who is "THE TRUTH," test all human teachings and opinions commended to your regard, "by the law and the testimony;" and then, and only then, will you find yourselves in "the old paths," where inspired apostles, and prophets, and patriarchs, walked with God.
11. I have said much this evening of free, independent thought. True human dignity and excellence cannot be attained without it. While we maintain this manly independence in respect to all that is finite, however, we must never forget our dependence, universal and entire, upon the Infinite. True wisdom can be attained only as we realise in our experience the fulfilment of the divine promise, "and they shall all be taught of God." The soul-sanctifying mysteries of the Book of God can be opened to our minds, only by that divine Spirit by whose inspiration it was written. Never open that sacred book without seeking His divine illumination. "Then shall you righteousness go forth as brightness, and your salvation as a lamp that burneth."
12. With a brief allusion to one additional thought I close. Hearer, what do you think of Heaven? The ideas of each individual in regard to it are, no doubt, in very important respects, determined by his own subjective state, and all such ideas, we may rest assured, will, in some form, be consummated there. The slave, for example, who had been tasked under the lash night and day, till all feelings of want with him seemed concentrated in the desire for sleep, remarked that he thought heaven would be a place of undisturbed repose. And there is a repose in that world that is never broken! There "hope lies asleep on the bosom of bliss," and throughout endless ages its slumbers will never be disturbed. The slave-mother, too, as she dropped a tear upon the countenance of her infant that had just expired in her arms, uttered the devout wish that all her offspring were where the spirit of that child had gone. "There is no slavery," she exclaimed, "in heaven;" and there, too, "the slave is free from his master." The child of poverty, whose earthly inheritance is rags, and hunger, and pinching want, thinks of "the white raiment," the diamond- encircled crown, and of "the tree of life," which are the future inheritance of the saints of God. The son and daughter of affliction, who have been called to drink the cup of pain and sorrow to its dregs, think of the time when "the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto fountains of living waters, and God himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." The soul that is especially tuned to melody, thinks of the sea of glass, where the harpers are eternally "harping with their harps," and where the eternal choir is for ever "singing the song of Moses and the Lamb." The stranger, far from his native country, his kindred, and quiet habitation, thinks of the bosom of God as the everlasting home of the soul
And when we lift our contemplation to heaven, how blissful the reflection that
The Christian, however, that, like Enoch of old, has long walked with God, and dwelt in the light of his countenance, has still higher conceptions of that world. To his mind the main ingredients of the feast of heaven are the presence of Christ, and the broad everlasting smile of God resting down upon the soul. And now, hearer, I will allude to one element of my own conceptions of that state. Under the pressure of that smile there will be a place for great virtues and great thoughts. The great thinkers of the universe are there; and how will our minds expand when they open upon their thoughts! It is a grand conception of one of your poets, that on a high elevation there, Newton has erected his grand observatory, and through his immense telescope even seraphim and cherubim are accustomed to look off into the infinite depths of space, and read wonders of the creation unrevealed before. Who knows but that Milton is now elaborating some grand conception, the issue of which heaven is waiting with interest? What libraries may we find there containing the record of thoughts that heaven will not permit to die!And what lecture-rooms in which thoughts are uttered that cause the bosom of the burning seraph to glow with unwonted intensity!
And now, Mr. Chairman and members of the Association, I here close this address. If I have succeeded in erecting in your minds the true idea of the freedom of human thought and action, together with the fixed determination to realise that idea in your own character;if I have succeeded in awakening more distinct, and impressive, and influential apprehensions of the infinite value of an original acquaintance with the two great volumes that God has writtenthe book of Nature and the book of Revelation;if any have been inspired with new and fresh aspirations after a knowledge of truth;and more particularly, if any have formed, as the consequence of what they have heard to-night, the fixed purpose to make their future dwelling-place amid her "cloud-capt towers, and gorgeous palaces, and solemn temples," I shall feel that I have not spoken nor you heard in vain. Above all, shall I feel this, if from what you have heard, you have become deeply impressed with the necessity of becoming personally possessed of one blessing of an all-overshadowing importancethe possession of that internal purity and integrity which render the heart the dwelling of God. Inspired wisdom, even never gave utterance to a maxim of greater importance than is contained in this one sentence:Keep thine heart will all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." He that had this one treasure, "a sanctified heart," though deprived of all things temporal, is infinitely rich. He that can call kingdoms his own, and whose heart is not clad in the beauty of holiness, is, of all earth's sons and daughters, the poorest of the poor.
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