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own light, and require not the false fire of pride, or passion to blazon their worth. Often does the hot controvertist assert that to be of the very essence of religion, which is but a mere adjunct; and often he seems to wonder how men can bestow so much time and thought on any other topic, while his grand concern is under consideration.
interests of practical religion, while he is labour. ing to promote such as are doctrinal, that he may be inflaming the temper, while he is informing the understanding. Yet a controversy is sometimes so managed, that, though truth may be vindicated, the minds of plain Christians may be little informed. Such readers do not understand the logician's terms, which, though they may have the effect of silencing the opponent, do but little towards enlightening the mind or strengthening the faith. Controversies, therefore, in religion or politics often do little good, in comparison of the labour they cost, and the evil tempers they excite. They are seldom read by those to whom, if temperately conducted, they might be of the most service-the unprejudiced. The perusal is commonly confined to two classes, friends and enemies. Now the friends and enemies of a writer form but a small proportion of the world of readers. Of these, the one flies to his book to get his prepossessions strengthened, the other to get his antipathies confirmed. The partisan was pre-determined that no argument should shake him, the adversary sat down with the same liberal resolution. Nay, the probability is, that he will declare his former opinion is more immoveably settled by the very reasons the opposer has suggested, so that he feels he is furnished with fresh arms by the antagonist himself.
It is because these rooted and unexamined prejudices involve human affairs in so much perplexity, that the rectification of our judgment is one of the most important objects of our concern. The opinion which others entertain of us, though it may hurt our fortune or our fame, yet it cannot injure our more essential interests. Their judgment of us can neither wound our conscience nor shake our integrity. The false judgment we form of them may do both, especially if we act upon the opinion we have formed, if we speak injuriously of those of whom we think unkindly; if, by following a blind prejudice or precipitate judgment, we decide upon their characters, without possessing those grounds for determining which we insist are indispensable in the opinion they form of us. Jealousy, resentment, envy, often darken our perception, and are secretly operating on our minds, while we persuade others, and too probably ourselves, that we are promoting the interests of truth and justice, in exposing the faults, or counteracting the schemes of another. But though neutrality is not a state of mind Controversies will be for ever carried on, to be desired, moderation is. Even these polethough converts are not made: for I do not re.mical Christians, if each would look calmly and member, that of any of the ancient sects of philosophers, any went over to their opponents. Among the professors of the old school divinity, it does not appear that the disciples ever chang. ed their master, that the advocates of the ange lical Doctor ever adopted the cause of the irrefragable; and it is evident that the followers of Jansenius and Loyala died with the same mutual hostility in which they had lived.
As truth, however, will be assaulted, it must be defended. Controversial discussions, therefore, are not only harmless, but useful, provided truth be the inspiring motive, and charity the medium of conducting them. Truth is frequently beaten out by conflicting blows, when it might have contracted rust and impurity by lying quiet uninquired into and unassailed. We are in danger of growing negligent about a truth which is never attacked, or of surrounding it with our own fancies, and appending to it our own excrescences; while the assailant teaches even the friendly examiner to clear the principal of all foreign mixtures, and, by giving it more purity, to give it wider circulation.
But, as we before observed, a thorough partisan in religion, as well as in politics, seldom takes up a book of controversy with an unbiassed mind. He has a pre-determination which seldom gives way to argument. He does not see, that the supporter of his own cause may be maintaining it in a wrong temper; that. while he is fighting for orthodoxy, he may be aiming his side blows at a personal antagonist, or giving the death's wound to charity. He does not perceive, that he may be injuring the Scotus, Aquinas, and the other school divines, were distinguished by these and similar epithets.
kindly on the other, might discover in his opponent a striking likeness of his own features, if not an entire similarity of complexion: a likeness sufficient to prove that they are both of the same family, all children of one common Father, though they do not carry the exact resemblance in some minutenesses in which parity is not necessary to prove affinity. The general family-likeness should, however, operate as an inducement to treat each other with brotherly kindness, even if they were not assured, which they all profess to be, that the common Father will be the common Judge.
It is no inconsiderable part of our duty in our necessary connexions with that motely mass of characters of which mankind is composed, to conquer certain prejudices which are too apt to arise, especially in persons of fastidious temper and delicate taste, against those, who, though essentially valuable in their general character, have something about them which is positively disagreeable; or who do not fall in with some of our ideas, or whose manners are not congenial to our feeling. To wait before we love our fellow creatures, till their character be perfect, is to wait till we meet in heaven; and not to serve them till the feeling be reciprocal, is to act on the religion of the publican, and not of the Christian. We should love people for what we seo in them of the image of their Maker
pose; as if we repined at not being rewarded by universal applause for the superabundance of our piety? May we not, by our complaints, lead the world to suspect that our goodness was practised as a bait for that applause, and that, having missed it, we feel as if we had laboured in vain ?
though it be marred and disfigured. That piety | forbidden, discouraged, or under-rated. Private which makes them amiable in His sight, should prejudice, and individual hatred, are indeed suf prevent their being disgusting in ours. If we ficiently alive, but the blows they aim fall hurtconsulted our principles more, and our taste less, less as the feebly-lifted lance of Priam. If, then, it would cure us of this sharp inquest into their we allow ourselves to murmur at our own disinfirmities. advantages, will it not look as if we inwardly laYet on the other hand, if religious but coarse-mented that we are so very good to so little purly-mannered persons, however safe they may be as to their own state, could be aware how much injury their want of delicacy and prudence is doing to the minds of the polished and discriminating-who, though they may admire Christianity in the abstract, do not love it so cordially as to bear with the grossness of some of its professors; nor understand it so intimately, as to distinguish what is genuine from what is extrinsic-If they could conceive what mischief they do to religion, by the associations which they teach the refined to combine with it, so as to lead them inseparably to connect piety with vulgarity, they would endeavour to correct their own taste, from the virtuous fear of shocking that of others. They should remember, that many a thing is the cause of evil which yet is no excuse for it; that many a truth is brought into discredit by the disagreeableness which may be appended to it, and which, though utterly foreign, is made to belong to it.
But, from the prejudices which one class of Christians are too ready to indulge against another, we turn to those of a different character; to the philosophical man of the world, who is prepossessed not so much against any particular class of Christians, as against Christianity itself. These unhappy prejudices are often laid in by an education in which no one thing has been neglected except religion. The intellect has been enlarged by the grandeur, and polish. ed by the splendour, of pagan literature, which took early possession of the yet vacant mind, and still maintains its ascendancy with that power and energy which naturally belong to first and In addition to the infirmities which, from the therefore, deep impressions. The subsequent fault of nature, or the errors of education, are character continues to feel the effect of the exnot perhaps so easily avoided, there are others cessive admiration early excited by some fawhich are purely voluntary.-Certain religion-vourite authors, by whom the more impetuous ists there are who torment themselves with a passions and generous vices are exalted into chimera till they become the victims of the pre- virtues, while the spurious virtues are elevated judice of their own creation. There is a que- into perfections little short of divine, and the rulous strain of pious vanity, in which, with a whole adorned with whatever can captivate the most unamiable egotism, they delight to indulge. fancy and enchant the taste; with beautiful It is a sort of traditionary lamentation of evils, imagery, ingenious fiction, and noble poetry. which, having once been the lot of Christianity Who, indeed, does not feel divided between adin the most awful extreme, are assumed to be miration at their writings, and regret, that the still, in no inconsiderable degree attached to its writers were not providentially favoured with followers. Surrounded with all the conveniences divine illumination? Their brightness, like of life, and faring comfortably, if not sumptu- that of ebony, is a fine polish on a dark subously, every day, they yet complain of persecu- stance. tion, as if Christianity still subjected its follow- Here the indignant man of letters, if any such ers to the sufferings of those primitive disciples, should condescend to cast an eye on these pages, of whom the world was not worthy.' But let will exclaim, Are scholars, then, necessarily irthem compare the dreadful catalogue of tor-religious? God forbid! far from me be such a ments enumerated by the Apostle to the Hebrews-enumerated the more feelingly, as he had experienced in all their extremity the sufferings he describes ;-let them compare t'se with their own petty trials, of which, the worst they have ever felt or feared, is that of mockings' 'cruel, mockings,' perhaps, as to the temper of the reviler, but innoxious to the imaginary sufferer. The glorious profession of the saints of old brought on them bonds and imprisonments by order of the government. Ours is sanctioned by the ruling powers. They were destitute, afflicted, tormented;' our distresses are seldom caused by our piety, but frequently by our want of it. They were denied the exercise of their religion, we are protected in ours. They were obliged to meet clandestinely at undue hours in incommodious places. With us, provision is made for public worship, and attendance on it encouraged and commanded.
Let none of us, then, proudly or peevishly complain, as if our abundant piety was either
vulgar insinuation-far from me such a preposterous cha: ge; not only against a multitude of eminent lay-christians, but against the whole of that large and venerable body, whose life and labours are dedicated to religion, all of whom are, or ought to be, learned.
But it is nevertheless true, reason on it as we may, that, in the state of excitement above de. scribed, every youth of taste and spirit, who has not been early grounded in Christian principles, must necessarily afterwards first open the volume of Inspiration, and find it destitute of all that false but dazzling lustre with which the page of ancient learning is decorated.
And what must considerably add to the prejudice which may reasonably be expected to be thus excited, is, that they find the great object of one religion has been to pull down all the trophies of false glory which the other had so successfully reared. The dignity of human na ture, of which they have read and felt so much, is laid prostrate in the dust. Man is stripped
of his usurped attributes, robbed of his indepen-, by the baptized infidel is more profound than dent grandeur. A new system, of what appear to him mean-spirited and sneaking virtues-charity, simplicity, devotion, forbearance, humility, self-denial, forgiveness of injuries-is set up in direct opposition to those more ostensible qualities which are so much more flattering to the natural human heart.
that of the polytheist, whose absurdities render his aim comparatively innoxious. The preposterous systems of a false religion are harmless, compared with objections raised, misrepresentations sent forth, and sarcasms insinuated against the true one.
But if the enthusiastic votary of those systems
Those obstacles to religious progress are re-go no farther than to establish philosophy as his moved, when, in early institution, the defective principles of the one school are not only pointed out and guarded against, but are even, as is fre. quently the case, converted into salutary lessons, by being placed in just contrast with the other, and are made at once to vindicate the scheme, and to exalt the principles of Christianity.
standard, and taste as his guide, when he is brought to think-not that philosophy and taste are to be abandoned, for Christianity requires no such sacrifice-but that they are to be admired subordinately, the misfortune is, that the second half of life is sometimes spent in imperfectly counteracting the principles imbibed in the first half. It is not easy to get rid of the prepossession in favour of a morality untinctured with religion; of that love of fame which the
of the renewed spirit to lower-of the admiration exhausted on splendid, but vicious charac ters-of the idolatry cherished for unprincipled heroes-of the partiality felt for all the powerful rivals which genius has raised up to religionof all the sins that poetry has canonized-all the sophistry that praise has sanctified-all the pernicious elegancies of the gay-all the hollow reasonings of the grave.
But he into whose character these principles have not been infused, is too likely to set up on the stock of his own underived powers. The cardinal vice of an irreligious reasoner will na-pure spirit doth raise,' but which it is the office turally be that pride which sets him on considering the Gospel as a narrower of human understanding, a debaser of the soaring spirit of intellectual man, a fetter on the expatiating fan. cy, a clog on the aspiring mind. This opinion, which he rather adopts by hearsay or tradition than by studying the sacred volume, continues to keep him ignorant of its contents. He is satisfied with knowing Christianity, only in the state in which it is presented to him in certain passages, torn from their proper position, disjoined with malignant ingenuity, and distorted by perverted comment, from that connexion which would have solved every difficulty and annihilated the triumphant cavil. Or if, under this influence, he takes a superficial glance at Christianity, he sees a religion, which though it prohibits no legitimate greatness, yet a religion whose object is not to make man, according to the estimation of this world, great. His secret prejudices, too, may be augmented by the revolting doctrine, that he is not able to do any thing right of himself. He is to do the work, and to give the glory to another. After having followed with rapture the conqueror of Carthage hanging up his victorious laurels in the capitol, he will feel indignant to be taught, that the Christian conqueror, instead of glorying in his triumphant crown, casts it before the throne.'
He had observed in pagan lore, abstract truth prepared for the philosophers, pageants, feasts, and ceremonies for the people. This distinction of rank and intellect flattered human pride. In Christianity he finds one rule, and that a plain rule one faith, and that an humbling faith; one scheme of duties, irrespective of station or talents while, in the other, the systems of the learned, and the superstitions of the vulgar, were as distinct as any two religions, and as inefficacious as none.
But, after all, it is not the idolatry exhibited in the Greek and Roman writers that perhaps can overthrow his faith, though their licentiousness may affect his morals. The hardest blow to his principles will be given by the modern champions of unbelief; by writers against whom the young are not on their guard, because, without Christianity, they slide in under the general title of Christians, disseminating contraband wares under false colours. The wound inflicted
In this state of neutrality between religion and unbelief, happy is it for the faltering novice if he be not fatally offended, that Christianity admits people who are not elegant-minded, who are not intellectual, to the same present advantages, to the same future hope, with the profound thinker, and logical reasoner. And, even after the most successful struggles in this new science, it will still be found, and the discovery is humiliating, that the religious attainments of the unlearned are often more rapid, because less obstructed, than those of the wise and the disputer of this world.' It requires at least a smattering of wit and knowledge to be sceptical, while the plain Christian, who brings no ingenuity into his religion, is little liable to the doubts of the superficial caviller, who seeks to be wise above what is written.' For if the endowments of the unlearned are smaller, they are all carried to one point. They have no other pursuit to divide or divert their attention; they have fewer illusions of the imagination to repel; they bring no opposing system to the Christian scheme; they bring no prejudices against revelation, which holds out a promise of reversionary happiness to those who are destitute of present enjoyments; and Christianity will generally be more easily believed by those whose more immediate interest it is to think it true. They have no interfering projects to perplex them; no contradictory knowledge to unlearn, their uninfluenced minds are open to impressions, and good impressions are presented to them. They have less pride to subdue, and no prepossessions to extinguish. They have no compromise to make with Christianity, no images of deities, which the philosopher like the emperor Tiberius, wishes to set up in the same temple with Christ; no adverse tenets which they wish to incorporate with his religion, no ambition to convert it into a better thing than he made it. We
have seen how much philosophy early impeded Scripture also affords a larger range of conthe reception of pure Christianity in some of the templation to those enlightened minds who study wisest and most virtuous pagan converts. Ori-human nature at the same time, or who have gen and Tertullian did not receive the truth from heaven with the same simplicity as the fishermen of Galilee.
previously studied it; because it was upon his own knowledge of the human character that the Saviour of the world so strikingly accommodated his religion to the wants and the relief of that being for whose salvation it was intended.
To prove that this is no flight of enthusiastic fancy, let us recollect with what an extraordi. nary elevation and expansion of soul the Author The better educated, also, will better discern, of our religion bore his divine testimony to this because it demands a higher exercise of the ratruth: 'I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven tional powers, that passages of a similar sound and earth, because Thou hast hid these things have not seldom a dissimilar meaning; and that from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed it is not the word, but the ideas, which constithem unto babes.' He then, instead of account-tute the résemblance. The want of this discerning for it by natural means, resolves the mystery into the good pleasure of God-' Even so Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.'
ment has led many well disposed, but ill informed persons, into mistakes.
Again:-Many detached texts are meant as Even the vulgarity which, as we have already a brief statement of a general truth, and intendobserved, mixes with, and debases the religion ed to lead the reader into such trains of reflecof the man of inferior attainments; the incor- tion as shall exercise unto godliness,' instead rect idiom in which he expresses his feelings of exhibiting a full delineation and giving the and sentiments; the coarse images and mean whole face and figure, every side and aspect of associations which eclipse the divine light, do the subject. Scripture frequently proposes some not extinguish it: they rather, in some mea-important topic in a popular manner, without sure, prove its intrinsic brightness by its shining making out its full deductions, or its series of through so dense a medium. When the man of consequences. Now, for the fuller understandrefinement sees, as he cannot but see, what ame-ing these heads, and turning them to their due lioration Christianity confers on the character improvement, the advantage lies entirely on the of the uneducated; how it improves his habits; raises his language; what a change it effects in his practice; what a degree of illumination it gives to his dark understanding; what consolation it conveys to his heart; how it lightens the burdens of his condition, and cheers the sorrows of his life-he will, if he be candid, acknowledge, that there must needs be a powerful effi. cacy in that religion which can do more for the ignorant and illiterate, than philosophy has ever done for the great and the learned. And is it not an unanswerable evidence of the truth of Christianity and the power of grace, when we see men far surpassing all others in every kind of knowledge, themselves so far surpassed in religious knowledge by persons absolutely des. titute of all other.
side of the thinking and the reasoning reader. It must be confessed, however, that the humble, though illiterate Christian, is able to attain all the practical benefits of these suggestions. He compares Scripture with Scripture, he substi tutes no opinions of his own for those he there meets with, he never attempts to improve upon Christianity, he never wishes to make the Bible a better thing than he finds it. By diligent application, and serious prayer, his understanding enlarges with his piety. Above all, he does the will of God;' and, therefore, 'knows of the doctrine that it is of God.'
It must be confessed also, on the other hand, that the professed scholar, by converting Scripture learning into theses of discussion, is in some danger of making his knowledge more But if these weak and humble disciples afford critical than practical. The same reason which a convincing evidence of the truth of Christian-is meant to enlighten, may be employed to exity; if even these low recipients exhibit a strik-plain away his faith; and his learning which ing exemplification of its excellence, yet we adorns is capable also of being turned to dismust confess they cannot exhibit an equally credit it.
ally pious, his piety will be of a higher strain. It is more pure, more perfect, more exempt from erroneous mixtures, more clear of debasing as sociation, more entirely free from disgusting cant and offensive phraseology; less likely to run into imprudence, error, and excess; less in
sublime idea of christian perfection, they cannot We must, however, admit, that when our supadduce the same striking evidences in its vindi-posed man of high education becomes essentication, they cannot adorn its doctrines with the same powerful arguments as highly educated Christians. Habituated to inquiry and reflection, these are capable of forming more just views of the character and attributes of God, more enlarged conceptions of his moral government. They have also the advantage of drawing on their secular funds to augment their spiritual riches. They are conversant with authors con temporary with the inspired writers. Acquaintance with ancient manners and oriental usages also gives great advantage to the lettered readers of Scripture, and, by enabling them to throw new light on passages which time had rendered obscure, adds fresh strength and double confirmation, to a faith which was before barred up with ribs of iron.'*
*The paltry cavil on the impossibility that the peni
tent woman could anoint the feet of Jesus as he sat at
danger of the gloominess of superstition on one, hand, and the wildness of fanaticism on the other. Having the use of a better judgment in the choice, he is not in the same danger of being misled by ignorant instructors; he is not liable to be drawn away by a vanity so difficult to restrain in the uneducated religious man; a vanity so frequently excited when he sees his own superiority, in this great point, to his worse informed neighbours. From this vanity, and this want of the restraint of that modesty imposed by superior education, the man of low condition often appears more religious than he is, because, being disposed to be proud of his piety, he is forward to talk of it. While the higher bred frequently appear less pious than they really are, from the good taste and delicacy which commonly accompany a cultivated mind. There is also another reason why they exhibit it less, they are aware that, in their own society, the exhibition would bring them no great credit.
If unlettered Christians labour under some disadvantages, we repeat it, they yet afford an internal evidence of the truth of Christianity, and an evidence of no small value. They show that it is the same principle which, when rightly received, pervades alike all hearts; a principle which makes its direct way to understandings impervious to the shafts of wit, and insensible to the deductions of reasoning-to minds sunk in low pursuits, indurated by vulgar habits. It is a striking proof of its being the same principle, that such seemingly disqualified persons possess as clear views of its nature, at least of its broad and saving truths, as the man of genius and the scholar; destitute as they are of all his advantages, wanting perhaps his natural perspicacity, unused to his habits of inquiry, incapable of that spirit of disquisition which he brings from his other subjects to the investigation of this. No one, if he examine impartially, can fail to be struck with this grand characteristic of the truth of Christianity-not only, that in all degrees of capacity and education in the same country, but that in different countries, in those where taste and learning are carried to the highest perfection, and in dark and ignorant nations, where not only the sun of science has never dawned, but where literature has never softened, nor philosophy enlarged the mind, where no glimpse of religion can be caught by a reflex light, as is the case in polished and Christian countries-yet wherever Christianity has made its way, and pierced through the native obscurity, there the genuine spirit, and the great essential fruits of the gospel, will be found just the same; the same impression is made by the same principle; the same results spring from the same cause, and the disciples of Christ, whether it be the converted Greenlander or the Academical believer, are recognised in all their distinguishing features, are identified in all the leading points. Such a concurrence in sentiment, feeling, and practice, such a union in faith, hope, and charity, amongst persons dissimilar in all other respects, unlike in all other qualities, unequal in all other requisites; minds never made to be akin by nature thus allied by grace, bearing the same stamp of resemblance in spirit as their possessors bear in the common
properties of body: all this is a convincing proof that there must be something divine in a principle which can assimilate such contrarieties— which can re-unite those in one common centre who differ in all other distinctions to produce identity in the leading point. Does not all this prove it indeed to be the work of God, a work which requires not previous accomplishments or preparatory research, but only a willing mind, an unprejudiced spirit, and an humble heart? Does it not prove, that where the essence, and the spirit of Christianity really reside, it will produce the one grand effect, a new heart and a new life.
Further causes of Prejudice.
It is a singular fact that the infidel and the fanatic sometime meet at the same point of error-that reason has little to do with religion. The enthusiast we are hopeless of convincing by argument, because he is commonly ignorant; but the lettered sceptic may be better taught even by his pagan masters. Plutarch, after a large discussion whether brutes had any reason, determines in the negative from this consideration, because they had no knowledge or feeling of a Deity. The great Ronan orator expresses the same idea when he asserts, that a capacity for religion was the distinguishing mark of rationality, and that this capacity is the most unequivocal sign of reason.
Yet sound reason and Christian piety are sometimes represented as if they were bellige rent powers, as if Orders in Council had been issued to cut off all commerce between them; as if they were better calculated eternally to meet sword in hand, than in the conciliatory way of treaty and negociation; as if every victory of the one, must necessarily be obtained at the expense of the other's defeat. But is it not an affront to the Giver of every good gift to represent his highest natural and his supernatural endowments as infallibly hostile to each other? It is evident that when reason and religion act in concert, they strengthen each other's hands. But when they injudiciously act in opposition, perverted reason starves the ardour of piety, or ill-judging piety hands over reason to obloquy and scorn. In every case, the ill-understood jealousy of each injures the interests of both.
The truth is, sound and sober Christianity is so far from discountenancing the use of reason, that she invites its co-operation, knowing that it possesses powerful arms to defend her cause; to defend her against the encroachments of or. ror, the absurdities of fanaticism, the inroads of superstition, the assaults of infidelity. But while she treats it not as a rival but an ally, Christianity, strong in Almighty strength, maintains her own imperial power unfringed. While she courts the friendship of her confede rate, she allows not her own uncontrolled supe. riority to be usurped. She assigns to reason its specific office, and makes it know and keep its proper limits. The old law, indeed, being a