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which they knew would flow from Thee without end or interruption.
I have often confessed to Thee, my God, my own more than indifference to that supposed continuation of life in which people so loudly profess a belief. That Thou art able to maintain my individual consciousness for ever, I will not deny, though my imagination faints whenever I try to embody that conception. I feel oppressed by the notion of eternal existence, even when the absence of evil is made one of its conditions. Such an existence seems to belong only to thy Infinite nature. It is generally supposed that morality would be at an end were it not for the fear of a never-ending life to be passed in misery. I much doubt the truth of this assertion, especially when I observe the multitude of means of escaping the punishment of sin, which the various Priesthoods offer to men. I value, besides, very little a morality that has its root in such fear. Why do we not teach men to fear the immediate, the inevitable punishment of misconduct-namely, self-reproach and remorse, the consciousness of their own degradation, the fear of its increase by frequent relapse? We might indeed cultivate with great success this foundation of morality, if many of our best men were not wasting their zeal and benevolence in the employment of those priestly means which are totally unable to produce any effect, unless they succeed in creating a vivid enthusiasm. Children are made spiritual slaves as soon as they are born: some Priesthood claims
them: to a certain association of believers the poor infants must be committed before they can utter a word, that not a moment may be lost in making the sounds of a creed strike their ears. Their susceptible imaginations are then filled up with material images of a heaven and a hell: good children, they are told, go to the former to live with Thee, oh God, in eternal happiness; bad children are sent to the latter place with the Devil and his Angels, a set of horrid monsters who torment those who fall to their lot. Alas! is this the way to develop a rational soul, to train it to the love of virtue ? To this they answer, that we must accommodate ourselves to the faculties of children: this is the same as to say that we must make Religion childish, in order to implant it in the human soul. How much better it would be to wait for the development of the human faculties; to watch the progress of the moral sentiments, and give instruction as the mind required it !—But this method would not suit the priestly spirit; it would not create slavish minds, full of those superstitious fears which lay people prostrate at the feet of the Priest. The Protestants, who at one time appeared to have entered the path of religious liberty, have made the evil more hopeless of remedy, by the appearance of freedom which they give to their peculiar superstition and mental slavery. From the indications of thy Providence I perceive more likelihood that the thorough reformation of this spurious, this priestly Christianity, will take place among the spiritual subjects of the Pope, than among the proud and superstitious Protestants of England. I turn my contemplative powers away from the thoroughly-organized means used in this highly-favoured country for perpetuating what is called the Church of England. With the same resolute spirit which directs their politics, the concerns of the national Religion (so they openly call it) are treated and managed. Their Clergy is a well-disciplined army; their Bishops show all the arrogance of military commanders, at the head of a strong force. Whoever offends the Church—that is, the Clergy—is trampled down without mercy. Men who devote themselves to the acquisition of knowledge must join, at least in appearance, the Church, if they are to rank in public estimation according to their merit. Those who govern the affairs of the nation must profess themselves conscientiously determined to support the interests of the Church, though they may publicly disapprove its doctrines and discipline. The Sovereign of the country holds the Crown on condition of belonging to the Church of England. Never, oh God, did the world behold a more insolent usurpation of power, wealth, and dignity, in Thy name, than that of the English Church. The monstrous usurpations of Rome had the tradition of former ages, and the ignorance of that in which they were in vigour, to extenuate if not to excuse their guilt. But the English Church preserves all the pride and boldness of the darkest period of Popery, in the midst of light and knowledge. She cannot venture to do the same things; but what she does, and what she aims at, requires and shows a more arrogant spirit than that which actuated the boldest of the pretended vicars of Christ. Thou, oh God, alone knowest how this formidable opponent of light and freedom, this great obstacle to the diffusion of that mighty stream of knowledge which has been swelling for more than three centuries, is to be removed. Persuasion, conviction, are totally powerless in such a case, besides that the means of producing them are, to a fearful degree, in the hands of the Church. I cannot foresee any way of upsetting an Establishment supported by external power, but a greater power of the same kind acting against it. In Thy hands are all the powers of man; and I firmly believe that Thou wilt direct them to the ultimate good of our species. We have seen a political church produce a fierce revolution; may, if I am allowed to conceive a humble wish, may England be spared a similar means of improvement!
Carlisle Cottage, Liverpool,
January 1st. My God! thou knowest that I do not feel justified in directing particular petitions to Thee. My heart is open before Thee. Thou knowest the great affliction in which I am lingering. My only request is for strength, patience, and love to Thee. As an expression of my love, I also pray for my son, my relations, and all my good friends, especially the Whatelys, and my great benefactor, my cousin Mr. Beck. Increase, O God, my trust in Thee. I have no suspicion of holding opinions offensive to Thee: but if my mind has been misdirected, do Thou set it right! I make this prayer in perfect confidence of the truth of my opinion, that religion does not consist in Orthodoxy. I feel quite certain on that point, and long for the day when all creeds shall be rejected by mankind!
2nd. Very much worse : exceedingly irritable. Mr.