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motive or of consolation did they feel, who have gone before us in every kind of excellency? And what more perfect characters can we expect than the Leightons and Howes, who, it now seems, were denied illuminations conferred on individuals just entering into the kingdom of God, without a religious education, and from the midst of worldly dissipation or indifference? And where are the superior effects of discoveries, which we are assured not only possess truth, but are of the greatest efficiency? We need not be afraid to compare the converts, the benefactors, the sufferers, the martyrs of one school with those of another. “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new, for he saith, the old is better."
Here again it is refreshing and delightful, to turn to one distinguished by consistency, and who has awakened and retained attention so long, not by strangeness, but excellence; not by crying, Lo, here; or, lo, there! but by walking stedfastly in the truth ; and whose path has not been the glare of the meteor, or the “lawless sweep of the comet," but the shining light of the sun, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Nothing would be more satisfactory to the dedicator, now in the evening of life, than to be able to think, that in this particular he had been in some measure the follower of his admired and honoured friend, And by the grace of God he can say, that it has been his aim and prayer to move straight on, never turning aside to the right hand or to the left, to avail himself of any temporary and adventitious aids of popular applause ; constantly engaged in pressing only the plain and essential principles of the Gospel, and in matters of inferior importance, if not of disputable truth, having faith, to have it to himself before God.
There has been, perhaps, some little shade of difference in our doctrinal views; but as it has not been sufficient to impair your approbation of my preaching and writings, so I am persuaded you will find nothing in these volumes, should you ever look into them, 10 offend, even if an occasional reflection does not perfectly suit your own convictions. In one thing it is certain we differ. We are not unwilling respectively to own the Episcopalian and the Dissenter. But in this distinction, we feel conviction without censure, and avow preference without exclusion. And has Providence no concern in such results as these ? Suppose, my dear Sir, you had been placed originally in my circumstances, and I had been placed in yours. Is it impossible or improbable that each of us might have been differently minded from what we now are? Yet who determines the bounds of our habitations? Who administers the events of our birth, and of the days of our earlier and most durawhich go
ble impressions ? Who arranges the contacts into which we are brought with religious connexions and spiritual instructors? And does not bigotry, that quarrels with every thing else, arraign the agency of the Most High, and, indirectly at least, censure Him ? We do not use this argument without qualification, or push it to every extent; but there are evidently some who not only “judge another man's servant,” but another man's master.
We may in a degree value ourselves as being members of a particular church, but we shall be saved only as members of the church universal: and if we are in a right spirit, we shall prize the name of a Christian a thousand times more than any other name, however extensive or esteemed the religious body from which it is derived.
Uniformity of sentiment may be viewed much in the same way with equality of property. In each case the thing itself is perfectly impracticable; and if it could be attained it would be injurious, rather than useful. It would abrogate many divine injunctions, contract the sphere of relative virtue, and exclude various duties,
far into the amiableness and perfection of Christian character. No; it is better to have the protection of the sovereign, and the obedience of the subject; the wages of the master, and the labour of the servant; the condescension of the rich, and the respect of the poor ; the charity of the benefactor, and the gratitude of the receiver. “If all were the seeing where were the hearing ?” The hands and the feet could not dispense with each other, or even exchange their place and office. If persons acted from hypocrisy, formality, and education only, they might present a kind of sameness; but if they think for themselves, as they are not only allowed, but required to do, it is easy to see, that with the differences there are in the structure of mind, and in outward opportunities and advantages, they cannot fall precisely into the same views. But let them exercise forbearance and candour, let them emulate each other, let the strong bear the infirmities of the weak, and not please themselves ;—and we shall have a sum of moral excellence, far superior to what could be derived from a dull, still, stagnant conformity of opioions. And is it not for this state of things, among those that hold the head, even Christ," that the Apostle provides ? Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind.” “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that cateth: for God hath received him. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord, he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother ? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother ? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” The quotation is long, but I fear the principles of the reasoning and the enforcements are not as yet duly regarded by any religious party, though there are, in our respective communities, individuals who walk by the same rule, and mind the same thing. And I cannot forbear adding a few more of those fine texts, which do not exclude the number, but diminish the importance of the articles of difference, and press only those in which Christians agree. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink ; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “ We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." “ In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." “In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision ; but faith which worketh by love." Let us abide in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. He has set our feet in a large place. There is room enough in the plain around Stonehenge, for persons to walk and commune together very commodiously-Why should they try to get on some old molehills, or barrows over the dead, or hedge banks, where they must press against each other, or jostle each other down?
A cordial agreement in the essentials of the Gospel should induce us to put up with minor differences; and a superior and constant engagement of the soul to the most important objects of religion will draw off, comparatively, the attention from inferior ones, leaving us neither leisure or relish for them.
When therefore, in reference to the latter day of glory, it is said, VOL. I.
" they shall see eye to eye,” we are persuaded, with Baxter, that there may not be a much more complete uniformity of opinion in many things than there now is. But there will be a more perfect accordance in great things, and a more perfect agreement concerning lesser ones. They will see eye to eye as to the propriety of one measure ;---That if we cannot be of one mind, we should, like the first converts at Jerusalem, be “of one heart and of one soul.”
" But does not the Scriptures speak much of unity among Christians ?" It does—And what that oneness is may be inferred from fact as well as from reasoning. The Saviour prayed that “all” his followers might be “one:" and God had before promised that he would give his people “ one heart and one way.” Now it can hardly be supposed that this prayer and this promise had not been accomplished. But if they have been fulfilled, it has not been in a sameness of sentiment with regard to a number of things pertaining to religion, but with regard to the substance of religion itself:-a oneness unaffected by minuter distinctions; a oneness, which included as servants of the same Lord, and as guests at the same table, a Hopkins and a Bates, a Watts and a Newton, a Porteus and a Hall: a oneness that resembles the identity of human nature, notwithstanding all the varieties of man..
When will some persons believe or remember, that where there are no parts there can be no union ? That where there is no variety there can be no harmony? That it does not follow because one thing is right that another is absolutely wrong? That others differ no further from us than we differ from others? That it is meanness and injustice to assume a freedom we refuse to yield ? That children, differing in age, and size, and dress, and schooling, and designation, belong to the same family? And that the grain growing in various fields and distances is wheat still, sown by the same hand, and to be gathered into the same garner ?
And would it not be well for us often to reflect on the state of things in another world, where it is believed by all, that the differences which now too often keep the true disciples of Christ at a distance from each other, will be done away? And to ask ourselves whether we are not likely to be the more complete, the more we resemble the spirits of just men made perfect? And whether we must not have a meetness for glory before we can enjoy it ?But what preparation in kind, what in degree, for such a communion above, have they who feel only aversion to all those who, however holy and heavenly, walk not with them in the outward order of religious administrations ? How special and circumscribed is what some mean by the communion of saints! It only respects those within their own enclosures. They would inhibit their members from having much intercourse in company, and from all, even occasional intermixture in religious exercises, with those they hope to mingle with for ever. But not to observe that such intercourse and intermixture are perfectly consistent with general and avowed regularity of preference and practice; and the good influence it has to remove the haughty and offensive repulsion of exclusiveness ;Is there (as “we are taught of God to love one another;" and as “every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him,") is there no danger of putting a force upon pious tendencies, and of chilling the warmth of holy emotions by the coldness and abstraction of system and rules ? The remark of Paley on another subject may be well applied here. He is arguing the propriety of refusing every application of commun beggars for relief. Some, he observes, have recommended the practice by strong reasonings, and he himself seems much inclined to the same side. But he is too frank not to ask, “Yet, after all, is it not to be feared, lest such invariable refusing should suffocate benevolent feeling ?"
You, my dear Sir, are a proof that Christian liberality may abound, without laxity and without inconsistency. And other instances of the same lovely character are increasingly coming forward; in which we see how rigid contention for minor partialities can yield to the force of Christian charity, and disappear before the grandeur of “the common salvation," and the grace of
one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.” “Perhaps,” says Robert Hall, “there never was so much unanimity witnessed among the professors of serious piety as at the present. Systems of religion fundamentally erroneous are falling into decay, while the subordinate points of difference, which do not affect the principal verities of Christianity, nor the ground of hope, are either consigned to oblivion, or are the subjects of temperate and amicable controversy ; and in consequence of their subsiding to their just level, the former appear in their great and natural magnitude. And if the religion of Christ ever assumes her ancient lustre, and we are assured by the highest authority she will, it must be by retracing our steps, by reverting to the original principles on which, as a social institution, it was founded; we must go back to the simpli. city of the first ages; we must learn to quit a subtle and disputatious theology, for a religion of love, emanating from a few divinely energetic principles, which pervade every page of inspiration, and