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wicked one”—but of “ the tares and the wheat"_" virgins wise and foolish :" nay, a scrutiny more exact and searching still-guests admitted to the marriage supper, and "one who had not on a wedding garment,” for “ many are called, but few chosen.” Now by what law of charity is it that we are called 'to shut our eyes to the melancholy picture which the most cursory survey of the world must place before them? By what progress of ratiocination is it that we are to be brought to the conclusion, that the majority of the crowd by which we are surrounded, are true Christians? Perhaps it may be said this is a perversion of argument.
We never intended to call the profligate and profane true Christians; we refer to those only (and surely you must allow they constitute a numerous class) whose moral conduct is correct; whose discharge of social and relative duties is not impeached; and whose attention to the calls of benevolence is exemplary. Surely such characters as these are worthy of being placed on the favourable side of that line of demarcation which you are so anxious to establish, even though they should receive, with some qualification, the exclusive dogmas which engage so much of your attention-and allow of some greater latitude in the enjoyment of the innocent recreations of society, which suit their station in life, and conduce to health of body and hilarity of mind.
This sounds very plausible—and it is granted that the modifications of character which result from disposition, habits, connexions, &c. are so numerous and diversified, that we cannot discriminate with precision between genuine piety and a near counterfeit; but we must not allow ourselves to be deluded under the specious pretence of liberality, from exercising our judgment in subservience to the authority, and in conformity to the decisions of revealed truth. Now with respect to such characters as have just come under our notice, what is the real state of the case?-granting all that is said of them as far as relates to external conduct, wherein do they necessarily and essentially differ from the world with which they are associated ? Is there any one point in their character as above delineated, which is not capable of easy imitation by one, who shall confessedly be destitute of the spirit of piety? The answer to this question will be found in the history of the “ young ruler," in the gospel. In such persons you will find much to admire and much to imitate; great propriety of conduct, but not, necessarily, any spirituality of mind. In short, they assimilate more nearly with the world, than with those whose " affections" are evidently “set on things above."
But to be more particular, let us consider in a few instances the grounds on which we withhold our assent to the claim of genuine Christianity on the part of such persons as those now under consideration. Because,
1. In the first place they do not take the Bible as the exclusive standard of their faith and practice: this, as we must consult brevity, must stand almost as a mere assertion, with one short observation, that the assertion would seem to be sufficiently established by remarking the manner in which an appeal to the decisions of Scripture is usually received ; nay, we could almost be content to refer the question to the individuals themselves. They will hardly, we think, venture to assert that they over intended to yield such an implicit deference to the
sacred oracles as we assume to be an indispensable duty. The rule is indeed received; but either it is unintelligible, or inapplicable, or impracticable, or any thing, in short, but what it is. Take a specimen first respecting faith. “There is none other name (i. e. than that of Jesus Christ) under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." So says the record. Now for the comment:- _" for my part, I don't trouble my head much about what a man believes, so that he leads a good life, and is sincere in his opinions.” Again, take an instance with respect to practice. The Bible says, “No man can serve two masters: ye cannot serve God and Mammon :" what says our commentator ? "I don't intend to serve two masters; but then one must do as the world does : one can't make one's self singular and be called a Methodist ;-if you would have every thing taken in this literal way, we had better go and live in a desert, and turn hermits at once ; besides, I don't know what Mammon means ; there is so much difficulty in the Bible, you don't agree about it yourselves.”
Who can avoid recalling the words of our Lord, “Ye hypocrites! well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh to me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me:—but in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
2. A second evidence, from which we judge that the heart of these persons is not right in the sight of God, is, that they manifest no tenderness of conscience in reference to things doubtful; nothing less than plain and palpable immorality or breach of positive duty occasions them any disquietude. There is no sense of the tendency to evil; no "abstaining from the appearance of evil;" no looking at the influence of their conduct on others; no anxiety "lest a stumbling-block or occasion of falling should be cast in their brother's way." As this is true positively, in reference to their conduct in what they do, so the same may be remarked negatively as to what they do not.
8. So that, thirdly, there is no sensitiveness as to duties not expressly commanded. Take an instance in the employment of the leisure which the Sabbath affords: public ordinances are sparingly frequented, and other ways of improving the sacred hours almost entirely neglected. The Bible is taken up, and the stated number of chapters duly gone through; other religious books have their turn; but each and all of them give place, as occasion serves, to a novel or a newspaper ;-and where's the harm ? why, where are your affections ? where is the evidence that the principle of spiritual life has been called forth, or even that a desire has been entertained, that it should be quickened to more vigorous exercise?
4. Where piety is not genuine, there is little or no interest excited as to the spiritual welfare of mankind at large, or of individuals in particular. Persons of the character referred to, are charitable in the vulgar acceptation of the term,--they desire the reformation of the profligate, they would "make the 'men sober, and the maids industrious," and lend a willing hand to alleviate the distresses, and minister to the temporal wants of their fellow-creatures. They will go further than this, and urge upon the poor the duty of reading the Bible, daily prayer, and a regular attendance at Church; and the sacrament must be received at least three times every year : but here they stop; the objects of their attention are never urged to institute the momentous inquiry, “What shall I do to be saved ?" the Gospel is never pressed upon their regard under the sanction of this solemn alternative, "he that bath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” This naturally leads to the consideration of
5. Another negative evidence of an unenlightened mind, - viz. that such persons are not qualified to instruct others in the way of salvation, even though they should wish to attempt it. When they meet, indeed, with an individual, dissolute, profane, or evidently careless, they will point out in strong colours the evil consequences of such conduct, and urge him to repentance and reformation: it is not necessary to inquire how far their instructions are founded on scriptural principles, or in what degree they are calculated to effect a real change of character in the persons addressed; we will take it for granted that they are both; but what is the case when a different character comes under their notice? when they are called upon to direct the sincere inquirer after truth, to minister consolation to a mind bowed down under a sense of sin, or trembling with anxious doubt on the verge of eternity ? are they not conscious to themselves of an inability to meet such cases with any adequate topics of encouragement and support? and let it be observed that such inability shall not arise from a want of information in themselves as to the theory of religion, or from any natural incapacity to clothe their ideas in suitable language : on other subjects they are at no loss for words, and even in reference to the generalities of religion they will find enough to say; but here (if they are anxious to direct the inquirer right) they are quite at a loss,—they cannot enter into the feelings of the mind in such a state : the soul is on the rack of uncertainty and alarm, and conscience will not be appeased by vague notions of the mercy of God, and other common-place topics ; it requires something definite and substantial whereon to build its hopes ; and this they are incompetent to point out.
It will not be supposed that this is an argument on which much stress could be laid, considered abstractedly in itself; because it is very possible for a sincere Christian, especially in an early stage of his course, to feel himself incompetent to the task of instructing others, even though his own peace be built on a solid foundation : but taking the above remarks in connexion with other circumstances which have been, or which remain to be pointed out, we surely may be allowed to suggest that they furnish at least an incidental and collateral evidence which may lead us to the same general conclusion.
6. Another mark which serves to characterize the true Christian, and to distinguish him from those who have only “a name to live," is the "love of the brethren," or of the true disciples of his Lord wheresoever found, or howsoever distinguished. He loves them instinctively, as it were, previous to personal acquaintance, and in proportion to the simplicity, piety, and zeal manifested in their character. His regard for such persons falls, indeed, far short of the standard at which he aims, and he has much cause for humiliation when he considers what
trifling circumstances are oftentimes sufficient to produoe estrangement and separation : but notwithstanding deductions of this kind from the general truth, the bent of his affections is habitually towards the image of his Saviour wherever exhibited. In connexion with this it may be remarked that he hails with the most lively emotions of joy and thankfulness to God the first glimmerings of a dawn of vital piety among his connexions and acquaintance; this doubly endears friends and relatives otherwise beloved-draws closer the ties of nature, and gives to those in whom the pleasing signs are manifested, a place in his affections, and an interest in his regards which they never possessed before : nay, let but an earnest solicitude on the subject of religion appear in any individual who may hitherto have been regarded with indifference, almost bordering on dislike, and the current of his affections in reference to that individual shall experience an immediate change.
In the foregoing representation, imperfect as it is, we perceive a perfeet contrast between the true Christian and the mere formal believer. If the former be attracted, the latter is repelled by the exhibition of lively piety; the one loves all and every one in whom it exists, instinctively, and at once, and such the better whom he sincerely loved before; the other is conscious of much prejudice, to say the least, against every one whose religion assumes a warmer complexion than his own, he can barely tolerate it in those with whom he is connected and associated : so that they are loved, if loved at all, notwithstanding and in spite of theis piety, rather than on account of it; and it is well if coolness do not take the place of regard in his feelings towards those, whom, previous to such change, he embraced as friends.
There are those who think to account for the principle of mutual love, which has been pointed out as pervading the whole body of true Christians, by ascribing it to mere natural sympathy, which is generally excited by congeniality of sentiment, and similarity of pursuits of whatever kind: only that, in the case now under notice, the attraction is mutually and perhaps considerably increased between the parties by the singularity of the opinions which they maintain in common. We are by no means anxious to deprive this argument of all force; on the contrary, we are led by it to admire the goodness of the Creator in so tempering the constitution of man as to render our natural faculties, when brought under the influence of his Spirit, subservient to the purposes of his glory, and the common good of his creatures. But, whatever truth there may be in the above observation, we contend that the principle of mere natural sympathy will afford no adequate or satisfactory solution of all the phænomena of the case. Sympathy arising from congeniality of disposition, merely natural, or from identity of sentiment and pursuits, may form a bond of attachment towards individuals, but it eannot connect a class ; or if it do, as in a certain sense it may, form a link of brotherhood among members of the same profession-subjects of the same king-natives of the same country-it is only in a subordinate degree, and in a qualified sense, and without uniting their hearts to each other ; much less is such a sympathy capable of including within its embrace, men of every class and of every clime, “Greeks and barbarians, bond and free."
YOL. X. No. III.
Besides, as to the singularity referred to, it is a mere circumstance ; so far from being necessarily connected with the existence of the fact itself, that we are taught to expect an accession of peace and love in proportion to the universal prevalence of those principles from whence true Christian sympathy proceeds; and to look for the perfection of happiness in those blessed regions where singularity shall have no place. Professing to ground our observations on the Holy Scriptures, we are naturally led to inquire, before we quit this division of the subject, whether we have any foundation for the opinion that such a feeling as has been described ought to prevail among the genuine disciples of our common Lord. If such images as branches united to a common stock, members of one body, children of the same family, partakers of the same Spirit, can express the idea of unity and sympathy, then the question receives an easy reply without requiring particular citations which prescribe such unity as a duty, or refer to it as a test by which to ascertain "what manner of spirit we are of," " whose we are, and whom we serve.”
Many other circumstances might be pointed out and insisted on, in confirmation of the general proposition that the religion of the world is not the religion of the Gospel; but these observations have already extended themselves to so great a length, that we must forbear entering upon fresh ground.
Such are a few of the principal reasons which form the basis of the Christian's estimate of the religion of the world-each of which might have been enlarged upon with advantage to the argument; but enough has been said, we trust, to vindicate him from the imputation of censoriousness, and to justify him in the eyes of every candid and impartial inquirer in the result of that estimate ; namely, that a large proportion of professing Christians are destitute of those dispositions or affections of the soul which constitute the peculiar characteristics of spiritual life; and consequently that their character, however amiable and in many respects exemplary, will not stand the test of Scripture.
Many of the remarks which have been made may seem uncharitable, and appear to bear hard upon some characters whose feelings we should be as sorry to wound, as we are disinclined to question their sincerity. A subject of this nature, however, must of necessity be treated on general principles ; it is impossible to stop for the purpose of qualifying expressions, which in their strictest application may include and condemn many persons whom we should feel inclined to address in far different language : the utmost we can attempt, even in the considerable space which has been devoted to the subject, is to propose the standard, to lay down the rule, and to leave the various exceptions and modifications which might be suggested, to be settled under each particular head in the judgment of that charity which “ hopeth all things, believeth all things-thinketh no evil.” We are conscious of the influence which early associations and prejudices may have in forming the character of the individual, and how far these and other circumstances may prevent the full development of Christian principles, even in those who are nevertheless “ alive unto God.”
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