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ligion, but to the experience of ages that have past, and to our own individual experience.
When luxury and pride were introduced into Rome, that power which had brought her into eminence became enervated; discords and dissentions were introduced, and hence was produced a separation from the source of purity, and also from the source of power. It was this which caused whole Palestina to be dissolved. And this may become a lesson to us, not only as individuals, but as members of civil society, and as members of religious associations; for in any of these, where purity gives way to impurity, where any of those passions which corrode the human heart, gain the ascendency over the soul and relative virtues, here the seeds of corruption that mar domestic, social, civil and everlasting happiness, are brought into action, generate and ripen; and this renders it necessary for us, in a subject of so much consequence as that in which the salvation of our souls is allowed to be involved, to become thinking beings;and not to place our dependence upon the dogmas of men—upon systems built up and imbibed by education and tradition. The religion of forms and education is not the religion of our own experience; it is not the religion of conviction; but it is a religion imbibed while our minds are weak-It is a religion which we receive as imitative creatures, and not as reflecting ones. But if we ever come to experience the power of that religion which leads unto salvation, it must be the religion of conviction, by a revelation immediately from heaven. I am aware that this is a ground which has long been disputed—I am aware also, that the generality of professors, of the christian name, have denied the idea of immediate revelation to man in the present day; and they have concluded that all the revelation which we are to receive is contained in the Scriptures of truth, which have been accordingly, though corruptly, dignified with the title, of the word of God; and the rule of faith and practice.
Now the Scriptures are not the word of God, neither are they the rule of faith and practice; for the Scriptures declare, that the Word was in the beginning, but the Scriptures were not till Moses. "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us (said the Apostle) and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Now that which was word in the beginning, remains to be word in the present day, snd also the rule of faith and practice.
Religion, I apprehend, may be divided into two kinds, viz. That religion which proceeds from an emanation, or revelation of the power of God, immediately upon the mind of each individual of the human family; and secondly, the religion of the Bible. The latter has been generally adopted; and what have been the fruits which it has produced? They are obvious to every reflecting mind. We see that out of the religions now extant there have arisen contention, confusion, hatred, envy and a variety of evil passions, among all the different classes and denominations, who are professors of the christian name. Yet all these professors have been governed by the Scriptures as their rule of faith and practice. Their doctrines have been supported by inferences therefrom; and they all justify their various discordant proceedings from this source: and in the high profession of religion, with which the world abounds, it is equally obvious that wickedness has increased in proportion to the increase of this religion in the land. There has been a great increase of religious profession within my recollection; and we must acknowledge, that instead of a decrease of wickedness, it has been found to increase in regular proportion--And there is no effect without a cause. It will therefore be well to examine a little into the causes which have produced these effects.
It has been considered as an essential of the christian religion that mankind should fulfil a variety of rites and ceremonies, better adapted to the
legal dispensation than to that which is spiritual. Baptism, by water, has been imposed upon us; and with it there has been another symbol, another type; that of partaking the bread and wine as an emblem of Christ's death till be come. We have been led into a great variety of performances, which have been called public worship; and there has been a great deal of preaching, praying and singing: And to what do these things lead?
To a nominal belief in those things which are declared to be mysterious and cannot be understood; but certain opinions, and doctrines, and dogmas of men, have been proposed; and it is required that we should subscribe to things unbecoming rational beings.
I want it to be impressed on each of our minds, that opinions are not religion, and that declamation is not gospel. These dogmas which we cannot understand, we can never believe. I have never been able to believe any thing of which I could not form an idea. We may have opinions and prejudices, and may adopt this or that position in which we have been educated; but this cannot give to a being, saving, operative faith-a faith which will overcome the world, or any one evil propensity or any one proposition which we cannot understand—this is an absurdity, it is an impossibility.
I believe that baptism is essential to the soul's salvation--I believe it is necessary to partake of the body of Christ-I believe there are three who bear record in heaven, and that these three are one I believe that none are saved out of the pale of the holy Catholic Church. I believe with another society in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son, our Lord; who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. But that He descended into Hell I dare not believe, because he declared unto the thief on the cross, this day wilt thou be with me in Paradise. I believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the life everlasting. And I apprehend that I could subscribe to almost all that is called doctrine by the Christain churches: but this has been subscribed to, by drunkards, thieves, whoremongers, and the worst of men; hence there is nothing in it of a saving nature--the greatest infidel may declare that he believes all these things, and still remain an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope, and be living without God in the world. Therefore, it is necessary for us to take another view of the subject, beside that of giving our assent to the popular doctrine of men being saved by this nominal belief. Now baptism, whereby many gain admission, and are initiated into those churches of which they are members, is the baptism of John, this