Imágenes de páginas




THE great aim of religion is, a preparation for a future state of existence; and for this end, it teaches men peace, good-will, love, mutual forbearance, and the forgiveness of injuries. The new commandment which Christ gave to his apostles, and to all men, was, "Love one another." How ill it is observed, or rather how impiously it is daily violated, let those uniting themselves with christian societies say.

We are no sectarian, either in religion or politics; and from this cause it may be, that we have generally experienced, from those who are, the reverse of what Christ commands. The kind, affectionate, and amiable offices recommended and performed by the humble Jesus, even to strangers, we have rarely seen practised by, those who ought to command the character of friends. For this barbarous and unsocial feeling there can be no excuse, however widely the views of society differ.

If a man halt in his understanding, how is any one injured by his intellectual lameness, more than by the lameness of his limbs? If his opinions be even crooked

and wild, what offence should that be to another, more than if he squinted? Error is an infirmity of the mind, as pain and crookedness are of the body; and why should internal, any more than external defects, provoke any rational man? Would not he, who went about to persecute or invent penalties for crookedness, be looked upon as a monster, equally cruel with those savages, who drown all their innocent neww-born babes, whose make does not please their eye? And is not disobedience to the command of Christ, in slighting and hating a man, who gives no real occasion of offence, but happens to possess a natural or habitual weakness of soul, equally monstrous and savage? What is it to any man, what I think of colour, and whether I like or dislike white or black; or what sentiments, which are the colours of the mind, suit mine best; or what actions or gestures they produce in me, provided my actions and gestures hurt not him? Does he, by his negative or active injury to me, fulfil our Saviour's command? Are his own notions right? Let him enjoy them; he is happy. Are my notions wrong? I am unhappy; why does he interfere? Perhaps fortune has been kinder to him than to me, and he is richer and handsomer. Why does he not chastise me for this fault also? for I cannot force fortune more than nature. The truth is, none slight the just man, and none persecute him, who differs in creed, but the most selfish and ignorant, the worst and most barbarous men. By this mark we know a Nero from an Antoninus, and a fatherly pastor from him who would be a bloody inquisitor.

We have frequently heard a text from the holy and peaceful gospel quoted, and explained, to rouse all the most barbarous and unsocial passions, and to authorise all the worst and most inhuman effects of those passions. This has been confidently called, preaching the gospel ; and this herald of wrath, a preacher of the gospel; and his hearers, a religious assembly! The Shaster of the Brahmin is often found far more valuable to him, than the authority of the Bible to such a professing christian.

That accomplished scholar and acute reasoner, the late Dr. Pye Smith, writing on the conduct of professing christians, represents also the want of just respect to the persons of opponents, and of fair and honest representation of their sentiments and arguments as the great fault in religious discussion, and reprobates it with just and severe abhorrence.

"This delinquency," says he, "is of no light guilt, before man, and in the sight of the righteous God. It is at least the offspring of ignorance and prejudice, and it never fails to inflict deep injury on the cause which has the misfortune to be so defended. A servant of the Lord ought not to strive in angry contention; but to be gentle to all, apt to teach, patient of wrong, in meekness instructing the opposers. Nothing can justify the misrepresentation of a doctrine, or an argument, or an inference, charged upon those whose opinions we controvert; nor ought we to allow a moment's countenance to calumnies against character. In acknowledging what is excellent and praiseworthy in an adversary, an honour

able and christian mind will feel a pleasure the greater, because he is an adversary. The love of truth, as to christian doctrine, cannot be genuine and consistent if not conjoined with the practice of truth in our sentiments and feelings towards our fellow creatures. If with regard to any religious errors, it be our serious persuasion that they subvert the very foundation of holiness and hope, and that the unhappy persons who embrace them are placed under great spiritual disadvantages; the proper concomitant of this distressing conviction will be, a tender care that we do nothing tending to fortify their prejudices, or to put an additional stumbling block in their way. If by any want of equity and christian dispositions, we repel and alienate them from the truth, which must be received, that men be saved, we sin most awfully against God; and have we not reason to expect that their blood will be required at our hands ?"

It is an awful consideration, that we should in our walk, through life, so frequently find professors, and even those dressed in the garb of sanctity, to be as proud and worldlyminded as the most profligate. How necessary, that those who bear the badges of religion, should be doubly circumspect, as their responsibility increases with the symbols of their profession. They may indeed obtain the confidence of the public by the strictness of a moral discipline, and thereby increase their goods; but their conformity to worldly maxims must be odious in the sight of a holy and righteous God.

We have dwelt thus long on this important subject, to shew that the general religious education and conduct

of the professing world are opposed to the spirit and principles of christianity; that the disciples of Jesus, who follow his commands, are still few in number; and that the words he uttered in the days of his flesh, are applicable to us in the nineteenth century:

"Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.


"Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

"Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land, to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves."

"Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." *

But to proceed:

The first branch of the education of a youth, is religion. Children at a very early age are capable of having an idea of God. We convey to the minds of the youngest of our children sentiments of fear and aversion for metaphysical objects which have no existence; and why not inspire them with confidence and love for the Being who fills universal nature with his beneficence ?

* See Matt. chap, xxiii.

« AnteriorContinuar »