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tion to reverence than now), but worn-out forms and exploded dogmas, words and phrases which have ceased to be any longer the exponents of living feelings and ideas. When were the history, the monuments, the doctrines and the institutions of Christianity studied with more assiduity and earnestness, in an honester and more comprehensive spirit, with a more determined purpose to find out the simple truth, and yet more seriously and reverentially, without any ribaldry or scoffing, as if men deeply felt that every form of genuine religious belief was entitled to respect, though they might not be prepared to adopt it themselves ? Even those who, like Strauss and his school, have advanced the most startling and, in their immediate effect, the most destructive opinions, and whose whole theology is based on an atheistic conception of the universe, are devoid of the offensive levity which marked the freethinkers of the latter part of the eighteenth century, and proceed to their work with a grave and conscientious earnestness, as though they were profoundly aware of the intrinsic grandeur of the questions which occupied them, and knew that the honest belief of myriads of human souls was too solemn a theme to be trifled with. Nor have these high speculationswhatever may appear to the contrary on the mere surface of society, and however bigots may complain of bigotry because their own dogmas do not carry the day over all others-failed of perceptible effect on the general tone and temper of the religious world. Except where political causes intervene to exasperate them, the bearing of all sects towards each other has become more courteous and friendly. Their most distinguished members abandon the arrogant and exclusive pretensions which once marked the language of zealous religionists, and unequivocally indicate their belief that there is a deeper and a nobler truth common to them all, on which it would be well if all laid a more earnest stress, than on the points which have involved them for centuries in endless and unfruitful controversy. Go where you will into society at the present day-enter into conversation with any man of education, it matters not what religious communion he may belong to—and unless he be noted among his acquaintance as a thorough-paced, uncompromising bigot, you will find, when you get at his real sentiments under the disguise of a conventional phraseology, that on the fundamental principles of religious belief there is far more of agreement than of difference between you, and that such points of difference as still remain are rather speculative than practical, relating chiefly perhaps to the best mode of access to a common truth, to which you both come at last for your richest comfort and your deepest trust. The number of such men that constantly meet each other in the world is really so great, their points of sympathy are so many and so strong, the direction which they desire the course of religious progress to take is so identical, that one wonders they do not all shake themselves free from their sectarian encumbrances, and come out and make a church for themselves which should have some pretension, beyond a mere name, to the character of catholic. Yet we go on year after year in the old ways, living in outward estrangement from each other, shy of mutual approximation, afraid of names, fettered by forms and conventionalisms, with no manly trust in ourselves, waiting for some new Luther to break in pieces with his mighty will and massive intellect the crumbling walls of sectarian separation, and build up out of the ruins a wider and a nobler church of God, in which the spirit of Christ and not the formularies of the schools should rule the conscience and shape the life. The seeds of such a change are silently ripening, I am convinced, in myriads and myriads of honest and earnest souls. We are already standing at the temple gate. If only one were bold enough to knock and enter in, shewing the way by his pure life, his steady purpose, his devout and fervent spirit, his wise and simple and holy doctrine, animated throughout by the spirit of Christ—thousands would joyfully follow, and find in that blessed communion the rest and contentment which they have so long sought in vain. What is it then which keeps back this happy issue? Again we ask, “If it be so, why are we thus ?"
But not in the world and in the church alone do we find this discrepancy between what might be and what is. Look into your own lives, your own characters ; you will find the same thing repeated over again. What is there of outward advantage and opportunity which most of us want, to make us wise and good and happy? Absolutely nothing. We are prospered in our industry; and our homes are full of all things essential to comfort and enjoyment. Through no particular merit of our own, simply by the happy circumstances of our education, we have been spared great and fearful sins. We can claim for the most part outward decency and respectability of living. We have access to the best books, and can possess ourselves of the newest ideas of the time. Our professed principles are humane and cheerful, and correspondent in most things to the enlightened views which education and intelligence have diffused in the world. We believe in a just and good God, and we accept the great truths of Christianity. And yet, with all these helps and incentives to good, what are our characters and our lives? To judge from our outward advantages, heaven itself would seem within our reach. There it is : why do we not grasp it? But, alas ! what perceptible effect have all these things exerted for most of us, either on our own lives or on the condition of the world ? How do our days glide away in easy, thoughtless selfishness! How small a sympathy have we to spare for great and noble interests ! How little have we done, how little have we given up, how little have we undergone, for the sake of really benefiting our fellow-men! What great interest of humanity would suffer, if we this instant were to cease to be! In what way is the cause of truth and right, of oppressed justice, of striving poverty and ignorance, or of struggling freedom, stronger for our sympathy and our aid ? But there is a sure retribution in the wise ordering of Providence. This apathy of oursthat having received so much, we return so little-brings its own penalty along with it. As week after week passes by, spent on the same vanities, consumed in the same cares, agitated by the same struggles—do we never feel, when we reflect on this aimless, monotonous existence, how insipid, insignificant and weary it is ? Does the consciousness never steal into our breast, that if we could only infuse into it sweeter and purer affections, nobler motives, higher aspirations, and more disinterested endeavours after good, the rich colours latent in it would come forth and clothe it with a diviner beauty, and make it worthier of the God from whom it came, and the immortal spirit which lives through it, and the glorious heaven to which it leads ?
In conclusion, let us 'put to ourselves one earnest and searching question. When we look on this 'human world where we are now breathing out our few moments of time, with its accumulated but unapplied resources of human wellbeing and ennoblement—on the religion which should sanctify it, but whose spirit lies inert and dead beneath heavy formalism and soul-less conventionalities—on our own lives, fraught with vast capacities of the noblest usefulness which have never yet been developed ;-can we consent to quit this world, and retire from the instrumentalities which God has fitted to our hand in the midst of it, without the remembrance of having uttered one word, or done one deed, or made one sacrifice to raise, redeem and bless it? Abundance of latent power for good lies round us on every side. It only awaits the spirit to call it into action. And whence must that spirit come ? From one source only can it come; from ourselves from the courageous truthfulness and honest efforts of each individual mind. It is the apathy, the cowardice and the selfishness of those myriads of individual minds that make up the sum-total of society—their fearfulness to compromise themselves with their sect or their party, and with the dispensers of fashionable praise and blame—their unwillingness to jeopardize one of the comforts and advantages which attach to their social position—which keeps the world where it is, prevents its material opportunities from blossoming into spiritual fruit, and leaves the noble-minded and the brave to contend alone for the cause of humanity, sometimes to fall unsustained and unbefriended beneath the hand of triumphant wickedness. The enthusiasm which should have borne on their endeavours to a successful issue, is chilled by the icy breath of many a treacherous and dishonest tongue. Of the failure of the noblest enterprizes, and of the wide-spread misery that has followed it, the deep selfishness of private life has perpetually been the cause. More high-minded and unselfish virtue here would have prevented many an abortive revolution, and almost have ensured success to such as sprang from the moral necessities of the world, conceived in the spirit of justice and humanity, and absolutely essential to the onward progress of human affairs. I do not say, that as Christians we are called on to obtrude our own views of social questions on the whole world, or to embark in hasty, ill-considered attempts to compass objects which plainly lie beyond our reach, and which it is impossible we should thoroughly understand.
The onesided fanaticism which vents its crude ideas in platform declamation, without any purpose or capacity of wise and deliberate action, is as injurious to the cause of humanity as the cold selfishness which looks on the great conflicts of the world with apathetic eye and quiescent arm. But this it is possible for all of us, and this it is the duty of all of us, as Christians, to do— to exercise our understandings patiently and earnestly for the discovery of the true view of those great social questions on which the future of our race depends; to keep our sympathies ever warm and open for what is noble and just; to speak without fear, yet with sober wisdom and calm selfpossession, whatever we feel to be grand and simple truth, however obnoxious to the worldly, however startling to the timid, and however unpopular with the fashionable and the vain :—and whenever a course for wise and virtuous action does clearly open itself before us, and we perceive distinctly that God does at length call upon us to act, to take that course in full assurance of faith courageously and resolvedly, and leave the issue with God. We underrate the force of indi