The greatest good that can be bestowed upon man is a knowledge of himself. This puts man in possession of a wisdom superior to circumstances. Man, without this wisdom, is a creature of circumstances, tossed about by every man's opinion. Religion is what flows from our belief and the misery is its torment; happiness is what follows our knowledge of God or truth. To illustrate the idea, I will suppose a case. Jesus took water as an illustration of this great truth or God; so I will take the same and show how our religion works, for true religion works by love or wisdom and purifies the heart of man. False religion is like a canker worm or poison that poisons the whole fountain.
Now suppose you are drinking out of the living waters of life. You drink and are satisfied and the satisfaction is your religion. The happiness is the fruits of it. Being ignorant of the goodness of the water or God, you worship it ignorantly. So where ignorance is bliss, it would be folly to get into an error. But man is a creature of progression. He is a sort of chemical change. So as he begins to reason, he gets into error and then he becomes the child of error. So in his error he calls for water to quench his thirst; but someone that pretends to knowledge tells him to beware of the water, for there is a slow poison in it. Now talking about what he knows nothing, he condenses his error into a belief that the water contains slow poison. Now he drinks with fear. The belief is his religion, his feeling is his misery, his pains are his torment. So to save him from hell or pain is to destroy the poison or belief. This is what I do. For I have no belief that God ever injures anyone, and my knowledge of him keeps me from the torment of a belief.
Jan. 30, 1862