Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

* religious' thought of the day. Many seem to take delight in the idea that sin is universal; they seem to be happy in contemplating the supposed immense amount of wickedness upon which the Devil can exercise his amiable functions in the next world ; they seem to be in such a state of mind that they would become miserable if they should be convinced that there was no sin; they make sin virtue. We once heard a violent" religionist' say that a father could look down from Heaven upon his son in hell without pain; and though this is the purest decoction of brimstone we have heard, excepting only the case of a certain doctor of divinity, who is charged with having said that the way to hell is paved with the sculls of newly-born infants, still it is the spirit of the day; and it is a singular fact that those pastors who leave their people the least hope, and pour in the hottest fire, become decidedly the most popular. The hope for salvation seems to increase with the certainty of damnation.

We have suffered much lately by the melancholy delusion of Miller. ism; and orthodox gentlemen have mourned over it, and either censured or laughed at the author whose name it bears, without reflecting whether or not it might be one of the deformed bantlings of their own conduct. It was the creature of a diseased public mind, born of those ill-defined doctrines, fancies and glooms with which the moral atmosphere has been impregnated by our false prophets of every sect. The votaries of Millerism came from every denomination; they were men whose minds had been prepared for receiving panic; all calmness and serenity of thought had been swept away by repeated storms of fanati. cism; and becoming too familiar with their ordinary thunder, they needed something yet beyond ;. even the loud roar of the wreck of matter and the crush of worlds.' All society is more or less affected by this melancholy state of things; and men, women and children are obliged, in all that they say and do or seem, to recognize directly or collaterally this power of Phariseeism; when we meet, we do not speak to each other; that is to say, there is no honest communication; the great soul is not present; we meet as appurtenances, contingencies, accidents to something which we know not of, but vaguely dread. We stoop, squint, limp, dodge and duck; and if perchance a man, erect in the integrity of his likeness to God, treading firmly upon earth, yet beholding Heaven, moves through the crowd with a needle-like directness toward the objects which are legitimate to him, a man, there is quite a - a squeal; a squeal, just that! How much writing is done now! All write; men, women and children; yet how little thought is evolved ! That which is thought is rarely said ; and a truly great man has re. marked that it is genius to recognize the truth of our own thought. In the present state of things, if we do take the liberty of thinking we must have our neighbor's opinion as to the accordance of our thought with orthodoxy. Thus, under the deadly influences to which we have adverted, the love of truth is extinguished in the public mind and heart, and a system of adaptation to circumstances and creeds is cultivated, which entirely destroys man's individuality: he can no longer dwell under his own vine and fig tree. Now, when we should have all the freshness of youth, we have all the decrepitude of age; we are tottering upon crutches when we should be as a giant rejoicing in his strength. We

7

are rapidly losing our tone and dignity of character: the heroes of the revolution are no more ; and where now is that sylvan strength which they and the men of their day every where put forth, as if in the consciousness of divine right? This must not be so - must not.

We were born but yesterday: the foot-prints of the deer, the paths of the Indian, were here, there, every where, but yesterday! And shall our sturdiness and ruggedness of character so soon pass away? Let us think of that first tap of a rebel drum that was heard to break the death. like stillness which preceded the revolution; it was as the echo of the infant cry of liberty; the first loud thought of man's heart in its mightiest moment. It was not WASHINGTON, nor Hancock, nor Adams; it was the cry of the soul for the air of Heaven. The revolution as a fact is nothing; it is something only as a land-mark amid the ebbing and flowing of the mind and heart of the world. And shall all the grandeur and sublimity of thought born of that great crisis be swept away by the dark conjuring of fanatics and false prophets ? This must not be. Let us stand, individually and privately, as well as politically, where our memorable declaration of independence placed us; as men, all in all as men, in the hands of the GREAT DISPOSER of all events.

All reflecting men have observed the disposition of the public mind to receive the marvellous; the great credulity which characterizes the American people. Many writers address them directly upon the presumption that any exaggeration or fiction will be believed. As illustrative of this, we will give a statement made seriously and solemnly by a Presbyterian clergyman in a controversy with a Roman Catholic Priest; and this statement formed part of the published argument. It seems, so says the story, that a priest announced to a few of the faithful that upon a certain day they should see the souls of some of the dead that were in purgatory. At the time appointed, and at the place, which was a church, they who had been permitted to hear of the solemn occasion assembled; the church was gently darkened ; suddenly the souls of those who were in purgatory emerged from various openings in the floor! They were seen distinctly creeping through the aisles ; they had not yet the wings of angels nor the character of spiritual existence; they resembled something round flat and dark coloured; nearly black, and about six inches in diameter. As they moved through the church, of course there was awe in the presence of these souls; but a lady had the curiosity to inquire more closely into the nature of these little specimens of immortality, and quietly secreted one of them under her garments : she discovered it to be a terrapin in an envelope of black crape !

This story has upon its face something of the absurd — more than something; yet we have no doubt that if not this very story, others of the same tenor, influenced the people of New Hampshire when a few days since they declared by a majority of more than nine thousand votes, that no Roman Catholic should hold office in that State. Now we would ask whence come all these distorted views of religion, duty, and morality ; these strifes and contentions in the shapes of antiCatholicism, Mormonism, Millerism, if not from the abuse of that great power held by those who are received as our religious teachers ?

We must make some great effort at redemption ;, and how is that effort to be made ? Let us cultivate a system which will recognize all rational cheerfulness and amusement as part of the teaching of religion ; let us learn to hear psalms and hymns in laughter; let us bless God, rejoice in His love, and let the Devil alone. We wish that the condition of our country would admit of a provision for public amusement by authority, and at the expense of the government; making the government less a mere machine for the collection of revenue for officers and for the punishment of offenders. We still are of the opi. nion that our large cities and principal towns might do much in this matter. We propose no particular plan; we are simply enforcing the idea that amusement ought to be provided ; that more is to be done by preserving a healthy and lively tone in the public mind than by police enactments; and if we will all admit that, something is accomplished to begin with ; plans may be developed hereafter, for where there is a will there is a way. The aim of this article is chiefly to point out the cause of the diseased state of the public mind.

We feel all reverence for Sunday, and for proper religious observances; but we do aver that extremes in these as in all other matters are productive of false sentiment, false fancies, false feelings. Sunday is the glory of America ; our fear is that the public mind may be badly affected by the erroneous views propagated with regard to it, and that the too rigid observance may ultimately lead to the opposite extreme. Our Saviour left room for liberty of thought with regard to it, when he said that it was made for man and not man for it; this must have been the view intended, as the remark was made in defence of him. self against a charge of neglecting its observance. Still in the remark itself He recognized the day, as we all must, each according to his own conscience. Now, there is too much force of fanaticism and bigotry exercised in insisting upon particular modes of observance; there is too much attendance at church by compulsion as the peculiar only and exclusive mode of reverencing the day. We think that the wants of man's nature are not properly consulted in the modes of Sunday wor. ship, and that this is proved by the fact that the day is not and does not appear as a day of happiness and joy; that in the way of going to church, of remaining there, of leaving there, there is evidence of a sense of some rather irksome necessity: that church is not made attractive — the masses do not go there. We know that all these are not the natural consequences of Sunday and religion, but directly the reverse; to wit, of the canting pharisaical character with which all matters relating to religion are invested: hence the disastrous effects apparent in all the pursuits of life ; hence the formation of · Protestant Associations' to suppress such denominations as may not be approved by the especial saints ; hence the cry for police force and for peniten. tiaries. There is a disposition to substitute certain forms of what is termed ó religion' for every thing else and for religion itself; there is a requirement by our church authorities, that we should go out of our way to do something peculiar and which is entirely apart from our. selves, from our thoughts and ordinary relations in life; and that this peculiar something, standing by itself, is to be recognized as true reli

gion,' more or less as it may accord with the standards of particular sects; that the consequence of this is a forfeiture of man's true dig. nity of character, elevation of sentiment and soul; hence crime. We say that the religious' views of the day are dark, gloomy, and metaphysical ; that they cannot be incorporated with the familiar and household sentiments of the man in his relations with his fellow men ; that there is a tendency to the substitution of Phariseeism for the Christian Religion ; that the questions, Why do you do this ?' • why do you do that ?? • why do ’nt you do this ?'and why do ’nt you do that ?' so often rebuked by our Saviour, constitute a great part of the religious' development of the day. We contend that the power of love is supreme over the hearts of men; that the proper manifestation of that Divine Love which flowed into the world through our Saviour, is allsufficient to hold men to their legitimate functions; that such was the great thought of God when He appeared upon earth in His Son ; that Christianity is based upon love, and is all beauty — that it is not so preached. Hence the present acceptation of that word "piety ;' now he is a “pious' person who is especially distinguished for a certain exclusiveness of character; who has made himself a mere part of some religious machinery, a kind of pivot, screw, or fly-wheel: one whose adaptation to the ordinary relations of life ceases because his ' religion' is not his life, but something apart from it. The pious' person is apt to be a very inconvenient intruder among cheerful people; they must not dance in his presence; that would be very wicked; and to please him, they must be demure. The . pious' man in faci considers himself something apart from life - so he is; an incomprehensible definition a unit. A man may be all goodness, but still not pious;' may comply in all truth with the ordinations of the Christian religion ; wife, child, father, mother, brother, sister, fellow citizen, country, cat and dog, may all testify to the unimpeachableness of his fidelity; still he is not the distinct definition. A lady somewhere in this country, no matter where, said to a labouring man, . Now, John, I wish you to think seriously of giving up this world and looking to the next; to think of the importance of setting an example to your neighbours.' John replied : Madam, I have to think only of trying to do right all the day long, myself, and have no time to be setting example for others.' This would not be considered piety,' though the humble reply of John certainly indicated the spirit of the Christian religion : and yet clouded as his mind was by the mysterious dialect of religious' teachers, he was unable to recognize the truth which he professed.

HEAVEN.

OFTEN as I strive to wean

From this earth my heart away,
Soft as zephyr's breath between

Leaves of flowers at close of day,
Something murmurs in mine ear:

Dost thou seek where heaven may lie ?
Though thou deem not, it is here,

In the blue of MARY's eye.'

THE

DESTRUCTION

OF

CARTHAGE.

A BURST of haughty triumph shook the vanquished city's wall,
And shouts of victory echo d far from hut to palace hall;
The rolling of the chariot-wheels as passed the conqueror by,
Was like the deep and distant peal of thunder in the sky.

Where hurrying feet were wont to tread a boding stillness reigned,
The fires were quenched on many a shrine by careless hand profaned;
And childhood's shriek and woman's wail rose on the troubled air,
In tones of frantic agony, or voice of fervent prayer.

Within a gloomy fortress' gates, oppressed by famine's wo,
A few brave spirits yet defied the fierce exultant foe;
There was no shrinking in their hearts, but purpose strong and high
Was marked upon the lip compressed and in the tearless eye.

There woman paled not in the dark and fiery tide of strife,
But nerved with energy sublime, by love more strong than life,
She stood where crimson'd spears were set and bright swords flashing by,
And taught her proud and wondering boy how valiant men should die.

!

In suppliance low each knee had bent without that castle's dome,
And those within had vowed to die for country and for home,
When far and wide a clarion peal of vic!ory rent the sky;
What fearful sight without the wall dimmed each stern warrior's eye ?

It was not Death ; his form had grown familiar to their sight,
As a loved mother's gentle smile, or hues of morning light;
Before the conqueror's pageant throne their leader knelt a slave;
It was the loss of honesty — the birth-right of the brave.

They thronged the heights, and one was there with queenly step and form,
A soul that bowed not easily before the breaking storm;
Her full, rich lips and rounded cheek were beautiful though pale,
And a spirit flashed from her dark eye, that made each gazer quail.

• Hence! craven! hence! nor dare to look where love is changed to ire,
Dost think our proud and gallant boy would own thee for a sire?
Thou hast but saved a worthless life, and scorned and spurned shalt die;
Ten thousand deaths in every hour that floats unheeded by.

For many a dark and bitter curse shall, traitor! cling to thee;
The curse of all the great and good, the curse of chained and free,
The curse of thine oun naiive land, of her thou 'st vowed to love,
The curse of this, thine infant buy — the curse of God above!

1

And thou, stern Roman! though thy heart with pride is beating warm,
Shalt learn how powerless is thy might. to woinan's feeble arm;
And tell it not to future years that Carthage warred in vain,
Keep for thy bonds her traitor hearts – brave spirits know no chain.

She spoke, and swist the bright steel flashed, and from the height they sprung,
Mother and child, nor cry nor shriek upon the still air rung;
And when the trumpet's stirring blast went up with lordly peal,

Cold death upon their souls had set eternal Freedom's seal.
Skelter. Island, December, 1844.
VOL. XXV.

14

« PreviousContinue »