« PreviousContinue »
ON CHRISTIAN ZEAL. explained away, despised and ( Continued from p. 547. vol. ii.)
trampled on, as it is by multi
tudes. And if we have the true In a former number we gave spirit of primitive Christianity, a brief display of the nature and and pious zeal, we shall do it. properties of zeal, considered in But this surely is not all. The a personal sense. We will now interests of practical holiness and consider it as a duty we owe to virtue demand our faithful and the cause of God, and the best ardent exertions. Nor shall we, interests of our fellow creatures. if we are consistent Christians, Here, likewise, it has a very ex think it enough to be zealous for *tensive and important sphere. speculative truth, without a cor
It will operate in befriending responding zeal in favour of the truth and opposing error. We power of godliness, and against are exhorted by an apostle to every form of licentiousness and
contend earnestly for the faith vice. The serious and benevo. 'once delivered to the saints.” lent child of God feels, tenderly * And although, in an age of af- feels, for the honour of his hea. fected and extravagant liberality, venly Father, and for the imlike the present, this is but an mortal souls of meri. When unwelcome and thankless office, therefore he looks around him, yet no real friend to God, and and sees iniquity prevailing, vice the souls of men, will reluct triumphing, and multitudes travfrom it on that account. In- elling the downward road in deed, what is that liberality, so peace, he is pained and grieved. celebrated and so fashionable, Thus we are told that in a day of but one of the numberless forms great degeneracy among God's in which the divine truth is op- ancient people, the pious few, posed, and the best interests of who kept their garments undeimmortal men sported with ? filed, were found sighing and cryTo represent every kind of re- ing for all the abominations which ligion, as equally safe ; and all prevailed in that guilty land. those, as in the sure road to heaven, And they were mercifully diswho are only faithful to the tinguished and spared in a day of opinions, which they embrace ; general desolation and destructhis, with many, is the essence tion. If we have any thing of and perfection of liberality. But the spirit of these holy and hapmore properly, it is the essence py men, we shall mourn over the and perfection of absurdity, and sins of the time. And animated of cruelty. And we are called with zeal for God and his cause, upon, each in our respective we shall strenuously exert ourspheres, by every motive of selves to counteract and arrest Christian benevolence and com- that awful torrent of iniquity passion, as well as of piety, to which threatens to deluge our make a bold and vigorous stand country-to deluge it not only for the truth of God, opposed, with crimes and confusion, but
with the wrath of Heaven. We the grossest acts of cruelty to shall oppose to prevailing and man. This bigoted zeal has in fashionable vice our prayers, our fact shed torrents of Christian warnings, our admonitions, our blood, and inspired the fanatics entreaties, and the still more of the church of Rome with the persuasive influence of our ex preposterous idea of “illuminaample-an example which will ting the minds of men with the at once frown vice out of counte- light of fires and faggots.”nance, and powerfully allure 10 It is of the highest importance virtue.
then that our minds be well inThis branch of pious zeal has formed in the great articles of likewise those properties that truth and duty, and in the merdistinguish it from those things its or demerits of particular obwhich are either directly oppos-jects and characters, before we ed to it, or falsely assume its ap- permit them to be transported pearance.
with fervour. Nor should our It is founded on knowledge. zeal in any case be suffered to This characteristic alone can transcendour knowledge. Doubtrender our zcal truly acceptable less some honest and good men to God, or beneficial to mankind. have been faulty here. Under A blind, ignorant, misguided the influence of a misguided fervour is a most pernicious zeal, they have condemned and thing. It frequently assumes all traduced characters, which, had the fierceness of bigotry, and all their eyes been open, they would the wildness and extravagance have loved and honoured. It is a of fanaticism. It was this rash melancholy fact, that the best and blind zeal which influenced things become, in their abuse, the Jews in their rejection of the worst and most pernicious. Christianity, and which stirred If light without heat is useless, them up to such a pitch of ha- il is no less true, that heat withtred and persecution against its out light is worse than useless. first preachers. I bear them re It is hurtful and destructive. cord, says Paul, that they have a Farther, the zeal of which we zeal for God, but not according to speak, is prompted by a spirit of knowledge. The apostle was
love. This is what principally himself an instance of the same distinguishes it from the false frenzy, before his conversion. fire of the hypocrite. The real He was very zealous, persecuting Christian, in all his fervour the church. He verily thought against error and wickedness, is with himself that he ought to do influenced, so far as he acts in many things contrary to the name character, by love to God and his of Jesus of Nazareth. Such an cause, by love to mankind and opinion palliated, indeed, but it their best interests, by love to the was far from justifying his con persons, the souls of his eneduct: nor did he himself enter. mies, and the enemies of retain a thought of this kind. So ligion. This will infuse an we read of some who would air of tenderness into all his rethink they were doing God ser proofs of vice and licentiousness. vice, while in reality fighting This will mingle sentiments of against God, and perpetrating compassion for the souls of men, Vol. III. No.k. B.
with the strongest disapprobation When they consider how he feels for their sins. I beheld much themselves have done to the transgressors, says David, and bring reproach on the sacred was grieved.-Rivers of water name of Jesus, and to open the run down my eyes, because men mouths of blasphemers, they keep not thy law. Here was the sometimes feel as though their holy, affectionate zeal of a child unhallowed lips should be forever of God. It did not vent itself in sealed from uttering reproofs to • the language of unhallowed re others. Or if an overbearing proach, of loud and angry ex sense of duty constrain them to clamation. It retired, and wept this painful office, they feel as if in silence. How amiable the every reproof they dispensed to example! Let us see to it, that others, fell with tenfold weight our zeal be of this excellent kind; upon themselves. And this is a zeal that can pity as well as the very spirit in which all redisapprobate the wicked; that proof from one sinner to another can grieve as well as reprove. should be administered. It is Let us beware of attempting to proper it should be so. press human passion into the never so well prepared to act service of God and religion. Let such a part, as when we are prest us feel the justice of that remark, with the deepest sense of our that “he who hates another for unworthiness. And reproof, in not being a Christian, is himself such a case, comes with new not a Christian."* Let us trem- force and solemnity, and with a ble at the thought of brandishing far greater probability of a happy the vengeance of the Almighty, effect. of calling down fire from heaven Again, our zeal should be upon the enemies of Christ, or chastened by prudence. There
Such a zeal, surely, is a certain decorum to be obnever came from above. It is served in selecting the place, earthly ; it is sensual ;, it is the circumstances and the occadiabolical.
sion, for the exhibition of such a Again, our zeal for God and spirit, and for the perforinance religion should be attempered of the duties connected with it. with humility. To stand up on A discreet regard to this object the side of Jehovah and his truth, is of high importance. Its neg. before an ungodly world; to ap- dect is attended with multiplied pear in behalf of Christ and his evils and infelicities. If an honreligion, in the presence of ene est and zealous Christian grossly mies and blasphemers, is surely step out of his proper sphere ; if to be engaged in a noble cause. he flagrantly misjudge in regard It is to act a sublime part. For to the season of his exertions ; this very reason, the deepest or if they be, in their manner, . humility becomes us. The best uncouth, unkind, or extremely of Christians are but too un- vehement, they will too probaworthy such an honour. And bly, however well intended, dethe best of Christians most sen feat their own object. It is a sibly feel this unworthiness. gospel injunction, that all things
be done decently and in order, Lord Lyttleton.
Doubtless, it is through the neg
lect of this rule, that religion who differ from them in some has not unfrequently been dis- small points of opinion, act a honoured by its friends; while strangely in consistent part. its foes have found occasion for Something must be wrong, eitriumph, and for hardening ther in the head or heart. That themselves in sin.
may be safely pronounced the Still further, our zeal should true zeal, which is sacredly and be proportioned to the importance inflexibly tenacious in all great of its particular object. It was points of faith and practice, and the fault of the Pharisees of old, generously candid in all those of and a striking evidence of their inconsiderable moment. insincerity, that they were ex In fine, our zeal against sin tremely scrupulous respecting should manifest itself in such many observances of small mo- ways only, as are warrantable, ment, and omitted those weightier and lawful. For a single of matters of the law, judgment, fence in this point; for a rash mercy and faith. Nor is it uncom and angry expression to a promon for hypocrites to be super. voking people at the waters of stitiously tenaciousof thingscom- Meribah, Moses, that eminent paratively unimportant, while servant of God, was denied the the great essentials of religion honour and happiness, which his are neglected. All truth, in. heart so ardently wished, of deed, should be sacred with us. conducting the Israelites into So should all duty. But all the land of promise. Nor are truths and duties are not of equal any of us out of danger, while importance. Some are plain conversant with erroneous Others are more difficult to be wicked men, of being transportdiscovered. Some lie at the ed by that wrath of man, which very
foundation of religion. worketh not the righteousness of Others are not fundamental. In God. It is unhappily the case regard to some, all good men that zeal, being a strong emo. are agreed. Respecting others, tion of the mind, and, like other the best of men have thought strong emotions, apt to magnify and practised variously. Now its object, naturally unfits us for it argues a strange narrowness judging accurately, what meth. of mind, or perverseness of ods of its expression are right, beart, or both, lo be equally te, and what are
Men are Dacious and engaged upon all too prone to suppose, that if these points ; to be as ready to their general intentions be good, exclude another from our chari, they cannot mistake in the exety, to pronounce him a heretic, cution of them. Many have and no Christian, for a small er been so far carried away by a Tor in judgment, or practice, as torrent of zeal, as quite to forget for the greatest. And certainly or neglect the maxim, that we those Christians, if there be any must not do evil that good may such, who hope well of the
Yet this maxim lies at openly profligate, if, in their the very foundation of all moopinion, they are but orthodox, rality, and of all practical religwhile they can have no good ion. How absurd, not to say, opinion of the most exemplary, impious, to entertain the idea of
glorifying God, by violating his England for theological and biblaws! How absurd, to think of lical knowledge, for Christian benefiting our fellow-men, by piety and morality, for wisdom, trampling on the sacred princi. displayed in their religious, civil ples of love and humanity! and literary institutions, stands What a monstrous, unchristian, deservedly high in the estimaantichristian zeal is that which tion of the wise and good. Great has tormented and destroyed weight ought, therefore, to be men's bodies to save their souls! attached to their testimony in And if the character of a man is the cause of evangelical truth. his best earthly possession, those As early as 1648, a synod was surely are in no small mistake, holden, consisting of elders and who, under the pretext of relig- messengers* from all the church, ion, mangle and destroy the rep- es in New England. In their reutation of their fellow-creatures, sult they say ; « This synod by uncharitable censures and having perused and considered, bitter revilings. This warfare with much gladness of heart and and these weapons are not spririle thankfulness to God, the confes ual, but carnal. How surpris- sion of faith lately published by ing, how lamentable, that any the reverend assembly of divines should be bigots in the cause of in England, do judge it to be peace and love ! that malice and holy, orthodox and judicious slander should be employed in in all matters of faith, and do professed support of the benevo- therefore freely and fully con, lent religion of Jesus,
sent thereunto for the sub. stance." Accordingly they re: published it as “their confession of faith, and as containing the doctrine constantly taught and
professed in the New England
No. 1. churches" at that time. TAE successive numbers of
It is worthy of remark, that Pastor, in his “Survey of the this confession, compiled by the New England churches," par- venerable and learned assembly, ticularly those on confessions of who composed the larger and faith, have imparted much shorter catechisms, and containpleasure and instruction to mying the same doctrines, was apown mind, and to the minds of proved and subscribed by every many other readers of the Pan, member of this synod. In doing oplist. Wishing to contribute this they declared that they in all in my power toward accomo tended to express their belief plishing an important object of and profession of “the same this work, viz. a reform of the doctrines, which had been genechurches of New England, I rally received in all the reformshall, for this purpose, presented churches in Europe." some historical facts, which This
same confession, was shew what was their faith in adopted by the General Assemtheir early, and
as I apprehend, their purest state. The * Elders, were ministers ; messene character of the fathers of New sers, lay delegates,
OF THE FAITH OF THE