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is loving, gentle, and easy to be entreated. His spirit is singularly proud and acrimonious; and so has been the spirit of many of his predecessors and successors.
How amiable and gentle, on comparison, the language and sentiments of Voltaire * and Rousseau! Compare them with the mean, narrow, selfish sentiments of a time-serving preferment hunter, or the political caution and hypocrisy of a sacerdotal COURTIER. Voltaire and Rousseau would have loved Christianity, and probably believed it, if it had not been distorted and disfigured by the malignant passions of angry, polemical defenders of it, who shewed their love of Christ, by hating their brother, and who appeared by their actions to mean little by their professions, besides the gratification of pride and avarice,
the fifth chapter, where he is speaking of the office and operations of the Holy Spirit, he has the following note on Mr. WILLIAM LAW, who, if mistaken, is allowed to have been a sincere Christian, and a very good as well as ingenious man:
“ This poor man,” (says the great Prelate,) 66 whether misled by his fanaticism or his spleen, has here fallen into a trap which « his folly laid for his MALICE.”
There is then no malice in this observation, no pride, no revenge.
* "In the writings of Voltaire, who never fails to have a taunt. ing hit at the clergy, the cure' is generally an amiable personage, a charitable man, a friend to the poor and unfortunate, a peace-maker, and a man of piety and worth."
Robison's Proofs of Conspiracy. Voltaire saw in the cure' (or parish priest) real Christianityin the court-clergy of France, hypocrisy, villainy, pride, and CRO
Would not the true spirit of Christianity reprobate such men, hiding the foul fiend under the white robes of religion? I bear my testimony, in the strongest terms, against the general tendency of Rousseau's and Voltaire's writings; but think much of their evil is to be attributed to the COURT CLERGY of France.
Religion is beautiful. Full of grace are her lips. She shall speak for herself to the hearts of unbelievers, and the world:
“ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy " Jaden, and I will refresh you. I call you, not for the “ sake of promoting any worldly interest, not for politi“ cal purposes, not for an ecclesiastical party, not to “ maintain the riches or grandeur of any establishment; 6 but that I may make you happy; that I may dispel " the clouds of trouble and doubt which darken your “ paths, and shew you the sunshine of Heaven. Mine "'is a spirit of love. I am a lover of men. I seek to “ do you good. I bring the glad tidings of the Gospel; " that is, I disclose to you that God Almighty, in pity " to suffering and erring mortals, sends a COMFORTER, “the Holy Ghost, descending like a dove, all peacea“ ble, gențle, lovely. I fill you with hope; and hope is
a cheerful passion. It will tranquillize your agitated “ bosoms, and lead you rejoicing on your way to the “ silent grave, whither you must go, whether you make “ your journey to it gay and pleasant, as you may, under “ my guidance, or dismally dark, as it will ever be “ when I withdraw my lustre."
Would not such a mode of address be more likely to conciliate men who oppose themselves while they reject Christianity, than all the angry, taunting language which has been used, not only against professed infidels, but against believers who differed a little, in matters of indifference. South, Bentley, Warburton, and some able writers in recent times, have shewn, in their zealous defences, the pride of pedantry, the fierceness of barbarians, the subtlety of politicians, but quite forgot the gentleness which characterizes the WISDOM HEAVEN, and which alone can win souls by the charms of soft persuasion, assisted by the holy spirit of love.
It is said of Dr. Johnson, that he used to declare, he loved a good HATER. Many polemical divines have shewn themselves capable of this passion of HATRED in its highest perfection. But hatred begets hatred; and Dr. Johnson's declaration is among those inconsistencies in his life, w prove a great man still but a man. am sorry that this saying should be recorded of him; for Dr. Johnson professed 'himself a zealous Christian, and Christ taught us to love even an enemy. According to the Christian rule, an enemy, instead of being hated, is to be melted to love and kindness by good usage.
The odium theologicum, displayed in controversy, is, in my opinion, the greatest opprobrium theologicúm. Warburtonian insolence and ill-nature have done more injury to the church, and to the cause of Christianity, than any of the writers whom they were intended to gall and mortify.
Of the inadequate Idea entertained by many respectable
Persons concerning Christianity; with a Suggestion on the Expediency of their considering the true Nature of Christian Philosophy.
To abstain from gross, enormous, open, and scandalous vices, to comply with the outward ceremonies of the Church, and to reciprocate the usual and formal civilities of life, constitutes, in the opinion of multitudes, not only a very respectable member of society, but a very good Christian. Concerning the DOCTRINES of Christianity, such persons give themselves little concern, but plume themselves on decently practising the DUTIES; by which they understand nothing
more than a very imperfect kind of heathen morality, and the avoidance of such conduct as might expose them to the animadversion of law, or to the loss of reputation. The DUTIES of Christianity thus limited, they think easily discernible, without study or reading, by common observation and common sense. Doing as others do, as far as the decorum of established manners allows and prescribes, is the grand rule. Such persons pass through life with great credit, paying their way, and making themselves agreeable in company, and are seldom mentioned but with the praise of very good sort of people.
Exactly such sort of people they might have been if Christianity had never existed. They hold no opinion, they adopt no practice peculiar to Christianity. The Gospel, which they profess to embrace, is a leaden rule, an accommodating guide, an humble companion, that must obsequiously stand on one side, whenever it is in the way of a fashionable practice. Gaming, duelling, and many modes of gratification inconsistent both with the letter and spirit of the Gospel, seem to receive no check from this convenient species of Christianity.
Any thoughts which may occasionally intrude of a very serious kind, are laughed away by the surrounding circie, as vapours, fancies, the effects of morbid melancholy, or of nervous indisposition. Company, public places, public diversions, are immediately proposed as a sovereign remedy; and indeed they certainly are so far a remedy, that they banish serious thoughts, but they also banish that hanny disposition (for happiness is serious) which might have caused the visitation from one high, and obtained, for the weary sick heart, the sweetlyrefreshing cordial of divine grace.
Attendance at polite places of public worship seems to constitute the piety of such persons; and public subscription to fashionable or political contributions shews
their charity. It seems fair to infer, that their piety and charity are thus circumscribed, because their actions, on other occasions and at other places, seem inconsistent with piety or charity Sunday is often employed by them in a manner forbidden both by divine and human laws; and the poor at the next door to their mansions, in some retired village, are often unrelieved, while strangers at a watering place, (where the benefactors names are handed about,) and advertised objects, receive a very ample share of their public bounty.
All this while they consider themselves as good Christians. God only knows the heart; but if they are mistaken, as is probable, their mistake is a very unhappy. one. They are depriving themselves of the benefit of Christianity.
But their mistake probably arises from ignorance. They are indeed very far from ignorant of many things. Their ignorance is chiefly religious ignorance; and it is caused by habitual inattention to the DOCTRINES of Christianity*. It is indeed rather difficult to avoid such ignorance, since their time is occupied in what religion calls vanity, and the few hours devoted to reading are chiefly employed in novels, where a truly Christian character would be deemed a perfect solecism.
I humbly hope that the contemplation of CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY, thus imperfectly represented in this little volume, may lead them to study it in the great authors whom I have cited; and I trust they will thence find a great increase in their comforts, and that their happiness will be less exposed to concussion, when founded on the solid basis of divine favour.
* " And they said unto him, we have not so much as heard «« whether there be any Holy Ghost; and he (St. Paul) said unto “ them, unto what then were ye baptised?" Acts, xix. 2, 3.