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I had now been at home for more than three months, during which time my thoughts were so frequently roving to distant places, and dwelling on distant objects, that, to make my solitude supportable, I found the only way was to prosecute with greater vigour my enquiries into religious subjects, so that I might, as soon as possible, come to some point on which I might satisfactorily rest my hopes, as long as I should continue a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth. My consideration of the tenets of the Unitarian Deists had led me to see, distinctly, that they were far removed from the genuine spirit of Christianity, the godly fabric of which appeared to me to be utterly disjointed, by the removal of the 6 chief corner stone” that was to keep it together. The Arian scheme of making the Saviour a divine essence, but distinct from God the Father, was equally void of strength to support it, exclusive of all considerations of its tendency to favour polytheism. Calvinism, though it offered much that was good, in my estimation, carried more in it that was not so. Its absolute decrees for man's positive damnation, which no power of virtue, no love of good, no exercise of truth, were able to counteract, its destruction of the freedom of the human will,—its extravagance, -its presumption,-its spoliation of God's mercy and justice, were peculiarities which I could in no way reconcile to reason, common sense, or to the fair interpretation of Scripture; while connected with much of all this, the Antinomian system laying claim to a tangible inspiration, the organ of a rapturous and heated enthusiasm, which neither a moral law nor a moral sense of virtue could check, put still more out of sight what I conceived to be the main and leading designs of Christianity, as well as of every former dispensation of God's will. Materialism was only another name for philosophical atheism. Arminianism was more rational and more agreeable to the sense of Scripture than all the other systems enumerated, but it was not strictly consonant with it.
superstition, that ran directly counter to the truth as it is in Jesus, requiring a revelation not yet known either by its advocates or its assailants, to make it intelligible, and some thing still more to make it rational: while, running in a directly opposite way to all this, Quakerism presented itself more as a religion for ethereal than for corporeal beings : having so refined upon the system of the Gospel that the brilliancy of Christianity only remained, but the essence was gone.
I came next to the investigation of the principles and tenets of the Established Church, as the only hope now left to me of a resting place for my long unsettled thoughts; and on this enquiry I entered with more than common anxiety; for if I could not find satisfaction here, I was left separated from any religious communion with my countrymen, and could only maintain in private the sentiments of my heart and understanding, and discharge the duty of religious worship, according to the dictates of my own conscience, by myself, unblest by the example and sanction of others. I now, therefore, attended the service of my parish church, and with regret I speak it, for the first time of my life, with earnestness
of intention. Our Rector was a
man who had passed the meridian of a spotless life, beloved by all around him; for though his parishioners were many, and there were dissenters among them, yet they were all intimately known to him. Their kindred had, the greater part of them, been committed to the earth during his ministry:- there were few among them whom he had not united in the ties of wedlock, and none of their offspring upon whom he had not poured the waters of regeneration. For correction, he had visited few; in the hour of sickness, most; and in the way of fellowship, all of them. Abroad his charity ran in a clear and silent stream, almost unobserved, yet giving nutriment and life to all around him. At home he was serene and cheerful, and at times even gay: but, it was within the walls of the sacred temple that this man of God shone pre-eminent, not for his mighty words and actions, but for the plain simplicity of his manners, for the piety and fervour of his devotion, and for his calm persuasive eloquence. 'Twas in him that the ideal good man was seen actually to exist.