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ministrations. When they enforced the practice of generous communication of benefits to the wants and distresses of their fellow Christians, they enforced it from the philanthropy which is peculiar to the Gospel. 66 For
know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." When they enjoined that conciliating temper of mind which disposes the strong, liberally to sacrifice their own pleasure to the general interests of the Church, and even to the scruples of the weak, they did it by arguments which philosophy could neither furnish nor feel. “ Even Christ pleased not himself.” “ Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died."
When they prescribed the relative duties of the Christian life, their arguments were Christian. They taught husbands to love their wives, “ Even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for her.” Christian wives were induced to submit themselves unto their own husbands “ as it is fit in the Lord;" children were instructed, “ to obey their parents in the Lord.”
Fathers were required not to gall their children with a rigorous yoke, but to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Servants were commanded to be obedient and faithful “ asunto Christ, not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Masters were admonished of their duty to their servants, by the recollection that they also “had a master in Heaven with whom there is no respect of persons.” In short, it was from the school of Christ that the Apostles brought all their arguments. Here all their weapons were forged; here they were whetted, and here were learned the rules of science by
which they wielded them. The arms formed on the anvils of philosophy may dazzle more, but they want that keen and penetrating edge, which the others possess ; “ For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The armour of the schools may glitter on the parade, but it neither has the solidity that is necessary to repel wounds, nor the sharpness that, in a real combat, can pierce to the heart. When the Apostles managed the weapons of their Christian warfare, though they were not carnal, they were found to be mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds. By those weapons, Christianity was established in the world, and her empire fixed, in the hearts of men. Ву this whole armour of God, her conquests were not only secured, but enlarged and amply extended, and the minds of her soldiers disciplined to the obedience of faith. But when her misguided troops exchanged her armoury for that of worldly science, her progress was arrested and her powers were broken. Their feeble darts only rung on the shields of her enemies, tut could not pierce them, and fell (lelum imbelle sine ictu,) bloodless to the ground. Like David in Saul's coat of mail, they were encumbered with the weight. Their most successful combats were in beating the air, which yielded to the stroke, and left no scar behind.
From Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Times it appears, that notwithstanding his laborious exertions, and those of Archbishop Tillotson, and several other excellent men, in endeavouring to re-invigorate the nerves of practical religion, they found her so relaxed and unstrung, her spirits so wasted, and her strength so spent, that all their cordials could hardly keep her alive. Even the little success which they had may be instrumentally ascribed to the great doctrines of the Atonement, and the Influences of the Spirit, which they often preached, though without giving them that prominence with which they always appeared in the sermons of Cranmer, Jewel, and the other Fathers of the English Church. One cannot help sincerely wishing, that in their ad. dresses from the pulpit, particularly to promiscuous congregations, they had, by exchanging their elaborate compositions, for the more simple, but more efficacious Homilies of their own Church, which flowed from her fountains, while yet pure and uncontaminated by the mixtures of waters turbid and foul, made the experiment what simple truth, unmingled with the wisdom of the world, could effect. The tone of their own practical piety was vigorous, far beyond what their defective system is generally seen to produce. As some men disgrace the purest and most exalted doctrines, by professing to believe that of which they feel not the power, so others rise far above their system, and happily escape, in a great measure, from the defects of it. Archbishop Tillotson was not only a prelate of the purest virtue, but of virtue so repulsive, that it disdained all compromise with the dissolute, though fashionable manners and diversions of a licentious age. lo his judgment the theatres were pur. series of vice, and he was not afraid to denounce them to his countrymen, as the chapels of the devil. His own family was consecrated as the temple of God, and he was not ashamed to pronounce that those masters of families who offered up no morning and evening sacrifices, were not Christians. Of the same exemplary and correct kind,
were the practice and the sentiments of Bishop Burnet. But, in our times at least, the system they embraced is not generally found to exhibit followers of piety so elevated, of fruits so mellowed, and of sentiments so practically pure. The effects of the various systems of Divinity on their followers cannot be ascertained, by inspecting the lives of a few individuals, segregated from the general body: for as there are few so bad, as not to be able to produce some worthy characters attached to them ; so there are none so good, as not to be disgraced by some unworthy retainers. It is from the combined influence that systems are observed to have upon the aggregate body, the tempers that they form, the spirit which they inspire, the manners they impress, the devotion they cir. culate, or the deadness they produce; the benevolence which expands, or the sordidness which contracts the hearts of their followers, in general; the prevalence of a converse with Heaven, or of a conversation formed on the maxims of the world ;—that we are to collect the tendency of systems, as more or less favourable to the practical interests of Christianity.
The fact, that those truths by which Christianity is distinguished from Natural Religion had long been kept too much out of sight, by the greater part of the Ministers of the Church, though, so far as we have had an oppor. tunity of observing, much more by the Clergy than the Bishops, is demonstrably evident from those pictures of human life, of the sentiments and the manners, of the opinions and the feelings by which mankind are discriminated, and which have been drawn and held up to the world by writers, whose opportunities for observation were the most favourable, and whose deep penetration rendered them well qualified to observe and to paint from the originals. The class of writings to which we refer, is Novels. A masterly writer has illustrated this subject, in the general, with his usual eloquence and force, with a quotation from whom we shall adorn this work. “ A careful perusal of the most celebrated of these pieces would furnish a strong confirmation of the apprehension, suggested from other considerations, concerning the very low state of Religion in this country, but they would still more strikingly illustrate the truth of the remark, that the grand peculiarities of Christianity are almost vanished from the view. In a sermop, al. though throughout the whole of it there may have been no traces of these peculiarities, either directly or indirectly, the preacher closes with an ordinary form ; wbich, if one were to assert that they were absolutely omitted, would be immediately alleged in contradiction of the assertion, and may just serve to protect them from falling into entire oblivion. But in novels the writer is not so tied down. In these, people of religion, and Clergymen too, are placed in all possible situations, and the sentiments and language deemed suitable to the occasion are assigned to them. They are introduced instructing, reprovicg, counselling, comforting. It is often the author's intention to represent them in a favourable point of view, and, accordingly, he makes them as well informed and as good Christians as he knows how. They are painted amiable, benevolent, and forgiving; but it is not too much to say, that if all the peculiarities of Christianity had never existed, or had been proved to be false, the circumstance would scarcely create the necessity of altering a single syllable in any of the most celebrated of these perform