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And Mr. Wesley also believed in the actual existence of the devil. He believed that devils had possession of people. He talked to the devil when he was in folks, and the devil told him that he was going to leave; and that he was going into another person. That he would be there at a certain time; and Wesley went to that other person, and there the devil was, prompt to the minute. He regarded every conversion as warfare between G.o.d and this devil for the possession of that human soul, and that in the warfare G.o.d had gained the victory. Honest, no doubt. Mr.
Wesley did not believe in human liberty. Honest, no doubt. Was opposed to the liberty of the colonies. Honestly so. Mr. Wesley preached a sermon ent.i.tled: “The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes,” in which he took the ground that earthquakes were caused by sin; and the only way to stop them was to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. No doubt an honest man.
Wesley and Whitfield fell out on the question of predestination. Wesley insisted that G.o.d invited everybody to the feast. Whitfield said he did not invite those he knew would not come. Wesley said he did. Whitfield said: Well, he did not put plates for them, anyway. Wesley said he did.
So that, when they were in h.e.l.l he could show them that there was a seat left for them. The church that they founded is still active. And probably no church in the world has done so much preaching for as little money as the Methodists. Whitfield believed in slavery, and advocated the slave-trade. And it was of Whitfield that Whittier made the two lines:
“He bade the slave ships speed from coast to coast, Fanned by the wings of the Holy Ghost.”
We have lately had a meeting of the Methodists, and I find by their statistics that they believe that they have converted 130,000 folks in a year. That, in order to do this, they have 26,000 preachers, 226,000 Sunday school scholars, and about $100,000,000 invested in church property. I find, in looking over the history of the world, that there are 40,000,000 or 50,000,000 of people born a year, and if they are saved at the rate of 130,000 a year, about how long will it take that doctrine to save this world? Good, honest people; but they are mistaken.
In old times they were very simple. Churches used to be like barns. They used to have them divided–men on that side, and women on this. A little barbarous. We have advanced since then, and we now find as a fact, demonstrated by experience, that a man sitting by the woman he loves can thank G.o.d as heartily as though sitting between two men that he has never been introduced to.
There is another thing the Methodists should remember, and that is that the Episcopalians were the greatest enemies they ever had. And they should remember that the Freethinkers have always treated them kindly and well.
There is one thing about the Methodist Church in the North that I like.
But I find that it is not Methodism that does that. I find that the Methodist Church in the South is as much opposed to liberty as the Methodist Church North is in favor of liberty. So it is not Methodism that is in favor of liberty or slavery. They differ a little in their creed from the rest. They do not believe that G.o.d does everything. They believe that he does his part, and that you must do the rest, and that getting to heaven is a partnership business. The Methodist Church is adapted to new countries–its ministers are generally uncultured, and with them zeal takes the place of knowledge. They convert people with noise. In the silence that follows most of the converts backslide.
In a little while a struggle will commence between the few who are growing and the orthodox many. The few will be driven out, and the church will be governed by those who believe without understanding.
IX. THE PRESBYTERIANS
THE next church is the Presbyterian, and in my judgment the worst of all, as far as creed is concerned. This church was founded by John Calvin, a murderer!
John Calvin, having power in Geneva, inaugurated human torture. Voltaire abolished torture in France. The man who abolished torture, if the Christian religion be true, G.o.d is now torturing in h.e.l.l, and the man who inaugurated torture, is now a glorified angel in heaven. It will not do.
John Knox started this doctrine in Scotland, and there is this peculiarity about Presbyterianism–it grows best where the soil is poorest. I read the other day an account of a meeting between John Knox and John Calvin. Imagine a dialogue between a pestilence and a famine!
Imagine a conversation between a block and an ax! As I read their conversation it seemed to me as though John Knox and John Calvin were made for each other; that they fitted each other like the upper and lower jaws of a wild beast. They believed happiness was a crime; they looked upon laughter as blasphemy; and they did all they could to destroy every human feeling, and to fill the mind with the infinite gloom of predestination and eternal death. They taught the doctrine that G.o.d had a right to d.a.m.n us because he made us. That is just the reason that he has not a right to d.a.m.n us. There is some dust. Unconscious dust! What right has G.o.d to change that unconscious dust into a human being, when he knows that human being will sin; when he knows that human being will suffer eternal agony? Why not leave him in the unconscious dust? What right has an infinite G.o.d to add to the sum of human agony?
Suppose I knew that I could change that piece of furniture into a living, sentient human being, and I knew that that being would suffer untold agony forever. If I did it, I would be a fiend. I would leave that being in the unconscious dust.
And yet we are told that we must believe such a doctrine or we are to be eternally d.a.m.ned! It will not do.
In 1839 there was a division in this church, and they had a lawsuit to see which was the church of G.o.d. And they tried it by a judge and jury, and the jury decided that the new school was the church of G.o.d, and then they got a new trial, and the next jury decided that the old school was the church of G.o.d, and that settled it. That church teaches that infinite innocence was sacrificed for me! I do not want it! I do not wish to go to heaven unless I can settle by the books, and go there because I ought to go there. I have said, and I say again, I do not wish to be a charity angel. I have no ambition to become a winged pauper of the skies.
The other day a young gentleman, a Presbyterian who had just been converted, came to me and he gave me a tract, and he told me he was perfectly happy. Said I, “Do you think a great many people are going to h.e.l.l?” “Oh, yes.” “And you are perfectly happy?” Well, he did not know as he was, quite. “Would not you be happier if they were all going to heaven?” “Oh, yes.” “Well, then, you are not perfectly happy?” No, he did not think he was. “When you get to heaven, then you will be perfectly happy?” “Oh, yes.” “Now, when we are only going to h.e.l.l, you are not quite happy; but when we are in h.e.l.l, and you in heaven, then you will be perfectly happy? You will not be as decent when you get to be an angel as you are now, will you?” “Well,” he said, “that was not exactly it.” Said I, “Suppose your mother were in h.e.l.l, would you be happy in heaven then?” “Well,” he says, “I suppose G.o.d would know the best place for mother.” And I thought to myself, then, if I was a woman, I would like to have five or six boys like that.
It will not do. Heaven is where those are we love, and those who love us. And I wish to go to no world unless I can be accompanied by those who love me here. Talk about the consolations of this infamous doctrine.
The consolations of a doctrine that makes a father say, “I can be happy with my daughter in h.e.l.l;” that makes a mother say, “I can be happy with my generous, brave boy in h.e.l.l;” that makes a boy say, “I can enjoy the glory of heaven with the woman who bore me, the woman _who would have died for me_, in eternal agony.” And they call that tidings of great joy.
No church has done more to fill the world with gloom than the Presbyterian. Its creed is frightful, hideous, and h.e.l.lish. The Presbyterian G.o.d is the monster of monsters. He is an eternal executioner, jailer and turnkey. He will enjoy forever the shrieks of the lost,–the wails of the d.a.m.ned. h.e.l.l is the festival of the Presbyterian G.o.d.
X. THE EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE.
I HAVE not time to speak of the Baptists,–that Jeremy Taylor said were as much to be rooted out as anything that is the greatest pest and nuisance on the earth. He hated the Baptists because they represented, in some little degree, the liberty of thought. Nor have I time to speak of the Quakers, the best of all, and abused by all.
I cannot forget that John Fox, in the year of grace 1640, was put in the pillory and whipped from town to town, scarred, put in a dungeon, beaten, trampled upon, and what for? Simply because he preached the doctrine: “Thou shalt not resist evil with evil.” “Thou shalt love thy enemies.”
Think of what the church must have been that day to scar the flesh of that loving man! Just think of it! I say I have not time to speak of all these sects–the varieties of Presbyterians and Campbellites. There are hundreds and hundreds of these sects, all founded upon this creed that I read, differing simply in degree.
Ah! but they say to me: You are fighting something that is dead. n.o.body believes this now. The preachers do not believe what they preach in the pulpit. The people in the pews do not believe what they hear preached.
And they say to me: You are fighting something that is dead. This is all a form, we do not believe a solitary creed in the world. We sign them and swear that we believe them, but we do not. And none of us do. And all the ministers, they say in private, admit that they do not believe it, not quite. I do not know whether this is so or not. I take it that they believe what they preach. I take it that when they meet and solemnly agree to a creed, they are honest and really believe in that creed. But let us see if I am waging a war against the ideas of the dead. Let us see if I am simply storming a cemetery.
The Evangelical Alliance, made up of all orthodox denominations of the world, met only a few years ago, and here is their creed: They believe in the divine inspiration, authority and sufficiency of the holy Scriptures; the right and duty of private judgment in the interpretation of the holy Scriptures, but if you interpret wrong you are d.a.m.ned.
They believe in the unity of the G.o.dhead and the Trinity of the persons therein. They believe in the utter depravity of human nature. There can be no more infamous doctrine than that. They look upon a little child as a lump of depravity. I look upon it as a bud of humanity, that will, in the air and light of love and joy, blossom into rich and glorious life.
Total depravity of human nature! Here is a woman whose husband has been lost at sea; the news comes that he has been drowned by the ever-hungry waves, and she waits. There is something in her heart that tells her he is alive. And she waits. And years afterward as she looks down toward the little gate she sees him; he has been given back by the sea, and she rushes to his arms, and covers his face with kisses and with tears. And if that infamous doctrine is true every tear is a crime, and every kiss a blasphemy. It will not do. According to that doctrine, if a man steals and repents, and takes back the property, the repentance and the taking back of the property are two other crimes. It is an infamy. What else do they believe? “The justification of a sinner by faith alone,” without works–just faith. Believing something that you do not understand. Of course G.o.d can not afford to reward a man for believing anything that is reasonable. G.o.d rewards only for believing something that is unreasonable. If you believe something that is improbable and unreasonable, you are a Christian; but if you believe something that you know is not so, then,–you are a saint.
They believe in the eternal blessedness of the righteous, and in the eternal punishment of the wicked.
Tidings of great joy! They are so good that they will not a.s.sociate with Universalists. They will not a.s.sociate with Unitarians; they will not a.s.sociate with scientists; they will only a.s.sociate with those who believe that G.o.d so loved the world that he made up his mind to d.a.m.n the most of us.
The Evangelical Alliance reiterates the absurdities of the Dark Ages–repeats the five points of Calvin–replenishes the fires of h.e.l.l–certifies to the mistakes and miracles of the Bible–maligns the human race, and kneels to a G.o.d who accepted the agony of the innocent as an atonement for the guilty.
XI. WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE?
THEN they say to me: “What do you propose? You have torn this down, what do you propose to give us in place of it?”
I have not torn the good down. I have only endeavored to trample out the ignorant, cruel fires of h.e.l.l. I do not tear away the pa.s.sage: “G.o.d will be merciful to the merciful.” I do not destroy the promise; “If you will forgive others, G.o.d will forgive you.” I would not for anything blot out the faintest star that shines in the horizon of human despair, nor in the sky of human hope; but I will do what I can to get that infinite shadow out of the heart of man.
“What do you propose in place of this?”
Well, in the first place, I propose good fellowship–good friends all around. No matter what we believe, shake hands and let it go. That is your opinion; this is mine: let us be friends. Science makes friends; religion, superst.i.tion, makes enemies. They say: Belief is important.
I say: No, actions are important. Judge by deed, not by creed. Good fellowship–good friends–sincere men and women–mutual forbearance, born of mutual respect. We have had too many of these solemn people.
Whenever I see an exceedingly solemn man, I know he is an exceedingly stupid man. No man of any humor ever founded a religion–never. Humor sees both sides. While reason is the holy light, humor carries the lantern, and the man with a keen sense of humor is preserved from the solemn stupidities of superst.i.tion. I like a man who has got good feeling for everybody; good fellowship. One man said to another:
“Will you take a gla.s.s of wine?”
“I do not drink.”
“Will you smoke a cigar?”
“I do not smoke.”
“Maybe you will chew something?”
“I do not chew.”
“Let us eat some hay.”
“I tell you I do not eat hay.”
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