Sayfadaki görseller


that of some members of the church, because the latter exhibit more of the natural defects of their character or manners yet unsubdued, than of the higher principles which have really begun to live and operate in them. “ The kingdom of heaven is a little leaven," leavening the whole mass. Sull, there is an essential spirit in the world, to which every regenerated man is averse. “ The friendship of the world, is enmity with God.

Whosoever, therefore, will be the friend of the world, is the enemy of God." It often occurs, that the views and feelings of Christians are misunderstood in regard to amusements. A member of the Church, for instance, is requested "just" to participate in this amusement, "just" to go here or there; or, a parent is solicited by his child to let him go, for such and such children are going. Is it “ uncharitable, bigoted, morose,” for him to discern that the peculiar spirit of the world is to preside over that occasion, and to pervade that assembly; and that he or his children cannot go there without either injuring themselves, or sanctioning what may injure others ? Many, however, of a serious cast of mind, could tolerate all this well enough ; but with them, the offensive point is, the exclusiveness of this pretension of “ being the only good people in the world,” and of “having all heaven to themselves."

This objection might easily be retorted upon the objectors, by asking, whether their own views of character and of happiness do not compel them to adopt an exclusive principle of association. They esteem their social circle as including the elite of society. Yes, but then it excludes, too. Is not their parlor their paradise, and their festive board their earthly heaven? But does their charity urge them out into the highways and hedges, to compel the poor, and the laine, and the blind, and the ignorant and rude, to come in and enjoy it ? No, that would spoil their heaven, because their happiness is derived from social affinities. And may not the happiness of regenerated men embrace the same principle, without making them less charitable than the world ? The Bible declares that certain characteristics distinguish them who are truly of the Church. Now we believe the Bible firmly and cordially for ourselves. We judge character by its standard ; we form our anticipations of our own destiny, and of other men's destiny, by it. In all this we cannot see that there is any want of charity, any moroseness, any mere “ stickling for a creed.”'


There is also a misapprehension in regard to the bigotry of the Church. Earnestness is mistaken for harshness, firmness for dogmatism. In a word, many imagine that “ orthodox” men in particular, are unfavorable to true liberty. We are not now in an argumentative mood, or we should certainly spread out the historical testimony on this subject, and shew that Calvinism, with all its imagined intolerance, has been most intimately allied with all those great and laborious movements of the English people, by which religious liberty and the rights of conscience have been incorporated into human laws and institutions.

Let us then understand what ideas we mutually asfix to liberty of conscience. It is the right of every human being to see the evidence of truth with his own eyes; to believe it on evidence, and not on human authority; to practise it unmolested ; and to prop agate it in every way that does not interfere with the rights or freedom of any other man. And if, in this exercise of his own faculties and freedom, he misjudges, and apprehends religious error for truth, he is not for this accountable to man; he is not to be hated by any man; he is not to be visited with civil penalties or social disabilities. We are fully convinced that God has endowed every human being with these rights, to be held inalienable. We fully believe that true religion can never prosper and prevail, but where such freedom is enjoyed. We are more than convinced of the soundness of these principles; we are fervently attached to them. We know nothing which we deem it so proper to “ resist unto bloo-1," as an encroachment on these rights as enjoyed by us. They are a boon which we crave most earnestly for all the nations of the earth, and for every member of the human family. We prize it as much for the Infidel and the Papist, as for ourselves. There is then surely no difference between the World and the Church on that point. And in the exercise of that freedom, we think for ourselves; we maintain our opinions, affirm, defend and propagate them. We hold the distinction between truth and error, to be immutable and eternal; that the consequences of religious errors are infinitely more dreadful than of errors in nautical science, in political science, or any other department of knowledge. We believe that men must account to God for their erroneous principles, as well as their evil practices; and that we cannot shew our charity to mankind more fully, than in trying to bring them to believe “the truth as it is in Jesus."

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

If the rights of conscience should ever be invaded in this land, we are sure that no firmer bulwark will be found, than in the men who belong to the Church; we are sure that the most rigorous Calvinist will stand by the side of the most “liberal” freethinker, in the hottest of the fight. But the difference between them will be, that the one uses his freedom for his own destruction ; the other, if sincere, uses the lower freedom from human despotism, to obtain the higher form of freedom from the tyranny of sin in his own heart; and this alone gives religious liberty its value.

[ocr errors]


GENUINE piety is always Janus-faced. It presents an aspect of complacency toward all that is excellent, and an aspect of hostility toward all that is evil. There is the same countenance, but it looks in opposite directions, and with opposite expressions. As a man thinketh in his heart, not in his head, so is he ; and if he would know what the real sympathies of his heart are, he must subject it to a two-fold test. Its seeming appetencies cannot be relied upon, unless there be a corresponding principle of repulsion. As by a proof, or counter-process, we determine the correctness of a mathematical result, so must we try the sincerity of religious affections. It would be singular indeed, if the power of perceiving relations, which is so prominent in our mental constitution, should have nothing to do in this sphere of morals. The opposites, right and wrong, ought and ought not, being essential and unalterable, we can have nothing to do with one member of this momentous contrast, without being equally concerned with the other. This is a principle which appears not to be sufficiently appreciated. Attention needs to be directed to that side of the great dividing line, which is less frequently contemplated in treating of religious character and spiritual growth.

“Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” This sanctified aversion is at once the correlative and test of holy love. Nothing is more common than for men to deceive themselves and others by a vehement and apparently honest advocacy of right and virtue, while their hearts are untouched by the mere sentiments they





The judgment and imagination may be decidedly enlisted, and the inclination be as decidedly opposite. This inner variance is the source of those glaring inconsistencies which meet us everywhere in history and observation. Seneca, so just, so persuasive in his advocacy of self-denial and moderation of desires, wrote his severe lessons upon a table of gold, — the same table from which he loaned with usury his millions. Sir Thomas More, in his Utopia, advocates religious toleration ; though, at the same time, he could persecute Protestants with rack and fagot.

“ Abhor that which is evil.” Mere dislike is not enough. There should be aversion in its strongest exercise, namely, abhorrence, - a starting back of the soul in an instinctive, energetic recoil. To refrain from evil is not enough ; war must be declared, and a vigorous hostility maintained. Treaty, truce, or parley may never be tolerated. It is aversion to moral evil, of course, which we speak of, and evil on its own account; and not evil as affecting our convenience or happiness. The supremely selfish may be inflamed at every annoyance to themselves, yet very calmly contemplate the most flagrant sin or outrage which lies out of their immediate personal sphere. They are not so much averse to sin, as to trouble. Obliquity, seen in our own party, or family, yea, in our own self, is just as much to be detested as when seen elsewhere. “I loathe and abhor myself,” was Job's feeling. There was a Roman, who, to escape proscription, fled from the capital ; and to prevent detection, counterfeited blindness in one eye. When, after many months, the danger was past, and he removed the covering, he could not open the eye. He had in reality destroyed its use. That man had a most hearty dislike to the vindictive intolerance of the triumvirs; probably, also to deceit in general, but not to hypocrisy in himself. Many such patriots, and too many nominal Christians, like him, are there

But deformity, physical or moral, does not become beauty by being mine rather than another's. Henry Martyn could say: “ Men frequently admire me, and I am pleased ; but I abhor the the pleasure that I feel.”

As already remarked, the repugnance now spoken of should be exercised toward that which is wrong, because it is wrong; a spiritual taste being cultivated which is instinctively averse to sin. Sickness, and other causes, may suspend many unlawful desires, and perhaps temporarily disable from their gratification, while


the individual becomes no more virtuous, and has no more desire for conformity to God, than before. The venomous serpent is a hateful object; whatever apparent beauty of color or motion it may exhibit, whatever fascination it may practise, it is a hateful object; the bosom is not the place for it. If the viper fasten upon the band, it should at once be shaken into the fire. So ought we to feel and to deal with respect to sin.

Of all things shunned and dreaded, that is the most dreadful. Galley slaves,


, leprous outcasts, starving maniacs let us be, rather than sinners against God. The worst part of perdition is not the undying worm, the dreadful writhings of despair ; but the frightful scars, and the fresh and growing wounds of sin.

Single out any one of the vices. Look at impurity, and it is only with unmitigated detestation, that, in any form, it may be contemplated. To respect and extol chastity is not enough. Sallust could write and talk eloquently against the prevailing Roman licentiousness ; and yet, by his habitual and notorious debaucheries, lay himself open to repeated accusations before the Senate. Rousseau could compose versions of the Psalms, full of

. seeming unction; and also productions infamously licentious. Profession and mere opinions determine nothing. The great point is, How is the imagination occupied ? Am I mentally chaste ?

Look at intemperance. This indulgence is not to be reprobated so much because it undermines health and property, or because it begets idleness and pauperism, as because it is a beastly and wicked practice. It is to be loathed and renounced for debasing, as well as destroying, the soul. Proper aversion to it is not the aversion felt exclusively to the use of intoxicating drinks ; but to the unauthorized indulgence in other stimulants, and in eating too. The man who will apologize for one sinful gratification, on the ground that there are others even worse, and the man who makes the sum of virtue to consist in some one moral exccllence, are alike mistaken. While no drunkard can enter heaven, many a sober man does enter hell. Fractional morality will not suffice. The Manichees abstained from wine, calling it “ the gall of the prince of darkness,” but rioted in other liquors, equally pernicious; and in certain viands, too, no less pleasing to the palate than those which they prohibited. In a religious point of view, as well no abstinence, as such abstinence. The very first element of true temperance is wanting. Let stringent statutes be

« ÖncekiDevam »