Imatges de pàgina
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spirit. Suppose the confessions and forms of a particular sect were perfect, and grant that salvation can be obtained only through the medium of their faith and worship. In what manner shall this sect hold their intercourse with those around them; their desire is to draw all men to themselves; shall they attempt this by censures, criminations, and anathemas? Is this the method by which men may be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and be made wise to the salvation of their souls? Will men readily admit, that reproachful language and uncharitable practices, are the legitimate expressions of the love and good will which were exemplified in the life of Jesus, and by him made the test of his disciple ? No, the attention of men must be gained by mild address, their judgment convinced by clear investigation and sound reasoning, and they persuaded to embrace truth in its power by approaching them in the spirit of philanthropy, and leading them to perceive that its reception involves their own happiness.

Religious knowledge however, is not the highest object of the gospel. Knowledge does not always purify the heart, nor elevate the moral characters of men. Knowledge sometimes puffeth up, but charity ever edifieth. Our christianity consists not so much in our faith, as in our tempers. To determine whether a man be in reality a christian, I should examine the state of his heart, rather than the furniture of his head. To the heart and life, all the instructions, promises, and motives of the gospel may be applied.

Here is a field of labor, in which, adopting suitable measures, zeal can scarce become intemperate. The interests of our religion would be secured, should it every where be inculcated in its simplicity, purity, and power. The christian dispensation recommends itself to every sound intellect, and is adapted to every ingenuous heart. The doctrines of the gospel are sublime, its piety is rational and exalted, its morality is benevolent and universal. Our religion gives support to the sufferer, consolation to the deprived, and its light brightens the valley of death.

Controversy in itself is not unchristian ; it may be necessary to elicit truth; its evils result from the bad disposition in which it is managed. While prepared, therefore, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, let us direct our principal efforts to diffuse the moral influence of christianity through society.

Let each individual embrace his brother as the child of one Heavenly Father, as the disciple of a common Master, and as a joint candidate for the same immortal rewards.

Let the ministers of the gospel cease from intruding into the province of each others' labors; each in his appropriate sphere may find his whole time engrossed, and his endeavors in the cause of his divine Lord more usefully directed.

When christian societies are formed, whose members entertain different opinions on doctrinal subjects, but whose united means are barely sufficient to support public worship, let them waive their difference in sentiment, and join in measures necessary to promote a common interest. Mutually forbearing each other, may they be knit together in unity of spirit, and in

bonds of peace.

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Would to God that some favored individual might arise, whose voice would penetrate every ear, and his monitions impress every mind; whose lips, touched by a coal from the holy altar, might utter words of persuasion and animate all men to untiring endeavors to promote the moral purposes for which Emanuel came into our world, and established his reign on earth.

Then christian professors would overlook their minor differences, stifle their sectarian feelings, and join with heart and mind, in effectual endeavors for mutual improvements in religious knowledge and christian virtue. Then it might with propriety be said, that with christians there is one body and one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.

A. B. Worcester.

THE FEAR AND THE LOVE OF GOD.

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The various systems and fashions of religion in the world owe most of their diversities to the different positions and spaces these two little words, fear and love occupy in them; and it does seem to require a sober judgment, which is far from being universal among religionists, to adjust their clairns and reciprocal influences, so that there shall be no encroachment on the provinces of each other. What, and how much, ought we to fear? What, and how much, can we love when fear is joined to love ? Many and great evils would be prevented by clear views on these simple questions.

Some hear so much said of the fear of God, in the darkest and most shocking representations by which it could be urged ; they are so confounded, if not dismayed, at first, and afterwards sickened by threats of direct punishment, remorseless and unquenchable, that they turn away in disgust from religion, and never trouble themselves again with any inquiries into the character of the fear, or of the love either, that legitimately belongs to it. Otherwise they might find that religion, rightly understood, involves no soul-harrowing dread of God personally ; that the love which is his due need not be damped by anything like direct terror of him, as is inculcated in the dominant theology of the country.

On the other hand, there are those who will not hear of fear in their religion at all. To love God without any drawback upon their joyous gratitude is their desire. And so the idea of punishment is scouted at, as inconsistent with his goodness. Now such persons may gain, as they think, in the comfort of a loving trust in divine clemency, but they might be expected to lose in the moral effect of their belief ;-the moral effect, not upon themselves, to be sure, if they are sincere christians, but upon the unprincipled in society at large, who cannot but derive encouragement in their vices from the disbelief of any professors of christianity in a future retribution ; and the suspicion of this sometimes troubles the sincerest of such disbelievers. They know, that let them explain their doctrine as they may to guard it from abuse, the licentious, whether in ignorance or perversity, will be sure to understand it just in the way that is for their interest. They are in a dilemma then. They wish to love God as an infinitely merciful Father too kind to take vengeance on the sins of his creatures, and yet they would grieve to relax any of the sanctions of public morality. From this dilemma more philosophical views of religion than are common would release them without compromising either of their objects.

On the opposite extreme are they whose whole religion is fear. They intend literally to serve God, that they may escape the punishment inflicted on disobedient slaves, and think that they offer the most reverential honor to his majesty in a cowering submissiveness, which dares not presume on any feeling approaching to filial love. A confiding respect seems almost too familiar a sentiment. Even a cold and formal servility would be thought perilously bold without a large admixture of disquieting apprehension. Now by this they lose all the comfort of religion, except what springs from expectation,—the expectation of a posthumous compensation for all this patient endurance. And this is but a spiritless and unexciting sentiment compared with a heart-warming love which feels no burdens borne to please a good Father.

But probably the largest class of christians is composed of those who are trying to love and fear God at the same time, and not knowing how to accommodate these feelings rightly to one another, they are often puzzled and discouraged. Their love is checked in its freedom and cheersulness by their fear; and their fear is deprived of some of its efficiency by the idea that they ought to love ; and so both emotions lose in power.

One monient their hearts swell with affectionate devotion to their best friend in heaven ; the next, there comes sweeping along, the heart-withering recollection of all they have heard about his consuming

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