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DIVERSITY OF OPINION NO INSUPERABLE
BARRIER TO CHRISTIAN UNION.
Then, Sir, we should see the prejudices of the people, which now obstruct the progress of pure evangelical religion, giving way; and it would resemble, in its spirit, and in its effects, the angel of Bethesda, whose descent was not the signal of contention and strife, but the cause of that noiseless commotion, which led to the healing of the maimed and the diseased."
London: PRINTED FOR FRANCIS WESTLEY, 10, STATIONERS'
COURT, AND AVE-MARIA-LANE.
DIVERSITY OF OPINION NO INSUPERABLE
BARRIER TO CHRISTIAN UNION.
“ To see Christian societies regarding each other with the jealousies of rival empires, each aiming to raise itself on the ruin of all others-making extravagant boasts of superior purity, generally in exact proportion to their departures from itand scarcely deigning to acknowledge the possibility of ob. taining salvation out of their pale, is the odious and disgusting spectacle which modern Christiarity presents. The bond of charity, which unites the genuine followers of Christ in distinction from the world, is dissolved, and the very terms by which it was wont to be denominated exclusively employed to express a predilection for a sect. The evils which result from this state of division are incalculable. It supplies infidels with their most plausible topics of invective-it hardens the conscience of the irreligious-weakens the hands of the good-im. pedes the efficacy of prayer-and is, probably, the principal obstruction to that ample effusion of the Spirit which is essen. tial to the renovation of the world."
“BUT," said Mr. Roscoe, on resuming the subject of discussion, “I do not perceive that an obligation to cherish the purest attachment for our Christian brethren of other denominations necessarily requires us to abandon our own, or that it tends to diminish the stronger predilection which we may feel towards it." Mr. Ingleby. “Certainly not.
Certainly not. We are to love the truth more than the agents of its administration, and the principles of religion more than the external forms which may prevail amongst us; but at the same time we are at perfect liberty to choose the ministry under which we prefer attending, and the specific denomination of Christians with which we may wish to stand connected. When we say that a pious Christian within the pale of the Establishment is under most sacred obligations to live in love and in peace with his brethren who are without, and that those without, are under the same obligations towards those within, we do not mean to insinuate that, therefore, they are to separate themselves from their own communions, or cease to give them a decided preference. If the spirit of a comprehensive union were to cast the seed of alienation or discord into our respective societies, so as to threaten their individual dissolution, it would, in that case, want one of the evidences of being the peace maker, and the healer of the breach, which it now possesses. As a member of a family feels a stronger regard, and takes a deeper interest in its prosperity and felicity, than he is expected to cultivate towards the community at large, so is a member of a Christian society permitted to cherish a superior degree of affection for those of his brethren with whom he lives on more intimate terms of fellowship, and to manifest that superior degree of affection, by consecrating his time—his influence—his prayers, and his other talents, to promote their individual and collective prosperity and honour; even while he is required to cherish and display a kind, an amiable, and a benevolent disposition towards all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. And here we see the wisdom of the Redeemer, in grafting our obligation to the most intimate Christian fellowship on the very propensities of our nature, which incline us to live in social intercourse; guarding us, at the same time, from the danger of contracting a sectarian spirit, by enjoining on us the duty of doing good unto all men, especially those who belong to the household of faith."
Mr. Llewellin. “ It is to be lamented, Sir, that there are too
every Christian society who do not keep pace, in liberality of sentiment and feeling, with the denomination to which they belong; and while they usually attract more notice than others, it is in consequence of the antiquity of their moral appearance; as an old baron, if he were to come forth in the costume of feudal times, would excite a much greater degree of public attention than any of our modern nobility. These professors retain the bigotry and intolerance of the olden time of our church, when the right of private judgment on religion was denied; and though they do not recommend fines and imprisonments as expedients to enforce uniformity, yet they disdain to asso
ciate with those who differ from them. Hence, if we go into our different denominations, and observe those who are most thoroughly imbued with the sectarian temper, we shall perceive so much intolerance and conneit-so much self-complacency and censoriousness_s0 much arrogance and disdain—and such swellings of pride, as the lips give utterance to their high and lofty assumption,—The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we,—that it will be impossible for us not to deprecate the spirit by which they are governed, and to turn away from the moral disfigurement of the Christian character which they exhibit, with a disgust no less entire than we may suppose Peter would feel, if requested to officiate in that corrupt church which professes to be founded by his authority. And if such professors, who usually stand out to public notice, are to be considered as correct specimens of the Christian character, ought we to be surprized if they bring religion into contempt ?”
Mr. Ingleby. Certainly not, Sir. They do essential injury, not only to the honour of the denomination to which they belong, but to the cause of religion in general. As it is from the conduct of professors that infidels of every description form their opinion of the nature and the excellence of the Christian faith, they must necessarily conclude, that, that system of belief is essentially defective and corrupt, which tolerates and nourishes such obnoxious qualities, and to expect that they will give a patient attention to its evidences and its claims, while they see such living witnesses of its fatal tendency, would be visionary. Indeed, Sir, if we wish to make any deep and permanent impression on the men of the world ; if we wish to silence their objections, and to convince them of the divine origin of the faith which we profess, we must retrace our steps, and correct our tempers; we must live in peace amongst ourselves; we must leave off contention; we must discover no disposition to injure or annoy each other ;, we must give ocular and unequivocal proofs that the questions on which we differ, are the subordinate tenets of revelation, which may be received or rejected without affecting its truth—disturbing its harmony—or impairing its strength; and, by a union of affection, and
concentration of our talents, we must advance in the beautiful developement of our moral virtues, remembering that the wisdom which guides us is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. When the pious members of the Establishment, and the various denominations of evangelical dissenters, are brought to merge their speculative and ceremonial differences in the cultivation and display of this fine, ethereal temper, the eulogium pronounced on the primitive disciples will be applied to us,-See how these Christians love each other. The novelty of the sight will command attention; and though I am fully persuaded that nothing but a supernatural power can renovate the human heart, yet such a display of united affection will, in the order of means, prove more effectual than the most stupendous miracles that ever were performed, by the prophets of the old dispensation, or the apostles of the new."
Mr. Roscoe. “If it be true that our personal felicity bears a proportion to our moral conformity to the spirit and temper of Jesus Christ, it is evident that a liberalminded Christian must partake of a much larger share of enjoyment, than one who lives under the influence and dominion of that sectarian bigotry, which keeps him in a state of alienation from his brethren of other communions."
Mr. Stevens. “Most certainly, Sir; and by your permission I will give you a paragraph with which I was very forcibly struck when I first read it. The author is speaking of bigotry; and he says, 'This sectarian and intolerant spirit can view no excellence out of its own pale, and deems every opinion heresy that does not bow to its authority. Its plans of doing good always betray the selfishness of their origin; and unable, from its very nature, to form designs commensurate with the grandeur of religion, and the necessities of the world, it not only refuses to co-operate with Christians of another party in promoting the well-being of society, and the advancement of religion, but contemplates with jealousy, and often with abhorrence, the noblest efforts of benevolence, when not performed under its exclusive auspices.