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may in truth be said, that he who embraces the religion of Christ with all the heart, who, from deep convictions of its reality, is susceptible of lively impressions from the various touching incidents in the life of his Saviour, from his tender concern for his disciples, from his example and his instructions, is melted into love, which he would not exchange for all the cold refinements of human wisdom.

In regard to the doctrines and internal contents of the New Testament, the highest object is to give them their best moral effect on mankind, by producing the greatest good of the greatest number. They who think to accomplish this by practising upon human credulity, and prostrating the understanding before the altar of a blind and implicit faith, may tell us that they are only claiming belief in the peculiar doctrines of the gospel. But is it credible that there is any thing in Christianity, which teaches us to scorn that inspiration of God which hath given us understanding? Is it in religion alone, that the intellectual man is to be degraded to a mere piece of mechanism, and to get the measure of truth by letters, and words, and sounds, without any corresponding illumination of the mind and affections of the heart? I do not affirm that there is nothing peculiar in christianity that demands an enlightened zeal. It was no small event in the history of religion, that God endowed a man of humble origin with the gifts that distinguished the author and finisher of our faith; by which he was enabled to ingraft such a pure, unostentatious religion, into whatever was sound, either of Jewish or pagan growth; proving from the first the cumbersome branches of the ritual, and stripping from the last whatever might impair the vigour of this new object of culture. It is sufficiently peculiar to exhibit dur zeal in his cause, that he imparted such perfect rules and axioms for the governinent of ourselves, and extending to the various domestic and social relations ; that he voluntarily sacrificed his life in the cause of human happiness, and gave evidence of that future life which he promised, by his own resurrection. I pretend not to give an enumeration of every thing peculiar to our faith as christians ; but only to say that there are certain truths of christianity, which speak directly to the heart of every sircere and humble believer, and prepare him for the reception of all essential doctrines.

An unreasonable zeal is often manifested in contentions concerning particular denominations of churches. It is true, every one has a right to his preference, regard being paid in his choice to the simple rules and modes of discipline émanating from a religion, which demands no show or ostentation, and all whose ordinances and external observances are the means of making us

better, and not the proofs that we are good enough. The statutes under which a community of christians is united, and the different orders of men that compose a particular church, result from a conventional arrangement that has been formed, or virtually assented to, by its members. It happens here, for the most part, that we adhere to the church in which we have been educated. As in civil institutions, one does not study the forms of government, in order to determine under which he will place himself for security, or from the hope of promotion, so it is in ecclesiastical: our attachments are formed from early prejudices, and example ; and it rarely happens that we relinquish the com. munion of our fathers, whatever liberty of choice is at our command. Now this is much better than a continual state of uncertainty and change. It may be regarded as a good providence, that restrains the capriciousness of man in the external parts of that religion, whose substance is his chief good ; and thus withholds the lures and the nutriment of proselyting zeal.

It is not intended by these remarks to impair the exercise of individual judgment, or to censure the man who withdraws from a church, whose observances he thinks unauthorised and corrupt ; and especially from one whose privileges depend on a belief in opinions, whose truth he does not admit. A church may become so deformed, so monstrous, either by corrupt practices veiled under the feigned sanctions of holy, hereditary power, or by substituting a body of school divinity in place of the bible, as not only to justify individuals in abandoning its communion, but even to call for decided opposition to its unhallowed rites and customs, and formularies.

The true catholic church is the church universal, embracing all who acknowledge the same master, and receive the same records of divine truth contained in the history of Christ and the writings of his apostles. This church, when we go beyond the sphere in which we ordinarily move, is a noble object of regard. When we behold it, in imagination, divested of faction, its members agreeing in certain sublime truths, abstracted from all subtile refinements, worshipping one and the same God, submitting to the same master, learning of the same teacher, touched by the same affecting incidents in his life, following him to the grave, rising with him to immortal life, and reposing on him with confidence for happiness without end ; the heart expands with a generous rapture, which nothing else can equal. And are we compelled to believe that all this is illusion ? If it be not general, is there not something of this christian, union in the christian church? No doubt there are moments, when sincere christians, forgetting their differences as partizans, feel that they are members of one body, the head of which is Christ.

It is true, however, as well in regard to zeal for the good of others, as to all the generous affections, that the sphere of action is necessarily limited. In order to embrace what is practicable, our zeal, for the most part, must be expended on those more immediately about us. It is then, by crossing the path of those who are pursuing a similar end by a different road, that we chance upon collisions, and mutually reproach each other for mistaking the true objects of regard, and wandering out of the way.

Are there no correctives for these mistakes and abuses in the exercise of zeal, on subjects pertaining to our common religion ? There are certainly no distinct interests among the disciples of the same master, but such as arise from the intermixture of human passions. The mere differences of opinion on religious subjects, that result from natural temperament, from education, or from peculiarities of mind, are entitled to the same indulgence, as similar varieties of sentiment on other subjects. There is no necessity therefore, one would suppose, of a cautious and studied reserve, on the one hand, nor of a vengeful ferocity on the other. Truth is the great object; and it is a most incongruous notion, to pretend that a religion of immaculate purity can be diffused by insidious arts; that a religion, peaceful in its nature, and benign in its genuine effects, can be forced upon men by external violence.

The fervour of true zeal is not violent. He who is under its influence regards the rights of conscience, and has no disposition to frighten others into the adoption even of the truth. Yet how liable is this zeal to be mistaken for coldness, because it is uniform in its operation, and never vents itself in bursts of indignation, rage, and censoriousness. However constantly it has its end in view, yet because it is marked by none of these outward expressions of violent excitement, it passes for nothing worth. There are indeed occasions when fervour

may

be allowed to kindle into flaming heat, and earnestness may ascend to vehemence and clamour ; but, in the ordinary course of the christian life, this is a false zeal, fed by bad passions, and directed to wrong objects. We are not all to proffer our services as reformers, though we have a right to resist every encroachment on our liberty. In an enlightened period of the world, and among a free people, there is no great danger of any body of men getting a monopoly of religion, distributing it to such as will pay the price of it, by putting their consciences out of their own keeping, and withholding it from all who will not purchase it at so dear a rate, Living, as we do, in such a period, and among such a people, it is to be presumed that we need no weapons of New Series Vol. V.

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attack, or defence, but pure hearts, and faith supported by rational arguments.

As genuine zcal is free from violence, so also it is exercised without extravagance. I wish neither to indicate those fanatical excesses which we are seldom called to witness, nor to declaim against raving absurdities which we rarely have to encounter. But as there is liable to be, even in religious opinions, much of fashion and caprice, we should guard against all unreasonable and exclusive views of particular topics, to the neglect of the great and ultimate purposes of religion, which has as much to do with the heart, as with the understanding. To a certain degree of bigotry we are all liable; but those certainly are most under its influence, who are determined to support a system, which they not only believe to be true, but concerning which they are certain that they can in no respect be deceived. When we find a man faltering in his arguments, and claiming absolute certainty on speculative subjects, after reasoning fails, we may be sure he has that zeal, which is not according to knowledge. It is not necessary to be positive, in order to be ardent; and though a certain degree of enthusiasm is the natural companion of zeal, yet, if genuine, it is neither dogmatical nor impatient. It may lead us to believe many things founded in a moral sentiment within us, for which we do not go about to seek the proofs ; but it does not lead to personal hostility against those whose results are at variance with our own.

It is impossible to point out the measure of zeal for men of all sects, varying as they do, in their natural temperament, and in the accidents of education and early prejudices. He who never meets with any difficulties in subjects of religion, who has some short expedient for solving all doubts, on every subject, will claim the right to manifest something more of ardour in maintaining his opinions, and pressing them upon others, than he who weighs all the varying shades of probability, and in many things can satisfactorily account for diversity of sentiment. A person of the first description, who sees every thing clearly, and understands all mystery and all knowledge, may well deplore the blindness of his unfortunate brethren, who are not blessed with the same unclouded spiritual vision. The fanatic may be expected to call that man a cold, philosophizing christian, who thinks that reason has any concern in matters of faith ; and the enthusiast may wonder, that what he feels to be true, others are waiting to receive on evidence presented to the mind. But it may be admitted as a maxim, that zeal should never trample on the rights of conscience. We ought never willingly to offend a good man, or put the faith of a sincere christian to too severe a test, however much of error may appear to be mingled with his belief.

To adopt the words of St. Paul, “it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.' It is not by violent, feverish, and intermittent efforts, that the best ends are accomplished. It is in religion, as in every thing else, that whatever is worth acquiring, is to be diligently sought. He who contents himself with the shreds and meagre gleanings of learning, is liable to be a pedant; and the superficial inquirer on moral and religious subjects, who makes great pretensions from getting the common, second-hand, thread-bare reasonings of theologians, is a pedant in sacred things, and is often led astray by blind and ignorant zeal. The man whose uniforın endeavours to become practically religious, are seconded by common sense, and who pretends not to be wise above what is written, is not far from the kingdom of God. He finds that religion, to have its genuine effect is to be incorporated with every thing; that it does not consist in occasional spasms, in the multitude of external observances, in neglecting his proper vocation ; but in a conscience void of offence, in the affections of the heart accompanying the outward acts of devotion, and in principles founded in christian morality, governing his pursuits and his intercourse with mankind. He is not always in a heat ; nor, on the other hand, always perplexing himself with doubts, and falling into uncertainty and delay in cases of conscience; but he has a standard of right and wrong in a well regulated mind, by which for the most part, his conduct is governed, without the tortures of perpetual scruples, and hesitancy in every action.

It is then a zeal uniform and constant; embracing all duty and subjected to religious principle, that becomes the christian character: not a busy, and talkative, and noisy zeal, which creates needless interference in things without our proper sphere of action ; but a zeal, which, while it warms our own hearts, aniinates us with benevolent regards to our brethren, leads us to stated homage and devotion to the most high God, and thus prepares us for a future state of action more pure, of affections more enlarged and holy, and of devotion more ardent than we can here enjoy ; and consequently of happiness uninterrupted and unimpaired by suco contending interests, as, in this present life, distract our aitention, and in all our most refined, intellectual pleasures, mingle something of alloy.

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