« AnteriorContinuar »
repeat verbally, or by letter, the favorite texts of Unitarians, and especially to suggest my doubts to particular friends, from that very moment, my progress was rapid. There was in truth, no candid inquiry, “What does the Bible say,” for I was familiar with most of the prominent texts used by controversalists, though I only recollected them in their insulated condition, without remembering their connection with other passages and other sentiments. In fact, the secds of error had long since been sown in my mind, and any opinion, however novel, if specious in its appearance, was very likely to spring up under the "genial influence" of the sunshine of " free inquiry !”
The interest I took in Sunday schools, has already been briefly mentioned. They were regarded as an invaluable means—not so much of promoting or favoring personal piety, as of purifying and elevating the intellect, and of improving the tone of the public morals. It was in this view, that my labors were applied to this department of instruction for several successive seasons.
At this period—in the summer of the year 1827-libraries in Sabbath schools were becoming common; but the inhabitants of the village where I resided, seemed to regard them as the fanciful project of some innovator, and of very
doubtful utility. With a zeal worthy of the cause, I plead loudly in their behalf, and at length persuaded them that a library was necessary.
On reviewing my career at this period, I am not a little surprised, that with such strong suspicions abroad of my heresy, I should have retained such a measure of the public confidence as I did, even of the religious public. But my exterior morality, ardent zeal, and ability to use the language of all sects, and make all believe that my creed was substantially the same as theirs, seemed to atone, in part, for my errors of opinion; and I was permitted to go on with my purposes.
A small Sunday school library was soon formed, partly by public contribution, and partly by donations of books; not without considerable sacrifice, however, both of time and money. But this sacrifice was made willingly, because along with it, I had often opportunity to introduce such books as I pleased ; and notwithstanding the vigilance of others, not a few were rather “liberal” in their tendency. Most of them indeed were either of this 'description, or merely scientific ; there were few of the character of Sunday school books generally, and some of them could scarcely have been deemed even moral in their tendency. The library, however, did good, as well as the
Sunday school: though both might have done much more good, had they been superintended by warm hearts, as well as zealous heads.
The village library, formed about this time, partook less of the character which I had endeavored to stamp on the library of the Sabbath school. My highest hope, with the generation already risen was, to keep religious books of every kind out of their hands; believing, and I still think justly, that no better way could be found to destroy the public confidence in evangelical views of religion, than to awaken their attention to the improvement of mere intellect.* At the time of which I am speaking, my intention was to prepare the way, in the best possible manner, for the introduction of “liberal” views. My object was not the public good directly (because I believed our religious systems incompatible with any considerable degree of improvement ;)—but indirectly and remotely, through more liberal sentiments.
* Whether religious books—those which are strictly evangelical, I mean-should be admitted to our public or town libraries, I do not know. Perhaps there might be one library to which access might be had by every community, into which religious books should not enter. Still I think there should be libraries of some sort containing evangelical books, even if they cannot be sustained in any other way than by particular sects.
One of my letters.—Various efforts.—Advice of a “liberal”
With orthodox correspondents on the subject of Sunday schools I was still regarded as quite evangelical. With “liberal” correspondents, however, I was justly regarded otherwise ; as the following extract of a communication to one of them will clearly show. It was under date of September 12, 1827.
“I rejoice that there are, even in this land of thick darkness, a few to whom I can open my mind and unbosom myself—a few who think for themselves unshackled ; a few who have not bowed the knee to the Baal of antiquity.
“Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that a few of the inhabitants of
belong to the army of the faithful ; even to the one hundred and forty-four thousand that are redeemed from the earth. May your labors be successful, and may you win, by example and
precept, till the whole neighborhood-yea, even the whole town, receive the faith once delivered to the saints,' and practice accordingly.
“ It is hoped that your exertions for the welfare of the world—especially the younger part of it, will be continued, and will succeed. For years I must confine myself to correcting errors, instead of preventing them. The monster prejudice is strong in this place, and I have little hopes of effecting any thing.”
About this time, as nearly as I can recollect, it was proposed to have a “liberal preacher” come into that region, and present some of the least obnoxious of his sentiments. friend of a certain benevolent scheme, and proposed, as his ostensible object, to lecture and distribute tracts on that subject, and whenever an opportunity offered, give a lecture on Unitarianism, or at least leave a few tracts on that subject. Though I was at this time nearly as “ liberal” as he, yet 1 had made but few disciples, and those walked tremblingly along, afraid of the public sentiment, and perhaps conscious, too, that their weapons of defence consisted of a few cant phrases, or of borrowed language, which, like Saul's armor on David, might fail them in the hour of trial. On the whole I rejected the “disinterested”