« AnteriorContinuar »
wound the pure and immortal religion of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Scriptures, through them. What has the character and gospel of Christ to do with the treachery of Judas, the cowardice of Peter, the ambition of James and John, the lukewarmness and worldly spirit of our bishops and clergy, or with the superstitious and secular appendages of the church of Rome, the church of England, or any other human establishment under heaven? They are things perfectly distinct. And if we mean to defend the Gospel to any purpose, it must be the Gospel alone, independent of every human mixture and addition. Corrupt churches and bad men cannot be defended.
The best part of the book, is the discussion upon the excellence and utility of the Sacred Writings. He is anxious to recommend them to the daily perusal of every man ; because both our present peace and future welfare depend upon the practice: and if all the rest of the book be rejected with contempt, this should be attended to with peculiar seriousness.
The reduction of the national religion to the pure standard of the Gospel, and the moral and religious reformation of all orders of men, are repeatedly insisted on, and with singular earnestness ; as what alone, can save us from impending ruin. There can be no general spread of evangelical principles and practices, while the hierarchy is in its present contaminated state, and the bishops and clergy continue in a condition so generally depraved.
If any of his clerical brethren be offended at the freedoms he has taken with his own order, or the established religion of his country; so far as the moral and religious conduct of the clergy is concerned, the best mode will be, to correct and amend what is amiss. So far as the durability of the ecclesiastical constitution of the country is in question, he would refer to the prophetic declarations of the St. John of the Old Testament.
Two Appendices are subjoined, the former of which contains some thoughts on reform, and the latter, his reasons for resigning his preferment in the religious establishment of the country, and declining, any longer to officiate as a minister in the church of England.
The author is extremely alarmed for the safety of his friends in this day of abounding infidelity, when he considers the declaration of Christ, that, Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his father with the holy angels.
It is impossible to add any thing to the weight of these words. The heart that is unappalled by them is harder than the nether mill-stone, and incapable of religious melioration.
When you have perused this volume, if you think it calculated, in ever so small a degree, to impress the mind with conviction, lend it to your unbelieving neighbour, remembering the words of James : Brethren! if
of you err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the evil of his ways shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
If the author has advanced any thing that is wrong, uncharitable, unchristian, or unbecoming his station, in the course of these strictures, he is heartily sorry for it. Let him not, however, accept any man's person, neither let him give flattering titles unto man ; for he knows not to give flattering titles; in so doing his Maker would soon take him away. It has been his desire to speak the plain honest truth, without courting any man's favour, or fearing any man's displeasure.(7) He makes no question but a large
(7) George II. who was fond of Whiston, happened to be walking with him one day, during the heat of his persecution, in Hamp. ton Court garden. As they were talking upon this subject, his ma. jesty observed, that" however right he might be in his opinions, it number of good men are to be found both in the church established and out of it. Even the most despised sectarists, are not wholly destitute.(8) `And, one such character is infinitely more estimable, than a million of immoral parsons, those most miserable and contemptible of all human beings, who contaminate every neighbourhood where they dwell ; or ever so large a body of mere literary clergymen, however extolled and caressed by the world, who, bloated with pride and self-importance, are a disgrace to the lowly spirit of the Saviour of mankind. To every truly pious and consistent Christian, literate or illiterate, he would give the right hand of fellowship, and bid him God-speed in the name of the Lord. Clerical bigots, of every description, he most cordially pities and despises. They are despicable animals. Swoln with an imaginary dignity, they are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight, lording it over the poor of Christ's flock, and binding heavy burthens upon them and grievous to be borne, which they themselves will not move with one of their fingers. Such characters, whether found among Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, or any other men, are the Scribes and Pharisees of the day, to whom the great and inflexible Judge of the world, in just, but terrible language exclaimed, Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ? The praise or dispraise of such men is equally indifferent. But a liberalminded and benevolent soul, who embraces every hu• man being in the arms of his charity, who rises superior to the superstitious tribe of infallible doctors who can pierce through the guise of human distinctions, and trace religious excellence among all orders and descriptions of men, he would clasp to his bosom, make him room in his heart, and give him a place in his affections. He loves a generous soul, a noble spirit, with whom he can hold sweet converse(9) on
would be better to keep them to himself."-"Is your majesty reale ly serious in your advice !" answered the old man, “I'really am,” replied the king.--"Why then," said Whiston," had Martin Luther been of this way of thinking, where would your majesty have been at this time."
“ But why speak so freely and openly upon all these public abuses at a time so critical as the present ?"
Because I may never have another opportunity, and it is proper that somebody should speak. For the public abuses specified, must either be removed by the gentle hand of reform, or Divine Providence will take the matter himself and subvert them by a rough land.
(8) The wise ones of the world would do well to call to mind, who it is that hath said, That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. Luke xvi. 15. Compare 1 Cor. i. 26-29. Men, sects, and parties, who are held in the highest estimation by the world, are held in the lowesť estimation by God; and, those, who are held in the lowest estimation by the world, are held in the highest estimation by the Almighty.
The way to heaven prescribed by the Scripture, and the way to heaven prescribed by worldly-minded men, are as opposite to each other as the east to the west. The former saith, Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. The latter say, Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth unto life, and many there be which go in thereat. Persons of this character are usually secure and confident, determined and resolute, merry and jovial, and perceive little or no danger even when they are dancing blindfold on the brinkof destruction. A man who turned all serious godliness into ridicule and contempt, declared there was no need of so much ado, for if he had but time to say three words, “Lord save me,'' he did not doubt but he should go to heaven. Not long after, this confident Gallio was riding a spirited horse over a bridge, upon which he met a flock of sheep; the horse took fright, leaped over the battlement into the river, where his rider was drowned, and the last three words he was heard to speak were, Devil--take-all. It is dangerous to provoke God!
(9) The third chapter of Malachi contains the most emphatical recommendation of religious conversation that ever was penned. Even Cicero speaks with indignation of men of talents meeting together, and spending all their time in milking the ram, or holda ing the pail.
This brings to recollection an anecdote concerning Locke, who being invited by a nobleman to meet some of the most celebrated wits and scholars of the age, went in great expectation of enjoying a high intellectual repast. The card table being introduced after dinner, contrary to his expectation, he retired pensive and chagrined to the window. Inquiry being made if he was well, he replied,
things human and divine ; trace the awful footsteps of a mysterious Providence,
" And justify the ways of God to man;" while angels ministrant attend the enraptured strains.
From a melancholy dearth of such a society, he is generally constrained to converse with the ancient and modern çead, those first of human beings, who have left us the image of their souls reflected in their immortal volumes. Here, he sometimes seems to catch a ray of their genius ; to intermingle soul with soul; to taste the raptures of their sacred rage ; and to meditate unutterable things. Oh! for a Spirit of burning, to refine these drossy natures ;
a muse of fire,” to elevate the mind to their celestial strains ; and a seraph's wings to mount up to the blissful throng of the spirits of just men made perfect, around the throne of the great Father of the universe, and his Son, the Ever-blest !-Yet a little while, and these shadows shall flee away—these earthly tabernacles be taken down-these mortal bodies be clothed with immortality-the church militant be changed into the church triumphant—and the infinite Majesty of Heaven be seen without a rival, and enjoyed without satiety through the long round of vast eternity!
“ He had come in full confidence of receiving an uncommon degree of satisfaction in the conversation of such celebrated characters, and he must acknowledge he felt himself hurt at the disap. pointment.” The card table was immediately withdrawn, and a rich flow of souls begun, to his no small satisfaction.