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erentually pursue what I regarded as the right road, I could not help sympathizing with an aged and enlightened deist in New York, who on reading the sermon delivered by Dr. Channing at the ordination or installation of Mr. Ware, immediately raised his spectacles, and in a tone of confidence extolled it to the skies, observing ; “ In five years, the Doctor will be with me."
Some of my friends furnished me with a long list of the names of gentlemen in New England, whose views were favorable to improvement, and whom they and I already began to number among the liberal, the enlightened, the intelligent, and the inquiring. I knew also the range of free inquiry, and rejoiced in seeing so many noble-minded men starting up, all over the country, and asserting their mental independence ; for if I could not go the whole length with them, I believed that when further inquiry bad corrected their opinions, they would go with me :—and I already looked forward to the organization of a society whose influence and efforts should reform the world, and bring it back to Truth and Nature.
What that society ought to be in its external form, I had not as yet thought. There are several systems, now agitated, or plans commenced, which would have partially satisfied me, but
not entirely. All these, or nearly all, began with the half spoiled adult, and I wished to begin with infants and children. Ballou and Fourier would have come nearer my wishes, perhaps, than the Shakers, or Owen, or St. Simon. Nevertheless, I could not have entered upon the plan of Fourier with all my heart, had it, at that period, been presented to me.
Opposition to these.—One family with which I was inti
mate.—Specimens of my manner of talking to them.The family well nigh ruined.
About this time church conferences began to be introduced; and on one occasion, a considerable number of delegates from neighboring churches assembled in the town where I resided. Revivals of religion had often followed these meetings in that part of the country, and great effort was made by the Congregationalists of my neighborhood to produce similar results.
In opposing these efforts, I had a few associates among those whom I began to reckon as converts to “liberal” principles, besides which a considerable number of Episcopalians stood ready to second my exertions. These were, for the most part, very good people; but James was their especial favorite, because he insisted on good works. They seemed to forget that he was a thorough-going revivalist; that he spoke
highly of human exertion to convert one “sinner from the error of his way;" and therefore could not be supposed to think human efforts to convert scores or hundreds of less importance.
No matter about consistency, however, when a point was to be gained. We believed it best to oppose the revival. Not for fear it would make men better, but because we thought it would make two or three worse, while it made one better. *
Some of us took “ Good works” for our text. Others, “ Six days shalt thou labor.” Some of us undertook to retail thread-bare stories of the evils of revivals, which might or might not have been true.
In a day or two after the conference closed, it was reported that a considerable number of
persons in various parts of the town were awakened to a sense of the importance of salvation. In short, there was quite a revival for so small a place; and although it was in some respects injudiciously conducted, it was apparently productive of good.
But the opposition made by myself and others, roused the opponents of evangelical truth. And what mortified me not a little, was, that of those
* We were sincere in all this. We really doubted the final utility of revivals. Sincerity, however, is no test of soundness of sentiment.
whom I had reckoned as favorable to liberal” principles, the greater part manifested by their bitterness against the doctrines usually called evangelical, and against revival measures, that I had only strengthened their prejudices, without material benefit to themselves. They did not appear to “ love their neighbor,” any better than before.
As to the effects of my principles on my own mind and heart, I had, up to this time, thought them favorable. A friend asked me, one day, if I had carefully watched the state of my own mind and heart, to ascertain the effect which liberal views produced. I told him I had, and that I had great reason to rejoice at the result. It will be seen, however, in the sequel, that I was deceiving myself.
There was one family to which I had access and the opportunity of unbosoming my feelings, without the fear of being betrayed. None of them were religious people, unless it were the lady. She was an Episcopalian, and a person of decided piety; and by no means bigoted.
In this circle I used to spend hours and daysperhaps I might say weeks, in the whole, in endeavoring to inculcate“ improved views.” The father of the family was rather hostile to religious truth. One purpose at which I aimed, was to