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private concerns, conduct, and character of our neighbours, except as civil or ecclesiastical authority has clothed us with legitimate powers, is specific, abundant, decided, emphatic. It is founded in human nature; it is essential to the peace of society; a departure from it would be ruinous to social comfort. If therefore it is proper to introduce any rule on this point into a mutual church covenant, it seems to me that the converse of that which is usually found in that place ought to be substituted. Even the apostles, as we have seen, found it necessary to rebuke the disposition prevalent in their time to meddle with the affairs, and to make inquisition into the conduct of others. But it should be recollected, that the condition of Christians and the state of society then were widely different from the same things with us. Christianity was a new religion, and its disciples were generally obnoxious. They were compelled by their circumstances to associate most intimately; they were bound together by those sympathies and
ties, which a persecuted and suffering class always feel, independent of Christian affection. Hence in part we account for the holy and exemplary ardour of their attachments to their religion and to each other. But even in these circumstances, and under these especial intimacies, or rather, perhaps, on account of them, the apostles found it necessary to admonish them against the abuse of that confidence so generally felt and recipocrated by those who confessed Christ in those unhappy times; an abuse so naturally developed in the form of meddling and private inquisition.”
I quote the above passage, as, in the United States, the variety of sects, the continual splitting and breaking up of those sects, and their occasional violent altercations, have all proved most injurious to society, and to the cause of religion itself. Indeed religion in the States may be said to have been a source of continual discord and the unhinging of society, instead of that peace and good-will inculcated by our divine Legis.
It is the division of the Protestant
church which has occasioned its weakness in this
country, and will probably eventually occasion, if not its total subversion, at all events its subversion in the western hemisphere of America.
The subjugation of the ministry to the tyranny of their congregations is another most serious evil; for either they must surrender up their consciences or their bread. In too many instances it is the same here in religion as in politics: before the people will permit any one to serve them in any office, he must first prove his unfitness by submitting to what no man of honesty or conscientious rectitude would subscribe to. This must of course in both cases be taken with exceptions, but it is but too often the fact. And hence has arisen another evil, which is, that there are hundreds of self-constituted ministers, who wander over the western country, using the word of God as a cloak, working upon the feelings of the women to obtain money, and rendering religion a by-word among the
men, who will in all probability some day rise up and linch some dozen of them, 'as a hint for the rest to clear out.
It would appear as if Locofoco-ism and infidelity had formed an union, and were fighting under the same banner. They have recently celebrated the birth-day of Tom Paine, in Cincinnati, New York, and Boston. In Cincinnati, Frances Wright Darusmont, better known as Fanny Wright, was present, and made a violent politico-atheistical speech on the occasion, in which she denounced banking, and almost every other established institution of the country. The nature of the celebration in Boston will be understood from the following toast given on the occasion.
By George Chapman :-“ Christianity and the banks tottering on their last legs. May their downfall be speedy,” &c. &c.
Miss Martineau informs us that “The churches of Boston, and even the other public buildings, being guarded by the dragon of
bigotry, so that even Faith, Hope, and Charity are turned back from the doors, a large building is about to be erected for the use of all, Deists not excepted, whomay desire to meet for free discussion. She adds, “ This at least is an advance !” And in a few pages further :-“ The eagerness in pursuit of speculative truth is shewn by the rapid sale of every heretical work. The clergy complain of the enormous spread of bold books, from the infidel tract to the latest handling of the miracle question, as sorrowfully as the most liberal members of society lament the unlimited circulation of the false morals issued by certain Religious Tract Societies. Both testify to the interest taken by the public in religion. The love of truth is also shewn by the outbreak of heresy in all directions !”
Having stated the most obvious objections to the voluntary system, I shall now proceed to show how far my opinions are corroborated by American authorities. The author of " A Voice from America” observes very truly, that the voluntary system of supporting religion in America