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A Discourse On The Social Relations Of Man, Delivered Before The Boston Phrenological Society
Phrenology, however, shows the necessity of making the rites and observances of religion conform to the condition of the intellect; it shows how absurd are all the arguments brought against Christianity from the contents of the Old Testament, since it was good for the purposes it had to effect; it shows too, that as the Jewish rites and ceremonies were unfit for the early Christians, so are many of the rites and observances of the early Christians unfit for us, and so may ours be for our children.
The sentiment of religion remains eternal and immutable in the human heart; but its outward observances should advance toward simplicity, or rise in grandeur, as the intellect is adapted to one or the other. If it is not so, men will sink into superstition, and can be roused only by strong excitement; or, if their reasons are enlightened, and the forms and ceremonies of religion are considered inseparable from the spirit, they will reject the whole, and be considered as infidels, though they will retain their religious impulses. (2)
(2) I mean by "religious impulse," the innate disposition of man to adore and worship a superior being; the existence of which, in the savage and the sage, furnish stronger proofs of the existence of God, than the most learned arguments of the most learned philosopher.
I have not time, however, to discuss the phrenological views of religious rites; I shall merely show how some of those rites in this country, by causing an undue excitement to the cerebral organs, violate the natural laws, and are contrary to the first principles of the science; but first, as I have cited one case of modern legislation to contrast with the method of procedure by priestly trial in past ages, let me notice an instance of theological absurdity in ancient days, and seek for a counterpart to it in our own. During the dark ages, there arose a thousand ardent and bitter disputes about absurd and trifling things; among others, whether the Saviour ascended from earth to heaven with his clothes on, or not; and many and learned were the arguments for and against. But I have lately read of a dispute among churches in the neighboring state of Connecticut, quite as absurd: you are aware that many of them have, after much discussion, decided that wine should not be used at the sacrament; well, the question arose what should be substituted? and the dispute to which I allude, is between some who warmly advocate cold water, and others who strenuously stick for buttermilk!
Bye the bye, this question of the propriety of the use of wine at the sacrament, which some suppose to be mooted for the first time, is but a renewal of that raised by Tatian and his followers, one hundred and fifty years after Christ; and they decided that wine should not be used. So much for antiquity of temperance societies: old Tatian was probably the first president.
But I proceed to notice some of the social religious ceremonies of this country, which are positively injurious to physical health, which are contrary to the true spirit of Christianity, and which would soon be abandoned if the principles of phrenology were generally admitted. And, first, religious revivals, with their attendant machinery of protracted meetings, prayer meetings, &c. which, though not frequent in our city, are very much so through our country. You know that the common idea of revivals, is, that they are special and local outpourings of the Holy Spirit; that this outpouring is sometimes copious, and over much space, sometimes scanty, sometimes entirely withheld; but, that unless each one receives a part of it, and is thereby regenerated, he is surely damned to all eternity: in this view of the subject, a late writer says, --
"When we consider the immense number of mankind on the globe, and the myriads of human beings who have lived, to whom this spirit has not been imparted, and notice to how few it is now given, even in countries where we hear most of it, we are lost in a maze of sorrow, wonder, and doubt. A feeling of sorrow naturally arises at the thought of the unutterable misery of innumerable beings, created in the image of God himself; of wonder, how it can be reconciled with the plan of infinite benevolence, with the plans of that omnipotent Being, who created for his good pleasure these suffering mortals; and a feeling of doubt, if not of hope will arise, whether the statements of these men may not be erroneous."
You are aware, that there are millions of our fellow-citizens who believe in the efficacy of these revivals, who pray for these outpourings, and who long to see the whole land drunk with excitement; under this point of view, it becomes important. Those of you who have attended revivals, where there has been much excitement, will recollect the intense and agonizing feeling, which spreads like contagion in a crowd; and those who have not, may form some idea of it, from the following description, which I extract from the writings of a celebrated divine, and which my own recollections of Camp Meeting scenes, tells me is a faithful picture of what is often passing in this country.