Obrazy na stronie

withstanding the abundant means graciously vouch, safed to them for that purpose; if the religion which they profess, instead of being built on the firm ground of sober and rational enquiry, is the mere result of early prejudice, and accidental circumstance; a kind of hereditary possession handed down to them from their forefathers, of which they confessedly know little, and about which, perhaps, they still care less; if, when they come to a place of holy worship, they enter not into the services, performed there; neither praying the prayers of the church, nor joining in the facraments; but when they ought to be on their knees, in humble fupplication for pardon and grace, they remain on their seats unconcerned and uninterested in the sacred business that is going forward; the necessary consequence must be, that they will be dead, not living, members of the church; and it will be no subject for surprize, if, after having continued in that state for years, without experiencing any. communication of Divine spirit from the Head to which they professedly belong, they should be per. fuaded to seek unhallowed fire elsewhere.

But be it remembered, the fault in this case is not in the church, but in its members; and by cutting themselves off from the church, upon the imaginary


idea of acquiring that spiritual attainment, of which they are not in actual poffeffion, in confequence either of their abuse or disuse of those appointed means to which the Divine grace has been formally annexed; they only render their case, it is to be feared, in some sense more hopeless than it was before. A limb, though diseased, whilst it continue united to the body, may recover; which, when separated from it, muft inevitably perish,



TO convince, is one thing; to prevail with meni

I to act in conformity with that conviction, is another. The former is the general effect of sound argument, addressed to competent understandings; the latter is ofttimes attended with a species of humia liation, to which the pride of man will not suffer him to submit.

It is never too foon to tread back our steps, when convinced that we are not travelling in the right páth; because the difficulty of our return to it increases in proportion to our distance from it. But, alas! all men possess not firmness of mind, to enable them to do justice to their reasoning faculty; choosing rather, out of compliment to the opinion of the world, which is rarely worth obtaining, to continue in error, than to take (as they conceive) shame to themselves, by acknowledging that they have been

mistaken; which is in fact, in other words, to say that they are wiser to-day than they were yesterday.

This remark is, perhaps, more frequently exemplified in religious, than in any other concerns in life: for in proportion to the importance of the object in pursuit is, generally speaking, the strength of prejudice in favour of the plan adopted for the purpose. Hence it is, that of the many who separate from the church, very few can ever be persuaded to return to it. You may succeed, if master of the subject, in removing all objections, in answering all arguments, in satisfying all scruples; so that separatists shall in a manner be left speechless: but when you think yourself upon the point of accompanying them to the house of God as friends, there is a lion in the way--the pride of the human heart will not suffer them to proceed. I once remember having a long and interesting conversation with a parishioner, of whose understanding I had formed a favourable judgment, upon the subject of his leaving the church; and was so happy as to succeed in convincing him. When arrived at this desired point, his immediate question was, " what I would have him do in the case?" To which the answer was, obvious; that he fhould im. mediately return to the place from whence he had

gone astray. The question subjoined to this advice manifested the infirmity of human nature. “ But, fir, (continued he) what shall I do with all those, whom I have drawn after me from the church?” • Bring them back with you to the church again, as the best amends that can be made for your past error, and the strongest testimony that can be given of your present sincerity;' was the reply. But, alas! this was a trial too hard for flesh and blood; the man was not proof against the remarks to which he foresaw his conduct must subject him; he therefore continues to this day a member of the Meeting, in spite of his better judgment. This case, it is to be feared, is by no means a singular one. Little hopes, there. fore, can be entertained, that in a subject of this kind conversion will often accompany conviction. For when schism once takes possession of the human mind, it bears some resemblance to a cancer in the human body, which spreads its poisonous influence so generally through the system, that the disease feldom terminates but with the life of the patient.

Nevertheless, how desperate soever the case, the physician, while life remain, perseveres in his attempt to cure. Upon this principle, rather than upon any fanguine hope of success, I have thrown

« PoprzedniaDalej »