« PreviousContinue »
nations will condemn. On some of these a speedy reunion of CHRISTIANs is not to be expected; but, to use the language of Mr. Vansittart, in his excellent letter to Dr. Marsh and John Croker, Esq. “ There is an inferior degree of reunion more within our prospect, and yet, perhaps, as perfect as human infirmity allows us to hope for, wherein though all differences of opinion should not be extinguished, yet they may be retined from all party prejudices and interested views, so softened by the spirit of CHARITY and mutual concession, and so controlled by agreement on the leading principles and zeal for the general interests of CHRISTIANITY, that no sect or persuasion should be tempted to make Religion subservient to secular views, or to employ political power to the prejudice of others. The existence of dissent will, perhaps, be inseparable from RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, so long as the mind of man is liable to error; but it is not unreasonable to hope, that hostility may cease, though perfect agreement cannot be established. IF WE CANNOT RECONCILE ALL OPINIONS, LET US UNITE ALL HEARTS *!”
To man there attaches a restlessness of disposition, which not unfrequently in spiritual as well as in temporal concerns, operates to his detriment. Cer
* See a curious Volume, entitled “ An Historical and Literary Account of the Formularies, Confessions of Faith, or Symbolic Books of the Roman Catholic, Greek, and principal Protestant Churches." By Charles Butler, Esq, of Lincoln's Inn, a Catholic layman, well known for his erudition and liberality.
tain individuals, whether impelled by the love of novelty, or pushed on by the ambition of discovery, will be wise above what is written. Travelling out of the divine record, they are exposed to all the errors and corruptions of an AntiSCRIPTURAL CHRISTIANITY. What is plainly inscribed in the written Word of God, let it be carefully read, and as carefully transfused into practice. Enough has been imparted by the inspired writers to satisfy every reasonable mind, both as to faith and practice. To comprehend every thing is not the lot of man. To get rid of every difficulty in our religious, as well as in our worldly concerns, is not the enviable condition of mortality.
TRUTH is a gem of inestimable value. To deceive or to be deceived yields no gratification to a well constituted mind. We are desirous of forming to ourselves just ideas of corporeal objects around us. Nor less anxious ought we to be to entertain accurate notions of those invisible realities which are disclosed to us in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Indeed, as the latter exceed the former in importance, influential on our conduct here and on our happiness hereafter, so much the greater is qur solicitude to think rightly on the subject. But the desire of uniformity of opinion, however natural, seems an impossibility in this dark and imperfect state of being.
PERSECUTION, so far as regards the infliction of pains and penalties for matters of religion, is for the most part at an end in this highly favoured country.
But the envenomed clamour of the tongue who can silence ? Evil speaking has been admirably discussed by Tillotson, upwards of a century ago, whilst the mischiefs attending the vice are still felt by individuals and by the community. Surmises have irretrievably injured the best reputations. The law of the land recognizes such offences against society, even when founded in truth. This arises from the great importance of character in every department of life. But to misrepresent the sentiments of any CHRISTIAN MINISTER, on which his usefulness depends, must be highly censurable, and often savours of the deepest malignity. Reports as to religious opinions are generally false—for no one knows what they really are, except the individual himself, who is seldoin interrogated upon the occasion. It is a grievous fact, that ANOTHER MAN'S sentiments are most frequently meddled with, not to ascertain what they are, but to misrepresent and distort them. This answers the base purposes of party
—too often the presiding demon of THE RELIGIOUS WORLD!
The best remedy for party spirit is to take an enlarged and liberal view of every thing that regards the religion of Jesus Christ. God is Love: making him the centre, his benevolence streams forth towards every individual of the human race. We are his offspring. Narrowness darkens the understanding and paralyses the heart. TRUE RELIGION is the sunshine of the soul, exhibiting every thing under a favourable aspect, with the assurance that under the auspices of an infinitely wise and good Being, even evil, odious in its nature and deleterious in its immediate consequences, shall be rendered subservient to the ultimate happiness of mankind. A rational piety is the offspring of heaven
Thou, fair Religion, wast design’d,
The Wisdom from above, kind and salutary in all her operations, flings a cheering ray into the darkest recesses of life, and illumines the vast and unknown tract of eternity! Her ways, says Solomon, (Prov. iii. 17.) are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. RejoICE EVERMORE is the exhortation of Paul (1 Thess. v. 16.); whilst Peter (1. i. 6) describes the primitive Christians as REJOICING with joy unspeakable and full of glory*.
* See“ A Letter addressed to Dr. Hawker, on GeneRAL Redemption, by J. Evans, Second Edition. This pamphlet has been happily instrumental in rescuing the father of a family from the overwhelming horrors of religious despondency! Much is it regretted that the glorious Gospel of the blessed God should depress, rather than elevate any human being. Let the reader consult a very interesting work on insanity, by the late DR. JOSEPH MASON Cox, who died July, 1818, in the 54th year of his age, at Fish Ponds, near Bristol. He abhorred fanaticisin and superstition. In him were united good sense, benevoJence, and piety. His excellent grandfather, Dr. Joseph Mason, was the beloved friend of Dr. Caleb Evans, who preached his funeral serman from Prov. xiv. 32, the righteous hath hope in his death. The grandson (who has left behind him an amiable widow) was worthy of his memory. The respectable establishment at Fish Ponds is conducted by his relatives, the Messrs. Bompasses, with reputation and success. The deeply to be commisserated patient is treated with skill, tenderness, and humanity.
MR. RICHARDS had a high regard for the late Archibald M Lean, of Edinburgh, and there is no doubt that the following statement would meet with his approbation. It illustrates my present subject. Mr. M. remarks, in his Sermon on the Unity of Christ's Disciples :—“There are, indeed, many different opinions in the world, but there is but ONE FAITH. Many think that the true faith of the GOSPEL cannot be attained without great study, and being thoroughly acquainted with every point of a connected system of divinity, whereas the inspired writers repeatedly reduce the faith that saves to a single plain, short, proposition, such as that, “ Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;" or that“ God raised him from the dead,” and declare that all who believe this truth upon the divine testimony shall be saved, John xx. 31; Rom. x. 9. They who believe this must necessarily believe every thing that he hath revealed, as soon as they know it; but faith does not depend upon the full knowledge of every truth. The First CHRISTIANS are declared to have had true faith when they knew only the first principles.