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the persecution and cruelties, which raged for centuries against his followers. To the same source must be referred a great part of the ignorance, superstition and crimes of the dark ages; and many of those absurd claims, decrees and opinions, which disgrace the history of those times. From this source also proceeded that violent opposition, which was made to the revival and growth of learning and of true religion. And from this source do still proceed most of those animosities, that contempt, that bitterness and hatred, which make the path of life, in some of its passes, so wearisome and desolate.
When the objects of prejudice are persons, the effect is to deprive us of much of our social happiness. We may, under its influence, be led to call in question the uprightness or the sincerity of the best of men, and thus lose our confidence in all appearance of virtue. We cut ourselves off from the good offices, the kind intercourse and friendship of those, who may have the disposition and the power to contribute much to our enjoyment. There may indeed be some, who cherish the proud hope of being the sole artificers of their own felicity, who disdain to be indebted to others for any of their comforts, and who make no scruple of throwing off even long tried friends from their affection, if some fault or indiscretion, or opposing sentiment should excite their prejudices and inflame their resentment. But this sort of independence never has been, nor ever can be the condition of man. We are all of us members of one family. We are all mutually dependent; and our happiness in this world is so much the result of mutual good will, of mutual forbearance and mutual con
VOL. IV.NO, II!.
descension, that he who would stand alone, because he believes his fellow men unworthy of his kind regards, must necessarily become discontented, suspicious and wretched. He sees nothing around him that can give pleasure. Under every flower he suspects a serpent, in every walk a snare, in every face an enemy. What can be the value of life to such a person? What can be the happiness of that man, who has suffered himself to be estranged by his prejudices from those around him—willing at once to think wholly ill of them, because he has discovered in their opinions or their conduct, something which he imagines to be wrong?
Lastly, the tendency of indulged prejudice upon our own characters is to make them unfit for heaven. Those persons, who readily give way to their prejudices, and cherish them, cannot have attended duly to the spirit or precepts of the gospel- to the influence, which it is intended our religion should have upon our temper, no less than our conduct. The ultimate object of all, which Christianity teaches and enjoins, is to make us truly benevolent, to make us love and exercise charity, according to the extended and beautiful description of that surpassing grace, given by St Paul. Hence, we are commanded to regard the character of our heavenly Father himself as the subject for our imitation—' to be followers of him as dear children'-' to be merciful even as he is merciful.' Now we are assured, no less by our own observation and experience, than by the sacred writers, that God is merciful even to the evil and unthankful. Consider, therefore, I pray you, if God, who must know certainly that the opinions of men are erroneous, and their principles corrupt, (when such is the case,) if he still is kind to them, how much more
ought we to be unwilling to condemn and exclude them from our kind regard, seeing that we cannot be certain in any case, that they are wholly wrong, but may find on examination, that the error is, in part at least, on our side. What terms, then, are strong enough to express our arrogance, if, upon mere suspicion of their heresy or misconduct, we expel any of our brethren from our charity and good offices! A spirit which will lead us to do this, is a spirit against which the gates of heaven will be forever closed. If we take time to consider fairly the opinions and the actions of men, we shall probably discover something to qualify the censure, we may feel at first disposed to pronounce. It is the hasty, unadvised decision, which is most likely to become relentless, and to urge men on to all the violence of persecuting bigotry. Happy would it be for the world, thrice happy for the kingdom of Christ, if all, who are eager for the correction of error, or the extirpation of vice, would remember that, though they may 'understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though they may have all faith, so that they can remove mountains, if they have not charity, they are nothing,' and are doing nothing aright in the cause of God, or of human good; and that though they may work miracles, and do many wonderful works in the name of Christ, if they have not his spirit, a spirit of meekness, of forbearance, of gracious consideration of human imperfection, they are none of his, and will be denied before his Father in the kingdom of heaven.
Oh! that the spirit which shall actuate all of us, be the unfeigned, fervent love of truth and virtue, and not the hatred of those whom we believe to be in error or in sin. A readiness to descry the faults of others, to
point them out and denounce them, harmonizes far less with the christian temper, than a solicitude concerning our own errors. Severity of censure or of punishment, if in any measure undeserved, must fail, and always has failed of the intended effect. When the erring and the guilty are persuaded that those, who oppose them, are actuated by benevolence, they may listen, be convinced, be reformed. But if prejudice, pride of opinion, thirst for power be the spring of their actions, no one can tell how much men will endure, rather than submit. It were incredible, if the history of religion and politics did not show us by unnumbered instances, how much men will suffer loss of property, of liberty, of everything dear in life, and life itself, rather than yield to the overbearing, even in a matter of trifling
In a country like ours, where there is so much liberty of speaking, thinking and acting, it is manifestly necessary, that error of opinion of any kind should be freely pointed out, and vicious conduct of all sorts should be fearlessly exposed. But this should be done in careful accordance with truth, and under the guidance of a charitable spirit, that greater evils may not spring up to trouble us.
Let inquiry be unfettered. Let its results be plainly and candidly declared. Let popular opinion be controlled by knowledge. Never let your prejudices guide you, in reference to any subject or person; and never attempt to accomplish a purpose, however desirable, by enlisting the prejudices of others. They are reckless and often erring guides. They can do little good to any cause they may ruin the best.