MAN is by nature and education a rational being; his mental powers are sufficient to comprehend natural things when presented to the eye of his understanding in a rational manner. Hence the arts and sciences of this world are taught to men of ordinary intellects, and “the children of this world become wiser in their generation than the children of light.” Examples of the truth of these words are not wanting among men devoid of grace, who have made greater advances in astronomy, mathematics, &c., than what is common among those who know the Lord experimentally. Although man, with all his acquirements, in his unregenerate state is dead in sin, and as destitute of spiritual life, light and ability as the dry bones which Ezekiel saw in his vision were of the functions of natural life, yet by education, tradition, &c., he is habituated from infancy to pay at least some regard to religion and morality. In fact man is naturally a sort of religious being; he views a moral difference between vice and virtue; he naturally inculcates the notion of rewards and punishments, and he hopes he shall eventually inherit the former, and escape the latter.
Such is the character of rational man; and in this character, even in an unregenerate state, it is not unfrequently the case that we find men who are honest in their dealings, moral in their deportment, and conscientious in their views. They have not a saving knowledge of God, but as rational beings they believe there is an eternal reality in religion; they respect the bible, and believe that it contains the infallible truth of God. Now all this is infinitely short of experimental religion; the pharisees of old and many of the present day possessed all this, but yet were destitute of a radical change of heart, and consequently of a preparation for the enjoyment of spiritual things. Although man in this state is not a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ, in a spiritual sense, yet he is far from being a Deist, in the common acceptation of the term.
To make a Deist of such a man, we apprehend nothing further is wanting than to let loose upon him a regiment of modern religious mendicants, and when he has given all that he is able and willing towards the building of meeting-houses, supporting ministers, &c., let them present severally what they term the claims of their respective institutions. One agent solicits his money to constitute him a member or manager of the Bible Society. Treading upon his heel, another presents the Home, and the third the Foreign Mission institutions. Before they are gone, a fourth calls for his co-operation in the Tract cause, and a fifth the Sunday School Union; and while these are speaking, a sixth enters with a plea in favor of Theological Schools, for the manufacturing of more of these “greedy dogs,” and the seventh solicits his aid in behalf of the Temperance Society; but he pretends to require no great sacrifice; he simply asks him, first, to pledge himself to total abstinence; second, to chop down his orchards; third, to proscribe, villify and persecute all his neighbors who will not readily patronize the same institutions, and give a little money withal to support the publications of the society, and the officers who superintend the concern. An eighth calls on him to subscribe largely to the abolition cause; a ninth to save the great valley of the Mississippi from the growing influence of Popery, and a tenth to aid McDowell & Co. in reforming the Magdalenes. All these, with an host of others equally fond of filthy lucre, pour in upon him, and with all their sophistry and cunning, tax his liberality; and when gentle words do not effect their object, threaten him with awful death-bed reflections, and the retributions of eternity, if he refuses to honor their demands; they tell him that the Lord wishes to convert the heathen and evangelize the world, and usher in the millennial glory of his church, but cannot effect this desirable work until his exhausted treasury is by man replenished.
Let the reasonable man that we have described hear all these appeals, and the query involuntarily suggests itself to his mind, Is this the religion of the bible? Must I rob my children and my creditors of their due, and give my living up to aid in the salvation of the world? Does God require this? If he refuses, he is called an infidel, a Deist, an enemy to righteousness, and is threatened with the damnation of hell.
If, on the other hand, his pride becomes excited, he dreads the consequences of refusing to give up his money, and feels anxious to have his liberality emblazoned in the public journals of the day, and he yields to be taxed in this enormous amount, for the professed purpose of helping the Lord on with his work, he cannot be permitted to rest here; they will be repeated as long as he has one dollar in his possession. After constituting himself, with his money, a member or director, a president or vice-president in all these institutions, he is now gravely told that all he has given is worse than lost unless he will continue to give. And when he has given all, and much more, than he can reasonably spare, to the above named institutions, the screws are put on to extort what little may remain in his possession; penny, or cent societies, shirt-collar or rag-bag societies are got up, and the screws are turned, under one pretence or another, if possible, to drain him of the last shilling ho has at his command.
Add to all these schemes for fleecing the people the anniversary meetings, conventions, &c., at which new spurs are suggested, new tricks devised, new taxes levied, new agents appointed, and new burdens bound upon men’s shoulders, grievous to be borne, and then say: Is it to be wondered at that men, who are thus oppressed and robbed by designing individuals, should seriously question the reality of religion itself? They see that the most current religion of the day is full of deception, and calculated only to raise up and dignify a religious aristocracy, beggar the people and enrich the priests, prostrate the rights of man, and eventually repeat those dreadful scenes of persecution which have in former ages drenched the world with human gore.
Is it, we inquire, strange that men of natural intellects, who can see and feel that they are oppressed by the abominable trickery of these spurious religionists of the day, and who have no spiritual light to discern the difference between this system of priestcraft and the religion of the bible, or experimental knowledge of the eternal reality and spotless purity of the sacred scriptures, should in their confusion conclude that the bible, like the box of Pandora, had produced all this train of evils, and on this conclusion thrust from them the bible, and assume the avowed ground of Deism. Instances of this kind are not rare; many men among us have been driven in this way into the wilds of skepticism, as Paine and thousands of his followers were, by the like oppressive management of graceless men and greedy priests in France and other parts of the world.
The very systems which are cried up as being calculated to save the world are a ready machine for making Deists; and although they profess to have made great progress in the salvation of souls, it is an awful truth that they have in reality made thousands of skeptics. As our bible is true, they never have, nor ever will, procure the regeneration or salvation of a single soul. They may, and do, deceive their thousands, but save them they cannot; for, “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.” - 2 Peter ii. 19.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
September 16, 1835.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 258 – 261