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cisin, of grammar, of history, of metaphysics, of mathematics, and of all the sciences meet us, in the very place of that which St. Paul tells us “is the end of all-that is, “ Charity ont of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned, from which” he adds “ some having swerved, have turned aside to vain jangling*.”
We are very far from applying the latter term to all scientific discussions in religion, of which we should be the very last to deny the use, or question the necessity. Our main objection lies to the preponderance given to such topics by our controversialists in their
divinity, and to the spirit too often manifested in their • discussions, A preponderance it is, which makes us
sometimes fear they consider these things rather' as re. ligion itself, than as helps to understand it, as the substitutes, not the allies of devotion. At the same time, a cold and philosophical spirit often studiously main. tained, seems to confirm the suspicion, that religion with them is not accidentally, but esseutially, and solely an exercise of the wits, and a field for the display of intel. lectual prowessas if the salvation of souls were a thing by the bye.
These prize fighters in theology remind us of the philosophers of other schools : we feel as if we were reading Newton against Des Cartes, or the theory of caloric in opposition to phlogiston. “Nous le regardons,” says the eloquent Saurin upon some religious subject “pour la plupart, de la même maniere, dont on envisage les idés d'un ancien Philosophe sur le gouvernement." The practical part of religion in short is forgotten, is lost in its theories : and what is worst of all, a temper hostile to the spirit of Christianity is employed to defend or illustrate its positions.
This latter effect might be traced beyond the foregoing causes, to another nearly allied to them the habit of treating religion as a science capable of demonstration. On a subject evidently admitting but of moral evidence,
See 1 Tim. 1, 5, 6, also verse 4, in which the Apostle hints at certain "fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is by faith." We dare not say bow closely this description applies to soine modern controvertists in the ológy:
we lament to see questions dogmatically proved, instead of being temperately argued. Nay we could almost smile at the sight of some intricate and barren novelty in religion demonstrated to the satisfaction of some one in. genious theorist, who draws upon hinself instantly a hundred confutations of every position he maintains. The ulterior stages of the debate are often such as might “make angels weep." And when we remember that even in the most important questions, involving eternal inter. ests, “ probability is the very guide of life*» we could most devoutly wish, that on subjects, to say the least, pot “ generally necessary to salvation” infallibility were not the claim of the disputant, or personal animosity the condition of his failure.
Such speculatists who are more anxious to make proselytes to an opinion, than converts to a principle, will not be so likely to convince an opponent, as the chris.. tian who is known to act up to his convictions, and whose genuine piety will put life and beart into his reasonings. The opponent probably knows already all the ingenious arguments which book's supply. Ingenuity therefore, if he be a candid man, will not be so likely to touch him, as that “godly sincerity". which he cannot bnt perceive the heart of his antagonist is dictating to his lips. There is a simple energy in pure cbristian truth which a facti. tious principle imitates in vain. The “knowledge which poffeth up" will make few practical converts unaccompanied with the “ charity which edifieth."
To remove prejudices, then, is the bounden duty of a Christian, but he must take care not to remove them by conceding what integrity forbids him to concede. He must not wound his conscience to save his credit. If an ill-bred roughness disgusts another, a dishonest complaisance undoes himself. He must remove all obstructions to the reception of truth, but the truth itself he must not. adulterate. In clearing away the impediment, he must secure the principle.
If his own reputation be attacked, he must defend it by every lawful means; nor will he sacrifice the valuable possession to any demand but that of conscience, to any call but the imperative call of duty. If his good name be put in competition with any other earthly good, he will preserve it, however dear may be the good he re
* Butler's Introduction to “ The Analogy.".
linquishes; but, if the competition lie between his repu. tation and his conscience, he has no hesitation in making the sacrifice, costly as it is. A feeling man struggles for his fame as for his life, but if he be a Christian, he parts with it, for he knows that it is not the life of his soul.
For the same reason that we must not be over anxions to vindicate our fame, we must be careful to preserve it from any unjust inputation. The great Apostle of the Gentiles has set us an admirable example in both respects, and we should never consider him in one point of view, without recollecting his conduct in the other. So profound is bis humility that he declares himself “ less than the least of all saints.” Not content with this comparative depreciation, he proclaims his actual corruptions. “ In me, that is, in my flesh, there is no good thing." Yet this deep self-abasement did not prevent him from asserting his own calumniated worth, from declaring that he was not behind the very « chiefest of the apostles" again—" As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting," &c. He then enumerates with a manly dignity, tempered with a noble modesty, a multitude of instances of his unparalleled sufferings and his unrivalled zeal.
"Where only his own personal feelings were in question, how self-abasing! how self-apnihilating! but where the unjust imputation involved the honour of Christ and the credit of religion “wbat carefulness it wrought in him, yea what clearing of himself; yea what indignation, yea what vehement desire, yea what zeal!".
Wbile we rejoice in the promises annexed to the beatitudes, we should be cautions of applying to ourselves promises which do not belong to us, particularly that which is attached to the last beatitude. When our fame is attacked, let us carefully inquire, if we are “suffering for righteousness' sake," or for our own faults ; let us examine, whether we may not deserve the censures we have incurred? Even if we are suffering in the cause of God, may we not have brought discredit on that holy cause by our imprudence, our obstinacy, our vanity; by our zeal without knowledge, and our earnestness without temper? Let us inguire, whether our revilers have sot some foundation for the charge ? Whether we have not sought our own glory more than that of God: Whether we are not more disappointed at missing that revenue of, praise, which we thought our good works were entitled to bring us in, than at the wound religion may have sus. tained? Whether though our views were right on the whole, their purity was pot much alloyed by human mix tures ? Whether, neglecting to count the cost, we did not expect unmixed approbation, uninterrupted success, and a full tide of prosperity and applause, totally forgetting the reproaches received, and the obloquy sustained by • the Man of Sorrows."
If we can, on an impartial review, acquit ourselves as to the general purity of our motives, the general integrity of our conduct, the unfeigned sincerity of our endeavours, then we may indeed, thongli with deep humility, take to ourselves the confort of this divine beatitude. When we really find, that men only speak evil of us for his sake in
whose cause we have laboured, however that labour may · have been mingled with imperfection, we may indeed
“ rejoice and be exceeding glad." Submission may be elevated into gratitude, and forgiveness into love."
ON THE PROPRIETY OF INTRODUCING RELIGION IN
GENERAL CONVERSATION. ,
MAY we be allowed to introduce here an opinion warmly maintained in the world, and which indeed strikes at the root of all rules for the management of religious de. bate recommended in the preceding chapter? It is, that the snbject of religion ought on no occasion to be introduced in mixed company, that the diversity of sentiment npon it is so great, and so nearly connected with the tenderest feelings of our minds, as to be liable to lead to heat and contention : Finally, that it is too grave and solemn à topic to be mixed in the miscellaneons circle of social discourse, much less in the festive effusions of convivial cheerfulness. Now, in answer to these allegations, we must at least insist, that should religion, on other grounds, be found entitled to social discussion, the last observation, it' true, would prove convivial cheerfulness incompatible with the spirit and practice of religion, rather than reli
gion inadmissible into cheerful parties. And it is cert tainly a retort difficult of evasion, that where to introduce religion lierself is to eodanger her honour, there she rather suffers in reputation by the presence of her friend. The man endeared by conviction to his religion will never bear to be long, much less to be statedly separated from the object of his affections: and he whose zeal once determined him "to know nothing" amongst his associates, " but Jesus Christ, apd him crocified," never could have dreamt of a latitude of interpretation which would admit a Christian into scenes where every thing but Jesus Christ and hin crucified, might be recognised with credit :
These principles appear so plain and incontrovertible, that the question seems rather to call for a different statement: viz. why religion should not be deemed admissible into every social meeting and friendly circle in which a Christian himself would chuse to be found? That it is top weighty and important a subject for discussion, is an argument, which, standing alone, assumes the gross absurdity that either men never talk of that which most nearly interests them, or that when they do, they talk improperly. They will not, it is true, introduce a private concera, however important, in which no one is interested but themselves. But in the subject of religion, who is not in. terested? Or where will topics be found more universal in their application to all times, persons, places and circumstances, as well as more important, than those which relate to the eternal welfare of mankind ? -- Nor will it be avowed with greater colour of reason, that topics so important suffer in point of gravity, or in the respect of mankind, by frequent discussion. We never observed men grow indifferent to their health, their af fairs, their friends, their country, in proportion as these were made the subjects of their familiar discourse. On the contrary, oblivion has been noticed as the offspring of silence. The man who never' mentions his friend is, we think, in general most likely to forget him. And far from deening the name of ONE, greater than any earthly friend “ taken in vain," when mentioned discreetly in conver. sation, we generally fiud bim most remembered and respected in secret, by those whose memories are accasionaily refreshed by a reference to his word and agthority in poblic. " Familiarity," indeed, we have beeu told, és produces contempt;" a truism, on which we are convitt,