Page images

of the odium which justly weighs upon the other. They are so easily distinguished, that it would seem as if only blindness or perversity were in danger of confounding them. When we aim at the defeat of an opponent rather than at his conviction, - to work him shame and not to do him good; when our dissent from his opinions estranges or impairs our good will; above all, should we be tempted to aim at an advantage over him by any artifice; it is no better than an earthborn party spirit, which impels us, though it be presumptuous enough to call itself a zeal for God. But, if, we have such a sincere generous love of truth as to labor and rejoice in its dissemination, not for our credit who offer it, but for the sake of its own precious uses; if our benevolence, and not our pride, is wounded by its rejection and gratified by its prevalence, this is an ardor which cannot glow too warmly. It is the appropriate spirit of reformers. It is the spirit of apostles; of the Son of God himself.

When this spirit exists as it ought, the question will not need to be asked, in what way it shall be manifested. It will throw itself into wide and various action, and the world will bear its trophies. Is the inquiry made, however, what we, of this age, may particularly do towards the diffusion of a powerfully enlightening and sanctifying faith? I answer: some of us may carefully expound, and formally maintain it. The least demand it makes of us, is that of a frank avowal of our sense of its reality and importance. It cautions us against representing the distinction between itself and error to be immaterial, as against a habit of evil omen. We are not indeed required to sequester the church


from its proper uses, to make it a theatre of controversy. Far from it. But, in whatever department or connexion we undertake to exhibit truth, we must represent it distinctly, as it has disclosed itself to us, and not in those generalities which make it ambiguous and unaffecting; still less, with an appearance of reserve, of self-diffidence, and cold preference for it, which can have no directer tendency, than to prevent any strong reliance on our more explicit statements.-Ministers and parents have access to the forming minds of those, who are forthwith to speak the public voice, and the fair tablet should be carefully stamped by them with the deep and graceful impress of truth. - Christi should be faithful to it in the walks of their common life, and the sentiments of their familiar conversation. There is no so worthy object for the devotion of the more efficient class of minds. What is a poem written, to a soul edified; or an office won, to a principle established? - The eminent and popular friends of uncorrupt religion should, in all unostentatious ways, make known their attachment to it, that as far as possible they may transfer to it the respect in which themselves are held; and they, who have been won to it where it is in disrepute, should on their part, -'unshaken, unseduced, unterrified' show by a manly though a meek profession, that they are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,' as it has manifested itself to them. They should regard themselves as appointed to maintain its honor and assert its claims, each in his separate sphere; and, so far from permitting themselves to be dispirited or overborne, should rejoice in being 'counted worthy,' (if that should be,) to suffer shame for such a name.' What have they to fear, be

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

lieving, as they must, that the defenders of the declining corruptions, which they assail, are but writing the epitaphs of their own fame? What more would they have to stimulate them, when they consider that the grateful memory, in which the world holds its inventors and discoverers in art and science, is languid, compared with what must be cherished hereafter by saints in earth and heaven for every individual, who has done a worthy service in restoring to the faith of Christ its primitive integrity and power?- Religious truth is to be advanced towards its due ascendency by the labors of a learned and devoted ministry; and our institutions for forming and supporting such a ministry should not be left to languish. Missionaries should be sent out by a systematic and liberal charity; not into well ordered christian communities, able to provide christian privileges for themselves. A breach of christian charity may not be thus risked for the introduction of a more correct religious theory, and where the 'power of godliness' prevails, the doctrine according to godliness' may be safely left to work its own way. But they should be sent into the moral wastes of our own country, to make them rejoice and blossom.' They should be sent to those rising but feeble churches, whose corrected views require an enlightened ministry to build them up in the most holy faith,' and help them 'grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.' They should be sent to undeceive those misbelieving nations, who have as yet no worthier idea of our religion than that it is a system which they could not understand or receive, if they were ever so well disposed; and so bring back, if it please God, from


distant continents and islands, a new and brilliant evi-
dence of its power. — This is a reading age, and there
is no more direct access of light to men's minds than
through the spectacles of books.' It becomes us to
take care that this avenue be everywhere provided for
its entrance. Societies for the gratuitous distribution
of the scriptures should be bountifully patronized.
They have already been read to vast profit, and they
are to be read to greater profit still. Books assisting
in the explanation of them, - popular commentaries
and treatises, books of devotion, sermons, religious
narratives, and polemical writings from the most elabo-
rate to the most familiar, should be put in liberal cir-
culation by the charitable care of the opulent. There
is a great taste and demand for all such works, and cast
as they may seem on the untracked waters, there is a
rich return from them after many days.'

[ocr errors]

Finally and chiefly, every individual should be perpetually and earnestly intent on recommending what he receives for religious truth by his own bright example of its efficacy. This is an unobtrusive argument, but ultimately it never fails to be to a great extent a triumphant one. Never were contemned heresies more unsparingly vilified than were those of the Methodists and Friends; but they have lived their way into public veneration. They have not only overcome prejudice, but have actually gained prejudice over to their side by the humble fervor of their piety, and the splendid labors of their beneficence. The Catholics are in many places regaining their once forfeited standing by a similar honorable course. Here is experimental proof, that we are able, by the persuasive testimony of holy lives, to re

lieve our views of Christianity from that weight of unreasonable dislike, by which we have lamented to see them oppressed. When we observe the power of exemplary goodness to disarm uncharitableness against what we account error, we must needs allow to it an invincible power to disarm uncharitableness against what we account truth; and we should feel that we owe it to the interests of christianity, as well as to our personal religious interests, 'to serve God' in all things 'with a perfect heart and with a willing mind;' to 'walk in wis dom towards them who are without, in meekness instructing them that oppose themselves,' and steadily to practise that pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.' The work may be long in prosecution, to try the faith, or display the resources, or purify the zeal, or punish the remissness, or mature the graces of its friends; but, laboring thus for its advancement, we may well be content to await its consummation with a patient confidence.

« PreviousContinue »