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expected only from those who, forsaking the common road, are exercised in a peculiar course of moral discipline : but it should be remembered, that these exertions cannot be expected from every character, nor on every occasion. Indeed, religion is a sentiment which takes such strong hold on all the most powerful principles of our nature, that it may easily be carried to excess. The Deity never meant our regards to him should engross the mind: that indifference to sensible objects, which many moralists preach, is not perhaps desirable, except where the mind is raised above its natural tone, and extraordinary situations call forth extraordinary virtues.
If the peculiar advantages of a sect were well understood, its followers would not be impatient of those moderate restraints which do not rise to persecution, nor affect any of their more material interests : for, do they not bind them closer to each other, cherish zeal, and keep up the love of liberty? What is the language of such restraints ? Do they not say, with a prevailing voice, Let the timorous and the worldly depart; no one shall be of this persuasion, who is not sincere, disinterested, conscientious. It is notwithstanding proper, that men should be sensible of all their rights, assert them boldly, and protest against every infringement; for it
for it may be of advantage to bear what yet it is unjustifiable in others to inflict.
Neither would dissenters, if they attended to their real interests, be so ambitious as they generally are, of rich converts. Such converts only accelerate their decline; they relax their disci. pline, and they acquire an influence very pernicious in societies which ought to breathe nothing but the spirit of equality.
Sects are always strict in proportion to the corruption of establishments and the licentiousness of the times, and they are useful in the same proportion. Thus the austere lives of the primitive christians counterbalanced the vices of that abandoned period; and thus the puritans in the reign of Charles the Second seasoned with a wholesome severity, the profligacy of public manners. They were less amiable than their descendants of the present day; but to be amiable was not the object: they were of public utility; and their scrupulous sanctity (carried to excess, themselves only considered), like a powerful antiseptic, opposed the contagion breathed from a most dissolute court. In like manner, that sect, one of whose most striking characteristics is a beautiful simplicity of dialect, served to check that strain of servile flattery and Gothic compliment so prevalent in the same period, and to keep up some idea of that manly plainness with which one human being ought to address another.
Thus have we seen that different modes of reli
gion, though they bear little good-will to each other, are nevertheless mutually useful. Perhaps there is not an establishment so corrupt, as not to make the gross of mankind better than they would be without it. Perhaps there is not a sect so eccentric, but that it has set some one truth in the strongest light, or carried some one virtue, before neglected, to its utmost height, or loosened some obstinate and long-rooted prejudice. They answer their end; they die away; others spring up, and take their place. So the purer part of the element, continually drawn off from the mighty mass of waters, forms rivers, which, running in various directions, fertilize large countries; yet, always tending towards the ocean, every accession to their bulk or grandeur but precipitates their course, and hastens their re-union with the common reservoir from which they were separated.
In the mean time, the devout heart always finds associates suitable to its disposition, and the particular cast of its virtues; while the continual flux and reflux of opinions prevents the active principles from stagnating. There is an analogy between things material and immaterial. As, from some late experiments in philosophy, it has been found that the process of vegetation restores and purifies vitiated air; so does that moral and political ferment which accompanies the growth of new sects, communicate a kind of spirit and elasticity neces
sary to the vigour and health of the soul, but soon lost amidst the corrupted breath of an indiscriminate multitude.
There remains only to add, lest the preceding view of sects and establishments should in any degree be misapprehended, that it has nothing to do with the truth of opinions, and relates only to the influence which the adventitious circumstances attending them may have upon the manners and morals of their followers. It is therefore calculated to teach us candour, but not indifference. Large views of the moral polity of the world may serve to illustrate the providence of God in his different dispensations, but are not made to regulate our own individual conduct, which must conscientiously follow our own opinions and belief. We may see much good in an establishment, the doctrines of which we cannot give our assent to without violating our integrity ; we may respect the tendencies of a sect, the tenets of which we utterly disapprove. We may think practices useful which we cannot adopt without hypocrisy.
may think all religions beneficial, and believe of one alone that it is true.
THE CURE OF THE BANKS OF THE
WRITTEN IN 1791.
A FRIEND of mine, who pretends to have very good information from the Continent, communicated to me the following account: I confess it comes in a shape a little questionable: however, I send it you Mr. Editor, exactly as my friend read it to me, from a private letter which he said he had just received.
“A few days after the bishop of Paris and his vicars had set the example of renouncing their clerical character, a curé from a village on the banks of the Rhone, followed by some of his parishioners with an offering of gold and silver saints, chalices, rich vestments, &c., presented himself at the bar of the House. The sight of the gold put the Convention in a very good humour, and the curé, a thin venerable looking man with gray hairs, was ordered to speak. “I come,' said he, “from the village of where the only good building standing (for the chateau has been