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an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” We have sometimes marked the course of apostates, and heard the mournful narratives of others who have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Sometimes the mournful tale begins with, “ I did not as constantly read the good Book as I had been accustomed to do. Then I did not find so much delight in secret prayer as I found before. Occasionally a day has passed without ever meditating on any of the communications of God to man, and without calling upon the name of the Lord. This led to a greater remissness in other duties. I did not guard my lips nor keep my heart as formerly. I repented and reformed; but found it more easy to become remiss a second time than before. I used to meet thrice every Lord's Day with the brethren. But, after having once or twice fallen off from my former zeal and devotion, I made twice a-day suffice. A little indisposition, a head-ache, or some slight domestic inconvenience, soon become a good excuse for going but once on the Lord's Day to unite with the brethren in the praises of the Lord. But my interest in the disciples began to diminish as my zeal began to cool. I could now see more flaws in them than formerly, and less difference between them and others. I could then find some very good companions among the non-professors, and began to think them almost as good Christians as my brethren. If I found myself fatigued, or the least indisposed towards the close of the week, I made it a point to rest at home on Sunday, or to take medicine on that day, so that I might not lose my time from work; or, if I had any business abroad, I was sure to start on Saturday or Sunday, so that I might gain one day in the week to my business, and would flatter myself that I could very profitably spend the day in meditation as I travelled along.
“ Thus matters progressed, until I could absent myself two, and sometimes three, Lord's Days in succession.When
any of my brethren would inquire why I was absent, I made some excuse, and told them to look to themselves. I soon felt displeased with them for their exhortations and admonitions, and would sometimes ask who made it their business to watch over me. I began to censure both them and their profession, and would ask them if they were
the only true church of Christ in the world. At this time I had given up all secret prayer, and in my family I only prayed occasionally. This soon became a dry sort of business, and I finally left it off altogether.
“ I found good company in the people I used to call the people of the world, and soon preferred their friendship to that of my brethren, who became displeased with me, and at length excluded me from their society. I then threw off all restraint, and for many years have never seriously bowed my knee to God. I am now often tormented with the recollections of the past and the anticipations of the future; yet I have no desire to return, and, indeed, I am literally without God and without hope in the world.”
Such narratives, with some slight variations, may be frequently heard, if persons who have apostatized from the faith can be induced to communicate the full history of their apostacy.
“ Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” And let all remember, that, immediately after Paul admonishes the Christians not to neglect the assembling of themselves together, he next speaks of final apostacy from the truth. It is better never to have known the holy commandment, than having known it to turn aside from the way of righteousness. A Scotch proverb says, that “ apostacy begins at the closet door.”
ON BIGOTRY AND PARTIALITY.
(From the Christian Baptist, Vol. III.] This is a time of religious and political earthquakes. The religious communities of the New World, and the political states of the Old World are in circumstances essentially the same. A great political earthquake threatens to bury in its ruins tyrants and their systems of oppression. The ecclesiastical systems of the clergy appear destined to a similar fate. It is to be hoped that, as the New World took the lead in, and first experienced the blessings of, political regeneration, so they will be foremost in the work, and first in participating the fruits of an ecclesiastical renovation.
All sects, new and old, seem like a reed shaken by the wind, Even the authority and infallibility of his Roman Holiness has been questioned by his own children in the New World. And who that has eyes to see does not know that nothing but the sovereign charms of a monarch's smiles, and the strong chains forged from eight hundred millions of dollars in real estate,* keep up the forms of Pope Eliza in the church of Saint Harry? The Solemn League and Covenant, too, with the awful dogmas of the long parliament divinity; the test-oaths, and the sacred subscriptions to the saving canons of the kings of Saint Andrew, have failed to preserve, hale and uncorrupted, the pale of Presbyterian communion. The veteran chiefs, and the sanctified magi of the cause of uniformity, fear a volcanic eruption, alike ominous to themselves and their systems. The « Religious Almanacs” portend comets, falling stars, and strange sights in the heavens, accompanied with eclipses of the greater and lesser lights that rule the night. Their constitution is moth-eaten, and the tinsel upon their frame of discipline has become dim.
And not less strange, the Reformation of John Wesley is already in need of reform. His people had scarce tested his system of government by the light, not of the Bible, but of our political institutions, until they found it would eventuate in diocesan episcopacy, as tyrannical and as cruel as that which exiled Whitefield and the two Wesleys from the cloisters of “ Christ's College” for reading the Scriptures and praying.
The motto of the spirit of this age seems to be taken from the gigantic Young
“ Flaws in the best-full many flaws all o'er.” The Methodists, in the greatness of their strength, are rising to break the chains which threaten to bind them in the house of the Philistines. A host of reformers are about to reform this reformed system. We have seen their efforts, and rejoice. Though we are assured that when they shall have completed their projected reformation, they will then need a reform more thorough than yet they have attempted. We do not despise “ their day of small things.”
The following sensible remarks do honour to a work entitled, · The Mutual Rights of Ministers and People, published in Baltimore by a reforming Methodist committee. We have only to add, that we have lamented that none seem to regret the
* Wealth of the Church of England.—It is stated, in a late paper, that the fee-simple of the established Church of England is, in value, equal to two hundred millions sterling! With the income of such a fund, no wonder the church is powerful and has its votaries, and can keep up its existence without possessing any true religion.
evils of bigotry, partiality, and persecution, until they feel their dire effects; and that sometimes those who have once pleaded against persecution when themselves were the objects, plead for it when they had the sword by their side. But we give place to the following pertinent remarks. They are extracted from No. XIV., p. 28–31.
“ Serious reflection may convince us all that reformation is highly necessary, not only in matters of church government, but even in our general views of experimental and practical religion. Let us instance one or two particulars.
While the ministers of religion have been crying aloud, and very justly, against pride, and covetousness, and sensuality, and many other evils, how is it that the great evil of bigotry bas been nourished in the heart of the Christian church, as though it were an innocent or an indifferent thing? By bigotry is meant, a man's obstinate attachment to an opinion, or set of opinions which indisposes him to give a candid hearing to anything else, and makes him unwilling that his brother should have the same liberty of judgment which he claims for himself This is one of the deepest and most violent roots of moral evil. It is a great, and seemingly insurmountable obstruction to the progress of truth and righteousness over the whole earth. It affords nourishment and defence for Infidelity, Mahometanism, Judaism, and for every other erroneous system under the sun. Its practical fruits are also abundant. It may be doubted whether covetousness, or sensuality, or the love of power, or the love of praise, have produced a more plentiful harvest of internal and external ungodliness, than this bitter enemy of all righteousness, which Zion's watchmen appear almost to have overlooked. For let it be considered that this same bigotry is the parent of almost all the evils, surmisings, heart-burnings, rash judgments, hard speeches, oppressions, and persecutions that can be found in the Christian world. It not only makes null and void the arguments of an opponent, but, alas! it boldly impeaches his motives, and assails his moral character. Not only are his talents to go for nothing—not only are his labours to be despised—but his virtue and piety-his zeal and heavenly-mindedness, though supported by an unblamable life--all, all must be disposed of with indifference or contempt, by the high, and bitter, and sovereign dictates of bigotry! And yet this dark and dreadful evil is not only winked at, but nourished in the hearts of all the churches in Christendom! Would to heaven this were a mistake! but, alas! the evidence is too manifest, that every church upon earth greatly needs a reformation in this particular. Infidels, and Mahometans, and Heathens, and sinners of every description, may look on with astonishment, and see Christians of every name, through the influence of this evil principle, animated with a more constant and faming zeal against each other, than against the spirit of hell and all the works of darkness! And yet many seem not to be aware that it is to be regarded as a moral evil. Some, perhaps, may be found making high professions of justification and sanctitication, and at the same time habitually nourishing this root of bitterness' in their hearts. This is a mystery of mysteries, and can only be accounted for by supposing that a thick cloud of intellectual darkness has been overspreading the Christian world, especially upon this subject. For a candid and faithful examination of the matter must surely convince every intelligent mind that it is as perfectly vain for a confirmed bigot to make professions of holiness, as for a confirmed thief to make professions of honesty.
“ Whether partiality must be regarded as the daughter, or as the sister of bigotry, may perhaps bear a dispute ; but as they have the striking and identical likeness of twins, we may safely call them sisters. The just definition of partiality is, the confined affection and confidence which a man has for his own party, and which produces a corresponding disaffection and distrust towards all others. How lovely, in the estimation of such a man, are all the peculiarities comprehended under the particular ism by which he and his party are distinguished! and how dark and doubtful is all beside! While his mind is amusing itself in surveying the vast beauties of his party, and inimitable excellencies of its plan, the cloud which obscures the horizon of every other, appears to grow darker every hour! His feelings are sublime and inexpressible, and perhaps advance almost to that state of devotion which is due alone to the Deity, whose only plan is unexceptionable, and who has no party under the
Now, as God has no party, and as his ministers are to do nothing by partiality, and as the wisdom which is from above is without partiality, as well as without hypocrisy, we might as well doubt whether hypocrisy be a moral evil, as to doubt whether partiality be such. And yet, alas ! how has this great evil been spared in the Christian world! And not only spared, but the presumption is, that both it and bigotry have been protected and encouraged as the great champions and defenders of each sectarian cause.
They make a man zealous and decided --they make him resolute and courageous! Yes, and let it be added, they make him uncandid, fierce, dogmatical, and blind. They are as fine and acceptable allies for a Jew or a Turk--for a Pagan or an Atheist—as they are for a sectarian Christian.