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Voltaire," men of great reputation in the political world, have revived the principles of their master, and made some daring attempts on our holy religion, with a design to bring the whole of Christianity into discredit. True, they have not been able to forge, and bring on to the charge any new kind of offensive armour, but came out with the same old train of artillery, vamped up afresh, with the addition of some new devices thereon, which has been tried, and tried again, to no effect. However, it may do more spoil now, than formerly, on this account, because the morals of mankind have become so corrupt, and their rage for sensual and unlimitted gratification so great, that they would gladly seize on any pretext for casting off the restraints of the Bible.
But for my own part, I have no great dread, that any mighty execution will be done, by Thomas Paine, or any other writer of his stamp; nor indeed by any weapons of the open and profest enemies of the Christian church. I can rely on the promise of God that no weapons formed against his church shall prosper. I am much more afraid of the profest, though misguided friends of religion, than of her declared
enemies. I am verily persuaded, that many zealous professors of religion, by their irregular and disorderly, though, perhaps, well meant proceedings, have done more to the discredit and prejudice of our holy religion, than all the deists and infidels in the world. When we consider what forbidding appearances have assumed the name of religion-yea, have been held up as great marks of religion_when we reflect on the multitudes of ignorant and unexperienced men, of all ranks and colours, who, because they supposed they had a call, have been encouraged to preach-when we call to mind the frequent appointments for meetings, that all these may exercise their talents—when we listen to the jargon and wild notions of such preachers, and behold their furious gestures, &c. what could we reasonably expect, as the consequence, but that men would be disgusted and fatigued, nauseated and rendered indifferent about attending on any of the institutions of religion. This disgust, nausea and fatigue are pretty general at present; and, if I am not mistaken, they have, in a great measure, originated from this source. . . I doubt not but most of those weak and unqualified men suppose they are called to preach, and that they are actuated by a zeal of doing good-but I rather judge, that pride is the principal mover. God is not the author of confusion. My judgment, in this matter, is founded on my knowledge of human nature, in general, and my own experience, in particular. And here I will insert a little anecdote respecting myself. In my former letter, I mentioned my having meetings for prayer, reading, &c. soon after I had some acquaintance with religion. In doing this, I thought I was actuated by the purest and most laudable principles. But being, one evening, in company with an older and more experienced christian, I simply related to himn my practice of meeting and the effects my efforts seemed to have on my hearers. The gentleman looked grave on the occasion, and, instead of his approbation, which, no doubt, I expected, he gave me a little his. tory of his own proceedings. “When religion, said he first broke out in these parts ( Henrico and Hanover ) I used to hold meetings in our meeting-house, for prayer, reading, &c. and large congregations attended the people were frequently much affected, and I thought my zeal for their souls was so great and ardent, that I could freely have laid my head under their feet, to promote their happiness, by turning
them to the Lord: but, added he, after a while I found a devil of pride lay at the bottom of all my exertions."--He made no application, nor was it necessary, for I felt the words applied with great power to my heart-I saw my own picture drawn to the life-I was ashamed and confounded, in the presence of the venerable man—when I discovered the same devil to lurk and predominate in my own heart, which I had not before discovered, nor even suspected. It was a good lesson to me, and I endeavored to profit by it. It is not therefore without a cause, that I am led to judge that pride is a principal agent in the mission of many in our day. Human nature is the same now, as when I was a young man. And as it may not be the fortune of every one to meet with such a judicious monitor, as I did, I fear pride reigns in many hearts undiscovered, for a long time. Indeed the manner, in which many young volunteers are now treated, tends rather to foster pride, than to discover and destroy it. I believe it is no uncommon thing for a young and bold adventurer, who is good at vociferation, to be cried up as a great preacher, an useful preacher, a zealous preacher, and such like-all which directly tend to confirm a man in his blindness, and blow him
up like a bladder. I can hardly think the
real interests of religion will ever be proe moted by such instruments, whatever pre
sent effects, on the passions, their efforts I may have. I may be mistaken--but this Gis my judgment.
: The state of religion, at this time, is the gloomy and distressing, and the church of
Christ seems to be sunk very low. But
this will not always be the case. I believe | she will yet arise, and shake herself from ut the dust, and become a praise in this west
ern world. Whenever this happy period i shall arrive, the blessed change will be } effected, by able ministers of the New -3 Testament, duly qualified, and regularly
introduced into the sacred office, according 2: to the order of God's word. Churches
will be established and built up in ancient u faith, under the care of their own stated it and settled pastors. This was the order Epointed out by the apostle, and ought to * be duly observed. Profane history informs
us of peripatetic philosophers-but peripatetic -1 pastors is a novelty in the Christian church.
This peripatetic plan, as far as I can see, x. has not only no countenance from . scripi ture, but is, in its very nature, subversive of the unity of the Christian church. Will