Page images
PDF
EPUB

This is not a complaint of mine only, or confined to the present occasion. Numbers of the faithful servants of Christ have been greatly injured, and have had their usefulness impeded, by the fame ungenerous and unjust treatment. It has been the case, more or less, in all ages; and I am sorry to see such a prospect of the continuance of it in time to come.

How many worthy ministers of the gospel, who have taken great pains to understand christianity, and are seriously disposed to promote both the knowledge and the practice of it, to the utmost of their power, have their hands, as it were, tied up, by those who busy themselves in Spying out their christian liberty. Many of them are so circumstanced, that, should they endeavour to serve the interests of christianity, and of mankind, in the way which they should think best adapted to answer the purpose; such a clamour, they cannot but foresee, would be raised, and so furious an opposition would immediately be made to them, that they are convinced they should do more harm than good by the attempt; and there are but few whose advantageous situation, ability, and firmness of mind, concur to enable them successfully to encounter the difficulties they would hereby involve themselves in; fo that, being incapacitated for doing all the good they are desirous of doing, they are content to do the little they can do, in as quiet and inoffensive a manner as

por

possible ; following the prudent advice of our Lord, who admonishes us, not to cast our pearls before swine, left they trample them under their feet, and turn again, und rent us.

That the interests of practical christianity should sustain fo great a loss, is a thing truly to be lamented; and though, such is the state of things in this world, that these offences will come, and we are, therefore, to lay our account with meeting with them; we cannot help faying, with Christ, who foretold them, Woe unto them by whom they come; that is, to those who are the criminal cause of them.

Far am I from censuring those persons who are merely misled, or those who, in confequence of having been misled themselves, endeavour to mislead others. Every allowance should be made for all those who offend through ignorance, though they be carried away, even to the most violent acts of persecution, by x zeal that is merely not according to knowledge. But the woe of Christ will certainly fall with its whole weight upon those, who make a handle of the prejudices of mankind, to gratify their own pride, or proniote their own worldly interests and ambition; and who labour to inflame those prejudices with a view to making them subfervient to such base purposes. Nor will those escape animadversion, who are, in part only, actuated by such unworthy motives ; and who, though they may think the cause they are engaged in is a

just

A 2

just and good one, yet profecute it with more ardour and vehemence, than a pure regard to the goodness of it would have excited in them.

Very few of the actions of men have, I believe, one simple cause. We are generally inAuenced by a variety of motives in whatever we do. It, therefore, behoves us the inore carefully to distinguish the influences to which we are subject, and under which we really act. God forbid that I should take upon me to condemn any individual of his creatures. Himself only knows our hearts, and he will render unto every man according to his works. But the general nature of our motives, the kind, or class, to which they are reducible, may, in some meafure, be known by the manner in which they operate. And the most distinct of all, in their nature and effects, are those which have the interest of this world, and those which have that of another for their object.

The man whose fole spring of action is a concern for lost souls, and a care to preserve the purity of that gospel, which alone teaches the most effećtual method of their recovery from the power of fin and Satan unto God, will feel an ardour of mind, that will prompt him ftrenuously to oppose all those, whom he considers as obstructing his benevolent designs. An ardour of mind will likewise be felt by the man whose sole object is the advancement of his reputation, his party, or his fortune; but this ardour cannot

be

be supposed to operate in the very same manner in both cases ; so as that they cannot be distinguished by an attentive observer. There will certainly be some difference in their choice of means to promote their several ends. We should naturally expect more fairness, more candour, more meekness, and more generosity, from the christian, than from the mere man of this world. The passions of the latter would, also, be apt to run into personal animosity, envy, jealousy, hatred, and malice; whereas the utmost zeal of the former would not only ever appear to be consistent with, but would be greatly productive of, the rnost disinterested benevolence, and the most affectionate brotherly love. By this rule we may, in some measure, try the Spirits, whelher they be of God. But let the utmost diffidence and candour accompany every judgment we form, remembering that we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.

When persons expressly avow the motives of their conduct, not to acquiesce in their declarations has the appearance of questioning their veracity ; because it is taken for granted, that every man must know the principles of his own conduct; but the human mind is so complex a thing, that there is great room for self-deception; especially in cases where the passions and affections are strong, and when they occasion fimilar emotions, as well as produce similar effects. In this case a bystander may be a better judge than a B 3

man's

man's self. A zeal for our opinions, and a zeal for our party; on the advancement of which our own personal reputation and influence depend, are necessarily connected, and reciprocally promote one another. For the same reason, a diflike of opinions has an affinity with the dinike of those who hold them, as men who are enbarked in an interest opposite to ours, and whose credit and authority obstruct our own. And all the emotions of mind that are excited by the same objects, how different foever they be originally, by frequent association mix together, so that the parts of that complex feeling which results from their union, are no longer distinguishable. When two perfons, who have had frequent intercourse, have been a long time at variance, and the subjects of their contention have been numerous; can either of them analize the sudden emotion they will feel upon an unexpected meeting, and by which they may be inftigated to some instant and violent act?

We often begin to act with one motive, but, . as we proceed, we come insensibly within the influence of others; so that, in some cases, the habit shall continue, though the orginal motive have no force at all; and yet it niay be impofsibe to say, in what part of this progress the influence of one motive ceased, and that of another began; the change of character being insensible, and altogether imperceptible.

For

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »