Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

quires no excessive austerity. It aims at assisting poor erring mortals in overcoming their weakness and misery; but it does not add to them, by re-, quiring the facrifice of health, ease, peace, society, cheerfulness, and innocent gaiety. It does not condemn those, with whom it cannot agree in opinion, with uncharitable severity. It is gentle and candid; it is accommodated to such a creature as man, for ever aiming at good, but, from weaknefs, continually relapfing into some degree of evil. It does not, like the severe system of the over-righteous, inflame and aggravate the wounds of its patients, but, with lenient balsamics, assuages their anguish *

. And if the over-righteous object that regularlybred ministers want vehemence and earneftnefs, I affirm that the objection cannot be universally well-founded. Men, having various degrees of talents, and various degrees of sensibility, will have a correspondent variety in their modes of delivery. The lively by nature, with very little sense of religion, may be animated in their discourses; the dull by nature, with a meaning very honest and pious, will be poor orators. And it always happens, in a very large body of men, that some are idle and irreligious; though circumstances may have led them to assume a profession where carelefsness and impiety are doubly culpable. But such is the present state of human nature. He who demands more perfection than experience has ever yet found, is unreasonable and over-righteous. If some men have less pretension, and less vehemence, than those who are called the OVER

* By the Church I wish to be understood all those who are united to Christ by the Holy Ghoft, wherever they dwell, and by whatever denomination they are diftinguished. The WORLD, in the fcriptural sense, consists of all who are not fo united.

RIGHTEOUS,

RIGHTEOUS, they have probably less hypocrisy, less folly, and less spiritual arrogance. Over. righteousness, with all its pretensions to humility, is often the parent as well as the child of pride.

After all, let us remember, that there is an underrighteousness (if I may use the term) as well as an over-righteousness; and that mankind are much apter to err from defect than excess. While hypocrisy and fanaticism are avoided, let us not, in the present times, be alarmed at danger from exceflive piety.

SECTION XL:

All extravagant and selfish Pretensions to the Spirit

to be anxiously avoided, as they proceed from and cherish Pride, and are frequently accompanied with Immorality.

STENTATIOUSLY to pretend to greater portions

of the Spirit than others, is alone a very unfavourable fymptom, as it is a presumptive proof of two wants, not compatible with the Spirit's benignant influence : the want of humility, and the want of charity. It is no wonder, therefore, that those who have made such pretensions, have disgraced them by the wickedness of their lives ; and have induced ill-judging men hastily to consider the whole doctrine of divine allistance as a mere delusion *

* The phrases, being Godded with God, Christed with Chrif, and others equally absurd, adopted by fanatics of the last century, have given just offence to men of sense and fincerity; but difgust is apt to run into extremes. and like the loathing occasioned by Sickness, to cause a rejection of wholesome aliment.

Hypocrites,

Hypocrites, in fanatical times, when the appearance of extraordinary piety was conducive to advancement in wealth and honours, were sure to go farther in their pretensions, than the modesty of true profeflors could permit or excuse: but that deceitfulness of heart which produces hypocrisy, leads to all other bad conduct ; and religion has been disgraced by the fingular profligacy of oftentatious professors.

Knaves of the very worst kind, who have no other object than to avail themselves of the credulity of others, are likely at all times to put on a cloak and a mask, which may render them externally respectable, and facilitate their purposes of deceit. Nothing seduces the ignorant and unexperienced so easily as the appearance of extraordinary fanctity; and nothing has been more frequently assumed, for the accomplishment of ambitious and avaricious designs. When these designs have been accomplished, the cloak and the mask have been thrown aside as useless incumbrances, and the villain has stood forth in his proper shape and colour.

Men of weak heads and warm hearts have proceeded to the most extravagant lengths in pretenfions to fanctity; and at the same time, from the want of folid virtue, have fallen into deplorable fins. Their fins derived additional deformity in the eyes of the people, from the contrast of assumed sanctity; and the world was ready to exclaim that all religion must be vain, if, in men who display so much of it, it contributes so little to wisdom and virtue.

Great finners, unwilling to tread the rugged road of virtue, have thought it an easier and pleasanter mode of avoiding the consequences of their enormities, to persuade themselves of sudden con

versions,

versions, and peculiar favour from heaven; and to compensate for inward impurity by outward sanctity, and for disobedience in things effential, by intemperate zeal in things indifferent, formal, and merely oftentatious.

Thus spiritual pride, want of charity, hypocrisy, knavery, folly, and extreme wickedness, have given rise to extraordinary pretensions to the Spirit, and verified the observation, that the wickedest of mankind have been among those who displayed the appearance of goodness and piety in the EXTREME.

« The gradation has been,” (says Dr. Trapp,) “ righteous overmuch in practice-righteous over“ much in practice and doctrine-immoral and “ profligate in both; and this still with pretensions “ to extraordinary measures of the Holy Spirit."

But to what fhould a conviction of this truth lead the sober Christian ? Certainly not to deny the doctrine of supernatural assistance, which he finds in the gospel ; but to avoid all extravagance of pretension, all boasting, all over-righteousness, all preference of himself to others, on account of spiritual gifts, left he should ultimately find himself also deceived and a deceiver.

The religion of Christ is of a retired and reserved nature. Its most important transactions are in the recesses of the heart, and in the closet. It loves not noise nor oftentation. Let him, therefore, who wishes to know whether he really has the Spirit, examine whether his virtues and good dispositions abound in retirement, and without the leaft parade whatever, or the smallest applause or reward of men. If he does good privately, and avoids the eyes of admirers, I think he may entertain an humble confidence that he has the favour of God. He has, in consequence, a source of joy within him, which no man taketh away. He has

the bread of life, and feeds on it in his heart by faith with thanksgiving. He is filently and unoftentatiously happy, neither courting the notice of the world, nor regarding its unjust censure. He is particularly careful, that no ill-treatment shall cause him to violate the law of charity. His chief concern is to bear and yet forbear; to be rather than to feem good.

SECTION XLI.

Affected Sanctity, Demureness, Canting, Sourness,

Cenforiousness, ignorant and illiterate Preaching, no Marks of a State of Grace, but contribute to bring the whole Doctrine of Divine Energy into Contempt, and to diffuse Infidelity.

R
ELIGIon is lovely. Her voice is melodious,

and her aspect delightful. How has she been deformed! She has been taught to utter jargon with the hoarse croaking of the portentous raven, or to scream with the terrific howlings of the bird of night. Her face has been changed from the face of an angel to a gorgon's head, surrounded with snakes. She has been rendered a bugbear, terrifying all who approach her, instead of a gentle nursing mother, inviting wretched mortals to her fostering bosom, by the tenderest blandishments of maternal love.

Men of natural fense, improved by a learned education, and polished by all the elegancies of cultivated life, have turned from her, thus disguised as the appears, with disgust and horror.

They

« PoprzedniaDalej »