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mire, the ardour of an animated preacher, who, feeling his heart expand with his subject, finds it as much his delight as his duty to impart to every bosom the tender and compassionate sympathies with which his own overflows; and it is with reluctance we have presumed to intimate the restraints, which christian piety should impose on itself in not overstating even a christian duty.
As there is not a more lovely virtue in the whole Christian code, so there is not one which more imperatively demands our attention to the spirit with which we exercise it, and the temper with which we bear the disappointment sometimes attending our best designed bounties. Though charity is too frequently thrown away on those who receive it, it is never lost on the benefactor if he who gives, does it with simplicity.'.'-When the bountiful giver cannot find pleasure, he may always extract good. He may reap no small advantage himself from that liberality which has failed to confer any. He may
We have no right to determine on the proportions and possibility of any man's charity, but on the principle we may determine; there must be an exhaustless spring in the heart, even where the Christian's means will not admit of again benefit from the disappointment he expeperpetual current. Love is in fact that motive principle, without which neither faith, nor mysteries, nor martyrdom, no nor even the addition of the second guinea to the plate, where only one had been intended, nor giving all our goods to the poor, will profit any thing. Where this vital spirit is wanting, the most ample bounty will not reach its end; where it exists, the cup of cold water,' shall be accepted. Without this animating principle, though the bounty may obtain applause, may influence others, may do good,and promote good, yet it may unhappily fall short of promoting the spiritual interests of the giver. He who has promised to render to every man according to his deeds, knows the principle of the deed, and has never promised to recompense any which has no reference to himself.
riences in the unworthiness of the object. When the project he had anxiously formed for doing good to another is defeated by perverseness, or requited by ingratitude, it not only does not check the spring of bounty in the real Christian, but it calls new virtues into action. The exercise of patience, an improvement in forbearance and forgiveness, a stronger conviction that we must not make the worthiness of the object the sole measure of our bounty, are well worth the money we have spent on the undeserving. Perhaps too the reiterated instances how little good the best man is able to do in this world, may serve to wean him from it, and be an additional inducement for looking forward to a better.
But it is much easier to relieve our neighbour's wants, than to bear with his errors; the To neglect works of charity, not to be largely one gratifies our natural feelings, while the liberal in the performance of them according to other offends them; the most difficult as well as our ability, is an infallible evidence that our the most sublime branch of charity, therefore, professions of piety mean nothing. On the other is the forgiveness of injuries, is the love of our hand, to depend upon them as what is to bear us enemies. It is a love humbly aiming to resemout in our claims for heaven, before the tribunal ble his, who sends his rain on the just and on of God, is to offend our Maker and deceive our the unjust; a love not inspired by partiality, own souls. We would be the very last to un-nor extorted by merit. It is following the exdervalue, or to discourage charity, but is it discouraging it to place it on its true ground; to assert that we may build an hospital without charity, as we may endow a church without piety, if we consider the one as an expiation for sin, or the other as a substitution for holiness?
ample, while we obey the precept of Christ, when we do good to them that hate us.' It is a charity which bursts with a generous disdain the narrow bounds of attachment and even of desert, levels every fence which selfish prudence would erect between itself and its enemies; it is a love with respect to the objects, though with a boundless disproportion as to the measure, resembling God's love to us; it aims to be universal in kind, though it is low in the degree.
Some are ingenious in contriving, by a strange self-delusion, to swell the amount of their charity, by tacking to it extraneous items of a totally distinct character. The Author was formerly acquainted with a lady of rank, who though her benevolence was suspected to bear A very able divine* has insisted that it is to no proportion to the splendour of her establish- this part of the character of the Almighty that ment, was yet rather too apt to make her boun- our Saviour limits the injunction, Be ye perties a subject of conversation. After enumerat- fect as your Father which is in heaven is pering the various instances of her beneficence she fect.' It is, indeed, one of the principal instances often concluded by saying, 'notwithstanding my in which finite creatures can by imitation aplarge family I give all this in charity besides pay-proximate to the character of God; most of his ing the poor rates; thus converting a compulsory act, to which all are equally subject, into a voluntary bounty.
Our corruptions are so liable to infect even our holy things,' that we should be vigilant in this best exercise of the best affections of the heart-affections which God, when he graciously converted a duty into a delight, gave us, in order, by a pleasurable feeling, to stir us up to compassion. We should be careful that the great enemy may not be plotting our injury, even when we are performing actions the most hostile to his interests.
attributes rather requiring us to adore, than leaving it possible for us to imitate them. For though all the attributes of God afford the most exalted idea of complete perfection, yet the injunction to attain his image is strikingly applied in, the New Testament to this particular part of the divine character. The Apostle applies our being followers of God, as dear children,' afterwards to this individual instance, forgiv. ing one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you,' adding, and walk in love as * See bishop Sherlock's sermon on the text, 'Be ye perfect,' &c. &c.
Christ also loved us.' So that,' says the bishop, 'his exhortation to follow God stands inclosed on both sides with the precepts of love and charity, as if he intended to secure it from being applied to any thing else.' St. Luke, who gives us an abridgement of the same sermon on the mount, from which the passage is taken, also suggests the practice of love and forgiveness from the example of the Almighty, who is kind to the unthankful and the evil. After having delivered the same beatitude, he corroborates the interpretation with an injunction, by saying, not be perfect, but be merciful as your Father also is merciful.'
Our Saviour impressed a solemn emphasis on the command to forgive the offences of others, when he implicated it with God's forgiveness of us. It is to be feared, that many who would think it an act of disobedience to omit the daily repetition of the divine prayer, of which this request forms so striking a clause, do not lay to heart the daily duty of supplicating for that frame of spirit which the petition involves. Can there be a more awful consideration, than that we put the grand request on which our eternal happiness depends, on this issue, when we inseparably associate our own hope of pardon, with the required and reasonable condition of pardoning others? Should we not be conscientiously cautious, how we put up this petition, when we reflect, that we offer it to the great Searcher of hearts, who, while he listens to the request, can exactly determine on the integrity which accompanies it? The divine Author of the prayer seems to hold out a sort of test of the spirit of our obedience, when he proposes this difficult duty, as a trial of our general conformity to his commands. It seems selected by infinite wisdom as a kind of pledge of our submission to his will in all other points: our interest is confederate with our duty in the practice of this high and peculiarly Christian grace. The requisition suggests at once the most absolute obligation, and the most powerful motive.
This forgiveness seems not only to be one of the grand distinctions between the religion of the heathen and the Christian world, but to form a considerable difference between the duties inculcated in the Old and the New Testament. In the former, indeed, there were not only indications and suggestions of this rule, but some exemplifications of its actual performance. It is remarkable, that when David, whose energy of character, or rather mysterious inspiration as a prophet, led him to be so vehement in his denunciations of vengeance on persons of professed enmity against God, and against himself as the anointed of God, yet exhibited eminent instances of placability in his conduct towards his own personal enemies, especially in the case of Saul. But, perhaps, the duty, after all, was not so fully made out, so clearly defined, so positively enjoined, nor was the frame of mind so evidently seen in 'them of old time.' We have many instances under that dispensation, of saints and prophets laying down their lives for their religion, but it was reserved for the first New Testament martyr, when expiring under a shower of stones from his enemies, to say,
'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. The reason is obvious. It being expected, that our notions and practices should be adapted to the revelation under which we live, this sublime species of charity should necessarily rise in proportion to the clearness and dignity of that dispensation. It is congruous, therefore, that our forgiveness of injuries should be exercised in far higher perfection under the Gospel, the professed object of which was to make a full and perfect revelation of the pardon of sin by the blood of a Redeemer. And we can only be said to have a conformity to his image, in proportion as we practice this grace. Let us, however, remember, to borrow the thought of an eminent divine, that our forgiving others will not alone procure forgiveness for ourselves, while our not forgiving others is a plain proof, that we ourselves are not forgiven.'
THERE is not a more curious subject of speculation, than to observe the vanity of colours with which opinion tingos truth: the bias which prejudice lends to facts, when it cannot deny them; the perversion it gives to the motive, when it cannot invalidate the circumstance; the warp and twist it gives to actions, which it dares not openly condemn; the disingenuousness into which it slides, even though it does not intend to maintain a falsehood; the bright rays with which it gilds, perhaps unconsciously, its own side of a question; the dark cloud by which it casts that of an adversary into the shade.
Prejudice, if not altogether invincible, is perhaps the most difficult of all errors to be eradicated from the human mind. By disguising it. self under the respectable name of firmness, it is of infinitely slower extirpation than actual vice. For vice, though persisted in through the perverseness of the will, never sets itself up for virtue; a vicious man knows what is right, though his appetites deter him from following it; but a prejudice, being perhaps more frequently a fault of the judgment than of the heart, is sometimes persisted in upon principle. No man will defend a sin as such, but even good men defend a prejudice, though every one else sees that it is producing all the effects of a sin, promoting hatred, souring the temper, and exciting evils passions.
Yet, though it may incidentally be attached to a good man, there are few errors more calculated to estrange the heart from vital religion, because there are none under which men rest so satisfied. Under the practice of any immorality they are uneasy, and that uneasiness may lead to a cure; for the light of natural conscience is sufficiently strong to show, that sin and peace cannot dwell together. But prejudice effectually keeps a man from inquiring after truth, because he conceives that he is in full possession of it, and that he is following it up in the very error which keeps him so wide of it. Or if, with the Roman governor, he ask, 'what is truth?' like
him, he turns away for fear of an answer. The strongest light cannot penetrate eyes that are closed against it; while to the humble, who desire illumination, God gives not only the object, but the faculty of discerning it.
As it is mental, rather than moral prejudice, which is the present subject of consideration, we shall say little of those prejudices of which the passions and appetites are the cause. Interest and sensuality see the objects which absorb them through their own dense medium, while the vision of either is probably clear enough in judging of the objects of the other's passion; the blindness being partial, and confined, like the lunacy of some disordered patients, to the single object to which the disease has a reference. Even probity itself is not of sufficient force to guide our conduct; we see men of sound integrity and of good judgment on subjects where prejudice does not intervene, acting, where it does below the standard of ordinary men, go. verned by a name, carried away by a sound. It makes lovers of truth unjust, and converts wis. dom into fatuity. It must, therefore, be an enlightened probity, or we may be injuring our fellow creatures, when we persuade ourselves we are doing God service. Paul does not appear to have been a profligate, but to have been correct, zealous, and moral, and to have earned a high reputation among his own narrow and preju. diced sect. His error was in his judgment. The error of Peter was in his affections. A sudden touch of self-love in this vacillating but warm hearted disciple, made him dread to share in his master's disgrace. But in this case, a single penetrating glance melted his very soul, brought him back to contrition, repentance, and love. To cure the prejudices of Paul a miracle was necessary.
While the powerful arguments of our Lord put even the Sadducees, the infidels of the day, to silence,' they produce no such effect on the professing Pharisees; instead of rejoicing to hear their great doctrine of the resurrection so fully vindicated, they redoubled their prejudices against him, at the very moment in which he had obtained such a triumph in their cause. The first thing they endeavoured, was to seek to entangle, by their casuistry, him who had just defeated the common enemy.
But, let us judge even the prejudiced without prejudice. Prejudice, to a certain degree, is not so much the fault of the individual, as of our common nature. And that sober tincture of it, which is inseparable from habits and attachments, is a fair and honest prepossession:-for instance, who ever reprobated, as a censurable prejudice, that generous feeling,
the error and misapprehension which cloud our judgment here.
People commonly intend to judge fairly: and, when they fail, it is as often an error of the understanding as of the heart. They form their opinion of some particular subject from what they see of it. But though they see only a part, they frequently form their opinion of that which remains unseen, more peremptorily than those who see the whole; for a large and clear view by affording a justness of conception, commonly induces humility. Perhaps, on their ignorance of those very parts of a question which they do not see, they form their decision on the whole; while the unseen points are precisely those which only could enable them to determine fairly on the general proposition.
We should not, however, very severely censure any for the mere opinion they form, this being a matter of the judgment rather than of the will; the true object of censure is their conduct under this false impression; in acting as hostilely as if their opinion was founded on the best ascertained facts. If we are all more or less prejudiced, it does not follow, that the conscientious act upon the feelings which the prejudice has excited. The harsh and the intolerant, indeed, let loose upon their adversaries all the bad passions which this disposition to prejudge opi. nions has stirred up; while the mild spirit in which Christianity governs, will conduct itself with the same general kindness as if no diversity of opinion subsisted. Though all prepossession arises from some cloudiness in the mind, it is a fair trial of the Christian temper, when the man who suffers by it, continues to exercise the same tolerant and indulgent spirit towards the preju. diced party, as if there were a mutual concur. rence of sentiment. If he have no other ground of objection to the person from whom he differs, there is something of a large and liberal spirit in acting with him, and speaking of him, on other occasions, as if the matter in debate did
How endless and intricate are the misleadings of political prejudice! It is as detailed and minute in its operations, as it is broad and extensive in its compass. Will not the circumstance of voting on the same side often stand instead of the best qnalities, in recommending one man to the good opinion of another ? With this unfounded partiality is naturally connected a dislike to better men, on the mere ground of their taking the opposite side; for party, which takes such a large permission to think and act for it. self, takes care never to allow to others the liberty which it so broadly and uniformly as
He who drinks deep into the spirit of party, For which our country is a name so dear? minutely pencils all the shades of misrepresentaBut, after all, prejudice of some kind or other, tion; his prejudice blackening, his partiality is a natural inborn error, attached to that blind-whitening; the one deforming what is fair, the ness, which is an incurable part of our constitution.
Disagreement of opinion, therefore, if it be an evil inseparable from our present state of being ought not to excite antipathy; complete unanimity of heart and sentiment being reserved as a part of the happiness of that more perfect state, where the effulgence of truth will dissipate all
other beautifying what is foul; the one defacing temples, the other garnishing sepulchres. Providence, in the mean time, working its own way by these perverse instruments; the worst designers being sometimes surprised into doing more good than they intended, by a wish to anticipate the good projected by the opposite party, and so to throw an odium upon them, for not
having been able to effect the same, though they, had perhaps planned it, and though adverse circumstances alone had interrupted the scheme, or the want of a suitable occasion had delayed its accomplishment. Thus good is effected, the public is benefited, all are pleased. The conscientious rejoice that it is done at any rate; the prejudiced, that their party have the credit of doing it.
There are among the exhaustless manœuvres of a party-champion, if I may so speak, gestures and signs of disapprobation, which are of equal efficacy with language itself. There are also artifices in writing, that resemble intonation and accent, in a skilful speaker, which, by a turn of the voice, or a clause in a parenthesis, throw in a shade of distinction, lend an emphasis which makes mystery intelligible, and helps out the apprehension of the reader. There is such a thing as an intellectual shrug of the shoulders, a - mental shake of the head, an implication that has more meaning than an assertion, a hint which can effectually detract from the commendation which prudence has extorted, and which | serves to awaken suspicion more than a direct charge. Whatever is omitted, is sure to be more than supplied; whatever is dexterously left open by the writer, never fails to be over-charged by the reader, who always values himself on his ingenuity in filling up an hiatus. There is a way of setting out with general praise, in order to make the meditated charge more effectual. A practised reader will see through the artful circumlocutory preface, which is gradually preparing to introduce the little, though effectually disparaging particle but. These artifices raise up the ghost of some unknown evil in the character to be injured, and excite, at the same time, the idea of prudence and moderation in the censure. It is a mysterious giving out, and assumed regret at being compelled to speak, a hypocritical conscientiousness, a reluctance of communication which, after it has told much more than all it knows, tenderly affects to have kept back the worst.
and utter many things which exceed the bounds of strict justice. When the resentment has, in some measure subsided, let us endeavour to collect and to retain only the simple and exact truth; what the enemy really said, and not what he suspected he might say. Let us retrench all that is imaginary, all that is merely suspicion; let us cut off all the aggravations of conjecture, all the inventions of passion, all the additions of revenge, all the belongs to unsubstantiated report ;-when these due retrenchments are made, we shall often see that the injury is not so great. It is no wonder if the object we saw through a mist was enlarged; a clear medium reduces it to its natural size.
But supposing the worst to be true; religion, operating on observation, will at length teach us to set these metaphysical evils, these afflictions of the imagination, this anguish of wounded pride or irritated self-love, over against the real, deep, substantial miseries of body and mind, under which thousands of our fellow.creatures, nay many of our friends, are at the moment sinking; and we shall blush at our own irritability; we shall bless God for the lightness of our own lot; we shall even be thankful for that evil which exists only in the opinion, or the report of a fallible creature, and which makes no part of our real self.
But, above all, let us never revenge the injury by opposing our injustice to that by which we suffer, by acting against our opponents with the same spirit with which we accuse them of acting against us. Retaliation, which is the justice of a vulgar mind, is of the very essence of an unchristian spirit. Where this is indulged, all the virtues of the adversary are rooted out by our resentment, and it is well, if we do not plant vices in their room. Or if we do not invent faults for them, are we not too much disposed to take comfort in those they have to cherish unkind reports of them, to give them a welcome hearing and a wide circulation? Nay, self-estimation and rooted prejudice may lead us entirely to mistake the character of him we call our One evil which commonly arises from the pe- enemy. A man is not necessarily wicked berusal of a work of a systematic opposition, cause he does not admire us. He may dislike whether the object be public or private, is, that some of our notions without hating our persons; it has a tendency to bias the more liberal reader, or, after all, his prejudices may not be entirely who took it up in the most impartial state of ill-founded and if we will examine ourselves on mind, with as undue a prejudice in favor of the the ground of his charge in some particular inparty attacked, as the assailant laboured to esta-stance, we may find, that we have been wrong blish in favour of his own; so that, if any in- in a way which we might not have discovered justice be excited, it is on the contrary side to without him. If his detection of our error lead that which the author intended. Generally us to correct it, we should not reckon that man speaking, however, people do not sit down with among our worst enemies : or, if we should hap a pure design to read impartially any thing, pen to be right, there is a great advantage in which, from the title of the work, or the name being assisted by the mode of attack, to know of the author, they foresee or suspect is likely to how to collect materials for our defence. contradict their creed, whether previously adopted from conviction or prepossession.
But, to confine our observations to the prejudices which embitter common life-when we fancy we have been injured by some unfounded evil report, let us avoid considering the character of the reporter, or our own supposed injury, under the immediate impression of the intelligence, but try to divert our thoughts to some other subject, till our heated spirits have time to cool. We shall otherwise, too probably, feel
We must also learn sometimes to endure censure for things right in themselves, and, under existing circumstances, necessary, which yet may not appear right to others, because it may not be prudent to disclose those secret springs of action, which, if revealed, would convince others that we have not acted wrong. Instead of spending our spirits in invective, or spoiling our temper by hatred; instead of.liking our faults the better, or adhering to them the more, because pointed out by those we dislike; would
it not be wiser to inquire, if our opinions may not be prejudices, as well as theirs? For it does not inevitably follow, that even the dislike of bad men is any certain proof of our goodness; though our natural propensity to think our own conduct and opinions right, disposes us to think them more right in proportion to the opposition which is made to either. We are blind to our own singularities, even though those singu. larities may be errors; and a spirit of resentment or resistance makes that blindness often more obstinate. On the other hand; may we not be too much disposed to think our censurers, whom we call wicked, more wicked than they are; or, though there may be errors in their conduct, this does not take from them the capacity of judging ours. Even though their hearts are wrong, their judgment, as far as relates to others, may not be totally perverted. It is no infallible proof of their bad judgment, that they think meanly of ours.
something on points that were indifferent, it would be a sort of realization of the communion of saints. But if it be called an act of Omnipotence to make men of one mind in a house,' what would it be to make them of one mind in a town or a kingdom? If we could witness a cordial agreement between those who profess to have the interests of the same religion at heart, such a concurrence in the wish to promote its great practical objects, as would render them willing to concede their own theories, or their own judgment, in things that do not affect any of the vitals of religion, with such noble materials worked up into action, what a glorious world might this become! This combination of Christian feeling would extinguish all unkind debate, all malice, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking. This peace-offering would oblige no one to renounce his principles; yet, by the extinction of petty differences, by such a confederacy of honest hearts and candid spirits uniting for some great public object, this wilderness would almost be converted into the garden of God. Nor would an inferior portion of the benefit be derived to the minds of those by whom, for a cause of general importance, the inconsiderable sacrifice was made; so far from it, it would be hard to say which made up the largest aggregate of good, the private exercise of individual virtue, or the promotion of the general
But allowing that their judgment is as incorrect as their practice, and that their dislike proceeds from the strong antipathy of bad to good, yet we may turn this dislike to profit. That hostility to religion, of which the Scripture so frequently speaks, is not intended to give the Christian a high notion of his own piety, but to encourage him against the fear and dejection which that hostility might create. If he meet with opposition, he must not fly for re-end. But, alas! do we not sometimes see fuge to his own goodness, as contrasted with the faults of his opponent; nor must he be depressed, as if some strange thing had happen. ed to him;' much less must he convert the opposition he meets with, into an evidence, that he is in all instances right. In the consolations which the Gospel holds out to the sufferer for righteousness' sake, it was intended to inspire him with courage, not vanity; with confidence in God, not in himself. He must not, therefore, so much value himself because he has enemies, as suspect that he may have enemies, because he has deserved them. Or perhaps, their is something wrong in us which we have not yet discovered, for which God permits us to have enemies. This suspicion may serve to render us circumspect, and quicken our endeavours to remove the ground of their censure. This, even if it do not reconcile them to us, will still make us gainers by their enmity; so that, in any case, the Apostle's interrogation, And who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?' loses nothing of its force.
Christians more forward in attacking and exposing each other, than in buckling on their arins to make war on the common enemy? Are they not more ready to wage that war against a pious brother, who does not view some one opinion exactly in the same light with themselves, though equally zealous in the promotion of general truth, than against those who have no religion at all? What a church triumphant would our's be in one sense, though still militant in another, if there was a union of real Christians joining in one firm band to assail the strong holds of vice and immorality, instead of laying open each other's errors and mistakes, and thus exposing the great cause itself to the derison of the unbeliever.
We cannot dispute ourselves into heaven, but we may lose our way thither, while we are litigating unimportant topics-things which a man may not be much the better if he hold, and which if he hold them unrighteously, he might be better if he held them not. The enemies of religion cannot injure it so much as its own divisions about itself.
Who can forbear to lament, when he sees such He who is zealously running after a favoura litigious spirit pervades superior minds, such ite opinion, is in danger, in order to establish airy nothings conjured into difficulties, suffi- his point, of losing his moderation by the way, cient to clog the wheels of the noblest under- and over-stepping truth at the end and, what takings; an effect resulting merely from the par- is worse, of converting the sober defence of his tiality with which even wise men sometimes own system into a hostile attack of that of ancleave to their own prepossessions, added to a other; for a hot disputant seldom wages defenreluctance to examine what may possibly be sive war. The point under discussion so heats wrong on their own side, or right on the other? his temper, as to make him lose sight of its real It would be comparatively a small evil, if pre-importance. Every consideration gives way in judices were only fostered on occasions in which support of that opinion which has now the prereligion has no concern. If we could hope to dominance in his mind. And this opinion is see such a general proficiency in true piety, not seldom contended for with an eagerness that, where the sentiments of men concurred proportioned to its real want of solidity; since on all essential points, each side would sacrifice great and important objects are seen by their VOL. II. U