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Title: A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity.
Author: Wilberforce, William, 1759-1833
Language: English
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                      A
               PRACTICAL VIEW
                   OF THE
         PREVAILING RELIGIOUS SYSTEM
                     OF
            PROFESSED CHRISTIANS,
                   IN THE
          HIGHER AND MIDDLE CLASSES
                  IN THIS
                  COUNTRY,
              CONTRASTED WITH
             REAL CHRISTIANITY.


        By WILLIAM WILBERFORCE, Esq;
Member of Parliament for the County of York.


Search the Scriptures!----          JOHN, v. 39.

    How charming is DIVINE PHILOSOPHY!
Not harsh, and crabbed, as dull Fools suppose,
But Musical as is Apollo's lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets,
Where no crude surfeit reigns.           MILTON.


                  DUBLIN:
         Printed by Robert Dapper,
    FOR B. DUGDALE, NO. 6, DAME-STREET.

                M.DCC.XCVII.



INTRODUCTION.


It has been, for several years, the earnest wish of the writer of the
following pages to address his countrymen on the important subject of
Religion; but the various duties of his public station, and a
constitution incapable of much labour, have obstructed the execution of
his purpose. Long has he been looking forward to some vacant season, in
which he might devote his whole time and attention to this interesting
service, free from the interruption of all other concerns; and he has
the rather wished for this opportunity of undistracted and mature
reflection, from a desire that what he might send into the world might
thus be rendered less undeserving of the public eye. Meanwhile life is
wearing away, and he daily becomes more and more convinced, that he
might wait in vain for this season of complete vacancy. He must,
therefore, improve such occasional intervals of leisure as may occur to
him in the course of a busy life, and throw himself on the Reader's
indulgence for the pardon of such imperfections, as the opportunity of
undiverted and more mature attention might have enabled him to discover
and correct.

But the plea here suggested is by no means intended as an excuse for the
opinions which he shall express, if they be found mistaken. Here, if he
be in an error, it is however a deliberate error. He would indeed
account himself unpardonable, if he were to intrude his first thoughts
upon the Public on a question of such importance; and he can truly
declare, that what he shall offer will be the result of much reading,
observation, and inquiry, and of long, serious, and repeated
consideration.

It is not improbable that he may be accused of deviating from his proper
line, and of impertinently interfering in the concerns of a Profession
to which he does not belong. If it were necessary, however, to defend
himself against this charge, he might shelter himself under the
authority of many most respectable examples. But surely to such an
accusation it may be sufficient to reply, that it is the duty of every
man to promote the happiness of his fellow-creatures to the utmost of
his power; and that he who thinks he sees many around him, whom he
esteems and loves, labouring under a fatal error, must have a cold
heart, or a most confined notion of benevolence, if he could refrain
from endeavouring to set them right, lest in so doing he should be
accused of stepping out of his proper walk, and expose himself on that
ground to the imputation of officiousness.

But he might also allege as a full justification, not only that Religion
is the business of every one, but that its advancement or decline in any
country is so intimately connected with the temporal interests of
society, as to render it the peculiar concern of a political man; and
that what he may presume to offer on the subject of Religion may perhaps
be perused with less jealousy and more candour, from the very
circumstance of its having been written by a Layman, which must at least
exclude the idea (an idea sometimes illiberally suggested to take off
the effect of the works of Ecclesiastics) that it is prompted by motives
of self-interest, or of professional prejudice.

But if the writer's apology be not found in the work itself, and in his
avowed motive for undertaking it, he would in vain endeavour to satisfy
his readers by any excuses he might assign; therefore, without farther
preamble, he will proceed to the statement and execution of his
purpose.

The main object which he has in view is, not to convince the Sceptic, or
to answer the arguments of persons who avowedly oppose the fundamental
doctrines of our Religion; but to point out the scanty and erroneous
system of the bulk of those who belong to the class of orthodox
Christians, and to contrast their defective scheme with a representation
of what the author apprehends to be real Christianity. Often has it
filled him with deep concern, to observe in this description of persons,
scarcely any distinct knowledge of the real nature and principles of the
religion which they profess. The subject is of infinite importance; let
it not be driven out of our minds by the bustle or dissipations of life.
This present scene, and all its cares and all its gaieties, will soon be
rolled away, and "we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ."
This awful consideration will prompt the writer to express himself with
greater freedom than he should otherwise be disposed to use. This
consideration he trusts, also, will justify his frankness, and will
secure him a serious and patient perusal. But it would be trespassing on
the indulgence of the reader to detain him with introductory remarks.
Let it only be farther premised, that if what shall be stated should to
any appear needlessly austere and rigid, the writer must lay in his
claim not to be condemned, without a fair inquiry whether or not his
statements accord with the language of the sacred writings. To that test
he refers with confidence; and it must be conceded by those who admit
the authority of Scripture (such only he is addressing) that from the
decision of the word of God there can be no appeal.



CONTENTS.

                                                              Page

INTRODUCTION.                                                    v

CHAP. I.
_Inadequate Conceptions of the Importance of Christianity._      1

CHAP. II.
_Corruption of Human Nature._                                   14

CHAP. III.
_Chief Defects of the Religious System of the bulk of
professed Christians, in what regards our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the Holy Spirit--with a Dissertation concerning the use
of the Passions in Religion._                                   43

CHAP. IV.
_On the prevailing inadequate Conceptions concerning the
Nature and the Strictness of Practical Christianity._          100

CHAP. V.
_On the Excellence of Christianity in certain important
Particulars. Argument which results thence in Proof of its
Divine Origin._                                                252

CHAP. VI.
_Brief Inquiry into the present State of Christianity in
this Country, with some of the Causes which have led to its
critical Circumstances. Its Importance to us as a political
Community, and practical Hints for which the foregoing
Considerations give occasion._                                 262

CHAP. VII.
_Practical Hints to various Descriptions of Persons._          305



A PRACTICAL VIEW, &c.



CHAPTER I.

INADEQUATE CONCEPTIONS OF THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTIANITY.

_Popular Notions.--Scripture Account.--Ignorance in this Case
criminal.--Two false Maxims exposed._


Before we proceed to the consideration of any particular defects in the
religious system of the bulk of professed Christians, it may be proper
to point out the very inadequate conception which they entertain of the
importance of Christianity in general, of its peculiar nature, and
superior excellence. If we listen to their conversation, virtue is
praised, and vice is censured; piety is perhaps applauded, and
profaneness condemned. So far all is well. But let any one, who would
not be deceived, by these "barren generalities" examine a little more
closely, and he will find, that not to Christianity in particular, but
at best to Religion in general, perhaps to mere Morality, their homage
is intended to be paid. With Christianity, as distinct from these, they
are little acquainted; their views of it have been so cursory and
superficial, that far from discerning its characteristic essence, they
have little more than perceived those exterior circumstances which
distinguish it from other forms of Religion. There are some few facts,
and perhaps some leading doctrines and principles, of which they cannot
be wholly ignorant; but of the consequences, and relations, and
practical uses of these, they have few ideas, or none at all.

Does this seem too strong? View their plan of life and their ordinary
conduct; and not to speak at present of their general inattention to
things of a religious nature, let us ask, wherein can we discern the
points of discrimination between them and professed unbelievers? In an
age wherein it is confessed and lamented that infidelity abounds, do we
observe in them any remarkable care to instruct their children in the
principles of the faith which they profess, and to furnish them with
arguments for the defence of it? They would blush, on their child's
coming out into the world, to think him defective in any branch of that
knowledge, or of those accomplishments which belong to his station in
life, and accordingly these are cultivated with becoming assiduity. But
he is left to collect his religion as he may; the study of Christianity
has formed no part of his education, and his attachment to it (where any
attachment to it exists at all) is, too often, not the preference of
sober reason, but merely the result of early prejudice and groundless
prepossession. He was born in a Christian country, of course he is a
Christian; his father was a member of the church of England, so is he.
When such is the hereditary religion handed down from generation to
generation, it cannot surprise us to observe young men of sense and
spirit beginning to doubt altogether of the truth of the system in which
they have been brought up, and ready to abandon a station which they are
unable to defend. Knowing Christianity chiefly in the difficulties which
it contains, and in the impossibilities which are falsely imputed to it,
they fall perhaps into the company of infidels; and, as might be
expected, they are shaken by frivolous objections and profane cavils,
which, had they been grounded and bottomed in reason and argument, would
have passed by them, "as the idle wind," and scarcely have seemed worthy
of serious notice.

Let us beware before it be too late. No one can say into what discredit
Christianity may hereby grow, at a time when the free and unrestrained
intercourse, subsisting amongst the several ranks and classes of
society, so much favours the general diffusion of the sentiments of the
higher orders. To a similar ignorance is perhaps in no small degree to
be ascribed the success, with which Christianity has been attacked of
late years in a neighbouring country. Had she not been wholly unarmed
for the contest, however she might have been forced from her untenable
posts, and compelled to disembarrass herself from her load of
incumbrances, she never could have been driven altogether out of the
field by her puny assailants, with all their cavils, and gibes, and
sarcasms; for in these consisted the main strength of their petty
artillery. Let us beware, lest we also suffer from a like cause; nor let
it be our crime and our reproach, that in schools, perhaps even in
Colleges, Christianity is almost if not altogether neglected.

It cannot be expected, that they who are so little attentive to this
great object in the education of their children, should be more so in
other parts of their conduct, where less strongly stimulated by
affection, and less obviously loaded with responsibility. They are of
course therefore, little regardful of the state of Christianity in their
own country; and still more indifferent about communicating the light of
divine truth to the nations which "still sit in darkness."

But Religion, it may be replied, is not noisy and ostentatious; it is
modest and private in its nature; it resides in a man's own bosom, and
shuns the observation of the multitude. Be it so.

From the transient and distant view then, which we have been taking of
these unassuming Christians, let us approach a little nearer, and listen
to the unreserved conversation of their confidential hours. Here, if any
where, the interior of the heart is laid open, and we may ascertain the
true principles of their regards and aversions; the scale by which they
measure the good and evil of life. Here, however, you will discover few
or no traces of Christianity. She scarcely finds herself a place amidst
the many objects of their hopes, and fears, and joys, and sorrows.
Grateful, perhaps, (as well indeed they may be grateful) for health, and
talents, and affluence, and other blessings belonging to their persons
and conditions in life, they scarcely reckon in the number this grand
distinguishing mark of the bounty of Providence; or if they mention it
at all, it is noticed coldly and formally, like one of those obsolete
claims to which, though but of small account in the estimate of our
wealth or power, we think it as well to put in our title from
considerations of family decorum or of national usage.

But what more than all the rest establishes the point in question: let
their conversation take a graver turn: here at length their religion,
modest and retired as it is, must be expected to disclose itself; here
however you will look in vain for the religion of Jesus. Their standard
of right and wrong is not the standard of the gospel: they approve and
condemn by a different rule; they advance principles and maintain
opinions altogether opposite to the genius and character of
Christianity. You would fancy yourself rather amongst the followers of
the old philosophy; nor is it easy to guess how any one could satisfy
himself to the contrary, unless, by mentioning the name of some
acknowledged heretic, he should afford them an occasion of demonstrating
their zeal for the religion of their country.

The truth is, their opinions on these subjects are not formed from the
perusal of the word of God. The Bible lies on the shelf unopened; and
they would be wholly ignorant of its contents, except for what they hear
occasionally at church, or for the faint traces which their memories may
still retain of the lessons of their earliest infancy.

How different, nay, in many respects, how contradictory, would be the
two systems of mere morals, of which the one should be formed from the
commonly received maxims of the Christian world, and the other from the
study of the Holy Scriptures! it would be curious to remark in any one,
who had hitherto satisfied himself with the former, the astonishment
which would be excited on his first introduction to the latter. We are
not left here to bare conjecture. This was, in fact, the effect produced
on the mind of a late ingenious writer[1], of whose little work, though
it bears perhaps some marks of his customary love of paradox, we must at
least confess, that it exposes, in a strong point of view, the _poverty_
of that superficial religion which has been above condemned; and that it
every where displays that happy perspicuity, and grace, which so
eminently characterize all the compositions of its author. But after
this willing tribute of commendation, we are reluctantly compelled to
remark, that the work in question discredits the cause which it was
meant to serve, by many crude and extravagant positions; from which no
one can be secure who forms a hasty judgment of a deep and comprehensive
subject, the several bearings and relations of which have been
imperfectly surveyed; and above all, it must be lamented, that it treats
the great question which it professes to discuss, rather as a matter of
mere speculation, than as one wherein our everlasting interests are
involved. Surely the writer's object should have been, to convince his
readers of their guilt still more than of their ignorance, and to leave
them impressed rather with a sense of their danger than of their folly.

It were almost a waste of time to multiply arguments in order to prove
how criminal the voluntary ignorance, of which we have been speaking,
must appear in the sight of God. It must be confessed by all who believe
that we are accountable creatures, and to such only the writer is
addressing himself, that we shall have to answer hereafter to the
Almighty for all the means and occasions we have here enjoyed of
improving ourselves, or of promoting the happiness of others. And if,
when summoned to give an account of our stewardship, we shall be called
upon to answer for the use which we have made of our bodily organs, and
of the means of relieving the wants and necessities of our fellow
creatures; how much more for the exercise of the nobler and more exalted
faculties of our nature, of invention, and judgment, and memory; and for
our employment of all the instruments and opportunities of diligent
application, and serious reflection, and honest decision. And to what
subject might we in all reason be expected to apply more earnestly, than
to that wherein our eternal interests are at issue? When God has of his
goodness vouchsafed to grant us such abundant means of instruction in
that which we are most concerned to know, how great must be the guilt,
and how aweful the punishment of voluntary ignorance!

And why, it may be asked, are we in this pursuit alone to expect
knowledge without inquiry, and success without endeavour? The whole
analogy of nature inculcates on us a different lesson, and our own
judgments in matters of temporal interests and worldly policy confirm
the truth of her suggestions. Bountiful as is the hand of Providence,
its gifts are not so bestowed as to seduce us into indolence, but to
rouse us to exertion; and no one expects to attain to the height of
learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or military glory, without
vigorous resolution, and strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance.
Yet we expect to be Christians without labour, study, or inquiry. This
is the more preposterous, because Christianity, being a revelation from
God, and not the invention of man, discovering to us new relations, with
their correspondent duties; containing also doctrines, and motives, and
practical principles, and rules, peculiar to itself, and almost as new
in their nature as supreme in their excellence, we cannot reasonably
expect to become proficients in it by the accidental intercourses of
life, as one might learn insensibly the maxims of worldly policy, or a
scheme of mere morals.

The diligent perusal of the Holy Scriptures would discover to us our
past ignorance. We should cease to be deceived by superficial
appearances, and to confound the Gospel of Christ with the systems of
philosophers; we should become impressed with that weighty truth, so
much forgotten, and never to be too strongly insisted on, that
Christianity calls on us, as we value our immortal souls, not merely in
_general_, to be _religious_ and _moral_, but _specially_ to believe the
doctrines, and imbibe the principles, and practise the precepts of
Christ. It might be to run into too great length to confirm this
position beyond dispute by express quotations from Scripture. And (not
to anticipate what belongs more properly to a subsequent part of the
work) it may be sufficient here to remark in general, that Christianity
is always represented in Scripture as the grand, the unparalleled
instance of God's bounty to mankind. It was graciously held forth in the
original promise to our first parents; it was predicted by a long
continued series of prophets; the subject of their prayers, inquiries,
and longing expectations. In a world, which opposed and persecuted them,
it was their source of peace, and hope, and consolation. At length it
approached--the Desire of all Nations--The long expected Star announced
its presence--A multitude of the heavenly host hailed its introduction,
and proclaimed its character; "Glory to God in the highest, on earth
peace, good will towards men." It is every where represented in
scripture by such figures as may most deeply impress on us a sense of
its value; it is spoken of as light from darkness, as release from
prison, as deliverance from captivity, as life from death. "Lord, now
lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy
salvation," was the exclamation with which it was welcomed by the pious
Simeon; and it was universally received and professed among the early
converts with thankfulness and joy. At one time, the communication of it
is promised as a reward; at another, the loss of it is threatened as a
punishment. And, short as is the form of prayer taught us by our blessed
Saviour, the more general extension of the kingdom of Christ constitutes
one of its leading petitions.

With what exalted conceptions of the importance of Christianity ought we
to be filled by such descriptions as these? Yet, in vain have we "line
upon line and precept upon precept."--Thus predicted, thus prayed and
longed for, thus announced and characterized and rejoiced in, this
heavenly treasure poured into our lap in rich abundance we scarce
accept. We turn from it coldly, or at best possess it negligently, as a
thing of no account or estimation. But a due sense of its value would be
assuredly impressed on us by the diligent study of the word of God, that
blessed repository of divine truth and consolation. Thence it is that
we are to learn our obligations and our duty, what we are to believe and
what to practise. And, surely, one would think it could not be required
to press men to the perusal of the sacred volume. Reason dictates,
Revelation commands; "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of
God."--"Search the Scriptures,"--"Be ready to give to every one a reason
of the hope that is in you." Such are the declarations and injunctions
of the inspired writers; injunctions confirmed by commendations of those
who obey the admonition. Yet, is it not undeniable that with the Bible
in our houses, we are ignorant of its contents; and that hence, in a
great measure, it arises, that the bulk of the Christian world know so
little, and mistake so greatly, in what regards the religion which they
profess?

This is not the place for inquiring at large, whence it is that those
who assent to the position, that the Bible is the word of God, and who
profess to rest their hopes on the Christian basis, contentedly
acquiesce in a state of such lamentable ignorance. But it may not be
improper here to touch on two kindred opinions, from which, in the minds
of the more thoughtful and serious, this acquiescence appears to derive
much secret support. The one is, that it signifies little what a man
believes; _look to his practice_. The other (of the same family) _that
sincerity is all in all_. Let a man's opinions and conduct be what they
may, yet, provided he be sincerely convinced that they are right,
however the exigencies of civil society may require him to be dealt with
amongst men, in the sight of God he cannot be criminal.

It would detain us too long fully to set forth the various merits of
these favourite positions, of which it is surely not the smallest
excellence, that they are of unbounded application, comprehending within
their capacious limits, all the errors which have been believed, and
many of the most desperate crimes which have been perpetrated among men.
The former of them is founded altogether on that grossly fallacious
assumption, that a man's opinions will not influence his practice. The
latter proceeds on this groundless supposition, that the Supreme Being
has not afforded us sufficient means of discriminating truth from
falsehood, right from wrong: and it implies, that be a man's opinions or
conduct ever so wild and extravagant, we are to presume, that they are
as much the result of impartial inquiry and honest conviction, as if his
sentiments and actions had been strictly conformable to the rules of
reason and sobriety. Never indeed was there a principle more general in
its use, more sovereign in its potency. How does its beautiful
simplicity also, and compendious brevity, give it rank before the
laborious subtleties of Bellarmine! Clement, and Ravaillac, and other
worthies of a similar stamp, from whose purity of intention the world
has hitherto withheld its due tribute of applause, would here have found
a ready plea; and their injured innocence shall now at length receive
its full though tardy vindication. "These however," it may be replied,
"are excepted cases." Certainly they are cases of which any one who
maintains the opinion in question would be glad to disencumber himself;
because they clearly expose the unsoundness of his principle. But it
will be incumbent on such an one, first to explain with precision why
they are to be exempted from its operation, and this he will find an
impossible task; for sincerity, in its popular sense, so shamefully is
the term misapplied, can be made the criterion of guilt and innocence on
no grounds, which will not equally serve to justify the assassins who
have been instanced. The conclusion cannot be eluded; no man was ever
more fully persuaded of the innocence of any action, than these men
were, that the horrid deed they were about to perpetrate was not lawful
merely, but highly meritorious. Thus Clement and Ravaillac being
unquestionably sincere, they were therefore indubitably innocent. Nay,
the absurdity of this principle might be shewn to be even greater than
what has yet been stated. It would not be going too far to assert, that
whilst it scorns the defence of petty villains, of those who still
retain the sense of good and evil, it holds forth, like some well
frequented sanctuary, a secure asylum to those more finished criminals,
who, from long habits of wickedness, are lost alike to the perception as
to the practice of virtue; and that it selects a seared conscience and a
heart become callous to all moral distinctions as the special objects of
its care. Nor is it only in prophane history that instances like these
are to be found, of persons committing the greatest crimes with a
sincere conviction of the rectitude of their conduct. Scripture will
afford us parallels; and it was surely to guard us against the very
error which we have been now exposing, that our blessed Saviour
forewarned his disciples: "The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you
will think that he doeth God service."

A principle like this must then be abandoned, and the advocates for
sincerity must be compelled to restore this abused term to its genuine
signification, and to acknowledge that it must imply honesty of mind,
and the faithful use of the means of knowledge and of improvement, the
desire of being instructed, humble inquiry, impartial consideration, and
unprejudiced judgment. It is to these we would earnestly call you; to
these (ever to be accompanied with fervent prayers for the divine
blessing) Scripture every where holds forth the most animating promises.
"Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be
opened unto you; Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters;"
such are the comfortable assurances, such the gracious encouragements to
the truly sincere inquirer. How deep will be our guilt if we slight all
these benevolent offers. "How many prophets and kings have desired to
hear the things that we hear, and have not heard them!" Great indeed are
our opportunities, great also is our responsibility. Let us awaken to a
true sense of our situation. We have every consideration to alarm our
fears, or to animate our industry. How soon may the brightness of our
meridian sun be darkened! Or, should the long suffering of God still
continue to us the mercies which we so much abuse, it will only
aggravate our crime, and in the end enhance our punishment. The time of
reckoning will at length arrive. And when finally summoned to the bar of
God, to give an account of our stewardship, what plea can we have to
urge in our defence, if we remain willingly and obstinately ignorant of
the way which leads to life, with such transcendent means of knowing it,
and such urgent motives to its pursuit?



CHAPTER II.

CORRUPTION OF HUMAN NATURE.


SECT. I.

_Inadequate Conceptions of the Corruption of Human Nature._

After considering the defective notions of the importance of
Christianity _in general_, which prevail among the higher orders of the
Christian world, the particular misconceptions which first come under
our notice respect the corruption and weakness of human nature. This is
a topic on which it is possible that many of those, into whose hands the
present work shall fall, may not have bestowed much attention. If the
case be so, it may be requisite to intreat them to lend a patient and a
serious ear. The subject is of the deepest import. We should not go too
far if we were to assert, that it lies at the very root of all true
Religion, and still more, that it is eminently the basis and ground-work
of Christianity.

So far as the writer has had an opportunity of remarking, the generality
of professed Christians among the higher classes, either altogether
overlook or deny, or at least greatly extenuate the corruption and
weakness here in question. They acknowledge indeed that there is, and
ever has been in the world, a great portion of vice and wickedness; that
mankind have been ever prone to sensuality and selfishness, in
disobedience to the more refined and liberal principles of their nature;
that in all ages and countries, in public and in private life,
innumerable instances have been afforded of oppression, of rapacity, of
cruelty, of fraud, of envy, and of malice. They own that it is too often
in vain that you inform the understanding, and convince the judgment.
They admit that you do not thereby reform the hearts of men. Though they
_know_ their duty, they will not practice it; no not even when you have
forced them to acknowledge that the path of virtue is that also of real
interest, and of solid enjoyment.

These facts are certain; they cannot be disputed; and they are at the
same time so obvious, that one would have thought that the celebrated
apophthegm of the Grecian sage, "the majority are wicked," would
scarcely have established his claim to intellectual superiority.

But though these effects of human depravity are every where acknowledged
and lamented, we must not expect to find them traced to their true
origin.

    Causa latet, vis est notissima.

Prepare yourself to hear rather of frailty and infirmity, of petty
transgressions, of occasional failings, of sudden surprisals, and of
such other qualifying terms as may serve to keep out of view the true
source of the evil, and without shocking the understanding, may
administer consolation to the pride of human nature. The bulk of
professed Christians are used to speak of man as of a being, who,
naturally pure, and inclined to all virtue, is sometimes, almost
involuntary, drawn out of the right course, or is overpowered by the
violence of temptation. Vice with them is rather an accidental and
temporary, than a constitutional and habitual distemper; a noxious
plant, which, though found to live and even to thrive in the human mind,
is not the natural growth and production of the soil.

Far different is the humiliating language of Christianity. From it we
learn that man is an apostate creature, fallen from his high original,
degraded in his nature, and depraved in his faculties; indisposed to
good, and disposed to evil; prone to vice, it is natural and easy to
him; disinclined to virtue, it is difficult and laborious; that he is
tainted with sin, not slightly and superficially, but radically and to
the very core. These are truths which, however mortifying to our pride,
one would think (if this very corruption itself did not warp the
judgment) none would be hardy enough to attempt to controvert. I know
not any thing which brings them home so forcibly to my own feelings, as
the consideration of what still remains to us of our primitive dignity,
when contrasted with our present state of moral degradation,

        "Into what depth thou seest,
    From what height fallen."

Examine first with attention the natural powers and faculties of man!
invention, reason, judgment, memory; a mind "of large discourse,"
"looking before and after," reviewing the past, and thence determining
for the present, and anticipating the future; discerning, collecting,
combining, comparing; capable not merely of apprehending but of admiring
the beauty of moral excellence: with fear and hope to warn and animate;
with joy and sorrow to solace and soften; with love to attach, with
sympathy to harmonize, with courage to attempt, with patience to endure,
and with the power of conscience, that faithful monitor within the
breast, to enforce the conclusions of reason, and direct and regulate
the passions of the soul. Truly we must pronounce him "majestic though
in ruin." "Happy, happy world," would be the exclamation of the
inhabitant of some other planet, on being told of a globe like ours,
peopled with such creatures as these, and abounding with situations and
occasions to call forth the multiplied excellencies of their nature.
"Happy, happy world, with what delight must your great Creator and
Governor witness your conduct, and what large and merited rewards await
you when your term of probation shall have expired.

    "I, bone, quo virtus tua te vocat, i pede fausto,
    Grandia laturus meritorum præmia."

But we have indulged too long in these delightful speculations; a sad
reverse presents itself on our survey of the _actual_ state of man,
when, from viewing his _natural_ powers, we follow him into _practice_,
and see the uses to which he applies them. Take in the whole of the
prospect, view him in every age, and climate, and nation, in every
condition and period of society. Where now do you discover the
characters of his exalted nature? "How is the gold become dim, and the
fine gold changed?" How is his reason clouded, his affections
perverted; his conscience stupified! How do anger, and envy, and
hatred, and revenge, spring up in his wretched bosom! How is he a slave
to the meanest of his appetites! What fatal propensities does he
discover to evil! What inaptitude to good!

Dwell awhile on the state of the ancient world; not merely on that
benighted part of it where all lay buried in brutish ignorance and
barbarism, but on the seats of civilized and polished nations, on the
empire of taste, and learning, and philosophy: yet in these chosen
regions, with whatever lustre the sun of science poured forth its rays,
the moral darkness was so thick "that it might be felt." Behold their
sottish idolatries, their absurd superstitions, their want of natural
affection, their brutal excesses, their unfeeling oppression, their
savage cruelty! Look not to the illiterate and the vulgar, but to the
learned and refined. Form not your ideas from the conduct of the less
restrained and more licentious; you will turn away with disgust and
shame from the allowed and familiar habits of the decent and the moral.
St. Paul best states the facts, and furnishes the explanation; "because
they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, he gave them over to
a reprobate mind[2]."

Now direct your view to another quarter, to the inhabitants of a new
hemisphere, where the baneful practices and contagious example of the
old world had never travelled. Surely, among these children of nature we
may expect to find those virtuous tendencies, for which we have hitherto
looked in vain. Alas! our search will still be fruitless! They are
represented by the historian of America, whose account is more
favourable than those of some other great authorities, as being a
compound of pride, and indolence, and selfishness, and cunning, and
cruelty[3]; full of a revenge which nothing could satiate, of a ferocity
which nothing could soften; strangers to the most amiable sensibilities
of nature[4]. They appeared incapable of conjugal affection, or parental
fondness, or filial reverence, or social attachments; uniting too with
their state of barbarism, many of the vices and weaknesses of polished
society. Their horrid treatment of captives taken in war, on whose
bodies they feasted, after putting them to death by the most cruel
tortures, is so well known, that we may spare the disgusting recital. No
commendable qualities relieve this gloomy picture, except fortitude, and
perseverance, and zeal for the welfare of their little community; if
this last quality, exercised and directed as it was, can be thought
deserving of commendation.

But you give up the heathen nations as indefensible, and wish rather to
form your estimate of man from a view of countries which have been
blessed with the light of revelation.--True it is, and with joy let us
record the concession, Christianity has set the general tone of morals
much higher than it was ever found in the Pagan world. She has every
where improved the character and multiplied the comforts of society,
particularly to the poor and the weak, whom from the beginning she
professed to take under her special patronage. Like her divine Author,
"who sends his rain on the evil and on the good," she showers down
unnumbered blessings on thousands who profit from her bounty, while they
forget or deny her power, and set at nought her authority. Yet even in
this more favoured situation we shall discover too many lamentable
proofs of the depravity of man. Nay, this depravity will now become even
more apparent and less deniable. For what bars does it not now overleap?
Over what motives is it not now victorious? Consider well the superior
light and advantages which we enjoy, and then appreciate the superior
obligations which are imposed on us. Consider in how many cases our evil
propensities are now kept from breaking forth, by the superior
restraints under which vice is laid among us by positive laws, and by
the amended standard of public opinion; and we may be assisted in
conjecturing what force is to be assigned to these motives, by the
dreadful proofs which have been lately exhibited in a neighbouring
country, that when their influence is withdrawn, the most atrocious
crimes can be perpetrated shamelessly and in the face of day. Consider
then the superior excellence of our moral code, the new principles of
obedience furnished by the gospel, and above all, the awful sanction
which the doctrines and precepts of Christianity derive from the clear
discovery of a future state of retribution, and from the annunciation of
that tremendous day, "when we shall stand before the judgment seat of
Christ." Yet, in spite of all our knowledge thus enforced and pressed
home by this solemn notice, how little has been our progress in virtue?
It has been by no means such as to prevent the adoption, in our days, of
various maxims of antiquity, which, when well considered, too clearly
establish the depravity of man. It may not be amiss to adduce a few
instances in proof of this assertion. It is now no less acknowledged
than heretofore, that prosperity hardens the heart: that unlimited power
is ever abused, instead of being rendered the instrument of diffusing
happiness: that habits of vice grow up of themselves, whilst those of
virtue, if to be obtained at all, are of slow and difficult formation;
that they who draw the finest pictures of virtue, and seem most
enamoured of her charms, are often the least under her influence, and by
the merest trifles are drawn aside from that line of conduct, which they
most strongly and seriously recommend to others, that all this takes
place, though most of the pleasures of vice are to be found with less
alloy in the paths of virtue; whilst at the same time, these paths
afford superior and more exquisite delights, peculiar to themselves, and
are free from the diseases and bitter remorse, at the price of which
vicious gratifications are so often purchased.

It may suffice to touch very slightly on some other arguments, which it
would hardly be right to leave altogether unnoticed: one of these (the
justice of which, however denied by superficial moralists, parents of
strict principles can abundantly testify) may be drawn from the perverse
and froward dispositions perceivable in children, which it is the
business and sometimes the ineffectual attempt of education to reform.
Another may be drawn from the various deceits we are apt to practice on
ourselves, to which no one can be a stranger, who has ever contemplated
the operations of his own mind with serious attention. To the influence
of this species of corruption it has been in a great degree owing, that
Christianity itself has been too often disgraced. It has been turned
into an engine of cruelty, and amidst the bitterness of persecution,
every trace has disappeared of the mild and beneficent spirit of the
religion of Jesus. In what degree must the taint have worked itself into
the frame, and have corrupted the habit, when the most wholesome
nutriment can be thus converted into the deadliest poison! Wishing
always to argue from such premises as are not only really sound, but
from such as cannot even be questioned by those to whom this work is
addressed, little was said in representing the deplorable state of the
Heathen world, respecting their defective and unworthy conceptions in
what regards the Supreme Being, who even then however "left not himself
without witness, but gave them rain and fruitful seasons, filling their
hearts with food and gladness." But surely to any who call themselves
Christians, it may be justly urged as an astonishing instance of human
depravity, that we ourselves, who enjoy the full light of revelation; to
whom God has vouchsafed such clear discoveries of what it concerns us to
know of his being and attributes; who profess to believe "that in him we
live, and move, and have our being;" that to him we owe all the comforts
we here enjoy, and the offer of eternal Glory purchased for us by the
atoning blood of his own Son; ("thanks be to God for his unspeakable
gift,") that we, thus loaded with mercies, should every one of us be
continually chargeable with forgetting his authority, and being
ungrateful for his benefits; with slighting his gracious proposals, or
receiving them at best but heartlessly and coldly.

But to put the question concerning the natural depravity of man to the
severest test: take the best of the human species, the watchful diligent
self-denying Christian, and let _him_ decide the controversy; and that,
not by inferences drawn from the practices of a thoughtless and
dissolute world, but by an appeal to his personal experience. Go with
him into his closet, ask him _his_ opinion of the corruption of the
heart, and he will tell you that he is deeply sensible of its power, for
that he has learned it from much self-observation and long acquaintance
with the workings of his own mind. He will tell you, that every day
strengthens this conviction; yea, that hourly he sees fresh reason to
deplore his want of simplicity in intention, his infirmity of purpose,
his low views, his selfish unworthy desires, his backwardness to set
about his duty, his languor and coldness in performing it: that he
finds himself obliged continually to confess, that he feels within him
two opposite principles, and that "he cannot do the things that he
would." He cries out in the language of the excellent Hooker, "The
little fruit which we have in holiness, it is, God knoweth, corrupt and
unsound: we put no confidence at all in it, we challenge nothing in the
world for it, we dare not call God to reckoning, as if we had him in our
debt books; our continual suit to him is, and must be, to bear with our
infirmities, and pardon our offences."

Such is the moral history, such the condition of man. The figures of the
piece may vary, and the colouring is sometimes of a darker, sometimes of
a lighter hue; but the principles of the composition, the grand
outlines, are every where the same. Wherever we direct our view, we
discover the melancholy proofs of our depravity; whether we look to
ancient or modern times, to barbarous or civilized nations, to the
conduct of the world around us, or to the monitor within the breast;
whether we read, or hear, or act, or think, or feel, the same
humiliating lesson is forced upon us,

    Juppiter est quodcunque vides, quocunque moveris.

Now when we look back to the picture which was formerly drawn of the
_natural powers_ of man, and compare this his _actual_ state with that
for which, from a consideration of those powers, he seems to have been
originally calculated, how are we to account for the astonishing
contrast! will frailty or infirmity, or occasional lapses, or sudden
surprisals, or any such qualifying terms, convey an adequate idea of the
nature, or point out the cause of the distemper? How, on any principles
of common reasoning, can we account for it, but by conceiving that man,
since he came out of the hands of his Creator, has contracted a taint,
and that the venom of this subtle poison has been communicated
throughout the race of Adam, every where exhibiting incontestible marks
of its fatal malignity? Hence it has arisen, that the appetites deriving
new strength, and the powers of reason and conscience being weakened,
the latter have feebly and impotently pleaded against those forbidden
indulgences which the former have solicited. Sensual gratifications and
illicit affections have debased our nobler powers, and indisposed our
hearts to the discovery of God, and to the consideration of his
perfections; to a constant willing submission to his authority, and
obedience to his laws. By a repetition of vicious acts, evil habits have
been formed within us, and have rivetted the fetters of sin. Left to the
consequences of our own folly, the understanding has grown darker, and
the heart more obdurate; reason has at length altogether betrayed her
trust, and even conscience herself has aided the delusion, till, instead
of deploring our miserable slavery, we have too often hugged, and even
gloried in our chains.

Such is the general account of the progress of vice, where it is
suffered to attain to its full growth in the human heart. The
circumstances of individuals will be found indeed to differ; the
servitude of some, if it may be allowed us to continue a figure so
exactly descriptive of the case, is more rigorous than that of others,
their bonds more galling, their degradation more complete. Some too (it
will be remembered that we are speaking of the natural state of man,
without taking Christianity into question) have for a while appeared
almost to have escaped from their confinement; but none are altogether
free; all without exception, in a greater or less degree bear about
them, more visible or more concealed, the ignominious marks of their
captivity.

Such on a full and fair investigation must be confessed to be the state
of facts; and how can this be accounted for on any other supposition,
than that of some original taint, some radical principle of corruption?
All other solutions are unsatisfactory, whilst the potent cause which
has been assigned, does abundantly, and can alone sufficiently account
for the effect. Thus then it appears, that the corruption of human
nature is proved by the same mode of reasoning, as has been deemed
conclusive in establishing the existence, and ascertaining the laws of
the principle of gravitation: that the doctrine rests on the same solid
basis as the sublime philosophy of Newton: that it is not a mere
speculation, and therefore an uncertain though perhaps an ingenious
theory, but the sure result of large and actual experiment; deduced from
incontestable facts, and still more fully approving its truth by
harmonizing with the several parts and accounting for the various
phænomena, jarring otherwise and inexplicable, of the great system of
the universe.

Revelation, however, here comes in, and sustains the fallible
conjectures of our unassisted reason. The Holy Scriptures speak of us as
fallen creatures: in almost every page we shall find something that is
calculated to abate the loftiness and silence the pretensions of man.
"The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." "What is man,
that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should
be righteous[5]." "How much more abominable and filthy is man, which
drinketh iniquity like water[6]?" "The Lord looked down from heaven upon
the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and
seek God. They are all gone aside; they are altogether become filthy:
there is none that doeth good, no not one[7]." "Who can say, I have made
my heart clean, I am pure from my sin[8]?" "The _heart_ is deceitful
above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it." "Behold, I
was shapen in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me." "We
were by nature the children of wrath, even as others, fulfilling the
desires of the flesh and of the mind." "O wretched man that I am, who
shall deliver me from the body of this death!"--Passages might be
multiplied upon passages, which speak the same language, and these again
might be illustrated and confirmed at large by various other
considerations, drawn from the same sacred source; such as those which
represent a thorough change, a renovation of our nature, as being
necessary to our becoming true Christians; or as those also which are
suggested by observing that holy men refer their good dispositions and
affections to the immediate agency of the Supreme Being.


SECTION II.

_Evil Spirit.--Natural State of Man._

But in addition to all which has been yet stated, the word of God
instructs us that we have to contend not only with our own natural
depravity, but with the power of darkness, the Evil Spirit, who rules in
the hearts of the wicked, and whose dominion we learn from Scripture to
be so general, as to entitle him to the denomination of "the Prince of
this world." There cannot be a stronger proof of the difference which
exists between the religious system of the Scriptures, and that of the
bulk of nominal Christians, than the proof which is afforded by the
subject now in question. The existence and agency of the Evil Spirit,
though so distinctly and repeatedly affirmed in Scripture, are almost
universally exploded in a country which professes to admit the authority
of the sacred volume. Some other Doctrines of Revelation, the force and
real meaning of which are commonly in a great degree explained away, are
yet conceded in general terms. But this seems almost by universal
consent to have been abandoned, as a post no longer tenable. It is
regarded as an evanescent prejudice, which it would now be a discredit
to any man of understanding to believe. Like ghosts and witches and
other phantoms, which haunted the night of superstition, it cannot in
these more enlightened times stand the test of our severer scrutiny. To
be suffered to pass away quietly, is as much as it can hope for; and it
might rather expect to be laughed off the stage as a just object of
contempt and derision.

But although the Scripture doctrine concerning the Evil Spirit is thus
generally exploded, yet were we to consider the matter seriously and
fairly, we should probably find ground for believing that there is no
better reason for its being abandoned, than that many absurd stories,
concerning spirits and apparitions, have been used to be believed and
propagated amongst weak and credulous people; and that the Evil Spirit
not being the object of our bodily eyes, it would be an instance of the
same weakness to give credit to the doctrine of its existence and
agency. But to be consistent with ourselves, we might almost as well, on
the same principle, deny the reality of all other incorporeal beings.
What is there, in truth, in the doctrine, which is in itself improbable,
or which is not confirmed by analogy? We see, in fact, that there are
wicked men, enemies to God, and malignant towards their fellow
creatures, who take pleasure, and often succeed, in drawing in others to
the commission of evil. Why then should it be deemed incredible, that
there may be one or more spiritual intelligences of similar natures and
propensities, who may in like manner be permitted to tempt men to the
practice of sin? Surely we may retort upon our opponents the charge of
absurdity, and justly accuse them of gross inconsistency, in admitting,
without difficulty, the existence and operation of these qualities in a
material being, and yet denying them in an immaterial one (in direct
contradiction to the authority of Scripture, which they allow to be
conclusive) when they cannot, and will not pretend for a moment, that
there is any thing belonging to the nature of matter, to which these
qualities naturally adhere.

But to dilate no farther on a topic which, however it may excite the
ridicule of the inconsiderate, will suggest matter of furious
apprehension to all who form their opinions on the authority of the word
of God: thus brought as we are into captivity, and exposed to danger;
depraved and weakened within, and tempted from without, it might well
fill our hearts with anxiety to reflect, "that the day will come," when
"the Heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall
melt with fervent heat;" "when the dead, small and great, shall stand
before the tribunal of God;" and we shall have to give account of all
things done in the body. We are naturally prompted to turn over the page
of revelation with solicitude, in order to discover the qualities and
character of our Judge, and the probable principles of his
determination; but this only serves to turn painful apprehension into
fixed and certain terror.--First of the qualities of our Judge. As all
nature bears witness to his irresistible power, so we read in Scripture
that nothing can escape his observation, or elude his discovery; not our
actions only, but our most secret cogitations are open to his view. "He
is about our path and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways[9]."
"The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations
of the thoughts[10]."--"And he will bring to light the hidden things of
darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart."

Now, hear his description and character and the rule of his award: "The
Lord our God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God."--"He is of purer
eyes than to behold iniquity."--"The soul that sinneth, it shall
die."--"The wages of sin is death." These positive declarations are
enforced by the accounts which, for our warning, we read in sacred
history, of the terrible vengeance of the Almighty: His punishment "the
angels who kept not their first estate, and whom he hath reserved in
everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day:"
The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah; the sentence issued against the
idolatrous nations of Canaan, and of which the execution was assigned to
the Israelites, by the express command of God, at their own peril in
case of disobedience: The ruin of Babylon, and of Tyre, and of Nineveh,
and of Jerusalem, prophetically denounced as the punishment of their
crimes, and taking place in an exact and terrible accordance with the
divine predictions. These are indeed matter of awful perusal, sufficient
surely to confound the fallacious confidence of any who, on the ground
that our Creator must be aware of our natural weakness, and must be of
course disposed to allow for it, should alledge that, though unable
indeed to justify ourselves in the sight of God, we need not give way to
such gloomy apprehensions, but might throw ourselves, with assured hope,
on the infinite benevolence of the Supreme Being. It is indeed true,
that with the threatenings of the word of God, there are mixed many
gracious declarations of pardon, on repentance, and thorough amendment.
But, alas! which of us is there, whose conscience must not reproach him
with having trifled with the long-suffering of God, and with having but
ill kept the resolutions of amendment, which he had some time or other
formed in the seasons of recollection and remorse?--And how is the
disquietude naturally excited by such a retrospect, confirmed and
heightened by passages like these? "Because I have called, and ye
refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have
set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will
laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh: when your
fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind;
when distress and anguish cometh upon you: then shall they call upon me,
but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find
me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not chuse the fear of the
Lord[11]." The apprehensions, which must be excited by thus reading the
recorded judgments and awful language of Scripture, are confirmed to the
inquisitive and attentive mind, by a close observation of the moral
constitution of the world. Such a one will find occasion to remark, that
all, which has been suggested of the final consequences of vice, is in
strict analogy to what we may observe in the ordinary course of human
affairs, wherein it will appear, on a careful survey, that God has so
assigned to things their general tendencies, and established such an
order of causes and effects, as (however interrupted here below by
hindrances and obstructions apparently of a temporary nature) loudly
proclaim the principles of his moral government, and strongly suggest,
that vice and imprudence will finally terminate in misery[12]. Not that
this species of proof was wanted; for that which we must acknowledge, on
weighing the evidence, to be a revelation from God, requires not the aid
of such a confirmation: but yet, as this accordance might be expected
between the words and the works, the past and the future ordinations of
the same Almighty Being, it is no idle speculation to remark, that the
visible constitution of things in the world around us, falls in with the
representations here given from Scripture of the dreadful consequences
of vice, nay even of what is commonly termed inconsiderateness and
imprudence.

If such then be indeed our sad condition, what is to be done? Is there
no hope? Nothing left for us, "but a fearful looking for of judgment,
and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries[13]?" Blessed
be God! we are not shut up irrecoverably in this sad condition: "Turn
you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope;" hear one who proclaims
his designation, "to heal the broken-hearted, to preach liberty to the
captives, and recovering of sight to the blind." They who have formed a
true notion of their lost and helpless state, will most gladly listen to
the sound, and most justly estimate the value of such a deliverance. And
this is the cause, which renders it of such pressing moment not to pass
cursorily over those important topics of the original and superinduced
corruption, and weakness of man; a discussion painful and humiliating
to the pride of human nature, to which the mind lends itself with
difficulty, and hearkens with a mixture of anger and disgust; but well
suited to our case, and like the distasteful lessons of adversity,
permanently useful in its consequences. It is here, never let it be
forgotten, that our foundation must be laid; otherwise our
superstructure, whatever we may think of it, will one day or other prove
tottering and insecure. This is therefore no metaphysical speculation,
but a practical matter: Slight and superficial conceptions of our state
of natural degradation, and of our insufficiency to recover from it of
ourselves, fall in too well with our natural inconsiderateness, and
produce that fatal insensibility to the divine warning to "flee from the
wrath to come," which we cannot but observe to prevail so generally.
Having no due sense of the malignity of our disease, and of its dreadful
issue, we do not set ourselves to work in earnest to obtain the remedy,
as to a business arduous indeed, but indispensable: for it must ever be
carefully remembered, that this deliverance is not _forced on us_, but
_offered to us_; we are furnished indeed with every help, and are always
to bear in mind, that we are unable of ourselves to will or to do
rightly; but we are plainly admonished to "work out our own salvation
with fear and trembling[14]."--Watchful, for we are encompassed with
dangers; "putting on the whole armour of God," for "we are beset with
enemies."

May we be enabled to shake off that lethargy which is so apt to creep
upon us! For this end, a deep practical conviction of our natural
depravity and weakness will be found of eminent advantage. As it is by
this we must at first be rouzed from our fallacious security, so by this
we must be kept wakeful and active unto the end. Let us therefore make
it our business to have this doctrine firmly seated in our
understandings, and radically worked into our hearts. With a view to the
former of these objects, we should often seriously and attentively
consider the firm grounds on which it rests. It is plainly made known to
us by the light of nature, and irresistibly enforced on us by the
dictates of our unassisted understandings. But lest there should be any
so obstinately dull, as not to discern the force of the evidence
suggested to our reason, and confirmed by all experience, or rather so
heedless as not to notice it, the authoritative stamp of Revelation is
superadded, as we have seen, to complete the proof; and we must
therefore be altogether inexcusable, if we still remain unconvinced by
such accumulated mass of argument.

But we must not only _assent_ to the doctrine clearly, but _feel_ it
strongly. To this end, let the power of habit be called in to our aid.
Let us accustom ourselves to refer to our natural depravity, as to their
primary cause, the sad instances of vice and folly of which we read, or
which we see around us, or to which we feel the propensities in our own
bosoms; ever vigilant and distrustful of ourselves, and looking with an
eye of kindness and pity on the faults and infirmities of others, whom
we should learn to regard with the same tender concern as that with
which the sick are used to sympathize with those who are suffering under
the same distemper as themselves. This lesson once well acquired, we
shall feel the benefit of it in all our future progress; and though it
be a lesson which we are slow to learn, it is one in which study and
experience, the incidents of every day, and every fresh observation of
the workings of our own hearts, will gradually concur to perfect us. Let
it not, after all then, be our reproach, and at length our ruin, that
these abundant means of instruction are possessed in vain.


SECTION III.

_Corruption of Human Nature.--Objection._

But there is one difficulty still behind, more formidable than all the
rest. The pride of man is loth to be humbled. Forced to abandon the plea
of innocence, and pressed so closely that he can no longer escape from
the conclusion to which we would drive him, some more bold objector
faces about and stands at bay, endeavouring to justify what he cannot
deny, "Whatever I am," he contends, "I am what my Creator made me. I
inherited a nature, you yourself confess, depraved, and prone to evil:
how then can I withstand the temptations to sin by which I am environed?
If this plea cannot establish my innocence, it must excuse or at least
extenuate my guilt. Frail and weak as I am, a Being of infinite justice
and goodness will never try me by a rule, which however equitable in the
case of creatures of a higher nature, is altogether disproportionate to
mine."

Let not my readers be alarmed! The writer is not going to enter into the
discussion of the grand question concerning the origin of moral evil,
or to attempt at large to reconcile its existence and consequent
punishment with the acknowledged attributes and perfections of God.
These are questions, of which, if one may judge from the little success
with which the acutest and profoundest reasoners have been ever
labouring to solve the difficulties they contain, the full and clear
comprehension is above the intellect of man. Yet, as such an objection
as that which has been stated is sometimes heard from the mouths of
professed Christians, it must not be passed by without a few short
observations.

Were the language in question to be addressed to us by an avowed
sceptic, though it might not be very difficult to expose to him the
futility of _his_ reasonings, we should almost despair of satisfying him
of the soundness of our own. We should perhaps suggest impossibilities,
which might stand in the way of such a system as he would establish: we
might indeed point out wherein (arguing from concessions which he would
freely make) his pre-conceptions concerning the conduct of the Supreme
Being, had been in fact already contradicted, particularly by the
existence at all of natural or moral evil: and if thus proved erroneous
in one instance, why might they not be so likewise in another? But
though by these and similar arguments we might at length silence our
objector, we could not much expect to bring him over to our opinions. We
should probably do better, if we were to endeavour rather to draw him
off from these dark and slippery regions, (slippery in truth they are to
every human foot) and to contend with him, where we might tread with
firmness and freedom, on sure ground, and in the light of day. Then we
might fairly lay before him all the various arguments for the truth of
our holy religion; arguments which have been sufficient to satisfy the
wisest, and the best, and the ablest of men. We should afterwards
perhaps insist on the abundant confirmation Christianity receives from
its being exactly suited to the nature and wants of man; and we might
conclude, with fairly putting it to him, whether all this weight of
evidence were to be overbalanced by this one difficulty, on a subject so
confessedly high and mysterious, considering too that he must allow, we
see but a part (O how small a part!) of the universal creation of God,
and that our faculties are wholly incompetent to judge of the schemes of
his infinite wisdom. This, if the writer may be permitted to offer his
own judgment, is (at least in general) the best mode, in the case of the
objection now in question, of dealing with unbelievers; and to adopt the
contrary plan, seems somewhat like that of any one, who having to
convince some untutored Indian of the truth of the Copernican system,
instead of beginning with plain and simple propositions, and leading him
on to what is more abstruse and remote, should state to him at the
outset some astonishing problems, to which the understanding can only
yield its slow assent, when constrained by the decisive force of
demonstration. The novice, instead of lending himself to such a mistaken
method of instruction, would turn away in disgust, and be only hardened
against his preceptor. But it must be remembered, that the present work
is addressed to those who acknowledge the authority of the holy
Scriptures. And in order to convince all such that there is somewhere or
other, a fallacy in our objector's reasoning, it will be sufficient to
establish that though the word of God clearly asserts the justice and
goodness of the Supreme Being, and also the natural depravity of man,
yet it no less clearly lays down that this natural depravity shall never
be admitted as an excuse for sin, but that "they which have done evil,
shall rise to the resurrection of damnation[15]."--"That the wicked
shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God." And it
is worthy of remark, that, as if for the very purpose of more
effectually silencing those unbelieving doubts which are ever springing
up in the human heart, our blessed Saviour, though the messenger of
peace and good will to man, has again and again repeated these awful
denunciations.

Nor (it must also be remarked) are the holy Scriptures less clear and
full in guarding us against supposing our sins, or the dreadful
consequences of them, to be chargeable on God.--"Let no man say when he
is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil,
neither tempteth he any man[16]:" "The Lord is not willing that any
should perish[17]." And again, where the idea is repelled as injurious
to his character,--"Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should
die? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways,
and live[18]?" "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,
saith the Lord God[19]." Indeed almost every page of the word of God
contains some warning or invitation to sinners; and all these, to a
considerate mind, must unquestionably be proofs of our present position.

It has been the more necessary not to leave unnoticed the objection
which we have been now refuting, because, where not admitted to such an
unqualified extent as altogether to take away the moral responsibility
of man, and when not avowed in the daring language in which it has been
above stated; if may frequently be observed to exist in an inferior
degree: and often, when not distinctly formed into shape, it lurks in
secret, diffusing a general cloud of doubt or unbelief, or lowering our
standard of right, or whispering fallacious comfort, and producing a
ruinous tranquillity. Not to anticipate what will more properly come
under discussion, when we consider the nature and strictness of
practical Christianity; let us here, however, remark, that though the
holy Scriptures so clearly state the natural corruption and weakness of
man, yet they never, in the most minute degree, countenance, but
throughout directly oppose, the supposition to which we are often too
forward to listen, that this corruption and weakness will be admitted as
lowering the demands of divine justice, and in some sort palliating our
transgressions of the laws of God. It would not be difficult to shew
that such a notion is at war with the whole scheme of redemption by the
atonement of Christ. But perhaps it may be enough when any such
suggestions as those which we are condemning force themselves into the
imagination of a Christian, to recommend it to him to silence them by
what is their best practical answer: that if our natural condition be
depraved and weak, our temptations numerous, and our Almighty Judge
infinitely holy; yet that the offers to penitent sinners of pardon and
grace, and strength, are universal and unlimited. Let it not however
surprise us, if in all this there seem to be involved difficulties which
we cannot fully comprehend. How many such every where present
themselves! Scarcely is there an object around us, that does not afford
endless matter of doubt and argument. The meanest reptile which crawls
on the earth, nay, every herb and flower which we behold, baffles the
imbecility of our limited inquiries. All nature calls upon us to be
humble. Can it then be surprising if we are at a loss on this question,
which respects, not the properties of matter, or of numbers, but the
counsels and ways of him whose "Understanding is infinite[20]," "whose
judgments are declared to be unsearchable, and his ways past finding
out[21]?" In this our ignorance however, we may calmly repose ourselves
on his own declaration, "That though clouds and darkness are round about
him, yet righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his
throne[22]." Let it also be remembered, that if in Christianity some
things are difficult, that which it most concerns us to know, is plain
and obvious. To this it is true wisdom to attach ourselves, assenting to
what is revealed where above our faculties, we do not say contradictory
to them, on the credit of what is clearly discerned, and satisfactorily
established. In truth, we are all perhaps too apt to plunge into depths,
which it is beyond our power to fathom; and it was to warn us against
this very error, that the inspired writer, when he has been threatening
the people, whom God had selected as the objects of his special favour,
with the most dreadful punishments, if they should forsake the law of
the Lord, and has introduced surrounding nations as asking the meaning
of the severe infliction, winds up the whole with this instructive
admonition; "Secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those which
are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever, that we may
_do_ all the words of this law[23]."

To any one who is seriously impressed with a sense of the critical state
in which we are here placed, a short and uncertain space in which to
make our peace with God, and then the last judgment, and an eternity of
unspeakable happiness or misery, it is indeed an awful and an affecting
spectacle, to see men thus busying themselves in these vain speculations
of an arrogant curiosity, and trifling with their dearest, their
everlasting interests. It is but a feeble illustration of this exquisite
folly, to compare it to the conduct of some convicted rebel, who, when
brought into the presence of his Sovereign, instead of seizing the
occasion to sue for mercy, should even neglect and trifle with the
pardon which should be offered to him, and insolently employ himself in
prying into his Sovereign's designs, and criticising his counsels. Our
case indeed is, in another point of comparison, but too much like that
of the convicted rebel. But there is this grand difference--that at the
best, his success must be uncertain, ours, if it be not our own fault,
is sure; and while, on the one hand, our guilt is unspeakably greater
than that of any rebel against an earthly monarch; so, on the other, we
know that our Sovereign is "Long-suffering, and easy to be intreated;"
more ready to grant, than we to ask, forgiveness. Well then may we adopt
the language of the poet:

    What better can we do, than - - - prostrate fall
    Before him reverent; and there confess
    Humbly our faults, and pardon beg; with tears
    Watering the ground, and with our sighs the air
    Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
    Of sorrow unfeign'd, and humiliation meek?



CHAPTER III.

_Chief defects of the Religious System of the bulk of professed
Christians, in what regards our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy
Spirit--with a Dissertation concerning the use of the Passions in
Religion._


SECT. I

SCRIPTURE DOCTRINES.

That "God so loved the world, as of his tender mercy to give his only
Son Jesus Christ for our redemption:"

That our blessed Lord willingly left the glory of the Father, and was
made man;

That "he was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and
acquainted with grief:"

That "he was wounded for our transgressions; that he was bruised for our
iniquities:"

That "the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all:"

That at length "he humbled himself even to the death of the Cross, for
us miserable sinners; to the end that all who with hearty repentance and
true faith, should come to him, might not perish, but have everlasting
life:"

That he "is now at the right hand of God, making intercession" for his
people:

That "being reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we may come
boldly unto the throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help
in time of need:"

That our Heavenly Father "will surely give his Holy Spirit to them that
ask him:"

That "the Spirit of God must dwell in us;" and that "if any man have not
the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his:"

That by this divine influence "we are to be renewed in knowledge after
the image of him who created us," and "to be filled with the fruits of
righteousness, to the praise of the glory of his grace;"--that "being
thus made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," we shall
sleep in the Lord; and that when the last trumpet shall sound, this
corruption shall put on incorruption--and that being at length perfected
after his likeness, we shall be admitted into his heavenly kingdom.

These are the leading Doctrines concerning our Saviour, and the Holy
Spirit, which are taught in the Holy Scriptures, and held by the Church
of England. The truth of them, agreeably to our general plan, will be
taken for granted. Few of those, who have been used to join in the
established form of worship, can have been, it is hoped, so inattentive,
as to be ignorant of these grand truths, which are to be found every
where dispersed throughout our excellent Liturgy. Would to God it could
be presumed, with equal confidence, that all who assent to them in
terms, discern their force and excellency in the understanding, and feel
their power in the affections, and their transforming influence in the
heart. What lively emotions are they calculated to excite in us of deep
self-abasement, and abhorrence of our sins; and of humble hope, and firm
faith, and heavenly joy, and ardent love, and active unceasing
gratitude!

But here, it is to be feared, will be found the grand defect of the
religion of the bulk of professed Christians; a defect, like the palsy
at the heart, which, while in its first attack, it changes but little
the exterior appearance of the body, extinguishes the internal principle
of heat and motion, and soon extends its benumbing influence to the
remotest fibres of the frame. This defect is closely connected with that
which was the chief subject of the last chapter: "they that are whole
need not a physician, but they that are sick." Had we duly felt the
burthen of our sins, that they are a load which our own strength is
wholly unable to support, and that the weight of them must finally sink
us into perdition, our hearts would have danced at the sound of the
gracious invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest[24]." But in those who have scarcely
felt their sins as any incumbrance, it would be mere affectation to
pretend to very exalted conceptions of the value and acceptableness of
the proffered deliverance. This pretence accordingly, is seldom now kept
up; and the most superficial observer, comparing the sentiments and
views of the bulk of the Christian world, with the articles still
retained in their creed, and with the strong language of Scripture, must
be struck with the amazing disproportion.

To pass over the throng from whose minds Religion is altogether excluded
by the business or the vanities of life, how is it with the more decent
and moral? To what criterion shall we appeal? Are their hearts really
filled with these things, and warmed by the love which they are adapted
to inspire? Then surely their minds are apt to stray to them almost
unseasonably; or at least to hasten back to them with eagerness, when
escaped from the estrangment imposed by the necessary cares and business
of life. He was a masterly describer of human nature, who thus
pourtrayed the characters of an undissembled affection;

    "Unstaid and fickle in all other things,
    Save in the constant image of the object,
    That is beloved."

"And how," it may be perhaps replied, "do you know, but that the minds
of these people are thus occupied? Can you look into the bosoms of men?"
Let us appeal to a test to which we resorted in a former instance. "Out
of the abundance of the heart," it has been pronounced, "the mouth
speaketh."--Take these persons then in some well selected hour, and lead
the conversation to the subject of Religion. The utmost which can be
effected is, to bring them to talk of things in the gross. They appear
lost in generalities; there is nothing precise and determinate, nothing
which implies a mind used to the contemplation of its object. In vain
you strive to bring them to speak on that topic, which one might expect
to be ever uppermost in the hearts of redeemed sinners. They elude all
your endeavours; and if you make mention of it yourself, it is received
with no very cordial welcome at least, if not with unequivocal disgust;
it is at the best a forced and formal discussion. The excellence of our
Saviour's moral precepts, the kindness and simplicity, and self-denial
and unblemished purity of his life, his patience and meekness in the
hour of death, cannot indeed be spoken of but with admiration, when
spoken of at all, as they have often extorted unwilling praise from the
most daring and malignant infidels. But are not these mentioned as
qualities in the abstract, rather than as the perfections and lineaments
of our patron and benefactor and friend, "who loved us, and gave himself
for us;" of him "who died for _our_ offences, and rose again for _our_
justification;" who is even now at the "right hand of God, making
intercession for _us_?" Who would think that the kindness and humanity,
and self-denial, and patience in suffering, which we so drily commend,
had been exerted towards _ourselves_, in acts of more than finite
benevolence of which _we_ were to derive the benefit, in condescensions
and labours submitted to for _our_ sakes, in pain and ignominy, endured
for _our_ deliverance?

But these grand truths are not suffered to vanish altogether from our
remembrance. Thanks to the compilers of our Liturgy, more than to too
many of the occupiers of our pulpits, they are forced upon our notice in
their just bearings and connections, as often as we attend the service
of the church. Yet is it too much to affirm, that though there
entertained with decorum, as what belong to the day and place, and
occupation, they are yet too generally heard of with little interest;
like the legendary tales of some venerable historian, or other
transactions of great antiquity, if not of doubtful credit, which,
though important to our ancestors, relate to times and circumstances so
different from our own, that we cannot be expected to take any great
concern in them? We hear of them therefore with apparent indifference;
we repeat them almost as it were by rote, assuming by turns the language
of the deepest humiliation and of the warmest thankfulness, with a calm
unaltered composure; and when the service of the day is ended, they are
dismissed altogether from our thoughts, till on the return of another
Sunday, a fresh attendance on public worship gives occasion for the
renewed expressions of our periodical gratitude. In noticing such
lukewarmness as this, surely the writer were to be pardoned, if he were
to be betrayed into some warmth of condemnation. The Unitarian and
Socinian indeed, who deny, or explain away the peculiar doctrines of the
Gospel, may be allowed to feel, and talk of these grand truths with
little emotion. But in those who profess a sincere belief in them, this
coldness is insupportable. The greatest possible services of man to man
must appear contemptible, when compared with "the unspeakable mercies of
Christ:" mercies so dearly bought, so freely bestowed--A deliverance
from eternal misery--The gift of "a crown of glory, that fadeth not
away." Yet, what judgment should we form of such conduct, as is here
censured, in the case of any one who had received some signal services
from a fellow creature? True love is an ardent, and an active
principle--a cold, a dormant, a phlegmatic gratitude, are contractions
in terms. When these generous affections really exist in vigour, are we
not ever fond of dwelling on the value, and enumerating the merits of
our benefactor? How are we moved when any thing is asserted to his
disparagement! How do we delight to tell of his kindness! With what
pious care do we preserve any memorial of him, which we may happen to
possess? How gladly do we seize any opportunity of rendering to him, or
to those who are dear to him, any little good offices, which, though in
themselves of small intrinsic worth, may testify the sincerity of our
thankfulness! The very mention of his name will cheer the heart, and
light up the countenance! And if he be now no more, and if he had made
it his dying request that, in a way of his own appointment, we would
occasionally meet to keep the memory of his person, and of his services
in lively exercise; how should we resent the idea of failing in the
performance of so sacred an obligation!

Such are the genuine characters, such the natural workings of a lively
gratitude. And we believe, without doing violence to the most
established principles of human nature, that where the _effects_ are so
different, the _internal principle_ is in truth the same?

If the love of Christ be thus languid in the bulk of nominal Christians,
their joy and trust in him cannot be expected to be very vigorous. Here
again we find reason to remark, that there is nothing distinct, nothing
specific, nothing which implies a mind acquainted with the nature, and
familiarized with the use of the Christian's privileges, habitually
solacing itself with the hopes held out by the Gospel, and animated by
the sense of its high relations, and its glorious reversion.

The doctrine of the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit, appears
to have met with still worse treatment. It would be to convey a very
inadequate idea of the scantiness of the conceptions on this head, of
the bulk of the Christian world, to affirm merely, that they are too
little conscious of the inefficacy of their own unassisted endeavours
after holiness of heart and life, and that they are not daily employed
in humbly and diligently using the appointed means for the reception and
cultivation of the divine assistance. It would hardly be to go beyond
the truth to assert, that for the most part their notions on this
subject are so confused and faint, that they can scarcely be said in any
fair sense to believe the doctrine at all.

The writer of these sheets is by no means unapprized of the objections
which he may expect from those, whose opinions he has been so freely
condemning. He is prepared to hear it urged, that often where there have
been the strongest pretences to the religious affections, of which the
want has now been censured, there has been little or nothing of the
reality of them; and that even omitting the instances (which however
have been but too frequent) of studied hypocrisy, what have assumed to
themselves the name of religious affections, have been merely the
flights of a lively imagination, or the working of a heated brain; in
particular, that this love of our Saviour, which has been so warmly
recommended, is no better than a vain fervor, which dwells only in the
disordered mind of the enthusiast. That Religion is of a more steady
nature; of a more sober and manly quality; and that she rejects with
scorn, the support of a mere feeling, so volatile and indeterminate, so
trivial and useless, as that with which we would associate her; a
feeling varying in different men, and even in the same man at different
times, according to the accidental flow of the animal spirits; a
feeling, lastly, of which it may perhaps be said, we are from our very
nature, hardly susceptible towards an invisible Being.

"As to the operations of the Holy Spirit," it may probably be further
urged, that "it is perhaps scarcely worth while to spend much time in
inquiring into the theory, when, in practice at least, it is manifest,
that there is no sure criterion whereby any one can ascertain the
reality of them, even in his own case, much less in that of another. All
we know is, that pretenders to these extraordinary assistances, have
never been wanting to abuse the credulity of the vulgar, and to try the
patience of the wise. From the canting hypocrites and wild fanatics of
the last century, to their less dangerous, chiefly because less
successful, descendants of the present day, we hear the same unwarranted
claims, the same idle tales, the same low cant; and we may discern not
seldom the same mean artifices and mercenary ends. The doctrine, to say
the best of it, can only serve to favour the indolence of man, while
professing to furnish him with a compendious method of becoming wise and
good, it supersedes the necessity of his own personal labours. Quitting
therefore all these slothful and chimerical speculations, it is true
wisdom to attach ourselves to what is more solid and practical; to the
work which you will not yourself deny to be sufficiently difficult to
find us of itself full employment: the work of rectifying the disorders
of the passions, and of implanting and cultivating the virtues of the
moral character."--"It is the service of the understanding which God
requires of us, which you would degrade into a mere matter of bodily
temperament, and imaginary impulses. You are contending for that which
not only is altogether unworthy of our Divine Master, but which, with
considerate men, has ever brought his religion into suspicion and
disrepute, and under a shew of honouring him, serves only to injure and
discredit his cause." Our Objector, warming as he proceeds, will perhaps
assume a more impatient tone. "Have not these doctrines," he may
exclaim, "been ever perverted to purposes the most disgraceful to the
Religion of Jesus? If you want an instance, look to the standard of the
inquisition, and behold the pious Dominicans torturing their miserable
victims for the Love of Christ[25]. Or would you rather see the effects
of your principles on a larger scale, and _by wholesale_ (if the phrase
may be pardoned;) cast your eyes across the Atlantic, and let your zeal
be edified by the holy activity of Cortez and Pizarro, and their
apostles of the western hemisphere. To what else have been owing the
extensive ravages of national persecutions, and religious wars and
crusades; whereby rapacity, and pride, and cruelty, sheltering
themselves (sometimes even from the furious bigots themselves) under the
mask of this specious principle, have so often afflicted the world? The
Prince of Peace has been made to assume the port of a ferocious
conqueror, and forgetting the message of good will to men, has issued
forth like a second Scourge of the Earth[26], to plague and desolate the
human species."


_Objection discussed._

That the sacred name of Religion has been too often prostituted to the
most detestable purposes; that furious bigots and bloody persecutors,
and self-interested hypocrites of all qualities and dimensions, from the
rapacious leader of an army, to the canting oracle of a congregation,
have falsely called themselves Christians, are melancholy and
humiliating truths, which (as none so deeply lament them) none will more
readily admit, than they who best understand the nature, and are most
concerned for the honour of Christianity. We are ready to acknowledge
also without dispute, that the religious affections, and the doctrine of
divine assistances, have almost at all times been more or less disgraced
by the false pretences and extravagant conduct of wild fanatics and
brain-sick enthusiasts. All this, however, is only as it happens in
other instances, wherein the depravity of man perverts the bounty of
God. Why is it here only to be made an argument, that there is danger of
abuse? So is there also in the case of all the potent and operative
principles, whether in the natural or moral world. Take for an instance
the powers and properties of matter. These were doubtless designed by
Providence for our comfort and well-being; yet they are often
misapplied to trifling purposes, and still more frequently turned into
so many agents of misery and death. On this fact indeed is founded the
well-known maxim, not more trite than just, that "the best things when
corrupted become the worst;" a maxim which is especially just in the
instance of Religion. For in this case it is not merely, as in some
others, that a great power, when mischievously applied, must be hurtful
in proportion to its strength; but that the very principle on which in
general we depend for restraining and retarding the progress of evil,
not only ceases to interpose any kindly check, but is actively operative
in the opposite direction. But will you therefore discard Religion
altogether? The experiment was lately tried in a neighbouring country,
and professedly on this very ground. The effects however with which it
was attended, do not much encourage its repetition. But suppose Religion
were discarded, then Liberty remains to plague the world; a power which
though when well employed, the dispenser of light and happiness, has
been often proved, and eminently in this very instance, to be capable
when abused, of becoming infinitely mischievous. Well then, extinguish
Liberty. Then what more abused by false pretenders, than Patriotism?
Well, extinguish Patriotism. But then the wicked career to which we have
adverted, must have been checked but for Courage. Blot out Courage--and
so might you proceed to extinguish one by one, Reason, and Speech, and
Memory, and all the discriminating prerogatives of man. But perhaps more
than enough has been already urged in reply to an objection, which
bottoms on ground so indefensible, as that which would equally warrant
our condemning any physical or moral faculty altogether, on account of
its being occasionally abused.

As to the position of our Opponent, that there is no way whereby the
validity of any pretensions to the religious affections may be
ascertained; it must partly be admitted. Doubtless we are not able
always to read the hearts of men, and to discover their real characters;
and hence it is, that we in some measure lie open to the false and
hypocritical pretences which are brought forward against us so
triumphantly. But then these pretences no more prove all similar claims
to be founded in falsehood and hypocrisy, than there having been many
false and interested pretenders to wisdom and honesty, would prove that
there can be no such thing as a wise or an honest man. We do not argue
thus but where our reason is under a corrupt bias. Why should we be so
much surprised and scandalized, when these importers are detected in the
church of Christ? It is no more than our blessed Master himself taught
us to expect; and when the old difficulty is stated, "didst thou not sow
good seed in thy field, whence then hath it tares?" his own answer
furnishes the best solution,--"an enemy hath done this."--Hypocrisy is
indeed _detestable_, and enthusiasm sufficiently mischievous to justify
our guarding against its approaches with jealous care. Yet it may not be
improper to take this occasion for observing, that we are now and then
apt to draw too unfavourable conclusions from unpleasant appearances,
which may perhaps be chiefly or altogether owing to gross or confused
conceptions, or to a disgusting formality of demeanor, or to
indeterminate, low, or improperly familiar expressions. The mode and
language, in which a vulgar man will express himself on the subject of
Religion, will probably be vulgar, and it is difficult for people of
literature and refinement not to be unreasonably shocked by such
vulgarities. But we should at least endeavour to correct the rash
judgments which we may be disposed to form on these occasions, and
should learn to recognize and to prize a sound texture and just
configuration, though disguised beneath a homely or uncouth drapery. It
was an Apostle who declared that he had come (to the learned and
accomplished Grecians too) "not with excellency of speech, or the wisdom
of words." From these he had studiously abstained, lest he should have
seemed to owe his success rather to the graces of oratory, than to the
efficacy of his doctrines, and to the divine power with which they were
accompanied. Even in our own times, when, the extraordinary operations
and miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit having ceased, the necessity of
study and preparation, and of attention to manner as well as matter, in
order to qualify men to become teachers of religion, are no longer
superseded, yet it is no more than an act of justice explicitly to
remark, that a body of Christians, which from the peculiarly offensive
grossnesses of language in use among them, had, not without reason,
excited suspicions of the very worst nature, have since reclaimed their
character[27], and have perhaps excelled all mankind in solid and
unequivocal proofs of the love of Christ, and of the most ardent, and
active, and patient zeal in his service. It is a zeal tempered with
prudence, softened with meekness, soberly aiming at great ends by the
gradual operation of well adapted means, supported by a courage which no
danger can intimidate, and a quiet constancy which no hardships can
exhaust.


SECT. II.

_On the Admission of the Passions into Religion._

The objection of our Opponent, that by insisting on the obligation of
making our blessed Saviour the object of our religious affections, we
are degrading the worship of the understanding, and are substituting and
raising up a set of mere feelings in its stead, is one which deserves
our most serious consideration. If it be just, it is decisive; for ours
must be unquestionably "a reasonable service[28]." The Objector must
mean, either, that these affections are unreasonable in themselves, or
that they are misplaced in religion. He can scarcely however intend that
the affections are in their own nature unreasonable. To suppose him to
maintain this position, were to suppose him ignorant of what every
schoolboy knows of the mechanism of the human mind. We shall therefore
take it for granted, that this cannot be his meaning, and proceed to
examine the latter part of the alternative. Here also it may either be
intended, that the affections are misplaced in Religion, _generally_, or
that our blessed Saviour is not the proper object of them. The strain of
our Objector's language, no less than the objections themselves which
he has urged, render it evident that (perhaps without excluding the
latter position) the former is in full possession of his mind.

This notion of the affections being out of place in Religion, is indeed
an opinion which appears to be generally prevalent. The affections are
regarded as the strong-holds of enthusiasm. It is therefore judged most
expedient to act, as prudent generals are used to do, when they raze the
fortress, or spike up the cannon, which are likely to fall into the
hands of an enemy. Mankind are apt to be the dupes of misapplied terms;
and the progress of the persuasion now in question, has been
considerably aided by an abuse of language, not sufficiently checked in
its first advances, whereby that species of Religion which is opposite
to the warm and affectionate kind, has been suffered almost without
disturbance, to usurp to itself the epithet of _rational_. But let not
this claim be too hastily admitted. Let the position in question be
thoroughly and impartially discussed, and it will appear, if I mistake
not, to be a gross and pernicious error. If amputation be indeed
indispensable, we must submit to it; but we may surely expect to be
heard with patience, or rather with favour and indulgence, while we
proceed to shew that there is no need to have recourse to so desperate
an enemy. The discussion will necessarily draw us into length. But our
prolixity will not be greater than may well be claimed by the importance
of the subject, especially as it scarcely seems to have hitherto
sufficiently engaged the attention of writers on the subject of
Religion.

It cannot methinks but afford a considerable presumption against the
doctrine which we are about to combat, that it proposes to exclude at
once from the service of Religion so grand a part of the composition of
man; that in this our noblest employment it condemns as worse than
useless, all the most active and operative principles of our nature. One
cannot but suppose that like the organs of the body, so the elementary
qualities and original passions of the mind were all given us for
valuable purposes by our all-wise Creator. It is indeed one of the sad
evidences of our fallen condition, that they are now perpetually
tumultuating and rebelling against the powers of reason and conscience,
to which they should be subject. But even if Revelation had been silent,
natural reason might have in some degree presumed, that it would be the
effect of a Religion which should come from God, completely to repair
the consequences of our superinduced depravity. The schemes of mere
human wisdom had indeed tacitly confessed, that this was a task beyond
their strength. Of the two most celebrated systems of philosophy, the
one expressly confirmed the usurpation of the passions, while the other,
despairing of being able to regulate, saw nothing left but to extinguish
them. The former acted like a weak government, which gives independence
to a rebellious province, which it cannot reduce. The latter formed its
boasted scheme merely upon the plan of that barbarous policy, which
composes the troubles of a turbulent land by the extermination of its
inhabitants. This is the calm, not of order, but of inaction; it is not
tranquillity, but the stillness of death;

    Trucidare falso nomine imperium, & ubi solitudinem faciunt,
    pacem appellant--

Christianity, we might hope, would not be driven to any such wretched
expedients; nor in fact does she condescend to them. They only thus
undervalue her strength, who mistake her character, and are ignorant of
her powers. It is her peculiar glory, and her main office, to bring all
the faculties of our nature into their just subordination and
dependence; that so the whole man, complete in all his functions, may be
restored to the true ends of his being, and be devoted, entire and
harmonious, to the service and glory of God. "My son, give me thine
_heart_"--"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy _heart_:"--Such
are the direct and comprehensive claims which are made on us in the holy
Scriptures. We can scarcely indeed look into any part of the sacred
volume without meeting abundant proofs, that it is the religion of the
Affections which God particularly requires. Love, Zeal, Gratitude, Joy,
Hope, Trust, are each of them specified; and are not allowed to us as
weaknesses, but enjoined on us as our bounden duty, and commended to us
as our acceptable worship. Where passages are so numerous, there would
be no end of particular citations. Let it be sufficient therefore, to
refer the reader to the word of God. There let him observe too, that as
the lively exercise of the passions towards their legitimate object, is
always spoken of with praise, so a cold, hard, unfeeling heart is
represented as highly criminal. Lukewarmness is stated to be the object
of God's disgust and aversion; zeal and love, of his favour and delight;
and the taking away of the heart of stone and the implanting of a warmer
and more tender nature in its stead, is specifically promised as the
effect of his returning favour, and the work of his renewing grace. It
is the prayer of an inspired teacher, in behalf of those for whom he was
most interested, "that their love" (already acknowledged to be great)
"might abound yet more and more:" Those modes of worship are set forth
and prescribed, which are best calculated to excite the dormant
affections, and to maintain them in lively exercise; and the aids of
music and singing are expressly superadded to increase their effect. If
we look to the most eminent of the Scripture Characters, we shall find
them warm, zealous, and affectionate. When engaged in their favourite
work of celebrating the goodness of their Supreme Benefactor, their
souls appear to burn within them, their hearts kindle into rapture; the
powers of language are inadequate to the expression of their transports;
and they call on all nature to swell the chorus, and to unite with them
in hallelujahs of gratitude, and joy, and praise. The man after God's
own heart most of all abounds in these glowing effusions; and his
compositions appear to have been given us in order to set the tone, as
it were, to all succeeding generations. Accordingly (to quote the words
of a late excellent prelate[29], who was himself warmed with the same
heavenly flame) "in the language of this divine book, the praises of the
church have been offered up to the Throne of Grace from age to age."
Again, when it pleased God to check the future apostle of the Gentiles
in his wild career, and to make him a monument of transforming grace;
was the force of his affections diminished, or was it not only that
their direction was changed? He brought his affections entire and
unabated into the service of his blessed Master. His zeal now burned
even with an increase of brightness; and no intenseness, no continuance
of suffering could allay its ardor, or damp the fervors of his
triumphant exultations. Finally--The worship and service of the
glorified spirits in Heaven, is not represented to us a cold
intellectual investigation, but as the worship and service of gratitude
and love. And surely it will not be disputed, that it should be even
here the humble endeavour of those, who are promised while on earth "to
be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,"
to bring their hearts into a capacity for joining in those everlasting
praises.

BUT it may not be unadvisable for the writer here to guard against a
mistaken supposition, from which the mind of our Objector by no means
appears exempt, that the force of the religious affections is to be
mainly estimated (I had almost said by the thermometer) by the degree of
mere animal fervor, by ardors, and transports, and raptures, of which,
from constitutional temperament, a person may be easily susceptible; or
into which daily experience must convince us, that people of strong
conceptions and of warm passions may work themselves without much
difficulty, where their hearts are by no means truly or deeply
interested. Every tolerable actor can attest the truth of this remark.
These high degrees of the passions bad men may experience, good men may
want. They may be affected; they may be genuine; but whether genuine or
affected, they form not the true standard by which the real nature or
strength of the religious affections is to be determined. To ascertain
these points, we must examine, whether they appear to be grounded in
knowledge, to have their root in strong and just conceptions of the
great and manifold excellences of their object, or to be ignorant,
unmeaning, or vague: whether they are natural and easy, or constrained
and forced; wakeful and apt to fix on their great objects, delighting in
their proper nutriment (if the expression may be allowed) the exercises
of prayer and praise, and religious contemplation; or voluntarily
omitting offered occasions of receiving it, looking forward to them with
little expectation, looking back on them with little complacency, and
being disappointed of them with little regret: by observing whether
these religious affections are merely occasional visitants, or the
abiding inmates of the soul: whether they have got the mastery over the
vicious passions and propensities, with which in their origin, and
nature, and tendency, they are at open variance; or whether if the
victory be not yet complete, the war is at least constant, and the
breach irreconcilable: whether they moderate and regulate all the
inferior appetites and desires which are culpable only in their excess,
thus striving to reign in the bosom with a settled undisputed
predominance: by examining, whether above all they manifest themselves
by prompting to the active discharge of the duties of life, the
personal, and domestic, and relative, and professional, and social, and
civil duties. Here the wideness of their range and the universality of
their influence, will generally serve to distinguish them from those
partial efforts of diligence and self-denial, to which mankind are
prompted by subordinate motives. All proofs other than this deduced from
conduct, are in some degree ambiguous. This, this only, whether we
argue from Reason or from Scripture, is a sure infallible criterion.
From the daily incidents of conjugal and domestic life, we learn that a
heat of affection occasionally vehement, but superficial and transitory,
may consist too well with a course of conduct, exhibiting incontestable
proofs of neglect and unkindness. But the passion, which alone the Holy
Scriptures dignify with the name of Love, is a deep, not a superficial
feeling; a fixed and permanent, not an occasional emotion. It proves the
validity of its title, by actions corresponding with its nature, by
practical endeavours to gratify the wishes and to promote the interests
of the object of affection. "If a man love me, he will keep my sayings."
"This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." This therefore
is the best standard by which to try the quality, or, the quality being
ascertained, to estimate the strength of the religious affections.
Without suffering ourselves to derive too much complacency from
transient fervors of devotion, we should carefully and frequently prove
ourselves by this less dubitable test; impartially examining our daily
conduct; and often comparing our actual, with our possible services, the
fair amount of our exertions, with our natural or acquired means and
opportunities of usefulness.

After this large explanation, the prolixity of which will we trust be
pardoned on account of the importance of the subject, and the danger of
mistakes both on the right hand and on the left, we are perfectly ready
to concede to the objector, whose arguments we have so long been
considering, that the religious affections must be expected to be more
or less lively in different men, and in the same man at different times,
in proportion to natural tempers, ages, situations, and habits of life.
But, to found an objection on this ground, would be as unreasonable as
it were altogether to deny the obligation of the precepts, which command
us to relieve the necessities of the indigent, because the infinitely
varying circumstances of mankind must render it impossible to specify
beforehand the sum which each individual ought on the whole to allot to
this purpose, or to fix in every particular instance, on any determinate
measure, and mode of contribution. To the one case no less than to the
other, we may apply the maxim of an eminent writer; "An honest heart is
the best casuist." He who every where but in Religion is warm and
animated, there only phlegmatic and cold, can hardly expect (especially
if this coldness be not the subject of unfeigned humiliation and sorrow)
that his plea on the ground of natural temper should be admitted; any
more than that of a person who should urge his poverty as a
justification of his not relieving the wants of the necessitous, at the
very time that he should be launching out into expence without
restraint, on occasions in which he should be really prompted by his
inclinations. In both cases, "it is the _willing_ mind which is
required." Where that is found "every man will be judged according to
what he hath, and not according to what he hath not[30]."

After the decisive proofs already adduced from the word of God, of the
unreasonableness of the objection to the admission of the passions into
Religion, all farther arguments may appear superfluous to any one who is
disposed to bow to scriptural authority. Yet the point is of so much
importance, and it is to be feared, so little regarded, that it may not
be amiss to continue the discussion. The best results of our
understanding will be shewn to fall in with what clearly appears to be
the authoritative language of revelation; and to call in the aid of the
affections to the service of Religion, will prove to be not only what
sober reason may permit, as in some sort allowable; but to be that which
she clearly and strongly dictates to our deliberate judgments, as being
what the circumstances of our natural condition indispensably require.
We have every one of us a work to accomplish, wherein our eternal
interests are at stake; a work to which we are naturally indisposed. We
live in a world abounding with objects which distract our attention and
divert our endeavours; and a deadly enemy is ever at hand to seduce and
beguile us. If we persevere indeed, success is certain; but our efforts
must know no remission. There is a call on us for vigorous and continual
resolution, self-denial, and activity. Now, man is not a being of mere
intellect.

    Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor,

is a complaint which, alas! we all of us might daily utter. The
slightest solicitation of appetite is often able to draw us to act in
opposition to our clearest judgment, our highest interests, and most
resolute determinations. Sickness, poverty, disgrace, and even eternal
misery itself, sometimes in vain solicit our regards; they are all
excluded from the view, and thrust as it were beyond the sphere of
vision, by some poor unsubstantial transient object, so minute and
contemptible as almost to escape the notice of the eye of reason.

These observations are more strikingly confirmed in our religious
concerns than in any other; because in them the interests at stake are
of transcendant importance: but they hold equally in every instance
according to its measure, wherein there is a call for laborious,
painful, and continued exertions, from which any one is likely to be
deterred by obstacles, or seduced by the solicitations of pleasure. What
then it to be done in the case of any such arduous and necessary
undertaking? The answer is obvious--You should endeavour not only to
convince the understanding, but also to affect the heart; and for this
end, you must secure the reinforcement of the passions. This is indeed
the course which would be naturally followed by every man of common
understanding, who should know that some one for whom he was deeply
interested, a child, for instance, or a brother, were about to enter on
a long, difficult, perilous, and critical adventure, wherein success was
to be honour and affluence; defeat was to be contempt and ruin. And
still more, if the parent were convinced that his child possessed
faculties which, strenuously and unremittingly exerted, would prove
equal to all the exigences of the enterprize, but knew him also to be
volatile and inconstant, and had reason to doubt his resolution and his
vigilance; how would the friendly monitor's endeavour be redoubled, so
to possess his pupil's mind with the worth and dignity of the
undertaking, that there should be no opening for the entrance of any
inferior consideration!--"Weigh well (he would say) the value of the
object for which you are about to contend, and contemplate and study its
various excellences, till your whole soul be on fire for its
acquisition. Consider too, that, if you fail, misery and infamy are
united in the alternative which awaits you. Let not the mistaken notion
of its being a safe and easy service, for a moment beguile you into the
discontinuance or remission of your efforts. Be aware of your imminent
danger, and at the same time know your true security. It is a service of
labour and peril; but one wherein the powers which you possess,
strenuously and perseveringly exerted, cannot but crown you with
victory. Accustom yourself to look first to the dreadful consequences of
failure; then fix your eye on the glorious prize which is before you;
and when your strength begins to fail, and your spirits are well nigh
exhausted, let the animating view rekindle your resolution, and call
forth in renewed vigour the fainting energies of your soul."

It was the remark of an unerring observer, "The children of this world
are wiser in their generation than the children of light." And it is
indisputably true, that in religion we have to argue and plead with men
for principles of action, the wisdom and expediency of which are
universally acknowledged in matters of worldly concern. So it is in the
instance before us. The case which has been just described, is an exact,
but a faint representation of our condition in this life. Frail and
"infirm of purpose," we have a business to execute of supreme and
indispensable necessity. Solicitations to neglect it every where abound:
the difficulties and dangers are numerous and urgent; and the night of
death cometh, how soon we know not, "when no man can work." All this is
granted. It seems to be a state of things wherein one should look out
with solicitude for some powerful stimulants. Mere knowledge is
confessedly too weak. The affections alone remain to supply the
deficiency. They precisely meet the occasion, and suit the purposes
intended. Yet, when we propose to fit ourselves for our great
undertaking, by calling them in to our help, we are to be told that we
are acting contrary to reason. Is this reasonable, to strip us first of
our armour of proof, and then to send us to the sharpest of encounters?
To summon us to the severest labours, but first to rob us of the
precious cordials which should brace our sinews and recruit our
strength?

Let these pretended advocates for reason at length then confess their
folly, and do justice to the superior wisdom as well as goodness of our
heavenly Instructor, who better understanding our true condition, and
knowing our frowardness and inadvertency, has most reasonably as well as
kindly pointed out and enjoined on us the use of those aids which may
counteract our infirmities; who commanding the effect, has commanded
also the means whereby it may be accomplished.

And now, if the use of the affections in religion, in _general_, be at
length shewn to be conformable to reason, it will not require many words
to prove that our blessed Saviour is the proper object of them. We know
that love, gratitude, joy, hope, trust, (the affections in question)
have all their appropriate objects. Now it must be at once conceded,
that if these appropriate objects be not exhibited, it is perfectly
unreasonable to expect that the correspondent passions should be
excited. If we ask for love, in the case of an object which has no
excellence or desirableness; for gratitude, where no obligation has
been conferred; for joy, where there is no just cause of
self-congratulation; for hope, where nothing is expected; for trust,
where there exists no ground of reliance; then indeed, we must kiss the
rod, and patiently submit to correction. This would be indeed Egyptian
bondage, to demand the effects without the means of producing them. Is
the case then so? Are we ready to adopt the language of the avowed
enemies of our adorable Saviour; and again to say of him "in whom
dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," that "he hath no form
nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we
should desire him[31]?" Is it no obligation, that he who "thought it not
robbery to be equal with God," should yet for our sakes "make himself of
no reputation, and take upon him the form of a servant, and be made in
the likeness of men; and humble himself, and become obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross[32]?" Is it no cause of "_joy_, that to us
is born a Saviour[33]", by whom we may "be delivered from the power of
darkness; and be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the
saints in light[34]?" Can there be a "_hope_ comparable to that of our
calling[35]"--"Which is Christ in us, the hope of glory[36]?" Can there
be a _trust_ to be preferred to the reliance on "Christ Jesus; who is
the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever[37]?" Surely, if our Opponent
be not dead to every generous emotion, he cannot look his own objection
in the face, without a blush of shame and indignation.


SECTION III.

_Consideration of the Reasonableness of Affections towards an invisible
Being._

But forced at last to retreat from his favourite position, and compelled
to acknowledge that the religious affections towards our blessed Saviour
are not unreasonable; he still however maintains the combat, suggesting
that by the very constitution of our nature, we are not susceptible of
them towards an invisible Being; in whose case, it will be added, we are
shut out from all those means of communication and intercourse, which
knit and cement the union between man and man.

We mean not to deny that there is something in this objection. It might
even seem to plead the authority of Scripture in its favour--"He that
loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he
hath not seen[38]?" And it was indeed no new remark in Horace's days,

    Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures,
    Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus.

We receive impressions more readily from visible objects, we feel them
more strongly, and retain them more durably. But though it must be
granted that this circumstance makes it a more difficult task to
preserve the affections in question in a healthful and vigorous state;
is it thereby rendered impossible? This were indeed a most precipitate
conclusion; and any one who should be disposed to admit the truth of it,
might be at least induced to hesitate, when he should reflect that the
argument applies equally against the possibility of the love of God, a
duty of which the most cursory reader of Scripture, if he admit its
divine authority, cannot but acknowledge the indispensable obligation.
But we need only look back to the Scripture proofs which have been
lately adduced, to be convinced that the religious affections are
therein inculcated on us, as a matter of high and serious obligation.
Hence we may be assured that the impossibility stated by our Opponent
does not exist.

Let us scrutinize this matter, however, a little more minutely, and we
shall be compelled to acknowledge, though the conclusion may make
against ourselves, that the objection vanishes when we fairly and
accurately investigate the circumstances of the case. With this view,
let us look a little into the nature of the affections of the human
mind, and endeavour to ascertain whence it is that they derive their
nutriment, and are found from experience to increase in strength.

The state of man is such, that his feelings are not the obedient
servants of his reason, prompt at once to follow its dictates, as to
their direction, and their measure. Excellence is the just object of
love; good in expectancy, of hope; evil to be apprehended, of fear; our
fellow creatures' misfortunes, and sufferings, constitute the just
objects of pity. Each of these passions, it might be thought, would be
excited, in proportion to what our reason should inform us were the
magnitude and consequent claims of its corresponding object. But this is
by no means the case. Take first for a proof the instance of pity. We
read of slaughtered thousands with less emotion, than we hear the
particulars of a shocking accident which has happened in the next
street; the distresses of a novel, which at the same time we know to be
fictitious, affect us more than the dry narrative of a battle. We become
so much interested by these incidents of the imagination (aware all the
while that they are merely such) that we cannot speedily banish them
from our thoughts, nor recover the tone of our minds; and often, we
scarcely bring ourselves to lay down our book at the call of real
misfortune, of which we go perhaps to the relief, on a principle of
duty, but with little sense of interest or emotion of tenderness. It
were easy to shew that it is much the same in the case of the other
affections. Whatever be the cause of this disproportion, which (as
metaphysics fall not within our province) we shall not stop to examine,
the fact is undeniable. There appears naturally to be a certain
strangeness between the passion and its object, which familiarity and
the power of habit must gradually overcome. You must contrive to bring
them into _close contact_; they must be jointed and glued together by
the particularities of little incidents. Thus in the production of heat
in the physical world, the flint and the steel produce not the effect
without collision; the rudest Barbarian will tell us the necessity of
attrition, and the chemist of mixture. Now, an object, it is admitted,
is brought into _closer contact_ with its corresponding passion, by
being seen and conversed with. This we grant is one way; but does it
follow that there is no other? To assert this, would be something like
maintaining, in contradiction to universal experience, that objects of
vision alone are capable of attracting our regard. But nothing can be
more unfounded than such a supposition. It might appear to be too
nearly approaching to the ludicrous, to suggest as an example to the
contrary, the metaphysician's attachment to his insubstantial
speculations, or the zeal displayed in the pursuit,

    Extra flammantia moenia mundi,

of abstract sciences, where there is no idea of bringing them "within
the visible diurnal sphere" to the vulgarity of practical application.
The instance of the novel before-mentioned, proves, that we may be
extremely affected by what we know to be merely ideal incidents and
beings. By much thinking or talking of any one; by using our minds to
dwell on his excellences; by placing him in imaginary situations which
interest and affect us; we find ourselves becoming insensibly more and
more attached to him: whereas it is the surest expedient for
extinguishing an attachment which already exists, to engage in such
occupations or society, as may cause our casual thoughts and more fixed
meditations to be diverted from the object of it. Ask a mother who has
been long separated from her child, especially if he has been in
circumstances of honour, or of danger, to draw her attention to him, and
to keep it in wakefulness and exercise, and she will tell you, that so
far from becoming less dear, he appears to have grown more the object of
her affections. She seems to herself to love him even better than the
child who has been living under her roof, and has been daily in her
view. How does she rejoice in his good fortune, and weep over his
distresses! With what impatience does she anticipate the time of his
return!

We find therefore that sight and personal intercourse do not seem
necessary to the production or increase of attachment, where the means
of _close contact_ have been afforded; but on the other hand, if an
object have been prevented from coming into _close contact_, sight and
personal intercourse are not sufficient to give it the power of exciting
the affections in proportion to its real magnitude. Suppose the case of
a person whom we have often seen, and may have occasionally conversed
with, and of whom we have been told in the general, that he possesses
extraordinary merits. We assent to the assertion. But if we have no
knowledge of particulars, no close acquaintance with him, nothing in
short which brings his merits home to us, they interest us less than
what we know to be a far inferior degree of the very same qualities in
one of our common associates. A parent has several children, all
constantly under his eye, and equally dear to him. Yet if any one of
them be taken ill, it is brought into so much _closer contact_ than
before, that it seems to absorb and engross the parent's whole
affection. Thus then, though it will not be denied that an object by
being visible may thereby excite its corresponding affection with more
facility; yet this is manifestly far from being the prime consideration.
And so far are we from being the slaves of the sense of vision, that a
familiar acquaintance with the intrinsic excellences of an object,
aided, it must be admitted, by the power of habit, will render us almost
insensible to the impressions which its outward form conveys, and able
entirely to lose the consciousness of an unsightly exterior.

We may be permitted to remark, that the foregoing observations furnish
an explanation, less discreditable than that which has been sometimes
given, of an undoubted phænomenon in the human mind, that the greatest
public misfortunes, however the understanding may lecture, are apt
really to affect our feelings less than the most trivial disaster which
happens to ourselves. An eminent writer[39] scarcely overstated the
point when he observed, "that it would occasion a man of humanity more
real disturbance to know that he was the next morning to lose his little
finger, than to hear that the great empire of China had been suddenly
swallowed up by an earthquake. The thoughts of the former, would keep
him awake all night; in the latter case, after making many melancholy
reflections on the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all
the labours of man which could be thus annihilated in a moment; after a
little speculation too perhaps on the causes of the disaster, and its
effects in the political and commercial world; he would pursue his
business or his pleasure with the same ease and tranquillity as if no
such accident had happened; and snore at night with the most profound
serenity over the ruin of a hundred million of his fellow creatures.
Selfishness is not the cause of this, for the most unfeeling brute on
earth would surely think nothing of the loss of a finger, if he could
thereby prevent so dreadful a calamity." This doctrine of _contact_
which has been opened above, affords a satisfactory solution; and from
all which has been said (the writer has reason perhaps to apologize for
the length of the discussion) the circumstances, by which the affections
of the mind towards any particular object are generated and
strengthened, may be easily collected. The chief of these appear to be,
whatever tends to give a distinct and lively impression of the object,
by setting before us its minute parts, and by often drawing towards it
the thoughts and affections, so as to invest it by degrees with a
confirmed ascendency: whatever tends to excite and to keep in exercise a
lively interest in its behalf: in other words; full knowledge, distinct
and frequent mental entertainment, and pathetic contemplations.
Supposing these means to have been used in any given degree, it may be
expected, that they will be more or less efficacious, in proportion as
the intrinsic qualities of the object afford greater or less scope for
their operation, and more or fewer materials with which to work. Can it
then be conceived, that they will be of no avail when steadily practised
in the case of our Redeemer! If the principles of love, and gratitude,
and joy, and hope, and trust, are not utterly extinct within us, they
cannot but be called forth by the various corresponding objects which
that blessed contemplation would gradually bring forth to our view. Well
might the language of the apostle be addressed to Christians, "Whom
having _not seen_ ye love; in whom, though now ye _see him not_, yet
believing, ye _rejoice_ with joy unspeakable, and full of glory[40]."

BUT fresh considerations pour in to render in this instance, the plea of
its being impossible to love an invisible being, still more invalid. Our
blessed Saviour, if we may be permitted so to say, is not removed far
from us; and the various relations in which we stand towards him, seem
purposely made known to us, in order to furnish so many different bonds
of connection with him, and consequent occasions of continual
intercourse. He exhibits not himself to us "dark with excessive
brightness," but is let down as it were to the possibilities of human
converse. We may not think that he is incapable of entering into our
little concerns, and sympathizing with them; for we are graciously
assured that he is not one "who cannot be touched with the feeling of
our infirmities, having been in all points tempted like as we are[41]."
The figures under which he is represented, are such as convey ideas of
the utmost tenderness. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he
shall gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and
shall gently lead those that are with young[42]."--"They shall not
hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor sun smite them; for he
that hath mercy on them, shall lead them, even by the springs of water
shall he guide them[43]." "I will not leave you orphans[44]" was one of
his last consolatory declarations[45]. The children of Christ are here
separated indeed from the personal view of him; but not from his
paternal affection and paternal care. Meanwhile let them quicken their
regards by the animating anticipation of that blessed day, when he "who
is gone to prepare a place for them, will come again to receive them
unto himself." Then shall they be admitted to his more immediate
presence: "Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face:
now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as I am known[46]."

Surely more than enough has been now said to prove that this particular
case, from its very nature, furnishes the most abundant and powerful
considerations and means for exciting the feelings; and it might be
contended, without fear of refutation, that by the diligent and habitual
use of those considerations and means, we might with confident
expectation of success, engage in the work of raising our affections
towards our blessed Saviour to a state of due force and activity. But,
blessed be God, we have a still better reliance; for the grand
circumstance of all yet remains behind, which the writer has been led to
defer, from his wish to contend with his opponents on their own ground.
This circumstance is, that here, no less than in other particulars, the
Christian's hope is founded, not on the speculations or the strength of
man, but on the declaration of Him who cannot lie, on the power of
Omnipotence.

We learn from the Scriptures that it is one main part of the operations
of the Holy Spirit, to implant these heavenly principles in the human
mind, and to cherish their growth. We are encouraged to believe that in
answer to our prayers, this aid from above will give efficacy to our
earnest endeavours, if used in humble dependence on divine grace. We may
therefore with confidence take the means which have been suggested. But
let us, in our turn, be permitted to ask our opponents, have _they_
humbly and perseveringly applied for this divine strength? or
disclaiming that assistance, perhaps as tempting them to indolence,
have they been so much the more strenuous and unwearied in the use of
their own unaided endeavours? or rather have they not been equally
negligent of both? Renouncing the one, they have wholly omitted the
other. But this is far from being all. They even reverse all the methods
which we have recommended as being calculated to increase regard; and
exactly follow that course which would be pursued by any one who should
wish to reduce an excessive affection. Yet thus leaving untried all the
means, which, whether from Reason or Scripture, we maintain to be
necessary to the production of the end, nay using such as are of a
directly opposite nature, these men presume to talk to us of
impossibilities! We may rather contend that they furnish a fresh proof
of the soundness of our reasonings. We lay it down as a fundamental
position, that speculative knowledge alone, that mere superficial
cursory considerations, will be of no avail. Nothing is to be done
without the diligent continued use of the appointed method. They
themselves afford an instance of the truth of our assertions; and while
they supply no argument against the efficacy of the mode prescribed,
they acknowledge at least that they are wholly ignorant of any other.

BUT let us now turn our eyes to Christians of a higher order, to those
who have actually proved the truth of our reasonings; who have not only
assumed the name, but who have possessed the substance, and felt the
power of Christianity; who though often foiled by their remaining
corruptions, and shamed and cast down under a sense of their many
imperfections, have known in their better seasons, what it was to
experience its firm hope, its dignified joy, its unshaken trust, its
more than human consolations. In their hearts, love also towards their
Redeemer has glowed; a love not _superficial_ and unmeaning (think not
that this would be the subject of our praise) but constant and rational,
resulting from a strong impression of the worth of its object, and
heightened by an abiding sense of great, unmerited, and continually
accumulating obligations; ever manifesting itself in acts of diligent
obedience, or of patient suffering. Such was the religion of the holy
martyrs of the sixteenth century, the illustrious ornaments of the
English church. They realized the theory which we have now been faintly
tracing. Look to their writings, and you will find that their thoughts
and affections had been much exercised in habitual views of the blessed
Jesus. Thus they used the required _means_. What were the _effects_?
Persecution and distress, degradation and contempt in vain assailed
them--all these evils served but to bring their affections into _closer
contact_ with their object; and not only did their love feel no
diminution or abatement, but it rose to all the exigencies of the
occasion, and burned with an increase of ardor; and when brought forth
at last to a cruel and ignominious death, they repined not at their
fate; but rather rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for
the name of Christ. By the blessing of God the writer might refer to
still more recent times. But lest his authorities should be disputed,
let us go to the Apostles of our Lord; and while, on a very cursory
perusal of their writings, we must acknowledge that they commend and
even prescribe to us the love of Christ, as one of the chief of the
Christian graces; so on a more attentive inspection of those writings,
we shall discover abundant proofs that they were themselves bright
examples of their own precept; that our blessed Saviour was really the
object of their warmest affection, and what he had done and suffered for
them the continual matter of their grateful remembrance.

The disposition so prevalent in the bulk of nominal Christians, to form
a religious system for themselves, instead of taking it from the word of
God, is strikingly observable in their scarcely admitting, except in the
most vague and general sense, the doctrine of the influence of the Holy
Spirit. If we look into the Scriptures for information on this
particular, we learn a very different lesson. We are in them distinctly
taught, that "of ourselves we can do nothing;" that "we are by nature
children of wrath," and under the power of the evil spirit, our
understandings being naturally dark, and our hearts averse from
spiritual things; and we are directed to pray for the influence of the
Holy Spirit to enlighten our understandings, to dissipate our
prejudices, to purify our corrupt minds, and to renew us after the image
of our heavenly Father. It is this influence which is represented as
originally awakening us from slumber, as enlightening us in darkness, as
"quickening us when dead[47]," as "delivering us from the power of the
devil," as drawing us to God, as "translating us into the kingdom of his
dear Son[48]," as "creating us anew in Christ Jesus[49]," as "dwelling
in us, and walking in us[50];" so that "putting off the old man with his
deeds," we are to consider ourselves as "having put on the new man,
which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created
him[51]"; and as those who are to be "an habitation of God through the
Spirit[52]." It is by this Divine assistance only that we can grow in
Grace, and improve in all Holiness. So expressly, particularly, and
repeatedly does the word of God inculcate these lessons, that one would
think there were scarcely room for any difference of opinion among those
who admit its authority. Sometimes[53] the whole of a Christian's
repentance and faith, and consequent holiness, are ascribed _generally_
to the Divine influence; sometimes these are spoken of separately, and
ascribed to the same Almighty power. Sometimes different particular
graces of the Christian character, those which respect our duties and
tempers towards our fellow-creatures, no less than those which have
reference to the Supreme Being, are particularly traced to this source.
Sometimes they are all referred collectively to this common root, being
comprehended under the compendious denomination of "the Fruits of the
Spirit." In exact correspondence with these representations, this aid
from above is promised in other parts of Scripture for the production of
those effects; and the withholding or withdrawing of it is occasionally
threatened as a punishment for the sins of men, and as one of the most
fatal consequences of the Divine displeasure.

The Liturgy of the church of England strictly agrees with the
representation, which has been here given of the instructions of the
word of God.


SECT. IV.

_Inadequate conceptions entertained by nominal Christians of the terms
of acceptance with God._

If then it be indeed as so has been now stated; that, in contradiction
to the plainest dictates of Scripture, and to the ritual of our
established Church, the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit, the
first fruits of our reconciliation to God, the purchase of our
Redeemer's death, and his best gift to his true disciples, are too
generally undervalued and slighted; if it be also true, as was formerly
proved, that our thoughts of the blessed Saviour are confused and faint,
our affections towards him languid and lukewarm, little proportioned to
what they, who at such a price have been rescued from ruin, and endowed
with a title to eternal glory, might be justly expected to feel towards
the Author of their deliverance; little proportioned to what has been
felt by others, ransomed from the same ruin, and partakers of the same
inheritance: if this, let it be repeated, be indeed so, let us not shut
our eyes against the perception of our real state; but rather endeavour
to trace the evil to its source. We are loudly called on to _examine
well our foundations_. If any thing be _there_ unsound and hollow, the
superstructure could not be safe, though its exterior were less
suspicious. Let the question then be asked, and let the answer be
returned with all the consideration and solemnity which a question so
important may justly demand, whether, in the grand concern of all, _the
means of a sinner's acceptance with God_, there be not reason to
apprehend, that the nominal Christians whom we have been addressing, too
generally entertain very superficial, and confused, and (to speak in the
softest terms) highly dangerous notions? Is there not cause to fear,
that with little more than an indistinct and nominal reference to Him
who "bore our sins in his own body on the tree," they really rest their
eternal hopes on a vague, general persuasion of the unqualified mercy of
the Supreme Being; or that, still more erroneously, they rely in the
main, on their own negative or positive merits? "They can look upon
their lives with an impartial eye, and congratulate themselves on their
inoffensiveness in society; on their having been exempt, at least, from
any gross vice, or if sometimes accidentally betrayed into it, on its
never having been indulged habitually; or if not even so" (for there are
but few who can say this, if the term vice be explained according to the
strict requisitions of the Gospel) "yet on the balance being in their
favour, or on the whole, not much against them, when their good and bad
actions are fairly weighed, and due allowance is made for human
frailty." These considerations are sufficient for the most part to
compose their apprehensions; these are the cordials which they find most
at hand in the moments of serious thought, or of occasional dejection;
and sometimes perhaps in seasons of less than ordinary self-complacency,
they call in also to their aid the general persuasion of the unbounded
mercy and pity of God. Yet persons of this description by no means
disclaim a Saviour, or avowedly relinquish their title to a share in the
benefits of his death. They close their petitions with the name of
Christ; but if not chiefly from the effect of habit, or out of decent
conformity to the established faith, yet surely with something of the
same ambiguity of principle which influenced the expiring philosopher,
when he ordered the customary mark of homage to be paid to the god of
medicine.

Others go farther than this; for there are many shades of difference
between those who flatly renounce, and those who cordially embrace the
doctrine of Redemption by Christ. This class has a sort of general,
indeterminate, and ill understood dependence on our blessed Saviour. But
their hopes, so far as they can be distinctly made out (for their views
also are very obscure) appear ultimately to bottom on the persuasion
that they are now, through Christ, become members of a new dispensation,
wherein they will be tried by a more lenient rule than that to which
they must have been otherwise subject. "God will not now be extreme to
mark what is done amiss; but will dispense with the rigorous exactions
of his law, too strict indeed for such frail creatures as we are to hope
that we can fulfil it. Christianity has moderated the requisitions of
Divine Justice; and all which is now required of us, is thankfully to
trust to the merits of Christ for the pardon of our sins, and the
acceptance of our sincere though imperfect obedience. The frailties and
infirmities to which our nature is liable, or to which our situation in
life exposes us, will not be severely judged: and as it is practice that
really determines the character, we may rest satisfied, that if on the
whole our lives be tolerably good, we shall escape with little or no
punishment, and through Jesus Christ our Lord, shall be finally
partakers of heavenly felicity."

We cannot dive into the human heart, and therefore should always speak
with caution and diffidence, when from external appearances or
declarations we are affirming the existence of any internal principles
and feelings; especially as we are liable to be misled by the
ambiguities of language, or by the inaccuracy with which others may
express themselves. But it is sometimes not difficult to any one who is
accustomed, if the phrase may be allowed, to the anatomy of the human
mind, to discern, that generally speaking, the persons who use the above
language, rely not so much on the merits of Christ, and on the agency of
Divine Grace, as on their own power of fulfilling the moderated
requisitions of Divine Justice. He will hence therefore discover in them
a disposition rather to extenuate the malignity of their disease, than
to magnify the excellence of the proffered remedy. He will find them apt
to palliate in themselves what they cannot fully justify, to enhance the
merit of what they believe to be their good qualities and commendable
actions, to set as it were in an account the good against the bad; and
if the result be not very unfavourable, they conceive that they shall be
entitled to claim the benefits of our Saviour's sufferings as a thing of
course. They have little idea, so little, that it might almost be
affirmed that they have no idea at all, of the importance or difficulty
of the duty of what the Scripture calls "submitting ourselves to the
righteousness of God;" or of our proneness rather to justify ourselves
in his sight, than in the language of imploring penitents to acknowledge
ourselves guilty and helpless sinners. They have never summoned
themselves to this entire and unqualified renunciation of their own
merits, and their own strength; and therefore they remain strangers to
the natural loftiness of the human heart, which such a call would have
awakened into action, and roused to resistance. ALL THESE THEIR SEVERAL
ERRORS NATURALLY RESULT FROM THE MISTAKEN CONCEPTION ENTERTAINED OF THE
FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIANITY. They consider not that
Christianity is a scheme for "justifying _the ungodly_[54]," by Christ's
dying for them "_when yet sinners_[55][56];" a scheme "for reconciling
us to God--_when enemies_;" and for making the fruits of holiness _the
effects[57], not the cause_, of our being justified and reconciled:
that, in short, it opens freely the door of mercy, to the greatest and
vilest of penitent sinners; that obeying the blessed impulse of the
grace of God, whereby they had been awakened from the sleep of death,
and moved to seek for pardon, they might enter in, and through the
regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit might be enabled to bring
forth the fruits of Righteousness. But they rather conceive of
Christianity as opening the door of mercy, that those who on the ground
of their own merits could not have hoped to justify themselves before
God, may yet be admitted for Christ's sake, on condition of their having
previously satisfied the moderated requisitions of Divine Justice. In
speaking to others also of the Gospel scheme, they are apt to talk too
much of terms and performances on our part, on which we become entitled
to an interest in the sufferings of Christ; instead of stating the
benefits of Christ's satisfaction as extended to us freely, "without
money and without price."

THE _practical_ consequences of these errors are such as might be
expected. They tend to prevent that sense which we ought to entertain of
our own natural misery and helplessness; and that deep feeling of
gratitude for the merits and intercession of Christ, to which we are
wholly indebted for our reconciliation to God, and for the will and the
power, from first to last, to work out our own salvation. They consider
it too much in the light of a contract between two parties, wherein
each, independently of the other, has his own distinct condition to
perform; man--to do his duty; God--to justify and accept for Christ's
sake: If they fail not in the discharge of their condition, assuredly
the condition on God's part will be faithfully fulfilled. Accordingly,
we find in fact, that they who represent the Gospel scheme in the manner
above described, give evidence of the subject with which their hearts
are most filled, by their proneness to run into merely moral
disquisitions, either not mentioning at all, or at least but cursorily
touching on the sufferings and love of their Redeemer; and are little
apt to kindle at their Saviour's name, and like the apostles to be
betrayed by their fervor into what may be almost an untimely descant on
the riches of his unutterable mercy. In addressing others also whom they
conceive to be living in habits of sin, and under the wrath of God, they
rather advise them to amend their ways as a preparation for their coming
to Christ, than exhort them to throw themselves with deep prostration of
soul at the foot of the cross, there to obtain pardon and find grace to
help in time of need.

The great importance of the subject in question will justify our having
been thus particular. It has arisen from a wish that on a question of
such magnitude, to mistake our meaning should be impossible. But after
all which has been said, let it also be remembered, that except so far
as the instruction of others is concerned, the point of importance is,
the internal disposition of the mind; _where_ the dependence for pardon,
and for holiness, is really placed; not what the language is, in which
men express themselves. And it is to be hoped that he who searches the
heart, sees the right dispositions in many who use the mistaken and
dangerous language to which we have objected.

If this so generally prevailing error concerning the nature of the
Gospel offer be in any considerable degree just; it will then explain
that so generally prevailing languor in the affections towards our
blessed Saviour which was formerly remarked, and that inadequate
impression of the necessity and value of the assistance of the divine
Spirit. According to the soundest principles of reasoning, it may be
also adduced as an additional proof of the correctness of our present
statement, that it so exactly falls in with those phænomena, and so
naturally accounts for them. For even admitting that the persons above
mentioned, particularly the last class, do at the bottom rely on the
atonement of Christ; yet on their scheme, it must necessarily happen,
that the object to which they are most accustomed to look, with which
their thoughts are chiefly conversant, from which they most habitually
derive complacency, is rather their own qualified merit and services,
though confessed to be inadequate, than the sufferings and atoning death
of a crucified Saviour. The affections towards our blessed Lord
therefore (according to the theory of the passions formerly laid down)
cannot be expected to flourish, because they receive not that which was
shewn to be necessary to their nutriment and growth. If we would love
him as affectionately, and rejoice in him as triumphantly as the first
Christians did; we must learn like them to repose our entire trust in
him, and to adopt the language of the apostle, "God forbid that I should
glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ[58]"--"Who of God is
made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and
redemption[59]."

Doubtless there have been too many who, to their eternal ruin, have
abused the doctrine of Salvation by Grace; and have vainly trusted in
Christ for pardon and acceptance, when by their vicious lives they have
plainly proved the groundlessness of their pretensions. The tree is to
be known by its fruits; and there is too much reason to fear that there
is no principle of faith, when it does not decidedly evince itself by
the fruits of holiness. Dreadful indeed will be the doom, above that of
all others, of those loose professors of Christianity, to whom at the
last day our blessed Saviour will address those words, "I never knew
you; depart from me, all ye that work iniquity." But the danger of error
on this side ought not to render us insensible to the opposite error; an
error against which in these days it seems particularly necessary to
guard. It is far from the intention of the writer of this work to enter
into the niceties of controversy. But surely without danger of being
thought to violate this design, he may be permitted to contend, that
they who in the main believe the doctrines of the church of England, are
bound to allow that our dependence on our blessed Saviour, as alone the
meritorious cause of our acceptance with God, and as the means of all
its blessed fruits and glorious consequences, must be not merely formal
and nominal, but real and substantial: not vague, qualified, and
partial, but direct, cordial, and entire. "Repentance towards God, and
faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ," was the sum of the apostolical
instructions. It is not an occasional invocation of the name, or a
transient recognition of the authority of Christ, that fills up the
measure of the terms, _believing in Jesus_. This we shall find no such
easy task; and if we trust that we do believe, we should all perhaps do
well to cry out in the words of an imploring suppliant (he supplicated
not in vain) "Lord help thou our unbelief." We must be deeply conscious
of our guilt and misery, heartily repenting of our sins, and firmly
resolving to forsake them: and thus penitently "fleeing for refuge to
the hope set before us," we must found altogether on the merit of the
crucified Redeemer our hopes of escape from their deserved punishment,
and of deliverance from their enslaving power. This must be our first,
our last, our only plea. We are to surrender ourselves up to him to "be
washed in his blood[60]," to be sanctified by his Spirit, resolving to
receive him for our Lord and Master, to learn in his school, to obey all
his commandments.

It may perhaps be not unnecessary, after having treated so largely on
this important topic, to add a few words in order to obviate a charge
which may be urged against us, that we are insisting on nice and
abstruse distinctions in what is a matter of general concern; and this
too in a system, which on its original promulgation was declared to be
peculiarly intended for the simple and poor. It will be abundantly
evident however on a little reflection, and experience fully proves the
position, that what has been required is not the perception of a subtile
distinction, but a state and condition of heart. To the former, the poor
and the ignorant must be indeed confessed unequal; but they are far less
indisposed than the great and the learned, to bow down to that
"preaching of the cross which is to them that perish foolishness, but
unto them that are saved the power of God, and the wisdom of God." The
poor are not liable to be puffed up by the intoxicating fumes of
ambition and worldly grandeur. They are less likely to be kept from
entering into the strait and narrow way, and when they have entered to
be drawn back again or to be retarded in their progress, by the cares or
the pleasures of life. They may express themselves ill; but their views
may be simple, and their hearts humble, penitent, and sincere. It is as
in other cases; the vulgar are the subjects of phænomena, the learned
explain them: the former know nothing of the theory of vision or of
sentiment; but this ignorance hinders not that they see and think, and
though unable to discourse elaborately on the passions, they can feel
warmly for their children, their friends, their country.

After this digression, if that be indeed a digression which by removing
a formidable objection renders the truth of the positions we wish to
establish more clear and less questionable, we may now resume the thread
of our argument. Still intreating therefore the attention of those, who
have not been used to think much of the necessity of this undivided,
and, if it may be so termed, unadulterated reliance, for which we have
been contending; we would still more particularly address ourselves to
others who are disposed to believe that though, in some obscure and
vague sense, the death of Christ as the satisfaction for our sins, and
for the purchase of our future happiness, and the sanctifying influence
of the Holy Spirit, are to be admitted as fundamental articles of our
creed, yet that these are doctrines so much above us, that they are not
objects suited to our capacities; and that, turning our eyes therefore
from these difficult speculations, we should fix them on the practical
and moral precepts of the Gospel. "These it most concerns us to know;
these therefore let us study. Such is the frailty of our nature, such
the strength and number of our temptations to evil, that in reducing the
Gospel morality to practice we shall find full employment: and by
attending to these moral precepts, rather than to those high mysterious
doctrines which you are pressing on us, we shall best prepare to appear
before God on that tremendous day, when 'He shall judge every man
according to his WORKS.'"

    "Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!"

It will at once destroy this flimsy web, to reply in the words of our
blessed Saviour, and of his beloved Disciple--"This is the _work_ of
God, that ye _believe_ in him whom he hath sent[61]." "This is his
_commandment_, that we should _believe_ on the name of his Son Jesus
Christ[62]." In truth, if we consider but for a moment the opinions
(they scarcely deserve the name of system) of men who argue thus, we
must be conscious of their absurdity. This may be not inconsistently the
language of the modern Unitarian; but surely it is in the highest degree
unreasonable to admit into our scheme all the grand peculiarities of
Christianity, and having admitted, to neglect and think no more of them!
"Wherefore" (might the Socinian say) "Wherefore all this costly and
complicated machinery? It is like the Tychonic astronomy, encumbered and
self-convicted by its own complicated relations and useless
perplexities. It is so little like the simplicity of nature, it is so
unworthy of the divine hand, that it even offends against those rules of
propriety which we require to be observed in the imperfect compositions
of the human intellect[63]."

Well may the Socinian assume this lofty tone, with those whom we are now
addressing. If these be indeed the doctrines of Revelation, common sense
suggests to us that from their nature and their magnitude, they deserve
our most serious regard. It is the very theology of Epicurus to allow
the existence of these "heavenly things," but to deny their connection
with human concerns, and their influence on human actions. Besides the
unreasonableness of this conduct, we might strongly urge also in this
connection the prophaneness of thus treating as matters of subordinate
consideration those parts of the system of Christianity, which are so
strongly impressed on our reverence by the dignity of the person to whom
they relate. This very argument is indeed repeatedly and pointedly
pressed by the sacred writers[64].

Nor is the prophane irreverence of this conduct more striking than its
ingratitude. When from reading that our Saviour was "the brightness of
his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, upholding all
things by the word of his power," we go on to consider the purpose for
which he came on earth, and all that he did and suffered for us; surely
if we have a spark of ingenuousness left within us, we shall condemn
ourselves as guilty of the blackest ingratitude, in rarely noticing, or
coldly turning away, on whatever shallow pretences, from the
contemplation of these miracles of mercy. For those baser minds however
on which fear alone can operate, that motive is superadded: and we are
plainly forewarned, both directly and indirectly, by the example of the
Jewish nation, that God will not hold them guiltless who are thus
unmindful of his most signal acts of condescension and kindness. But as
this is a question of pure Revelation, reasonings from probability may
not be deemed decisive. To Revelation therefore we must appeal; and as
it might be to trespass on the reader's patience fully to discuss this
most important subject, we must refer him to the sacred Writings
themselves for complete satisfaction. We would earnestly recommend it to
him to weigh with the utmost seriousness those passages of Scripture
wherein the peculiar doctrines of Christianity are expressly mentioned;
and farther, to attend with due regard to the illustration and
confirmation, which the conclusions resulting from those passages
receive incidentally from the word of God. They who maintain the opinion
which we are combating, will hereby become convinced that their's is
indeed an _unscriptural_ Religion; and will learn instead of turning off
their eyes from the grand peculiarities of Christianity, to keep these
ever in view, as the pregnant principles whence all the rest must derive
their origin, and receive their best support[65].

Let us then each for himself solemnly ask ourselves, whether _we_ have
fled for refuge to the appointed hope? And whether we are habitually
looking to it, as to the only source of consolation? "Other foundation
can no man lay:" there is no other ground of dependence, no other plea
for pardon; but _here_ there _is_ hope, even to the uttermost. Let us
labour then to affect our hearts with a deep conviction of our need of a
Redeemer, and of the value of his offered mediation. Let us fall down
humbly before the throne of God, imploring pity and pardon in the name
of the Son of his love. Let us beseech him to give us a true spirit of
repentance, and of hearty undivided faith in the Lord Jesus. Let us not
be satisfied till the cordiality of our belief be confirmed to us by
that character of the Apostle, "that to as many as believe Christ is
precious;" and let us strive to increase daily in _love_ towards our
blessed Saviour; and pray earnestly that "we may be filled with _Joy_
and _Peace_ in believing, that we may abound in _Hope_ through the power
of the Holy Ghost." Let us diligently put in practice the directions
formerly given for cherishing and cultivating the principle of the Love
of Christ. With this view let us labour assiduously to increase in
knowledge, that ours may be a deeply rooted and rational affection. By
frequent meditation on the incidents of our Saviour's life, and still
more on the astonishing circumstances of his death; by often calling to
mind the state from which he proposes to rescue us, and the glories of
his heavenly kingdom; by continual intercourse with him of prayer and
praise, of dependence and confidence in dangers, of hope and joy in our
brighter hours, let us endeavour to keep him constantly present to our
minds, and to render all our conceptions of him more distinct, lively,
and intelligent. The title of Christian is a reproach to us, if we
estrange ourselves from Him after whom we are denominated. The name of
Jesus is not to be to _us_ like the Allah of the Mahometans, a talisman
or an amulet to be worn on the arm, as an external badge merely and
symbol of our profession, and to preserve us from evil by some
mysterious and unintelligible potency; but it is to be engraven deeply
on the heart, there written by the finger of God himself in everlasting
characters. It is our title known and understood to present peace and
future glory. The assurance which it conveys of a bright reversion, will
lighten the burthens, and alleviate the sorrows of life; and in some
happier moments, it will impart to us somewhat of that fulness of joy
which is at God's right hand, enabling us to join even here in the
heavenly Hosannah, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power,
and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and
blessing[66]." "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him
that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever[67]."



CHAPTER IV.

_On the prevailing inadequate Conceptions concerning the Nature and the
Strictness of_ PRACTICAL _Christianity._


SECT. I.

One part of this title may perhaps on the first view excite some
surprise in any one, who may have drawn a hasty inference from the
charges conveyed by the two preceding chapters. Such an one might be
disposed to expect, that they who have very low conceptions of the
corruption of human nature, would be proportionably less indulgent to
human frailty; and that they who lay little stress on Christ's
satisfaction for sin, or on the operations of the Holy Spirit, would be
more high and rigid in their demands of diligent endeavours after
universal holiness; since their scheme implies that we must depend
chiefly on our own exertions and performances for our acceptance with
God.

But any such expectations as these would be greatly disappointed. There
is in fact a region of truth, and a region of errors. They who hold the
fundamental doctrines of Scripture in their due force, hold also in its
due degree of purity the practical system which Scripture inculcates.
But they who explain away the former, soften down the latter also, and
reduce it to the level of their own defective scheme. It is not from any
confidence in the superior amount of their own performances, or in the
greater vigour of their own exertions, that they reconcile themselves to
their low views of the satisfaction of Christ, and of the influence of
the Spirit; but it should rather seem their plan so to depress the
required standard of practice, that no man need fall short of it, that
no superior aid can be wanted for enabling us to attain to it. It
happens however with respect to their simple method of morality, as in
the case of the short ways to knowledge, of which some vain pretenders
have vaunted themselves to be possessed: despising the beaten track in
which more sober and humble spirits have been content to tread, they
have indignantly struck into new and untried paths; but these have
failed of conducting them to the right object, and have issued only in
ignorance and conceit.

It seems in our days to be the commonly received opinion, that provided
a man admit in general terms the truth of Christianity, though he know
not or consider not much concerning the particulars of the system; and
if he be not habitually guilty of any of the grosser vices against his
fellow creatures, we have no great reason to be dissatisfied with him,
or to question the validity of his claim to the name and consequent
privileges of a Christian. The title implies no more than a sort of
formal, general assent to Christianity in the gross, and a degree of
morality in practice, but little if at all superior to that for which we
look in a good Deist, Mussulman, or Hindoo.

If any one be disposed to deny that this is a fair representation of the
religion of the bulk of the Christian world, he might be asked, whether
if it were proved to them beyond dispute that Christianity is a mere
forgery, would this occasion any great change in their conduct or habits
of mind? Would any alteration be made in consequence of this discovery,
except in a few of their speculative opinions, which, when distinct from
practice, it is a part of their own system, as has been before remarked,
to think of little consequence, and in their attendance on public
worship, which however (knowing the good effects of religion upon the
lower orders of the people) they might still think it better to attend
occasionally for example's sake? Would not their regard for their
character, their health, their domestic and social comforts, still
continue to restrain them from vicious excesses, and to prompt them to
persist in the discharge, according to their present measure, of the
various duties of their stations? Would they find themselves
dispossessed of what had been to them hitherto the repository of counsel
and instruction, the rule of their conduct, their habitual source of
peace, and hope, and consolation?

It were needless to put these questions. They are answered in fact
already by the lives of many known unbelievers, between whom and these
professed Christians, even the familiar associates of both, though men
of discernment and observation, would discover little difference either
in conduct or temper of mind. How little then does Christianity deserve
that title to novelty and superiority which has been almost universally
admitted; that pre-eminence, as a practical code, over all other systems
of ethics! How unmerited are the praises which have been lavished upon
it by its friends; praises, in which even its enemies (not in general
disposed to make concessions in its favour) have so often been unwarily
drawn in to acquiesce!

Was it then for this, that the Son of God condescended to become our
instructor and our pattern, leaving us an example that we might tread in
his steps? Was it for this that the apostles of Christ voluntarily
submitted to hunger and nakedness and pain, and ignominy and death, when
forewarned too by their Master that such would be their treatment? That,
after all, their disciples should attain to no higher a strain of virtue
than those who rejecting their Divine authority, should still adhere to
the old philosophy?

But it may perhaps be objected that we are forgetting an observation
which we ourselves have made, that Christianity has raised the general
standard of morals; to which therefore Infidelity herself now finds it
prudent to conform, availing herself of the pure morality of
Christianity, and sometimes wishing to usurp to herself the credit of
it, while she stigmatizes the authors with the epithets of ignorant
dupes or designing impostors!

But let it then be asked, are the motives of Christianity so little
necessary to the practice of it, its principles to its conclusions, that
the one may be spared and yet the other remain in undiminished force?
Still then, its _Doctrines_ are no more than a barren and inapplicable
or at least an unnecessary theory, the place of which, it may perhaps be
added, would be well supplied by a more simple and less costly scheme.

But can it be? Is Christianity then reduced to a mere creed? Is its
practical influence bounded within a few external plausibilities? Does
its essence consist only in a few speculative opinions, and a few
useless and unprofitable tenets? And can this be the ground of that
portentous distinction, which is so unequivocally made by the Evangelist
between those who accept, and those who reject the Gospel: "He that
believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not
the Son, shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him?" This
were to run into the very error which the bulk of professed Christians
would be most forward to condemn, of making an unproductive faith the
rule of God's future judgment, and the ground of an eternal separation.
Thus not unlike the rival circumnavigators from Spain and Portugal, who
setting out in contrary directions, found themselves in company at the
very time they thought themselves farthest from each other; so the bulk
of professed Christians arrive, though by a different course, almost at
the very same point, and occupy nearly the same station as a set of
enthusiasts, who also rest upon a barren faith, to whom on the first
view they might be thought the most nearly opposite, and whose tenets
they with reason profess to hold in peculiar detestation. By what
pernicious courtesy of language is it, that this wretched system has
been flattered with the name of Christianity.

The morality of the Gospel is not so slight a fabric. Christianity
throughout the whole extent exhibits proofs of its Divine original, and
its practical precepts are no less pure than its doctrines are sublime.
Can the compass of language furnish injunctions stricter in their
measure or larger in their comprehension, than those with which the word
of God abounds; "_Whatsoever_ ye do in _word_ or _deed_, do _all_ in the
name of the Lord Jesus;"--"Be _ye_ holy, _for God is holy_:"--"Be ye
_perfect_ as your Father which is in Heaven is _perfect_?" We are
commanded to _perfect_ holiness, to go on unto _perfection_.

Such are the Scripture admonitions; and surely they to whom such
admonitions are addressed, may not safely acquiesce in low attainments:
a conclusion to which also we are led by the force of the expressions by
which Christians are characterized in Scripture, and by the radical and
thorough change, which is represented as taking place in any man on his
becoming a real Christian. "Every one," it is said, "that hath this
hope, purifieth himself even as God is pure:" true Christians are said
to be "partakers of the Divine nature;"--"to be created anew in the
image of God;"--"to be temples of the Holy Ghost;" the effects of which
must appear "in _all_ goodness and righteousness and truth."

Great as was the progress which the apostle Paul had made in all virtue,
he declares of himself that _he_ still presses forward, "forgetting the
things which are behind, and reaching forth unto the things which are
before." He prays for his beloved disciples, "that they may be _filled_
with _all_ the fulness of God;" that they may be _filled_ "with the
fruits of righteousness:" "that they might walk worthy of the Lord unto
_all_ pleasing, being fruitful in _every_ good work." Nor is it a less
pregnant and comprehensive petition, which, from our blessed Saviour's
inserting it in that form of prayer which he has given as a model for
our imitation, we may infer ought to be the habitual sentiment of our
hearts; "Thy will be done in Earth _as it is in Heaven_."

These few extracts from the word of God will serve abundantly to
vindicate the _strictness_ of the Christian morality: but this point
will however be still more fully established, when we proceed to
investigate the _nature_, _essence_, and _governing principles_ of the
Christian character.

It is the grand essential practical characteristic of true Christians,
that relying on the promises to repenting sinners of acceptance through
the Redeemer, they have renounced and abjured all other masters, and
have cordially and unreservedly devoted themselves to God. This is
indeed the very figure which baptism daily represents to us: like the
father of Hannibal, we there bring our infant to the altar, we
consecrate him to the service of _his proper owner_, and vow _in his
name_ eternal hostilities against all the enemies of his salvation.
After the same manner Christians are become the sworn enemies of sin;
they will henceforth hold no parley with it, they will allow it in no
shape, they will admit it to no composition; the war which they have
denounced against it, is cordial, universal, irreconcilable.

But this not all--It is now their determined purpose to yield themselves
without reserve to the reasonable service of their rightful Sovereign.
"They are not their own:"--their bodily and mental faculties, their
natural and acquired endowments, their substance, their authority, their
time, their influence; all these, they consider as belonging to them,
not for their own gratification, but as so many instruments to be
consecrated to the honour and employed in the service of God. This must
be the master principle to which every other must be subordinate.
Whatever may have been hitherto their ruling passion; whatever hitherto
their leading pursuit; whether sensual, or intellectual, of science, of
taste, of fancy, or of feeling, it must now possess but a secondary
place; or rather (to speak more correctly) it must exist only at the
pleasure, and be put altogether under the controul and direction, of its
true and legitimate superior.

Thus it is the prerogative of Christianity "to bring into captivity
_every thought_ to the obedience of Christ." They who really feel its
power, are resolved (in the language of Scripture) "to live no longer to
themselves, but to him that died for them;" they know indeed their own
infirmities; they know, that the way on which they have entered is
strait and difficult, but they know too the encouraging assurance,
"They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;" and relying on
this animating declaration, they deliberately purpose that, so far as
they may be able, the grand governing maxim of their future lives shall
be, "_to do all to the glory of God_."

Behold here the seminal principle, which contains within it, as in an
embryo state, the rudiments of all true virtue; which, striking deep its
roots, though feeble perhaps and lowly in its beginnings, silently
progressive; and almost insensibly maturing, yet will shortly, even in
the bleak and churlish temperature of this world, lift up its head and
spread abroad its branches, bearing abundant fruits; precious fruits of
refreshment and consolation, of which the boasted products of philosophy
are but sickly imitations, void of fragrance and of flavour. But,

    Igneus est ollis vigor & _coelestis_ origo.

At length it shall be transplanted into its native region, and enjoy a
more genial climate, and a kindlier soil; and, bursting forth into full
luxuriance, with unfading beauty and unexhausted odours, shall flourish
for ever in the paradise of God.

But while the servants of Christ continue in this life, glorious as is
the issue of their labours, they receive but too many humiliating
memorials of their remaining imperfections, and they daily find reason
to confess, that they cannot do the things that they would. Their
_determination_, however, is still unshaken, and it is the fixed desire
of their hearts to improve in _all holiness_--and this, let it be
observed, on many accounts. Various passions concur to push them
forward; they are urged on by the dread of failure, in this arduous but
necessary work; they trust not, where their all is at stake, to lively
emotions, or to internal impressions however warm; the example of Christ
is their pattern, the word of God is their rule; there they read, that
"without holiness no man shall see the Lord." It is the description of
real Christians, that "they are gradually changed into the image of
their Divine Master;" and they dare not allow themselves to believe
their title sure, except so far as they can discern in themselves the
growing traces of this blessed resemblance.

It is not merely however the fear of misery, and the desire of
happiness, by which they are actuated in their endeavours to excel in
all holiness; they love it for its own sake: nor is it _solely_ by the
sense of self-interest (this, though often unreasonably condemned, is
but it must be confessed a principle of an inferior order) that they are
influenced in their determination to obey the will, and to cultivate the
favour of God. This determination has its foundations indeed in a deep
and humiliating sense of his exalted Majesty and infinite power, and of
their own extreme inferiority and littleness, attended with a settled
conviction of its being their duty as his creatures, to submit in all
things to the will of their great Creator. But these awful impressions
are relieved and ennobled by an admiring sense of the infinite
perfections and infinite amiableness of the Divine Character; animated
by a confiding though humble hope of his fatherly kindness and
protection; and quickened by the grateful recollection of immense and
continually increasing obligations. This is the Christian love of God! A
love compounded of admiration, of preference, of hope, of trust, of
joy; chastised by reverential awe, and wakeful with continual gratitude.

I would here express myself with caution, lest I should inadvertently
wound the heart of some weak but sincere believer. The elementary
principles which have been above enumerated, may exist in various
degrees and proportions. A difference in natural disposition, in the
circumstances of the past life, and in numberless other particulars, may
occasion a great difference in the predominant tempers of different
Christians. In one the love, in another the fear of God may have the
ascendency; trust in one, and in another gratitude; but in greater or
less degrees, a cordial complacency in the sovereignty, an exalted sense
of the perfections, a grateful impression of the goodness, and a humble
hope of the favour of the Divine Being, are common to them
all.--Common--the determination to devote themselves without exceptions,
to the service and glory of God.--Common--the desire of holiness and of
continual progress towards perfection.--Common--an abasing consciousness
of their own unworthiness, and of their many remaining infirmities,
which interpose so often to corrupt the simplicity of their intentions,
to thwart the execution of their purer purposes, and frustrate the
resolutions of their better hours.

But some perhaps, who will not directly and in the gross oppose the
conclusions for which we have been contending, may endeavour to elude
them. It may be urged, that to represent them as of general application,
is going much too far; and however true in the case of some individuals
of a higher order, it may be asserted they are not applicable to
ordinary Christians; from these so much will not surely be expected; and
here perhaps there may be a secret reference to that supposed
mitigation of the requisitions of the divine Law under the Christian
dispensation, which was formerly noticed. This is so important a point
that it ought not to be passed over: let us call in the authority of
Scripture; at the same time, not to tire the patience of our readers,
but a few passages shall be cited, and we must refer to the word of God
itself those who wish for fuller satisfaction. The difficulty here is
not to find proofs, but to select with discretion from the multitude
which pour in upon us. Here also, as in former instances, the positive
injunctions of Scripture are confirmed and illustrated by various
considerations and inferences, suggested by other parts of the sacred
Writings, all tending to the same infallible conclusion.

In the first place, the precepts are expressed in the broadest and most
general terms; there is no hint given, that any persons are at liberty
to conceive themselves exempted from the obligation of them; and in any
who are disposed to urge such a plea of exemption, it may well excite
the most serious apprehension to consider how the plea would be received
by an earthly tribunal: no weak argument this to any who are acquainted
with the Scriptures, and who know how often God is there represented as
reasoning with mankind on the principles, which they have established
for their dealings with each other.

But in the next place the precepts in question contain within themselves
abundant proofs of their _universal_ application, inasmuch as they are
grounded on circumstances and relations common to _all_ Christians, and
of the benefits of which, even our Objectors themselves (though they
would evade the practical deductions from them) would not be willing to
relinquish their share. Christians "are not their own," because "_they
are bought with a price_;" they are not "to live unto themselves, but
_to him that died for them_;" they are commanded to do the most
difficult duties, "that they may be the children of their Father which
is in heaven;" and "except a man _be born again of the Spirit_" (thus
again becoming one of the sons of God) "_he cannot enter into the
kingdom of heaven_." It is "_because they are sons_," that God has given
them what in Scripture language is styled _the Spirit of adoption_. It
is only of "as many _as are led by the Spirit of God_," that it is
declared that "they are the sons of God;" and we are expressly warned
(in order as it were to prevent any such loose profession of
Christianity as that which we are here combating) "_If any man_ have not
the Spirit of Christ, _he is none of his_." In short, Christians in
general are every where denominated _the servants and the children_ of
God, and are required to serve him with that submissive obedience, and
that affectionate promptitude of duty, which belong to those endearing
relations.

Estimate next, the force of that well known passage--"Thou shalt love
the Lord thy God with _all_ thy heart, and with _all_ thy mind, and with
_all_ thy soul, and with _all_ thy strength!" The injunction is
multiplied on us, as it were, to silence the sophistry of the caviller,
and to fix the most inconsiderate mind. And though, for the sake of
argument, we should concede for the present, that, under _the
qualifications formerly suggested_, an _ardent_ and _vigorous_ affection
were not indispensably required of us; yet surely if the words have any
meaning at all, the least which can be intended by them is that settled
predominant esteem and cordial preference for which we are now
contending. The conclusion which this passage forces on us, is
strikingly confirmed by other parts of Scripture, wherein the love of
God is positively commended to the _whole_ of a Christian church[68]; or
wherein the want of it[69], or wherein its not being the chief and
ruling affection, is charged on persons professing themselves
Christians, as being sufficient to disprove their claim to that
appellation, or as being equivalent to denying it[70]. Let not therefore
any deceive themselves by imagining, that only an absolute unqualified
renunciation of the desire of the favour of God is _here_ condemned. God
will not accept of a _divided_ affection; a _single_ heart, and a
_single_ eye are in express terms declared to be indispensably required
of us. We are ordered, under the figure of amassing heavenly treasure,
to make the favour and service of God our _chief_ pursuit, for this very
reason, because "_where our treasure is, there will our hearts be
also_." It is on this principle that in speaking of particular vices,
such phrases are often used in Scripture, as suggest that their
criminality mainly consists in drawing away the HEART from Him who is
the just object of its preference; and that sins, which we might think
very different in criminality, are classed together, because they all
agree in this grand character. Nor is this preference asserted only over
affections which are vicious in themselves, and to which therefore
Christianity might well be supposed hostile; but over those also which
in their just measure are not only lawful, but even most strongly
enjoined on us. "He that loveth father and mother more than me," says
our blessed Saviour, "is not worthy of me;" "and he that loveth son or
daughter more than me, is not worthy of me[71]." The spirit of these
injunctions harmonizes with many commendations in Scripture of zeal for
the honour of God; as well as with that strong expression of disgust and
abhorrence with which the lukewarm, those that are neither cold nor hot,
are spoken of as being more loathsome and offensive than even open and
avowed enemies.

Another class of instances tending to the same point is furnished by
those many passages of Scripture, wherein the promoting of _the glory_
of God is commanded as our supreme and universal aim, and wherein the
honour due unto _Him_ is declared to be that in which He will allow no
competitor to participate. On this head indeed the Holy Scriptures are,
if possible, more peremptory than on the former; and at the same time so
full as to render particular citations unnecessary, in the case of any
one who has ever so little acquaintance with the word of God.

To put the same thing therefore in another light. All who have read the
Scriptures must confess that idolatry is the crime against which God's
highest resentment is expressed, and his severest punishment denounced.
But let us not deceive ourselves. It is not in bowing the knee to idols
that idolatry consists, so much as in the internal homage of the heart;
as in the feeling towards them of any of that supreme love, or
reverence, or gratitude, which God reserves to himself as his own
exclusive prerogative. On the same principle, whatever else draws off
the heart from him, engrosses our prime regard, and holds the chief
place in our esteem and affections, _that_, in the estimation of reason,
is no less an idol to us, than an image of wood or stone would be;
before which we should fall down and worship. Think not this a strained
analogy; it is the very language and argument of inspiration. The
servant of God is commanded not to set up his idol in his _Heart_; and
sensuality and covetousness are repeatedly termed _Idolatry_. The same
God who declares--"My glory will I not give to another, neither my
praise _to graven images_," declares also--"Let not the wise man glory
in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man _glory_ in his might; let not
the rich man _glory_ in his riches[72]." "No flesh may _glory_ in his
presence;" "he that _glorieth_, let him glory in the Lord." The sudden
vengeance by which the vain-glorious ostentation of Herod was punished,
when, acquiescing in the servile adulation of an admiring multitude, "he
gave not God the _glory_," is a dreadful comment on these injunctions.

These awful declarations, it is to be feared, are little regarded. Let
the Great, and the Wise, and the Learned, and the Successful lay them
seriously to heart, and labour habitually to consider their superiority,
whether derived from nature, or study, or fortune, as the unmerited
bounty of God. This reflection will naturally tend to produce a
disposition, instead of that proud self complacency so apt to grow upon
the human heart, in all respects opposite to it; a disposition
honourable to God, and useful to man, a temper composed of reverence,
humility, and gratitude, and delighting to be engaged in the praises,
and employed in the benevolent service of the universal Benefactor.

But, to return to our subject, it only remains to be remarked, that here
as in the former instances, the characters of the righteous and of the
wicked, as delineated in Scripture, exactly correspond with the
representations which have been given of the Scripture injunctions.

The necessity of this cordial unreserved devotedness to the glory and
service of God, as being indispensable to the character of the true
Christian, has been insisted on at the greater length, not only on
account of its own extreme importance, but also because it appears to be
a duty too generally overlooked. Once well established, it will serve as
a fundamental principle both for the government of the heart and
regulation of the conduct; and will prove eminently useful in the
decision of many practical cases, which it might be difficult to bring
under the undisputed operation of any subordinate or appropriate rule.


SECT. II.

And now, having endeavoured to establish the strictness, and to
ascertain the essential character of true practical Christianity, let us
investigate a little more in detail the practical system of the bulk of
professed Christians among ourselves[73].

It was formerly remarked, that the whole subject of Religion was often
viewed from such a distance as to be seen only in the gross. We now, it
is to be feared, shall find too much cause for believing that they who
approach a little nearer, and do discover in Christianity somewhat of a
distinct form, yet come not close enough to discern her peculiar
lineaments and conformation. The writer must not be understood to mean
that the several misconceptions, which he shall have occasion to point
out, will be generally found to exist with any thing like precision,
much less that they are regularly digested into a system; nor will it be
expected they all should meet in the same person, nor that they will not
be found in different people, and under different circumstances,
variously blended, combined, and modified. It will be enough if we
succeed in tracing out great and general outlines. The human countenance
may be well described by its general characters, though infinitely
varied by the peculiarities which belong to different individuals, and
often by such shades and minutenesses of difference, as though
abundantly obvious to our perceptions, it would exceed the power of
definition to discriminate, or even of language to express.

A very erroneous notion appears to prevail concerning the true nature of
Religion. Religion, agreeably to what has been already stated, (the
importance of the subject will excuse repetition) may be considered as
the implantation of a vigorous and active principle; it is seated in
the heart, where its authority is recognized as supreme, whence by
degrees it expels whatever is opposed to it, and where it gradually
brings all the affections and desires under its complete controul and
regulation.

But though the heart be its special residence, it may be said to possess
in a degree the ubiquity of its Divine Author. Every endeavour and
pursuit must acknowledge its presence; and whatever does not, or will
not, or cannot receive its sacred stamp, is to be condemned as
inherently defective, and is to be at once abstained from or abandoned.
It is like the principle of vitality, which, animating and informing
every part, lives throughout the whole of the human body, and
communicates its kindly influence to the smallest and remotest fibres of
the frame. But the notion of Religion entertained by many among us seems
altogether different. They begin indeed, in submission to her clear
prohibitions, by fencing off from the field of human action, a certain
district, which, though it in many parts bear fruits on which they cast
a longing eye, they cannot but confess to be forbidden ground. They next
assign to Religion a portion, larger or smaller according to whatever
may be their circumstances and views, in which however she is to possess
merely a qualified jurisdiction, and having so done, they conceive that
without let or hindrance they have a right to range at will over the
spacious remainder. Religion can claim only a stated proportion of their
thoughts, and time, and fortune, and influence; and of these, or perhaps
of any of them, if they make her any thing of a liberal allowance, she
may well be satisfied: the rest is now their own to do what they will
with; they have paid their tythes, say rather their composition, the
demands of the Church are satisfied, and they may surely be permitted to
enjoy what she has left without molestation or interference.

It is scarcely possible to state too strongly the mischief which results
from this fundamental error. At the same time its consequences are so
natural and obvious, that one would think it scarcely possible not to
foresee that they must infallibly follow. The greatest part of human
actions is considered as indifferent. If men are not chargeable with
actual vices, and are decent in the discharge of their religious duties;
if they do not stray into the forbidden ground, if they respect the
rights of the conceded allotment, what more can be expected from them?
Instead of keeping at a distance from _all sin_, in which alone consists
our safety, they will be apt not to care how near they approach what
they conceive to be the boundary line; if they have not actually passed
it, there is no harm done, it is no trespass. Thus the free and active
spirit of Religion is "cribbed and hemmed in;" she is checked in her
disposition to expand her territory, and enlarge the circle of her
influence. She must keep to her prescribed confines, and every attempt
to extend them will be resisted as an encroachment.

But this is not all. Since whatever can be gained from her allotment, or
whatever can be taken in from the forbidden ground, will be so much of
addition to that land of liberty, where men may roam at large, free from
restraint or molestation, they will of course be constantly, and almost
insensibly, straitening and pressing upon the limits of the religious
allotment on the one hand; and on the other, will be removing back a
little farther and farther the fence which abridges them on the side of
the forbidden ground. If Religion attempt for a time to defend her
frontier, she by degrees gives way. The space she occupies diminishes
till it be scarcely discernible; whilst, her spirit extinguished, and
her force destroyed, she is little more than the nominal possessor even
of the contracted limits to which she has been avowedly reduced.

This it is to be feared is but too faithful a representation of the
general state of things among ourselves. The promotion of the glory of
God, and the possession of his favour, are no longer recognized as the
objects of our highest regard, and most strenuous endeavours; as
furnishing to us, a vigorous, habitual, and universal principle of
action. We set up for ourselves: we are become our own masters. The
sense of constant homage and continual service is irksome and galling to
us; and we rejoice in being emancipated from it, as from a state of base
and servile villainage. Thus the very tenure and condition, by which
life and all its possessions are held, undergo a total change: our
faculties and powers are now our own: whatever we have is regarded
rather as a property than as a trust; or if there still exist the
remembrance of some paramount claim, we are satisfied with an occasional
acknowledgment of a nominal right; we pay our pepper corn, and take our
estates to ourselves in full and free enjoyment.

Hence it is that so little sense of responsibility seems attached to the
possession of high rank, or splendid abilities, or affluent fortunes, or
other means or instruments of usefulness. The instructive admonitions,
"give an account of thy stewardship,"--"occupy till I come;" are
forgotten. Or if it be acknowledged by some men of larger views than
ordinary, that a reference is to be had to some principle superior to
that of our own gratification, it is, at best, to the good of society,
or to the welfare of our families: and even then the obligations
resulting from these relations, are seldom enforced on us by any higher
sanctions than those of family comfort, and of worldly interest or
estimation. Besides; what multitudes of persons are there, people
without families, in private stations, or of a retired turn, to whom
they are scarcely held to apply! and what multitudes of cases to which
it would be thought unnecessary scrupulosity to extend them! Accordingly
we find _in fact_, that the generality of mankind among the higher
order, in the formation of their schemes, in the selection of their
studies, in the choice of their place of residence, in the employment
and distribution of their time, in their thoughts, conversation, and
amusements, are considered as being at liberty, if there be no actual
vice, to consult in the main their own gratification.

Thus the generous and wakeful spirit of Christian Benevolence, seeking
and finding every where occasions for its exercise, is exploded, and a
system of _decent selfishness_ is avowedly established in its stead; a
system scarcely more to be abjured for its impiety, than to be abhorred
for its cold insensibility to the opportunities of diffusing happiness.
"Have we no families, or are they provided for? Are we wealthy, and bred
to no profession? Are we young and lively, and in the gaiety and vigour
of youth? Surely we may be allowed to take our pleasure. We neglect no
duty, we live in no vice, we do nobody any harm, and have a right to
amuse ourselves. We have nothing better to do, we wish we had; our time
hangs heavy on our hands for want of it."

I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beer-sheba, and cry "It is all
barren." No man has a right to be idle--Not to speak of that great work
which we all have to accomplish, and surely the _whole_ attention of a
short and precarious life is not more than an eternal interest may well
require; where is it that in such a world as this, health and leisure
and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to
redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate? Shall Ambition
and Avarice never sleep? Shall they never want objects on which to
fasten? Shall they be so observant to discover, so acute to discern, so
eager, so patient to pursue, and shall the Benevolence of Christians
want employment?

Yet thus life rolls away with too many of us in a course of "shapeless
idleness." Its recreations constitute its chief business. Watering
places--the sports of the field--cards! never failing cards!--the
assembly--the theatre--all contribute their aid--amusements are
multiplied, and combined, and varied, "to fill up the void of a listless
and languid life;" and by the judicious use of these different
resources, there is often a kind of sober settled plan of domestic
dissipation, in which with all imaginable decency year after year wears
away in unprofitable vacancy. Even old age often finds us pacing in the
same round of amusements, which our early youth had tracked out.
Meanwhile, being conscious that we are not giving into any flagrant
vice, perhaps that we are guilty of no irregularity, and it may be, that
we are not neglecting the offices of Religion, we persuade ourselves
that we need not be uneasy. In the main we do not fall below the general
standard of morals, of the class and station to which we belong, we may
therefore allow ourselves to glide down the stream without apprehension
of the consequences.

Some, of a character often hardly to be distinguished from the class we
have been just describing, take up with _sensual_ pleasures. The chief
happiness of their lives consists in one species or another of animal
gratification; and these persons perhaps will be found to compose a
pretty large description. It will be remembered, that it belongs not to
our purpose to speak of the grossly and scandalously profligate, who
renounce all pretensions to the name of Christians; but of those who,
maintaining a certain decency of character, and perhaps being tolerably
observant of the forms of Religion, may yet be not improperly termed
_sober sensualists_. These, though less impetuous and more measured, are
not less staunch and steady, than the professed votaries of licentious
pleasure, in the pursuit of their favourite objects. "Mortify the flesh,
with its affections and lusts," is the Christian _precept_; a soft
luxurious course of habitual indulgence, is the _practice_ of the bulk
of modern Christians: and that constant moderation, that wholesome
discipline of restraint and self-denial, which are requisite to prevent
the unperceived encroachments of the inferior appetites, seem altogether
disused, as the exploded austerities of monkish superstition.

Christianity calls her professors to a state of diligent watchfulness
and active services. But the persons of whom we are now speaking,
forgetting alike the duties they owe to themselves and to their
fellow-creatures, often act as though their condition were meant to be a
state of uniform indulgence, and vacant, unprofitable sloth. To multiply
the comforts of affluence, to provide for the gratification of appetite,
to be luxurious without diseases, and indolent without lassitude, seems
the chief study of their lives. Nor can they be clearly exempted from
this class, who, by a common error, substituting the means for the end,
make the preservation of health and spirits, not as instruments of
usefulness, but as sources of pleasure, their great business and
continual care.

Others again seem more to attach themselves to what have been well
termed the 'pomps and vanities of this world.' Magnificent houses, grand
equipages, numerous retinues, splendid entertainments, high and
fashionable connections, appear to constitute, in their estimation, the
supreme happiness of life. This class too, if we mistake not, will be
found numerous in our days; for it must be considered, _that it is the
heart_, _set on these things_, which constitutes the essential
character. It often happens, that persons, to whose rank and station
these indulgences most properly belong, are most indifferent to them.
The undue solicitude about them is more visible in persons of inferior
conditions and smaller fortunes, in whom it is not rarely detected by
the studious contrivances of a misapplied ingenuity to reconcile parade
with oeconomy, and glitter at a cheap rate. But this temper of display
and competition is a direct contrast to the lowly, modest, unassuming
carriage of the true Christian: and wherever there is an evident effort
and struggle to excel in the particulars here in question, a manifest
wish thus to rival superiors, to outstrip equals, to dazzle inferiors;
it is manifest the great end of life, and of all its possessions, is too
little kept in view, and it is to be feared that the gratification of a
vain ostentatious humour is the predominant disposition of the heart.

As there is a sober sensuality, so is there also a sober avarice, and a
sober ambition. The commercial and the professional world compose the
chief sphere of their influence. They are often recognized and openly
avowed as just master principles of action. But where this is not the
case, they assume such plausible shapes, are called by such specious
names, and urge such powerful pleas, that they are received with
cordiality, and suffered to gather strength without suspicion. The
seducing considerations of diligence in our callings, of success in our
profession, of making handsome provisions for our children, beguile our
better judgments. "We rise early, and late take rest, and eat the bread
of carefulness." In our few intervals of leisure, our exhausted spirits
require refreshment; the serious concerns of our immortal souls, are
matters of speculation too grave and gloomy to answer the purpose, and
we fly to something that may better deserve the name of relaxation, till
we are again summoned to the daily labours of our employment.

Meanwhile Religion seldom comes in our way, scarcely occurs to our
thoughts; and when some secret misgivings begin to be felt on this head,
company soon drowns, amusements dissipate, or habitual occupations
insensibly displace or smother the rising apprehension. Professional and
commercial men perhaps, especially when they happen to be persons of
more than ordinary reflection, or of early habits of piety not quite
worn away, easily quiet their consciences by the plea, that necessary
attention to their business leaves them no time to think on these
serious subjects at present. "Men of leisure they confess should
consider them; they themselves will do it hereafter when they retire;
meanwhile they are usefully or at least innocently employed." Thus
business and pleasure fill up our time, and the "one thing needful," is
forgotten. Respected by others, and secretly applauding ourselves,
(perhaps congratulating ourselves that we are not like such an one who
is a spendthrift or a mere man of pleasure, or such another who is a
notorious miser) the true principle of action is no less wanting in us,
and personal advancement or the acquisition of wealth is the object of
our supreme desires and predominant pursuit.

It would be to presume too much on the reader's patience to attempt a
delineation of the characters of the politician, the metaphysician, the
scholar, the poet, the virtuoso, the man of taste, in all their
varieties. Of these and many other classes which might be enumerated,
suffice it to remark, and to appeal to every man's own experience for
the truth of the observation, that they in like manner are often
completely engrossed by the objects of their several pursuits. In many
of these cases indeed a generous spirit surrenders itself wholly up with
the less reserve, and continues absorbed with the fuller confidence,
from the consciousness of not being led to its object by self-interested
motives. Here therefore these men are ardent, active, laborious,
persevering, and they think, and speak, and act, as those, the whole
happiness of whose life turns on the success or failure of their
endeavours. When such, as we have seen it, is the undisturbed composure
of mere triflers, it is less wonderful that the votaries of learning and
of taste, when absorbed in their several pursuits, should be able to
check still more easily any growing apprehension, silencing it by the
suggestion, that they are more than harmlessly, that they are
meritoriously employed. "Surely the thanks of mankind are justly paid to
those more refined spirits who, superior alike to the seductions of
ease, and the temptations of avarice, devote their time and talents to
the less gainful labours of increasing the stores of learning or
enlarging the boundaries of science; who are engaged in raising the
character and condition of society, by improving the liberal arts, and
adding to the innocent pleasures or elegant accomplishments of life."
Let not the writer be so far misunderstood, as to be supposed to
insinuate that Religion is an enemy to the pursuits of taste, much less
to those of learning and of science. Let these have their _due_ place in
the estimation of mankind; but this must not be the _highest_ place. Let
them know their just _subordination_. They deserve not to be the
_primary_ concern, for there is another, to which in importance they
bear no more proportion than our span of existence to eternity.

Thus the supreme desires of the heart, the center to which they should
tend, losing its attractive force, are permitted without controul to
take that course, whatever it may be, which best suits our natural
temper, or to which they are impelled by our various situations and
circumstances. Sometimes they manifestly appear to be almost entirely
confined to a single track; but perhaps more frequently the lines in
which they move are so intermingled and diversified, that it becomes not
a little difficult, even when we look into ourselves, to ascertain the
object by which they are chiefly attracted, or to estimate with
precision the amount of their several forces, in the different
directions in which they move. "Know thyself," is in truth an injunction
with which the careless and the indolent cannot comply. For this
compliance, it is requisite, in obedience to the Scripture precept, "to
keep the heart with all diligence." Mankind are in general deplorably
ignorant of their true state; and there are few perhaps who have any
adequate conception of the real strength of the ties, by which they are
bound to the several objects of their attachment, or who are aware how
small a share of their regard is possessed by those concerns on which it
ought to be supremely fixed.

But if it be indeed true, that except the affections of the soul be
supremely fixed on God; that unless it be _the leading and governing
desire and primary pursuit_ to possess his favour and promote his glory,
we are considered as having transferred our fealty to an usurper, and as
being in fact revolters from our lawful sovereign; if this be indeed the
Scripture doctrine, all the several attachments which have been lately
enumerated, of the different classes of society, wherever they interest
the affections, and possess the soul in any such measure of strength as
deserves to be called _predominance_, are but so many varied expressions
of _disloyalty_. God requires to set up his throne in the heart, and to
reign in it without a rival: if he be kept out of his right, it matters
not by what competitor. The revolt may be more avowed or more secret;
it may be the treason of deliberate preference, or of inconsiderate
levity; we may be the subjects of a more or of a less creditable master;
we may be employed in services more gross or more refined: but whether
the slaves of avarice, of sensuality, of dissipation, of sloth, or the
votaries of ambition, of taste, or of fashion; whether supremely
governed by vanity and self-love, by the desire of literary fame or of
military glory, we are alike estranged from the dominion of our rightful
sovereign. Let not this seem a harsh position; it can appear so only
from not adverting to what was shewn to be the _essential nature_ of
true Religion. He who bowed the knee to the god of medicine or of
eloquence, was no less an idolater than the worshipper of the deified
patrons of lewdness or of theft. In the several cases which have been
specified, the _external acts_ indeed are different; but in _principle_
the disaffection is the same; and unless we return to our allegiance, we
must expect the title, and prepare to meet the punishment, of rebels on
that tremendous day, when all false colours shall be done away, and
(there being no longer any room for the evasions of worldly sophistry,
or the smooth plausibilities of worldly language) "that which is often
highly esteemed amongst men, shall appear to have been abomination in
the sight of God."

These fundamental truths seem vanished from the mind, and it follows of
course, that every thing is viewed less and less through a religious
medium. To speak no longer of instances wherein _we ourselves_ are
concerned, and wherein the unconquerable power of indulged appetite may
be supposed to beguile our better judgment, or force us on in defiance
of it; not to insist on the motives by which the conduct of men is
determined, often avowedly, in what are to _themselves_ the most
important incidents of life; what are the judgments which they form in
the case of _others_? Idleness, profusion, thoughtlessness, and
dissipation, the misapplication of time or of talents, the trifling away
of life in frivolous occupations or unprofitable studies; all these
things we may regret in those around us, in the view of their temporal
effects; but they are not considered in a religious connection, or
lamented as endangering everlasting happiness. Excessive vanity and
inordinate ambition are spoken of as weaknesses rather than as sins;
even covetousness itself, though a hateful passion, yet, if not extreme,
scarcely presents the face of _Irreligion_. Is some friend, or even some
common acquaintance sick, or has some accident befallen him? How
solicitously do we inquire after him, how tenderly do we visit him, how
much perhaps do we regret that he has not better advice, how apt are we
to prescribe for him, and how should we reproach ourselves, if we were
to neglect any means in our power of contributing to his recovery! But
"the mind diseased" is neglected and forgotten--"_that_ is not our
affair; we hope (we do not perhaps really believe) that here it is well
with him." The truth is, we have no solicitude about his spiritual
interest. Here he is treated like the unfortunate traveller in the
Gospel; we look upon him; we see but too well his sad condition, but
(Priest and Levite alike) we pass by on the other side, and leave him to
the officious tenderness of some poor despised Samaritan.

Nay, take the case of our very children, when our hearts being most
interested to promote their happiness, we must be supposed most desirous
of determining on right principles, and where therefore the real
standard of our deliberate judgments may be indisputably ascertained: in
their education and marriage, in the choice of their professions, in our
comparative consideration and judgment of the different parts of their
several characters, how little do we reflect that they are immortal
beings! Health, learning, credit, the amiable and agreeable qualities,
above all, fortune and success in life, are taken, and not unjustly
taken, into the account; but how small a share in forming our opinions
is allowed to the probable effect which may be produced on their eternal
interests! Indeed the subjects of our mutual inquiries, and
congratulations, and condolences, prove but too plainly what
considerations are in these cases uppermost in our thoughts.

Such are the fatal and widely spreading effects, which but too naturally
follow from the admission of the grand fundamental error before
mentioned, that of not considering Religion as a principle of universal
application and command. Robbed of its best energies, Religion now takes
the form of a cold compilation of restraints and prohibitions. It is
looked upon simply as a set of penal statutes; these, though wise and
reasonable, are however, so far as they extend, abridgments of our
natural liberty, and nothing which comes to us in this shape is
extremely acceptable:

    Atqui nolint occidere quemquam, posse volunt.

Considering moreover, that the matter of them is not in general very
palatable, and that the partiality of every man where his own cause is
in question, will be likely to make him construe them liberally in his
own favour, we might beforehand have formed a tolerable judgment of the
manner in which they are actually treated. Sometimes we attend to the
words rather than to the spirit of Scripture injunctions, overlooking
the principle they involve, which a better acquaintance with the word of
God would have clearly taught us to infer from them. At others, "the
spirit of an injunction is all;" and this we contrive to collect so
dexterously, as thereby to relax or annul the strictness of the terms.
"Whatever is not expressly forbidden cannot be _very_ criminal; whatever
is not positively enjoined, cannot be indispensably necessary--If we do
not offend against the laws, what more can be expected from us?--The
persons to whom the strict precepts of the Gospel were given, were in
very different circumstances from those in which we are placed. The
injunctions were drawn rather tighter than is quite necessary, in order
to allow for a little relaxation in practice. The expressions of the
sacred Writers are figurative; the Eastern style is confessedly
hyperbolical."

By these and other such dishonest shifts (by which however we seldom
deceive ourselves, except it be in thinking that we deceive others) the
pure but strong morality of the word of God is explained away, and its
too rigid canons are softened down, with as much dexterity as is
exhibited by those who practise a logic of the same complexion, in order
to escape from the obligations of human statutes. Like Swift's
unfortunate Brothers[74], we are sometimes put to difficulties, but our
ingenuity is little inferior to their's. If totidem verbis[75] will not
serve our turn, try totidem syllabis; if totidem syllabis fail, try
totidem literis: then there is in our case, as well as in theirs, "an
allegorical sense" to be adverted to; and if every other resource fail
us, we come at last to the same conclusion as the Brothers adopted, that
after all, those rigorous clauses require some allowance, and a
favourable interpretation, and ought to be understood "cum grano salis."

But when the law both in its spirit and its letter is obstinate and
incorrigible, what we cannot bend to our purpose we must break--"Our
sins we hope are of the smaller order; a little harmless gallantry, a
little innocent jollity, a few foolish expletives which we use from the
mere force of habit, meaning nothing by them; a little warmth of
colouring and licence of expression; a few freedoms of speech in the
gaiety of our hearts, which, though not perhaps strictly correct, none
but the over-rigid would think of treating any otherwise than as venial
infirmities, and in which very grave and religious men will often take
their share, when they may throw off their state, and relax without
impropriety. We serve an all-merciful Being, who knows the frailty of
our nature, the number and strength of our temptations, and will not be
extreme to mark what is done amiss. Even the less lenient judicatures of
human institution concede somewhat to the weakness of man. It is an
established maxim--'De minimis non curat lex.' We hope we are not worse
than the generality. All men are imperfect. We own we have our
infirmities; we confess it is so; we wish we were better, and trust as
we grow older we shall become so; we are ready to acknowledge that we
must be indebted for our admission into a future state of happiness, not
to our own merit, but to the clemency of God, and the mercy of our
Redeemer."

But let not this language be mistaken for that of true Christian
humiliation, of which it is the very essence to feel the burden of sin,
and to long to be released from it: nor let two things be confounded,
than which none can be more fundamentally different, the allowed want of
universality in our determination, and our endeavour to obey the will of
God, and that defective accomplishment of our purposes, which even the
best of men will too often find reason to deplore. In the persons of
whom we have been now speaking, the unconcern with which they can amuse
themselves upon the borders of sin, and the easy familiarity with which
they can actually dally with it in its less offensive shapes, shew
plainly that, distinctly from its consequences, it is by no means the
object of their aversion; that there is no love of holiness as such; no
endeavour to acquire it, no care to prepare the soul for the reception
of this divine principle, and to expel or keep under whatever might be
likely to obstruct its entrance, or dispute its sovereignty.

It is indeed a most lamentable consequence of the practice of regarding
Religion as a compilation of statutes, and not as an internal principle,
that it soon comes to be considered as being conversant about _external
actions_ rather than about _habits of mind_. This sentiment sometimes
has even the hardiness to insinuate and maintain itself under the guise
of extraordinary concern for _practical Religion_; but it soon discovers
the falsehood of this pretension, and betrays its real nature. The
expedient indeed of attaining to superiority in practice, by not wasting
any of the attention on the internal principles from which alone
practice can flow, is about as reasonable, and will answer about as
well, as the oeconomy of the architect, who should account it mere
prodigality to expend any of his materials in laying foundations, from
an idea that they might be more usefully applied to the raising of the
superstructure. We know what would be the fate of such an edifice.

It is indeed true, and a truth never to be forgotten, that all
pretensions to internal principles of holiness are vain when they are
contradicted by the conduct; but it is no less true, that the only
effectual way of improving the latter, is by a vigilant attention to the
former. It was therefore our blessed Saviour's injunction, "Make the
tree good" as the necessary means of obtaining good fruit; and the holy
Scriptures abound in admonitions, to let it be our chief business to
cultivate our hearts with all diligence, to examine into their state
with impartiality, and watch over them with continual care. Indeed it is
the _Heart_ which constitutes the _Man_; and external actions derive
their whole character and meaning from the motives and dispositions of
which they are the indications. Human judicatures, it is true, are
chiefly conversant about the former, but this is only because to our
limited perceptions the latter can seldom be any otherwise clearly
ascertained. The real object of inquiry to human judicatures is the
_internal_ disposition; it is to this that they adapt the nature, and
proportion the degree, of their punishments.

Yet though this be a truth so obvious, so established, that to have
insisted on it may seem almost needless; it is a truth of which we are
apt to lose sight in the review of our religious Character, and with
which the _habit_, of considering Religion as consisting rather in
external actions, than internal principles, is at direct and open war.
This mode of judging may well be termed _habitual_: for though by some
persons it is advisedly adopted, and openly avowed, yet in many cases
for want of due watchfulness, it has stolen insensibly upon the mind; it
exists unsuspected, and is practised, like other habits, without
consciousness or observation.

In what degree soever this pernicious principle prevails, in that degree
is the mischief it produces. The vicious affections, like noxious weeds,
sprout up and increase of themselves but too naturally; while the graces
of the Christian temper, exotics in the soil of the human heart, like
the more tender productions of the vegetable world, though the light and
breath of Heaven must quicken them, require on our part also, in order
to their being preserved in health and vigour, constant superintendence
and assiduous care. But so far from their being earnestly sought for, or
watchfully reared, with unremitted prayers for that Divine Grace,
without which all our labours must be ineffectual; such is the result of
the principle we are here condemning, that no endeavours are used for
their attainment, or they are suffered to droop and die almost without
an effort to preserve them. The culture of the mind is less and less
attended to, and at length perhaps is almost wholly neglected. Way
being thus made for the unobstructed growth of other tempers, the
qualities of which are very different, and often directly opposite,
these naturally overspread and quietly possess the mind; their
contrariety to the Christian spirit not being discerned, and even
perhaps their presence being scarcely acknowledged, except when their
existence and their nature are manifested in the conduct by marks too
plain to be overlooked or mistaken.

Some of the most important branches of the Christian temper, wherein the
bulk of nominal Christians appear eminently and allowedly defective,
have been already noticed in this and in the preceding chapter. Many
others still remain to be particularized.

First then, it is the comprehensive compendium of the character of true
Christians, that "they are walking by faith, and not by sight." By this
description is meant, not merely that they so firmly believe in the
doctrine of future rewards and punishments, as to be influenced by that
persuasion to adhere in the main to the path of duty, though tempted to
forsake it by present interest, and present gratification; but farther,
that the great truths revealed in Scripture concerning the unseen world,
are the ideas for the most part uppermost in their thoughts, and about
which habitually their hearts are most interested. This state of mind
contributes, if the expression may be allowed, to rectify the illusions
of vision, to bring forward into nearer view those eternal things which
from their remoteness are apt to be either wholly overlooked, or to
appear but faintly in the utmost bounds of the horizon; and to remove
backward, and reduce to their true comparative dimensions, the objects
of the present life, which are apt to fill the human eye, assuming a
false magnitude from their vicinity. The true Christian knows from
experience however, that the former are apt to fade from the sight, and
the latter again to swell on it. He makes it therefore his continual
care to preserve those just and enlightened views, which through Divine
mercy he has obtained. Not that he will retire from that station in the
world which Providence seems to have appointed him to fill: he will be
active in the business of life, and enjoy its comforts with moderation
and thankfulness; but he will not be "totus in illis," he will not give
up his whole soul to them, they will be habitually subordinate in his
estimation to objects of more importance. The awful truth has sunk deep
into his mind, "the things which are seen are temporal, but the things
which are not seen are eternal;" and in the tumult and bustle of life,
he is sobered by the still small voice which whispers to him "the
fashion of this world passes away." This circumstance alone must, it is
obvious, constitute a vast difference between the habitual temper of his
mind, and that of the generality of nominal Christians, who are almost
entirely taken up with the concerns of the present world. They _know_
indeed that they are mortal, but they do not _feel_ it. The truth rests
in their understandings, and cannot gain admission into their hearts.
This speculative persuasion is altogether different from that strong
_practical_ impression of the infinite importance of eternal things,
which attended with a proportionate sense of the shortness and
uncertainty of all below, while it prompts to activity from a conviction
that "the night cometh when no man can work," produces a certain
firmness of texture, which hardens us against the buffets of fortune,
and prevents our being very deeply penetrated by the cares and
interests, the goods or evils, of this transitory state. Thus this just
impression of the relative value of temporal and eternal things,
maintains in the soul a dignified composure through all the vicissitudes
of life. It quickens our diligence, yet moderates our ardour; urges us
to just pursuits, yet checks any undue solicitude about the success of
them, and thereby enables us, in the language of Scripture, "to use this
world as not abusing it," rendering us at once beneficial to others and
comfortable to ourselves.

But this is not all--besides the distinction between the nominal and the
real Christian, which results from the impressions produced on them
respectively by the _eternal duration_ of heavenly things, there is
another grounded on their _nature_, no less marked, nor less important.
They are stated in Scripture, not only as entitling themselves to the
notice of the true Christian from considerations of interest, but as
approving themselves to his judgment from a conviction of their
excellence, and yet farther, as recommending themselves to his feelings,
by their being suited to the renewed dispositions of his heart. Indeed
were the case otherwise, did not their qualities correspond with his
inclinations; however he might endure them on principles of duty, and be
coldly conscious of their superior worth, he could not lend himself to
them with cordial complacency, much less look to them as the surest
source of pleasure. But this is the light in which they are habitually
regarded by the true Christian. He walks in the ways of Religion, not
by constraint, but willingly; they are to him not only safe, but
comfortable; "ways of pleasantness as well as of peace." Not but that
here also he is from experience aware of the necessity of constant
support, and continual watchfulness; without these, his old estimate of
things is apt to return on him, and the former objects of his affections
to resume their influence. With earnest prayers, therefore, for the
Divine Help, with jealous circumspection, and resolute self-denial, he
guards against, and abstains from, whatever might be likely again to
darken his _enlightened judgment_, or to vitiate his reformed taste;
thus making it his unwearied endeavour to grow in the knowledge and love
of heavenly things, and to obtain a warmer admiration, and a more
cordial relish of their excellence.

That this is a just representation of the habitual judgment, and of the
leading disposition of true Christians, will be abundantly evident, if,
endeavouring to form ourselves after our proper model, we consult the
sacred Scripture. But in vain are Christians there represented as having
set their _affections_ on things above, as _cordially rejoicing_ in the
service, and delighting in the worship of God. Pleasure and Religion are
contradictory terms with the bulk of nominal Christians. They may look
back indeed on their religious offices with something of a secret
satisfaction, and even feel it during the performance of them, from the
idea of being engaged in the discharge of a duty; but this is altogether
different from the pleasure which attends an employment in itself
acceptable and grateful to us. The writer must here again guard against
being understood to speak of a deficiency in the _warmth_ and
_vehemence_ merely of religious affections. Are the service and worship
of God _pleasant_ to these persons? it is not asked whether they are
_delightful_. Do they diffuse over the soul any thing of that calm
complacency, that mild and grateful composure, which bespeaks a mind in
good humour with itself and all around it, and engaged in a service
suited to its taste, and congenial with its feelings?

Let us appeal to that Day which is especially devoted to the offices of
Religion: Do they joyfully avail themselves of this blessed opportunity
of withdrawing from the business and cares of life; when, without being
disquieted by any doubt whether they are not neglecting the duties of
their proper callings, they may be allowed to detach their minds from
earthly things, that by a fuller knowledge of heavenly objects, and a
more habitual acquaintance with them, their hope may grow more "full of
immortality?" Is the day cheerfully devoted to those holy exercises for
which it was appointed? Do they indeed "come into the courts of God with
gladness?" And how are they employed when not engaged in the public
services of the day? Are they busied in studying the word of God, in
meditating on his perfections, in tracing his providential
dispensations, in admiring his works, in revolving his mercies, (above
all, the transcendent mercies of redeeming love) in singing his praises,
"and speaking good of his name?" Do their secret retirements witness the
earnestness of their prayers and the warmth of their thanksgivings,
their diligence and impartiality in the necessary work of
self-examination, their mindfulness of the benevolent duty of
intercession? Is the kind purpose of the institution of a Sabbath
answered by them, in its being made to their servants and dependents a
season of rest and comfort? Does the instruction of their families, or
of the more poor and ignorant of their neighbours, possess its due share
of their time? If blessed with talents or with affluence, are they
sedulously employing a part of this interval of leisure in relieving the
indigent, and visiting the sick, and comforting the sorrowful, in
forming plans for the good of their fellow-creatures, in considering how
they may promote both the temporal and spiritual benefit of their
friends and acquaintance: or if their's be a larger sphere, in devising
measures whereby through the Divine blessing, they may become the
honoured instruments of the more extended diffusion of religious truth?
In the hours of domestic or social intercourse, does their conversation
manifest the subject of which their hearts are full? Do their language
and demeanor shew them to be more than commonly gentle, and kind, and
friendly, free from rough and irritating passions?

Surely an entire day should not seem long amidst these various
employments. It might well be deemed a privilege thus to spend it, in
the more immediate presence of our Heavenly Father, in the exercises of
humble admiration and grateful homage; of the benevolent, and domestic,
and social feelings, and of all the best affections of our nature,
prompted by their true motives, conversant about their proper objects,
and directed to their noblest end; all sorrows mitigated, all cares
suspended, all fears repressed, every angry emotion softened, every
envious or revengeful or malignant passion expelled; and the bosom, thus
quieted, purified, enlarged, ennobled, partaking almost of a measure of
the Heavenly happiness, and become for a while the seat of love, and
joy, and confidence, and harmony.

The nature, and uses, and proper employments of a Christian Sabbath,
have been pointed out more particularly, not only because the day will
be found, when thus employed, eminently conducive, through the Divine
blessing, to the maintenance of the religious principle in activity and
vigour; but also because we must all have had occasion often to remark,
that many persons, of the graver and more decent sort, seem not seldom
to be nearly destitute of religious resources. The Sunday is with them,
to say the best of it, a _heavy_ day; and that larger part of it, which
is not claimed by the public offices of the church, dully drawls on in
comfortless vacuity, or without improvement is trifled away in vain and
unprofitable discourse. Not to speak of those who by their more daring
profanation of this sacred season, openly violate the laws and insult
the religion of their country, how little do many seem to enter into the
_spirit_ of the institution, who are not wholly inattentive to its
exterior decorums! How glad are they to qualify the rigor of their
religious labours! How hardly do they plead against being compelled to
devote the _whole_ of the day to Religion, claiming to themselves no
small merit for giving up to it a part, and purchasing therefore, as
they hope, a right to spend the remainder more agreeably! How
dexterously do they avail themselves of any plausible plea for
introducing some weekday employment into the Sunday, whilst they have
not the same propensity to introduce any of the Sunday's peculiar
employment into the rest of the week! How often do they find excuses
for taking journeys, writing letters, balancing accounts; or in short
doing something, which by a little management might probably have been
anticipated, or which, without any material inconvenience, might be
postponed! Even business itself is recreation, compared with Religion,
and from the drudgery of this day of Sacred Rest they fly for relief to
their ordinary occupations.

Others again who would consider business as a prophanation, and who
still hold out against the encroachments of the card table, get over
much of the day, and gladly seek for an innocent resource, in the social
circle or in family visits, where it is not even pretended that the
conversation turns on such topics as might render it in any way
conducive to religious instruction, or improvement. Their families
meanwhile are neglected, their servants robbed of Christian privileges,
and their example quoted by others, who cannot see that they are
themselves less religiously employed, while playing an innocent game at
cards, or relaxing in the concert room.

But all these several artifices, _whatever they may be_, _to unhallow_
the Sunday and to change its character (it might be almost said "to
relax its horrors,") prove but too plainly, however we may be glad to
take refuge in Religion, when driven to it by the loss of every other
comfort, and to retain as it were a reversionary interest in an asylum,
which may receive us when we are forced from the transitory enjoyments
of our present state; that _in itself_ it wears to us a gloomy and
forbidding aspect, and not a face of consolation and joy; that the
worship of God is with us a _constrained_ and not a _willing_ service,
which we are glad therefore to abridge though we dare not omit it.

Some indeed there are who with concern and grief will confess this to be
their uncomfortable and melancholy state; who humbly pray, and
diligently endeavour, for an imagination less distracted at devotional
seasons, for a heart more capable of relishing the excellence of divine
things; and who carefully guard against whatever has a tendency to chain
down their affections to earthly enjoyments. Let not such be
discouraged. It is not they whom we are condemning: but such as knowing
and even acknowledging this to be their case, yet proceed in a way
directly contrary: who, scarcely seeming to suspect that any thing is
wrong with them, voluntarily acquiesce in a state of mind which is
directly contrary to the positive commands of God, which forms a perfect
contrast to the representations given us in Scripture of the Christian
character, and accords but too faithfully in one leading feature with
the character of those, who are stated to be the objects of Divine
displeasure in this life, and of Divine punishment in the next.

It is not however only in these essential constituents of a devotional
frame that the bulk of nominal Christians are defective. This they
freely declare (secretly feeling perhaps some complacency from the
frankness of the avowal) to be a higher strain of piety than that to
which they aspire. Their forgetfulness also of some of the leading
dispositions of Christianity, is undeniably apparent in their allowed
want of the spirit of kindness, and meekness, and gentleness, and
patience, and long suffering; and above all, of that which is the stock
on which alone these dispositions can grow and flourish, that
_humility_ and _lowliness of mind_, in which perhaps more than in any
other quality may be said to consist the true essence and vital
principle of the Christian temper. These dispositions are not only
neglected, but even disavowed and exploded, and their opposites, if not
rising to any great height, are acknowledged and applauded. _A just
pride, a proper and becoming pride_, are terms which we daily hear from
Christian lips. To possess _a high spirit_, to behave with _a proper
spirit_ when used ill,--by which is meant a quick feeling of injuries,
and a promptness in resenting them,--entitles to commendation; and a
meek-spirited disposition, the highest Scripture eulogium, expresses
ideas of disapprobation and contempt. Vanity and vain glory are suffered
without interruption to retain their natural possession of the heart.
But here a topic opens upon us of such importance, and on which so many
mistakes are to be found both in the writings of respectable authors,
and in the commonly prevailing opinions of the world, that it may be
allowed us to discuss it more at large, and for this purpose to treat of
it in a separate section.


SECTION III.

_On the Desire of human Estimation and Applause--The generally
prevailing Opinions contrasted with those of the true Christian._

The desire of human estimation, and distinction, and honour, of the
admiration and applause of our fellow creatures, if we take it in its
full comprehension, and in all its various modifications, from the
thirst of glory to the dread of shame, is the passion of which the
empire is by far the most general, and perhaps the authority the most
commanding. Though its power be most conspicuous and least controulable
in the higher classes of society, it seems, like some resistless
conqueror, to spare neither age, nor sex, nor condition; and taking ten
thousand shapes, insinuating itself under the most specious pretexts,
and sheltering itself when necessary under the most artful disguises, it
winds its way in secret, when it dares not openly avow itself, and mixes
in all we think, and speak, and do. It is in some instances the
determined and declared pursuit, and confessedly the main practical
principle; but where this is not the case, it is not seldom the grand
spring of action, and in the Beauty and the Author, no less than in the
Soldier, it is often the master passion of the soul.

This is the principle which parents recognize with joy in their infant
offspring, which is diligently instilled and nurtured in advancing
years, which, under the names of honourable ambition and of laudable
emulation, it is the professed aim of schools and colleges to excite and
cherish. The writer is well aware that it will be thought he is pushing
his opinions much too far, when he ventures to assail this great
principle of human action; "a principle," its advocates might perhaps
exclaim, "the extinction of which, if you could succeed in your rash
attempt, would be like the annihilation in the material world of the
principle of motion; without it all were torpid and cold and
comfortless. We grant," they might go on to observe, "that we never
ought to deviate from the paths of duty in order to procure the applause
or to avoid the reproaches of men, and we allow that this is a rule too
little attended to in practice. We grant that the love of praise is in
some instances a ridiculous, and in others a mischievous passion; that
to it we owe the breed of coquettes and coxcombs, and, a more serious
evil, the noxious race of heroes and conquerors. We too are ready, when
it appears in the shape of vanity, to smile at it as a foible, or in
that of false glory, to condemn it as a crime. But all these are only
its perversions; and on account of them to contend against its true
forms, and its legitimate exercise, were to give into the very error
which you formerly yourself condemned, of arguing against the use of a
salutary principle altogether, on account of its being liable to
occasional abuse. When turned into the right direction, and applied to
its true purposes, it prompts to every dignified and generous
enterprise. It is erudition in the portico, skill in the lycæum,
eloquence in the senate, victory in the field. It forces indolence into
activity, and extorts from vice itself the deeds of generosity and
virtue. When once the soul is warmed by its generous ardor, no
difficulties deter, no dangers terrify, no labours tire. It is this
which, giving by its stamp to what is virtuous and honourable its just
superiority over the gifts of birth and fortune, rescues the rich from a
base subjection to the pleasures of sense, and makes them prefer a
course of toil and hardship to a life of indulgence and ease. It
prevents the man of rank from acquiescing in his hereditary greatness,
and spurs him forward in pursuit of _personal_ distinction, and of a
nobility which he may justly term his own. It moderates and qualifies
the over-great inequalities of human conditions; and reaching to those
who are above the sphere of laws, and extending to cases which fall not
within their province, it limits and circumscribes the power of the
tyrant on his throne, and gives gentleness to war, and to pride,
humility.

"Nor is its influence confined to public life, nor is it known only in
the great and the splendid. To it is to be ascribed a large portion of
that courtesy and disposition to please, which naturally producing a
mutual appearance of good will, and a reciprocation of good offices,
constitute much of the comfort of private life, and give their choicest
sweets to social and domestic intercourse. Nay, from the force of habit,
it follows us even into solitude, and in our most secret retirements we
often act as if our conduct were subject to human observation, and we
derive no small complacency from the imaginary applauses of an ideal
spectator."

So far of the _effects_ of the love of praise and distinction: and if
after enumerating some of these, you should proceed to investigate its
_nature_, "We admit," it might be added, "that a hasty and misjudging
world often misapplies commendations and censures: and whilst we
therefore confess, that the praises of the discerning few are alone
truly valuable; we acknowledge that it were better if mankind were
always to act from the sense of right and the love of virtue, without
reference to the opinions of their fellow-creatures. We even allow,
that independently of consequences, this were perhaps in itself a higher
strain of virtue; but it is a degree of purity which it would be vain to
expect from the bulk of mankind. When the _intrinsic excellence_ of this
principle however is called in question, let it be remembered, that in
its higher degrees it was styled, by one who meant rather to detract
from its merits than to aggravate them, 'the infirmity of _noble_
minds;' and surely, that in such a soil it most naturally springs up,
and flourishes, is no mean proof of its exalted origin and generous
nature.

"But were these more dubious, and were it no more than a splendid error;
yet considering that it works so often in the right direction, it were
enough to urge in its behalf, that it is a principle of real _action_,
and approved energy. That, as much as practice is better than theory,
and solid realties than empty speculation, so much is it to be preferred
for general use before those higher principles of morals, which however
just and excellent in themselves, you would in vain attempt to bring
home to the 'business and bosoms of mankind' at large. Reject not then a
principle thus universal in its influence, thus valuable in its effects;
a principle, which, by whatever name you may please to call it, acts by
motives and considerations suited to our condition; and which, putting
it at the very lowest, must be confessed, in our present infirm state,
to be an habitual aid and an ever present support to the feebleness of
virtue! In a selfish world it produces the effects of disinterestedness,
and when public spirit is extinct, it supplies the want of patriotism.
Let us therefore with gratitude avail ourselves of its help, and not
relinquish the good which it freely offers, from we know not what vain
dreams of impracticable purity and unattainable perfection."

All this and much more might be urged by the advocates of this favourite
principle. It would be however no difficult task to shew that it by no
means merits this high eulogium. To say nothing of that larger part of
the argument of our opponents, which betrays, and even proceeds upon,
that mischievous notion of the innocence of error, against which we have
already entered our formal protest, the principle in question is
manifestly of a most inconstant and variable nature; as inconstant and
variable as the innumerably diversified modes of fashions, habits, and
opinions in different periods and societies. What it tolerates in one
age, it forbids in another; what in one country it prescribes and
applauds, in another it condemns and stigmatizes! Obviously and openly,
it often takes vice into its patronage, and sets itself in direct
opposition to virtue. It is calculated to produce rather the
_appearance_ than the _reality_ of excellence; and at best not to check
the _love_ but only the _commission_ of vice. Much of this indeed was
seen and acknowledged by the philosophers, and even by the poets, of the
Pagan world. They declaimed against it as a mutable and inconsistent
principle; they lamented the fatal effects which, under the name of
false glory, it had produced on the peace and happiness of mankind. They
condemned the pursuit of it when it led its followers out of the path of
virtue, and taught that the praise of the wise and of the good only was
to be desired.

But it was reserved for the page of Scripture to point out to us
distinctly, wherein it is apt to be essentially defective and vicious,
and to discover to us more fully its encroaching nature and dangerous
tendencies; teaching us at the same time, how, being purified from its
corrupt qualities, and reduced under just subordination, it may be
brought into legitimate exercise, and be directed to its true end.

In the sacred volume we are throughout reminded, that we are originally
the creatures of God's formation, and continual dependents on his
bounty. There too we learn the painful lesson of man's degradation and
unworthiness. We learn that humiliation and contrition are the tempers
of mind best suited to our fallen condition, and most acceptable in the
sight of our Creator. We learn that these (to the repression and
extinction of that spirit of arrogance and self-importance, so natural
to the heart of man) it should be our habitual care to cherish and
cultivate; studiously maintaining a continual sense, that, not only for
all the _natural_ advantages over others which we may possess, but that
for all our _moral_ superiority also, we are altogether indebted to the
unmerited goodness of God. It might perhaps be said to be the great end
and purpose of all revelation, and especially to be the design of the
Gospel, to reclaim us from our natural pride and selfishness, and their
fatal consequences; to bring us to a just sense of our weakness and
_depravity_; and to dispose us, with unfeigned humiliation, to abase
ourselves, and give glory to God. "No flesh may glory in his presence;
he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord"--"The lofty looks of man
shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and
the Lord alone shall be exalted[76]."

These solemn admonitions are too generally disregarded, and their
intimate connection with the subject we are now considering, appears to
have been often entirely overlooked, even by Christian moralists. These
authors, without reference to the main spring, and internal principle of
conduct, are apt to speak of the love of human applause, as being
meritorious or culpable, as being the desire of true or of false glory,
accordingly as the external actions it produces, and the pursuits to
which it prompts, are beneficial or mischievous to mankind. But it is
undeniably manifest, that in the judgment of the word of God, the love
of worldly admiration and applause is in its _nature_ essentially and
radically corrupt; so far as it partakes of a disposition to exalt and
aggrandize ourselves, to pride ourselves on our natural or acquired
endowments, or to assume to ourselves the merit and credit of our good
qualities, instead of ascribing all the honour and glory where only they
are due. Its _guilt_ therefore in these cases, is not to be measured by
its effects on the happiness of mankind; nor is it to be denominated
_true or false_ glory, accordingly as the ends to which it is directed
are beneficial or mischievous, just or unjust objects of pursuit; but it
is _false_, because it exalts that which ought to be abased, and
_criminal_, because it encroaches on the prerogative of God.

The Scriptures further instruct us, not merely that mankind are liable
to error, and therefore that the world's commendations _may be_
sometimes mistaken; but that their judgment being darkened and their
hearts depraved, its applauses and contempt will for the most part be
systematically misplaced; that though the beneficent and disinterested
spirit of Christianity, and her obvious tendency to promote domestic
comfort and general happiness, cannot but extort applause; yet that her
aspiring after more than ordinary excellence, by exciting secret
misgivings in others, or a painful sense of inferiority not unmixed with
envy, cannot fail often to disgust and offend. The word of God teaches
us, that though such of the doctrines and precepts of Christianity, as
are coincident with worldly interests and pursuits, and with worldly
principles and systems, may be professed without offence; yet, that what
is opposite to these, or even different from them, will be deemed
needlessly precise and strict, the indulgence of a morose and gloomy
humour, the symptoms of a contracted and superstitious spirit, the marks
of a mean, enslaved, or distorted understanding. That for these and
other reasons, the follower of Christ must not only make up his mind to
the _occasional relinquishment_ of worldly favour, but that it should
even afford him matter of holy jealousy and suspicion of himself, when
it is very lavishly and very generally bestowed.

But though the standard of worldly estimation differed less from that of
the Gospel; yet since our affections ought to be set on heavenly things,
and conversant about heavenly objects; and since in particular the love
and favour of God ought to be the matter of our supreme and habitual
desire, to which every other should be subordinated; it follows, that
the love of human applause must be manifestly injurious, so far as it
tends to draw down our regards to earthly concerns, and to bound and
circumscribe our desires within the narrow limits of this world.
Particularly, that it is _impure_, so far as it is tinctured with a
disposition to estimate too highly, and love too well, the good opinion
and commendations of man.

But though, by these and other instructions and considerations, the Holy
Scripture warns us against the inordinate desire or earnest pursuit of
worldly estimation and honour; though it so greatly reduces their value,
and prepares us for losing them without surprise, and for relinquishing
them with little reluctance: yet it teaches us, that Christians in
general are not only not called upon absolutely and voluntarily to
renounce or forego them; but that when, without our having solicitously
sought them, they are bestowed on us for actions intrinsically good, we
are to accept them as being intended by Providence, to be sometimes,
even in this disorderly state of things, a present solace, and a reward
to virtue. Nay more, we are instructed, that in our general deportment,
that in little particulars of conduct otherwise indifferent, that in the
_circumstances_ and _manner_ of performing actions in themselves of a
determined character and indispensable obligation, (guarding however
against the smallest degree of artifice or deceit) that by watching for
opportunities of doing little kindnesses, that by avoiding
singularities, and even humouring prejudices, where it may be done
without the slightest infringment on truth or duty, we ought to have a
due respect and regard to the approbation and favour of men. These
however we should not value, chiefly as they may administer to our own
gratification, but rather as furnishing means and instruments of
influence, which we may turn to good account, by making them subservient
to the improvement and happiness of our fellow creatures, and thus
conducive to the _glory of God_. The remark is almost superfluous, that
on occasions like these we must even watch our hearts with the most
jealous care, lest pride and self love insensibly infuse themselves, and
corrupt the purity of principles so liable to contract a taint.

Credit and reputation, in the judgment of the true Christian, stand on
ground not very different from riches; which he is not to prize highly,
or to desire and pursue with solicitude; but which, when they are
allotted to him by the hand of Providence, he is to accept with
thankfulness, and use with moderation; relinquishing them when it
becomes necessary, without a murmur; guarding most circumspectly, so
long as they remain with him, against that sensual and selfish temper,
and no less against that pride and wantonness of heart, which they are
too apt to produce and cherish; thus considering them as in themselves
acceptable, but, from the infirmity of his nature, as highly dangerous
possessions, and valuing them chiefly not as instruments of luxury or
splendour, but as affording the means of honouring his heavenly
Benefactor, and lessening the miseries of mankind.

Christianity however, as was formerly observed, proposes not to
extinguish our natural desires, but to bring them under just controul,
and direct them to their true objects. In the case both of riches and of
honour, she maintains the consistency of her character. While she
commands us not to set our hearts on _earthly_ treasures, she reminds us
that "we have in _Heaven_ a better and more enduring substance" than
this world can bestow; and while she represses our solicitude respecting
earthly credit, and moderates our attachment to it, she holds forth to
us, and bids us habitually to aspire after, the splendours of that
better state, where is true glory, and honour, and immortality; thus
exciting in us a just ambition, suited to our high origin, and worthy of
our large capacities, which the little, misplaced, and perishable
distinctions of this life would in vain attempt to satisfy.

It would be mere waste of time to enter into any laboured argument to
prove at large, that the light in which worldly credit and estimation
are regarded, by the bulk of professed Christians, is extremely
different from that in which they are placed by the page of Scripture.
The _inordinate_ love of _worldly glory_ indeed, implies a passion,
which from the nature of things cannot be called into exercise in the
generality of mankind, because, being conversant about great objects, it
can but rarely find that field which is requisite for its exertions. But
we every where discover the same principle reduced to the dimensions of
common life, and modified and directed according to every one's sphere
of action. We may discover it in a supreme love of distinction, and
admiration, and praise; in the universal acceptableness of flattery; and
above all in the excessive valuation of our worldly character, in that
watchfulness with which it is guarded, in that jealousy when it is
questioned, in that solicitude when it is in danger, in that hot
resentment when it is attacked, in that bitterness of suffering when it
is impaired or lost. All these emotions, as they are too manifest to be
disputed, so are they too reputable to be denied. Dishonour, disgrace,
and shame present images of horror too dreadful to be faced; they are
evils, which it is thought the mark of a generous spirit to consider as
excluding every idea of comfort and enjoyment, and to feel, in short, as
too heavy to be borne.

The consequences of all this are natural and obvious. Though it be not
openly avowed, that we are to follow after worldly estimation, or to
escape from worldly disrepute, when they can only be pursued or avoided
by declining from the path of duty; nay though the contrary be
recognized as being the just opinion; yet all the effect of this
speculative concession is soon done away _in fact_. Estimating worldly
credit as of the highest intrinsic excellence, and worldly shame as the
greatest of all possible evils, we sometimes shape and turn the path of
duty itself from its true direction, so as it may favour our acquisition
of the one, and avoidance of the other; or when this cannot be done, we
boldly and openly turn aside from it, declaring the temptation is too
strong to be resisted.

It were easy to adduce numerous proofs of the truth of these assertions.
It is proved, indeed, by that general tendency in Religion to conceal
herself from the view, (for we might hope that in these cases she often
is by no means altogether extinct) by her being apt to vanish from our
conversations, and even to give place to a pretended licentiousness of
sentiments and conduct, and a false shew of infidelity. It is proved, by
that complying acquiescence and participation in the habits and manners
of this dissipated age, which, has almost confounded every external
distinction between the Christian and the Infidel, and has made it so
rare to find any one who dares incur the charge of Christian
singularity, or who can say with the Apostle that "he is not ashamed of
the Gospel of Christ." It is proved (how can this proof be omitted by
one to whose lot it has so often fallen to witness and lament, sometimes
he fears to afford an instance of it?) by that quick resentment, those
bitter contentions, those angry retorts, those malicious triumphs, that
impatience of inferiority, that wakeful sense of past defeats, and
promptness to revenge them, which too often change the character of a
Christian deliberative Assembly, into that of a stage for prize
fighters: violating at once the proprieties of public conduct, and the
rules of social decorum, and renouncing and chasing away all the
charities of the Religion of Jesus!

But from all lesser proofs, our attention is drawn to one of a still
larger size, and more determined character. Surely the reader will here
anticipate our mention of the practice of Duelling: a practice which, to
the disgrace of a Christian society, has long been suffered to exist
with little restraint or opposition.

This practice, whilst it powerfully supports, mainly rests on, that
excessive over-valuation of character, which teaches that worldly credit
is to be preserved at _any_ rate, and disgrace at _any_ rate to be
avoided. The _unreasonableness_ of duelling has been often proved, and
it has often been shewn to be criminal on various principles: sometimes
it has been opposed on grounds hardly tenable; particularly when it has
been considered as an indication of malice and revenge[77]. But it
seems hardly to have been enough noticed in what chiefly consists its
_essential_ guilt; that it is a deliberate preference of the favour of
man, before the favour and approbation of God, _in articulo mortis_, in
an instance, wherein our own life, and that of a fellow creature are at
stake, and wherein we run the risk of rushing into the presence of our
Maker in the very act of offending him. It would detain us too long, and
it were somewhat beside our present purpose, to enumerate the
mischievous consequences which result from this practice. They are many
and great; and if regard be had merely to the temporal interests of men,
and to the well being of society, they are but poorly counterbalanced by
the plea, which must be admitted in its behalf by a candid observer of
human nature, of a courtesy and refinement in our modern manners unknown
to ancient times.

But there is one observation which must not be omitted, and which seems
to have been too much overlooked: In the judgment of that Religion which
requires purity of heart, and of that Being to whom, as was before
remarked, "thought is action," he cannot be esteemed innocent of this
crime, who lives in a settled habitual determination to commit it, when
circumstances shall call upon him so to do[78]. This is a consideration
which places the crime of duelling on a different footing from almost
any other; indeed there is perhaps NO other, which mankind habitually
and deliberately resolve to practise whenever the temptation shall
occur. It shews also that the crime of duelling is far more general in
the higher classes than is commonly supposed, and that the whole sum of
the guilt which the practice produces is great, beyond what has perhaps
been ever conceived! It will be the writer's comfort to have solemnly
suggested this consideration, to the consciences of those by whom this
impious practice might be suppressed: If such there be, which he is
strongly inclined to believe, their's is the crime, and their's the
responsibility of suffering it to continue[79].

In the foregoing observations, it has not been the writer's intention to
discuss completely that copious subject, the love of worldly estimation.
It would be to exceed the limits of a work like this, fully to
investigate so large, and at the same time so important a topic. Enough
however may have perhaps been said, to make it evident that this
principle is of a character highly _questionable_; that it should be
brought under absolute subjection, and watched with the most jealous
care: That, notwithstanding its lofty pretensions, it often can by no
means justly boast that high origin and exalted nature, which its
superficial admirers are disposed to concede to it. What real intrinsic
essential value, it might be asked, does there appear to be in a
virtue, which had wholly changed its nature and character, if public
opinion had been different? But it is in truth of base extraction, and
ungenerous qualities, springing from selfishness and vanity, and low
ambition; by these it subsists, and thrives, and acts; and envy, and
jealousy, and detraction, and hatred, and variance, are its too faithful
and natural associates. It is, to say the best of it, a root which bears
fruits of a poisonous as well as of a beneficial quality. If it
sometimes stimulates to great and generous enterprises, if it urges to
industry, and sometimes to excellence, if in the more contracted sphere
it produces courtesy and kindness; yet to its account we must place the
ambition which desolates nations, and many of the competitions and
resentments which interrupt the harmony of social life. The former
indeed has been often laid to its charge, but the latter have not been
sufficiently attended to; and still less has its _noxious_ influence on
the vital principle, and distinguishing graces of the Christian
character, been duly pointed out and enforced.

To read indeed the writings of certain Christian moralists,[80] and to
observe how little they seem disposed to call it in question, except
where it raves in the conqueror, one should be almost tempted to
suspect; that, considering it as a principle of such potency and
prevalence, as that they must despair of bringing it into just
subjection, they were intent only on complimenting it into good humour
(like those barbarous nations which worship the evil Spirit through
fear;) or rather, that they were making a sort of composition with an
enemy they could not master, and were willing, on condition of its
giving up the trade of war, to suffer it to rule undisturbed, and range
at pleasure.

But the truth is, that the reasonings of Christian moralists too often
exhibit but few traces of the genius of Christian morality. Of this
position, the case before us is an instance. This principle of the
desire of worldly distinction and applause, is often allowed, and even
commended, with too few qualifications, and too little reserve. To covet
wealth is base and sordid, but to covet honour is treated as the mark of
a generous and exalted nature. These writers scarcely seem to bear in
mind, that though the principle in question tends to prevent the
commission of those grosser acts of vice which would injure us in the
general estimation; yet that it not only stops there, but that it there
begins to exert almost an equal force in the opposite direction. They do
not consider how apt this principle is, even in the case of those who
move in a contracted sphere, to fill us with vain conceits, and vicious
passions; and above all how it tends to fix the affections on earthly
things, and to steal away the heart from God. They acknowledge it to be
criminal when it produces mischievous effects, but forget how apt it is,
by the substitution of a false and corrupt motive, to vitiate the purity
of our good actions, depriving them of all which rendered them truly and
essentially valuable. That, not to be too hastily approved, because it
takes the side of virtue, it often works her ruin while it asserts her
cause, and like some vile seducer, pretends affection only the more
surely to betray.

It is the distinguishing glory of Christianity not to rest satisfied
with superficial appearances, but to rectify the _motives_, and purify
the _heart_. The true Christian, in obedience to the lessons of
Scripture, no where keeps over himself a more resolute and jealous
guard, than where the desire of human estimation and distinction is in
question. No where does he more deeply feel the insufficiency of his
unassisted strength, or more diligently and earnestly pray for divine
assistance. He may well indeed watch and pray against the encroachments
of a passion, which, when suffered to transgress its just limits,
discovers a peculiar hostility to the distinguishing graces of the
Christian temper; a passion which must insensibly acquire force, because
it is in continual exercise; to which almost every thing _without_
administers nutriment, and the growth of which _within_ is favoured and
cherished by such powerful auxiliaries as pride and selfishness, the
natural and perhaps inexterminable inhabitants of the human heart; of
which the predominance, if established, is thus so pernicious, and which
possesses so many advantages for effecting its establishment.

Strongly impressed therefore with a sense of the indispensable necessity
of guarding against the progress of this encroaching principle, in
humble reliance on superior aid, the true Christian thankfully uses the
means, and habitually exercises himself in the considerations and
motives, suggested to him for that purpose by the word of God. He is
much occupied in searching out, and contemplating his own infirmities.
He endeavours to acquire and maintain a just conviction of his great
unworthiness; and to keep in continual remembrance, that whatever
distinguishes himself from others, is not properly his own, but that he
is altogether indebted for it to the undeserved bounty of Heaven. He
diligently endeavours also, habitually to preserve a _just_ sense of the
real worth of human distinction and applause, knowing that he shall
covet them less when he has learned not to over-rate their value. He
labours to bear in mind, how undeservedly they are often bestowed, how
precariously they are always possessed. The censures of good men justly
render him suspicious of himself, and prompt him carefully and
impartially to examine into those parts of his character, or those
particulars of his conduct, which have drawn on him their
animadversions. The favourable opinion and the praises of good men are
justly acceptable to him, where they accord with the testimony of his
own heart; that testimony being thereby confirmed and warranted. Those
praises favour also and strengthen the growth of mutual confidence and
affection, where it is his delight to form friendships, rich not less in
use than comfort, and to establish connections which may last for ever.
But even in the case of the commendations of good men, he suffers not
himself to be beguiled into an over-valuation of them, lest he should be
led to substitute them in the place of conscience. He guards against
this by reflecting how indistinctly we can discern each other's motives,
how little enter into each other's circumstances, how mistaken therefore
may be the judgments formed of us, or of our actions, even by good men,
and that it is far from improbable, that we may at some time be
compelled to forfeit their esteem, by adhering to the dictates of our
own consciences.

But if he endeavours thus to set loose to the favour and applause even
of good men, much more to those of the world at large; not but that he
is sensible of their worth as means and instruments of usefulness and
influence; and under the limitations and for the ends allowed in
Scripture (these it is needless to repeat) he is glad to possess,
observant to acquire, and careful to retain them. He considers them
however, if we may again introduce the metaphor, like the precious
metals, as having rather an exchangeable than an intrinsic value, as
desirable not simply in their possession, but in their use. In this
view, he holds himself to be responsible for that share of them which he
enjoys, and, to continue the figure, as bound not to let them lie by him
unemployed, this were hoarding; not to lavish them prodigally, this
would be waste; not imprudently to misapply them, this were folly and
caprice: but as under an obligation to regard them as conferred upon him
that they might be brought into action, and as what therefore he may by
no means throw away, though ready, if it be required, to relinquish them
with cheerfulness; and never feeling himself at liberty, in
consideration of the use he intends to make of them, to acquire or
retain them unlawfully. He holds it to be his bounden duty to seek
diligently for occasions of rendering them subservient to their true
purposes; and when any such occasion is found, to expend them cheerfully
and liberally, but with discretion and frugality; being no less prudent
in determining the measure, than in selecting the objects of their
application, that they may go the farther by being thus managed with
oeconomy.

Acting therefore on these principles, he will studiously and diligently
use any degree of worldly credit he may enjoy, in removing or lessening
prejudices; in conciliating good-will, and thereby making way for the
less obstructed progress of truth; and in providing for its being
entertained with candour, or even with favour, by those who would bar
all access against it in any rougher or more homely form. He will make
it his business to set on foot and forward benevolent and useful
schemes; and where they require united efforts, to obtain and preserve
for them this co-operation. He will endeavour to discountenance vice, to
bring modest merit into notice; to lend as it were his light to men of
real worth, but of less creditable name, and perhaps of less
conciliating qualities and manners; that they may thus shine with a
reflected lustre, and be useful in their turn, when invested with their
just estimation. But while by these and various other means he strives
to render his reputation, so long as he possesses it, subservient to the
great ends of advancing the cause of Religion and Virtue, and of
promoting the happiness and comfort of mankind, he will not transgress
the rule of the Scripture precepts in order to obtain, to cultivate, or
to preserve it, resolutely disclaiming that dangerous sophistry of
"doing evil that good may come." Ready however to relinquish his
reputation when required so to do, he will not throw it away; and so far
as he allowably may, he will cautiously avoid occasions of diminishing
it, instead of studiously seeking, or needlessly multiplying them, as
seems sometimes to have been the practice of worthy but imprudent men.
There will be no capricious humours, no selfish tempers, no moroseness,
no discourtesy, no affected severity of deportment, no peculiarity of
language, no indolent neglect, or wanton breach, of the ordinary forms
or fashions of society. His reputation is a possession capable of uses
too important to be thus sported away; if sacrificed at all, it shall be
sacrificed at the call of duty. The world shall be constrained to allow
him to be amiable, as well as respectable in other parts of his
character; though in what regards Religion, they may account him
unreasonably precise and strict. In this no less than in other
particulars, he will endeavour to reduce the enemies of Religion to
adopt the confession of the accusers of the Jewish ruler, "we shall not
find any fault or occasion against this Daniel--except concerning the
law of his God:" and even there, if he give offence, it will only be
where he dares not do otherwise; and if he fall into dis-esteem or
disgrace it shall not be chargeable to any conduct which is justly
dishonourable, or even to any unnecessary singularities on his part, but
to the false standard of estimation of a misjudging world. When his
character is thus mistaken, or his conduct thus misconstrued, he will
not wrap himself up in a mysterious sullenness; but will be ready, where
he thinks any one will listen to him with patience and candour, to clear
up what has been dubious, to explain what has been imperfectly known,
and "speaking the truth in love" to correct, if it may be, the erroneous
impressions which have been conceived of him. He may sometimes feel it
his duty publicly to vindicate his character from unjust reproach, and
to repel the false charges of his enemies; but he will carefully however
watch against being led away by pride, or being betrayed into some
breach of truth or of Christian charity, when he is treading in a path
so dangerous. At such a time he will also guard, with more than ordinary
circumspection, against any undue solicitude about his worldly
reputation for its own sake; and when he has done what duty requires for
its vindication, he will sit down with a peaceable and quiet mind, and
it will be matter of no very deep concern to him if his endeavours
should have been ineffectual. If good men in every age and nation have
been often unjustly calumniated and disgraced, and if, in such
circumstances, even the darkness of paganism has been able contentedly
to repose itself on the consciousness of innocence, shall one who is
cheered by the Christian's hope, who is assured also, that a day will
shortly come in which whatever is secret shall be made manifest, and the
mistaken judgments of men, perhaps even of good men, being corrected,
that "he shall then have praise of God;" shall such an one, I say, sink?
shall he even bend or droop under such a trial? They might be more
excusable in over-valuing human reputation to whom all beyond the grave
was dark and cheerless. They also might be more easily pardoned for
pursuing with some degree of eagerness and solicitude that glory which
might survive them, thus seeking as it were to extend the narrow span of
their earthly existence: but far different is our case, to whom these
clouds are rolled away, and "life and immortality brought to light by
the Gospel." Not but that worldly favour and distinction are amongst the
best things this world has to offer: but the Christian knows it is the
very condition of his calling, _not_ to have his portion here; and as in
the case of any other earthly enjoyments, so in that also of worldly
honour, he dreads, lest his supreme affections being thereby gratified,
it should be hereafter said to him "remember that thou in thy life time
receivedst thy good things."

He is required by his holy calling to be victorious over the world; and
to this victory, the conquest of the dread of its dis-esteem and
dishonour is essentially and indispensably required. He reflects on
those holy men who "had trial of cruel mockings;" he remembers that our
blessed Saviour himself "was despised and rejected of men;" and what is
he, that he should be exempted from the common lot, or think it much to
bear the scandal of his profession? If therefore he is creditable and
popular, he considers this, if the phrase may be pardoned, as something
beyond his bargain; and he watches himself, with double care, lest he
should grow over-fond of what he may be shortly called upon to
relinquish. He meditates often on the probability of his being involved
in such circumstances, as may render it necessary for him to subject
himself to disgrace and obloquy; thus familiarizing himself with them
betimes, and preparing himself, that when the trying hour arrives they
may not take him unawares.

But the cultivation of the desire of "that honour which cometh from
God," he finds the most effectual means of bringing his mind into a
proper temper, in what regards the love of human approbation. Christian!
would thou indeed reduce this affection under just controul--_sursum
corda!_ Rise on the wings of contemplation, until the praises and the
censures of men die away upon the ear, and the still small voice of
conscience is no longer drowned by the din of this nether world. Here
the sight is apt to be occupied with earthly objects, and the hearing to
be engrossed with earthly sounds; but there thou shalt come within the
view of that resplendent and incorruptible crown, which is held forth to
thy acceptance in the realms of light, and thine ear shall be regaled
with Heavenly melody! Here we dwell in a variable atmosphere--the
prospect is at one time darkened by the gloom of disgrace, and at
another the eye is dazzled by the gleamings of glory: but thou hast now
ascended above this inconstant region; no storms agitate, no clouds
obscure the air, and the lightnings play, and the thunders roll beneath
thee.

Thus, at chosen seasons, the Christian exercises himself; and when, from
this elevated region he descends into the plain below, and mixes in the
bustle of life, he still retains the impressions of his more retired
hours. By these he realizes to himself the unseen world; he accustoms
himself to speak and act as in the presence of "an innumerable company
of angels, and of the spirits of just men made perfect, and of God the
Judge of all;" the consciousness of _their_ approbation cheers and
gladdens his soul, under the scoffs and reproaches of an undiscerning
world, and to his delighted ear, their united praises form a _harmony_
which a few discordant earthly voices cannot interrupt.

But though the Christian be sometimes enabled thus to triumph over the
inordinate love of human applause, he does not therefore deem himself
secure from its encroachments. On the contrary, he is aware, so strong
and active is its principle of vitality, that even where it seems
extinct, let but circumstances favour its revival, and it will spring
forth again in renewed vigour. And as his watch must thus during life
know no termination, because the enemy will ever be at hand; so it must
be the more close and vigilant, because he is no where free from danger,
but is on every side open to attack. "Sume superbiam quæsitam meritis,"
was the maxim of a worldly moralist: but the Christian is aware, that he
is particularly assailable where he really excels; there he is in
especial danger, lest his motives, originally pure, being insensibly
corrupted, he should be betrayed into an anxiety about worldly favour,
false in principle or excessive in degree, when he is endeavouring to
render his virtue amiable and respected in the eyes of others, and in
obedience to the Scripture injunction, is willing to let his "light so
shine before men, that they may see his good works, and glorify his
Father which is in heaven."

He watches himself also on small as well as on great occasions: the
latter indeed, in the case of many persons, can hardly ever be expected
to occur, whereas the former are continually presenting themselves: and
thus, whilst on the one hand they may be rendered highly useful in
forming and strengthening a just habit of mind in the particular in
question; so, on the other, they are the means most at hand for enabling
us to discover our own real character. Let not this be slightly passed
over. If any one finds himself shrinking from disrepute or dis-esteem in
little instances; but apt to solace himself with the persuasion, that
his spirits being fully called forth to the encounter, he could boldly
stand the brunt of sharper trials; let him be slow to give entertainment
to so beguiling a suggestion; and let him not forget that these little
instances, where no credit is to be got, and the vainest can find small
room for self-complacency, furnish perhaps the truest tests whether we
are ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, and are willing, on principles
really pure, to bear reproach for the name of Jesus.

The Christian too is well aware that the excessive desire of human
approbation is a passion of so subtile a nature, that there is nothing
into which it cannot penetrate; and from much experience, learning to
discover it where it would lurk unseen, and to detect it under its more
specious disguises, he finds, that elsewhere disallowed and excluded, it
is apt to insinuate itself into his very religion, where it especially
delights to dwell, and obstinately maintains its residence. Proud piety
and ostentatious charity, and all the more open effects it there
produces, have been often condemned, and we may discover the tendencies
to them in ourselves, without difficulty. But where it appears not so
large in bulk, and in shape so unambiguous, let its operation be still
suspected. Let not the Christian suffer himself to be deceived by any
external dissimilitudes between himself and the world around him,
trusting perhaps to the sincerity of the principle to which they
originally owed their rise; but let him beware lest through the
insensible encroachments of the subtle usurper, his religion should at
length have "only a name to live," being gradually robbed of its
vivifying principle; lest he should be mainly preserved in his religious
course by the dread of incurring the charge of levity, for quitting a
path on which he had deliberately entered. Or where, on a strict and
impartial scrutiny of his governing motives, he may fairly conclude
this not to be the case, let him beware lest he be influenced by this
principle in particular parts of his character, and especially where any
external singularities are in question; closely scrutinizing his
apparent motives, lest he should be prompted to his more than ordinary
religious observances, and be kept from participating in the licentious
pleasures of a dissipated age, not so much by a vigorous principle of
internal holiness, as by a fear of lessening himself in the good opinion
of the stricter circle of his associates, or of suffering even in the
estimation of the world at large, by violating the proprieties of his
assumed character.

To those who, in the important particular which we have been so long
discussing, wish to conform themselves to the injunctions of the word of
God, we must advise a laborious watchfulness, a jealous guard, a close
and frequent scrutiny of their own hearts, that they may not mistake
their real character, and too late find themselves to have been
mistaken, as to what they had conceived to be their governing motives.
Above all, let them labour, with humble prayers for the Divine
assistance, to fix in themselves a deep, habitual, and practical sense
of the excellence of "that honour which cometh from God," and of the
comparative worthlessness of all earthly estimation and pre-eminence. In
truth, unless the affections of the soul be thus predominantly engaged
on the side of heavenly in preference to that of human honour, though we
may have relinquished the pursuit of fame, we shall not have acquired
that firm contexture of mind, which can bear disgrace and shame, without
yielding to the pressure. Between these two states there is a wide
interval, and he who, on a sober review of his conduct and motives,
finds reason to believe he has arrived at the one, must not therefore
conclude he has reached the other. To the one, a little natural
moderation and quietness of temper may be sufficient to conduct us: but
to the other, we can only attain by much discipline and slow advances;
and when we think we have made great way, we shall often find reason to
confess in the hour of trial, that we had greatly, far too greatly,
over-rated our progress.

When engaged too in the prosecution of this course, we must be aware of
the snares which lie in our way, and of the deceits to which we are
liable: and we must be provided against these impositions, by having
obtained a full and distinct conception of the temper of mind with
regard to human favour, which is prescribed to us in Scripture; and by
continually examining our hearts and lives to ascertain how far they
correspond with it. This will prevent our substituting contemplation in
the place of action, and giving ourselves too much up to those religious
meditations which were formerly recommended, in which we must not
indulge to the neglect of the common _duties_ of life: this will prevent
our mistaking the gratification of an indolent temper for the
Christian's disregard of fame; for, never let it be forgotten, we must
_deserve_ estimation, though we may not _possess_ it, forcing men of the
_world_ to acknowledge, that we do not want their boasted spring of
action to set us in motion; but that its place is better supplied to us
by another, which produces all the good of their's without its evil;
thus demonstrating the superiority of the principle which animates us,
by the superior utility and excellence of its effects. This principle,
in order to be pure and genuine, though nerved with more than mortal
firmness, must be sweetened by love, and tempered with humility. The
former of these qualities will render us kind, friendly, and beneficent,
preventing our being no longer on the watch to promote the happiness or
comfort of others, than whilst we are stimulated by the desire of their
applause; the produce of which passion, whatever may be vaunted of its
effects on social intercourse, is often nothing better than selfishness,
but ill concealed under a superficial covering of exterior courtesy.

Humility, again, reducing us in our own value, will moderate our claims
on worldly estimation. It will check our tendency to ostentation and
display, prompting us rather to avoid, than to attract notice. It will
dispose us to sit down in quiet obscurity, though, judging ourselves
impartially, we believe ourselves better entitled to credit, than those
on whom it is conferred; closing the entrance against a proud, painful,
and malignant passion, from which, under such circumstances, we can
otherwise be hardly free, the passion of "high disdain from sense of
injured merit."

Love and humility will concur in producing a frame of mind, not more
distinct from an ardent thirst of glory, than from that frigid
disregard, or insolent contempt, or ostentatious renunciation of human
favour and distinction, which we have sometimes seen opposed to it.
These latter qualities may not infrequently be traced to a slothful,
sensual, and selfish temper; to the consciousness of being unequal to
any great and generous attempts; to the disappointment of schemes of
ambition or of glory; to a little personal experience of the world's
capricious and inconstant humour. The renunciation in these cases,
however sententious, is often far from sincere; and it is even made not
unfrequently, with a view to the attainment of that very distinction
which it affects to disclaim. In some other of these instances, the
over-valuation and inordinate desire of worldly credit, however
disavowed, are abundantly evident, from the merit which is assumed for
relinquishing them; or from that sour and surly humour, which betrays a
gloomy and a corroded mind, galled and fretting under the irritating
sense of the want of that which it most wishes to possess.

But the Christian's is a far different temper: not a temper of sordid
sensuality, or lazy apathy, or dogmatizing pride, or disappointed
ambition: more truly independent of worldly estimation than philosophy
with all her boasts, it forms a perfect contrast to Epicurean
selfishness, and to Stoical pride, and to Cynical brutality. It is a
temper compounded of firmness, and complacency, and peace, and love; and
manifesting itself in acts of kindness and of courtesy; a kindness, not
pretended but genuine; a courtesy, not false and superficial, but
cordial and sincere. In the hour of popularity it is not intoxicated, or
insolent; in the hour of unpopularity, it is not desponding or morose;
unshaken in constancy, unwearied in benevolence, firm without roughness,
and assiduous without servility.

Notwithstanding the great importance of the topic which we have been
investigating, it will require much indulgence on the part of the
reader, to excuse the disproportionate length into which the discussion
has been almost insensibly drawn out: yet this, it is hoped, may not be
without its uses, if the writer have in any degree succeeded in his
endeavour, to point out the dangerous qualities and unchristian
tendencies of a principle, of such general predominance throughout the
higher classes of society, and to suggest to the serious inquirer some
practical hints for its regulation and controul. Since the principle
too, of which we have been treating, is one of the most ordinary
modifications of pride; the discussion may also serve in some degree to
supply a manifest deficiency, a deficiency to be ascribed to the fear of
trespassing too far on the reader's patience, in having but slightly
touched on the allowed prevalence of that master passion, and on the
allowed neglect of its opposite, humility.


SECTION IV.

_The generally prevailing Error, of substituting amiable Tempers and
useful Lives in the place of Religion, stated and confuted; with Hints
to real Christians._

There is another practical error very generally prevalent, the effects
of which are highly injurious to the cause of Religion; and which in
particular is often brought forward when, upon Christian principles, any
advocates for Christianity would press the practice of Christian
virtues. Before we proceed, therefore, to comment upon what remains to
be discussed, of the misconceptions and defects of the bulk of professed
Christians, it may not be amiss to dispose of this objection to our
whole scheme.

The error in question is that of exaggerating the merit of certain
amiable and useful qualities, and of considering them as of themselves
sufficient to compensate for the want of the supreme love and fear of
God.

It seems to be an opinion pretty generally prevalent, that kindness and
sweetness of temper; sympathizing, and benevolent, and generous
affections; attention to what in the world's estimation are the
domestic, relative, and social duties; and above all a life of general
activity and usefulness, may well be allowed, in our imperfect state, to
make up for the defect of what in strict propriety of speech is termed
Religion.

Many indeed will unreservedly declare, and more will hint the opinion,
that "the difference between the qualities above-mentioned and Religion,
is rather a verbal or logical, than a real and essential difference; for
in truth what are they but Religion in substance if not in name? Is it
not the great end of Religion, and in particular the glory of
Christianity, to extinguish the malignant passions; to curb the
violence, to controul the appetites, and to smooth the asperities of
man; to make us compassionate and kind, and forgiving one to another; to
make us good husbands, good fathers, good friends, and to render us
active and useful in the discharge of the relative, social, and civil
duties? We do not deny that in the general mass of society, and
particularly in the lower orders, such conduct and tempers cannot be
diffused and maintained by any other medium than that of Religion. But
if the end be effected, surely it is only unnecessary refinement to
dispute about the means. It is even to forget your own principles; and
to refuse its just place to solid practical virtue, while you assign too
high a value to speculative opinions."

Thus a fatal distinction is admitted between Morality and Religion: a
great and desperate error, of which it is the more necessary to take
notice; because many who would condemn, as too strong, the language in
which this opinion is sometimes openly avowed, are yet more or less
tinctured with the notion itself; and under the habitual and almost
unperceived influence of this beguiling suggestion, are vainly solacing
their imaginations, and repressing their well-grounded fears concerning
_their own_ state; and are also quieting their just solicitude
concerning the spiritual condition of _others_, and soothing themselves
in the neglect of friendly endeavours for their improvement.

There can hardly be a stronger proof of the cursory and superficial
views, with which men are apt to satisfy themselves in religious
concerns, than the prevalence of the opinion here in question; the
falsehood and sophistry of which must be acknowledged by any one who,
admitting the authority of Scripture, will examine it with ever so
little seriousness and impartiality of mind.

Appealing indeed to a less strict standard, it would not be difficult to
shew that the moral worth of these sweet and benevolent tempers, and of
these useful lives, is apt to be greatly over-rated. The former
involuntarily gain upon our affections and disarm our severer judgments,
by their kindly, complying, and apparently disinterested nature; by
their prompting men to flatter instead of mortifying our pride, to
sympathize either with our joys or our sorrows, to abound in obliging
attentions and offices of courtesy; by their obvious tendency to produce
and maintain harmony and comfort in social and domestic life. It is not
however unworthy of remark, that from the commendations which are so
generally bestowed on these qualities, and their rendering men
universally acceptable and popular, there is many a false pretender to
them, who gains a credit for them which he by no means deserves; in whom
they are no more than the proprieties of his assumed character, or even
a mask which is worn in public, only the better to conceal an opposite
temper. Would you see this man of courtesy and sweetness stripped of his
false covering, follow him unobserved into his family; and you shall
behold, too plain to be mistaken, selfishness and spleen harassing and
vexing the wretched subjects of their unmanly tyranny; as if being
released at length from their confinement, they were making up to
themselves for the restraint which had been imposed on them in the
world.

But where the benevolent qualities are genuine, they often deserve the
name rather of amiable instincts, than of moral virtues. In many cases,
they imply no mental conflict, no previous discipline: they are apt to
evaporate in barren sensibilities, and transitory sympathies, and
indolent wishes, and unproductive declarations: they possess not that
strength and energy of character, which, in contempt of difficulties and
dangers, produce alacrity in service, vigour and perseverance in action.
Destitute of proper firmness, they often encourage that vice and folly
which it is their especial duty to repress; and it is well if, from
their soft complying humour, they are not often drawn in to participate
in what is wrong, as well as to connive at it. Thus their possessors
are frequently, in the eye of truth and reason, bad magistrates, bad
parents, bad friends; defective in those very qualities, which give to
each of those several relations its chief and appropriate value. And
this, let it be also observed, is a defect which might well bring into
question that freedom from selfishness, which is so often claimed for
them; inasmuch as there is too great reason to fear, that it often
arises in us chiefly from indisposition to submit to a painful effort,
though real good-will commands the sacrifice, or from the fear of
lessening the regard in which we are held, and the good opinion which is
entertained of us.

It should farther also be observed concerning these qualities, when they
are not grounded and rooted in religion, that they are of a sickly and
short-lived nature, and want that hardy and vigorous temperament, which
is requisite for enabling them to bear without injury, or even to
survive, the rude shocks and the variable and churlish seasons, to which
in such a world as this they must ever be exposed. It is only a
_Christian_ love of which it is the character, that "it suffereth long,
and yet is kind;" "that it is not easily provoked, that it beareth all
things, and endureth all things." In the spring of youth indeed, the
blood flows freely through the veins; we are flushed with health and
confidence; hope is young and ardent, our desires are unsated, and
whatever we see has the grace of novelty; we are the more disposed to be
good-natured because we are pleased; pleased, because universally well
received. Wherever we cast our eyes, we see some face of friendship, and
love, and gratulation: All nature smiles around us. Now the amiable
tempers of which we have been speaking naturally spring up. The soil
suits, the climate favours them. They appear to shoot forth vigorously
and blossom in gay luxuriance. To the superficial eye, all is fair and
flourishing; we anticipate the fruits of Autumn, and promise ourselves
an ample produce. But by and by the sun scorches, the frost nips, the
winds rise, the rains descend; our golden dreams are blasted, all our
fond expectations are no more. Our youthful efforts let it be supposed
have been successful; and we rise to wealth or eminence. A kind flexible
temper and popular manners have produced in us, as they are too apt, a
youth of easy social dissipation, and unproductive idleness; and we are
overtaken too late by the consciousness of having wasted that time which
cannot be recalled, and those opportunities which we cannot now recover.
We sink into disregard and obscurity when, there being a call for
qualities of more energy, indolent good nature must fall back. We are
thrust out of notice by accident or misfortunes. We are left behind by
those with whom we started on equal terms, and who, originally perhaps
having less pretensions and fewer advantages, have greatly outstripped
us in the race of honour: and their having got before us is often the
more galling, because it appears to us, and perhaps with reason, to have
been chiefly owing to a generous easy good-natured humour on our part,
which disposed us to allow them at first to pass by us without jealousy,
and led us to give place without a struggle to their more lofty
pretensions. Thus we suffered them quietly to occupy a station to which
originally we had as fair a claim as they; but, this station being once
tamely surrendered, we have forfeited it for ever. Our aukward and vain
endeavours meanwhile to recover it, while they shew that we want
self-knowledge and composure in our riper years, as much as in our
younger we had been destitute of exertion, serve only to make our
inferiority more manifest, and to bring our discontent into the fuller
notice of an ill-natured world, which however not unjustly condemns and
ridicules our misplaced ambition.

It may be sufficient to have hinted at a few of the vicissitudes and
changes of advancing life; let the reader's own mind fill up the
catalogue. Now the bosom is no longer cheerful and placid; and if the
countenance preserve its exterior character, this is no longer the
honest expression of the heart. Prosperity and luxury, gradually
extinguishing sympathy, and puffing up with pride, harden and debase the
soul. In other instances, shame secretly clouds, and remorse begins to
sting, and suspicion to corrode, and jealousy and envy to embitter.
Disappointed hopes, unsuccessful competitions, and frustrated pursuits,
sour and irritate the temper. A little personal experience of the
selfishness of mankind, damps our generous warmth and kind affections;
reproving the prompt sensibility and unsuspecting simplicity of our
earlier years. Above all, ingratitude sickens the heart, and chills and
thickens the very life's-blood of benevolence: till at length our
youthful Nero, soft and susceptible, becomes a hard and cruel tyrant;
and our youthful Timon, the gay, the generous, the beneficent, is
changed into a cold, sour, silent misanthrope.

And as in the case of amiable tempers, so in that also of what are
called useful lives, it must be confessed that their intrinsic worth,
arguing still merely on principles of reason, is apt to be greatly
over-rated. They are often the result of a disposition naturally
bustling and active, which delights in motion, and finds its labour more
than repaid, either by the very pleasure which it takes in its
employments, or by the credit which it derives from them. More than
this; if it be granted that Religion tends in general to produce
usefulness, particularly in the lower orders, who compose a vast
majority of every society; and therefore that these irreligious men of
useful lives are rather exceptions to the general rule; it must at least
be confessed that they are so far useless, or even positively
mischievous, as they either neglect to encourage or actually discourage
that principle, which is the great operative spring of usefulness in the
bulk of mankind.

Thus it might well perhaps be questioned, estimating these men by their
own standard, whether the _particular_ good in this case, is not more
than counterbalanced by the _general_ evil; still more, if their conduct
being brought to a strict account, they should be charged, as they
justly ought, with the loss of the good which, if they had manifestly
and avowedly acted from a higher principle, might have been produced,
not only directly in themselves, but indirectly and remotely in others,
from the extended efficacy of a religious example. They may be compared,
not unaptly, to persons whom some peculiarity of constitution enables to
set at defiance those established rules of living, which must be
observed by the world at large. These healthy debauchees, however they
may plead in their defence that they do themselves no injury, would
probably, but for their excesses, have both enjoyed their health
better, and preserved it longer, as well as have turned it to better
account; and it may at least be urged against them, that they disparage
the laws of temperance, and fatally betray others into the breach of
them, by affording an instance of their being transgressed with
impunity.

But were the merit of the qualities in question greater than it is, and
though it were not liable to the exceptions which have been alleged
against it, yet could they be in no degree admitted, as a compensation
for the want of the supreme love and fear of God, and of a predominant
desire to promote his glory. The observance of one commandment, however
clearly and forcibly enjoined, cannot make up for the neglect of
another, which is enjoined with equal clearness and equal force. To
allow this plea in the present instance, would be to permit men to
abrogate the first table of the law on condition of their obeying the
second. But Religion suffers not any such _composition_ of duties. It is
on the very self same miserable principle, that some have thought to
atone for a life of injustice and rapine by the strictness of their
religious observances. If the former class of men can plead the diligent
discharge of their duties to their fellow-creatures, the latter will
urge that of their's to God. We easily see the falsehood of the plea in
the latter case; and it is only self deceit and partiality which prevent
its being equally visible in the former. Yet so it is; such is the
unequal measure, if I may be allowed the expression, which we deal out
to God, and to each other. It would justly and universally be thought
false confidence in the religious thief or the religious adulterer, (to
admit for the sake of argument such a solecism in terms) to solace
himself with the firm persuasion of the Divine favour: but it will, to
many, appear hard and precise, to deny this firm persuasion of Divine
approbation to the avowedly irreligious man of social and domestic
usefulness.

Will it here be urged, that the writer is not doing justice to his
opponent's argument; which is not, that irreligious men of useful lives
may be excused for neglecting their duties towards God, in consideration
of their exemplary discharge of their duties towards their
fellow-creatures; but that in performing the latter they perform the
former _virtually_, and _substantially_, if not in name?

Can then our opponent deny, that the Holy Scriptures are in nothing more
full, frequent, strong, and unequivocal, than in their injunctions on us
supremely to love and fear God, and to worship and serve him continually
with humble and grateful hearts; habitually regarding him as our
Benefactor, and Sovereign, and Father, and abounding in sentiments of
gratitude and loyalty, and respectful affection? Can he deny that these
positive precepts are rendered, if possible, still more clear, and their
authority still more binding, by illustrations and indirect
confirmations almost innumerable? And who then is that bold intruder
into the counsels of infinite wisdom, who, in palpable contempt of these
precise commands, thus illustrated also and confirmed, will dare to
maintain that, knowing the intention with which they were primarily
given and the ends they were ultimately designed to produce, he may
innocently neglect or violate their plain obligations; on the plea that
he conforms himself, though in a different manner, to this primary
intention, and produces, though by different means, these real and
ultimate ends?

This mode of arguing is one, with which, to say nothing of its insolent
prophaneness, the heart of man, prone to deceive himself and partial in
his own cause, is not fit to be trusted. Here again, more cautious and
jealous in the case of our worldly, than of our religious interests, we
readily discern the fallacy of this reasoning and protest against it,
when it is attempted to be introduced into the commerce of life. We see
clearly that it would afford the means of refining away by turns every
moral obligation. The adulterer might allow himself with a good
conscience, to violate the bed of his unsuspecting friend, whenever he
could assure himself that his crime would escape detection; for then,
where would be the evil and misery, the prevention of which was the real
ultimate object of the prohibition of adultery? The thief, in like
manner, and even the murderer, might find abundant room for the
_innocent_ exercise of their respective occupations, arguing from the
primary intention and real objects of the commands, by which theft and
murder were forbidden. There perhaps exists not a crime, to which this
crooked morality would not furnish some convenient opening.

But this miserable sophistry deserves not that we should spend so much
time in the refutation of it. To discern its fallaciousness, requires
not acuteness of understanding, so much as a little common honesty.
"There is indeed no surer mark of a false and hollow heart, than a
disposition thus to quibble away the clear injunctions of duty and
conscience[81]:" It is the wretched resource of a disingenuous mind,
endeavouring to escape from convictions before which it cannot stand,
and to evade obligations which it dares not disavow.

The arguments which have been adduced would surely be sufficient to
disprove the extravagant pretensions of the qualities under
consideration, though those qualities were _perfect_ in their _nature_.
But they are not perfect. On the contrary, they are radically defective
and corrupt; they are a body without a soul; they want the vital
actuating principle, or rather they are animated and actuated by a false
one. Christianity, let me avail myself of the very words of a friend[82]
in maintaining her argument, is "a Religion of Motives." _That_ only is
Christian practice, which flows from Christian principles; and none else
will be admitted as such by Him, who will be obeyed as well as
worshipped "in spirit and in truth."

This also is a position of which, in our intercourse with our
fellow-creatures, we clearly discern the justice, and universally admit
the force. Though we have received a benefit at the hands of any one, we
scarcely feel grateful, if we do not believe the intention towards us to
have been friendly. Have we served any one from motives of kindness, and
is a return of service made to us? We hardly feel ourselves worthily
requited, except that return be dictated by gratitude. We should think
ourselves rather injured than obliged by it, if it were merely prompted
by a proud unwillingness to continue in our debt[83]. What husband, or
what father, not absolutely dead to every generous feeling, would be
satisfied with a wife or a child; who, though he could not charge them
with any actual breach of their respective obligations, should yet
confessedly perform them from a cold sense of duty, in place of the
quickening energies of conjugal, and filial affection? What an insult
would it be to such an one, to tell him gravely that he had no reason to
complain!

The unfairness, with which we suffer ourselves to reason in matters of
Religion, is no where more striking than in the instance before us. It
were perhaps not unnatural to suppose that, as we cannot see into each
other's bosoms, and have no sure way of judging any one's internal
principles but by his external actions, it would have grown into an
established rule, that when the latter were unobjectionable, the former
were not to be questioned; and on the other hand, that in reference to a
Being who searches the heart, our motives, rather than our external
actions, would be granted to be the just objects of inquiry. But we
exactly reverse these natural principles of reasoning. In the case of
our fellow-creatures, the motive is that which we principally inquire
after and regard. But in the case of our Supreme Judge, from whom no
secrets are hid, we suffer ourselves to believe that internal principles
may be dispensed with, if the external action be performed!

Let us not however be supposed ready to concede, in contradiction to
what has been formerly contended, that where the true motive is wanting,
the external actions themselves will not generally betray the defect.
Who is there that will not confess in the instance so lately put, of a
wife and a child who should discharge their respective obligations
merely from a cold sense of duty, that the inferiority of their
actuating principle would not be confined to its _nature_, but would be
discoverable also in its _effects_? Who is there that does not feel that
these domestic services, thus robbed of their vital spirit, would be so
debased and degraded in our estimation, as to become not barely lifeless
and uninteresting, but even distasteful and loathsome? Who will deny
that these would be performed in fuller measure, with more wakeful and
unwearied attention, as well as with more _heart_; where with the same
sense of duty the enlivening principle of affection should be also
associated?

The enemies of Religion are sometimes apt to compare the irreligious
man, of a temper naturally sweet and amiable, with the religious man of
natural roughness and severity; the irreligious man of natural activity,
with the religious man who is naturally indolent; and thence to draw
their inferences. But this mode of reasoning is surely unjust. If they
would argue the question fairly, they should make their comparisons
between persons of similar natural qualities, and not in one or two
examples, but in a mass of instances. They would then be compelled to
confess the efficacy of Religion, in heightening the benevolence and
increasing the usefulness of men: and to admit that, granting the
occasional but rare existence of genuine and persevering benevolence of
disposition and usefulness of life, where the religious principle is
wanting; yet that experience gives us reason to believe, that true
Religion, while it would have implanted these qualities in persons in
whom before they had no place, would in general have given, to these
very characters in whom they do exist, additional force in the same
direction. It would have rendered the amiable more amiable, the useful
more useful, with fewer inconsistencies, with less abatement.

Let _true Christians_ meanwhile be ever mindful, that _they_ are loudly
called upon to make this argument still more clear, these positions
still less questionable. You are every where commanded to be tender and
sympathetic, diligent and useful; and it is the character of that
"wisdom from above," in which you are to be proficients, that it "is
gentle and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits." Could
the efficacy of Christianity in softening the heart be denied by those,
who saw in the instance of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, that it
was able to transform a bigotted, furious, and cruel persecutor, into an
almost unequalled example of candour, and gentleness, and universal
tenderness and love? Could its spirit of active beneficence be denied by
those, who saw its Divine Author so diligent and unwearied in his
benevolent labours, as to justify the compendious description which was
given of him by a personal witness of his exertions, that he "went about
doing good?" Imitate these blessed examples: so shall you vindicate the
honour of your profession, and "put to silence the ignorance of foolish
men:" so shall you obey those Divine injunctions of adorning the
doctrine of Christ, and of "letting your light shine before men, that
they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in
heaven." Beat the world at its own best weapons. Let your love be more
affectionate, your mildness less open to irritation, your diligence more
laborious, your activity more wakeful and persevering. Consider
sweetness of temper and activity of mind, if they naturally belong to
you, as talents of special worth and utility, for which you will have to
give account. Carefully watch against whatever might impair them,
cherish them with constant assiduity, keep them in continual exercise,
and direct them to their noblest ends. The latter of these qualities
renders it less difficult, and therefore more incumbent on you, to be
ever abounding in the work of the Lord; and to be copious in the
production of that species of good fruit, of which mankind in general
will be most ready to allow the excellence, because they best understand
its nature. In _your_ instance, the solid substance of Christian
practice is easily susceptible of that high and beautiful polish, which
may attract the attention, and extort the admiration of a careless and
undiscerning world, so slow to notice, and so backward to acknowledge,
intrinsic worth, when concealed under a less sightly exterior. Know
then, and value as ye ought, the honourable office which is especially
devolved on you. Let it be your acceptable service to recommend the
discredited cause, and sustain the fainting interests of Religion, to
furnish to her friends matter of sound and obvious argument, and of
honest triumph; and if your best endeavours cannot conciliate, to refute
at least, and confound her enemies.

If on the other hand, you are conscious that you are naturally rough and
austere, that disappointments have soured, or prosperity has elated you,
or that habits of command have rendered you quick in expression, and
impatient of contradiction; or if, from whatever other cause, you have
contracted an unhappy peevishness of temper, or asperity of manners, or
harshness and severity of language, (remember that these defects are by
no means incompatible with an aptness to perform services of substantial
kindness); if nature has been confirmed by habit till at length your
soul seems thoroughly tinctured with these evil dispositions, yet do not
despair. Remember that the Divine Agency is promised, "to take away the
heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh," of which it is the natural
property to be tender and susceptible. Pray then earnestly and
perseveringly, that the blessed aid of Divine Grace may operate
effectually on your behalf. Beware of acquiescing in the evil tempers in
question, under the idea that they are the ordinary imperfections of the
best of men; that they shew themselves only in little instances; that
they are only occasional, hasty, and transient effusions, when you are
taken off your guard; the passing shade of your mind, and not the
settled colour. Beware of excusing or allowing them in yourself, under
the notion of warm zeal for the cause of Religion and virtue, which you
perhaps own is now and then apt to carry you into somewhat over-great
severity of judgment, or sharpness in reproof. Listen not to these, or
any other such flattering excuses, which your own heart will be but too
ready to suggest to you. Scrutinize yourself rather with rigorous
strictness; and where there is so much room for self-deceit, call in the
aid of some faithful friend, and unbosoming yourself to him without
concealment, ask his impartial and unreserved opinion of your behaviour
and condition. Our unwillingness to do this, often betrays to others,
(not seldom it first discovers to ourselves) that we entertain a secret
distrust of our own character and conduct. Instead also of extenuating
to yourself the criminality of the vicious tempers under consideration,
strive to impress your mind deeply with a sense of it. For this end,
often consider seriously, that these rough and churlish tempers are a
direct contrast to the "meekness and gentleness of Christ;" and that
Christians are strongly and repeatedly enjoined to copy after their
great Model in these particulars, and to be themselves patterns of
"mercy and kindness, and humbleness of mind, and meekness, and long
suffering." They are to "put away all bitterness, and wrath, and anger,
and clamour, and evil speaking," not only "being ready to every good
work, but being _gentle_ unto _all_ men," "shewing _all_ meekness unto
_all_ men," "forbearing, forgiving," tender hearted. Remember the
Apostle's declaration, that "if any man bridleth not his tongue, he only
seemeth to be religious, and deceiveth his own heart;" and that it is
one of the characters of that love, without which all pretensions to the
name of Christian are but vain, that "it doth not behave itself
unseemly." Consider how much these acrimonious tempers must break in
upon the peace, and destroy the comfort, of those around you. Remember
also that the honour of your Christian profession is at stake, and be
solicitous not to discredit it: justly dreading lest you should disgust
those whom you ought to conciliate; and by conveying an unfavourable
impression of your principles and character, should incur the guilt of
putting an "offence in your brother's way;" thereby "hindering the
Gospel of Christ," the advancement of which should be your daily and
assiduous care.

Thus having come to the full knowledge of your disease, and to a just
impression of its malignity, strive against it with incessant
watchfulness. Guard with the most jealous circumspection against its
breaking forth into act. Force yourself to abound in little offices of
courtesy and kindness; and you shall gradually experience in the
performance of these a pleasure hitherto unknown, and awaken in yourself
the dormant principles of sensibility. But take not up with external
amendment; guard against a false shew of sweetness of disposition; and
remember that the Christian is not to be satisfied with the world's
superficial courtliness of demeanor, but that his "Love is to be without
dissimulation." Examine carefully, whether the unchristian tempers,
which you would eradicate, are not maintained in vigour by selfishness
and pride; and strive to subdue them effectually, by extirpating the
roots from which they derive their nutriment. Accustom yourself to
endeavour to look attentively upon a careless and inconsiderate world,
which, while it is in such imminent peril, is so ignorant of its danger.
Dwell upon this affecting scene, till it has excited your pity; and this
pity, while it melts the mind to Christian love, shall insensibly
produce a temper of habitual sympathy and softness. By means like these,
perseveringly used in constant dependence on Divine aid, you may
confidentially hope to make continual progress. Among men of the world,
a youth of softness and sweetness will often, as we formerly remarked,
harden into insensibility, and sharpen into moroseness. But it is the
office of Christianity to reverse this order. It is pleasing to witness
this blessed renovation: to see, as life advances, asperities gradually
smoothing down, and roughnesses mellowing away: while the subject of
this happy change experiences within, increasing measures of the comfort
which he diffuses around him; and feeling the genial influences of that
heavenly flame which can thus give life, and warmth, and action, to what
had been hitherto rigid and insensible, looks up with gratitude to him
who has shed abroad this principle of love in his heart;

    Miraturque novas frondes et non sua poma.

Let it not be thought that in the foregoing discussion, the amiable and
useful qualities, where they are not prompted and governed by a
principle of religion, have been spoken of in too disparaging terms. Nor
would I be understood as unwilling to concede to those who are living in
the exercise of them, their proper tribute of commendation: Inest sua
gratia. Of such persons it must be said, in the language of scripture,
"they have their reward." They have it in the inward complacency, which
a sweet temper seldom fails to inspire; in the comforts of the domestic
or social circle; in the pleasure which from the constitution of our
nature accompanies pursuit and action. They are always beloved in
private, and generally respected in public life. But when devoid of
Religion, if the word of God be not a fable, "they cannot enter into the
kingdom of Heaven." True practical Christianity (never let it be
forgotten) consists in devoting the heart and life to God; in being
supremely and habitually governed by a desire to know, and a disposition
to fulfil his will, and in endeavouring under the influence of _these
motives_ to "live to his glory." Where these essential requisites are
wanting, however amiable the character may be, however creditable and
respectable among men; yet as it possesses not the grand distinguishing
essence, it must not be complimented with the name, of Christianity.
This however, when the external decorums of Religion are not violated,
must commonly be a matter between God and a man's own conscience; and we
ought never to forget how strongly we are enjoined to be candid and
liberal in judging of the motives of others, while we are strict in
scrutinizing and severe in questioning our own. And this strict scrutiny
is no where more necessary, because there is no where more room for the
operation of self-deceit. We are all extremely prone to lend ourselves
to the good opinion which, however falsely, is entertained of us by
others; and though we at first confusedly suspect, or even indubitably
know, that their esteem is unfounded, and their praises undeserved, and
that they would have thought and spoken of us very differently, if they
had discerned our secret motives, or had been accurately acquainted with
all the circumstances of our conduct; we gradually suffer ourselves to
adopt their judgment of us, and at length feel that we are in some sort
injured or denied our due, when these false commendations are
contradicted or withheld. Without the most constant watchfulness, and
the most close and impartial self-examination, irreligious people of
amiable tempers, and still more those of useful lives, from the general
popularity of their character, will be particularly liable to become the
dupes of this propensity. Nor is it they only who have here need to be
on their guard: men of real religion will also do well to watch against
this delusion. There is however another danger to which these are still
more exposed, and against which it is the rather necessary to warn them,
because of our having insisted so strongly on their being bound to be
diligent in the discharge of the active duties of life. In their
endeavours to fulfil this obligation, let them specially beware, lest
setting out on right principles, they insensibly lose them in the course
of their progress; lest engaging originally in the business and bustle
of the world, from a sincere and earnest desire to promote the glory of
God, their minds should become so heated and absorbed in the pursuit of
their object, as that the true motive of action should either altogether
cease to be an habitual principle, or should at least lose much of its
life and vigour; lest their thoughts and affections being engrossed by
temporal concerns, their sense of the reality of "unseen things" should
fade away, and they should lose their relish for the employments and
offices of Religion.

The Christian's path is beset with dangers--On the one hand, he justly
dreads an inactive and unprofitable life; on the other, he no less
justly trembles for the loss of that spiritual-mindedness, which is the
very essence and power of his profession. This is not quite the place
for the full discussion of the difficult topic here in question: and if
it were, the writer of these sheets is too conscious of his own
incompetencies, not to be desirous of asking rather than of giving
advice respecting it. Yet, as it is a matter which has often engaged his
most serious consideration, and has been the frequent subject of his
anxious inquiry into the writings and opinions of far better
instructors, he will venture to deliver a few words on it, offering
them with unaffected diffidence.

Does then the Christian discover in himself, judging not from accidental
and occasional feelings, on which little stress is either way to be
laid, but from the permanent and habitual temper of his mind, a settled,
and still more a growing, coldness and indisposition towards the
considerations and offices of Religion? And has he reason to apprehend
that this coldness and indisposition are owing to his being engaged too
much or too earnestly in worldly business, or to his being too keen in
the pursuit of worldly objects? Let him carefully examine the state of
his own heart, and seriously and impartially survey the circumstances of
his situation in life; humbly praying to the Father of light and mercy,
that he may be enabled to see his way clearly in this difficult
emergency. If he finds himself pursuing wealth, or dignity, or
reputation, with earnestness and solicitude; if these things engage many
of his thoughts; if his mind naturally and inadvertently runs out into
contemplations of them; if success in these respects greatly gladdens,
and disappointments dispirit and distress his mind; he has but too plain
grounds for self-condemnation. "No man can serve two masters." The world
is evidently in possession of his heart, and it is no wonder that he
finds himself dull, or rather dead, to the impression and enjoyment of
spiritual things.

But though the marks of predominant estimation and regard for earthly
things be much less clear and determinate; yet if the object which he is
pursuing be one which, by its attainment, would bring him a considerable
accession of riches, station, or honour, let him soberly and fairly
question and examine whether the pursuit be warrantable? here also,
asking the advice of some judicious friend; his backwardness to do
which, in instances like these, should justly lead him, as was before
remarked, to distrust the reasonableness of the schemes which he is
prosecuting. In such a case as this, we have good cause to distrust
ourselves. Though the inward hope, that we are chiefly prompted by a
desire to promote the glory of our Maker, and the happiness of our
fellow-creatures, by increasing our means of usefulness, may suggest
itself to allay, yet let it not altogether remove, our suspicions. It is
not improbable, that beneath this plausible mask we conceal, more
successfully perhaps from ourselves than from others, an inordinate
attachment to the pomps and transitory distinctions of this life; and as
this attachment gains the ascendency, it will ever be found, that our
perception and feeling of the supreme excellence of heavenly things will
proportionably subside.

But when the consequences which would follow from the success of our
worldly pursuits do not render them so questionable, as in the case we
have been just considering; yet, having such good reason to believe that
there is somewhere a flaw, could we but discover it, let us carefully
scrutinize the whole of our conduct, taking that word in its largest
sense; in order to discover whether we may not be living either in the
breach or in the omission of some known duty, and whether it may not
therefore have pleased God to withdraw from us the influence of his Holy
Spirit; particularly inquiring, whether the duties of self-examination,
of secret and public prayer, the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and
the other prescribed means of Grace, have not been either wholly
intermitted at their proper seasons, or at least been performed with
precipitation or distraction? And if we find reason to believe, that the
allotment of time, which it would be most for our spiritual improvement
to assign to our religious offices, is often broken in upon and
curtailed; let us be extremely backward to admit excuses for such
interruptions and abridgments. It is more than probable, for many
obvious reasons, that even our worldly affairs themselves will not on
the long run, go on the better for encroaching upon those hours, which
ought to be dedicated to the more immediate service of God, and to the
cultivation of the inward principles of Religion. Our hearts at least
and our conduct will soon exhibit proofs of the sad effects of this
fatal negligence. They who in a crazy vessel navigate a sea wherein are
shoals and currents innumerable, if they would keep their course or
reach their port in safety, must carefully repair the smallest injuries,
and often throw out their line and take their observations. In the
voyage of life also the Christian who would not make shipwreck of his
faith, while he is habitually watchful and provident, must often make it
his express business to look into his state, and ascertain his progress.

But to resume my subject; let us when engaged in this important
scrutiny, impartially examine ourselves whether the worldly objects
which engross us, are all of them such as properly belong to our
profession, or station, or circumstances in life; which therefore we
could not neglect with a good conscience? If they be, let us consider
whether they do not consume a larger share of our time than they really
require; and whether, by not trifling over our work, by deducting
somewhat which might be spared from our hours of relaxation, or by some
other little management, we might not fully satisfy their just claims,
and yet have an increased overplus of leisure, to be devoted to the
offices of Religion.

But if we deliberately and honestly conclude that we ought not to give
these worldly objects less of our _time_, let us endeavour at least to
give them less of our _hearts_: striving that the settled frame of our
_desires_ and affections may be more spiritual; and that in the motley
intercourses of life we may constantly retain a more lively sense of the
Divine presence, and a stronger impression of the reality of unseen
things; thus corresponding with the Scripture description of true
Christians, "walking by faith and not by sight, and having our
conversation in Heaven."

Above all, let us guard against the temptation, to which we shall
certainly be exposed, of lowering down our views to our state, instead
of endeavouring to rise to the level of our views. Let us rather
determine to know the worst of our case, and strive to be suitably
affected with it; not forward to speak peace to ourselves, but patiently
carrying about with us a deep conviction of our backwardness and
inaptitude to religious duties, and a just sense of our great weakness
and numerous infirmities. This cannot be an unbecoming temper, in those
who are commanded to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling."
It prompts to constant and earnest prayer. It produces that sobriety,
and lowliness and tenderness of mind, that meekness of demeanor and
circumspection in conduct, which are such eminent characteristics of
the true Christian.

Nor is it a state devoid of consolation--"O tarry thou the Lord's
leisure, be strong and he shall comfort thy heart."--"They that wait on
the Lord, shall renew their strength."--"Blessed are they that mourn,
for they shall be comforted." These Divine assurances sooth and
encourage the Christian's disturbed and dejected mind, and insensibly
diffuse a holy composure. The tint may be solemn, nay even melancholy,
but it is mild and grateful. The tumult of his soul has subsided, and he
is possessed by complacency, and hope, and love. If a sense of
undeserved kindness fill his eyes with tears, they are tears of
reconciliation and joy: while a generous ardour springing up within him
sends him forth to his worldly labours "fervent in spirit;" resolving
through the Divine aid to be henceforth more diligent and exemplary in
living to the Glory of God, and longing meanwhile for that blessed time,
when, "being freed from the bondage of corruption," he shall be enabled
to render to his Heavenly Benefactor more pure and acceptable service.

After having discussed so much at large the whole question concerning
amiable tempers in general, it may be scarcely necessary to dwell upon
that particular class of them which belongs to the head of generous
emotions, or of exquisite sensibility. To these almost all which has
been said above is strictly applicable; to which it may be added, that
the persons in whom the latter qualities most abound, are often far from
conducing to the peace and comfort of their nearest connections. These
qualities indeed may be rendered highly useful instruments, when
enlisted into the service of Religion. But we ought to except against
them the more strongly, when not under her controul; because there is
still greater danger than in the former case, that persons in whom they
abound, may be flattered into a false opinion of themselves by the
excessive commendations often paid to them by others, and by the
beguiling complacencies of their own minds, which are apt to be puffed
up with a proud though secret consciousness of their own superior
acuteness and sensibility. But it is the less requisite to enlarge on
this topic, because it has been well discussed by many, who have
unfolded the real nature of those fascinating qualities; who have well
remarked, that though shewy and apt to catch the eye, they are of a
flimsy and perishable fabric, not of that less gaudy but more
substantial and durable texture, which, imparting permanent warmth and
comfort, will long preserve its more sober honours, and stand the wear
and tear of life, and the vicissitudes of seasons. It has been shewn,
that these qualities often fail us when most we want their aid; that
their possessors can solace themselves with their imaginary exertions in
behalf of ideal misery, and yet shrink from the labours of active
benevolence, or retire with disgust from the homely forms of real
poverty and wretchedness. In fine, the superiority of true Christian
charity and of plain practical beneficence has been ably vindicated; and
the school of Rousseau has been forced to yield to the school of Christ,
when the question has been concerning the best means of promoting the
comfort of family life, or the temporal well-being of society[84].


SECTION V.

_Some other grand defects in the practical system of the Bulk of nominal
Christians._

In the imperfect sketch which has been drawn of the Religion of the bulk
of nominal Christians, their fundamental error respecting the essential
nature of Christianity has been discussed, and traced into some of its
many mischievous consequences. Several of their particular
misconceptions and allowed defects have also been pointed out and
illustrated. It may not be improper to close the survey by noticing
some others, for the existence of which we may now appeal to almost
every part of the preceding delineation.

In the first place, then, there appears throughout, both in the
principles and allowed conduct of the bulk of nominal Christians, a most
inadequate idea of the _guilt and evil of sin_. We every where find
reason to remark, that, as was formerly observed, Religion is suffered
to dwindle away into a mere matter of _police_. Hence the guilt of
actions is estimated, not by the proportion in which, according to
Scripture, they are offensive to God, but by that in which they are
injurious to society. Murder, theft, fraud in all its shapes, and some
species of lying, are manifestly, and in an eminent degree, injurious to
social happiness. How different accordingly, in the moral scale, is the
place they hold, from that which is assigned to idolatry, to general
irreligion, to swearing, drinking, fornication, lasciviousness,
sensuality, excessive dissipation; and in particular circumstances, to
pride, wrath, malice, and revenge!

Indeed, several of the above-mentioned vices are held to be grossly
criminal in the lower ranks, because manifestly ruinous to their
temporal interests: but in the higher, they are represented as "losing
half their evil by losing all their grossness," as flowing naturally
from great prosperity, from the excess of gaiety and good humour; and
they are accordingly "regarded with but a small degree of
disapprobation, and censured very slightly or not at all[85]."--"Non
meus hic sermo est." These are the remarks of authors, who have
surveyed the stage of human life with more than ordinary observation;
one of whom in particular cannot be suspected of having been misled by
religious prejudices, to form a judgment of the superior orders too
unfavourable and severe.

Will these positions however be denied? Will it be maintained that there
is not the difference already stated, in the moral estimation of these
different classes of vices? Will it be said, that the one class is
indeed more generally restrained, and more severely punished by human
laws, because more properly cognizable by human judicatures, and more
directly at war with the well-being of society; but that when brought
before the tribunal of internal opinion they are condemned with equal
rigour?

Facts may be denied, and charges laughed out of countenance: but where
the general sentiment and feeling of mankind are in question, our common
language is often the clearest and most impartial witness; and the
conclusions thus furnished, are not to be parried by wit, or eluded by
sophistry. In the present case, our ordinary modes of speech furnish
sufficient matter for the determination of the argument; and abundantly
prove our disposition to consider as matters of small account, such sins
as are not held to be injurious to the community. We invent for them
diminutive and qualifying terms, which, if not, as in the common uses of
language[86], to be admitted as signs of approbation and good will, must
at least be confessed to be proofs of our tendency to regard them with
palliation and indulgence. Free-thinking, gallantry, jollity[87], and a
thousand similar phrases might be adduced as instances. But it is worthy
of remark, that no such soft and qualifying terms are in use, for
expressing the smaller degrees of theft, or fraud, or forgery, or any
other of those offences, which are committed by men against their
fellow-creatures, and in the suppression of which we are interested by
our regard to our temporal concerns.

The charge which we are urging is indeed undeniable. In the case of any
question of honour, or of moral honesty, we are sagacious in discerning
and inexorable in judging the offence. No allowance is made for the
suddenness of surprise, or the strength of temptations. One single
failure is presumed to imply the absence of the moral or honourable
principle. The memory is retentive on these occasions, and the man's
character is blasted for life. Here, even the mere suspicion of having
once offended can scarcely be got over: "There is an aukward story about
that man, which must be explained before he and I can become
acquainted." But in the case of sins against God, there is no such
watchful jealousy, none of this rigorous logic. A man may go on in the
frequent commission of known sins, yet no such inference is drawn
respecting the absence of the religious principle. On the contrary, we
say of him, that "though his _conduct_ be a little incorrect, his
_principles_ are untouched;"--that he has _a good heart_: and such a man
may go quietly through life, with the titles of a _mighty worthy
creature_, and a _very good Christian_.

But in the Word of God actions are estimated by a far less accommodating
standard. There we read of no little sins. Much of our Saviour's sermon
on the mount, which many of the class we are condemning affect highly to
admire, is expressly pointed against so dangerous a misconception.
_There_, no such distinction is made between the rich and the poor. No
notices are to be traced of one scale of morals for the higher, and of
another for the lower classes of society. Nay, the former are expressly
guarded against any such vain imagination; and are distinctly warned,
that their condition in life is the more dangerous, because of the more
abundant temptations to which it exposes them. Idolatry, fornication,
lasciviousness, drunkenness, revellings, inordinate affection, are, by
the apostle likewise classed with theft and murder, and with what we
hold in even still greater abomination; and concerning them all it is
pronounced alike, that "they which do such things shall not inherit the
kingdom of God[88]."

In truth, the instance which we have lately specified, of the loose
system of these nominal Christians, betrays a fatal absence of the
principle which is the very foundation of all Religion. Their slight
notions of the guilt and evil of sin discover an utter want of all
suitable reverence for the Divine Majesty. This principle is justly
termed in Scripture, "the beginning of wisdom," and there is perhaps no
one quality which it is so much the studious endeavour of the sacred
writers to impress upon the human heart[89].

Sin is considered in Scripture as rebellion against the sovereignty of
God, and every different act of it equally violates his law, and, if
persevered in, disclaims his supremacy. To the inconsiderate and the gay
this doctrine may seem harsh, while, vainly fluttering in the sunshine
of worldly prosperity, they lull themselves into a fond security. "But
the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the
Heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt
with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall
be burnt up"--"Seeing then, that all these things shall be dissolved,
what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and
Godliness?"[90] We are but an atom in the universe.--Worlds upon worlds
surround us, all probably full of intelligent creatures, to whom, now or
hereafter, we may be a spectacle, and afford an example of the Divine
procedure. Who then shall take upon him to pronounce what might be the
issue, if sin were suffered to pass unpunished in one corner of this
universal empire? Who shall say what confusion might be the consequence,
what disorder it might spread through the creation of God? Be this
however as it may, the language of Scripture is clear and
decisive;--"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people
that forget God."

It should be carefully observed too, that these awful denunciations of
the future punishment of sin derive additional weight from this
consideration, that they are represented, not merely as a judicial
sentence which, without violence to the settled order of things, might
be remitted through the mere mercy of our Almighty Governor, but as
arising out of the established course of nature; as happening in the way
of natural consequence, just as a cause is necessarily connected with
its effect; as resulting from certain connections and relations which
rendered them suitable and becoming. It is stated, that the kingdom of
God and the kingdom of Satan are both set up in the world, and that to
the one or the other of these we must belong. "The righteous have
_passed_ from death unto life"--"they are delivered from the power of
darkness, and are translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son[91]."
They are become "the children," and "the subjects of God." While on
earth, they love his day, his service, his people; they "speak good of
his name;" they abound in his works. Even here they are in some degree
possessed of his image, by and by it shall be perfected; they shall
awake up after his "likeness," and being "heirs of eternal life," they
shall receive "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that
fadeth not away."

Of sinners, on the other hand, it is declared, that "they are of their
father the devil;" while on earth, they are styled "his children," "his
servants;" they are said "to do his works," "to hold of his side," to
be, "subjects of his kingdom:" at length "they shall partake his
portion," when the merciful Saviour shall be changed into an avenging
Judge, and shall pronounce that dreadful sentence, "depart from me, ye
cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Is it possible that these declarations should not strike terror, or at
least excite serious and fearful apprehension in the lightest and most
inconsiderate mind? But the imaginations of men are fatally prone to
suggest to them fallacious hopes in the very face of these positive
declarations. "We cannot persuade ourselves that God will in fact prove
so severe." It was the very delusion to which our first parents
listened; "Ye shall not surely die."

Let me ask these rash men, who are thus disposed to trifle with their
immortal interests, had they lived in the antediluvian world, would they
have conceived it possible that God would then execute his predicted
threatening? Yet the event took place at the appointed time; the flood
came and swept them all away: and this awful instance of the anger of
God against sin is related in the inspired writings for our instruction.
Still more to rouse us to attention, the record is impressed in
indelible characters on the solid substance of the very globe we
inhabit; which thus, in every country upon earth, furnishes practical
attestations to the truth of the sacred writings, and to the actual
accomplishment of their awful predictions. For myself I must declare,
that I never can read without awe the passage, in which our Saviour is
speaking of the state of the world at the time of this memorable event.
The wickedness of men is represented to have been great and prevalent;
yet not as we are ready to conceive, such as to interrupt the course,
and shake the very frame of society. The general face of things was,
perhaps, not very different from that which is exhibited in many of the
European nations. It was a selfish, a luxurious, an irreligious, and an
inconsiderate world. They were called, but they would not hearken; they
were warned, but they would not believe--"They did eat, they drank, they
married wives, they were given in marriage:" such is the account of one
of the Evangelists; in that of another it is stated nearly in the same
words; "They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,
and knew not until the flood came and swept them all away."

Again, we see throughout, in the system which we have been describing a
most inadequate conception of the difficulty of becoming true
Christians; and an utter forgetfulness of its being the great business
of life to secure our admission into Heaven, and to prepare our hearts
for its service and enjoyments. The general notion appears to be, that,
if born in a country of which Christianity is the established religion,
we are born Christians. We do not therefore look out for positive
evidence of our really being of that number; but putting the _onus
probandi_, (if it may be so expressed) on the wrong side, we conceive
ourselves such _of course_, except our title be disproved by positive
evidence to the contrary. And we are so slow in giving ear to what
conscience urges to us on this side; so dexterous in justifying what is
clearly wrong, in palliating what we cannot justify, in magnifying the
merit of what is fairly commendable, in flattering ourselves that our
habits of vice are only occasional acts, and in multiplying our single
acts into habits of virtue, that we must be bad indeed, to be compelled
to give a verdict against ourselves. Besides, having no suspicion of our
state, we do not set ourselves in earnest to the work of
self-examination; but only receive in a confused and hasty way some
occasional notices of our danger, when sickness, or the loss of a
friend, or the recent commission of some act of vice of greater size
than ordinary, has awakened in our consciences a more than usual degree
of sensibility.

Thus, by the generality, it is altogether forgotten, that the Christian
has a great work to execute; that of forming himself after the pattern
of his Lord and Master, through the operation of the Holy Spirit of God,
which is promised to our fervent prayers and diligent endeavours.
Unconscious of the obstacles which impede, and of the enemies which
resist their advancement; they are naturally forgetful also of the ample
provision which is in store, for enabling them to surmount the one, and
to conquer the other. The scriptural representations of the state of the
Christian on earth, by the images of "a race," and "a warfare;" of its
being necessary to rid himself of every encumbrance which might retard
him in the one, and to furnish himself with the whole armour of God for
being victorious in the other, are, so far as these nominal Christians
are concerned, figures of no propriety or meaning. As little (as was
formerly shewn) have they, in correspondence with the Scripture
descriptions of the feelings and language of real Christians, any idea
of acquiring a relish while on earth, for the worship and service of
Heaven. If the truth must be told, their notion is rather a confused
idea of future gratification in Heaven, in return for having put a force
upon their inclinations, and endured so much religion while on earth.

But all this is only _nominal_ Christianity, which exhibits a more
inadequate image of her real excellencies, than the cold copyings, by
some insipid pencil, convey of the force and grace of Nature, or of
Raphael. In the language of Scripture, Christianity is not a
geographical, but a moral term. It is not the being a native of a
Christian country: it is _a condition, a state_; the possession of a
_peculiar nature_, with the _qualities_ and _properties_ which belong to
it.

Farther than this, it is a state into which we are not _born_, but into
which we must be _translated_; a nature which we do not _inherit_, but
into which we are to be _created anew_. To the undeserved grace of God,
which is promised on our use of the appointed means, we must be indebted
for the attainment of this nature; and, to acquire and make sure of it,
is that great "work of our salvation," which we are commanded to "work
out with fear and trembling." We are every where reminded, that this is
a matter of labour and difficulty, requiring continual watchfulness, and
unceasing effort, and unwearied patience. Even to the very last, towards
the close of a long life consumed in active service, or in cheerful
suffering, we find St. Paul himself declaring, that he conceived bodily
self-denial and mental discipline to be indispensably necessary to his
very safety. Christians, who are really worthy of the name, are
represented as being "made meet for the inheritance of the Saints in
light;" as "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ;" as
"looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God." It is
stated as being enough to make them happy, that "Christ should receive
them to himself;" and the songs of the blessed spirits in Heaven are
described to be the same, as those in which the servants of God on earth
pour forth their gratitude and adoration.

Conscious therefore of the indispensable necessity, and of the arduous
nature of the service in which he is engaged, the true Christian sets
himself to the work with vigour, and prosecutes it with diligence. His
motto is that of the painter; "_nullus dies sine linea_." Fled as it
were from a country in which the plague is raging, he thinks it not
enough just to pass the boundary line, but would put out of doubt his
escape beyond the limbs of infection. Prepared to meet with
difficulties, he is not discouraged when they occur; warned of his
numerous adversaries, he is not alarmed on their approach, or unprovided
for encountering them. He knows that the beginnings of every new course
may be expected to be rough and painful; but he is assured that the
paths on which he is entering will ere long seem smoother, and become
indeed "paths of pleasantness and peace."

Now of the state of such an one the expressions of Pilgrim and Stranger
are a lively description; and all the other figures and images, by which
Christians are represented in Scripture, have in his case a determinate
meaning and a just application. There is indeed none, by which the
Christian's state on earth is in the word of God more frequently imaged,
or more happily illustrated, than by that of a journey: and it may not
be amiss to pause for a while in order to survey it under that
resemblance. The Christian is travelling on business through a strange
country, in which he is commanded to execute his work with diligence,
and pursue his course homeward with alacrity. The fruits which he sees
by the way-side he gathers with caution; he drinks of the streams with
moderation; he is thankful when the sun shines, and his way is
pleasant; but if it be rough and rainy, he cares not much, he is but a
traveller. He is prepared for vicissitudes; he knows that he must expect
to meet with them in the stormy and uncertain climate of this world. But
he is travelling to "a better country," a country of unclouded light and
undisturbed serenity. He finds also by experience, that when he has had
the least of external comforts, he has always been least disposed to
loiter; and if for the time it be a little disagreeable, he can solace
himself with the idea of his being thereby forwarded in his course. In a
less unfavourable season, he looks round him with an eye of observation;
he admires what is beautiful; he examines what is curious; he receives
with complacency the refreshments which are set before him, and enjoys
them with thankfulness. Nor does he churlishly refuse to associate with
the inhabitants of the country through which he is passing; nor, so far
as he may, to speak their language, and adopt their fashions. But he
neither suffers pleasure, nor curiosity, nor society, to take up too
much of his time, and is still intent on transacting the business which
he has to execute, and on prosecuting the journey which he is ordered to
pursue. He knows also that, to the very end of life, his journey will be
through a country in which he has many enemies; that his way is beset
with snares; that temptations throng around him, to seduce him from his
course or check his advancement in it; that the very air disposes to
drowsiness, and that therefore to the very last it will be requisite for
him to be circumspect and collected. Often therefore he examines
whereabouts he is, how he has got forward, and whether or not he is
travelling in the right direction. Sometimes he seems to himself to
make considerable progress, sometimes he advances but slowly, too often
he finds reason to fear that he has fallen backward in his course. Now
he is cheered with hope, and gladdened by success; now he is disquieted
with doubts, and damped by disappointments. Thus while in nominal
Christians, Religion is a dull uniform thing, and they have no
conception of the desires and disappointments, the hopes and fears, the
joys and sorrows, which it is calculated to bring into exercise; in the
true Christian all is life and motion, and his great work calls forth
alternately the various passions of the soul. Let it not therefore be
imagined that his is a state of unenlivened toil and hardship. His very
labours are "the labours of love;" if "he has need of patience," it is
"the patience of hope;" and he is cheered in his work by the constant
assurance of present support, and of final victory. Let it not be
forgotten, that this is the very idea given us of happiness by one of
the ablest examiners of the human mind; "a constant employment for a
desired end, with the consciousness of continual progress." So true is
the Scripture declaration, that "Godliness has the promise of the life
that now is, as well as of that which is to come."

Our review of the character of the bulk of nominal Christians has
exhibited abundant proofs of their allowed defectiveness in that great
constituent of the true Christian character, _the love of God_. Many
instances, in proof of this assertion, have been incidentally pointed
out, and the charge is in itself so obvious, that it were superfluous to
spend much time in endeavouring to establish it. Put the question fairly
to the test. Concerning the proper marks and evidences of affection,
there can be little dispute. Let the most candid investigator examine
the character, and conduct, and language of the persons of whom we have
been speaking; and he will be compelled to acknowledge, that so far as
love towards the Supreme Being is in question, these marks and evidences
are no where to be met with. It is in itself a decisive evidence of a
contrary feeling in those nominal Christians, that they find no pleasure
in the service and worship of God. Their devotional acts resemble less
the free-will offerings of a grateful heart, than that constrained and
reluctant homage, which is exacted by some hard master from his
oppressed dependents, and paid with cold sullenness, and slavish
apprehension. It was the very charge brought by God against his
ungrateful people of old, that, while they called him Sovereign and
Father, they withheld from him the regards which severally belong to
those respected and endearing appellations. Thus we likewise think it
enough to offer to the most excellent and amiable of Beings, to our
supreme and unwearied Benefactor, a dull, artificial, heartless
gratitude, of which we should be ashamed in the case of a
fellow-creature, who had ever so small a claim on our regard and
thankfulness!

It may be of infinite use to establish in our minds a strong and
habitual sense of that first and great commandment--"Thou shalt love the
Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy
soul, and with all thy strength." This passion, operative and vigorous
in its very nature, like a master spring, would put and maintain in
action all the complicated movements of the human soul. Soon also would
it terminate many practical questions concerning the allowableness of
certain compliances; questions which, with other similar difficulties,
are often only the cold offspring of a spirit of reluctant submission,
and cannot stand the encounter of this trying principle. If, for
example, it were disputed, whether or not the law of God were _so_
strict as had been stated, in condemning the slightest infraction of its
precepts; yet, when, from the precise demands of justice, the appeal
should be made to the more generous principle of love, there would be at
once an end of the discussion. Fear will deter from acknowledged crimes,
and self-interest will bribe to laborious services: but it is the
peculiar glory, and the very characteristic, of this more generous
passion, to shew itself in ten thousand little and undefinable acts of
sedulous attention, which love alone can pay, and of which, when paid,
love alone can estimate the value. Love outruns the deductions of
reasoning; it scorns the refuge of casuistry; it requires not the slow
process of laborious and undeniable proof that an action would be
injurious and offensive, or another beneficial or gratifying, to the
object of affection. The least hint, the slightest surmise, is
sufficient to make it start from the former, and fly with eagerness to
the latter.

I am well aware that I am now about to tread on very tender ground; but
it would be an improper deference to the opinions and manners of the age
altogether to avoid it. There has been much argument concerning the
lawfulness of theatrical amusements[92]. Let it be sufficient to
remark, that the controversy would be short indeed, if the question were
to be tried by this criterion of love to the Supreme Being. If there
were any thing of that sensibility for the honour of God, and of that
zeal in his service, which we shew in behalf of our earthly friends, or
of our political connections, should we seek our pleasure in that place
which the debauchee, inflamed with wine, or bent on the gratification of
other licentious appetites, finds most congenial to his state and temper
of mind? In that place, from the neighbourhood of which, (how justly
termed a school of morals might hence alone be inferred) decorum, and
modesty, and regularity retire, while riot and lewdness are invited to
the spot, and invariably select it for their chosen residence! where the
sacred name of God is often prophaned! where sentiments are often heard
with delight, and motions and gestures often applauded, which would not
be tolerated in private company, but which may far exceed the utmost
licence allowed in the social circle, without at all transgressing the
large bounds of theatrical decorum! where, when moral principles are
inculcated, they are not such as a Christian ought to cherish in his
bosom, but such as it must be his daily endeavour to extirpate; not
those which Scripture warrants, but those which it condemns as false and
spurious, being founded in pride and ambition, and the over-valuation of
human favour! where surely, if a Christian should trust himself at all,
it would be requisite for him to prepare himself with a double portion
of watchfulness and seriousness of mind, instead of selecting it as the
place in which he may throw off his guard, and unbend without danger!
The justness of this last remark, and the general tendency of
theatrical amusements, is attested by the same well instructed master in
the science of human life, to whom we had before occasion to refer. By
him they are recommended as the most efficacious expedient for relaxing,
among any people, that "_preciseness and austerity_ of morals," to use
his own phrase, which, under the name of holiness, it is the business of
Scripture to inculcate and enforce. Nor is this position merely
theoretical. The experiment was tried, and tried successfully, in a city
upon the continent[93], in which it was wished to corrupt the simple
morality of purer times.

Let us try the question by a parallel instance.

What judgment should we form of the warmth of that man's attachment to
his Sovereign, who, at seasons of recreation, should seek his pleasures
in scenes as ill accordant with the principle of loyalty, as those of
which we have been speaking are with the genius of religion? If for this
purpose he were to select the place, and frequent the amusements, to
which Democrats and Jacobins[94] should love to resort for
entertainment, and in which they should find themselves so much at home,
as invariably to select the spot for their abiding habitation; where
dialogue, and song, and the intelligible language of gesticulation,
should be used to convey ideas and sentiments, not perhaps palpably
treasonable, or directly falling within the strict precision of any
legal limits, but yet palpably contrary to the spirit of monarchical
government; which, further, the highest authorities had recommended as
sovereign specifics for cooling the warmth, and enlarging the narrowness
of an excessive loyalty! What opinion should we form of the delicacy of
that friendship, or of the fidelity of that love, which, in relation to
their respective objects, should exhibit the same contradictions?

In truth, the _hard measure_, if the phrase may be pardoned, which, as
has been before remarked, we give to God; and the very different way in
which we allow ourselves to act, and speak, and feel, where he is
concerned, from that which we require, or even practise in the case of
our fellow-creatures, is in itself the most decisive proof that the
principle of the love of God, if not altogether extinct in us, is at
least in the lowest possible degree of languor.

From examining the degree in which the bulk of nominal Christians are
defective in the love of God, if we proceed to inquire concerning the
strength of their love towards their fellow-creatures, the writer is
well aware of its being generally held, that here at least they may
rather challenge praise than submit to censure. And the many beneficent
institutions in which this country abounds, probably above every other,
whether in ancient or modern times, may be perhaps appealed to in proof
of the opinion. Much of what might have been otherwise urged in the
discussion of this topic, has been anticipated in the inquiry into the
grounds of the extravagant estimation, assigned to amiable tempers and
useful lives, when unconnected with religious principle. What was then
stated may serve in many cases to lower, in the present instance, the
loftiness of the pretensions of these nominal Christians; and we shall
hereafter have occasion to mention another consideration, of which the
effect must be, still further to reduce their claims. Meanwhile, let it
suffice to remark, that we must not rest satisfied with merely
superficial appearances, if we would form a fair estimate of the degree
of purity and vigour, in which the principle of good will towards men
warms the bosoms of the generality of professed Christians in the higher
and more opulent classes in this country. In a highly polished state of
society, for instance, we do not expect to find moroseness; and in an
age of great profusion, though we may reflect with pleasure on those
numerous charitable institutions, which are justly the honour of Great
Britain; we are not too hastily to infer a strong principle of internal
benevolence, from liberal contributions to the relief of indigence and
misery. When these contributions indeed are equally abundant in frugal
times, or from individuals personally oeconomical, the source from
which they originate becomes less questionable. But a vigorous principle
of philanthropy must not be at once conceded, on the ground of liberal
benefactions to the poor, in the case of one who by his liberality in
this respect is curtailed in no necessary, is abridged of no luxury, is
put to no trouble either of thought or of action; who, not to impute a
desire of being praised for his benevolence, is injured in no man's
estimation; in whom also familiarity with large sums has produced that
freedom in the expenditure of money, which (thereby affording a fresh
illustration of the justice of the old proverb, "Familiarity breeds
contempt,") it never fails to operate, except in minds under the
influence of a strong principle of avarice.

Our conclusion, perhaps, would be less favourable, but not less fair, if
we were to try the characters in question by those surer tests, which
are stated by the Apostle to be less ambiguous marks of a real spirit of
philanthropy. The strength of every passion is to be estimated by its
victory over passions of an opposite nature. What judgment then shall we
form of the force of the benevolence of the age, when measured by this
standard? How does it stand the shock, when it comes into encounter with
our pride, our vanity, our self-love, our self-interest, our love of
ease or of pleasure, with our ambition, with our desire of worldly
estimation? Does it make us self-denying, that we may be liberal in
relieving others? Does it make us persevere in doing good in spite of
ingratitude; and only pity the ignorance, or prejudice, or malice, which
misrepresents our conduct, or misconstrues our motives? Does it make us
forbear from what we conceive may probably prove the occasion of harm
to a fellow-creature; though the harm should not seem naturally or even
fairly to flow from our conduct, but to be the result only of his own
obstinacy or weakness? Are we slow to believe any thing to our
neighbour's disadvantage? and when we cannot but credit it, are we
disposed rather to cover, and as far as we justly can, to palliate, than
to divulge or aggravate it? Suppose an opportunity to occur of
performing a kindness, to one who from pride or vanity should be loth to
receive, or to be known to receive, a favour from us; should we honestly
endeavour, so far as we could with truth, to lessen in his own mind and
in that of others the merit of our good offices, and by so doing dispose
him to receive them with diminished reluctance, and a less painful
weight of obligation? This end, however, must be accomplished, if to be
accomplished at all, by a simple and fair explanation of the
circumstances, which may render the action in no wise inconvenient to
ourselves, though highly beneficial to another; not by speeches of
affected disparagement, which we might easily foresee, and in fact do
foresee, must produce the contrary effect. Can we, from motives of
kindness, incur or risk the charge of being deficient in spirit, in
penetration, or in foresight? Do we tell another of his faults, when the
communication, though probably beneficial to _him_, cannot be made
without embarrassment or pain to ourselves, and may probably lessen his
regard for our person, or his opinion of our judgment? Can we stifle a
repartee which would wound another; though the utterance of it would
gratify our vanity, and the suppression of it may disparage our
character for wit? If any one advance a mistaken proposition, in an
instance wherein the error may be mischievous to him; can we, to the
prejudice perhaps of our credit for discernment, forbear to contradict
him in public, if it be probable that in so doing, by piquing his pride
we might only harden him in his error? and can we reserve our counsel
for some more favourable season, the "mollia tempora fandi," when it may
be communicated without offence? If we have recommended to any one a
particular line of conduct, or have pointed out the probable mischiefs
of the opposite course, and if our admonitions have been neglected, are
we _really hurt_ when our predictions of evil are accomplished? Is our
love superior to envy, and jealousy, and emulation? Are we acute to
discern and forward to embrace any fair opportunity of promoting the
interests of another; if it be in a line wherein we ourselves also are
moving, and in which we think our progress has not been proportioned to
our desert? Can we take pleasure in bringing his merits into notice, and
in obviating the prejudices which may have damped his efforts, or in
removing the obstacles which may have retarded his advancement? If even
to this extent we should be able to stand the scrutiny, let it be
farther asked how, in the case of our enemies, do we correspond with the
Scripture representations of love? Are we meek under provocations, ready
to forgive, and apt to forget injuries? Can we, with sincerity, "bless
them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them
which despitefully use us, and persecute us?" Do we prove to the
Searcher of hearts a real spirit of forgiveness, by our forbearing not
only from avenging an injury when it is in our power, but even from
telling to any one how ill we have been used; and that too when we are
not kept silent by a consciousness that we should lose credit by
divulging the circumstance? And lastly, can we not only be content to
return our enemies good for evil, (for this return, as has been remarked
by one of the greatest of uninspired authorities,[95] may be prompted by
pride and repaid by self-complacency) but, when they are successful or
unsuccessful without our having contributed to their good or ill
fortune, can we not only be content, but cordially rejoice in their
prosperity, or sympathize with their distresses?

These are but a few specimens of the characteristic marks which might be
stated, of a true predominant benevolence; yet even these may serve to
convince us how far the bulk of nominal Christians fall short of the
requisitions of Scripture, even in that particular, which exhibits their
character in the most favourable point of view. The truth is, we do not
enough call to mind the exalted tone of Scripture morality; and are
therefore apt to value ourselves on the heights to which we attain, when
a better acquaintance with our standard would have convinced us of our
falling far short of the elevation prescribed to us. It is in the very
instance of the most difficult of the duties lately specified, the
forgiveness and love of enemies, that our Saviour points out to our
imitation the example of our Supreme Benefactor. After stating that, by
being kind and courteous to those who, even in the world's opinion, had
a title to our good offices and good will, we should in vain set up a
claim to _Christian_ benevolence, he emphatically adds, "Be ye
therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

We must here again resort to a topic which was lately touched on, that
of theatrical amusements; and recommend it to their advocates to
consider them in connection with the duty, of which we have now been
exhibiting some of the leading characters.

It is an undeniable fact, for the truth of which we may safely appeal to
every age and nation, that the situation of the performers, particularly
of those of the female sex, is remarkably unfavourable to the
maintenance and growth of the religious and moral principle, and of
course highly dangerous to their eternal interests. Might it not then be
fairly asked, how far, in all who confess the truth of this position, it
is consistent with the sensibility of Christian benevolence, merely for
the entertainment of an idle hour, to encourage the continuance of any
of their fellow-creatures in such a way of life, and to take a part in
tempting any others to enter into it? how far, considering that, by
their own concession, they are employing whatever they spend in this
way, in sustaining and advancing the cause of vice, and consequently in
promoting misery; they are herein bestowing this share of their wealth
in a manner agreeable to the intentions of their holy and benevolent
Benefactor? how far also they are not in this instance the rather
criminal, from there being so many sources of innocent pleasure open to
their enjoyment? how far they are acting conformably to that golden
principle of doing to others as we would they should do to us? how far
they harmonize with the spirit of the Apostle's affectionate
declaration, that he would deny himself for his whole life the most
innocent indulgence, nay, what might seem almost an absolute necessary,
rather than cause his weak fellow Christian to offend? or lastly, how
far they are influenced by the solemn language of our Saviour himself;
"It must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the
offence cometh; it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged
about his neck, and that he were cast into the depths of the sea?" The
present instance is perhaps another example of our taking greater
concern in the temporal, than in the spiritual interests of our fellow
creatures. That man would be deemed, and justly deemed, of an inhuman
temper, who in these days were to seek his amusement in the combats of
gladiators and prize fighters: yet _Christians_ appear conscious of no
inconsistency, in finding their pleasure in spectacles maintained at the
risk at least, if not the ruin, of the eternal happiness of those who
perform in them!


SECT. VI.

_Grand defect.--Neglect of the peculiar Doctrines of Christianity._

But the grand radical defect in the practical system of these nominal
Christians, is their forgetfulness of all the peculiar doctrines of the
Religion which they profess--the corruption of human nature--the
atonement of the Saviour--and the sanctifying influence of the Holy
Spirit.

Here then we come again to the grand distinction, between the Religion
of Christ and that of the bulk of nominal Christians in the present
day. The point is of the utmost _practical importance_, and we would
therefore trace it into its actual effects.

There are, it is to be apprehended, not a few, who having been for some
time hurried down the stream of dissipation in the indulgence of all
their natural appetites, (except, perhaps, that they were restrained
from very gross vice by a regard to character, or by the yet unsubdued
voice of conscience); and who, having all the while thought little, or
scarcely at all about Religion, "living," to use the emphatical language
of Scripture, "without God in the world," become in some degree
impressed with a sense of the infinite importance of Religion. A fit of
sickness, perhaps, or the loss of some friend or much loved relative, or
some other stroke of adverse fortune, damps their spirits, awakens them
to a practical conviction of the precariousness of all human things, and
turns them to seek for some more stable foundation of happiness than
this world can afford. Looking into themselves ever so little, they
become sensible that they must have offended God. They resolve
accordingly to set about the work of reformation.--Here it is that we
shall recognize the fatal effects of the prevailing ignorance of the
real nature of Christianity, and the general forgetfulness of its grand
peculiarities. These men _wish_ to reform, but they know neither the
real _nature_ of their distemper nor its true remedy. They are aware,
indeed, that they must "cease to do evil, and learn to do well;" that
they must relinquish their habits of vice, and attend more or less to
the duties of Religion: but having no conception of the actual
malignity of the disease under which they labour, or of the perfect cure
which the Gospel has provided for it, or of the manner in which that
cure is to be effected,

    "They do but skin and film the ulcerous place,
    While rank corruption, mining all within,
    Infects unseen."

It often happens therefore but too naturally in this case, that where
they do not soon desist from their attempt at reformation, and relapse
into their old habits of sin; they take up with a partial and scanty
amendment, and fondly flatter themselves that it is a thorough change.
They now conceive that they have a right to take to themselves the
comforts of Christianity. Not being able to raise their practice up to
their standard of right, they lower their standard to their practice:
they sit down for life contented with their present attainments,
beguiled by the complacencies of their own minds, and by the favourable
testimony of surrounding friends; and it often happens, particularly
where there is any degree of strictness in formal and ceremonial
observances, that there are no people more jealous of their character
for Religion.

Others perhaps go farther than this. The dread of the wrath to come has
sunk deeper into their hearts; and for a while they strive with all
their might to resist their evil propensities, and to walk without
stumbling in the path of duty. Again and again they resolve; again and
again they break their resolutions[96]: All their endeavours are
foiled, and they become more and more convinced of their own moral
weakness, and of the strength of their indwelling corruption. Thus
groaning under the enslaving power of sin, and experiencing the futility
of the utmost efforts which they can use for effecting their
deliverance, they are tempted (sometimes it is to be feared they yield
to the temptation) to give up all in despair, and to acquiesce under
their wretched captivity, conceiving it impossible to break their
chains. Sometimes, probably, it even happens that they are driven to
seek for refuge from their disquietude in the suggestions of infidelity;
and to quiet their troublesome consciences by arguments which they
themselves scarcely believe, at the very moment in which they suffer
themselves to be lulled asleep by them. In the mean time while this
conflict has been going on, their walk is sad and comfortless, and their
couch is nightly watered with tears. These men are pursuing the right
object, but they mistake the way in which it is to be obtained. _The
path in which they are now treading is not that which the Gospel has
provided for conducting them to true holiness, nor will they find in it
any solid peace._

Persons under these circumstances naturally seek for religious
instruction. They turn over the works of our modern Religionists, and
as well as they can collect the advice addressed to men in their
situation: the substance of it is, at the best, of this sort; "Be sorry
indeed for your sins, and discontinue the practice of them, but do not
make yourselves so uneasy. Christ died for the sins of the whole world.
Do your utmost; discharge with fidelity the duties of your stations, not
neglecting your religious offices; and fear not but that in the end all
will go well; and that having thus performed the conditions required on
your part, you will at last obtain forgiveness of our merciful Creator
through the merits of Jesus Christ, and be aided, where your own
strength shall be insufficient, by the assistance of his Holy Spirit.
Meanwhile you cannot do better than read carefully such books of
practical divinity, as will instruct you in the principles of a
Christian life. We are excellently furnished with works of this nature;
and it is by the diligent study of them that you will gradually become a
proficient in the lessons of the Gospel."

But the holy Scriptures, and with them the Church of England, call upon
those who are in the circumstances above-stated, to _lay afresh the
whole foundation of their Religion_. In concurrence with the Scripture,
that Church calls upon them, in the first place, gratefully to adore
that undeserved goodness which has awakened them from the sleep of
death; to prostrate themselves before the Cross of Christ with humble
penitence and deep self-abhorrence; solemnly resolving to forsake all
their sins, but relying on the Grace of God alone for power to keep
their resolution. Thus, and thus only, she assures them that all their
crimes will be blotted out, and that they will receive from above a new
living principle of holiness. She produces from the Word of God the
ground and warrant of her counsel; "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
and thou shalt be saved."--"No man," says our blessed Saviour, "cometh
unto the Father but by me."--"I am the true Vine. As the branch cannot
bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except
ye abide in me."--"He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth
forth much fruit; for without" (or severed from) "me ye can do
nothing,"--"By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should
boast: for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good
works."

Let us not be thought tedious, or be accused of running into needless
repetitions, in pressing this point with so much earnestness. It is in
fact a point which can never be too much insisted on. It is the cardinal
point on which the whole of Christianity turns; on which it is
peculiarly proper in this place to be perfectly distinct. There have
been some who have imagined that the wrath of God was to be deprecated,
or his favour conciliated, by austerities and penances, or even by forms
and ceremonies, and external observances. But all men of enlightened
understandings, who acknowledge the moral government of God, must also
acknowledge, that vice must offend and virtue delight him. In short they
must, more or less, assent to the Scripture declaration, "without
holiness no man shall see the Lord." But the grand distinction, which
subsists between the true Christian and all other Religionists, (the
class of persons in particular whom it is our object to address) is
concerning the _nature_ of this holiness, and the _way in which it is to
be obtained_. The views entertained by the latter, of the _nature_ of
holiness, are of all degrees of inadequateness; and they conceive it is
to be _obtained_ by their own natural unassisted efforts: or if they
admit some vague indistinct notion of the assistance of the Holy Spirit,
it is unquestionably obvious, on conversing with them, that this does
not constitute the _main practical_ ground of their dependence. _But the
nature of the holiness, to which the desires of the true Christian are
directed, is no other than the restoration of the image of God: and as
to the manner of acquiring it, disclaiming with indignation every idea
of attaining it by his own strength, all his hopes of possessing it rest
altogether on the divine assurances of the operation of the Holy Spirit,
in those who cordially embrace the Gospel of Christ. He knows therefore
that this holiness is not to_ PRECEDE _his reconciliation to God, and be
its_ CAUSE; _but to_ FOLLOW _it, and be its_ EFFECT. _That in short it
is by_ FAITH IN CHRIST _only[97] that he is to be justified in the sight
of God; to be delivered from the condition of a child of wrath, and a
slave of Satan; to be adopted into the family of God; to become an heir
of God and a joint heir with Christ, entitled to all the privileges
which belong to this high relation; here, to the Spirit of Grace, and a
partial renewal after the image of his Creator; hereafter, to the more
perfect possession of the Divine likeness, and an inheritance of eternal
glory._

And as it is in this way, that, in obedience to the dictates of the
Gospel, the true Christian must originally become possessed of the vital
spirit and living principle of universal holiness; so, in order to grow
in grace, he must also study in the same school; finding in the
consideration of the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, and in the
contemplation of the life, and character, and sufferings of our blessed
Saviour, the elements of all practical wisdom, and an inexhaustible
storehouse of instructions and motives, no otherwise to be so well
supplied. From the neglect of these peculiar doctrines arise the main
practical errors of the bulk of professed Christians. These gigantic
truths retained in view, would put to shame the littleness of their
dwarfish morality. It would be impossible for them to make these
harmonize with their low conceptions, of the wretchedness and danger of
their natural state, which is represented in Scripture as having so
powerfully called forth the compassion of God, that he sent his only
begotten Son to rescue us. Where _now_ are their low conceptions of the
worth of the soul, when means like these were taken to redeem it? Where
_now_ their inadequate conceptions of the guilt of sin, for which in the
divine counsels it seemed requisite that an atonement no less costly
should be made, than that of the blood of the only begotten Son of God?
How can they reconcile their low standard of Christian practice with the
representation of our being "temples of the Holy Ghost?" Their cold
sense of obligation, and scanty grudged returns of service, with the
glowing gratitude of those who, having been "delivered from the power of
darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son," may well
conceive that the labours of a whole life will be but an imperfect
expression of their thankfulness.

The peculiar doctrines of the Gospel being once admitted, the
conclusions which have been now suggested are clear and obvious
deductions of reason. But our neglect of these important truths is still
less pardonable, because they are distinctly and repeatedly applied in
Scripture to the very purposes in question, and the whole superstructure
of Christian morals is grounded on their deep and ample basis. Sometimes
these truths are represented in Scripture, _generally_, as furnishing
Christians with a vigorous and ever present principle of universal
obedience. And our slowness in learning the lessons of heavenly wisdom
is still further stimulated, by almost every particular Christian duty
being occasionally traced to them as to its proper source. They are
every where represented as warming the hearts of the people of God on
earth with continual admiration, and thankfulness, and love, and joy; as
triumphing over the attack of the last great enemy, and as calling forth
afresh in Heaven the ardent effusions of their unexhausted gratitude.

If then we would indeed be "filled with wisdom and spiritual
understanding;" if we would "walk worthy of the Lord unto all well
pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the
knowledge of God;" here let us fix our eyes! "Laying aside every weight,
and the sin that does so easily beset us; let us run with patience the
race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS, the Author and Finisher
of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the
cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the
throne of God[98]."

Here best we may learn the infinite _importance_ of Christianity. How
little it can deserve to be treated in that slight and superficial way,
in which it is in these days regarded by the bulk of nominal Christians,
who are apt to think it may be enough, and almost equally pleasing to
God, to be religious _in any way_, and upon _any_ system. What exquisite
folly it must be to risk the soul on such a venture, in direct
contradiction to the dictates of reason, and the express declaration of
the word of God! "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great
salvation?"


LOOKING UNTO JESUS!

Here we shall best learn the duty and reasonableness of an absolute and
unconditional surrender of soul and body to the will and service of
God.--"We are not our own; for we are bought with a price," and must
"therefore" make it our grand concern to "glorify God with our bodies
and our spirits, which are God's." Should we be base enough, even if we
could do it with safety, to make any reserves in our returns of service
to that gracious Saviour, who "gave up _himself_ for us?" If we have
formerly talked of compounding by the performance of some commands for
the breach of others; can we now bear the mention of a _composition_ of
duties, or of retaining to ourselves the right of practising _little_
sins! The very suggestion of such an idea fills us with indignation and
shame, if our hearts be not dead to every sense of gratitude.


LOOKING UNTO JESUS!

Here we find displayed, in the most lively colours, the guilt of sin,
and how hateful it must be to the perfect holiness of that Being, "who
is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." When we see that, rather than
sin should go unpunished, "God spared not his own Son," but "was
_pleased_[99], to bruise him and put him to grief" for our sakes; how
vainly must impenitent sinners flatter themselves with the hope of
escaping the vengeance of Heaven, and buoy themselves up with I know not
what desperate dreams of the Divine benignity!

Here too we may anticipate the dreadful sufferings of that state, "where
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth;" when rather than that we should
undergo them, "the Son of God" himself, who "thought it no robbery to be
equal with God," consented to take upon him our degraded nature with all
its weaknesses and infirmities; to be "a man of sorrows," "to hide not
his face from shame and spitting," "to be wounded for our
transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities," and at length to endure
the sharpness of death, "even the death of the Cross," that he might
"deliver us from the wrath to come," and open the kingdom of Heaven to
all believers.


LOOKING UNTO JESUS!

_Here_ best we may learn to grow in the love of God! The certainty of
his pity and love towards repenting sinners, thus irrefragably
demonstrated, chases away the sense of tormenting fear, and best lays
the ground in us of a reciprocal affection. And while we steadily
contemplate this wonderful transaction, and consider in its several
relations the amazing truth, that "God spared not his own Son, but
delivered him up for us all;" if our minds be not utterly dead to every
impulse of sensibility, the emotions of admiration, of preference, of
hope, and trust, and joy, cannot but spring up within us, chastened with
reverential fear, and softened and quickened by overflowing
gratitude[100]. _Here_ we shall become animated by an abiding
disposition to endeavour to please our great Benefactor; and by a humble
persuasion, that the weakest endeavours of this nature will not be
despised by a Being, who has already proved himself so kindly affected
towards us[101]. _Here_ we cannot fail to imbibe an earnest desire of
possessing his favour, and a conviction, founded on his own declarations
thus unquestionably confirmed, that the desire shall not be
disappointed. Whenever we are conscious that we have offended this
gracious Being, a single thought of the great work of Redemption will be
enough to fill us with compunction. We shall feel a deep concern, grief
mingled with indignant shame, for having conducted ourselves so
unworthily towards one who to us has been infinite in kindness: we shall
not rest till we have reason to hope that he is reconciled to us; and we
shall watch over our hearts and conduct in future with a renewed
jealousy, lest we should again offend him. To those who are ever so
little acquainted with the nature of the human mind, it were superfluous
to remark, that the affections and tempers which have been enumerated,
are the infallible marks and the constituent properties of Love. Let
_him_ then who would abound and grow in this Christian principle, be
much conversant with the great doctrines of the Gospel.

It is obvious, that the attentive and frequent consideration of these
great doctrines, must have a still more direct tendency to produce and
cherish in our minds the principle of the love of Christ. But on this
head, so much was said in a former chapter, as to render any farther
observations unnecessary.

Much also has been already observed concerning the love of our
fellow-creatures, and it has been distinctly stated to be the
indispensable, and indeed the characteristic duty of Christians. It
remains, however to be here farther remarked, that this grace can no
where be cultivated with more advantage than at the foot of the cross.
No where can our Saviour's dying injunction to the exercise of this
virtue be recollected with more effect; "This is my commandment, that ye
love one another as I have loved you." No where can the admonition of
the Apostle more powerfully affect us; "Be ye kind one to another,
tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake,
hath forgiven you." The view of mankind which is here presented to us,
as having been all involved in one common ruin; and the offer of
deliverance held out to all, by the Son of God's giving of himself up to
pay the price of our reconciliation, produce that sympathy towards our
fellow-creatures, which, by the constitution of our nature, seldom
fails to result from the consciousness of an identity of interests and a
similarity of fortunes. Pity for an unthinking world assists this
impression. Our enmities soften and melt away: we are ashamed of
thinking much of the _petty injuries_ which we may have suffered, when
we consider what the Son of God, "who did no wrong, neither was guile
found in his mouth," patiently underwent. Our hearts become tender while
we contemplate this signal act of loving-kindness. We grow desirous of
imitating what we cannot but admire. A vigorous principle of enlarged
and active charity springs up within us; and we go forth with alacrity,
desirous of treading in the steps of our blessed Master, and of
manifesting our gratitude for his unmerited goodness, by bearing each
others burdens, and abounding in the disinterested labours of
benevolence.


LOOKING UNTO JESUS!

_He_ was meek and lowly of heart, and from the study of _his_ character
we shall best learn the lessons of humility. Contemplating the work of
Redemption, we become more and more impressed with the sense of our
natural darkness, and helplessness, and misery, from which it was
requisite to ransom us at such a price; more and more conscious that we
are utterly unworthy of all the amazing condescension and love which
have been manifested towards us; ashamed of the callousness of our
tenderest sensibility, and of the poor returns of our most active
services. Considerations like these, abating our pride and reducing our
opinion of _ourselves_, naturally moderate our pretensions towards
_others_. We become less disposed to exact that respect for our persons,
and that deference for our authority, which we naturally covet; we less
sensibly feel a slight, and less hotly resent it; we grow less
irritable, less prone to be dissatisfied; more soft, and meek, and
courteous, and placable, and condescending. We are not literally
required to practise the same humiliating submissions, to which our
blessed Saviour himself was not ashamed to stoop[102]; but the _spirit_
of the remark applies to us, "the servant is not greater than his Lord:"
and we should especially bear this truth in mind, when the occasion
calls upon us to discharge some duty, or patiently to suffer some ill
treatment, whereby our pride will be wounded, and we are likely to be in
some degree degraded from the rank we had possessed in the world's
estimation. At the same time the Sacred Scriptures assuring us, that to
the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit, purchased for us by the
death of Christ, we must be indebted for the success of all our
endeavours after improvement in virtue; the conviction of this truth
tends to render us diffident of our own powers, and to suppress the
first risings of vanity. Thus, while we are conducted to heights of
virtue no otherwise attainable, due care is taken to prevent our
becoming giddy from our elevation[103]. It is the Scripture
characteristic of the Gospel system, that by it all disposition to
exalt ourselves is excluded; and if we really grow in grace, we shall
grow also in humility.


LOOKING UNTO JESUS!

"He endured the cross, despising the shame."--While we steadily
contemplate this solemn scene, that sober frame of spirit is produced
within us, which best befits the Christian, militant here on earth. We
become impressed with a sense of the shortness and uncertainty of time,
and that it behoves us to be diligent in making provision for eternity.
In such a temper of mind, the pomps and vanities of life are cast behind
us as the baubles of children.--We lose our relish for the frolics of
gaiety, the race of ambition, or the grosser gratifications of
voluptuousness. In the case even of those objects, which may more justly
claim the attention of reasonable and immortal beings; in our family
arrangements, in our plans of life, in our schemes of business, we
become, without relinquishing the path of duty, more moderate in
pursuit, and more indifferent about the issue. Here also we learn to
correct the world's false estimate of things, and to "look through the
shallowness of earthly grandeur[104];" to venerate what is truly
excellent and noble, though under a despised and degraded form; and to
cultivate within ourselves that true magnanimity, which can make us rise
superior to the smiles or frowns of this world; that dignified composure
of soul which no earthly incidents can destroy or ruffle. Instead of
repining at any of the little occasional inconveniences we may meet with
in our passage through life; we are almost ashamed of the multiplied
comforts and enjoyments of our condition, when we think of him, who,
though "the Lord of glory," "had not where to lay his head." And if it
be our lot to undergo evils of more than ordinary magnitude, we are
animated under them by reflecting, that we are hereby more conformed to
the example of our blessed Master: though we must ever recollect one
important difference, that the sufferings of Christ were voluntarily
borne for _our_ benefit, and were probably far more exquisitely
agonizing than any which we are called upon to undergo. Besides, it must
be a solid support to us amidst all our troubles to know, that they do
not happen to us by chance; that they are not even merely the punishment
of sin; but that they are the dispensations of a kind Providence, and
sent on messages of mercy.--"The cup that our Father hath given us,
shall we not drink it?"--"Blessed Saviour! by the bitterness of thy
pains we may estimate the force of thy love; we are _sure_ of thy
kindness and compassion; thou wouldst not willingly call on us to
suffer; thou hast declared unto us, that all things shall finally work
together for good to them that love thee; and therefore, if thou so
ordainest it, welcome disappointment and poverty, welcome sickness and
pain, welcome even shame, and contempt, and calumny. If this be a rough
and thorny path, it is one in which thou hast gone before us. Where we
see thy footsteps we cannot repine. Meanwhile, thou wilt support us with
the consolations of thy grace; and even here thou canst more than
compensate to us for any temporal sufferings, by the possession of that
peace, which the world can neither give nor take away."


LOOKING UNTO JESUS!

"The Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set
before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at
the right hand of God." From the scene of our Saviour's weakness and
degradation, we follow him, in idea, into the realms of glory, where "he
is on the right hand of God; angels, and principalities, and powers
being made subject unto him."--But though changed in place, yet not in
nature, he is still full of sympathy and love; and having died "to save
his people from their sins," "he ever _liveth_ to make intercession for
them." Cheered by this animating view, the Christian's fainting spirits
revive. Under the heaviest burdens he feels his strength recruited; and
when all around him is dark and stormy, he can lift up an eye to Heaven,
radiant with hope, and glistening with gratitude. At such a season, no
dangers can alarm, no opposition can move, no provocations can irritate.
He may almost adopt, as the language of his sober exultation, what in
the philosopher was but an idle rant: and, considering that it is only
the garment of mortality which is subject to the rents of fortune; while
his spirit, cheered with the divine support, keeps its place within,
secure and unassailable, he can sometimes almost triumph at the stake,
or on the scaffold, and cry out amidst the severest buffets of
adversity, "Thou beatest but the case of Anaxarchus." But it is rarely
that the Christian is elevated with this "joy unspeakable and full of
glory:" he even lends himself to these views with moderation and
reserve. Often, alas! emotions of another kind fill him with grief and
confusion: and conscious of having acted unworthy of his high calling,
perhaps of having exposed himself to the just censure of a world ready
enough to spy out his infirmities, he seems to himself almost "to have
crucified the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." But let
neither his joys intoxicate, nor his sorrows too much depress him. Let
him still remember that his _chief_ business while on earth is not to
meditate, but to act; that the seeds of moral corruption are apt to
spring up within him, and that it is requisite for him to watch over his
own heart with incessant care; that he is to discharge with fidelity the
duties of his particular station, and to conduct himself, according to
his measure, after the example of his blessed Master, whose meat and
drink it was to do the work of his heavenly Father; that he is
diligently to cultivate the talents with which God has entrusted him,
and assiduously to employ them in doing justice and shewing mercy, while
he guards against the assaults of any internal enemy. In short, he is to
demean himself, in all the common affairs of life, like an _accountable_
creature, who, in correspondence with the Scripture character of
Christians, is "waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ." Often
therefore he questions himself, "Am I employing my time, my fortune, my
bodily and mental powers, so as to be able to 'render up my account with
joy, and not with grief?' Am I 'adorning the doctrine of God my Saviour
in all things;' and proving that the servants of Christ, animated by a
principle of filial affection, which renders their work a service of
perfect freedom, are capable of as active and as persevering exertions,
as the votaries of fame, or the slaves of ambition, or the drudges of
avarice?"

Thus, without interruption to his labours, he may interpose occasional
thoughts of things unseen; and amidst the many little intervals of
business, may calmly look upwards to the heavenly Advocate, who is ever
pleading the cause of his people, and obtaining for them needful
supplies of grace and consolation. It is these realizing views, which
give the Christian a relish for the worship and service of the heavenly
world. And if these blessed images, "seen but through a glass darkly,"
can thus refresh the soul: what must be its state, when on the morning
of the resurrection it shall awake to the unclouded vision of celestial
glory! when, "to them that look for him, the Son of God shall appear a
second time without sin unto salvation!" when "sighing and sorrow being
fled away;" when doubts and fears no more disquieting, and the painful
consciousness of remaining imperfections no longer weighing down the
spirit, they shall enter upon the fruition of "those joys, which eye
hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of
man to conceive;" and shall bear their part in that blessed
anthem--"Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto
the Lamb," for ever and ever!

Thus (never let it be forgotten) the main distinction between real
Christianity, and the system of the bulk of nominal Christians, chiefly
consists in the different place which is assigned in the two schemes to
the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. These, in the scheme of nominal
Christians, if admitted at all, appear but like the stars of the
firmament to the ordinary eye. Those splendid luminaries draw forth
perhaps occasionally a transient expression of admiration, when we
behold their beauty, or hear of their distances, magnitudes, or
properties: now and then too we are led, perhaps, to muse upon their
possible uses: but however curious as subjects of speculation, after
all, it must be confessed, they twinkle to the common observer with a
vain and "idle" lustre; and except in the dreams of the astrologer, have
no influence on human happiness, or any concern with the course and
order of the world. But to the _real_ Christian, on the contrary, THESE
_peculiar doctrines constitute the center to which he gravitates! the
very sun of his system! the soul of the world! the origin of all that is
excellent and lovely! the source of light, and life, and motion, and
genial warmth, and plastic energy!_ Dim is the light of reason, and cold
and comfortless our state, while left to her unassisted guidance. Even
the Old Testament itself, though a revelation from Heaven, shines but
with feeble and scanty rays. But the blessed truths of the Gospel are
now unveiled to _our_ eyes, and _we_ are called upon to behold, and to
enjoy "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of
Jesus Christ," in the full radiance of its meridian splendor. The words
of inspiration best express our highly favoured state: "We all, with
open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed
into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the
Lord."

    Thou art the source and center of all minds,
    Their only point of rest, ETERNAL WORD
    From thee departing, they are lost, and rove
    At random, without honour, hope, or peace:
    From thee is all that soothes the life of man;
    His high endeavour, and his glad success;
    His strength to suffer, and his will to serve.
    But O! thou bounteous Giver of all good!
    Thou art of all thy gifts thyself the crown:
    Give what thou canst, without thee we are poor,
    And with thee rich, take what thou wilt away.



CHAPTER V.

_On the Excellence of Christianity in certain important Particulars.
Argument which results thence in Proof of its divine Origin._


The writer of the present work, having now completed a faint delineation
of the leading features of real Christianity, may be permitted to
suspend for a few moments the farther execution of his plan, for the
purpose of pointing out some excellences which she really possesses; but
which, as they are not to be found in that superficial system which so
unworthily usurps her name, appear scarcely to have attracted sufficient
notice. If he should seem to be deviating from the plan which he
proposed to himself, he would suggest as his excuse; that the
observations which he is about to offer will furnish a strong argument,
in favour of the correctness of his preceding delineation of
Christianity, since she will _now_ appear to exhibit more clearly, than
as she is usually drawn, the characters of her Divine original.

It holds true, indeed, in the case of Christianity, as in that of all
the works of God, that though a superficial and cursory view cannot
fail to discover to us somewhat of their beauty; yet, when on a more
careful and accurate scrutiny we become better acquainted with their
properties, we become also more deeply impressed by a conviction of
their excellence. We may begin by referring to the last chapter for an
instance of the truth of this assertion. Therein was pointed out that
intimate connection, that perfect harmony, between the leading doctrines
and the practical precepts of Christianity, which is apt to escape the
attention of the ordinary eye.

It may not be improper also to remark, though the position be so obvious
as almost to render the statement of it needless, that there is the same
close connection and perfect harmony in the leading doctrines of
Christianity among each other. It is self-evident, that the corruption
of human nature, that our reconciliation to God by the atonement of
Christ, and that the restoration of our primitive dignity by the
sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, are all parts of one whole,
united in close dependence and mutual congruity.

Perhaps, however, it has not been sufficiently noticed, that in the
chief practical precepts of Christianity, there is the same essential
agreement, the same mutual dependency of one upon another. Let us survey
this fresh instance of the wisdom of that system, which is the only
solid foundation of our present or future happiness.

The virtues most strongly and repeatedly enjoined in Scripture, and by
our progress in which we may best measure our advancement in holiness,
are the fear and love of God and of Christ; love, kindness, and meekness
towards our fellow-creatures; indifference to the possessions and
events of this life, in comparison with our concern about eternal
things; self-denial, and humility.

It has been already pointed out in many particulars, how essentially
such of these Christian graces as respect the Divine Being are connected
with those, which have more directly for their objects our
fellow-creatures and ourselves. But in the case of these two last
descriptions of Christian graces; the more attentively we consider them
with reference to the acknowledged principles of human nature, and to
indisputable facts, the more we shall be convinced that they afford
mutual aid towards the acquisition of each other; and that when
acquired, they all harmonize with each other in perfect and essential
union. This truth may perhaps be sufficiently apparent from what has
been already remarked; but it may not be useless to dwell on it a little
more in detail. Take then the instances of loving-kindness and meekness
towards others; and observe the solid foundation which is laid for them
in self-denial, in moderation as to the good things of this life, and in
humility. The chief causes of enmity among men are, pride and
self-importance, the high opinion which men entertain of themselves, and
the consequent deference which they exact from others: the
over-valuation of worldly possessions and of worldly honours, and in
consequence, a too eager competition for them. The rough edges of one
man rub against those of another, if the expression may be allowed; and
the friction is often such as to injure the works, and disturb the just
arrangements and regular motions of the social machine. But by
Christianity all these roughnesses are filed down: every wheel rolls
round smoothly in the performance of its appointed function, and there
is nothing to retard the several movements, or break in upon the general
order. The religious system indeed of the bulk of nominal Christians is
satisfied with some tolerable appearances of virtue: and accordingly,
while it recommends love and beneficence, it tolerates, as has been
shewn, pride and vanity in many cases; it even countenances and commends
the excessive valuation of character; and at least allows a man's whole
soul to be absorbed in the pursuit of the object which he is following,
be it what it may of personal or professional success. But though these
latter qualities may, for the most part, fairly enough consist with a
soft exterior and courtly demeanor, they cannot so well accord with the
genuine internal principle of love. Some cause of discontent, some
ground of jealousy or of envy will arise, some suspicion will corrode,
some disappointment will sour, some slight or calumny will irritate and
provoke reprisals. In the higher walks of life, indeed, we learn to
disguise our emotions; but such will be the real inward feelings of the
soul, and they will frequently betray themselves when we are off our
guard, or when we are not likely to be disparaged by the discovery. This
state of the higher orders, in which men are scuffling eagerly for the
same objects, and wearing all the while such an appearance of sweetness
and complacency, has often appeared to me to be not ill illustrated by
the image of a gaming table. There, every man is intent only on his own
profit; the good success of one is the ill success of another, and
therefore the general state of mind of the parties engaged may be pretty
well conjectured. All this, however, does not prevent, in well-bred
societies, an exterior of perfect gentleness and good humour. But let
the same employment be carried on among the lower orders, who are not so
well schooled in the art of disguising their feelings; or in places
where, by general connivance, people are allowed to give vent to their
real emotions; and every passion will display itself, by which the
"human face divine" can be distorted and deformed. For those who never
have been present at so humiliating a scene, the pencil of Hogarth has
provided a representation of it, which is scarcely exaggerated; and the
horrid name[105], by which it is familiarly known among its frequenters,
sufficiently attests the fidelity of its resemblance.

But Christianity is not satisfied with producing merely the specious
guise of virtue. She requires the substantial reality, which may stand
the scrutinizing eye of that Being "who searches the heart." Meaning
therefore that the Christian should live and breathe; in an atmosphere,
as it were, of benevolence, she forbids whatever can tend to obstruct
its diffusion or vitiate its purity. It is on this principle that
Emulation is forbidden: for, besides that this passion almost insensibly
degenerates into envy, and that it derives its origin chiefly from pride
and a desire of self-exaltation; how can we easily love our neighbour as
ourselves, if we consider him at the same time our rival, and are intent
upon surpassing him in the pursuit of whatever is the subject of our
competition?

Christianity, again, teaches us not to set our hearts on earthly
possessions and earthly honours; and thereby provides for our really
loving, or even cordially forgiving, those who have been more successful
than ourselves in the attainment of them, or who have even designedly
thwarted us in the pursuit. "Let the rich," says the Apostle, "rejoice
in that he is brought low." How can he who means to attempt, in any
degree, to obey this precept, be irreconcilably hostile towards any one
who may have been instrumental in his depression?

Christianity also teaches us not to prize human estimation at a very
high rate; and thereby provides for the practice of her injunction, to
love from the heart those who, justly or unjustly, may have attacked our
reputation, and wounded our character. She commands not the shew, but
the reality of meekness and gentleness; and by thus taking away the
aliment of anger and the fomenters of discord, she provides for the
maintenance of peace, and the restoration of good temper among men, when
it may have sustained a temporary interruption.

It is another capital excellence of Christianity, that she values moral
attainments at a far higher rate than intellectual acquisitions, and
proposes to conduct her followers to the heights of virtue rather than
of knowledge. On the contrary, most of the false religious systems which
have prevailed in the world, have proposed to reward the labour of their
votary, by drawing aside the veil which concealed from the vulgar eye
their hidden mysteries, and by introducing him to the knowledge of their
deeper and more sacred doctrines.

This is eminently the case in the Hindoo, and in the Mahometan Religion,
in that of China, and, for the most part, in the various modifications
of ancient Paganism. In systems which proceed on this principle, it is
obvious that the bulk of mankind can never make any great proficiency.
There was accordingly, among the nations of antiquity, one system,
whatever it was, for the learned, and another for the illiterate. Many
of the philosophers spoke out, and professed to keep the lower orders in
ignorance for the general good; plainly suggesting that the bulk of
mankind was to be considered as almost of an inferior species. Aristotle
himself countenanced this opinion. An opposite mode of proceeding
naturally belongs to Christianity, which without distinction professes
an equal regard for all human beings, and which was characterized by her
first Promulgator as the messenger of "glad tidings to the poor."

But her preference of moral to intellectual excellence is not to be
praised, only because it is congenial with her general character, and
suitable to the ends which she professes to have in view. It is the part
of true wisdom to endeavour to excel there, where we may really attain
to excellence. This consideration might be alone sufficient to direct
our efforts to the acquisition of virtue rather than of knowledge.--How
limited is the range of the greatest human abilities! how scanty the
stores of the richest human knowledge! Those who undeniably have held
the first rank, both for natural and acquired endowments, instead of
thinking their pre-eminence a just ground of self-exaltation, have
commonly been the most forward to confess that their views were bounded
and their attainments moderate. Had they indeed been less candid, this
is a discovery which we could not have failed to make of ourselves.
Experience daily furnishes us with examples of weakness, and
short-sightedness, and error, in the wisest and the most learned of men,
which might serve to confound the pride of human wisdom.

Not so in morals.--Made at first in the likeness of God, and still
bearing about us some faint traces of our high original, we are offered
by our blessed Redeemer the means of purifying ourselves from our
corruptions, and of once more regaining the image of our Heavenly
Father[106]. In love, the compendious expression for almost every
virtue, in fortitude under all its forms, in justice, in humility, and
in all the other graces of the Christian character, we are made capable
of attaining to heights of real elevation: and were we but faithful in
the use of the means of grace which we enjoy; the operations of the Holy
Spirit, prompting and aiding our diligent endeavours, would infallibly
crown our labours with success, and make us partakers of a Divine
nature. The writer has himself known some who have been instances of the
truth of this remark. To the memory of one,[107] now no more, may he be
permitted to offer the last tribute of respectful friendship? His
course, short but laborious, has at length terminated in a better world;
and his luminous tract still shines in the sight, and animates the
efforts of all who knew him, and "marshals them the way" to Heavenly
glory. Let me not be thought to undervalue any of the gifts of God, or
of the fruits of human exertion: but let not these be prized beyond
their proper worth. If one of those little industrious reptiles, to
which we have been well sent for a lesson of diligence and foresight,
were to pride itself upon its strength, because it could carry off a
larger grain of wheat than any other of its fellow-ants; should we not
laugh at the vanity which could be highly gratified with such a
contemptible pre-eminence? And is it far different to the eye of reason,
when man, weak, short-sighted man, is vain of surpassing others in
knowledge, in which at best his progress must be so limited; forgetting
the true dignity of his nature, and the path which would conduct him to
real excellence?

The unparalleled value of the precepts of Christianity ought not be
passed over altogether unnoticed in this place, though it be needless to
dwell on it; since it has been often justly recognized and asserted, and
has in some points been ably illustrated, and powerfully enforced by the
masterly pen of a late writer. It is by no means however the design of
this little work to attempt to trace the various excellencies of
Christianity; but it may not have been improper to point out a few
particulars, which, in the course of investigation, have naturally
fallen under our notice, and hitherto perhaps may scarcely have been
enough regarded. Every such instance, it should always be remembered, is
a fresh proof of Christianity being a revelation from God.

It is still less, however, the intention of the writer to attempt to
vindicate the Divine origin of our Holy Religion. This task has often
been executed by far abler advocates. In particular, every Christian,
with whatever reserves his commendations must be disqualified, should be
forward to confess his obligations _on this head_ to the author before
alluded to; whose uncommon acuteness has enabled him, in a field already
so much trodden, to discover arguments which had eluded the observation
of all by whom he was preceded, and whose unequalled perspicuity puts
his reader in complete possession of the fruits of his sagacity.
Anxious, however, in my little measure, to contribute to the support of
this great cause, may it be permitted me to state one argument, which
impresses my mind with particular force. This is, the great variety of
the _kinds_ of evidence which have been adduced in proof of
Christianity, and the confirmation thereby afforded of its truth:--the
proof from prophecy--from miracles--from the character of Christ--from
that of his Apostles--from the nature of the doctrines of
Christianity--from the nature and excellence of her _practical
precepts_--from the accordance we have lately pointed out between the
doctrinal and practical system of Christianity, whether considered each
in itself or in their mutual relation to each other--from other species
of internal evidence, afforded in the more abundance in proportion as
the sacred records have been scrutinized with greater care--from the
account of co-temporary or nearly co-temporary writers--from the
impossibility of accounting on any other supposition, than that of the
truth of Christianity, for its promulgation and early prevalence: these
and other lines of argument have all been brought forward and ably urged
by different writers, in proportion as they have struck the minds of
different observers more or less forcibly. Now, granting that some
obscure and illiterate men, residing in a distant province of the Roman
empire, had plotted to impose a forgery upon the world; though some
foundation for the imposture might, and indeed must, have been attempted
to be laid; it seems, at least to my understanding, morally impossible
that _so many different species of proofs_, and all so strong, should
have lent their _concurrent_ aid, and have united their _joint_ force in
the establishment of the falsehood. It may assist the reader in
estimating the value of this argument, to consider upon how different a
footing, in this respect, has rested every other religious system,
without exception, which was ever proposed to the world; and, indeed,
every other historical fact, of which the truth has been at all
contested.



CHAPTER VI.

_Brief Inquiry into the present State of Christianity in this Country,
with some of the Causes which have led to its critical Circumstances.
Its Importance to us as a political Community, and practical Hints for
which the foregoing considerations give occasion._


It may not be altogether improper to remind the reader, that hitherto
our discussion has been concerning the prevailing Religious opinions
merely of _professed Christians_: no longer confining ourselves to
persons of this description, let us now extend our inquiry, and briefly
investigate the _general_ state of Christianity in this country.

The tendency of Religion in general to promote the temporal well-being
of political communities, is a fact which depends on such obvious and
undeniable principles, and which is so forcibly inculcated by the
history of all ages, that there can be no necessity for entering into a
formal proof of its truth. It has indeed been maintained, not merely by
Schoolmen and Divines, but by the most celebrated philosophers, and
moralists, and politicians of every age.

The peculiar excellence in this respect also of Christianity, considered
independently of its truth or falsehood, has been recognized by many
writers, who, to say the least, were not disposed to exaggerate its
merits. Either or both of these propositions being admitted, the state
of Religion in a country at any given period, not to mention its
connection with the eternal happiness of the inhabitants, immediately
becomes a question of great _political_ importance: and in particular it
must be material to ascertain whether Religion be in an advancing or in
a declining state; and if the latter be the case, whether there be any
practicable means for preventing at least its farther declension.

If the representations contained in the preceding chapters, of the state
of Christianity among the bulk of professed Christians, be not very
erroneous; they may well excite serious apprehension in the mind of
every reader, when considered merely in a political view. And this
apprehension would be encreased, if there should appear reason to
believe that, for some time past, Religion has been on the decline
amongst us, and that it continues to decline at the present moment.

When it is proposed, however, to inquire into the actual state of
Religion in any country, and in particular to compare that state with
its condition at any former period; there is one preliminary observation
to be made, if we would not be liable to gross error. There exists,
established by tacit content, in every country, what may be called a
general standard or tone of morals, varying in the same community at
different periods, and different at the same period in different ranks
and situations in society. Whoever falls below this standard, and, not
unfrequently, whoever also rises above it, offending against this
general rule, suffers proportionably in the general estimation. Thus a
regard for character, which, as was formerly remarked, is commonly the
grand governing principle among men, becomes to a certain degree, though
no farther, an incitement to morality and virtue. It follows of course,
that where the practice does no more than come up to the required level,
it will be no sufficient evidence of the existence, much less will it
furnish any just measure of the force, of a real internal principle of
Religion. Christians, Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics, persons of
ten thousand different sorts of passions and opinions, being members at
the same time of the same community, and all conscious that they will be
examined by this same standard, will regulate their conduct accordingly,
and, with no great difference, will all adjust themselves to the
required measure.

It must also be remarked, that the causes which tend to raise or to
depress this standard, commonly produce their effects by slow and almost
insensible degrees; and that it often continues for some time nearly the
same, when the circumstances, by which it was fixed, have materially
altered.

It is a truth which will hardly be contested, that Christianity,
whenever it has at all prevailed, has raised the general standard of
morals to a height before unknown. Some actions, which among the
ancients were scarcely held to be blemishes in the most excellent
characters, have been justly considered by the laws of every Christian
community, as meriting the severest punishments. In other instances,
virtues formerly rare have become common; and in particular a merciful
and courteous temper has softened the rugged manners, and humanized the
brutal ferocity prevalent among the most polished nations of the heathen
world. But from what has been recently observed, it is manifest, that,
so far as external appearances are concerned, these effects, when once
produced by Christianity, are produced alike in those who deny and in
those who admit her divine original; I had almost said in those who
reject and those who cordially embrace the doctrines of the Gospel: and
these effects might and probably would remain for a while, without any
great apparent alteration, however her spirit might languish, or even
her authority decline. The form of the temple, as was once beautifully
remarked, may continue, when the _dii tutelares_ have left it. When we
are inquiring therefore into the real state of Christianity at any
period; if we would not be deceived in this important investigation, it
becomes us to be so much the more careful not to take up with
superficial appearances.

It may perhaps help us to ascertain the advancing or declining state of
Christianity in Great Britain at the present moment; and still more to
discover some of the causes by which that state has been produced, to
employ a little time in considering what might naturally be expected to
be its actual situation; what advantages or disadvantages such a
religion might be expected to derive, from the circumstances in which
it has been placed among us, and from those in which it still continues.

Experience warrants, and reason justifies and explains the assertion,
that Persecution generally tends to quicken the vigour and extend the
prevalence of the opinions which she would eradicate. For the peace of
mankind, it has grown, at length almost into an axiom, that "her
devilish engine back recoils upon herself." Christianity especially has
always thriven under persecution. At such a season she has no lukewarm
professors; no adherents concerning whom it is doubtful to what party
they belong. The Christian is then reminded at every turn, that his
Master's kingdom is not of this world. When all on earth wears a black
and threatening aspect, he looks up to heaven for consolation; he learns
practically to consider himself as a pilgrim and stranger. He then
cleaves to fundamentals, and examines well his foundation, as at the
hour of death. When Religion is in a state of external quiet and
prosperity, the contrary of all this naturally takes place. The soldiers
of the church militant then forget that they are in a state of warfare.
Their ardour slackens, their zeal languishes. Like a colony long settled
in a strange country[108], they are gradually assimilated in features,
and demeanour, and language, to the native inhabitants, till at length
almost every vestige of peculiarity dies away.

If, in general, persecution and prosperity be productive respectively of
these opposite effects; this circumstance alone might teach us what
expectations to form concerning the state of Christianity in this
country, where she has long been embodied in an establishment, which is
intimately blended, and is generally and justly believed to have a
common interest with our civil institutions; which is liberally, though
by no means too liberally, endowed, and, not more favoured in wealth
than dignity, has been allowed "to exalt her mitred front in courts and
parliaments:" an establishment--the offices in which are extremely
numerous, and these, not like the priesthood of the Jews, filled up from
a particular race, or, like that of the Hindoos, held by a separate cast
in entailed succession; but supplied from every class, and branching by
its widely extended ramifications into almost every individual family in
the community: an establishment--of which the ministers are not, like
the Roman Catholic clergy, debarred from forming matrimonial ties, but
are allowed to unite themselves, and multiply their holdings to the
general mass of the community by the close bonds of family connection;
not like some of the severer of the religious orders, immured in
colleges and monasteries, but, both by law and custom, permitted to mix
without restraint in all the intercourses of society.

Such being the circumstances of the pastors of the church, let the
community in general be supposed to have been for some time in a rapidly
improving state of commercial prosperity; let it also be supposed to
have been making no unequal progress in all those arts, and sciences,
and literary productions, which have ever been the growth of a polished
age, and are the sure marks of a highly finished condition of society.
It is not difficult to anticipate the effects likely to be produced on
_vital_ Religion, both in the clergy and the laity, by such a state of
external prosperity as has been assigned to them respectively. And these
effects would be infallibly furthered, where the country in question
should enjoy a free constitution of government. We formerly had occasion
to quote the remark of an accurate observer of the stage of human life,
that a much looser system of morals commonly prevails in the higher,
than in the middling and lower orders of society. Now, in every country,
of which the middling classes are daily growing in wealth and
consequence, by the success of their commercial speculations; and, most
of all, in a country having such a constitution as our own, where the
acquisition of riches is the possession also of rank and power; with the
comforts and refinements, the vices also of the higher orders are
continually descending, and a mischievous uniformity of sentiments, and
manners, and morals, gradually diffuses itself throughout the whole
community. The multiplication of great cities also, and above all, the
habit, ever increasing with the increasing wealth of the country, of
frequenting a splendid and luxurious metropolis, would powerfully tend
to accelerate the discontinuance of the religious habits of a purer age,
and to accomplish the substitution of a more relaxed morality. And it
must even be confessed, that the commercial spirit, much as we are
indebted to it, is not naturally favourable to the maintenance of the
religious principle in a vigorous and lively state.

In times like these, therefore, the strict precepts and self-denying
habits of Christianity naturally slide into disuse; and even among the
better sort of Christians, are likely to be softened, so far at least
as to be rendered less abhorrent from the general disposition to
relaxation and indulgence. In such prosperous circumstances, men, in
truth, are apt to think very little about religion. Christianity,
therefore, seldom occupying the attention of the bulk of nominal
Christians, and being scarcely at all the object of their study, we
should expect, of course, to find them extremely unacquainted with its
tenets. Those doctrines and principles indeed, which it contains in
common with the law of the land, or which are sanctioned by the general
standard of morals formerly described, being brought into continual
notice and mention by the common occurrences of life, might continue to
be recognized. But whatever she contains peculiar to herself, and which
should not be habitually brought into recollection by the incidents of
every day, might be expected to be less and less thought of, till at
length it should be almost wholly forgotten. Still more might this be
naturally expected to become the case, if the peculiarities in question
should be, from their very nature, at war with pride, and luxury, and
worldly mindedness, the too general concomitants of rapidly increasing
wealth: and this would particularly happen among the laity; if the
circumstance of their having been at any time abused to purposes of
hypocrisy or fanaticism, should have prompted even some of the better
disposed of the clergy, perhaps from well intentioned though erroneous
motives, to bring them forward less frequently in their discourses on
Religion.

When so many should thus have been straying out of the right path, some
bold reformer might, from time to time, be likely to arise, who should
not unjustly charge them with their deviation: but, though right perhaps
in the main; yet deviating himself also in an opposite direction, and
creating disgust by his violence, or vulgarity, or absurdities, he might
fail, except in a few instances, to produce the effect of recalling them
from their wanderings.

Still, however, the Divine Original of Christianity would not be
professedly disavowed; partly from a real, and more commonly from a
political, deference for the established faith, but most of all, from
the bulk of mankind being not yet prepared, as it were, to throw away
the scabbard, and to venture their eternal happiness on the issue of its
falsehood. Some bolder spirits, indeed, might be expected to despise the
cautious moderation of these timid reasoners, and to pronounce
decisively, that the Bible was a forgery: while the generality,
professing to believe it genuine, should, less consistently, be
satisfied with remaining ignorant of its contents; and when pressed,
should discover themselves by no means to believe many of the most
important particulars contained in it.

When, by the operation of causes like these, any country has at length
grown into the condition which has been here stated; it is but too
obvious, that, in the bulk of the community, Religion, already sunk very
low, must be hastening fast to her entire dissolution. Causes, energetic
and active like these, though accidental hindrances may occasionally
thwart their operation, will not at once become sluggish and
unproductive. Their effect is sure; and the time is fast approaching,
when Christianity will be almost as openly disavowed in the language, as
in fact it is already supposed to have disappeared from the conduct of
men; when infidelity will be held to be the necessary appendage of a man
of fashion, and _to believe_ will be deemed the indication of a feeble
mind and a contracted understanding.

Something like what have been here premised are the conjectures which we
should naturally be led to form, concerning the state of Christianity in
this country, and its probable issue, from considering her own nature,
and the peculiar circumstances in which she has been placed. That her
real condition differs not much from the result of this reasoning from
probability, must, with whatever regret, be confessed by all who take a
careful and impartial survey of the actual situation of things among us.
But our hypothetical delineation, if just, will have approved itself to
the reader's conviction, as we have gone along, by suggesting its
archetypes; and we may therefore be spared the painful and invidious
task of pointing out, in detail, the several particulars wherein our
statements are justified by facts. Every where we may actually trace the
effects of increasing wealth and luxury, in banishing one by one the
habits, and new-modelling the phraseology, of stricter times; and in
diffusing throughout the middle ranks those relaxed morals and
dissipated manners, which were formerly confined to the higher classes
of society. We meet, indeed, with more refinement, and more generally
with those amiable courtesies which are its proper fruits: those vices
also have become less frequent, which naturally infest the darkness of a
ruder and less polished age, and which recede on the approach of light
and civilization:

    Defluxit numerus Saturnius, & grave virus
    Munditiæ pepulere:

But with these grossnesses, Religion, on the other hand, has also
declined; God is forgotten; his providence is exploded; his hand is
lifted up, but we see it not; he multiplies our comforts, but we are not
grateful; he visits us with chastisements, but we are not contrite. The
portion of the week set apart to the service of Religion we give up,
without reluctance, to vanity and dissipation. And it is much if, on the
periodical return of a day of national humiliation, having availed
ourselves of the certainty of an interval from public business to secure
a meeting for convivial purposes; we do not insult the Majesty of Heaven
by feasting and jollity, and thus deliberately disclaim our being
included in the solemn services of this season of penitence and
recollection[109].

But when there is not this open and shameless disavowal of Religion, few
traces of it are to be found. Improving in almost every other branch of
knowledge, we have become less and less acquainted with Christianity.
The preceding chapters have pointed out, among those who believe
themselves to be orthodox Christians, a deplorable ignorance of the
Religion they profess, an utter forgetfulness of the peculiar doctrines
by which it is characterized, a disposition to regard it as a mere
system of ethics, and, what might seem an inconsistency, at the same
time a most inadequate idea of the nature and strictness of its
practical principles. This declension of Christianity into a mere system
of ethics, may partly be accounted for, as has been lately suggested; by
considering the corruption of our nature, what Christianity is, and in
what circumstances she has been placed in this country. But it has also
been considerably promoted by one peculiar cause, on which, for many
reasons, it may not be improper to dwell a little more particularly.

Christianity in its best days (for the credit of our representations let
this be remembered, by those who object to our statement as austere and
contracted) was such as it has been delineated in the present work. This
was the Religion of the most eminent Reformers, of those bright
ornaments of our country who suffered martyrdom under queen Mary; of
their successors in the times of Elizabeth; in short of all the pillars
of our Protestant church; of many of its highest dignitaries; of
Davenant, of Hall, of Reynolds, of Beveridge, of Hooker, of Andrews, of
Smith, of Leighton, of Usher, of Hopkins, of Baxter[110], and of many
others of scarcely inferior note. In their pages the peculiar doctrines
of Christianity were every where visible, and on the deep and solid
basis of these doctrinal truths were laid the foundations of a
superstructure of morals proportionably broad and exalted. Of this fact
their writings still extant are a decisive proof: and they who may want
leisure, or opportunity, or inclination, for the perusal of these
valuable records, may satisfy themselves of the truth of the assertion,
that, such as we have stated it, was the Christianity of those times, by
consulting our Articles and Homilies, or even by carefully examining our
excellent Liturgy. But from that tendency to deterioration lately
noticed, these great fundamental truths began to be somewhat less
prominent in the compositions of many of the leading divines before the
time of the civil wars. During that period, however, the peculiar
doctrines of Christianity were grievously abused by many of the
sectaries, who were foremost in the commotions of those unhappy days;
who, while they talked copiously of the free grace of Christ, and the
operations of the Holy Spirit, were by their lives an open scandal to
the name of Christian[111].

Towards the close of the last century, the divines of the established
Church (whether it arose from the obscurity of their own views, or from
a strong impression of former abuses, and of the evils which had
resulted from them) began to run into a different error. They professed
to make it their chief object to inculcate the moral and practical
precepts of Christianity, which they conceived to have been before too
much neglected; but without sufficiently maintaining, often even without
justly laying the grand foundation, of a sinner's acceptance with God;
or pointing out how the practical precepts of Christianity grow out of
her peculiar doctrines, and are inseparably connected with them[112].
By this fatal error, the very genius and essential nature of
Christianity imperceptibly underwent a change. She no longer retained
her peculiar characters, or produced that appropriate frame of spirit by
which her followers had been characterized. Facilis descensus. The
example thus set was followed during the present century, and its effect
was aided by various causes already pointed out. In addition to these,
it may be proper to mention as a cause of powerful operation; that for
the last fifty years the press has teemed with moral essays, many of
them published periodically, and most extensively circulated; which,
being considered either as works of mere entertainment, or, in which at
least entertainment was to be blended with instruction, rather than as
religious pieces, were kept free from whatever might give them the air
of sermons, or cause them to wear an appearance of seriousness,
inconsistent with the idea of relaxation. But in this way the fatal
habit, of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian
doctrines, insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of
Christianity went more and more out of sight; and, as might naturally
have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither and
decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and
nutriment. At length, in our own days, these peculiar doctrines have
almost altogether vanished from the view. Even in many sermons, as we
have formerly noticed, scarcely any traces of them are to be found.

But the degree of neglect into which they are really fallen, may perhaps
be rendered still more manifest by appealing to another criterion. There
is a certain class of publications, of which it is the object to give
us exact delineations of life and manners: and when these are written by
authors of accurate observation and deep knowledge of human nature; (and
many such there have been in our times) they furnish a more faithful
picture, than can be obtained in any other way, of the prevalent
opinions and feelings of mankind. It must be obvious that novels are
here alluded to. A careful perusal of the most celebrated of these
pieces would furnish a strong confirmation of the apprehension,
suggested from other considerations, concerning the very low state of
Religion in this country; but they would still more strikingly
illustrate the truth of the remark, that the grand peculiarities of
Christianity are almost vanished from the view. In a sermon, although
throughout the whole of it there may have been no traces of these
peculiarities, either directly or indirectly, the preacher closes with
an ordinary form; which, if one were to assert that they were absolutely
omitted, would immediately be alledged in contradiction of the
assertion, and may just serve to protect them from falling into entire
oblivion. But in novels, the writer is not so tied down. In these,
people of Religion, and clergymen too, are placed in all possible
situations, and the sentiments and language deemed suitable to the
occasion are assigned to them. They are introduced instructing,
reproving, counselling, comforting. It is often the author's intention
to represent them in a favourable point of view, and accordingly he
makes them as well informed and as good Christians as he knows how. They
are painted amiable, benevolent, and forgiving; but it is not too much
to say, that if all the peculiarities of Christianity had never
existed, or had been proved to be false, the circumstance would scarcely
create the necessity of altering a single syllable in any of the most
celebrated of these performances. It is striking to observe the
difference which there is in this respect in similar works of Mahometan
authors, wherein the characters, which they mean to represent in a
favourable light, are drawn vastly more observant of the peculiarities
of their religion[113].

But to make an end of this discussion, concerning the degree in which
the peculiarities of Christianity have fallen into neglect, and
concerning one of the principal of the causes which have produced it: if
this be the state of things even in the case of sermons, and of the
compositions of those, whose sphere of information must be supposed
larger than that of the bulk of mankind; it must excite less wonder,
that in the world in general, though Christianity be not formally
denied, people know little about it; and that in fact you find, when you
come to converse with them, that, admitting in terms the Divine
Revelation of Scripture, they are far from believing the propositions
which it contains.

It has also been a melancholy prognostic of the state to which we are
progressive, that many of the most eminent of the literati of modern
times have been professed unbelievers: and that others of them have
discovered such lukewarmness in the cause of Christ, as to treat with
especial good will, and attention, and respect, those men, who, by their
avowed publications, were openly assailing, or insidiously undermining
the very foundations of the Christian hope; considering themselves as
more closely united to them, by literature, than severed from them by
the widest religious differences[114]. Can it then occasion surprise,
that under all these circumstances, one of the most acute and most
forward of the professed unbelievers[115] should appear to anticipate,
as at no great distance, the more complete triumph of his sceptical
principles; and that another author of distinguished name[116], not so
openly professing those infidel opinions, should declare of the writer
above alluded to, whose great abilities had been systematically
prostituted to the open attack of every principle of Religion, both
natural and revealed, "that he had always considered him, both in his
life-time and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a
perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty
will permit?"

Can there then be a doubt, whither tends the path in which we are
travelling, and whither at length it must conduct us? If any should
hesitate, let them take a lesson from experience. In a neighbouring
country, several of the same causes have been in action; and they have
at length produced their full effect. Manners corrupted, morals
depraved, dissipation predominant, above all, Religion discredited, and
infidelity grown into repute and fashion[117], terminated in the public
disavowal of every religious principle, which had been used to attract
the veneration of mankind. The representatives of a whole nation
publicly witnessing, not only without horror, but, to say the least,
without disapprobation, an open unqualified denial of the very existence
of God; and at length, as a body, withdrawing their allegiance from the
Majesty of Heaven.

There are not a few, perhaps, who may have witnessed with apprehension,
and may be ready to confess with pain, the gradual declension of
Religion; but who at the same time may conceive that the writer of this
tract is disposed to carry things too far. They may even allege, that
the degree of Religion for which he contends is inconsistent with the
ordinary business of life, and with the well-being of society; that if
it were generally to prevail, people would be wholly engrossed by
Religion, and all their time occupied by prayer and preaching. Men not
being sufficiently interested in the pursuit of temporal objects,
agriculture and commerce would decline, the arts would languish, the
very duties of common life would be neglected; and, in short, the whole
machine of civil society would be obstructed, and speedily stopped. An
opening for this charge is given by an ingenious writer[118] alluded to
in an early period of our work; and is even somewhat countenanced by an
author since referred to, from whom such a sentiment justly excites more
surprise[119].

In reply to this objection it might be urged, that though we should
allow it for a moment to be in a considerable degree well founded, yet
this admission would not warrant the conclusion intended to be drawn
from it. The question would still remain, whether our representation of
what Christianity requires be agreeable to the word of God? For if it
be, surely it must be confessed to be a matter of small account to
sacrifice a little worldly comfort and prosperity, during the short span
of our existence in this life, in order to secure a crown of eternal
glory, and the enjoyment of those pleasures which are at God's right
hand for evermore! It might be added also, that our blessed Saviour had
fairly declared, that it would often be required of Christians to make
such a sacrifice; and had forewarned us, that, in order to be able to do
it with cheerfulness whenever the occasion should arrive, we must
habitually sit loose to all worldly possessions and enjoyments. And it
might farther be remarked, that though it were even admitted, that the
_general prevalence of vital Christianity_ should somewhat interfere
with the views of national wealth and aggrandisement; yet that there is
too much reason to believe that, do all we can, this general prevalence
needs not to be apprehended, or, to speak more justly, could not be
hoped for. But indeed the objection on which we have now been
commenting, is not only groundless, but the very contrary to it is the
truth. If Christianity, such as we have represented it, were generally
to prevail; the world, from being such as it is, would become a scene of
general peace and prosperity; and abating the chances and calamities
"which flesh is inseparably heir to," would wear one unwearied face of
complacency and joy.

On the first promulgation of Christianity, it is true, some of her early
converts seem to have been in danger of so far mistaking the genius of
the new Religion, as to imagine that in future they were to be
discharged from an active attendance on their secular affairs. But the
Apostle most pointedly guarded them against so gross an error, and
expressly and repeatedly enjoined them to perform the particular duties
of their several stations with increased alacrity and fidelity, that
they might thereby do credit to their Christian profession. This he did,
at the same time that he prescribed to them that predominant love of God
and of Christ, that heavenly-mindedness, that comparative indifference
to the things of this world, that earnest endeavour after growth in
grace and perfection in holiness, which have already been stated as the
essential characteristics of real Christianity. It cannot therefore be
supposed by any who allow to the Apostle even the claim of a consistent
instructor, much less by any who admit his Divine authority, that these
latter precepts are incompatible with the former. Let it be remembered,
that the grand characteristic mark of the true Christian, which has been
insisted on, is _his desiring to please God in all his thoughts, and
words, and actions; to take the revealed word to be the rule of his
belief and practice; to "let his light shine before men;" and in all
things to adorn the doctrine which he professes_. No calling is
proscribed, no pursuit is forbidden, no science or art, no pleasure is
disallowed, which is reconcilable with this principle. It must indeed be
confessed that Christianity would not favour that vehement and
inordinate ardour in the pursuit of temporal objects, which tends to the
acquisition of immense wealth, or of widely spread renown: nor is it
calculated to gratify the extravagant views of those mistaken
politicians, the chief object of whose admiration, and the main scope of
whose endeavours for their country, are, extended dominion, and
commanding power, and unrivalled affluence, rather than those more solid
advantages of peace, and comfort, and security. These men would barter
comfort for greatness. In their vain reveries they forget that a nation
consists of individuals, and that true national prosperity is no other
than the multiplication of particular happiness.

But in fact, so far is it from being true that the prevalence of _real_
Religion would produce a stagnation in life; that a man, whatever might
be his employment or pursuit, would be furnished with a new motive to
prosecute it with alacrity, a motive far more constant and vigorous than
any human prospects can supply: at the same time, his solicitude being
not so much to succeed in whatever he might be engaged in, as to act
from a pure principle and leave the event to God; he would not be liable
to the same disappointments, as men who are active and laborious from a
desire of worldly gain or of human estimation. Thus he would possess the
true secret of a life at the same time useful and happy. Following peace
also with all men, and looking upon them as members of the same family,
entitled not only to the debts of justice, but to the less definite and
more liberal claims of fraternal kindness; he would naturally be
respected and beloved by others, and be in himself free from the
annoyance of those bad passions, by which they who are actuated by
worldly principles are so commonly corroded. If any country were indeed
filled with men, each thus diligently discharging the duties of his own
station without breaking in upon the rights of others, but on the
contrary endeavouring, so far as he might be able, to forward their
views and promote their happiness; all would be active and harmonious in
the goodly frame of human society. There would be no jarrings, no
discord. The whole machine of civil life would work without obstruction
or disorder, and the course of its movements would be like the harmony
of the spheres.

Such would be the happy state of a truly Christian nation within itself.
Nor would its condition with regard to foreign countries form a contrast
to this its internal comfort. Such a community, on the contrary,
peaceful at home, would be respected and beloved abroad. General
integrity in all its dealings would inspire universal confidence:
differences between nations commonly arise from mutual injuries, and
still more from mutual jealousy and distrust. Of the former there would
be no longer any ground for complaint; the latter would find nothing to
attach upon. But if, in spite of all its justice and forbearance, the
violence of some neighbouring state should force it to resist an
unprovoked attack, (for hostilities strictly defensive are those only in
which it would be engaged) its domestic union would double its national
force; while the consciousness of a good cause, and of the general
favour of Heaven, would invigorate its arm, and inspirit its efforts.

It is indeed the position of an author, to whom we have had frequent
occasion to refer, and whose love of paradox has not seldom led him into
error, that true Christianity is an enemy to patriotism. If by
patriotism be meant that mischievous and domineering quality, which
renders men ardent to promote, not the happiness, but the aggrandisement
of their own country, by the oppression and conquest of every other; to
such patriotism, so generally applauded in the Heathen world, that
Religion must be indeed an enemy, whose foundation is justice, and whose
compendious character is "peace,--and good will towards men." But if by
patriotism be understood that quality which, without shutting up our
philanthropy within the narrow bounds of a single kingdom, yet attaches
us in particular to the country to which we belong; of this true
patriotism, Christianity is the most copious source, and the surest
preservative. The contrary opinion can indeed only have arisen from not
considering the fulness and universality of our Saviour's precepts. Not
like the puny productions of human workmanship, which at the best can
commonly serve but the particular purpose that they are specially
designed to answer; the moral, as well as the physical, principles of
the great Author of all things are capable of being applied at once to
ten thousand different uses; thus, amidst infinite complication,
preserving a grand simplicity, and therein bearing the unambiguous stamp
of their Divine Original. Thus, to specify one out of the numberless
instances which might be adduced; the principle of gravitation, while it
is subservient to all the mechanical purposes of common life, keeps at
the same time the stars in their courses, and sustains the harmony of
worlds.

Thus also in the case before us: society consists of a number of
different circles of various magnitudes and uses; and that circumstance,
wherein the principle of patriotism chiefly consists, whereby the duty
of patriotism is best practised, and the happiest effects to the general
weal produced, is, that it should be the desire and aim of every
individual to fill well his own proper circle, as a part and member of
the whole, with a view to the production of general happiness. This our
Saviour enjoined when he prescribed the duty of universal love, which is
but another term for the most exalted patriotism. Benevolence, indeed,
when not originating from Religion, dispenses but from a scanty and
precarious fund; and therefore, if it be liberal in the case of some
objects, it is generally found to be contracted towards others. Men who,
acting from worldly principles, make the greatest stir about general
philanthropy or zealous patriotism, are often very deficient in their
conduct in domestic life; and very neglectful of the opportunities,
fully within their reach, of promoting the comfort of those with whom
they are immediately connected. But true Christian benevolence is always
occupied in producing happiness to the utmost of its power, and
according to the extent of its sphere, be it larger or more limited; it
contracts itself to the measure of the smallest; it can expand itself to
the amplitude of the largest. It resembles majestic rivers, which are
poured from an unfailing and abundant source. Silent and peaceful in
their outset, they begin with dispensing beauty and comfort to every
cottage by which they pass. In their further progress they fertilize
provinces and enrich kingdoms. At length they pour themselves into the
ocean; where, changing their names but not their nature, they visit
distant nations and other hemispheres, and spread throughout the world
the expansive tide of their beneficence.

It must be confessed, that many of the good effects, of which Religion
is productive to political societies, would be produced even by a false
Religion, which should prescribe good morals, and should be able to
enforce its precepts by sufficient sanctions. Of this nature are those
effects, which depend on our calling in the aid of a Being who sees the
heart, in order to assist the weakness, and in various ways to supply
the inherent defects of all human jurisprudence. But the superior
excellence of Christianity in this respect must be acknowledged, both in
the superiority of her moral code, and in the powerful motives and
efficacious means which she furnishes for enabling us to practise it;
and in the tendency of her doctrines to provide for the observance of
her precepts, by producing tempers of mind which correspond with them.

But, more than all this; it has not perhaps been enough remarked, that
true Christianity, from her essential nature, appears peculiarly and
powerfully adapted to promote the preservation and healthfulness of
political communities. What is in truth their grand malady? The answer
is short; Selfishness. This is that young disease received at the moment
of their birth, "which grows with their growth, and strengthens with
their strength;" and through which they at length expire, if not cut off
prematurely by some external shock or intestine convulsion.

The disease of selfishness, indeed, assumes different forms in the
different classes of society. In the great and the wealthy, it displays
itself in luxury, in pomp and parade; and in all the frivolities of a
sickly and depraved imagination, which seeks in vain its own
gratification, and is dead to the generous and energetic pursuits of an
enlarged heart. In the lower orders, when not motionless under the
weight of a superincumbent despotism, it manifests itself in pride, and
its natural offspring, insubordination in all its modes. But though the
external effects may vary, the internal principle is the same; a
disposition in each individual to make self the grand center and end of
his desires and enjoyments; to over-rate his own merits and importance,
and of course to magnify his claims on others, and in return to
under-rate their's on him; a disposition to undervalue the advantages,
and over-state the disadvantages, of his condition in life. Thence
spring rapacity and venality, and sensuality. Thence imperious nobles,
and factious leaders; and an unruly commonalty, bearing with difficulty
the inconveniences of a lower station, and imputing to the nature or
administration of their government the evils which necessarily flow from
the very constitution of our species, or which perhaps are chiefly the
result of their own vices and follies. The opposite to selfishness is
public spirit; which may be termed, not unjustly, the grand principle of
political vitality, the very _life's breath_ of states, which tends to
keep them active and vigorous, and to carry them to greatness and glory.

The tendency of public spirit, and the opposite tendency of selfishness,
have not escaped the observation of the founders of states, or of the
writers on government; and various expedients have been resorted to and
extolled, for cherishing the one, and for repressing the other.
Sometimes a principle of internal agitation and dissension, resulting
from the very frame of the government, has been productive of the
effect. Sparta flourished for more than seven hundred years under the
civil institutions of Lycurgus; which guarded against the selfish
principle, by prohibiting commerce, and imposing universal poverty and
hardship. The Roman commonwealth, in which public spirit was cherished,
and selfishness checked, by the principle of the love of glory, was also
of long continuance. This passion naturally operates to produce an
unbounded spirit of conquest, which, like the ambition of the greatest
of its own heroes, was never satiated while any other kingdom was left
it to subdue. The principle of political vitality, when kept alive only
by means like these, merits the description once given of eloquence:
"Sicut flamma, materia alitur, & motibus excitatur, & urendo clarescit."
But like eloquence, when no longer called into action by external
causes, or fomented by civil broils, it gradually languishes. Wealth and
luxury produce stagnation, and stagnation terminates in death.

To provide, however, for the continuance of a state, by the admission of
internal dissensions, or even by the chilling influence of poverty,
seems to be in some sort sacrificing the end to the means. Happiness is
the end for which men unite in civil society; but in societies thus
constituted, little happiness, comparatively speaking, is to be found.
The expedient, again, of preserving a state by the spirit of conquest,
though even this has not wanted its admirers[120], is not to be
tolerated for a moment, when considered on principles of universal
justice. Such a state lives, and grows, and thrives, by the misery of
others, and becomes professedly the general enemy of its neighbours, and
the scourge of the human race. All these devices are in truth but too
much like the fabrications of man, when compared with the works of the
Supreme Being; clumsy, yet weak in the execution of their purpose, and
full of contradictory principles and jarring movements.

I might here enlarge with pleasure on the unrivalled excellence, in this
very view, of the constitution under which we live in this happy
country; and point out how, more perhaps than any which ever existed
upon earth, it is so framed, as to provide at the same time for keeping
up a due degree of public spirit, and yet for preserving unimpaired the
quietness, and comfort, and charities of private life; how it even
extracts from selfishness itself many of the advantages which, under
less happily constructed forms of government, public spirit only can
supply. But such a political discussion, however grateful to a British
mind, would here be out of place. It is rather our business to remark,
how much Christianity in every way sets herself in direct hostility to
selfishness, the mortal distemper of political communities; and
consequently, how their welfare must be inseparable from her prevalence.
It might indeed, be almost stated as the main object and chief concern
of Christianity, to root out our natural selfishness, and to rectify the
false standard which it imposes on us; with views, however, far higher
than any which concern merely our temporal and social well-being; to
bring us to a just estimate of ourselves, and of all around us, and to a
due impression of the various claims and obligations resulting from the
different relations in which we stand. Benevolence, enlarged, vigorous,
operative benevolence, is her master principle. Moderation in temporal
pursuits and enjoyments, comparative indifference to the issue of
worldly projects, diligence in the discharge of personal and civil
duties, resignation to the will of God, and patience under all the
dispensations of his Providence, are among her daily lessons. Humility
is one of the essential qualities, which her precepts most directly and
strongly enjoin, and which all her various doctrines tend to call forth
and cultivate; and humility, as has been before suggested, lays the
deepest and surest grounds for benevolence. In whatever class or order
of society Christianity prevails, she sets herself to rectify the
particular faults, or, if we would speak more distinctly, to counteract
the particular mode of selfishness, to which that class is liable.
Affluence she teaches to be liberal and beneficent; authority, to bear
its faculties with meekness, and to consider the various cares and
obligations belonging to its elevated station, as being conditions on
which that station is conferred. Thus, softening the glare of wealth,
and moderating the insolence of power, she renders the inequalities of
the social state less galling to the lower orders, whom also she
instructs, in their turn, to be diligent, humble, patient: reminding
them that their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of
God; that it is their part faithfully to discharge its duties, and
contentedly to bear its inconveniences; that the present state of things
is very short; that the objects, about which worldly men conflict so
eagerly, are not worth the contest; that the peace of mind, which
Religion offers to all ranks indiscriminately, affords more true
satisfaction than all the expensive pleasures which are beyond the poor
man's reach; that in this view, however, the poor have the advantage,
and that if their superiors enjoy more abundant comforts, they are also
exposed to many temptations from which the inferior classes are happily
exempted; that "having, food and raiment, they should be therewith
content," for that their situation in life, with all its evils, is
better than they have deserved at the hand of God; finally, that all
human distinctions will soon be done away, and the true followers of
Christ will all, as children of the same Father, be alike admitted to
the possession of the same heavenly inheritance. Such are the blessed
effects of Christianity on the temporal well-being of political
communities.

But the Christianity which can produce effects like these, must be real,
not nominal, deep, not superficial. Such then is the Religion we should
cultivate, if we would realize these pleasing speculations, and arrest
the progress of political decay. But in the present circumstances of
this country, it is a farther reason for endeavouring to cultivate this
vital Christianity, still considering its effects merely in a political
view, that, according to all human appearance, we must either have this
or none: unless the prevalence of this be in some degree restored, we
are likely, not only to lose all the advantages which we might have
derived from true Christianity, but to incur all the manifold evils
which would result from the absence of all religion.

In the first place, let it be remarked, that a weakly principle of
Religion, and even such an one, in a political view, is productive of
many advantages; though its existence may be prolonged if all external
circumstances favour its continuance, can hardly be kept alive, when the
state of things is so unfavourable to vital Religion, as it must be
confessed to be in our condition of society. Nor is it merely the
ordinary effects of a state of wealth and prosperity to which we here
allude. Much also may justly be apprehended, from that change which has
taken place in our general habits of thinking and feeling, concerning
the systems and opinions of former times. At a less advanced period of
society, indeed, the Religion of the state will be generally accepted,
though it be not felt in its vital power. It was the Religion of our
forefathers: with the bulk it is on that account entitled to reverence,
and its authority is admitted without question. The establishment in
which it subsists pleads the same prescription, and obtains the same
respect. But in our days, things are very differently circumstanced. Not
merely the blind prejudice in favour of former times, but even the
proper respect for them, and the reasonable presumption in their favour,
has abated. Still less will the idea be endured, of any system being
kept up, when the imposture is seen through by the higher orders, for
the sake of retaining the common people in subjection. A system, if not
supported by a real persuasion of its truth, will fall to the ground.
Thus it not unfrequently happens, that in a more advanced state of
society, a religious establishment must be indebted for its support to
that very Religion, which in earlier times it fostered and protected; as
the weakness of some aged mother is sustained, and her existence
lengthened, by the tender assiduities of the child whom she had reared
in the helplessness of infancy. So in the present instance, unless there
be reinfused into the mass of our society, something of that principle,
which animated our ecclesiastical system in its earlier days, it is vain
for us to hope that the establishment will very long continue: for the
anomaly will not much longer be borne, of an establishment, the _actual_
principles of the bulk of whose members, and even teachers, are so
extremely different from those which it professes. But in proportion as
vital Christianity can be revived, in that same proportion the church
establishment is strengthened; for the revival of vital Christianity is
the very reinfusion of which we have been speaking. This is the very
Christianity on which our establishment is founded; and that which her
Articles, and Homilies, and Liturgy, teach throughout.

But if, when the reign of prejudice, and even of honest prepossession,
and of grateful veneration, is no more (for by these almost any system
may generally be supported, before a state, having passed the period of
its maturity, is verging to its decline); if there are any who think
that a dry, unanimated Religion, like that which is now professed by
nominal Christians, can hold its place; much more that it can be revived
among the general mass of mankind, it may be affirmed, that, arguing
merely on human principles, they know little of human nature. The kind
of Religion which we have recommended, whatever opinion may be
entertained concerning its truth, and to say nothing of the agency of
Divine Grace, must at least be conceded to be the only one which is at
all suited to make impression upon the lower orders, by strongly
interesting the passions of the human mind. If it be thought that a
system of ethics may regulate the conduct of the higher classes; such an
one is altogether unsuitable to the lower, who must be worked upon by
their affections, or they will not be worked upon at all. The antients
were wiser than ourselves, and never thought of governing the community
in general by their lessons of philosophy. These lessons were confined
to the schools of the learned; while for the million, a system of
Religion, such as it was, was kept up, as alone adapted to their grosser
natures. If this reasoning fail to convince, we may safely appeal to
experience. Let the Socinian and the moral teacher of Christianity come
forth, and tell us what effects _they_ have produced on the lower
orders. They themselves will hardly deny the inefficacy of their
instructions. But, blessed be God, the Religion which we recommend, has
proved its correspondence with the character originally given of
Christianity, that it was calculated for the poor; by changing the whole
condition of the mass of society in many of the most populous districts
in this and other countries; and by bringing them from being scenes of
almost unexampled wickedness and barbarism, to be eminent for sobriety,
decency, industry, and, in short, for whatever can render men useful
members of civil society.

If indeed, through the blessing of Providence, a principle of true
Religion should in any considerable degree gain ground, there is no
estimating the effects on public morals, and the consequent influence on
our political welfare. These effects are not merely negative: though it
would be much, merely to check the farther progress of a gangrene, which
is eating out the very vital principles of our social and political
existence. The general standard of morality formerly described, would be
raised, it would at least be sustained and kept for a while from farther
depression. The esteem which religious characters would personally
attract, would extend to the system which they should hold, and to the
establishment of which they should be members. These are all merely
natural consequences. But to those who believe in a superintending
Providence, it may be added, that the blessing of God might be drawn
down upon our country, and the stroke of his anger be for a while
suspended.

Let us be spared the painful task of tracing, on the contrary, the fatal
consequences of the extinction of Religion among us. They are indeed
such as no man, who is ever so little interested for the welfare of his
country, can contemplate without the deepest concern. The very loss of
our church establishment, though, as in all human institutions, some
defects may be found in it, would in itself be attended with the most
fatal consequences. No prudent man dares hastily pronounce how far its
destruction might not greatly endanger our civil institutions. It would
not be difficult to prove, that the want of it would also be in the
highest degree injurious to the cause of Christianity; and still more,
that it would take away what appears from experience to be one of the
most probable means of its revival. To what a degree might even the
avowed principles of men, not altogether without Religion, decline, when
our inestimable Liturgy should no longer remain in use! a Liturgy justly
inestimable, which continually sets before us a faithful model of the
Christian's belief, and practice, and language; restraining us, as far
as restraint is possible, from excessive deviations; furnishing us with
abundant instruction when we would return into the right path; affording
an advantageous ground of no little value, to such instructors as still
adhere to the good old principles of the Church of England; in short,
daily shaming us, by preserving a living representation of the opinions
and habits of better times, as some historical record, which reproaches
a degenerate posterity, by exhibiting the worthier deeds of their
progenitors. In such a state of things, to what a depth public morals
might sink, may be anticipated by those who consider what would then be
the condition of society; who reflect how bad principles and vicious
conduct mutually aid each other's operation, and how, in particular, the
former make sure the ground which the latter may have gained; who
remember, that in the lower orders, the system of honour, and the
responsibility of character, are wanting, which in the superior classes,
in some poor degree, supply the place of higher principles. It is well
for the happiness of mankind, that such a community could not long
subsist. The cement of society being no more, the slate would soon be
dissolved into individuality.

Let it not be vainly imagined, that our state of civilization must
prevent the moral degeneracy here threatened. A neighbouring nation has
lately furnished a lamentable proof, that superior polish and refinement
may well consist with a very large measure of depravity. But to appeal
to a still more decisive instance: it may be seen in the history of the
latter years of the most celebrated of the Pagan nations, that the
highest degrees of civilization and refinement are by no means
inseparable from the most shocking depravity of morals. The fact is
certain, and the obvious inference with regard to ourselves cannot be
denied. The cause of this strange phænomenon, (such it really appears to
our view) for which the natural corruption of man might hardly seem to
account sufficiently, has been explained by an inspired writer. Speaking
of the most polished nations of antiquity, he observes; "Because when
they knew God, they glorified him not as God, and were not
_solicitous_[121] to retain him in their knowledge, he gave them over to
a reprobate mind." Let us then beware, and take warning from their
example: let us not suffer our self-love to beguile us: let us not
vainly persuade ourselves, that although prosperity and wealth may have
caused us to relax a little too much, in those more serious duties which
regard our Maker, yet that we shall stop where we are; or, at least,
that we can never sink into the same state of moral depravation.
Doubtless we should sink as low, if God were to give us up also to our
own imaginations. And what ground have we to think he will not? If we
would reason justly, we should not compare ourselves with the state of
the Heathen world when at its worst; but with its state at that period,
when, for its forgetfulness of God, and its ingratitude towards him, it
was suffered to fall, till at length it reached that worst, its ultimate
point of depression. The Heathens had only reason and natural conscience
to direct them: we enjoy, superadded to these, the clear light of Gospel
revelation, and a distinct declaration of God's dealings with them, to
be a lesson for our instruction. How then can we but believe that if we,
enjoying advantages so much superior to their's, are alike forgetful of
our kind Benefactor, we also shall be left to ourselves? and if so left,
what reason can be assigned why we should not fall into the same
enormities?

What then is to be done? The inquiry is of the first importance, and the
general answer to it is not difficult.--The causes and nature of the
decay of Religion and morals among us sufficiently indicate the course,
which, on principles of sound policy, it is in the highest degree
expedient for us to pursue. The distemper of which, as a community, we
are sick, should be considered rather as a moral than a political
malady. How much has this been forgotten by the disputants of modern
times! and accordingly, how transient may be expected to be the good
effects of the best of their publications! We should endeavour to tread
back our steps. Every effort should be used to raise the depressed tone
of public morals. This is a duty particularly incumbent on all who are
in the higher walks of life; and it is impossible not to acknowledge the
obligations, which in this respect we owe as a nation, to those exalted
characters, whom God in his undeserved mercy to us, still suffers to
continue on the throne, and who set to their subjects a pattern of
decency and moderation rarely seen in their elevated station.

But every person of rank, and fortune, and abilities, should endeavour
in like manner to exhibit a similar example, and recommend it to the
imitation of the circle in which he moves. It has been the opinion of
some well-meaning people, that by giving, as far as they possibly could
with innocence, into the customs and practices of irreligious men, they
might soften the prejudices too frequently taken up against Religion, of
its being an austere gloomy service; and thus secure a previous
favourable impression against any time, when they might have an
opportunity of explaining or enforcing their sentiments. This is always
a questionable, and, it is to be feared, a dangerous policy. Many
mischievous consequences necessarily resulting from it might easily be
enumerated. But it is a policy particularly unsuitable to our
inconsiderate and dissipated times, and to the lengths at which we are
arrived. In these circumstances, the most likely means of producing the
_revulsion_ which is required, must be boldly to proclaim the
distinction between the adherents of "God and Baal." The expediency of
this conduct in our present situation is confirmed by another
consideration, to which we have before had occasion to refer. It is
this--that when men are aware that something of difficulty is to be
effected, their spirits rise to the level of the encounter; they make up
their minds to bear hardships and brave dangers, and to persevere in
spite of fatigue and opposition: whereas in a matter which is regarded
as of easy and ordinary operation, they are apt to slumber over their
work, and to fail in what a small effort might have been sufficient to
accomplish, for want of having called up the requisite degree of energy
and spirit. Conformably to the principle which is hereby suggested, in
the circumstances in which we are placed, the line of demarcation
between the friends and the enemies of Religion should now be made
clear; the separation should be broad and obvious. Let him then, who
wishes well to his country, no longer hesitate what course of conduct to
pursue. The question now is not, in what liberties he might warrantably
indulge himself in another situation? but what are the restraints on
himself which the exigencies of the present times render it adviseable
for him to impose? Circumstanced as we now are, it is more than ever
obvious, that _the best man is the truest patriot_.

Nor is it only by their personal conduct, (though this mode will always
be the most efficacious) that men of authority and influence may promote
the cause of good morals. Let them in their several stations encourage
virtue and discountenance vice in others. Let them enforce the laws by
which the wisdom of our forefathers has guarded against the grosser
infractions of morals; and congratulate themselves, that in a leading
situation on the bench of justice there is placed a man who, to his
honour be it spoken, is well disposed to assist their efforts[122]. Let
them favour and take part in any plans which may be formed for the
advancement of morality. Above all things, let them endeavour to
instruct and improve the rising generation; that, if it be possible, an
antidote may be provided for the malignity of that venom, which is
storing up in a neighbouring country. This has long been to my mind the
most formidable feature of the present state of things in France; where,
it is to be feared, a brood of moral vipers, as it were, is now
hatching, which, when they shall have attained to their mischievous
maturity, will go forth to poison the world. But fruitless will be all
attempts to sustain, much more to revive, the fainting cause of morals,
unless you can in some degree restore the prevalence of Evangelical
Christianity. It is in morals as in physics; unless the source of
practical principles be elevated, it will be in vain to attempt to make
them flow on a high level in their future course. You may force them for
a while into some constrained position, but they will soon drop to
their natural point of depression. By all, therefore, who are studious
of their country's welfare, more particularly by all who desire to
support our ecclesiastical establishment, every effort should be used to
revive the Christianity of our better days. The attempt should
especially be made in the case of the pastors of the Church, whose
situation must render the principles which they hold a matter of
supereminent importance. Wherever these teachers have steadily and
zealously inculcated the true doctrines of the Church of England, the
happiest effects have commonly rewarded their labours. And it is worth
observing, in the view which we are now taking, that these men, as might
naturally be expected, are, perhaps without exception, friendly to our
ecclesiastical and civil establishments[123]; and consequently, that
their instructions and influence tend _directly_, as well as
_indirectly_, to the maintenance of the cause of order and good
government. Nor should it be forgotten by any who, judging with the
abstract coldness of mere politicians, might doubt whether, by adopting
the measures here recommended, a religious warmth would not be called
into action, which might break out into mischievous irregularities; that
experience proves that an establishment affords, from its very nature,
the happy means of exciting a considerable degree of fervour and
animation, and at the same time of restraining them within due bounds.
The duty of encouraging vital Religion in the Church particularly
devolves on all who have the disposal of ecclesiastical preferment, and
more especially on the dignitaries of the sacred order. Some of these
have already sounded the alarm; justly censuring the practice of
suffering Christianity to degenerate into a mere system of ethics, and
recommending more attention to the peculiar doctrines of our Religion.
In our schools, in our universities, let the study be encouraged of the
writings of those venerable divines, who flourished in the purer times
of Christianity. Let even a considerable proficiency in their writings
be required of candidates for ordination. Let our churches no longer
witness that unseemly discordance, which has too much prevailed, between
the prayers which precede, and the sermon which follows.

But it may be enough to have briefly hinted at the course of conduct,
which, in the present circumstances of this country, motives merely
political should prompt us to pursue. To all who have at heart the
national welfare, the above suggestions are solemnly submitted. They
have not been urged altogether without misgivings, lest it should
appear, as though the concern of Eternity were melted down into a mere
matter of temporal advantage, or political expediency. But since it has
graciously pleased the Supreme Being so to arrange the constitution of
things, as to render the prevalence of true Religion and of pure
morality conducive to the well-being of states, and the preservation of
civil order; and since these subordinate inducements are not
unfrequently held forth, even by the sacred writers; it seemed not
improper, and scarcely liable to misconstruction, to suggest inferior
motives to readers, who might be less disposed to listen to
considerations of a higher order.

Would to God that the course of conduct here suggested might be fairly
pursued! Would to God that the happy consequences, which would result
from the principles we have recommended, could be realized; and above
all, that the influence of true Religion could be extensively diffused!
It is the best wish which can be formed for his country, by one who is
deeply anxious for its welfare:--

    Lucem redde tuam, dux bone, patriæ!
    Instar veris enim vultus ubi tuus
    Affulsit populo, gratior it dies,
        Et soles melius nitent.



CHAPTER VII.

_Practical Hints to various Descriptions of Persons._


Thus have we endeavoured to trace the chief defects of the religious
system of the bulk of professed Christians in this country. We have
pointed out their low idea of the importance of Christianity in general;
their inadequate conceptions of all its leading doctrines, and the
effect hereby naturally produced in relaxing the strictness of its
practical system; more than all, we have remarked their grand
fundamental misconception of its genius and essential nature. Let not
therefore the difference between them and true believers be considered
as a minute difference; as a question of forms or opinions. The question
is of the very substance of Religion; the difference is of the most
serious and momentous amount. We must speak out. _Their Christianity is
not Christianity._ It wants the radical principle. It is mainly
defective in all the grand constituents. Let them no longer then be
deceived by names in a matter of infinite importance: but with humble
prayer to the Source of all wisdom, that he would enlighten their
understandings, and clear their hearts from prejudice; let them
seriously examine by the Scripture standard their real belief and
allowed practice, and they will become sensible of the shallowness of
their scanty system.

If through the blessing of Providence on any thing which may have been
here written, there should be any whom it has disposed to this important
duty of self-inquiry; let me previously warn them to be well aware of
our natural proneness to think too favourably of ourselves. Selfishness
is one of the principal fruits of the corruption of human nature; and it
is obvious that selfishness disposes us to over-rate our good qualities,
and to overlook or extenuate our defects. The corruption of human nature
therefore being admitted, it follows undeniably, that in all our
reckonings, if we would form a just estimate of our character, we must
make an allowance for the effects of selfishness. It is also another
effect of the corruption of human nature, to cloud our moral sight, and
blunt our moral sensibility. Something must therefore be allowed for
this effect likewise. Doubtless, the perfect purity of the Supreme Being
makes him see in us stains, far more in number and deeper in dye; than
we ourselves can discover. Nor should another awful consideration be
forgotten. When we look into ourselves, those sins only, into which we
have lately fallen, are commonly apt to excite any lively impression.
Many individual acts of vice, or a continued course of vicious or
dissipated conduct, which, when recent, may have smitten us with deep
remorse, after a few months or years leave but very faint traces in our
recollection; at least, those acts alone continue to strike us strongly,
which were of very extraordinary magnitude. But the strong impressions
which they at first excited, not the faded images which they
subsequently present to us, furnish the true measure of their guilt: and
to the pure eyes of God, this guilt must always have appeared far
greater than to us. Now to the Supreme Being we must believe that there
is no past or future; as whatever _will be_, so whatever _has been_, is
retained by him in present and unvarying contemplation, continuing
always to appear just the same as at the first moment of its happening.
Well may it then humble us in the sight of that Being "who is of purer
eyes than to behold iniquity;" to call to mind that, unless our offences
have been blotted out by our obtaining an interest in the satisfaction
of Christ, through true repentance and lively faith, we appear before
him clothed with the sins of our whole lives, in all their original
depth of colouring, and with all the aggravations which we no longer
particularly remember, but which, in general, we, perhaps, may recollect
to have once filled us with shame and confusion of face. The writer is
the rather desirous of enforcing this reflection; because he can truly
declare, that he has found no consideration so efficacious in producing
in his own mind the deepest self-abasement.

In treating of the sources of the erroneous estimates which we form of
our religious and moral character, it may not, perhaps, be without its
uses to take this occasion of pointing out some other common springs of
self-deception. Many persons, as was formerly hinted, are misled by the
favourable opinions entertained of them by others; many, it is to be
feared, mistake a hot zeal for orthodoxy, for a cordial acceptance of
the great truths of the Gospel; and almost all of us, at one time or
other, are more or less misled by confounding the suggestions of the
understanding with the impulses of the will, the assent which our
judgment gives to religious and moral truths, with a hearty belief and
approbation of them.

There is another frequent source of self-deception, which is productive
of so much mischief in life, that, though it may appear to lead to some
degree of repetition, it would be highly improper to omit the mention of
it in this place. That we may be the better understood, it may be proper
to premise, that certain particular vices, and likewise that certain
particular good and amiable qualities, seem naturally to belong to
certain particular periods and conditions of life. Now, if we would
reason fairly in estimating our moral character, we ought to examine
ourselves with reference to that particular "sin which does most easily
beset us," not to some other sin to which we are not nearly so much
liable. And in like manner, on the other hand, we ought not to account
it matter of much self-complacency, if we find in ourselves that good
and amiable quality which naturally belongs to our period or condition;
but rather look for some less ambiguous sign of a real internal
principle of virtue. But we are very apt to reverse these rules of
judging: we are very apt, on the one hand, both in ourselves and in
others, to excuse "the besetting sin," taking and giving credit for
being exempt from others, to which we or they are less liable; and on
the other hand, to value ourselves extremely on our possession of the
good or amiable quality which naturally belongs to us, and to require no
more satisfactory evidence of the _sufficiency_ at least of our moral
character. The bad effects of this partiality are aggravated by the
practice, to which we are sadly prone, of being contented, when we take
a hasty view of ourselves, with negative evidences of our state;
thinking it very well if we are not shocked by some great actual
transgression, instead of looking for the positive signs of a true
Christian, as laid down in the holy Scripture.

But the source of self-deception, which it is more particularly our
present object to point out, is a disposition to consider as a conquest
of any particular vice, our merely forsaking it on our quitting the
period or condition of life to which that vice belongs; when perhaps
also we substitute for it the vice of the new period or condition on
which we are entering. We thus mistake our merely outgrowing our vices,
or our relinquishing them from some change in our worldly circumstances,
for a thorough, or at least for a sufficient, reformation.

But this topic deserves to be viewed a little more closely. Young people
may, without much offence, be inconsiderate and dissipated; the youth of
one sex may indulge occasionally in licentious excesses; those of the
other may be supremely given up to vanity and pleasure: yet, provided
that they are sweet tempered, and open, and not disobedient to their
parents or other superiors, the former are deemed _good hearted_ young
men, the latter, _innocent_ young women. Those who love them best have
no solicitude about their spiritual interests: and it would be deemed
strangely strict in themselves, or in others, to doubt of their becoming
more religious as they advance in life; to speak of them as being
actually under the divine displeasure; or, if their lives should be in
danger, to entertain any apprehensions concerning their future destiny.

They grow older, and marry. The same licentiousness, which was formerly
considered in young men as a venial frailty, is now no longer regarded
in the husband and the father as compatible with the character of a
decently religious man. The language is of this sort; "they have sown
their wild oats, they must now reform, and be regular." Nor perhaps is
the same manifest predominance of vanity and dissipation deemed innocent
in the matron: but if they are kind respectively in their conjugal and
parental relations, and are tolerably regular and decent, they pass for
_mighty good sort of people_; and it would be altogether unnecessary
scrupulosity in them to doubt of their coming up to the requisitions of
the divine law, as far as in the present state of the world can be
expected from human frailty. Their hearts, however, are perhaps no more
than before supremely set on the great work of their salvation, but are
chiefly bent on increasing their fortunes, or raising their families.
Meanwhile they congratulate themselves on their having amended from
vices, which they are no longer strongly tempted to commit, or their
abstaining from which ought not to be too confidently assumed as a test
of the strength of the religious principle, since the commission of them
would prejudice their characters, and perhaps injure their fortune in
life.

Old age has at length made its advances. Now, if ever, we might expect
that it would be deemed high time to make eternal things the _main_
object of attention. No such thing! There is still an appropriate good
quality, the presence of which calms the disquietude, and satisfies the
requisitions both of themselves and of those around them. It is now
required of them that they should be good natured and cheerful,
indulgent to the frailties and follies of the young; remembering, that
when young themselves they gave into the same practices. How opposite
this to that dread of sin, which is the sure characteristic of the true
Christian; which causes him to look back upon the vices of his own
youthful days with shame and sorrow; and which, instead of conceding to
young people to be wild and thoughtless, as a privilege belonging to
their age and circumstances, prompts him to warn them against what had
proved to himself matter of such bitter retrospection! Thus, throughout
the whole of life, some means or other are devised for stifling the
voice of conscience. "We cry peace while there is no peace;" and both to
ourselves and others that complacency is furnished, which ought only to
proceed from a consciousness of being reconciled to God, and a humble
hope of our possessing his favour.

I know that these sentiments will be termed uncharitable; but I must not
be deterred by such an imputation. It is time to have done with that
senseless cant of charity, which insults the understandings, and trifles
with the feelings, of those who are really concerned for the happiness
of their fellow-creatures. What matter of keen remorse and of bitter
self-reproaches are they storing up for their future torment, who are
themselves its miserable dupes; or who, being charged with the office of
watching over the eternal interests of their children or relations,
suffer themselves to be lulled asleep, or beguiled by such shallow
reasonings into sparing themselves the momentary pain of executing their
important duty! Charity, indeed, is partial to the object of her regard;
and where actions are of a doubtful quality, this partiality disposes
her to refer them to a good, rather than to a bad, motive. She is apt
also somewhat to exaggerate merits, and to see amiable qualities in a
light more favourable than that which strictly belongs to them. But true
charity is wakeful, fervent, full of solicitude, full of good offices,
not so easily satisfied, not so ready to believe that every thing is
going on well as a matter of course; but jealous of mischief, apt to
suspect danger, and prompt to extend relief. These are the symptoms by
which genuine regard will manifest itself in a wife or a mother, in the
case of the _bodily_ health of the object of her affections. And where
there is any real concern for the _spiritual_ interests of others, it is
characterized by the same infallible marks. That wretched quality, by
which the sacred name of charity is now so generally and so falsely
usurped, is no other than indifference; which, against the plainest
evidence, or at least where there is strong ground of apprehension, is
easily contented to believe that all goes well, because it has no
anxieties to allay, no fears to repress. It undergoes no alternation of
passions; it is not at one time flushed with hope, nor at another
chilled by disappointment.

To a considerate and feeling mind, there is something deeply afflicting,
in seeing the engaging cheerfulness and cloudless gaiety incident to
youth, welcomed as a sufficient indication of internal purity by the
delighted parents; who, knowing the deceitfulness of these flattering
appearances, should eagerly avail themselves of this period, when once
wasted never to be regained, of good humoured acquiescence and dutiful
docility: a period when the soft and ductile temper of the mind renders
it more easily susceptible of the impressions we desire; and when,
therefore, habits should be formed, which may assist our natural
weakness to resist the temptations to which we shall be exposed in the
commerce of maturer life. This is more especially affecting in the
female sex, because that sex seems, by the very constitution of its
nature, to be more favourably disposed than ours to the feelings and
offices of Religion; being thus fitted by the bounty of Providence, the
better to execute the important task which devolves on it, of the
education of our earliest youth. Doubtless, this more favourable
disposition to Religion in the female sex, was graciously designed also
to make women doubly valuable in the wedded state: and it seems to
afford to the married man the means of rendering an active share in the
business of life more compatible, than it would otherwise be, with the
liveliest devotional feelings; that when the husband should return to
his family, worn and harassed by worldly cares or professional labours,
the wife, habitually preserving a warmer and more unimpaired spirit of
devotion, than is perhaps consistent with being immersed in the bustle
of life, might revive his languid piety; and that the religious
impressions of both might derive new force and tenderness from the
animating sympathies of conjugal affection. Can a more pleasing image be
presented to a considerate mind, than that of a couple, happy in each
other and in the pledges of their mutual love, uniting in an act of
grateful adoration to the author of all their mercies; recommending each
other, and the objects of their common care, to the divine protection;
and repressing the solicitude of conjugal and parental tenderness by a
confiding hope, that, through all the changes of this uncertain life,
the Disposer of all things will assuredly cause all to work together for
the good of them that love and put their trust in him; and that, after
this uncertain state shall have passed away, they shall be admitted to a
joint participation of never ending happiness. It is surely no mean or
ignoble office which we would allot to the female sex, when we would
thus commit to them the charge of maintaining in lively exercise
whatever emotions most dignify and adorn human nature; when we would
make them as it were the medium of our intercourse with the heavenly
world, the faithful repositories of the religious principle, for the
benefit both of the present and of the rising generation. Must it not
then excite our grief and indignation, when we behold mothers, forgetful
at once of their own peculiar duties, and of the high office which
Providence designed their daughters to fulfil; exciting, instead of
endeavoring to moderate in them, the natural sanguineness and
inconsiderateness of youth; hurrying them night after night to the
resorts of dissipation; thus teaching them to despise the _common_
comforts of the family circle; and, instead of striving to raise their
views, and to direct their affections to their true object, acting as if
with the express design studiously to extinguish every spark of a
devotional spirit, and to kindle in its stead an excessive love of
pleasure, and, perhaps, a principle of extravagant vanity, and ardent
emulation!

_Innocent young women! Good hearted young men!_ Wherein does this
_goodness of heart_ and this _innocence_ appear? Remember that we are
fallen creatures, born in sin, and naturally depraved. Christianity
recognises no _innocence_ or _goodness of heart_, but in the remission
of sin, and in the effects of the operation of divine grace. Do we find
in these young persons the characters, which the holy Scriptures lay
down as the only satisfactory evidences of a safe state? Do we not on
the other hand discover the specified marks of a state of alienation
from God? Can the blindest partiality persuade itself that _they_ are
loving, or striving "to love God with all their hearts, and minds, and
souls, and strength?" Are _they_ "seeking first the kingdom of God, and
his righteousness?" Are _they_ "working out their salvation with fear
and trembling?" Are _they_ "clothed with humility?" Are _they_ not, on
the contrary, supremely given up to self-indulgence? Are _they_ not at
least "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God?" Are the offices of
Religion _their_ solace or _their_ task? Do _they_ not come to these
sacred services with reluctance, continue in them by constraint, and
quit them with gladness? And of how many of _these_ persons may it not
be affirmed in the spirit of the prophet's language: "The harp, and the
viol, the tabret and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they
regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his
hands?" Are not the youth of one sex often actually committing, and
still more often wishing for the opportunity to commit, those sins of
which the Scripture says expressly, "that they which do such things
_shall not_ inherit the kingdom of God?" Are not the youth of the other
mainly intent on the gratification of vanity; and looking for their
chief happiness to the resorts of gaiety and fashion, to all the
multiplied pleasures which public places, or the still higher
gratifications of more refined circles, can supply?

And then, when the first ebullitions of youthful warmth are over, what
is their boasted reformation? They may be decent, sober, useful,
respectable, as members of the community, or amiable in the relations of
domestic life. But is _this_ the change of which the Scripture speaks?
Hear the expressions which it uses, and judge for yourselves--"Except a
man be _born again_, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."--"The
_old man_--is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;" an expression
but too descriptive of the vain delirium of youthful dissipation, and of
the false dreams of pleasure which it inspires; but "the _new man_" is
awakened from this fallacious estimate of happiness; "_he_ is renewed in
knowledge after the image of him that created him"--"He is created
_after God_ in righteousness and true holiness." The persons of whom we
are speaking are no longer, indeed, so thoughtless, and wild, and
dissipated, as formerly; so negligent in their attention to objects of
real value; so eager in the pursuit of pleasure; so prone to yield to
the impulse of appetite. But this is no more than the change of which a
writer of no very strict cast speaks, as naturally belonging to their
riper age:

    Conversis studiis, ætas animusque virilis
    Quærit opus, & amicitias: inservit honori:
    Commisisse cavet, quod mox mutare laboret.
                                              HOR.

This is a point of infinite importance: let it not be thought tedious to
spend even yet a few more moments in the discussion of it. Put the
question to another issue, and try it, by appealing to the principle of
life being a state of probation; (a proposition, indeed, true in a
certain sense, though not exactly in that which is sometimes assigned to
it,) and you will still be led to no very different conclusion.
Probation implies resisting, in obedience to the dictates of Religion,
appetites which we are naturally prompted to gratify. Young people are
not tempted to be churlish, interested, covetous; but to be
inconsiderate and dissipated, "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of
God." People again in middle age are not so strongly tempted to be
thoughtless, and idle, and licentious. From excesses of this sort they
are sufficiently withheld, particularly when happily settled in domestic
life, by a regard to their characters, by the restraints of family
connections, and by a sense of what is due to the decencies of the
married state. _Their_ probation is of another sort; _they_ are tempted
to be supremely engrossed by worldly cares, by family interests, by
professional objects, by the pursuit of wealth or of ambition. Thus
occupied, they are tempted to "mind earthly rather than heavenly
things," forgetting "the one thing needful;" to "set their affections"
on temporal rather than eternal concerns, and to take up with "a form of
godliness," instead of seeking to experience the power thereof: the
foundations of this nominal Religion being laid, as was formerly
explained more at large, in the forgetfulness, if not in the ignorance,
of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. These are the _ready-made_
Christians formerly spoken of, who consider Christianity as a
geographical term, properly applicable to all those who have been born
and educated in a country wherein Christianity is professed; not as
indicating a renewed nature, as expressive of a peculiar character, with
its appropriate desires and aversions, and hopes, and fears, and joys,
and sorrows. To people of this description, the solemn admonition of
Christ is addressed; "I know thy works; that thou hast a name that thou
livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which
remain that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect
before God."

If there be any who is inclined to listen to this solemn warning, who is
awakened from his dream of false security, and is disposed to be not
only _almost_ but _altogether_ a Christian--O! let him not stifle or
dissipate these beginnings of seriousness, but sedulously cherish them
as the "workings of the Divine Spirit," which would draw him from the
"broad" and crowded "road of destruction into the narrow" and thinly
peopled path "that leadeth to life." Let him retire from the
multitude--Let him enter into his closet, and on his bended knees
implore, for Christ's sake and in reliance on his mediation, that God
would "take away from him the heart of stone, and give him a heart of
flesh;" that the Father of light would open his eyes to his true
condition, and clear his heart from the clouds of prejudice, and
dissipate the deceitful medium of self-love. Then let him carefully
examine his past life, and his present course of conduct, comparing
himself with God's word: and considering how any one might reasonably
have been expected to conduct himself, to whom the Holy Scriptures had
been always open, and who had been used to acknowledge them to be the
revelation of the will of his Creator, and Governor, and Supreme
Benefactor; let him there peruse the awful denunciations against
impenitent sinners; let him labour to become more and more deeply
impressed with a sense of his own radical blindness and corruption;
above all, let him steadily contemplate, in all its bearings and
connections, that stupendous truth, _the incarnation and crucifixion of
the only begotten Son of God, and the message of mercy proclaimed from
the cross to repenting sinners_.--"Be ye reconciled unto God."--"Believe
in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

When he fairly estimates the guilt of sin by the costly satisfaction
which was required to atone for it, and the worth of his soul by the
price which was paid for its redemption, and contrasts both of these
with his own sottish inconsiderateness; when he reflects on the amazing
love and pity of Christ, and on the cold and formal acknowledgments with
which he has hitherto returned this infinite obligation, making light of
the precious blood of the Son of God, and trifling with the gracious
invitations of his Redeemer: surely, if he be not lost to sensibility,
mixed emotions of guilt, and fear, and shame, and remorse, and sorrow,
will nearly overwhelm his soul; he will smite upon his breast, and cry
out in the language of the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
But, blessed be God, such an one needs not despair--it is to persons in
this very situation, and with these very feelings, that the offers of
the Gospel are held forth, and its promises assured; "to the weary and
heavy laden" under the burden of their sins; to them who thirst for the
water of life; to them who feel themselves "tied and bound by the chain
of their sins;" who abhor their captivity, and long earnestly for
deliverance. Happy, happy souls! which the grace of God has visited,
"has brought out of darkness into his marvellous light," and "from the
power of Satan unto God." Cast yourselves then on his undeserved mercy;
he is full of love, and will not spurn you: surrender yourselves into
his hands, and solemnly resolve, through his Grace, to dedicate
henceforth all your faculties and powers to his service.

It is your's now "to work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling," relying on the fidelity of him who has promised to "work in
you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Ever look to him for
help: your only safety consists in a deep and abiding sense of your own
weakness, and in a firm reliance on his strength. If you "give all
diligence," his power is armed for your protection, his truth is pledged
for your security. You are enlisted under the banner of Christ--Fear
not, though the world, and the flesh, and the devil are set in array
against you.--"Faithful is he that hath promised;"--"be ye also faithful
unto death, and he will give you a crown of life."--"He that endureth
to the end, the same shall be saved." In such a world as this, in such a
state of society as ours, especially if in the higher walks of life, you
must be prepared to meet with many difficulties:--arm yourselves,
therefore, in the first place, with a determined resolution not to rate
human estimation beyond its true value; not to dread the charge of
particularity, when it shall be necessary to incur it; but as was before
recommended, let it be your constant endeavour to retain before your
mental eye, that bright assemblage of invisible spectators, who are the
witnesses of your daily conduct, and "to seek that honour which cometh
from God." You cannot advance a single step, till you are in some good
measure possessed of this comparative indifference to the favour of men.
We have before explained ourselves too clearly to render it necessary to
declare, that no one should needlessly affect singularity: but to aim at
incompatible advantages, to seek to please God and the world, where
their commands are really at variance, is the way to be neither
respectable, nor good, nor happy. Continue to be ever aware of your own
radical corruption and habitual weakness. Indeed, if your eyes be really
opened, and your heart truly softened, "hungering and thirsting after
righteousness," rising in your ideas of true holiness, and proving the
genuineness of your hope by desiring "to purify yourself even as God is
pure;" you will become daily more and more sensible of your own defeats,
and wants, and weaknesses; and more and more impressed by a sense of the
mercy and long suffering of that gracious Saviour, "who forgiveth all
your sin, and healeth all your infirmities."

This is the solution of what to a man of the world might seem a strange
paradox, that in proportion as the Christian grows in grace, he grows
also in humility. Humility is indeed the vital principle of
Christianity; that principle by which from first to last she lives and
thrives, and in proportion to the growth or decline of which she must
decay or flourish. _This_ first disposes the sinner in deep
self-abasement to accept the others of the Gospel; _this_, during his
whole progress, is the very ground and basis of his feelings and
conduct, both in relation to God, his fellow creatures, and himself; and
when at length he shall be translated into the realms of glory, _this_
principle shall still subsist in undiminished force: He shall "fall
down; and cast his crown before the Lamb; and ascribe blessing, and
honour, and glory, and power, to him that sitteth upon the throne, and
to the Lamb for ever and ever." The _practical_ benefits of this
habitual lowliness of spirit are too numerous, and at the same time too
obvious; to require enumeration. It will lead you to dread the
beginnings, and fly from the occasions of sin; as that man would shun
some infectious distemper, who should know that he was pre-disposed to
take the contagion. It will prevent a thousand difficulties, and decide
a thousand questions, concerning worldly compliances; by which those
persons are apt to be embarrassed, who are not duly sensible of their
own exceeding frailty, whose views of the Christian character are not
sufficiently elevated, and who are not enough possessed with a continual
fear of "grieving the Holy Spirit of God," and of thus provoking him to
withdraw his gracious influence. But if you are really such as we have
been describing, you need not be urged to set the standard of practice
high, and to strive after universal holiness. It is the desire of your
hearts to act in all things with a single eye to the favour of God, and
thus the most ordinary actions of life are raised into offices of
Religion. This is the purifying, the transmuting principle, which
realizes the fabled touch, which changes all to gold. But it belongs to
this desire of pleasing God, that we should be continually solicitous to
discover the path of duty; that we should not indolently wait, satisfied
with not refusing occasions of glorifying God, when they are forced upon
us; but that we should pray to God for wisdom and spiritual
understanding, that we may be, acute in discerning opportunities of
serving him in the world, and judicious in selecting and wise in
improving them. Guard indeed against the distraction of worldly cares;
and cultivate heavenly mindedness, and a spirit of continual prayer, and
neglect not to watch incessantly over the workings of your deceitful
heart: but be active also, and useful. Let not your precious time be
wasted "in shapeless idleness;" an admonition which, in our days, is
rendered but too necessary by the relaxed habits of persons even of real
piety: but wisely husband and improve this fleeting treasure. Never be
satisfied with your present attainments; but "forgetting the things
which are behind," labour still to "press forward" with undiminished
energy, and to run the race that is set before you without flagging in
your course.

Above all, measure your progress by your improvement in love to God and
man. "God is Love." This is the sacred principle, which warms and
enlightens the heavenly world, that blessed feat of God's visible
presence. There it shines with unclouded radiance. Some scattered beams
of it are graciously lent to us on earth, or we had been benighted and
left in darkness and misery; but a larger portion of it is infused into
the hearts of the servants of God, who thus "are renewed in the divine
likeness," and even here exhibit some faint traces of the image of their
heavenly Father. It is the principle of love which disposes them to
yield themselves up without reserve to the service of him, "who has
bought them with the price of his own blood."

Servile, and base, and mercenary, is the notion of Christian practice
among the bulk of nominal Christians. They give no more than they _dare_
not with-hold; they abstain from nothing but what they _must_ not
practise. When you state to them the doubtful quality of any action, and
the consequent obligation to desist from it, they reply to you in the
very spirit of Shylock, "they cannot find it in the bond." In short,
they know Christianity only as a system of restraints. She is despoiled
of every liberal and generous principle: she is rendered almost unfit
for the social intercourses of life, and is only suited to the gloomy
walls of that cloister, in which they would confine her. But _true
Christians_ consider themselves not as satisfying some rigorous
creditor, but as discharging a debt of gratitude. Their's is accordingly
not the stinted return of a constrained obedience, but the large and
liberal measure of a voluntary service. This principle, therefore, as
was formerly remarked, and has been recently observed of true Christian
humility, prevents a thousand _practical_ embarrassments, by which they
are continually harassed, who act from a less generous motive; and who
require it to be clearly ascertained to them, that any gratification or
worldly compliance, which may be in question, is beyond the allowed
boundary line of Christian practice[124]. _This_ principle regulates the
true Christian's choice of companions and friends, where he is at
liberty to make an option; _this_ fills him with the desire of promoting
the temporal well-being of all around him, and still more with pity and
love, and anxious solicitude for their spiritual welfare. Indifference
indeed in this respect is one of the surest signs of a low or declining
state in Religion. _This_ animating principle it is, which in the true
Christian's happier hour inspirits his devotions, and causes him to
delight in the worship of God; which fills him with consolation, and
peace, and gladness, and sometimes even enables him "to rejoice with joy
unspeakable and full of glory."

But this world is not his resting place: here, to the very last, he must
be a pilgrim and a stranger; a soldier, whose warfare ends only with
life, ever struggling and combating with the powers of darkness, and
with the temptations of the world around him, and the still more
dangerous hostilities of internal depravity. The perpetual vicissitudes
of this uncertain state, the peculiar trials and difficulties with which
the life of a Christian is chequered, and still more, the painful and
humiliating remembrance of his own infirmities, teach him to look
forward, almost with outstretched neck, to that promised day, when he
shall be completely delivered from the bondage of corruption, and sorrow
and sighing shall flee away. In the anticipation of that blessed period,
and comparing this churlish and turbulent world, where competition, and
envy, and anger, and revenge, so vex and agitate the sons of men, with
that blissful region where Love shall reign without disturbance, and
where all being knit together in bonds of indissoluble friendship, shall
unite in one harmonious song of praise to the Author of their common
happiness, the true Christian triumphs over the fear of death: he longs
to realize these cheering images, and to obtain admission into that
blessed company.--With far more justice than it was originally used, he
may adopt the beautiful exclamation--"O præclarum illum diem, cum ad
illud divinum animorum concilium coetumque proficiscar, atque ex hac
turba et colluvione discedam!"

What has been now as well as formerly remarked, concerning the habitual
feelings of the real believer, may suggest a reply to an objection
common in the mouths of nominal Christians, that we would deny men the
innocent amusements and gratifications of life; thus causing our
Religion to wear a gloomy forbidding aspect, instead of her true and
natural face of cheerfulness and joy. This is a charge of so serious a
nature, that although it lead into a digression, it may not be improper
to take some notice of it.

In the first place, Religion prohibits no amusement or gratification
which is _really_ innocent. The question, however, of its innocence,
must not be tried by the loose maxims of worldly morality, but by the
spirit of the injunctions of the word of God; and by the indulgence
being conformable or not conformable to the genius of Christianity, and
to the tempers and dispositions of mind enjoined on its professors.
There can be no dispute concerning the true end of recreations. They are
intended to refresh our exhausted bodily or mental powers, and to
restore us, with renewed vigour, to the more serious occupations of
life. Whatever, therefore, fatigues either body or mind, instead of
refreshing them, is not fitted to answer the designed purpose. Whatever
consumes more time, or money, or thought, than it is expedient (I might
say _necessary_) to allot to mere amusement, can hardly be approved by
any one who considers these talents as precious deposits for the
expenditure of which he will have to give account. Whatever directly or
indirectly must be likely to injure the welfare of a fellow creature,
can scarcely be a suitable _recreation_ for a Christian, who is "to love
his neighbour as himself;" or a very consistent _diversion_ for any one,
the business of whose life is to diffuse happiness.

But does a Christian never relax? Let us not so wrong and vilify the
bounty of Providence, as to allow for a moment that the sources of
innocent amusement are so rare, that men must be driven, almost by
constraint, to such as are of a doubtful quality. On the contrary, such
has been the Creator's goodness, that almost every one, both of our
physical and intellectual, and moral faculties (and the same may be said
of the whole creation which we see around us) is not only calculated to
answer the proper end of its being, by its subserviency to some purpose
of solid usefulness, but to be the instrument of administering pleasure.

                          Not content
    With every food of life to nourish man,
    Thou mak'st all nature beauty to his eye
    And music to his ear.

Our Maker also, in his kindness, has so constructed us, that even mere
vicissitude is grateful and refreshing--a consideration which should
prompt us often to seek, from a prudent _variation_ of _useful
pursuits_, that recreation, for which we are apt to resort to what is
altogether, _unproductive_ and _unfruitful_.

Yet rich and multiplied are the springs of innocent relaxation. The
Christian relaxes in the temperate use of all the gifts of Providence.
Imagination, and taste, and genius, and the beauties of creation, and
the works of art, lie open to him. He relaxes in the feast of reason, in
the intercourses of society, in the sweets of friendship, in the
endearments of love, in the exercise of hope, of confidence, of joy, of
gratitude, of universal good will, of all the benevolent and generous
affections; which, by the gracious ordination of our Creator, while
they disinterestedly intend only happiness to others, are most surely
productive to ourselves of complacency and peace. O! little do they know
of the true measure of enjoyment, who can compare these delightful
complacencies with the frivolous pleasures of dissipation, or the coarse
gratifications of sensuality. It is no wonder, however, that the nominal
Christian should reluctantly give up, one by one, the pleasures of the
world; and look back upon them, when relinquished, with eyes of
wistfulness and regret: because he knows not the sweetness of the
delights with which true Christianity repays those trifling sacrifices,
and is greatly unacquainted with the _nature_ of that pleasantness which
is to be found in the ways of Religion.

It is indeed true, that when any one, who has long been going on in the
gross and unrestrained practice of vice, is checked in his career, and
enters at first on a religious course, he has much to undergo. Fear,
guilt, remorse, shame, and various other passions, struggle and conflict
within him. His appetites are clamorous for their accustomed
gratification, and inveterate habits are scarcely to be denied. He is
weighed down by a load of guilt, and almost overwhelmed by the sense of
his unworthiness. But all this ought in fairness to be charged to the
account of his past sins, and not to that of his present repentance. It
rarely happens, however, that this state of suffering continues very
long. When the mental gloom is the blackest, a ray of heavenly light
occasionally breaks in, and suggests the hope of better days. Even in
this life it commonly holds true, "They that sow in tears shall reap in
joy."

Neither, when we maintain, that the ways of Religion are ways of
pleasantness, do we mean to deny that the Christian's internal state is,
through the whole of his life, a state of discipline and warfare.
Several of the causes which contribute to render it such have been
already pointed out, together with the workings of his mind in relation
to them: but if he has solicitudes and griefs peculiar to himself, he
has "joys also with which a stranger intermeddles not."

"Drink deep," however, "or taste not," is a direction full as applicable
to Religion, if we would find it a source of pleasure, as it is to
knowledge. A little Religion is, it must be confessed, apt to make men
gloomy, as a little knowledge to render them vain: hence the unjust
imputation often brought upon Religion by those, whose degree of
Religion is just sufficient, by condemning their course of conduct, to
render them uneasy: enough merely to impair the sweetness of the
pleasures of sin, and not enough to compensate for the relinquishment of
them by its own peculiar comforts. Thus these men bring up, as it were,
an ill report of that land of promise, which, in truth, abounds with
whatever, in our journey through life, can best refresh and strengthen
us.

We have enumerated some sources of pleasure which men of the world may
understand, and must acknowledge to belong to the true Christian; but
there are others, and those of a still higher class, to which they must
confess themselves strangers. To say nothing of a qualified, I dare not
say an entire, exemption from those distracting passions and corroding
cares, by which he must naturally be harassed, whose treasure is within
the reach of mortal accidents; there is the humble quiet-giving hope of
being reconciled to God, and of enjoying his favour; with that solid
peace of mind, which the world can neither give nor take away, that
results from a firm confidence in the infinite wisdom and goodness of
God, and in the unceasing care and kindness of a generous Saviour: and
there is the persuasion of the truth of the divine assurance, that all
things shall work together for good.

When the pulse indeed beats high, and we are flushed with youth, and
health, and vigour; when all goes on prosperously, and success seems
almost to anticipate our wishes; then we feel not the want of the
consolations of Religion: but when fortune frowns, or friends forsake
us; when sorrow, or sickness, or old age, comes upon us, then it is,
that the superiority of the pleasures of Religion is established over
those of dissipation and vanity, which are ever apt to fly from us when
we are most in want of their aid. There is scarcely a more melancholy
sight to a considerate mind, than that of an old man, who is a stranger
to those only true sources of satisfaction. How affecting, and at the
same time how disgusting, is it to see such an one awkwardly catching at
the pleasures of his younger years, which are now beyond his reach; or
feebly attempting to retain them, while they mock his endeavours and
elude his grasp! To such an one, _gloomily_ indeed does the evening of
life set in! All is sour and cheerless. He can neither look backward
with complacency nor forward with hope: while the aged Christian,
relying on the assured mercy of his Redeemer, can calmly reflect that
his dismission is at hand; that his redemption draweth nigh: while his
strength declines, and his faculties decay, he can quietly repose
himself on the fidelity of God: and at the very entrance of the valley
of the shadow of death, he can lift up an eye, dim, perhaps, and feeble,
yet occasionally sparkling with hope, and confidently looking forward to
the near possession of his heavenly inheritance, "to those joys which
eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart
of man to conceive."

Never were there times which inculcated more forcibly than those in
which we live, the wisdom of seeking a happiness beyond the reach of
human vicissitudes. What striking lessons have _we_ had of the
precarious tenure of all sublunary possessions! Wealth, and power, and
prosperity, how peculiarly transitory and uncertain! But Religion
dispenses her choicest cordials in the seasons of exigence, in poverty,
in exile, in sickness, and in death. The essential superiority of that
support which is derived from Religion is less felt, at least it is less
apparent, when the Christian is in full possession of riches, and
splendour, and rank, and all the gifts of nature and fortune. But when
all these are swept away by the rude hand of time, or the rough blasts
of adversity, the true Christian stands, like the glory of the forest,
erect and vigorous; stripped indeed of his summer foliage, but more than
ever discovering to the observing eye the solid strength of his
substantial texture:

    Pondere fixa suo est, nudosque per aera ramos
    Attollens, trunco non frondibus efficit umbram.


SECTION II.

_Advice to some who profess their full Assent to the fundamental
Doctrines of the Gospel._

In a former chapter we largely insisted on what may be termed the
fundamental practical error of the bulk of professed Christians in our
days; their either overlooking or misconceiving the peculiar method,
which the Gospel has provided for the renovation of our corrupted
nature, and for the attainment of every Christian grace.

But there are mistakes on the right hand and on the left; and our
general proneness, when we are flying from one extreme to run into an
opposite error, renders it necessary to superadd another admonition. The
generally prevailing error of the present day, indeed, is that
fundamental one which was formerly pointed out. But while we attend, in
the first place, to this; and, on the warrant both of Scripture and
experience, prescribe hearty repentance and lively faith, as the only
root and foundation of all true holiness; we must at the same time guard
against a practical mistake of another kind. They who, with penitent
hearts, have humbled themselves before the cross of Christ; and who,
pleading his merits as their only ground of pardon and acceptance with
God, have resolved henceforth, through the help of his Spirit, to bring
forth the fruits of righteousness, are sometimes apt to conduct
themselves as if they considered their work as now done; or at least as
if this were the whole they had to do, as often as, by falling afresh
into sin, another act of repentance and faith may seem to have become
necessary. There are not a few in our relaxed age, who thus satisfy
themselves with what may be termed _general_ Christianity; who feel
_general_ penitence and humiliation from a sense of their sinfulness _in
general_, and _general_ desires of universal holiness; but who neglect
that vigilant and jealous care, with which they should labour to
extirpate every _particular_ corruption, by studying its nature, its
root, its ramifications, and thus becoming acquainted with its secret
movements, with the means whereby it gains strength, and with the most
effectual methods of resisting it. In like manner, they are far from
striving with persevering alacrity for the acquisition and improvement
of every Christian grace. Nor is it unusual for ministers, who preach
the truths of the Gospel with fidelity, ability, and success, to be
themselves also liable to the charge of dwelling altogether in their
instructions on this _general_ Religion: instead of tracing and laying
open all the secret motions of inward corruption, and instructing their
hearers how best to conduct themselves in every distinct part of the
Christian warfare; how best to strive against each particular vice, and
to cultivate each grace of the Christian character. Hence it is, that in
too many persons, concerning the sincerity of whose general professions
of Religion we should be sorry to entertain a doubt, we yet see little
progress made in the regulation of their tempers, in the improvement of
their time, in the reform of their plan of life, or inability to resist
the temptation to which they are particularly exposed. They will confess
themselves, in general terms, to be "_miserable sinners_:" this is a
tenet of their creed, and they feel even proud in avowing it. They will
occasionally also lament particular failings: but this confession is
sometimes obviously made, in order to draw forth a compliment for the
very opposite virtue: and where this is not the case, it is often not
difficult to detect, under this false guise of contrition, a secret
self-complacency, arising from the manifestations which they have
afforded of their acuteness or candour in discovering the infirmity in
question, or of their frankness or humility in acknowledging it. This
will scarcely seem an illiberal suspicion to any one, who either watches
the workings of his own heart, or who observes, that the faults
confessed in these instances are very seldom those, with which the
person is most clearly and strongly chargeable.

_We must plainly warn these men_, and the consideration is seriously
pressed on their instructors also, _that they are in danger of deceiving
themselves. Let them beware lest they be nominal Christians of another
sort._ These persons require to be reminded, that there is no _short
compendious method of holiness_: but that it must be the business of
their whole lives to grow in grace, and continually adding one virtue to
another, as far as may be, "to go on towards perfection." "He only that
doeth righteousness is righteous." Unless "they bring forth the fruits
of the Spirit," they can have no sufficient evidence that they have
received that "Spirit of Christ, without which they are none of his."
But where, on the whole, our unwillingness to pass an unfavourable
judgment may lead us to indulge a hope, that "the root of the matter is
found in them;" yet we must at least declare to them, that instead of
adorning the doctrine of Christ, they disparage and discredit it. The
world sees not their secret humiliation, not the exercises of their
closets, but it is acute in discerning practical weaknesses: and if it
observe that they have the same eagerness in the pursuit of wealth or
ambition, the same vain taste for ostentation and display, the same
ungoverned tempers, which are found in the generality of mankind; it
will treat with contempt their pretences to superior sanctity and
indifference to worldly things, and will be hardened in its prejudices
against the only mode, which God has provided for our escaping the wrath
to come, and obtaining eternal happiness.

Let him then, who would be indeed a Christian, watch over his ways and
over his heart with unceasing circumspection. Let him endeavour to
learn, both from men and books, particularly from the lives of eminent
Christians[125], what methods have been actually found most effectual
for the conquest of every particular vice, and for improvement in every
branch of holiness. Thus studying his own character, and observing the
most secret workings of his own mind, and of our common nature; the
knowledge which he will acquire of the human heart in general, and
especially of his own, will be of the highest utility, in enabling him
to avoid or to guard against the occasions of evil: and it will also
tend, above all things, to the growth of humility, and to the
maintenance of that sobriety of spirit and tenderness of conscience,
which are eminently characteristic of the true Christian. It is by this
unceasing diligence, as the Apostle declares, that the servants of
Christ must make their calling sure. Their labour will not be thrown
away; for "an entrance shall" at length "be ministered unto them
abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ."


SECT. III.

_Brief Observations addressed to Sceptics and Unitarians._

There is another class of men, an increasing class, it is to be feared,
in this country, that of absolute unbelievers, with which this little
work has properly no concern: but may the writer, sincerely pitying
their melancholy state, be permitted to ask them one plain question? If
Christianity be not in their estimation true, yet is there not at least
a presumption in its favour, sufficient to entitle it to a serious
examination; from its having been embraced, and that not blindly and
implicitly, but upon full inquiry and deep consideration, by Bacon, and
Milton, and Locke, and Newton, and much the greater part of those, who,
by the reach of their understandings, or the extent of their knowledge,
and by the freedom too of their minds, and their daring to combat
existing prejudices, have called forth the respect and admiration of
mankind? It might be deemed scarcely fair to insist on Churchmen, though
some of them are among the greatest names this country has ever known.
Can the sceptic in general say with truth, that he has either prosecuted
an examination into the evidences of Revelation at all, or at least with
a seriousness and diligence in any degree proportioned to the importance
of the subject? The fact is, and it is a fact which redounds to the
honour of Christianity, that infidelity is not the result of sober
inquiry and deliberate preference. It is rather the slow production of a
careless and irreligious life, operating together with prejudices and
erroneous conceptions, concerning the nature of the leading doctrines
and fundamental tenets of Christianity.

Take the case of young men of condition, bred up by what we have termed
nominal Christians. When children, they are carried to church, and
thence they become acquainted with such parts of Scripture as are
contained in our public service. If their parents preserve still more of
the customs of better times, they are taught their Catechism, and
furnished with a little farther religious knowledge. After a while, they
go from under the eyes of their parents; they enter into the world, and
move forward in the path of life, whatever it may be, which has been
assigned to them. They yield to the temptations which assail them, and
become, more or less, dissipated and licentious. At least they neglect
to look into their Bible; they do not enlarge the sphere of their
religious acquisitions; they do not even endeavour, by reflection and
study, to turn into what may deserve the name of knowledge and rational
conviction, the opinions which, in their childhood, they had taken on
trust.

They travel, perhaps, into foreign countries; a proceeding which
naturally tends to weaken their nursery, prejudice in favour of the
Religion in which they were bred, and by removing them from all means of
public worship, to relax their practical habits of Religion. They return
home, and commonly are either hurried round in the vortex of
dissipation, or engage with the ardour of youthful minds in some public
or professional pursuit. If they read or hear any thing about
Christianity, it is commonly only about those tenets which are subjects
of controversy: and what reaches their ears of the Bible, from their
occasional attendance at church; though it may sometimes impress them
with an idea of the purity of Christian morality, contains much which,
coming thus detached, perplexes and offends them, and suggests various
doubts and startling objections, which a farther acquaintance with the
Scripture would remove. Thus growing more and more to know Christianity
only by the difficulties it contains; sometimes tempted by the ambition
of shewing themselves superior to vulgar prejudice, and always prompted
by the natural pride of the human heart to cast off their subjection to
dogmas imposed on them; disgusted, perhaps, by the immoral lives of some
professed Christians, by the weaknesses and absurdities of others, and
by what they observe to be the implicit belief of numbers, whom they see
and know to be equally ignorant with themselves, many doubts and
suspicions of greater or less extent spring up within them. These doubts
enter into the mind at first almost imperceptibly: they exist only as
vague indistinct surmises, and by no means take the precise shape or
the substance of a formed opinion. At first, probably, they even offend
and startle by their intrusion: but by degrees the unpleasant sensations
which they once excited wear off: the mind grows more familiar with
them. A confused sense (for such it is, rather than a formed idea) of
its being desirable that their doubts should prove well founded, and of
the comfort and enlargement which would be afforded by that proof, lends
them much secret aid. The impression becomes deeper; not in consequence
of being reinforced by fresh arguments, but merely by dint of having
longer rested in the mind; and as they increase in force, they creep on
and extend themselves. At length they diffuse themselves over the whole
of Religion, and possess the mind in undisturbed occupancy.

It is by no means meant that this is universally the process. But,
speaking generally, this might be termed, perhaps not unjustly, the
_natural history_ of scepticism. It approves itself to the experience of
those who have with any care watched the progress of infidelity in
persons around them; and it is confirmed by the written lives of some of
the most eminent unbelievers. It is curious to read their own accounts
of themselves, the rather as they accord so exactly with the result of
our own observation.--We find that they once perhaps gave a sort of
implicit hereditary assent to the truth of Christianity, and were what,
by a mischievous perversion of language, the world denominates
_believers_. How were they then awakened from their sleep of ignorance?
At what moment did the light of truth beam in upon them, and dissipate
the darkness in which they had been involved? The period of their
infidelity is marked by no such determinate boundary. Reason, and
thought, and inquiry had little or nothing to do with it. Having for
many years lived careless and irreligious lives, and associated with
companions equally careless and irreligious; not by force of study and
reflection, but rather by the lapse of time, they at length attained to
their infidel maturity. It is worthy of remark, that where any are
reclaimed from infidelity, it is generally by a process much more
rational than that which has been here described. Something awakens them
to reflection. They examine, they consider, and at length yield their
assent to Christianity on what they deem sufficient grounds.

From the account here given, it appears plainly that infidelity is
generally the offspring of prejudice, and that its success is mainly to
be ascribed to the depravity of the moral character. This fact is
confirmed by the undeniable truth, that in _societies_, which consist of
individuals, infidelity is the natural fruit, not so much of a studious
and disputatious, as of a dissipated and vicious age. It diffuses itself
in proportion as the general morals decline; and it is embraced with
less apprehension, when every infidel is kept in spirits, by seeing many
around him who are sharing fortunes with himself.

To any fair mind this consideration alone might be offered, as
suggesting a strong argument against infidelity, and in favour of
Revelation. And the friends of Christianity might justly retort the
charge, which their opponents often urge with no little affectation of
superior wisdom; that we implicitly surrender ourselves to the influence
of prejudice, instead of examining dispassionately the ground of our
faith, and yielding our assent only according to the degree of evidence.

In our own days, when it is but too clear that infidelity increases, it
is not in consequence of the reasonings of the infidel writers having
been much studied, but from the progress of luxury, and the decay of
morals: and, so far as this increase may be traced at all to the works
of sceptical writers; it has been produced, not by argument and
discussion, but by sarcasms and points of wit, which have operated on
weak minds, or on nominal Christians, by bringing gradually into
contempt, opinions which, in their case, had only rested on the basis of
blind respect and the prejudices of education. It may therefore be laid
down as an axiom, that _infidelity is in general a disease of the heart
more than of the understanding_. If Revelation were assailed only by
reason and argument, it would have little to fear. The literary opposers
of Christianity, from Herbert to Hume, have been seldom read. They made
some stir in their day: during their span of existence they were noisy
and noxious; but like the locusts of the east, which for a while obscure
the air, and destroy the verdure, they were soon swept away and
forgotten. Their very names would be scarcely found, if Leland had not
preserved them from oblivion.

The account which has been given, of the secret, but grand, source of
infidelity, may perhaps justly be extended, as being not seldom true in
the case of those who deny the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel.

In the course which we lately traced from nominal orthodoxy to absolute
infidelity, Unitarianism[126] is indeed, a sort of half-way house, if
the expression may be pardoned; a stage on the journey, where sometimes
a person indeed finally stops, but where, not unfrequently, he only
pauses for a while, and then pursues his progress.

The Unitarian teachers by no means profess to absolve their followers
from the unbending strictness of Christian morality. They prescribe the
predominant love of God, and an habitual spirit of devotion: but it is
an unquestionable fact; a fact which they themselves almost admit, that
this class of religionists is not in general distinguished for superior
purity of life; and still less for that frame of mind, which, by the
injunction "to be spiritually, not carnally, minded," the word of God
prescribes to us, as one of the surest tests of our experiencing the
vital power of Christianity. On the contrary, in point of fact,
_Unitarianism_ seems to be resorted to, not merely by those who are
disgusted with the peculiar doctrines of Christianity; but by those also
who are seeking a refuge from the strictness of her practical precepts;
and who, more particularly, would escape from the obligation which she
imposes on her adherents, rather to incur the dreaded charge of
singularity, than fall in with the declining manners of a dissipated
age.

Unitarianism, where it may be supposed to proceed from the understanding
rather than from the heart, is not unfrequently produced by a confused
idea of the difficulties, or, as they are termed, the impossibilities
which orthodox Christianity is supposed to involve. It is not our
intention to enter into the controversy:[127] but it may not be improper
to make one remark as a guard to persons in whose way the arguments of
the Unitarians may be likely to fall; namely, that one great advantage
possessed by Deists, and perhaps in a still greater degree by
Unitarians, in their warfare with the Christian system, results from the
very circumstances of their being the assailants. They urge what they
state to be powerful arguments against the truth of the fundamental
doctrines of Christianity, and then call upon men to abandon them as
posts no longer tenable. But they, who are disposed to yield to this
assault, should call to mind, that it has pleased God so to establish
the constitution of all things, that perplexing difficulties and
plausible objections may be adduced against the most established truths;
such, for instance, as the being of a God, and many others both physical
and moral. In all cases, therefore, it becomes us, not on a partial view
to reject any proposition, because it is attended with difficulties; but
to compare the difficulties which it involves, with those which attend
the alternative proposition which must be embraced on its rejection. We
should put to the proof the alternative proposition in its turn, and see
whether it be not still less tenable than that which we are summoned to
abandon. In short, we should examine circumspectly on all sides; and
abide by that opinion which, on carefully balancing all considerations,
appears fairly entitled to our preference. Experience, however, will
have convinced the attentive observer of those around him, that it has
been for want of adverting to this just and obvious principle, that the
Unitarians in particular have gained most of their proselytes from the
Church, so far as argument has contributed to their success. If the
Unitarians, or even the Deists, were considered in their turn as masters
of the field; and were in their turn attacked, both by arguments tending
to disprove their system directly, and to disprove it indirectly, by
shewing the high probability of the truth of Christianity, and of its
leading and peculiar doctrines, it is most likely that they would soon
appear wholly unable to keep their ground. In short, reasoning fairly,
there is no medium between absolute _Pyrrhonism_ and true Christianity:
and if we reject the latter on account of its difficulties, we shall be
still more loudly called upon to reject every other system which has
been offered to the acceptance of mankind. This consideration might,
perhaps, with advantage be more attended to than it has been, by those
who take upon them to vindicate the truth of our holy religion: as many,
who from inconsideration, or any other cause, are disposed to give up
the great fundamentals of Christianity, would be startled by the idea,
that on the same principle on which they did this, they must give up the
hope of finding any rest for the sole of their foot on any ground of
Religion, and not stop short of unqualified Atheism.

Besides the class of those who professedly reject revelation, there is
another, and that also, it is to be feared, an increasing one, which may
be called the class of half-unbelievers, who are to be found in various
degrees of approximation to a state of absolute infidelity. The system,
if it deserve the name, of these men, is grossly irrational. Hearing
many who assert and many who deny the truth of Christianity, and not
reflecting seriously enough to consider that it must be either true or
false, they take up a strange sort of middle opinion of its qualified
truth. They conceive that there must be something in it, though by no
means to the extent to which it is pushed by orthodox Christians. They
grant the reality of future punishment, and even that they themselves
cannot altogether expect to escape it; yet, "they trust it will not go
so hard with them as the churchmen state:" and, as was formerly hinted,
though disbelieving almost every material doctrine which Christianity
contains; yet, even in their own minds, they by no means conceive
themselves to be inlisted under the banners of infidelity, or to have
much cause for any great apprehension lest Christianity should prove
true.

But let these men be reminded, that there is no middle way. If they can
be prevailed on to look into their Bible, and do not make up their minds
absolutely to reject its authority; they must admit that there is no
ground whatever for this vain hope, which they suffer themselves to
indulge, of escaping but with a slight measure of punishment. Nor let
them think their guilt inconsiderable. Is it not grossly criminal to
trifle with the long-suffering of God, to despise alike his invitations
and his threatenings, and the offer of his Spirit of grace, and the
precious blood of the Redeemer? Far different is the Scripture estimate;
"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" "It shall be
more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment," than for
them, who voluntarily shut their eyes against that full light, which the
bounty of Heaven has poured out upon them. These half-unbelievers are
even more reprehensible than downright sceptics, for remaining in this
state of careless uncertainty, without endeavouring to ascertain the
truth or falsehood of revelation. The probability which they admit, that
it may be true, imposes on them an additional and an undeniable
obligation to inquiry. But both to them and to decided sceptics it must
be plainly declared, that they are in these days less excusable than
ever, for not looking into the grounds and proofs on which is rested the
truth of Christianity; for never before were these proofs so _plainly,
and at so easy a rate_, offered to the consideration of mankind. Through
the bounty of Providence, the more widely spreading poison of infidelity
has in our days been met with more numerous and more powerful antidotes.
One of these has been already pointed out: and it should be matter of
farther gratitude to every real Christian, that in the very place on
which modern infidelity had displayed the standard of victory, a warrior
in the service of Religion, a man of the most acute discernment and
profound research, has been raised up by Providence to quell their
triumph[128]. He was soon taken from us; but happily for him and for
ourselves, not till he had announced, that, like the Magi of old, he had
seen the star of Christ in the East, and had fallen down and worshipped
him. Another should be mentioned with honour, who is pursuing the track
which that great man had pointed out[129]. Henceforth let all objectors
against Christianity, on the ground of its being disproved by the
oriental records, be put to silence. The strength of their cause
consisted in their ignorance, and in our own, of oriental learning. They
availed themselves for a while of our being in a state of darkness; but
the light of day has at length broken in and exposed to deserved
contempt their superficial speculations.

The infatuation of these unbelievers upon trust would be less striking,
if they were able altogether to decline Christianity; and were at
liberty to relinquish their pretensions to its rewards, on condition of
being exempted from its punishments. But that is not the case; they must
stand the risk of the encounter, and their eternal happiness or misery
is suspended upon the issue[130]. What must be the emotions of these
men, on first opening their eyes in the world of spirits, and being
convinced, too late, of the awful reality of their impending ruin? May
the mercy and the power of God awaken them from their desperate slumber,
while life is yet spared, and there is yet space for repentance!


SECTION IV.

_Advice suggested by the state of the times to true Christians._

To those, who really deserve the appellation of true Christians, much
has been said incidentally in the course of the present work. It has
been maintained, and the proposition will not be disputed by any sound
or experienced politician, that they are always most important members
of the community. But we may boldly assert, that there never was a
period wherein, more justly than in the present, this could be affirmed
of them; whether the situation, in all its circumstances, of our own
country be attentively considered, or the general state of society in
Europe. Let them on their part seriously weigh the important station
which they fill, and the various duties which it now peculiarly enforces
on them. If we consult the most intelligent accounts of foreign
countries, which have been recently published, and compare them with the
reports of former travellers; we must be convinced, that Religion and
the standard of morals are every where declining, abroad even more
rapidly than in our own country. But still, the progress of irreligion,
and the decay of morals at home, are such as to alarm every considerate
mind, and to forebode the worst consequences, unless some remedy can be
applied to the growing evil. We can depend only upon true _Christians_
for effecting, in any degree, this important service. Their system, as
was formerly stated, is that of our national church: and in proportion,
therefore, as their system prevails, or as it increases in respect and
estimation, from the manifest good conduct of its followers; in that
very proportion the church is strengthened in the foundations, on which
alone it can be much longer supported, the esteem and attachment of its
members, and of the nation at large. Zeal is required in the cause of
Religion; they only can feel it. The charge of singularity must be
incurred; they only will dare to encounter it. Uniformity of conduct,
and perseverance in exertion, will be requisite; among no others can we
look for those qualities.

Let true Christians then, with becoming earnestness, strive in all
things to recommend their profession, and to put to silence the vain
scoffs of ignorant objectors. Let them boldly assert the cause of Christ
in an age when so many, who bear the name of Christians, are ashamed of
Him: and let them consider as devolved on Them the important duty of
suspending for a while the fall of their country, and, perhaps, of
performing a still more extensive service to society at large; not by
busy interference in politics, in which it cannot but be confessed there
is much uncertainty; but rather by that sure and radical benefit of
restoring the influence of Religion, and of raising the standard of
morality.

Let them be active, useful, generous towards others; manifestly moderate
and self-denying in themselves. Let them be ashamed of idleness, as
they would be of the most acknowledged sin. When Providence blesses them
with affluence, let them withdraw from the competition of vanity; and,
without sordidness or absurdity, shew by their modest demeanour, and by
their retiring from display, that, without affecting singularity, they
are not slaves to fashion; that they consider it as their duty to set an
example of moderation and sobriety, and to reserve for nobler and more
disinterested purposes, that money, which others selfishly waste in
parade, and dress, and equipage. Let them evince, in short, a manifest
moderation in all temporal things; as becomes those whose affections are
set on higher objects than any which this world affords, and who
possess, within their own bosoms, a fund of satisfaction and comfort,
which the world seeks in vanity and dissipation. Let them cultivate a
catholic spirit of universal good will, and of amicable fellowship
towards all those, of whatever sect or denomination, who, differing from
them in non-essentials, agree with them in the grand fundamentals of
Religion. Let them countenance men of real piety wherever they are
found; and encourage in others every attempt to repress the progress of
vice, and to revive and diffuse the influence of Religion and virtue.
Let their earnest prayers be constantly offered, that such endeavours
may be successful, and that the abused long-suffering of God may still
continue to us the invaluable privilege of vital Christianity.

Let them pray continually for their country in this season of national
difficulty. We bear upon us but too plainly the marks of a declining
empire. Who can say but that the Governor of the universe, who declares
himself to be a God who hears the prayers of his servants, may, in
answer to their intercessions, for a while avert our ruin, and continue
to us the fulness of those temporal blessings, which in such abundant
measure we have hitherto enjoyed[131]. Men of the world, indeed, however
they may admit the natural operation of natural causes, and may
therefore confess the effects of Religion and morality in promoting the
well being of the community; may yet, according to their humour, with a
smile of complacent pity, or a sneer of supercilious contempt, read of
the service which real Christians may render to their country, by
conciliating the favour and calling down the blessing of Providence. It
may appear in their eyes an instance of the same superstitious weakness,
as that which prompts the terrified inhabitant of Sicily to bring for
the image of his tutelar saint, in order to stop the destructive ravages
of Ætna. We are, however, sure, if we believe the Scripture, that God
will be disposed to favour the nation to which his servants belong; and
that, in fact, such as They, have often been the unknown and unhonoured
instruments of drawing down on their country the blessings of safety and
prosperity.

But it would be an instance in myself of that very false shame which I
have condemned in others, if I were not boldly to avow my firm
persuasion, that _to the decline of Religion and morality our national
difficulties must both directly and indirectly be chiefly ascribed; and
that my only solid hopes for the well-being of my country depend not so
much on her fleets and armies, not so much on the wisdom of her rulers,
or the spirit of her people, as on the persuasion that she still
contains many, who, in a degenerate age, love and obey the Gospel of
Christ; on the humble trust that the intercession of these may still be
prevalent, that for the sake of these, Heaven may still look upon us
with an eye of favour._

Let the prayers of the Christian reader be also offered up for the
success of this feeble endeavour in the service of true Religion. God
can give effect to the weakest effort; and the writer will feel himself
too much honoured, if by that which he has now been making, but a single
fellow creature should be awakened from a false security, or a single
Christian, who deserves the name, be animated to more extensive
usefulness. He may seem to have assumed to himself a task which he was
ill qualified to execute. He fears he may be reproached with arrogance
and presumption for taking upon him the office of a teacher. Yet, as he
formerly suggested, it cannot be denied, that it belongs to his public
situation to investigate the state of the national Religion and morals;
and that it is the part of a real patriot to endeavour to retard their
decline, and promote their revival. But if the office, in which he has
been engaged, were less intimately connected with the duties of his
particular station, the candid and the liberal mind would not be
indisposed to pardon him. Let him be allowed to offer in his excuse a
desire not only to discharge a duty to his country, but to acquit
himself of what he deems a solemn and indispensable obligation to his
acquaintance and his friends. Let him allege the unaffected solicitude
which he feels for the welfare of his fellow creatures. Let him urge the
fond wish he gladly would encourage; that, while, in so large a part of
Europe, a false philosophy having been preferred before the lessons of
revelation, Infidelity has lifted up her head without shame, and walked
abroad boldly and in the face of day; while the practical consequences
are such as might be expected, and licentiousness and vice prevail
without restraint: here at least there might be a sanctuary, a land of
Religion and piety, where the blessings of Christianity might be still
enjoyed, where the name of the Redeemer might still be honoured; where
mankind might be able to see what is, in truth, the Religion of Jesus,
and what are its blessed effects; and whence, if the mercy of God should
so ordain it, the means of religious instruction and consolation might
be again extended to surrounding countries and to the world at large.


FINIS.



INDEX.


A

_Abuse_ of things, unfairness of arguing from it against their use, 53.

_Acceptance_ with God, commonly prevailing notions respecting it, 85-88.
  --Scripture, and Church of England, doctrine respecting it, 88-92.
  --practical consequences, of common notions respecting it, 89.
  --true doctrine vindicated from objection, 93-94.

_Addison_, quoted, 162.

_Affections_, of their admission into Religion, 57, 58.
  --their admission into Religion reasonable, 59-62.
  --true test and measure of them in Religion, 62-65.
  --in Religion, not barely allowable, but highly necessary, 66-69.
  --our Saviour the just object of them, 69, 70.
  --objection, that they are impossible towards an invisible Being,
    discussed, 71-77.
  --little excited by public misfortunes, and why, 75, 76.
  --towards our Saviour, special grounds for them, 77, 78.
  --divine aid promised for exciting them, 79, 80.
  --our statements respecting them in Religion verified by facts,
    80, 81.
  --religious, St. Paul a striking instance of them, 61.

_Ambition_, votaries of, 125, 126.

_Amiable_ tempers, discussion respecting, 178-198.
  --substituted for Religion, 179, 180.
  --value of, estimated by the standard of mere reason, 180.
  --false pretenders to them, 181.
  --real nature, when not grounded on Religion, 181, 182.
  --precarious nature, 182-184.
  --value of, on Christian principles, 186.
  --life, Christian's most so, 190, 191.
  --Christians urged to this, 192-196.
  --its just praise, 197, 198.
  --apt to deceive us, 198.

_Applause_, desire of, universal, 146, 147.


B.

_Babington_, the reverend Matthew, 259.

_Benevolence_, true Christian, its exalted nature, 287, 288.

_Bacon_, Lord, quoted, 229.


C.

_Calumny_, considerations which reconcile the Christian to it,
           169, 170.

_Charity_, true, what, and its marks, 311, 312.

_Christianity_, vital revival of, would invigorate church establishment,
                294.
  --vital, alone suited to lower orders, 295, 296.
  --the common system, falsely so called, 305.
  --the truest patriotism, 287-292.
  --of the world, its base nature, 324.
  --not a gloomy service, 326-332.
  --relaxations compatible with, 327, 328.
  --its solid texture, 332.
  --general, what so called, 334, 335.
  --true, requires incessant watchfulness and care, 336.
  --state in which it finds us, 30-33.
  --its present critical circumstances, 265-272.
  --reduced to a system of ethics, proofs of this, 273, 277, 278.
  --causes, which have tended to produce neglect of her peculiar
    doctrines, 269, 270, 274-276.
  --peculiar doctrines of, taught by the oldest divines and highest
    dignitaries of the English church, 273, 274.
  --peculiar doctrines gradually fallen into neglect, 276-278.
  --sad symptoms of its low state among us, 278-280.
  --objection, that our system of it too strict, stated and answered,
    280-283.
  --vital, its happy influence on temporal well-being of communities,
    283-285.
  --not hostile to patriotism, 285-287.
  --from its essential nature, peculiarly adapted to well-being of
    communities, 290-292.
  --vital, can alone produce these effects, 293.
  --excellence of it, in some particulars not commonly noticed, 252-259.
  --general state of, in England, 262.
  --its tendency to promote the well-being of political communities,
    262-288, 292, 293.
  --has raised the general standard of practice, 264, 265.
  --sickens in prosperity and flourishes under persecution, 266, 267.
  --peculiarities of, naturally slide into disuse, 269.

_Christians_, true, duties especially incumbent on them in these times,
              350-353.
  --should pray for their country, 351.
  --their prayers intreated for the success of this work, 353.
  --ready made, who esteemed such, 318.
  --real, how different from nominal, 214, 215.
  --life, illustrated by figure of a traveller, 217-219.

_Commons_, House of, proves inordinate love of worldly glory, 159.

_Consistency_ between Christianity's leading doctrines and practical
              precepts, 231-252, 253.
  --between Christianity's leading doctrines amongst each other, 253.
  --between Christianity's practical precepts amongst each other,
    253-257.

_Contact_, necessary to produce any interest in our affections,
           73-78, 81.

_Corruption_ of human nature, common notions of it, 14-16.
  --of human nature, Scripture account of it, 16, 26, 27.
  --of human nature, arguments suggested in proof of it, 16-26.
  --of Heathen world, and striking instance of it, 18, 19.
  --of savage life, 19, 20.
  --proof of it, furnished by the state of the Christian world, 20-24.
  --by the experience of the true Christian, 24, 25.
  --human, its general effects, when suffered to operate without
    restraint, 25, 26.
  --human, firm grounds on which it rests, 35.
  --human, practical uses of the doctrine, 36.

_Cowper's Task_, recommended, 234-352.
  --quoted, 251.


D.

_Defective_, conceptions generally prevailing concerning importance of
             Christianity, 1-5.
  --conceptions concerning human corruption, 15, 16.
  --conceptions concerning the evil spirit, 28.
  --conceptions concerning the doctrines, which respect our Saviour and
    the Holy Spirit, 70, 71, 45, 46, 48, 49, 50.
  --conceptions concerning the means of acceptance with God, 84-91.
  --conceptions prevailing concerning practical Christianity, 102-104,
    117-205.
  --conceptions of guilt and evil of sin, 206-210.
  --fear of God, 210.
  --sense of the difficulty of getting to heaven, 214, 215.
  --love of God in nominal Christians, 219-221.
  --love of God, proofs of it in nominal Christians, 221-224.
  --conceptions general, concerning peculiar doctrines of Christianity,
    231.
  --conceptions of peculiarities of Christianity, practical mischiefs
    from them, 232.

_Depths_, of the things of God; and our proneness to plunge into them,
          41-43.

_Devotedness_ to God, duty of it, 107-110, 113, 116, 118.

_Dissipated_ and indolent, class of, 121, 122.

_Dissipation_, seems to have prevailed in the antediluvian world, 213.

_Doddridge's_ Sermons on Regeneration, referred to, note, 83.

_Duelling_, its guilt, &c. 159-161.


E.

_Error_, innocence of, considered, 10-12.

_Establishment_, religious, in England, how circumstanced, 267.

_Estimation_, desire of, universal, 146, 147.
  -- common language concerning it, the effects of the love of it, and
     the nature of the passion, 148-150.
  -- commendations of it questioned, 151.
  -- essential defects of inordinate love of it, explained, 152, 153.
  -- love of, Scripture lessons concerning, 152-156.
  -- value of, analogous to riches, 156.
  -- love of, common notions respecting it, 157, 158.
  -- proofs of our statements respecting it from House of Commons, 159.
  -- proofs of our statements respecting it from duelling, 159-161.
  -- real nature of inordinate love of it, 162, 163.
  -- true Christian's conduct respecting love of it, 164-173.
  -- true modes of guarding against excessive love of it, 171, 172.
  -- advice to the true Christian respecting love of it, 174-178.
  -- love of, best moderated by humility and charity, 176.
  -- true Christian's temper respecting it, 177.

_Evil_ spirit, the existence and agency not contrary to reason, 28, 29.

_External_ actions substituted for habits of mind, 134, 135.


F.

_Faith_, Christian's life, a life of, 137, 138.

_Families_, two, the righteous and the wicked, 212.

_Ferguson_, the historian, 290.

_Fuller's_ Calvinism and Socinianism compared, 344.

_Fundamental_ practical distinction between systems of nominal and real
              Christians, 237, 250, 251.


G.

_General_ tone of morals, Christianity has raised it, 104.
  --established by consent in every country, 263, 264.

_Geneva_, the effect of theatres, 223.

_Gloomy_ service, false charge that we make Christianity such, 327.

_Glory_, true and false, what properly so called, 153.
  --Mistakes concerning it, 153.

_Good hearted_ young men, term misapplied, 310.

_Good hearted_ young men, the title disproved, 315.

_Gratitude_, true signs of, 49.


H.

_Habits_, of mind forgotten in Religion, 134-146.

_Heavenly mindedness_, best promoted by being much conversant with
                       peculiar doctrines of Christianity, 250.

_Holy Spirit_, Scripture doctrine concerning, 44, 82, 83.
  --popular notions concerning, 50-53.

_Honour_, false notions respecting it, 162, 163.

_Horne_, Dr. quoted, 61.

_Humility_, best enforced by peculiar doctrines of Christianity,
            244, 245.
  --the ground of Christian graces, 146.
  --excellent practical effects of, 176.


I.

_Ignorance_ of Christianity, common, 5, 6.
  --criminal, 6, 7.

_Importance_ of Christianity, inadequate conceptions generally
                              entertained of it, 1-13.
  --of Christianity, proofs of the inadequate ideas generally
                     entertained of it, 2-5.
  --of Christianity, ideas of it given by the Holy Scriptures, 8-10.
  --of Christianity, best enforced by peculiar doctrines of
                     Christianity, 240.

_Inconsistency_ of the world's practical system, 255, 256.

_Indifference_ about Christianity generally prevalent, 9.
  --general towards our Saviour, proofs of, 46-48.

_Infidelity_, common progress of it, 338-342.
  --a disease of the heart more than of the understanding, 342.

_Innocent_ young women, term how misapplied, 310.
  --young women, the title disproved, 315.

_Intellectual_ attainments, rated below moral by Christianity, 257-260.
  --low degree of excellence within our reach, 258.


J.

_Jones_, Sir William, a champion for Christianity, 348.


K.

_Kenyon_, Lord Chief Justice, commendations of, 302.


L.

_Language_, common, concerning the importance of Christianity, 5.
  --concerning human corruption, 15.
  --concerning affections towards our Saviour, and Holy Spirit's
    operations, 51, 52.
  --concerning terms of acceptance with God, 85-87.
  --concerning mode of relaxing the strictness of Christian precept,
    132, 133.
  --concerning human judicatures, 133.
  --concerning amiable tempers and useful lives, 179.
  --common to people desirous of repenting, 235.

_Learning_, votaries of, 127.

_Life_, Christian, illustrated under figure of a traveller, 217-219.
  --Christian's, a life of faith, 137-140.

_Liturgy_, bad effects to be feared from its disuse, 297.

_Lives_, several mentioned, 336.

_Love_, true signs of it, 46, 47.
  --of God, its essential characters, 110.
  --of Christ, justly to be expected of us, 69, 70, 77, 78, 107, 108.
  --means of exciting it, 99, 100.
  --of God, defective in nominal Christians, 219, 220.
  --of God, proofs of its being defective, 220-224.
  --of fellow-creatures, nominal Christians defective in, 225.
  --of fellow-creatures, true marks of, 226-229.
  --of God, best enforced by Christianity's peculiarities, 242.
  --Christians to cultivate this grace above all others, 324.
  --its excellent effects in the true Christian, 325.
  --of fellow-creatures best enforced by peculiar doctrines, 243, 244.

_Low_ standard of practice generally prevailing, 102, 103, 117-135.

_Lower_ classes, not unfit that true doctrine of acceptance should be
                 stated to them, 93, 94.


M.

_McLaurin_, his essays and sermons referred to, 83, 97.

_Maurice_, Mr. a defender of Christianity, 348.

_Maxims_, which prove human corruption, 21.

_Medium_, religious, almost lost, 130.

_Milton_, quoted, 43.

_Moral_, attainments rated above intellectual, by Christianity, 257.
  --attainments, how much more we can excel in them than in
                 intellectual ones, 259.

_Moravians_, commendation of, 56.


N.

_Natural_ condition of man without Christianity, 31-33.

_Nature_, essential, of true practical Christianity, 129.

_Necessity_, excuse on the plea of, stated, and answered, 36-42.
  --opponent on the ground of, how best opposed, 37, 38.

_Nominal_ and real Christian, distinction between them most important,
                              306.

_Novels_, prove how peculiarities of Christianity have fallen into
          neglect, 277, 278.


O.

_Objections_ against the religious affections towards Christ, and
             against the operations of the Holy Spirit, 50-53.
  --against human accountableness, discussed, 36-42.
  --against the religious affections towards Christ, and against the
    operations of the Holy Spirit, discussed, 53-83.

_Outgrowing_ vices mistaken for forsaking them, 308, 318.

_Owen_, Dr. referred to, 275.


P.

_Paley_, Mr. his defence of Christianity noticed, 260, 281.

_Partiality_ in the religious views of nominal Christians, 119-121.

_Particular_, Christians must not fear to be so when required by duty,
              167.

_Pascal's_ thoughts referred to, 245.
  --thoughts recommended, 348.

_Peculiar_, doctrines, use, in promoting humility, 244, 245.
  --in promoting moderation in earthly pursuits, 246.
  --in promoting cheerfulness in suffering, 247.
  --in promoting confidence in danger, and patience in suffering,
    248, 249.
  --in promoting heavenly mindedness, 250.
  --doctrines, demand our utmost attention, 94-97.
  --doctrines, use of, 239.
  --doctrines, use of, in enforcing importance of Christianity, 240.
  --doctrines, use of, in enforcing entire surrender to God, 240.
  --doctrines, use of, in enforcing guilt of sin, and dread of
    punishment, 241.
  --in promoting love of God, 241, 242.
  --in promoting love of fellow-creatures, 243, 244.

_Philosophy_, epicurism and stoicism, 59.

_Pitt_, Mr. slander respecting him refuted--Note 272.

_Pleasure_, the true Christian finds in Religion, 139, 140.

_Pleasures_ of true Religion, 325-332.

_Policy_, mistaken, of compromise with immorality, 301.

_Polished_ state of society no security against progress of immorality,
           298, 299.

_Political_, good effects from the prevalence of Christianity, as above
             described, 283-295.
  --good effects from revival of vital Christianity, 296.
  --bad effects from its farther decline, 297, 298.
  --happiness of a Christian nation, 283-287.

_Pomp_ and parade, votaries of, 124.

_Poor_ the, more favourably circumstanced as to Religion, 93, 292.

_Pope_, the Poet, referred to, 246.

_Popular_ notions concerning our Saviour and the Holy Spirit, 46-48.

_Practical_ hints, on importance of Christianity, 13.
  --on human corruption, 35.
  --on mode of dealing with a certain description of infidels, 37, 38.
  --on the means of exciting our affections towards our Saviour,
    99, 100.
  --respecting love of estimation, 174-178.
  --respecting amiable tempers and useful lives, 192.
  --to naturally sweet tempered, 193.
  --to naturally rough and austere, 194-199.
  --to true Christian, when engaged in hurry of worldly affairs,
    199-204.
  --to persons desirous of repenting, 235.
  --respecting uses of peculiar doctrines of Christianity, 240-251.
  --for revival of Religion, 300-304.
  --to various descriptions, 305-318.
  --to such as, having been hitherto careless, wish to become true
    Christians, 318-332.
  --to some who profess their full assent to fundamental doctrines
    of Christianity, 333-336.
  --to Sceptics and Unitarians, 337-345.
  --to half-unbelievers, 346-348.
  --to true Christians, from state of times, 349-354.
  --Christianity, chapter on, 100-251.
  --prevailing low views of it, 102-104.
  --Christianity, its real strictness, 105, 106.
  --its true nature, 107-110.
  --charged on all without exception in its full strictness, 111-115.
  --mischiefs of neglect of peculiarities of Christianity, 232.
  --distinction, fundamental, between systems of nominal and real
    Christians, 231-234.
  --precepts of Christianity, most excellent, 260.
  --use of peculiar doctrines of Christianity, 238.

_Prevailing_, low views of practical Christianity, proofs of them, 104.
  --inadequate sense of peculiar doctrines of Christians, 231, &c.

_Probation_, notion of, disproves prevailing system of Religion, 317.

_Proof_ of Christianity's divine origin, 260-262.

_Puritans_, many of their writings commended, 275.


R.

_Religion_, practical hints for its revival, 300-305.
  -- the only true support in trouble and peril, 332.

_Repentance_, advice for such as are disposed to, 318-324.

_Reputation_, true Christian's conduct respecting it, 164-178.
  -- true Christian preserves, without over-valuing it, 167-170.

_Richardson_, mentioned, 278.

_Robertson_, Dr. censured, 279.

_Rousseau_, school of, 204, 205.


S.

_Scepticism_, natural history of it, 338-340.

_Sceptics_ and Unitarians, advantage they have in attacking
                           Christianity, 344, 345.

_Scripture_ doctrine, importance of, to Christianity, 8-10.
  -- doctrine, concerning human corruption, 14-27.
  -- doctrine, concerning Christ and the Holy Spirit, 43, 44.

_Self-deception_, frequent sources of, 306-318.
  -- another common kind, 333-335.

_Self-examination_, helps in, 306.

_Selfishness_ of common practical Religion, 121-127.
  -- the disease of political societies, 288.
  -- peculiarly counteracted by Christianity, 291, 292.

_Sensibility_, exquisite, how little truly valuable, and how different
               from true practical benevolence, 204, 205.

_Sensualists_ class of, 123.

_Sin_, how spoken of in Scripture, 211.
  -- defective conceptions of, 207.

_Sincerity_, false notion of it, 10-12.
  -- true what, 13.

_Sins_, no little ones, 210, 211.
  -- little, what accounted such, 208.

_Smith_, Dr. _Adam_, 76. 188, 189. 279.

_Soame Jenyns_, his View of the Internal Evidence of Christianity
                referred to, 6. 281.

_Sophistry_, with which Religion is explained away, 133.

_Stage_ the, proof from its being frequented by nominal Christians of
             their defective love of God, 221-224. 230, 231.
  -- proof from, illustrated by political analogy, 223.

_Statutes_, Religion made a set of, 131, 132.

_Sterne_ strongly censured, 206.

_Strictness_ of true practical Christianity, 105, 106.
  -- of our system, objected to, as not suited to the state of the
     world, 280, 281.
  -- the charge refuted, 281, 282.

_Sunday_, hints for its employment, 141, 142.
  -- common modes of unhallowing it, 143-145.

_Supreme_ regard to be set on God, 60. 112-129.

_Swift's_ Tale of a Tub, quoted, 132, 133.


T.

_Taste_, votaries of, 127.

_Tempers_, Christian, not cultivated, 136-146.
  -- respecting human estimation, 165-168.
  -- respecting calumny and disgrace, 170.
  -- when too much immersed in worldly business, 201-204.

_Theatres_, Parisian, 223.

_Theatrical_ entertainments prove defective love of God, 222.

_Theatrical_ entertainments prove defective love of our neighbour,
             230, 231.
  -- entertainments, illustrated by political analogy, 223.


U.

_Unbelievers, half_; a class of them, 346.

_Uncharitableness_, what falsely so called, 312.

_Unitarianism_ often results from same causes as absolute scepticism,
               343.

_Useful_ lives, discussion concerning, 178.
  -- substituted for Religion, 179.
  -- value of, estimated by standard of mere reason, 185.
  -- real worth of, on Christian principles, 186-188.
  -- life, the Christian's life the most so, 191.
  -- Christians urged to, 192.
  -- its just praise given to, 197.
  -- apt to mislead us, 198.


V.

_Vice_, some one always excused, 308-310.

_Vices_, outgrowing or changing them, mistaken for forsaking all sin,
         308-310.

_Vulgarity_ in Religion, as to language, to be expected from vulgar
            men, 56.


W.

_Wealth_, votaries of, 125, 126.

_Women_, more disposed than men to Religion, and uses to be made of
         this, 313.
  -- exalted office assigned to them, 314.

_Witherspoon_, 275.


Y.

_Youth_, simplicity of, mistaken for Religion, 313.



FOOTNOTES


[Footnote 1: It is almost superfluous to name Mr. SOAME JENYNS.]

[Footnote 2: Exempla duo, quæ pravitatis humanæ vim animo meo luculenter
exhibent, non proferre non possum. Alterum decens ille Virgilius,
alterum Cicero, probus idem verique studiosus, suppeditat. Virgilius,
innocuam certe pastorum vitam depicturus, ita incipit.

    "Formosum pastor Corydon ardebat Alexim."

Cicero in libro de Officiis primo, ubi de actionibus prout inter se apte
& convenientes sint, loci, temporis, & agentis ratione habita, disserit,
argumentum sic illustrat: "Turpe est enim, valdeque vitiosum, in re
severa, convivio dignum, aut delicatum aliquem inferre sermonem. Bene
Pericles, quum haberet collegam in prætura Sophoclem poetam, hique de
communi officio convenissent, & casu formosus puer præteriret,
dixissetque Sophocles, O pueram pulchrum Pericle! At enim, inquit
Pericles, prætorem Sophoclem decet non solum manus, sed etiam oculus
abstinentes habere. Atqui hoc idem Sophocles, si in athletarum
probatione dixisset, _justa reprehensione caruisset, tanta vis est, &
loci & temporis_."

Quomodo sese res habuisse necesse est, cum vir antiquorum
prestantissimis adscribendus, philosophiam, immo mores & officia
tractans, talia doceret! Qualem sibi ipse virtutis normam proposuerat,
satis liquet. Vide inter alia, _justa reprehensione_, &c. &c; & _tanta
vis est_, &c. &c.]

[Footnote 3: Robertson, Vol. II. p. 130.]

[Footnote 4: Robertson, Book IV. Sect. 2. Head, Condition of Women,
vol. ii. 8vo. 90, 91.]

[Footnote 5: Job xv. 14.]

[Footnote 6: Job xv. 16.]

[Footnote 7: Psalm xiv. 2, 3.]

[Footnote 8: Prov. xx. 9.]

[Footnote 9: Psalm cxxxix. 3.]

[Footnote 10: I Chron. xxviii. 9.]

[Footnote 11: Prov. i. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.]

[Footnote 12: Vide Butler's Analogy.]

[Footnote 13: Heb. x. 27.]

[Footnote 14: Philippians, ii. 12.]

[Footnote 15: John, v. 29.]

[Footnote 16: James, i. 13.]

[Footnote 17: 2 Peter, iii. 9.]

[Footnote 18: Ezek. xviii. 23.]

[Footnote 19: Ezek. xviii. 32.]

[Footnote 20: Psalm cxlvii. 5.]

[Footnote 21: Rom. xi. 33.]

[Footnote 22: Psalm xcvii. 2.]

[Footnote 23: Deut. xxix. 29.]

[Footnote 24: Matt. xi. 28]

[Footnote 25: This was the motto on their banner.]

[Footnote 26: Title of Attila king of the Huns, whose desolating ravages
are well known.]

[Footnote 27: Vide the testimony of West India merchants to the
Moravians, in the Report of the Privy Council on the Slave Trade.]

[Footnote 28: Rom. xii. 1.]

[Footnote 29: Dr. HORNE.]

[Footnote 30: 2 Cor. viii. 12.]

[Footnote 31: Isaiah, liii. 2.]

[Footnote 32: Philip. ii. 6, 7, 8.]

[Footnote 33: Luke, ii. 10, 11.]

[Footnote 34: Col. i. 12, 13.]

[Footnote 35: Ephes. i. 18.]

[Footnote 36: Col. i. 27.]

[Footnote 37: Heb. xiii. 8.]

[Footnote 38: 1 John, iv. 20.]

[Footnote 39: Dr. ADAM SMITH. Vide Theory of Moral Sentiments.]

[Footnote 40: 1 Pet. i. 8.]

[Footnote 41: Heb. iv. 15.]

[Footnote 42: Isaiah, xl. 11.]

[Footnote 43: Isaiah, xlix. 10.]

[Footnote 44: The word Comfortless is rendered in the margin Orphans.]

[Footnote 45: John, xiv. 18.]

[Footnote 46: 1 Cor. xiii. 12.]

[Footnote 47: Eph. ii. 1. 5.]

[Footnote 48: Col. i. 13.]

[Footnote 49: Ephes. ii. 10.]

[Footnote 50: 2 Cor. vi. 16.]

[Footnote 51: Col. iii. 9, 10.]

[Footnote 52: Ephes. ii. 22.]

[Footnote 53: Vide DR. DODDRIDGE's eight Sermons on Regeneration, a most
valuable compilation; and McLAURIN's Essay on Divine Grace.]

[Footnote 54: Rom. iv. 5.]

[Footnote 55: Ibid. v. 6-8.]

[Footnote 56: The Writer trusts he cannot be misunderstood to mean that
any, continuing sinners and ungodly, can, by believing, be accepted or
finally saved. The following chapter, particularly the latter part of
it, (Section vi.) would abundantly vindicate him from any such
misconstruction. Meanwhile, he will only remark, that true faith (in
which repentance is considered as involved) is in Scripture regarded as
_the radical principle of holiness_. If the root exist, the proper
fruits will be brought forth. An attention to this consideration would
have easily explained and reconciled those passages of St. Paul's and
St. James's Epistles, which have furnished so much matter of argument
and criticism. St. James, it may be observed, all along speaks of a man,
not who _has_ faith, but who _says_ that he has faith.
Vide James ii. 14. &c. &c.]

[Footnote 57: Vide Note Ch. iv. Sect. vi.]

[Footnote 58: Gal. vi. 14.]

[Footnote 59: I Cor. i. 30.]

[Footnote 60: Rev. i. 5.]

[Footnote 61: John, vi. 29.]

[Footnote 62: 1 John, iii. 23.]

[Footnote 63: Nec Deus intersit, &c.]

[Footnote 64: Vide Heb. ii. 1, &c.]

[Footnote 65: Any one who wishes to investigate this subject will do
well to study attentively McLAURIN's Essay on Prejudices against the
Gospel.--It may not be amiss here to direct the reader's attention to a
few leading arguments, many of them those of the work just recommended.
Let him maturely estimate the force of those terms, whereby the Apostle
in the following passages designates and characterizes the whole of the
Christian system. "We preach Christ crucified"--"We determined to know
nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." The value of
this argument will be acknowledged by all who consider, that a system is
never designated by an immaterial or an inferior part of it, but by that
which constitutes its prime consideration and essential distinction. The
conclusion suggested by this remark is confirmed by the Lord's Supper
being the rite by which our Saviour himself commanded his Disciples to
keep him in remembrance; and indeed a similar lesson is taught by the
Sacrament of Baptism, which shadows out our souls being washed and
purified by the blood of Christ. Observe next the frequency with which
our Saviour's death and sufferings are introduced, and how often they
are urged as practical motives.

"The minds of the Apostles seem full of this subject. Every thing put
them in mind of it; they did not allow themselves to have it long out of
their view, nor did any other branch of spiritual instruction make them
lose sight of it." Consider next that part of the Epistle to the Romans,
wherein St. Paul speaks of some who went about to establish their own
righteousness, and had not submitted themselves to the righteousness of
God. May not this charge be in some degree urged, and even more strongly
than in the case of the Jews, against those who satisfy themselves with
vague, general, occasional thoughts of our Saviour's mediation; and the
source of whose habitual complacency, as we explained above, is rather
their being tolerably well satisfied with their own characters and
conduct? Yet St. Paul declares concerning those of whom he speaks, as
concerning persons whose sad situation could not be too much lamented,
that he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart, adding
still more emphatical expressions of deep and bitter regret.

Let the Epistle to the Galatians be also carefully examined and
considered; and let it be fairly asked, what was the particular in which
the Judaizing Christians were defective, and the want of which is spoken
of in such strong terms as these; that it frustrates the grace of God,
and must debar from all the benefits of the death of Jesus? The
Judaizing converts were not immoral. They seem to have admitted the
chief tenets concerning our Saviour. But they appear to have been
disposed to trust (_not wholly, be it observed also, but only in part_)
for their acceptance with God, to the Mosaic institutions, instead of
reposing wholly on the merits of Christ. Here let it be remembered, that
when a compliance with these institutions was not regarded as conveying
this inference, the Apostle shewed by his own conduct, that he did not
deem it criminal; whence, no less than from the words of the Epistle, it
is clear that the offence of the Judaizing Christians whom he condemned,
was what we have stated; not their obstinately continuing to adhere to a
dispensation the ceremonial of which Christianity had abrogated, or
their trusting to the sacrifices of the Levitical Law, which were in
their own nature inefficacious for the blotting out of sin.--
Vide Heb. vii. viii. ix. x.]

[Footnote 66: Rev. v. 12.]

[Footnote 67: ib. 13.]

[Footnote 68: 2 Cor. xiii. 14.]

[Footnote 69: 1 John, iii. 17.--Rom. xvi. 18.--Compared with
Philippians, iii. 19.]

[Footnote 70: 2 Tim. iii. 4.]

[Footnote 71: Matt. x. 37.]

[Footnote 72: Jerem. ix. 23.]

[Footnote 73: It will be remembered by the reader, that it is not the
object of this work to animadvert on the vices, defects, and erroneous
opinions of the times, except so far as they are received into the
prevailing religious system, or are tolerated by it, and are not thought
sufficient to prevent a man from being esteemed on the whole a very
tolerable Christian.]

[Footnote 74: Vide Tale of a Tub.]

[Footnote 75: Vide Tale of a Tub.]

[Footnote 76: Isaiah, ii. 11.]

[Footnote 77: Vide Hey's Tract, Rousseau's Eloisa, and many periodical
Essays and Sermons.]

[Footnote 78: Vide "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath
committed adultery with her, &c." Matt. v. 28.]

[Footnote 79: The writer cannot omit this opportunity of declaring, that
he should long ago have brought this subject before the notice of
Parliament, but for a perfect conviction that he should probably thereby
only give encouragement to a system he wishes to see at an end. The
practice has been at different periods nearly stopped by positive laws,
in various nations on the Continent; and there can be little doubt of
the efficacy of what has been more than once suggested--a Court of
Honour; to take cognizance of such offences as would naturally fall
within its province. The effects of this establishment would doubtless
require to be enforced by legislative provisions, directly punishing the
practice; and by discouraging at court, and in the military and naval
situations, all who should directly or indirectly be guilty of it.]

[Footnote 80: Vide, in particular a paper in the Guardian, by ADDISON,
on Honour, Vol. ii.]

[Footnote 81: Vide SMITH'S Theory of Moral Sentiments.]

[Footnote 82: The writer hopes that the work to which he is referring is
so well known, that he needs scarcely name Mrs. H. More.]

[Footnote 83: See SMITH'S Theory of Moral Sentiments.]

[Footnote 84: While all are worthy of blame, who, to qualities like
these, have assigned a more exalted place than to religious and moral
principle; there is one writer who, eminently culpable in this respect,
deserves, on another account, still severer reprehension. Really
possessed of powers to explore and touch the finest strings of the human
heart, and bound by his sacred profession to devote those powers to the
service of religion and virtue, he every where discovers a studious
solicitude to excite indecent ideas. We turn away our eyes with disgust
from open immodesty: but even this is less mischievous than that more
measured style, which excites impure images, without shocking us by the
grossnesses of the language. Never was delicate sensibility proved to be
more distinct from plain practical benevolence, than in the writings of
the author to whom I allude. Instead of employing his talents for the
benefit of his fellow-creatures, they were applied to the pernicious
purposes of corrupting the national taste, and of lowering the standard
of manners and morals. The tendency of his writings is to vitiate that
purity of mind, intended by Providence as the companion and preservative
of youthful virtue; and to produce, if the expression may be permitted,
_a morbid sensibility in the perception of indecency_. An imagination
exercised in this discipline is never _clean_, but seeks for and
discovers something indelicate in the most common phrases and actions of
ordinary life. If the general style of writing and conversation were to
be formed on that model, to which Sterne used his utmost endeavours to
conciliate the minds of men, there is no estimating the effects which
would soon be produced on the manners and morals of the age.]

[Footnote 85: Vide SMITH on the Wealth of Nations, Vol. iii.]

[Footnote 86: Vide the Grammarians and Dialecticians on the Diminutives
of the Italian and other languages.]

[Footnote 87: Many more might be added, such as a good fellow, a good
companion, a libertine, a little free, a little loose in talk, wild,
gay, jovial, being no man's enemy but his own, &c. &c. &c. &c; above
all, _having a good heart_.]

[Footnote 88: Gal. v. 19-21. Col. iii. 5-9.]

[Footnote 89: Job, xxviii. 28. Psalm, cxi. 10. Prov. i. 7.--ix. 10.]

[Footnote 90: 2 Peter, iii. 10, 11.]

[Footnote 91: Col. i. 13.]

[Footnote 92: It is almost unnecessary to remark, that the word is to be
understood in a large sense, as including the Opera, &c.]

[Footnote 93: Geneva--It is worthy of remark, that the play houses have
multiplied extremely in Paris since the revolution; and that last winter
there were twenty open every night, and all crowded. It should not be
left unobserved, and it is seriously submitted to the consideration of
those who regard the stage as a school of morals, that the pieces which
were best composed, best acted, and most warmly and generally applauded,
were such as abounded in touches of delicate sensibility. The people of
Paris have never been imagined to be more susceptible, than the
generality of mankind, of these emotions, and this is not the particular
period when the Parisians have been commonly conceived most under their
influence. Vide Journal d'un Voyageur Neutre. The author of the work
expresses himself as astonished by the phænomenon, and as unable to
account for it.]

[Footnote 94: The author is almost afraid of using the terms, lest they
should convey an impression of party feelings, of which he wishes this
book to exhibit no traces; but he here means by Democrats and Jacobins,
not persons on whom party violence fastens the epithet, but persons who
are really and avowedly such.]

[Footnote 95: LORD BACON.]

[Footnote 96: If any one would read a description of this process,
enlivened and enforced by the powers of the most exquisite poetry, let
him peruse the middle and latter part of the fifth Book of COWPER'S
Task. My warm attachment to the exquisitely natural compositions of this
truly Christian poet may perhaps bias my judgment; but the part of the
work to which I refer appears to me scarcely surpassed by any thing in
our language. The honourable epithet of _Christian_ may justly be
assigned to a poet, whose writings, while they fascinate the reader by
their manifestly coming from the heart, breathe throughout the spirit of
that character of Christianity, with which she was announced to the
world; "Glory to God, peace on earth, good will towards men."]

[Footnote 97: Here again let it be remarked, that faith, where genuine,
always supposes repentance, abhorrence of sin, &c.]

[Footnote 98: Heb. xii. 1, 2.]

[Footnote 99: It has been well remarked that the word used, where it is
said, that God "was PLEASED to bruise" and put to grief his only Son for
us, is the same word as that wherein it was declared by a voice from
Heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."]

[Footnote 100: Vide Chap. iii. Where these were shewn to be the
elementary principles of the passion of love.]

[Footnote 101: Rom. v. 9. 10.]

[Footnote 102: John xiii. 13-17. If I then, your Lord and Master, have
washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet, &c.]

[Footnote 103: Vide Pascal's Thoughts on Religion--A book abounding in
the deepest views of practical Christianity.]

[Footnote 104: Pope.]

[Footnote 105: The _Hell_, so called, be it observed, not by way of
reproach, but familiarity, by those who frequent it.]

[Footnote 106: Eph. ii.]

[Footnote 107: The Rev. Matthew Babington of Temple Rothley, in
Leicestershire, who died lately at Lisbon.]

[Footnote 108: The author must acknowledge himself indebted to Dr. OWEN
for this illustration.]

[Footnote 109: The author here alludes to what happened within his own
knowledge; and he has been assured by others, on whose testimony he can
rely, of several similar instances. But to prevent misconstruction as to
the incident which mainly gives rise to the remark, he thinks it
necessary to declare, that the account, which appeared in some of the
news-papers, of an entertainment having been given by Mr. Pitt on the
Fast Day, is untrue; and he is glad of the opportunity, which the
mention of this subject affords him, of contradicting a statement which
he can positively affirm to have been false. This is one of the many
instances which should enforce on the readers of news-papers, the _duty_
of not _hastily_ giving credit to reports to the disadvantage of _any_
man, of _any_ party. A person in a public station must often acquiesce
under the grossest calumnies; unless he will undertake the vain and
endless task of contradicting all the falsehoods which prejudice may
conceive, and malignity propagate against him.--The writer may perhaps
express himself with the more feeling on this subject; because he has
often been, and, indeed, at this very moment is, in the circumstances
which he has stated.]

[Footnote 110: I must beg leave to class among the brightest ornaments
of the Church of England, this great man, who with his brethren was so
shamefully ejected from the church in 1666, in violation of the royal
word, as well as of the clear principles of justice. With his
controversial pieces I am little acquainted: but his practical writings,
in four massy folios, are a treasury of Christian wisdom; and it would
be a most valuable service to mankind to revise them, and perhaps to
abridge them, so as to render them more suited to the taste of modern
readers. This has been already done in the case of his Dying Thoughts, a
beautiful little piece, and of his Saints' Rest. His Life also, written
by himself, and in a separate volume, contains much useful matter, and
many valuable particulars of the history of the times of Charles I.
Cromwell, &c. &c.]

[Footnote 111: Let me by no means be understood to censure all the
sectaries without discrimination. Many of them, and some who by the
unhappy circumstances of the times became objects of notice in a
political view, were men of great erudition, deep views of Religion, and
unquestionable piety: and though the writings of the puritans are
prolix; and according to the fashion of their age, rendered rather
perplexed than clear by multiplied divisions and subdivisions; yet they
are a mine of wealth, in which any one who will submit to some degree of
labour will find himself well rewarded for his pains. In particular the
writings of Dr. OWEN, Mr. HOWE, and Mr. FLAVELL, well deserve this
character: of the first mentioned author, there are two pieces which I
would especially recommend to the reader's perusal, one, on Heavenly
Mindedness, abridged by Dr. MAYO; the other, on the Mortification of Sin
in Believers. While I have been speaking in terms of such high, and, I
trust, such just eulogium of many of the teachers of the Church of
England; this may not be an improper place to express the high
obligations which we owe to the Dissenters, for many excellent
publications. Of this number are Dr. EVANS'S Sermons on the Christian
Temper; and that most useful book, the Rise and Progress of Religion in
the Soul, by Dr. DODDRIDGE; also, his Life, by ORTON, and Letters; and
two volumes of Sermons, one on Regeneration, the other on the Power and
Grace of Christ: May the writer be permitted to embrace this opportunity
of recommending two volumes, published separately, of Sermons, by the
late Dr. WITHERSPOON, President of the College of New Jersey.]

[Footnote 112: Vide Section vi. of the ivth Chapter, where we have
expressly and fully treated of this most important truth.]

[Footnote 113: No exceptions have fallen within my own reading, but the
writings of RICHARDSON.]

[Footnote 114: It is with pain that the author finds himself compelled
to place so great a writer as Dr. ROBERTSON in this class. But, to say
nothing of his phlegmatic account of the reformation; a subject which we
should have thought likely to excite in any one, who united the
character of a Christian Divine with that of an Historian, some warmth
of pious gratitude for the good providence of God; to pass over also the
ambiguity, in which he leaves his readers as to his opinion of the
authenticity of the Mosaic chronology, in his disquisitions on the trade
of India; his letters to Mr. GIBBON, lately published, cannot but excite
emotions of regret and shame in every sincere Christian. The author
hopes, that he has so far explained his sentiments as to render it
almost unnecessary to remark, what, however, to prevent misconstruction,
he must here declare, that so far from approving, he must be understood
decidedly to condemn, a hot, a contentious, much more an abusive manner
of opposing or of speaking of the assailants of Christianity. The
Apostle's direction in this respect cannot be too much attended to. "The
servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to
teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if
God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the
truth." (2 Timothy, ii. 24, 25.)]

[Footnote 115: Mr. HUME.]

[Footnote 116: Vide Dr. A. Smith's Letter to W. Strahan, Esq.]

[Footnote 117: What is here stated must be acknowledged by all, be their
political opinions concerning French events what they may; and it makes
no difference in the writer's view of the subject, whether the state of
morals was or was not, quite, or nearly, as bad, before the French
revolution.]

[Footnote 118: SOAME JENYNS.]

[Footnote 119: PALEY'S Evidence.]

[Footnote 120: See especially that great historian, FERGUSON, who, in
his Essay on Civil Society, endeavours to vindicate the cause of heroism
from the censure conveyed by the poet:

    "From Macedonia's madman to the Swede."

]

[Footnote 121: Such seems to be the just rendering of the word which our
Testament translates, "did not like to retain God in their knowledge."]

[Footnote 122: It is a gratification to the writer's personal, as well
as public feelings, to pay this tribute of respect to the character of
Lord Chief Justice KENYON.]

[Footnote 123: This is not thrown out rashly, but asserted on the
writer's own knowledge.]

[Footnote 124: "Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my
God," (says David) "of that which doth cost me nothing."
2 Sam. xxiv. 24.

"They," (the Apostles) "departed from the presence of the council,
rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of
Jesus." Acts v. 41. See also 1 Thess. i. 6.  Heb. x. 34.  James i. 2.
1 Peter iv. 13, 14.

Such are the marks exhibited in Scripture of a true love to God: and
though our regard for our common Lord is not put to the same severe
test, as that of the Apostles and first Christians was; yet, if the same
principle existed in us also, it would surely dispose us to act in the
_spirit_ of that conduct; and prompt us rather to be willing to exceed
in self denials and labours for Christ's sake, than to be so forward as
we are to complain, whenever we are called upon to perform or to abstain
from any thing, though in an instance ever so little contrary to our
inclinations.]

[Footnote 125: It may not be amiss to mention a few useful publications
of this sort. Walton's Lives, particularly the last edition by Mr.
Zouch; Gilpin's Lives; the Lives of Bishop Bedell and Bishop Bull; of
Archbishop Usher; some extracts from Burnet of the Life of the
incomparable Leighton, prefixed to a volume of the latter's Sermons;
Passages of the Life of Lord Rochester, by Burnet; the Life of Sir
Matthew Hale; of the excellent Doddridge, by Orton; of Henry, father and
son; of Mather; of Halyburton; Hampson's and Whitehead's Life of Wesley;
Life of Baxter, by himself, &c. &c. &c.]

[Footnote 126: The author is aware, that he may perhaps be censured for
conceding this term to the class of persons now in question, since
orthodox Christians equally contend for the unity of the Divine Nature:
and it perhaps may hardly be a sufficient excuse, that, it not being his
object particularly to refute the errors of Unitarianism, he uses the
term in its popular sense rather than give needless offence. He thus
guards, however, against any false construction being drawn from his use
of it.]

[Footnote 127: The author of this treatise has, since its completion,
perused a work entitled, Calvinism and Socinianism compared, by A.
FULLER, &c; and, without reference to the peculiarities of Calvinism, he
is happy to embrace this opportunity of confessing the high obligation
which, in common with all the friends of true Religion, he owes to the
author of that highly valuable publication for his masterly defence of
the doctrines of Christianity, and his acute refutation of the opposite
errors.]

[Footnote 128: It is almost superfluous to state, that Sir WILLIAM JONES
is here meant, who, from the testimony borne to his extraordinary
talents by Sir John Shore, in his first address to the Asiatic Society
of Calcutta, appears to have been a man of most extraordinary genius and
astonishing erudition.]

[Footnote 129: Mr. MAURICE.]

[Footnote 130: This argument is pressed with uncommon force in PASCAL'S
Thoughts on Religion, a work highly valuable, though not in every part
to be approved; abounding in particular with those deep views of
Religion, which the name of its author prepares us to expect.]

[Footnote 131: Vide, some exquisitely beautiful lines in the last book
of Cowper's Task, wherein this sentiment is introduced.]

       *       *       *       *       *



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES


Page numbers refer to the original text.
Footnote numbers refer to this transcribed version.

p54: Repeated "a" has been removed.

p83: Comma has been changed to full stop after "Almighty power".

p95: Nested double quotes have been changed to single quotes.

p106: Omitted word "in" has been added to "as it is Heaven".

p350: "the only can feel it" has been changed to "they only can feel
it".

Fn 65: The footnote at the end of this footnote has been placed inline.

Fn 131: "Some" has been changed to "some".

Index-Affections, religious: - Repeated word "of" has been removed.

Index section "V" preceded "U" in the original. This has been corrected.

All footnotes have been moved to the end of the text and numbered
sequentially.

Some words were spelt, hyphenated, or had apostrophes placed,
inconsistently within the text. These have been silently corrected to
match the form most frequently used in the text.

Where scanned text was unclear, the 1834 edition has been consulted.

Unless due to a clear typographic error, consistent differences from
modern usage have been retained, such as spellings (e.g. prophane),
hyphenation (e.g. to-day), and punctuation (e.g. omission of commas
following full stops in lists and the Index).





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