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of lesser moment, " then shall ye know, if ye fol
“ low on to know the Lord.”
In closing this chapter, it may be proper again to say, that there is no condition, in which the Christian church can be placed, that can justify neglect in religious matters. Even though there should be as many sects, as there are individual Christians; or though only one denomination should exist in the whole world, men are bound by obligations, which no circumstances like these can weaken or alter, to think and examine for themselves, in every matter connected with the safety of the soul. If they will not, however, attend to these things, but, on the contrary, treat with criminal levity, subjects which should engage their solemn consideration; if they point the finger of scorn, at the various sections of the Christian world, as a reason for despising religion itself ; let them know, that it is not the number of sects which keeps them in unbelief; not the bigotry shown by each party towards its fellow; but a deep-rooted dislike to true religion, a love to sin, and a wilful rejection of every truth, which seeks to curb their passions or to humble their pride. No sincere inquirer can be in such a state of mind, but some who fancy they love truth, may be among the unhappy number.
THE DIFFICULTIES ARISING FROM THE IMPERFEC
TIONS OF REAL CHRISTIANS.
It is at once admitted, that many imperfections are to be found in the characters of Christians upon earth, and none can be surprised at this who are acquainted with the Scriptures. Such evils may have an injurious influence on some minds, though there is reason to believe that the result is often magnified. Unbelievers try to throw discredit on religion, by charging inconsistencies on those who profess it ; but the same enmity would probably lead them to. find fault with the followers of Christ, even if they were altogether perfect. It was so in the days of Christ; for even he “ who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” was accused falsely, and his miracles of mercy ascribed to Satanic agency.
At the same time, it may be useful to notice some of the more popular and plausible charges brought against Christians, to examine them, and show that, even if all true, they should not for a moment stop the inquirer in his pursuit of religious truth; the circumstance should rather make him anxious to understand these anomalies, and to know the reason why Christianity does not at all times produce its holy and consistent effects. He should be desirous of fully ascertaining whether it is the religion of the Bible or man himself that is to blame, when such imperfections are discovered. It may
be stated that the men of the world view the imperfections of believers differently from the view taken by the word of God. Without hesitation, ungodly men accuse Christians of hypocrisy, and the tone of accusation and condemnation assumed by their enemies is any thing but proper. And it also frequently happens that they unjustly charge upon real Christians the sins and inconsistencies of mere nominal professors. They might indeed easily discriminate ; but they know that they are unwilling to do so in cases in which their judgments and consciences could easily detect the truth. All this has its baneful effects upon some minds indisposed to reflect seriously on religion ; and who are glad of any excuse for continuing in unbelief and in the love of the world.
It is not our present purpose, however, to advert to these direct calumnies; as inquirers after truth are able to see that in such cases, they can have no excuse for neglecting the investigation they have begun. We wish rather to enter into an explanation respecting charges which are in part true, though the reasons and motives assigned by the men of the world are not correct.
How frequently are religious people accused of being melancholy, and religion spoken of as producing this state of mind. Hacknied as the charge is, and difficult as it may be exactly to understand what irreligious persons mean by it, some notice should be taken of it.
Let it be observed, then, that the individuals who make the assertions referred to are in general ignorant of the nature of Christian principles, and know nothing aright of Christian practice. Hence we find that those who are active in the pursuit of earthly pleasures, and who seek all their happiness in the gratifications of sense, are the loudest in their charges against real Christians. Because the man, who knows the vanity of such pursuits will not join in their rude or boisterous mirth; or because he takes no delight in the vain amusements and fashionable follies of the day, he is at once pronounced a melancholy and antisocial being, and his religion is accused of producing misanthropic feelings. He is declared to be an enemy of all innocent pleasure, and more fit to reside in a desert than in a community of civilized and intelligent individuals. It is asserted that his gloomy views repel people from religion, and that, to“ be righteous overmuch," is worse than even to be irreligious.
It is affecting to hear individuals, who fancy themselves very good Christians ; speaking in such a way, and deciding so dogmatically respecting the Christian character, without ever appealing to the word of God; as if it were too old-fashioned a book to give directions in the matters they discuss; and as if the maxims of the world, and the inclinations of men, were not only guides, but admitted authori
ties on the part of the Divine Being, in all things connected with the present life and that life which is to come. That, in short, man and not God is to draw the line, and say, thus far you are to go in your religion, and no farther; as if it were more necessary to warn men against being too religious than to warn them against unbelief and indifference. No Christian can admit this, and no one who professes to believe the Bible to be true can consistently acknowledge it.
Worldly persons are, from the very state of their minds, totally unfit to understand or decide correctly respecting the Christian's melancholy. For what they call gloom and unsociableness may be that sobriety of mind which is required, and that supreme regard for the divine authority which, when in exercise, will deter from the trifling of the gay and the merriment of the thoughtless. The Christian, as an accountable being, dare not waste his hours nor spend his energies of body and mind in pursuits alike useless to himself and his fellow-creatures, but with all this he may be neither gloomy nor unsociable. That man only can decide aright in this matter whose mind has been instructed in religion by the Word and Spirit of God; he only can follow in imagination the Christian into the closet, into the domestic circle, and into the house of God. The Christian would be found actively engaged in attending to all the charities of life ; and that his religion, instead
; of drying up the sources of benevolence, had opened new springs of affection and good will to men; not only making them more abundant, but also giving