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abuses of religion, under which they had suffered for ages, declared war, as it were, against religion itself, the present king, and princes, and nobles of France, have taken the opposite extreme, and degenerated either into fanatics or hypocrites. Not to multiply instances, all experience goes to prove, that religion can only rationally be expected to be regular, permanent, and beneficial to mankind at all times, which at all times keeps clear of the opposite extremes, and preserves the rational and happy medium between infidelity and fanaticism. Such a religion will never be found interfering with the rights and duties of men in a state of society, nor making war upon the innocent amusements and useful occupations of life. Neither will such a religion ever be made a tool of party, or an instrument in propagating ignorance, under the pretence, that to enlighten the human mind, is to weaken the foundation of religion and good government. Whenever we observe it pursuing a contrary course, I believe it will generally be found under the direction of worldly motives, and to have its zeal quickened either by interest or ambition.
That the present age is in rapid progress to something nearly allied to fanaticism on one hand and infidelity on the other, is, I think, pretty evident from various indications; and it is equally clear, that the origin of this may be traced to political causes, which have in truth exercised in all ages a vast influence over religion. The kingdoms of Europe were all pretty much in the same situation.
The church and state were every where combined, and mutually supported each other's prerogatives. The French Revolution, which shook these thrones, shook with them the pillars of the established churches, I mean those churches which shared with the kings and their
nobility a great portion of the wealth of nations. Connected
thus by the strong tie of mutual interest, it is therefore obvious, that the ancient political and the ancient ecclesiastical establishments: would make common cause against the claims and rights of the people. Their mutual fears would also operate still more to cement this bond of union, and the alliance for mutual defence. The example of this alliance in France was followed by the different states of Europe, whose similarity of situation dictated the same measures, and thus happened the wonderful coincidence of all the monarchs of that quarter, together with the princes and nobles becoming all at once extremely pious ; that is to say, so far as the support of a hierarchy was essential to their interests, and so far as the possession of piety did not carry with it the necessity of practising what they professed. In fact, there seems to have been a compromise, by which the faith of the monarch was to be accepted in lieu of all good works, except the good work of repressing those throes of misery among the nations, which sometimes came near to shake the throne and the hierarchy.
Two effects resulted from this cunning conspiracy. All those, who supported the throne and the established church, which last at length became synonymous with religion itself, were friends of order and religion as a matter of course. On the contrary, those who thought that causes, which have been gaining strength for centuries past, had accumulated to such a degree as to render some alterations in the old systems of government necessary to the welfare of mankind, were stigmatized as enemies to the true faith, as hostile to religion it. self. In short, despotism became order, and an established church, with exclusive privileges, re
ligion. To question the claims of the one was treason; of the other, infidelity.
In the natural course of things, these excellent synonymes found their way into our country. The two great parties, for and against the Revolution of France, in the United States, adopted in a great measure the cant which prevailed abroad, and opposed each other on the same grounds, though we had happily no privileged church nor privileged orders. Still, one party did not hesitate to stigmatize the other with being deficient in an orthodoxy, of which there was no standard among them; while the other maintained, with a greater appearance of reason, that there was no connexion between religion itself and a church with exclusive privileges, but what was arbitrary and injurious to the best interests of piety and morality. Thus the connexion between democracy and heterodoxy became naturalized among the opposers of the French Revolution in the United States. In horrible imitation of their prototypes abroad, a vast many people became advocates and converts of that “ legitimate party,” which disdains an alliance with moral principles, and can reconcile a breach of the moral duties with the sincerest de votion and the truest faith. Hypocrisy, however, has generally a number of sincere followers; and a simulated piety adopted, merely from political and interested motives, by the great, has produced, among a large portion of the lower orders, a species of fanaticism, which seems to be spreading over the face of the earth. The advocates of
poo litical freedom, in their solicitude to avoid the imputation of being without religion, because they do not adhere to an established church, seem determined to go even beyond legitimacy in the race of fiery zeal; so that it is probable, before long, we shall have nothing but fanatics and infidels, and
that rational religion will no longer be found among the nations of Europe, or the people of the United States.
The old denominations of the Christian church seem to be menaced with speedy annihilation, either by the downfall or desertion of their temples. In the churches of the present time, we seldom hear any of those warm and heartfelt exhortations to virtuous actions, or useful deeds, which were calculated to make both man and society better. In place of these, come boasts of perfectibility, coupled with menaces of eternal wrath against all those who indulge in the wickedness of good works, without having been struck down" ata camp-meeting, or undergoing some mysterious regeneration, brought about in an instant by a direct communication, face to face, with Divinity itself. Hence we find a new species of saints springing up among us, who are canonized by their priests for committing murder, and repenting at the foot of the gallows.
The good old religion, in which you and I were brought up, and which happily united the abstract doctrines of faith with the practical precepts of virtue, instead of endeavouring, as I think it ought to have done, to check these howlings of fanaticism, looked on and approved. Nay, it did worse: instead of meeting by a vigorous exertion of its talents and influence, this religion of profligacy and crime, which must naturally spring from an absolute contempt, I may say detestation, of good works, it in some measure, as I believe I have observed before, fell in with the current, and added to its force. In place of inculcating the precepts of morality, the pastors of the episcopal church laboured to establish abstract principles, and explain metaphysical subtleties.
Instead of a mild, prace tical, and social system of belief, calculated to re
strain crimes and strengthen virtuous propensities, they, many of them, fell into the opposite extreme, and in place of warning against those vices and crimes that destroy the happiness and repose of mankind, they bent all their force to put down dancing and the theatres. Every thing, that did not in some degree connect itself with the outward forms of religion, was stigmatized as wicked, and the neglect of social duties became the standard of orthodoxy. The social circle, the domestic fire-side, were to be turned into conventicles, and all the cheerful, innocent recreations of social chat, or sprightly song, were swallowed up in the dismal gloom of fanaticism and superstition. Surely, my dear brother, this is not a religion to make man better; neither, I should think, can it be propounded to the people without going far to destroy their morals, and prostrate every barrier between virtue and vice. I am aware that, by & chain of metaphysical subtleties and nice distinctions, this mischievous doctrine of faith without works
be somewhat modified, so as not to involve a direct attack upon morals; but I also know, that the mass of ordinary hearers do not comprehend metaphysics : they will recollect the broad proposition, but the subtleties by which it is modified are neither remembered nor understood. Is it not highly probable, that a religion which banishes morality from its theory, will discard it also in practice? It is indeed a most convenient religion, equally suiting the madness of fanaticism and the discretion of hypocrisy. I thought it as well to put you right as to the real state of practical religion in this country. Our distant republic has been, for some years past, so overwhelmed with tidings of the progress of religion in England ; so stunned with advertisements of her zeal and exertions for the propagation of the gospel, and the