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HOW SHALL WE IMPROVE MANKIND ?
Tuis world is a theatre of incessant action; the scenes change perpetually; the actors come and go like autumnal clouds; and the parts which they perform are comic or serious, dramatic or tragic, invariably, in accordance with the moral culture and external circumstances of the actors.
I am impressed to affirm that every man has a part of his own to perform, assigned to him by the Supernal Soul of Nature-a part in which he can only excel, be happy, and become favorably distinguished. This “natural part” is stamped upon the entire constitution of the man; slumbers in his bones; lives in his muscles; breathes in each element; ripples through each vein and artery to their fountain-head; mounts to his brain, to the throne of his organism-becomes, there, the radiant genius of his nature, the prime minister of his attractions, the sovereign of his life. This natural character is the only character a man can sustain with happiness to himself, or benefit to others.
The trouble of the world is, that man is not permitted to act his nature ont to live in accordance with the attractions which God has given him. And what follows? This : Inasmuch as action of some kind is emphatically demanded as essential to his mental happiness and physical existence, therefore he is compelled to assume a false character—is forced to take a part not naturally his own; and forthwith there issues from that misdirected man, as with a studied duplicity he performs before the world, a legion of discords and incongruities, at times so unexpected and diabolical, as to suggest the existence of a certain nocturnal being, the Devil; who, it is by many believed, can be kept at a respectful distance only by establishing theological fortresses, and the maintenance of a standing army of wellpaid and well-educated clergymen! (So long as this army is well-circumstanced, so long will there continue to be plenty of volunteers.) The Devil is a symbol suggested and entirely manufactured by the abounding discords and hypocrisies which proceed, not out of the àsserted depravity and blackness of the human heartthe organ of love; but, on the contrary, out of human ignorance--out of the defects and deformities of human society, into which the individual at birth is ushered, without any consent" on his part or reasonable preparation! You inquire, “ Who made society ? " I reply, It is made by man! For, manifestly, society results from a multiplication and association of the human type. Again, you ask, “If man made society, and society is replete with discords and wickedness, is not man the source thereof? Is not man the cause, and society the effect?” I answer, that, viewed superficially and from“ appearances," as most ininds inspect all problems, this question seems to furnish the only plain and reasonable answer which can be given to it: it seems to say, in accordance with the law of natural inference, that man is the source of discord and the author of wrong. And the remedy appears to be, that man, individually and of his own free-will, must be miraculously “changed at heart” and supernaturally expurgated, before we can reasonably expect any higher or happier social construction. I say, all this seems to be sound reasoning; and the church has uniformly adopted it.
I have alluded to the “Devil" as the nocturnal being upon whose broad shoulders the Christian clergy lay the origin of all human evil and misdirection. Now I do not wish to prejudice you against this hypothetical personage without good and incontrovertible reasons. I know how necessary this mythologic “individual” is to the preaching profession. He is the man of straw in chancery—the patron of the priesthood—and I may add, truthfully, the chief cause of much intellectual blindness and popular sectarianism! It is for these reasons, coupled with about thirty others yet unexpressed, that I feel impressed to prejudice you against this oriental superstition. And I do this at the risk of incurring the displeasure of our theologic brethren, who, from the force of birth and education alone, honestly regard this personage as the best stock in their line of business.
This habit of individuals—this fact in history—this system of ethics, of referring human errors and evils to unreal or imaginary causes, instead of searching out and removing their real sources--not only trammels the intellect, oppresses the feelings, and frightens children exceedingly, but it plays sad havoc with all progressive measures in either politics or religion. But it is said, “Take away the fear of the devil, and you remove all restraints from the wicked.”
Nay, good reader-I tell you, nay! The poor and unprogressed (often the splendidly misdirected) class, whom we call “wicked,” are benefited and reformed by principles of goodness—not by the presentation of brimstone retreats or imps clad in garments of sulphur!
Clergymen stand in the capacity of attorneys, to conduct our spiritual cause between earth and heaven. Or they are our physicians-our doctors of divinity-employing the same old remedies,“ playing upon the hopee