Wednesday, 13 April 2016

PROFESSOR HAMILTON

Free Thought Lecture.

The announcement of a lecture on Free Thought to be delivered by Professor Hamilton at the Varieties Theatre . . . Professor Hamilton, who on this occasion, read from his manuscript, and with much energy, made a few preliminary remarks, alluding to his phrenological researches and experience, and declaring that in no department of the study of mankind was there so much to puzzle as in the religious. After having given over the third of a century to the study of the connection between the physical and psychological phenomena of life he deemed it his duty to explain his views. His chief object was to prove that the whole plan of salvation, according to the orthodox system, was totally opposed to the revelations of modern science, irreconcilable with healthy sentiments of benevolence and justice, and directly at variance with the convictions of enlightened reason. He cited passages from the Shorter Catechism, from standard authors of the true orthodox school, and from the sermons of Spurgeon and Moody, to prove that the most popular of modern preachers are those who revel in hell-torments, and who put themselves forward as brands plucked from the burning. He read passages from Spurgeon and Moody to show that pride, vainglory and merciless, eternal and unrelenting vindictiveness were the leading characteristics of the Deity presented to the minds of all those who follow the Calvinistic creed; Moody's religion was selfish and materialistic, a system so cowardly, mean, and ignoble, that no true spiritual-minded man could accept of it in exchange for the glorious freedom which followed a right exercise of reason and conscience. He severely criticised various articles of orthodox Christianity — the fall of man, the immaculate conception, the "infinitely selfish idea of eternal happiness founded upon the doctrine of election or upon simple faith in the Savior," and eternal hell-torments for a momentary act of sin, this life being but a millionth part of a moment compared with eternity. The whole fabric of our system of salvation and of the punishment which follows unbelief ; as well as the pictures presented to us of the character of God, by the Bible, and by modern evangelists, was the result of a combination of ignorance on the one hand and of the cunning of the priesthood on the other ; and nothing less than a chronic superstitious regard for that which is ignorantly believed to be sacred, could influence the people to cling to the antiquated iniquity of their present most idolatrous worship.
 The lecturer, after narrating his remarkable experiences of the madness of revivalism in Scotland, Ireland, and England, essaying to prove by statistics, and by scientific argument, that religious madness and the neglect of the right cultivation of the spiritual powers were the most fruitful causes of lunacy and misery, proceeded to describe a system of rational natural religion based upon the nature of man, and free from all the superstition of the past. By the intelligent contemplation of nature, by striving after the attainment of true knowledge and by self-culture, we should be inspired with the hope of rising upward and still upward, and of approaching nearer and still nearer to the infinite fountain of goodness and truth. The old system robbed man of all nobility and self-respect, of self-help and self-culture ; the new raised him to the platform on which he could exercise his God like qualities and from which he could see his way to work out his own salvation by a faithful exercise of his own moral and spiritual powers. The people were becoming alarmed at the deadly influence of the cowardly worship which had enslaved its votaries for centuries, and they now sought refuge in free thought. To the man of enlightened intellect and high moral culture Paradise itself, such as the dogmas offered, was not enough ; nothing could compensate him for the loss of his soul, which must follow the adoption of a creed and the practice of a ritual utterly abhorrent to the divine light of his philosophy. He (the lecturer) asked his hearers to renounce the darkness of their creed and not cram into the minds of their children the superstitions of the past whilst the great book of Nature lay neglected and unopened. The doctrines connected with the birth, death and resurrection of Christ were doubted by all truly philosophic minds from the first. Thousands of the acknowledged leaders of the intellectual world of the present day openly avowed their unbelief, and millions were sceptics whose interest, or lack of moral courage, prevented them from boldly declaring their opinions. He had found a majority of the most intellectual clergy to be sceptics ; in fact, their preaching and their manner confirmed the idea of their unbelief. The manner and conversation of most professing Christians were depraved ; to hear them speak one would be led to believe that they had little faith in virtue, truth, and goodness, for these things were sneered at as having little or no existence and but small influence over human life.  Thus education, commerce, and politics became depraved, and religious hypocrisy flourished. The religion of nature would increase, confirm and establish the ascendency of the higher powers. A true religion constituted a man a priest and king unto himself ; he sought no mediator but reason and conscience between himself and his God. Under this religion he had no higher aim than to obey the voice of conscience, which was the voice of his Creator, ever whispering to him in the language of purity, mercy, and truth. He claimed for the science of phrenology that it would introduce a complete change in all the elements of religion, a change free from all blood, baptisms, sacrifice, servile ceremonies, all vain titles of popes, bishops, and priests; all hell-fire and torture, all horrible descriptions of God's wrath and vengeance, and all the thousand ceremonies and mummeries that made up the deceptive stock-in-trade of our modern idolatry. If he were asked why he had denounced religious systems adhered to for many centuries, he would reply that he was not responsible for the belief of his forefathers, and that he had aright to avail himself of the present superior opportunities of acquiring knowledge and exercising reason. He was not called upon to wade through the muddy streams of history to learn how to serve his Maker or how to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  If he valued the felicity of spiritual freedom it would be better for him to perish in opposing evil systems rather than lose the happiness of conscious rectitude.
 After enlarging somewhat upon this theme the lecturer went on to say : — Christ made no sacrifice ; as a God-like man He fulfilled the highest law, and in doing so experienced all the ennobling exaltation of soul which spring from the exercise of benevolence and justice. God had never left the world without witnesses of his truth, to pioneer the spiritual universe ; they had existed in all ages. The history of the world was full of evidence that what was God-like in Christ existed at all times ; and in all stages of man's historic character it was seen that he ever inclined to progress and that the measure of good he effected was in proportion to the power of his intellect and the power of his moral resolution. He (the lecturer) pictured the present state of the religious world, indicating the advent of a revolution such as the world never saw, occasioned by the light of free thought being shed over the world. The moral universe demanded a change and the disciples of natural religion offered the following for its acceptance — a change from mystery and incongruity to a clear comprehension of man's moral and spiritual nature, from ritualistic ceremonies based upon gross superstition to a practical education, exercise and enjoyment of all the mental faculties which enabled man to understand his relation to Nature, his duties to Society, and a reasonable worship of his Creator.
 At the conclusion of the lecture there was a distinct round of applause, although it was evident that very many present considered such demonstrations out of place. It must be stated that the lecture created a deep impression, more especially the portion vigorously denouncing the doctrine of eternal torture for the wicked.
 A vote of thanks to the Chairman terminated the proceedings.

Gympie Times 29 Sep 1875

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