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Life of a Pharisee.-Conviction of sin.—Unitarian Maga
zine.-Caution to Parents.-An intimate friend.
I have said in the preceding chapter that I became a Pharisee. My pharisaic course continued till I was more than twenty years of
age. During a part of this time, I had the care of youth; and how many souls I ruined, it is impossible for me to say. They witnessed my external compliance with some of the forms of religion, it is true ; but their scrutinizing eyes could not have failed to discover that my heart was unaffected by it. I shudder, almost, when I think what may have been the result of my influence.
But it pleased Him who has in his hands the hearts of all men, occasionally to make me tremble in view of my impenitence and sin. Dissatisfied with myself and the world, I smothered, or attempted to smother my dissatisfaction, by visiting
new regions, seeing new faces, and engaging in new employments. I spent some time at a distance from my former associates. But the sickness and death of near relatives and friends recalled me, at length, to myself, though it produced a state of mind scarcely more favorable than skepticism. For a long time I was so disgusted with myself and with the world, that I shunned as much as possible, all society; and even refused to attend church on the Sabbath : regarding it as only adding to my guilt, and hardening me against every religious impression. In company, I was completely miserable ; in solitude scarcely less so. In a word, I abandoned myself to misanthropy.
However, as the result of causes which cannot here be given in detail, this state of feeling gradually wore off, and my mind became more composed and cheerful. Resolutions of amendment and of a religious life, were now occasionally made and broken; and though I had some time before abandoned the forms of religion and regarded myself as without God in the world,'I yet lived for a time on these resolutions. This, if no better, was at least no worse than the horrors of misanthropy.
On the subject of religion, I was all this while laboring under one unhappy error. Some sort of
interference of a supernatural character in which I was to be wholly passive like a mere machine, and in which I had no concern nor agency whatever, was supposed to be indispensable before I could be prepared even to attempt a new and holy life. It was an interference, of a kind, too, in which—though not quite a miracle—my moral and intellectual faculties were supposed to have nothing to do.
I am sorry to say that I cannot help believing views of this kind to be very common; and I wish Christian ministers would labor and pray more earnestly on this very point. I am far from admitting, with the enemies of evangelical religion, that such views have their origin in Calvinism, or indeed in any particular form of Christian belief. They are only a species of fatalism most prevalent where the gospel light never shone ; and which, where it has shone, it has not yet been able fully to dislodge.
About this period of my life, a religious excitement prevailed where I was residing. After opposing it for some time and endeavoring to show its unreasonableness, I altered my purpose, and resolved to attend meetings regularly, in the hope that some “mercy drops” from the passing cloud, if it really contained any, might fall on me. And
toward the close of the excitement I began to be lieve my heart had been touched ;—though my friends always seemed to have more charity for me than I ever had for myself.
This at least is true, the forms of a religious life were once more resumed, and for a few years, the reformation seemed to be something more than merely an external one. For my own part, doubts of my real conversion were so strong, that they prevented me from becoming attached to any church, although I became a teacher in Sunday schools, and a regular and outwardly devout attendant on religious worship.
It was at this period of my life that I first fell in with a Unitarian Magazine. It contained an account of the conversion of an orthodox minister to Unitarianism. Till this hour I scarcely knew there was such a thing as a Unitarian in the United States.
I read this pamphlet with precisely those prejudices which almost every one indulges who has been allowed, and even trained to believe that every sect or class of individuals is wholly wrong but his own; and that the religion of his fathers must necessarily be true. A Unitarian, above all, I regarded as a kind of monster in human shape. Indeed, I cannot say that I ever felt more curios
ity to see monsters, in nature, than I did, after reading this pamphlet, to see some individual belonging to that sect. Of course, in taking a book containing their views into my hand, I was gratifying in a degree, this curiosity; mingled, however, with a species of horror, very unfavorable to a careful appreciation of the subject.
And here I must be permitted to solicit parents, should any such ever take the trouble to read these remarks, to prevent, by all possible means, these unreasonable prejudices from taking root in the minds of their children; for they will either be likely to make them bigoted, or what is scarcely worse, to lead them, whenever they come to examine, to examine superficially, and ultimately to go to the other extreme-I mean, to skepticism.
Those who differ from us on the subject of religion should be still regarded as men; and commiserated, rather than despised for their opinions, however heterodox, they may appear.
The former feeling in a parent, will rarely, if ever, mislead a child,—the latter may be construed in a species of persecution. Now children possess too much of that common nature in which we all participate, not to sympathize with the persecuted. Or should they escape this danger, that curiosity may be awakened which will lead, as in my own case, to