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deal of your time very needlessly,
needlessly, in reading so much as you do about religion ; pray tell me what is your religion ; are you a Protestant or a Roman Catholic ? I answered him, that I did not certainly know whether I was the one or the other, or that either would acknowledge me as one of their communion ; for there were so many divisions and subdivisions among Protestants, and so much form and ceremony with the Catholics, that it would require a dictionary much larger than Johnson's folio to describe them with sufficient distinctness, for a man who had time, and actually read them all, to determine whereabouts he would find his place in their rank and files. As to the Catholics, I never could discover in their preaching or praying, any great distinction, in point of doctrines, (with the exception of Transubstantiation,) between them and some of the Protestant sects; and I believed that all the doctrines, the high orthodox call evangelical, are embraced in the general Catholic creed ; and some appeared to estimate their own forms and ceremonies, as meritorions, as the Çatholics did theirs. He again said, “ Do tell me, are you an Episcopalian?” No-I have never joined that particular class of religionists, as a member, though I consider them as I do all others, who call themselves Christians, and behave towards them as Jesus commanded his followers to behave to one another. “ Well, said he, I want to know ; are you a Calvinist? No-I cannot follow Calvin, for I look on him as a man very erroneous in all his distinguishing tenets, which have principally contributed in giving him a name, and in making him the head of a sect; but he appears to me to have acted most wickedly in the affair of Servetus. In that unchristian persecution, he manifested nearly as much malignity and depravity of temper, as did the Jewish rulers in the death of Jesus ; and I do not find that he gave so much evidence of repentance and sorrow for his wickedness, as did Judas for betraying his Master. Calvin's name and character ought to be reprobated. Though some good may have arisen from the part he took in the Reformation, in his time, the authority and influence of his name as the head of a religious sect, have done so much more evil to after generations, as to leave a great balance against him. The poison he set afloat in the religious atmosphere is not yet entirely destroyed. “Are you a Lutheran ?»—I never read either the life or works of that man ; and cannot say whether I adopt his opinions or not. He followed me up by inquiring, “ Are you a Baptist ?»—I told him, No ; if by Baptist he meant a man who has been baptized by plunging or immersion in water, as a ceremony, And this ceremony, thus performed, was the principal difference between Baptists and some other denominations. I had often heard them preach and pray but could not distinguish their performances from the Calvinists ; except their preachers appeared to be less informed, and some of them seemed to boast, as I thought, of their ignorance of what they called human learning, because in that they resembled the apostles. But now they have got a Baptist College, their preachers will find a better ground for appreciating their performances. Nevertheless, the Baptists, as far as my acquaintance extends, are about as morally good as other religionists.“But are you a Methodist ?” said my neighbor. I beliere not, I replied ; yet all I knew of their tenets was by occasionally hearing some of them preach. They were very animated, used much action, and appeared very anxious to produce some visible effect ; and from what I saw in some of their meetings, I should judge they were liable to mistake a frenzy and derangement of mind, for a miraculous conversion. The general tenor of their doctrines, seemed to resemble the old fashioned Arminianism. Well, said he, I must set you down for a Quaker ; are you not one ? There is a sort of plainness and simplicity about you, that always made me think you would suit that sect very well.” I replied, I did not know in what Quakerism consisted, except so far as I could judge of their religion by their moral conduct, including the government of the tongue, which I thought to be a little better, generally, than the habits of the other sects. Other religionists were almost always at war with each other, by the tongue, if not by the fists ; and individuals were not unfrequently at variance and bickerings, on matters of little moment, but as subjects of perpetual irritation. It is not unusual for neighbors and seemingly good old friends, who have worshipped together almost a long life, to fall out and quarrel like heathens, about a place to set a meetinghouse, or some trifling tenet that has no more to do with moral habits, than the mountains in the moon, and which generally terminates in a division of the society or sect.
Now, while these sects, and parties of the same sect, are wrangling and disputing to an unaccountable degree of ill nature, the Quakers seem to go on peaceably and quietly in their religious, as well as their worldly concerns, making moral honesty, or the duty of doing to others as they would have others conduct towards them, their great rule of life.
I had observed their conduct ever since 1775, when“ But, pray, said my neighbor, be so good as to inform me whether you have any religion at all, and what you call yourself
. You seem to evade every question I put to you, in a manner more artful than satisfactory. Every body ranks under some denomination or other ; why do you not frankly tell me whom you follow in religious matters ? Are you a Hopkinsian? No, I do not know that I ever read a passage of his writings in my life. He then impatiently said, he doubted whether I had any religion, or was ashamed to acknowledge the name of the man I followed. To which I replied ; after taking a survey of what all the denominations I was acquainted with, call religion, and on what they laid the most stress as means to recommend themselves to their Deity, I sometimes almost doubted whether I had any thing in my sentiments
or conduct, that the world would allow to be religion ; but I was not ashamed to own the name of him I took to be my master, leader, and pattern in matters that I called religion, which I included under the term of love to God and love to man. Now, said I, you may see how great a proportion of what others call religion, I cut off. * Well, well; enough of your evasion; do tell me who that man is; I suspect it is Dr. Priestley, or some Universalist. Come, be honest and tell me; I am impatient to know, and weary with so much evasion.” But said I, of what consequence is it to know whom I follow, as you term it. Suppose I do not follow any particular man in my religious tenets; would you conclude I had no religion? “I should say, (he replied,) you differed from every one else.” True-but I may have a religion. What if we should first settle what religion is ? “ No-but I want to know whom you follow in order to help me in judging of your religion. · Were you to say it was Socinius, it would be satisfactory; because I already know what was Socinius' religion." So then, said I, you suppose every man to adopt the exact sentiments of the man whose name he professes to take ; do you ? “Yes; if a man says he is a Calvinist, I conclude he adopts the principles of that great man.” Well, suppose I were to tell you, I was a Congregationalist; what would be your conclusion then ? "I should think you were at your old game of evasion ; because Congregationalism regards only the mode of church government, whether Calvinists, Arminians, or Hopkinsians.” Then you distinguish between religion and the mode by which religious people govern their church concerns; do you not? “I certainly do.” Very well, my friend, I will be as frank and honest to you as I always have been free in expressing myself to all people with whom I have discussed religious and moral subjects for forty or fifty years past. If there be any thing in which I have indulged pride or vanity to excess, it is in thinking freely, and honestly communicating my thoughts to others on proper occasions. You have asked me a
plain question; and I will give you a direct and plain
I take Jesus Christ for my master, teacher, and pattern in religious matters, and nobody else.“Why then, said he, you are a Christian, and your religion is neither more nor less than what is called Christianity." I replied, I have no objection to your calling me a christian, and my religion christianity, provided you do not confound and identify me with millions of other persons, called christians, so as to conclude that my religious sentiments, are the same as theirs.
I once heard a very learned divine preach a sermon in which his principle head of discourse was, “ That Calvin was not a Calvinist." At first it struck my mind as an unintelligible proposition, or a mere play on words. But he proceeded only a little way in his discourse, before I saw his object, and that important ideas and inferences might be contained in it. And he made it very manifest, before he was done, that Calvin really was not a Calvinist ; that is, he demonstrated that the notions now generally entertained by most of those called Calvinists, and would be offended were you to call them any thing else, were not contained in any
of Calvin's works. Now I have no hesitation in saying, that Christ, in a similar sense, was not a christian; that is, assuming what is commonly called orthodoxy as it is made up of the fall of Adam, original sin, and total depravity, from that event to all his posterity, the trinity, election and reprobation, atonement, special grace, conversions, and miraculous new births, together with eternal and endless torments in hell, as these have been handed down in creeds and confessions since the days of Athanasius. I say then, orthodoxy thus compounded and taken for christianity, as it has been among the orthodox, I think it correct to say, that Jesus Christ was not a christian. I am also of opinion, that if one who attended on the whole of Christ's administration, and on the preaching of one or more of his apostles to the end of the apostolic age, were now to revisit this earth, simply with the knowledge he gained from that