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• Yet the opinions of my fellow-creatures, erroneous as they may appear to my conviction, do sometimes belong to the higher order of theoretical principles, and are too remote from practice, to become immediately pernicious ; they constitute, however, from their generality, the basis, on which the people who entertain them have raised their system of morality and social order ; and so have casually become of great importance to that portion of mankind. To attack such dog mas openly, because they appear prejudices, would be like sapping the foundation of an edifice, for the purpose of examining its soundness and stability, without first securing the superstructure against a total downfail, He, who values the welfare of mankind more than his own fame, will bridle his tongue on prejudices of this description, and beware of seeking to reform them prematurely and precipitately, lest he should overset, what he thinks a defective the. ory of morality, before his fellow creatures are firm in the perfect one, which he means to substitute.'
And, finally, adverting to the characters of multitudes, whom he had known among christians; to the wisdom and virtue of some within the christian pale whom he numbered with the benefactors of mankind; and even whose errors' ought to be charitably overlooked by one, who is liable to the same, he thus concludes :
• These are the reasons, which my religion and my philosophy suggest to me, for scrupulously avoiding polemical controversy. Add to them, any local relations to my fellow citizens; and you cannot but justify me. I am one of an oppressed people, who have to supplicate shelter and protection of the ascendant nations; and these boons they do not obtain every where. Rights granted to every human being, my brethren in the faith willingly forego, contented with being tolerated and protected ; and they account it no trifling favor, on the part of the nation, who takes them in on bearable terms, since, in some places, even a temporary domicil is denied them.'
The effect of this letter on the mind of Lavater, was such as might be anticipated. He acknowledged
the excess of a benevolent zeal, which induced the request; and with a frankness and catholicism altogether worthy of his character, he expressed his admiration of the sentiments of Mendelsohn, only confessing, that they drew from him a yet more earnest wish, that such an one were a Christian.
"Much more,' he adds, that I could say on this subject remains in my heart which remembers you with the tranquillity of innocence, and with the delight of friendship and affection! But enough, before the public! Let us now drop the curtain, and give no inducement to further perversions and feuds, through which, I find. to my no small sorrow, you have, notwithstanding all your solicitude and prudence, already been a sufferer. Our aim is truth, not the gratification of sectarianism ; and truth is too sacred a thing, that we should allow ourselves to bandy it, merely for the diversion of idle spectators; much less permit it to be given up to the subtle equivocation and oblique judgment of those with whom deceit is ever cur. rent, when they find it will serve to blazen the credit of their party.
'I conclude, not only with renovated feelings of veneration, and the tenderest affection, but also with the impression (probably as chimerical, in your estimation, as it is firm and rapturous in mine) of meeting with you, if not shortly, at all events at some future period, amongst the happy worshippers of him whose inheritance is the congregation of Jacob ; even of my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, blessed to all eternity. Amen!
JOHANN CASPER LAVATER. • Zurich, the 14th February, 1770.
On the subject of Church Government and discipline, with which, it might be supposed, Mendelsohn was less conversant, he has expressed the same just and enlightened conceptions, which he had formed with respect to proselytism. It were well indeed, if some within the pale of Protestant Christianity, of the more exclusive sect, who love to subject their brethren to an
arbitrary discipline, and compel an outward assent to the peculiarities of an unauthorised creed, would enter into these admirable sentiments of Mendelsohn, grounded, not less upon enlarged views of religious truth, than deep insight into human nature and the mutual relations of man.
"I cannot refrain,' says he in reference to a popular work, then just published, on the condition of Jews as citizens of the state, • from expressing my surprise at Mr Von Dohm's ideas of church government and ecclesiastical power.'--'What sensible person would pretend to reform his neighbor's thoughts, or to chasten his heart by coercion? If we meet, in society, with a man of a froward heart, with wild and improper notions on the fundamental points of religion, we have no other power, but to reason with him in a mild and conciliating manner, and try to persuade him, by patient argument, to dismiss his
erroneous opinions, and return to the wholesome doctrine ; in which we may persevere, until we are certain that the delusion has left him. If we find him incorrigible, it will be better to discontinue our efforts, lest we should convert a sceptic, who had, at least, the merit of sincerity, into a hypocrite and a liar. Would it not be preferable to rouse his conscience, and mortify his presumption, by showing him the humbleness of his condition, in regard to the Deity, whom he disparages, than to stun him with abuse, heap shame and ignominy on his character, and, perhaps, prove his ruin ??
We might here easily be led, did our limits permit, into reflections on the expediency, and probable success of any measures, which have hitherto been adopted for the conversion of the Jews. We have seen from Mendelsohn what are the views of the most enlightened of his own countrymen on the subject of their faith ; and we believe that experience has sufficiently tested the utter fruitlessness of the attempts, which have been made among the more ignorant and abject of their nation. The history of Jewish schools, particularly in England, has been a history of ineffectual efforts on one side ; of imposture and deceit on the other. Jewish children have been sent by their parents to christian schools, under pretence of being willing to be instructed in the christian faith, but only, as in multitudes of instances it has proved, to avail themselves of the temporal relief which was to be enjoyed with the instruction. And an intelligent gentleman, who was for some time engaged in this work in Bristol, England, informed the writer of this article, that he had become totally discouraged ; that nothing could exceed the deceptive and mercenary spirit, with which the poorest among them entered these schools ; and that • for five hundred pounds he could, at any time, purchase a show of fifty Jewish converts.'
So that we are almost ready to enter into the views of a recent writer on this subject, that whatever respect we may desire to feel for all religious exertions, 'nothing seems so much like mockery as the attempts made to convert the Jews.
We have room only to speak of the death of Mendelsohn. It took place in 1786, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. 'He died,' says his biographer “as he lived, calm and placid, and took an earthly smile with him into eternity. When his departure was made known, the whole city of Berlin was a scene of unfeigned sorrow. The citizens of all denominations looked upon the event as a great national calamity. When his remains were conveyed to the tomb, he received those honors from his nation, which are commonly paid to their chief rabbies; and
the learned of all parts, of Europe paid him their tribute of respect by joining in the general lamentation.'
UNITARIAN ORDINATION AND DEDICATION.
Dec. 29. Mr Stephen Hull, installed as minister of the Congregational Society in Carlisle. Introductory Prayer, by Mr Whitman of Billerica ; Reading of the Scriptures, by Mr Barry of Lowell ; Sermon, by Dr Eaton of Boxford ; Installation Prayer, by Dr Ripley of Concord; Charge, by Mr Allen of Chelmsford ;. Right Hand of Fellowship, by Mr Randall of Westford ; Address to the People, by Mr Briggs of Lexington ; Concluding Prayer, by Mr Goldsbury of North Bridgewater.
Dec. 29. The new Church of the First Congregational Society in Sherbune, dedicated. Introductory Prayer, by Mr Muzzy of Framingham ; Reading of the Scriptures, by Mr Kendall of Medfield ; Dedicatory Prayer, by Mr Ritchie of Needham ; Sermon, by Mr Clarke, Pastor of the Society ; Concluding Prayer by Mr Thompson of South Natick.