« PreviousContinue »
from all the religions of antiquity, it is an established falsehood among us, that only Christianity has taken a concern in favour of the slaves. That TRUE Christianity—as a rejection of all superstitions which oppress, darken and pervert the human mind and heart,
opens them, by the removal of those obstacles, to the divine rays and influences of the reasonable Conscience, and consequently to "whatever things are true, to whatever things are honest,” &c.,—is perfectly true. But it is false that all the supposed Oracular Books have any direct tendency to the abolition of Slavery. “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid (N.B.), with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”—Exod. xxi. 20,21. Where has this pretended DIVINE Law been abrogated? Where has the barbarous PRINCIPLE of the Law been directly opposed ? I remember the horror with which this passage struck me in my youth. I could never during the rest of my life efface that painful impression. If I were an American slave-owner, and had a heart to continue so, I would set up that passage over every entrance to my house.
To Dr. Channing.
Liverpool, Oct. 9th, 1839. My dear Sir, So far is your last letter from being without interest to me, that I answer it without delay, that the strong desire it
has excited, of communicating with you upon the subjects touched in it, may support me against the external fatigue of writing.
Though absolutely shackled to my chair, and in constant discomfort, if not actual pain, from internal disease and total want of motion, my mind has nevertheless been more free for the last month. I wish, with all my heart, you would come to England before I lose the light of this setting gleam. I have always believed that you are ce of the few who can see into the very bottom of my mind, without being startled at the conclusions it has settled in, at the end of its long and painful inquiries. Believe me, I do not claim assent-all I want is sympathy. I cannot find in myself any spirit of dogmatism, though I feel great practical security. That I may be wrong, is exceedingly probable; that I am criminally wrong, I cannot believe : my conscience assures me I am not.
I am not surprised to find such coldness and worldliness in the mass of the American Unitarians, as you describe. As you most truly observe, Unitarianism was originally a protest against a great absurdity. This protest had no vivifying spirit in itself; it is true. But the principle from which it proceeded was, in my view, the completion of Protestantism. All the other Protestant churches are in contradiction with themselves : we alone are consistent; and this is a great point. We have engaged to follow the light of reason within us—the divine light of the intellect in combination with the conscience-as far as it will lead us. Whoever compromises this principle, destroys and renounces it. What then is it we want ?- To follow it devoutly. For a long series of ages it has been practically believed, that there is no devotional feeling unless it be supported by the Imagination; that there is nothing heavenly but what assumes the shape of a visible wonder; in a word, people have generally imagined themselves irreligious whenever they found themselves without an idol, external or internal, a bodily shape either to be seen and felt, or to be imagined. Hence, the dangerous mistake of supposing the essence of Christianity to be inseparable from the firm belief in historical miracles, in revealed books, in unintelligible dogmas, called mysteries. Now, it is to me an indubitable fact, that the growth of the human mind prevents already, and will every day more and more oppose, the belief in this scholastic supernaturalism. The Oxford Puseyites originate in the fulness of this persuasion, combined with a most wilful determination of maintaining a supernatural mysticism. Intimately acquainted as I have been with their leaders, I can confidently assure you, that this is the case. They were (with the exception of one-a mystic by nature) inclined to German Rationalism. But being naturally pious, the tendency of their own minds alarmed them : they thought they were inevitably led into unbelief; and being too clever to be satisfied with the historical proofs of miraculous Christianity, they flung themselves on the bosom of a phantom, they call Church. Their plan is to stop all inquiry, and to believe because they like it. The leaders are still young, and as such possessed of an all-powerful Will. I give thein full credit for good intentions. But their plan must prove ineffectual every way; except in leading some rather weak persons to Romanism. Is there then any help in Man ?-I believe the hand of God will extricate us from this morally alarming state, though not without suffering, and evil. Christianity, in my opinion, must settle into Unitarianism not that negative and empty form which we lament in many, but into the eternal, unchangeable, living religion which alone is Christianity. The very pressure felt by all good, intelligent, and liberal men-on the one side from the absurd claims of church Christianities, on the other, from the irreligion to which many ay as in despair-this pressure will lead the truly religious in heart, to the perception that the One only God, the living source of our soul, is an object of the most ardent love, in himself, and
in his intimate union with Man; and that this union is by its nature and essence supernatural, without needing the assistance of miracles or verbal revelations (all of which become inevitably natural the moment they pass through a human medium) to raise us to a state of real fellowship with our Maker. It is said that Unitarianism is cold. What an absurdity! Is not the Divine Being an object of love in Himself? Need we intermediary beings to give him interest? These are the implicit blasphemies of those idolatrous, mentally idolatrous, systems which have disturbed Christianity for ages. It is the system of original sin, and that of Redemption—that monstrous series of contrivances attributed to God to save his own creation ; it is this system lurking in almost every mind, that gives Unitarianism its air of coldness. As no God has died for us, it seems we have no reason to be thankful, no ground for loving the Father of our natural being. What is natural, and what supernatural, in the great mystery of Man ? This distinction is the bane of theology. No, my dear Sir, you yourself know that our pure belief in God does not generate coldness. From my own experience I feel certain, that all such church systems diminish the true love of God in the heart. Since I became convinced that the misnamed supernaturalism is no part of Christianity, no doubt has interposed its shadow between my soul and my God. My confidence in Him has increased; I await death as his fatherly message of love, not troubling myself to form schemes of the life to which he calls me, but feeling certain that in his hands I shall be safe. I am safe, and shall be so to all eternity.
I may be presumptuous in hoping great things from the religious system at which I have arrived, but I speak in simplicity of heart, and in the utmost conviction of my understanding. True Christianity, the spirit of Christianity, did exist, in spite of Church absurdities, in many individuals, during the past ages of our era, because the human mind was either in total darkness, or in a mere twilight of reason ; at present, and for the future, such a combination of scholasticism with true religion is, and will be, impossible. Let us tear up the last roots of Churchism; and true, devout, living Unitarianism will flourish.'
I have been writing under an impulse, and I feel already exhausted. I conclude with hearty thanks for your friendship. It is a real, moral honour to me. Your ever attached friend and brother,
J. BLANCO WHITE.
20th October, 1839. " A Letter from Mrs. Whately, with notice of their annual bounty. God reward them.
October 21st. Having, within the last few days, felt an irresistible impulse to write in Spanish (it was occasioned by the very unexpected visit of my cousin Luke Beck, who strongly reminded me of my youth), I wrote yesterday morning two Spanish Seguidillas in connection with the character of a Spanish girl I want to draw up in a Spanish Tale. With a voice like Malibran, she has a noble spirit, and will not condescend to sing amorous ditties.
23rd. A better night. Finished Nicholas Nickleby, and resolved to read no more Novels: they make me unhappy.