« ForrigeFortsett »
The feeling which shrinks from such a lie is a blind, irrational prejudice, and should be plucked up and cast out of the soul. Truth may be proper enough in the strong: but deceit is the wisdom of the weak." But in this case my heart, my instinctive love of truth, prevailed.
Again, my heart pleaded for justice and mercy; for justice to all; and for mercy to the needy and helpless. But reason, or the heartless and godless philosophy that usurped its name, said, "Utility is the supreme law; the only law of man. Justice and mercy are right when they are useful; but when they are hurtful they are right no longer. If by destroying the helpless and the needy we can deliver them from their misery, and increase the happiness of the rest of our race, their destruction is a virtue, especially if we dispose of them in a quiet and painless way, so as to spare them the fears and agonies of death !" But here again my heart prevailed. My natural, unreasoning, instinctive horror of injustice and murder rendered the specious pleadings of Atheistic utilitarianism powerless. And so on moral matters generally.
As a rule, Atheists succeed, in course of time, in vanquishing and destroying their moral as well as their religious instincts, and then they embrace the most revolting doctrines, and reconcile themselves to the most appalling deeds. They look on marriage as irrational, and regard modesty and chastity as vices. Shame is a weakness in their eyes, and natural affections are irrational prejudices. Scruples against lying, theft and murder, when any great good is to be gained by those practices, are insanity. Gratitude, even to parents, is an absurdity. Free indulgence, unlimited license, is a virtue. The curse of our race is religion. The one great social evil is a surplus population; and the prevention or destruction of children is the sum of social science and virtue. The extinction of the weaker races, and the destruction of those of every race who cannot contribute their share of wealth and pleasure to the common stock, is the perfection of philosophy. In short, all the old-fashioned principles of virtue, honor, conscience, generosity, self-restraint, self-sacrifice, and natural affection are exploded, and in their place there comes a black and hideous chaos of all indecencies and immoralities, a boundless
ANOTHER GOOD CLERGYMAN.
and bottomless abyss of all imaginable and unspeakable horrors. I shudder when I think how near I came to this hell of atheistical philosophy. My inability entirely to extinguish my better instincts and affections, prevented me from plunging headlong into its frightful depths. It was more than I could do to carry out the atheistical principles of mere theoretical reasoning to its last results. I was, thank God, on some points, always inconsistent, and my inconsistency was my salvation. My heart preserved me in spite of my head.
But if I could not carry out my principle of trusting to mere reasoning to its full extent, why did I act on it at all? When I found that it led to utter degradation and ruin, why did I not renounce it, and trust once more in my native instincts? When I found myself obliged to follow my heart in so many matters, why not follow it in all? I answer, I had not a sufficient understanding of the matter. I wanted more light. But the course of study on which the remarks of my dear good friend Mr. Mawson led me to enter, led to clearer and correcter views on the subject. It led to the conviction that instinct and natural affection are divine inspirations,-that the beliefs and practices to which they constrain us are the perfection of wisdom and goodness, that to set them aside is inevitable ruin,-that whenever reason says one thing, and our religious and moral affections and instincts say another, we ought to turn a deaf ear to reason, and follow implicitly the dictates of our moral and religious faculties. And to this conviction, resulting in a great measure from the remarks of my faithful and devoted friend, I owe, in part, my present unspeakable happiness as a believer in Christ.
5. I encountered two Christian men in public discussion who left a favorable impression on my mind. One was the Rev. Andrew Loose, of Winchester, Indiana. The subject of discussion between me and Mr. Loose was the divine authority of the Bible. He went through the whole debate, which lasted several days, without uttering one uncharitable, scornful, or angry word, with the exception of a single phrase in his last speech; and even that he meekly and generously recalled, after I had satisfied him of its impropriety. I never forgot the conduct of that
dear good man, and his Christian meekness and forbearance had a good effect on my heart.
6. The other gentleman whose conduct left the most favorable impression of all on my mind, was Colonel Shaw, of Bourtree Park, Ayr, Scotland, of whose gentlemanly behavior and great Christian kindness I have already spoken.
7. There were some other persons who, without assailing me with argument, did me considerable good. After lecturing at Burnley once, a person rose to oppose me, and a great disturbance followed. I was thrown from the platform, and fell backward on the floor, and a crowd of persons fell upon me, and I had a narrow escape from death by violence and suffocation. I was rescued however alive. In the tumult my overcoat, my hat, and my watch disappeared, and my body was somewhat bruised. Next day a gentleman who had heard of the way in which I had been treated, came to my lodgings to see me. He seemed very much distressed on my account, and anxious, if possible, to do something which might minister comfort to my mind. His name was Philips. He was a Methodist, and the son of a Methodist preacher. His kindness and sympathy were so genuine and so earnest, that they made a deep impression on my mind, and they naturally recur to my memory when I think of the friends whose influence helped to reclaim me from the miseries of doubt and unbelief.
8. About thirteen years ago I lectured at Bacup. The Rev. T. Lawson, Congregational minister of Bacup, attended my lectures, and came and spoke to me afterwards, and invited me to call and see him, and dine with him. I went, and we had a lengthened conversation on matters pertaining to religion and the Church. My host exhibited a remarkable amount of Christian charity and true liberality of sentiment. He had been a reader of mine in his earlier days, when I was an advocate of Evangelical reform, and he spoke of himself as my debtor; and he was desirous, if possible, of repaying the debt, by smoothing the way for my return to Christianity. Mrs. Lawson sat and listened to our conversation in silence; but when I rose to take my leave, she bade me good-bye with most unmistakable evidences of interest in my welfare, and said,
A GOOD BAPTIST MINISTER.
as she held me by the hand, "I hope we shall meet you in heaven." I had one or two other interviews with Mr. Lawson at a somewhat later period, and all are to be placed among the means by which I was brought to my present happy position.
9. Some nineteen years ago I had a public discussion with the Rev. Charles Williams, Baptist minister, of Accrington. It was a very unpleasant affair. I was much exhausted at the time with over much work, and with longcontinued and painful excitement caused by a very unpleasant piece of business which I had in hand; and I did what I honorably could to avoid the discussion. My friends, however, would have no nay, and I reluctantly, and in anything but an amiable temper, made my appearance at the time appointed on the platform. How far the blame was chargeable on me, or how far it was chargeable on others, I do not know; but the first night's meeting was a very disagreeable one. I thought myself in the right at the time, but I fancy my unhappy state of mind must have rendered me very provoking, and at the same time blinded me to the real character of my proceedings. On the following night the discussion went on more smoothly, and it ended better than it began. I was constrained to regard Mr. Williams as an able and good man. I met him occasionally after my separation from the Secularists, and his behaviour and spirit deepened the favorable impression of his character already made on my mind. While I was at Burnley he delivered a lecture in that town on Bishop Colenso's work on the Pentateuch. I was present. When he had done, he invited me in the kindest way imaginable to speak. I had heard next to nothing in the lecture to which I could object, but much that I could heartily approve and applaud. To all that he had said in praise of the Bible I could subscribe most heartily. Indeed I felt that the Bible was worthy of more and higher praise than he had bestowed on it, and I expressed myself to that effect. The meeting altogether was a very pleasant one, except to a number of unbelievers, who were dreadfully vexed at my remarks in commendation of the Bible. I saw Mr. Williams repeatedly afterwards, and his kind and interesting conversation, and his very gentlemanly and
Christian demeanor, had always a beneficial effect on my mind.
10. One of the first to express a conviction that I should become a Christian was an American lady, whom I sometimes saw in London. She had herself been an unbeliever, but had been cured of her skepticism by spiritualism. She was then a Catholic. She gave me a medal of the Virgin Mary, and entreated me to wear it round my neck. To please her I promised to do so. But the medal disappeared before long, and what became of it I never could tell; but my friend had the satisfaction to see her prophecy fulfilled in my happy return to Christianity.
11. An acquaintance which I formed with the Rev. W. Newton, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, must also be reckoned among the things which exerted an influence on my mind favorable to Christianity. Mr. Newton had been a Baptist in his earlier days, but. getting into perplexity with regard to certain doctrines, he became a Unitarian. He came to feel however, in course of time, that something more than Unitarianism was necessary to the satisfaction of his soul, and to the salvation of the world; and at the time that Í became acquainted with him, he had made up his mind to leave the Unitarians. On my way to the far-off regions. of unbelief, I had passed through the Unitarian territory; and I passed through the same territory, or near to its border, on my return to Christianity; and had it not been for my interviews with Mr. Newton, and a somewhat startling event or two that occurred about that period, I might have lingered for a time in that cold and hungry land. Mr. Newton helped to quicken my steps, and I moved onward, and rested not, till I found my way back to the paradise, or a garden that very much resembled the paradise, of my earlier days.
12. Mr. J. Potts, like Mr. J. Mawson, without following me into the extremes of doubt, retained his friendship for me through all my wanderings, and never neglected any opportunity he had of showing me kindness. And others, whom I cannot take the liberty to name, evinced the same unfailing constancy of esteem and love. And the unbroken connexion that remained between my enduring friends and their amiable families and myself, added to