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[118]

The last time I saw you, you urged upon me the study of the proofs of Christianity, with an earnestness that flowed, I was conscious, from a sincere confidence in them yourself and the consequent wish that all should believe; as in belief was sure salvation. I have had your last words and look often in my mind since. They have been not inconstant prompters to thought and speculation upon the proposed subject. I attended Bishop Hopkins's lectures, and gave to them a severe attention. I remained and still remain unconvinced that Christ was divinely commissioned to preach a revelation to men, and that he was entrusted with the power of working miracles. But when I make this declaration, I do not mean to deny that such a being as Christ lived and went about doing good, or that the body of precepts which have come down to us as delivered by him, were so delivered. I believe that Christ lived when and as the Gospel says; that he was more than man,—namely, above all men who had as yet lived,—and yet less than God; full of the strongest sense and knowledge, and of a virtue superior to any which we call Roman or Grecian or Stoic, and which we best denote when, borrowing his name, we call it Christian. I pray you not to believe that I am insensible to the goodness and greatness of his character. My idea of human nature is exalted, when I think that such a being lived and went as a man amongst men. And here, perhaps, the conscientious unbeliever may find good cause for glorifying his God; not because he sent his Son into the world to partake of its troubles and be the herald of glad tidings, but because he suffered a man to be born, in whom the world should see but one of themselves, endowed with qualities calculated to elevate the standard of attainable excellence.

I do not know that I can say more without betraying you into a controversy, in which I should be loath to engage, and from which I am convinced no good would result to either party. I do not think that I have a basis for faith to build upon. I am without religious feeling. I seldom refer my happiness or acquisitions to the Great Father from whose mercy they are derived. Of the first great commandment, then, upon which so much hangs, I live in perpetual unconsciousness,—I will not say disregard, for that, perhaps, would imply that it was present in my mind. I believe, though, that my love to my neighbor—namely, my anxiety that my fellow-creatures should be happy, and disposition to serve them in their honest endeavors— is pure and strong. Certainly I do feel an affection for every thing that God created; and this feeling is my religion.

He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

I ask you not to imagine that I am led into the above sentiment by the lines I have just quoted,—the best of Coleridge's ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’—but rather that I seize the lines to express and illustrate my feeling.


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