Page images

thofe duties which are most neceffary to be prac tifed. And as he fees how perfectly agreeable the former are to the understanding of a reasonable creature, and how fit it is that thofe who are endowed with reafon, and are defigned for a focial life, fhould practise the latter; fo he has a fettled propenfity, a warm defire to propagate both the one and the other among mankind, and to improve himself, especially, in both.. This his zeal arifes not from any corrupt bias on his will, or any felfish purposes that are to be answered by it, but from a rational conviction that nothing is fo beautiful and amiable as truth and virtue; and from a fincere defire to promote the honour of God, and the happiness of mankind. He is one, who as he knows, that though all truth is equally true; yet that it is not all of equal importance, nor every real duty of equal neceffity; fo he proportions his zeal to the nature and moment of things, being lefs concerned about matters of compara-› tively little weight, and more fo about greater. He is one who, amidst all his zeal, remembers that he is a man, fubject to paffions and mistakes as well as his neighbours; and, therefore, he never grows haughty and, affuming, infolent and domineering, but is full of love and good-will to all mankind, even to thofe who differ most widely from him; and who, therefore, dares not under any pretence whatsoever, violate the laws of charity, nor break in upon any rights, to which all men have

an equal claim. He is one who, though he fpares no pains in informing the ignorant, convincing the erroneous, reproving the bold finner, and refor.ring the debauchee, yet never allows himself to cenfure rafhly, to flander, opprefs, or injure any man in any kind, and much less on account of re ligion, or matters of confcience. Finally, he is one who, though he is very earnest and diligent in this work, yet goes about it with prudence, and manages it with caution and difcretion..

Such is the character of the man whose zeal God approves, and all wife and good men applaud. Such a man can fcarce be fuppofed ever to do any mifchief in the world he can fcarce fail of being remarkably beneficial to it. And as ugly an appearance as zeal fometimes makes, big with the mischiefs and ruin which it has too often produced-thus lovely â figure would it make, under thefe regulations. i tom ni b Sermon on religious Zeal. ri

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

AN uncharitable man wounds the very vitals of that religion by which he hopes for eternal life. And whilft his fury rages against his brother for

[ocr errors]

Dr. Samuel Johnson, in his life of Watts, makes the following obfervation, which perfectly accords with the

accidental differences, he shakes the very foundations of his own christianity, and endangers, or prevents his own salvation; his boasted orthodoxy in opinion is made vain, while his practical ungodlineffes are real; and his faith appears to be little better than that of devils, when he mingles fo much of their malice with it. In vain does he glory in the brightness of his notions: in vain does he prefume darkness is paft and the true light now Shineth: for he that fayeth he is in the light and hateth his brother, he abideth in darkness even till


It is true, indeed, that all graces and virtues are very imperfect in this present state, and there is much of uncharitablenefs remaining in many a good man: but that man can never be good that has no charity. Zelotus has spent his life in declaiming againft fome little modes and geftures used in worship by his fellow Christians, or in impofing fome. uninstituted ceremonies on the confciences of his brethren. He hath stirred up the magiftrate to perfecute fome of them to prifons, and almoft to death. He flattered his confcience with hopes that his zeal for the church fhould not only render him acceptable at the last day, but provide him a large reward. He lies

above teftimony. "With his theological works, I am only enough acquainted to admire his meeknefs of oppofition and his mildness of cenfure. It was not only in his book but in his mind, that orthodoxy was united with charity,"

now languishing upon a bed of fickness on the very borders of eternity, and is terribly awakened to behold his own mistake; whilft he ftands within the tribunal of Chrift, and the face of the judge, his former practice appears to his confcience in its true and frightful fhape; the fire that hath animated him against his brethren now flashes in his foul and discovers its infernal fource; now he dreads to be made an example of the fame vengeance among devils, with which he hath purfued his fellow mortals; he groans out his last breath in bitter agonies, cries to the God of Love for mercy upon his departing fpirit, and expires almost without hope. He is gone. But we leave his foul to the compaffion of a God who can better pardon his mighty errors, than he would forgive others in their little mistakes.

Thus dreadfully hath this vice of uncharitableness prevailed against the honour of Christianity and the peace of mankind. Thus facrilegiously hath it taken away one of the brightest marks of the best religion, and that is love. It hath defaced the beauty of our holy profeffion, fcandalifed the facred name that we bear, made a slaughter-house of the church of Christ, and deceived the fouls of men to their own eternal ruin.

Just as I had finished this effay, Pharifaino happened to come into my study, and taking up the first leaf, read the title, and was perfuaded this discourse must be written against himself." No,

[ocr errors]

faid I, there is not any man alive perfonally intended in these papers; but if you please to peruse them, and shall apply the characters to yourself, I hope you will confefs Divine Provi dence has led you into a conviction of your falfe zeal." Pharifaino fat him down immediately, and with a running eye paffed through every page. And though the frequent wrinkle of his brow difcovered his inward chagrin and disgust, yet he paid me many a ceremony; and, "Behold," faid he, "how language and fancy will dress up zeal like a monster to frighten men out of their fervor of fpirit.

"I have heard," added he, "that you have fome skill in painting; pray draw me the figure of this uncharitableness in just and proper colours; this monster which you complain has fo narrowed and disgraced, and murdered Christianity." I will attempt it, Pharifaino, if you will furnish me with a fheet of large paper, and that of the fairest kind, to reprefent the Chriftian church in this world. First, I will pare it round, and reduce it to a very fmall compafs; then with much ink will I ftain the whiteness of it, and deform it with many a blot; at the next fitting I will stab it through rudely with an iron pen; and when I put the last hand to complete the likeness-it fhall be fmeared over with blood!

Orthodoxy and Charity united.

« PreviousContinue »