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ended in the perfect conviction you express in regard to certain doctrines. What other ground can you have? I have examined the same points most conscientiously, during the best part of my life, and I am compelled by the clearest conviction to declare your conclusions wrong. What other ground can I have? God alone knows who is in the right. But although this expression sounds like doubt, it does not mean it. As far as it is given me to see into these subjects, I am fully convinced that God is my Saviour, that through his goodness alone I shall be saved, that the whole system of the atonement is a mistake.
I assert this just in the same spirit as that in which you charge me with error. In spite of my views I love and respect you, considering the happiness which has arisen to me from your friendship as one of the best gifts of God.
The difference of our creeds consists in this; that whilst I cannot conceive that any abstract error of yours can interfere with your eternal happiness, yours forces you to consider me as a condemned criminal, between whom and eternity there stands nothing but a thread of life.—Whatever you may say, I cannot believe that you entertain this persuasion in regard to me. May the God of peace and love bless you.
J. B. W.
About this time he received the following Letter from Dr. Channing :
Boston, Feb. 27, 1841. My dear Sir, Many thanks to you for your last letter. I see that you made an effort in writing, but I hope you were not harmed by it. Your approbation of my writings is encouraging to me; and I need the more some cheering words from abroad, because I hear not many at home. I began to write on Slavery, in consequence of the almost universal insensibility on the subject around me. There are more signs of life now, but a cause which has to make its way against avarice, commercial interests, conservative fears, and the selfish views of politicians, cannot triumph in a day. I have reason to think that I have done some good,--at any rate, I have written under that feeling of necessity which Paul felt when he said, “ Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” I have obeyed a divine monition, and cannot have laboured in vain.
Do not think, from these remarks, that I attach much importance to these labours. I should not have spoken of them, had you not expressed so kindly an interest in them.
I have been reading, or rather am just finishing, a book which I doubt not you have read with great interest Ranke's History of the Popes. I confess I was not before fully aware of the powerful reaction of Catholicism against Protestantisin at the close of the sixteenth century. It is plain that the civil power was the right arm of the Church, and that she reconquered her lost possessions chiefly by force. But the civil power did not act wholly, or perhaps mainly, from policy, but very much from religious impulses, so that the religious principle lay at the foundation of the mighty movement which rocked all Europe. What so formidable as this principle in its perversions ! Men really believed, from the throne to the cottage, that a fellow-creature, holding what was called a heresy, was God's personal foe, that their hatred of him was shared by the Creator, and that to drive him into the Church, or to drive him out of the world into hell, was the most acceptable service they could render to Heaven. It is comforting to think that this horrible doctrine was really held, that it was not a mere pretext of tyranny, that the Pope and Emperor yielded as hearty assent to it as the common man. But, on the other hand, it is a fearful thought that men are liable to
such delusions, that God's name may be enlisted conscientiously on the side of the fiercest passions; that tyranny, in its most terrible forms, may be grounded on ideas of Duty and Religion. Are we sure that we are safe now against illusions equally pernicious, though of a different character? We have certainly gained something. The fundamental error of Catholicism was an utter distrust of human nature on the subject of religion. It was universally believed that religion was to be imposed on man from abroad ; that there was nothing in his intellect or affections to carry him to God; an opinion not very strange in an age of darknessand nothing more was needed for the superstructure which was reared on it. This we have outgrown in a measure, and I have no fear of the revival of the notion; and still more, I have great hopes from the partial recognition of men's capacities and rights. But the great fact of history, that the development of our mysterious nature has been made through so much error, suffering, conflict, must always chastise our hopes.-What a spell seems to bind the nations at this moment! What has France learned from the past ?—But I have no thought of inflicting on you gloomy forebodings. Such are some of the ideas which Ranke's book suggests, but on the whole it is very encouraging. He teaches that a dangerous principle or force, by its very prevalence, awakens counteracting forces, and that the springs which are at work in human affairs are too complicated and vast to be comprehended or managed by civil or religious despots. Catholicism met resistance to its project of universal empire from the jealousies of the very States on which it leaned. May it not be added that the Jesuits, by their very intelligence and subtleties, at first so successful, awakened an intellectual force fatal to their cause? They undertook to reason men out of their Reason ; an enterprize which could not but fail in the long run.--All this is an old story to you, but Ranke is on my table, and I am fresh from his pages; and I fell naturally into this train of thoughts. I shall rejoice to hear of an alleviation of your sufferings. God grant you his supports and consolations ! Very truly and respectfully your friend,
W. E. CHANNING.
In my opino root in sousted a
He dictated an answer, of which only these notes have been preserved :
“ March 21st, 1841. “ In my opinion, the desire for religious Reformation had not a very deep root in society. The gross abuses of the Church of Rome had disgusted a part of the people. Its wealth had excited the avarice of the great; and as many of the Potentates of Europe were interested in checking the political power of Rome, controversy was made the foundation of their attacks upon that formidable force. As dry Controversy has no tendency to Enthusiasm, the necessity of giving some spirit to the work of the Reformation promoted the always existing tendency to enthusiastic views, in the mass of the people.
“ Hence the absurd variety of Sects among Protestants, which is, and must always be, the stumbling-block of every person who has false notions of the Unity of the Church. To recover this Unity was the end of every honest man among the Catholics, especially if not possessed of philosophical views on the character of a leading body of the faithful. Thus when Bossuet condensed the powers of his mind to give a mortal blow to Protestantism, he exclusively insisted on its want of Unity.-From these views some facts among those mentioned by Ranke may be explained.
“ That in the present state of popular knowledge we have no security against the Church of Rome, I conceive to be true. The Protestants themselves are the main cause of this. Yet there is a light spread abroad, which is a kind of security against any universal defection from the progressing path of truth. And in regard to mankind, or rather in regard to the civilized part of it, we must repose our trust on that general character of Providence which, iu spite of difficulties and dangers, has led us out of the darkness of former ages into this feeble but pure glimmering of truth, which seems to lead all the thinking portion of mankind at present.”
He had, at all times, the strongest sense of the value of social worship; and when his bodily sufferings permitted, he never omitted an opportunity of seeking these connections with his fellow men. A few weeks before his death, he sent for the writer of these notices, who was in the same house with him, early on Sunday morning,—and having for days together suffered anguish which cannot be described, he said with tears, which he was too feeble to restrain :
“I wish you to ask for me the prayers of your congregation. I do not doubt the goodness of my God: nor do I believe that He overlooks me, or requires intercession,-but my soul longs for religious sympathy, and I wish to have the feeling that I am not separated from my fellow Christians, nor deprived of the consolations I have always found from social prayer."
An idea of the weakness, of the utter dependance on the services of others, to which he was reduced, was faithfully conveyed in the words of one of his friends, “that even the tear which any expression of affectionate sympathy, or his own silent heart-prayer,