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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 share, 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 sa cred 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
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 cenšure, 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 knowedge, 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, servent 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 moment.
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.
PROSPECTS AND CLAIMS
BY JOHN G. PALFRE Y.
PRINTED FOR THE
American Unitarian Association.
GRAY AND BOWEN, 141 WASHINGTON STREET.
Price 5 Cents.
This tract contains the greater part of a sermon delivered at the dedication of the Twelfth Congregational Church in Boston, Oct. 13, 1824. The Exec. Comm. of the AMER. UNIT. Assoc., in incorporating it with their series, regret only that some of the remarks under the fourth head of the first part may seem less appropriate now than when they were written; they have not however thought it proper
to alter them.
PRINTED BY I. R. BUTTS..... BOSTON.