Imatges de pÓgina
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and to try with them, at length, the Scripture method of a mild, gentle, patient instruction. Let us be ready, in our several places, to lend our aid, upon general principles, and without giving offence, towards the extension of education, especially as connected with Scripture. Let us assist in putting the blessed book of God into the hands of all who are willing to receive it. Above all, let us be careful, through the grace of God, to exemplify in our own carriage, the spirit of that book: and when we are favoured with a fitting opportunity of Christian conversation with those who thus differ from us, let it be embraced in the spirit of brotherly kindness; remembering that “the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men.” If this course were more generally pursued, God would countenance and prosper the means employed in accordance with his will; and in due season we should witness a blessed change.

There is one other subject to which I would gladly apply the principles laid down in the text-I mean the differences of opinion which sometimes unhappily disturb the harmony of those who agree in acknowledging the Bible as the sole standard of faith. Where men are not allowed to exercise their own understandings in searching the Scriptures for themselves, à certain uniformity may be produced by the influence of human authority: but it may be the uniformity

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of error, as readily as of truth. Where men judge for themselves in religion, it may pected, that, whilst referring to the same Divine standard, they will be generally agreed in the fundamental and essential points; they may yet have many shades of difference touching matters of a more doubtful description, or which have been but partially revealed. Thus, whilst all regard the Gospel of Christ as a message of mercy to fallen man, questions have arisen, whether that heavenly message be conditional or unconditional; whether it was designed for mankind at large, or confined to comparatively few; and whether the bearer of this message of mercy to our race be God, or man, or both, or neither. And these questions, and such as these, have from time to time become the subjects of the most keen, virulent, and rancorous controversy ; in the midst of which, the better part of Christianity, its spirit of love and charity, has been lost and forgotten; for the very end of the commandment, the very design of the dispensation, is charity : “and now," saith the Apostle Paul, “now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.”

The last question which I mentioned, touching the nature and dignity of our Divine Redeemer, a question, which in earlier ages of the Christian church, frequently led to scenes of most shame. ful and unchristian strife, has again been made the subject of angry debate, and of fierce defiance, in our own land. And, at the present time, persons professing our common Christianity, professing to believe that there is “one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father of all,” are ready to consign each other to public odium in this life, perhaps to endless perdition in the next, under those unscriptural denominations of Trinitarians, and Unitarians, Arians, and Socinians, and such other appellations, which it would have been well for the Christian world if they had never been heard of.

If it had been thought a matter essential to the faith and salvation of men, that the nature and dignity of that Divine Redeemer should be apprehended alike by all, it would doubtless have been revealed in such a manner as to leave no room for honest inquirers to doubt, or to differ, on the subject. That honest inquirers, that men of the highest talents, of the first education, of the most undoubted sincerity and piety, have taken different views of this matter, is, to my mind, a clear indication that it has not been very distinctly revealed, and that it cannot be of such vital importance as it is sometimes represented. Will a criminal, under sentence of death, waste his time in disputing about the rank and office of the

person who is authorised to bring him a reprieve, before he can make up his mind to accept of his

sovereign's pardon? An act of grace has been passed in the courts of Heaven, to rescue sinful man from merited perdition :—these glad tidings have been conveyed to us by a messenger from above:--be that messenger who he may, it is plain the message comes to us with the highest divine authority; and shall we turn away from that joy. ful, that life-giving message, and consumeourtime, our talents, and our temper, in vain and fruitless disputation about the dignity of the messenger ?

This latter, is, no doubt, a very proper subject, on which to exercise our understanding with a becoming humility, so far as it has pleased God to reveal it; but if, in such exercise of our understanding, we arrive at different conclusions, as hath been often the case, might we not in the spirit of the gospel agree to differ in peace? What right have we positively to pronounce, that those who do not think with us on such a point shall without doubt perish everlastingly? Would it not be more becoming, would it not be more Christian-like, to bear with each other in matters of this description; and mutually to “ seek after the things that make for peace, and things whereby one may edify another?” Why should we not endeavour, in all such cases, to apply the mild and healing measures recommended by the Apostles, in similar cases, to the primitive Christians ? " Receive ye one another, but not to doubtful disputations. Receive ye one another,

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as Christ hath received us, to the glory of God.” Whilst every one may be fully persuaded in his own mind, even where there may be considerable differences of opinion on minor points, I see nothing to hinder Christians from preserving the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

In the uncomfortable feeling which present heats and differences have diffused over the public mind, let us, my beloved brethren, see to it, that, as the disciples of the meek and compassionate Jesus, we preserve the kind and conciliating spirit of the gospel towards those who in some things may differ from us. Let us avoid, as much as possible, inflaming our own minds, or the minds of others, by the angry discussion of controverted and doubtful topics. In conversation with our fellow Christians on the doctrines of our common faith, let us religiously abstain from any misrepresentation of the principles of others; from assuming the dictatorial or exclusive tone; and from ever indulging in the language of passion, or of defiance, on the sacred ' subjects of religion. Let us remember, that though God can make “the wrath, of man to praise him," yet “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” Let us beware that we do not suffer the deadly poison of an unruly tongue, or the turbulence of an ungoverned temper, to interpose between the alienated spirit of sinful man, and the free grace of a reconciled

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