« AnteriorContinuar »
would not the goodness of his heart expand his arms, and distil from his lips in accents melodious as these, Come, ye blessed of my father, inherit a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was a stranger, and ye took me in ?
The heart in some cases is a good casuist; and will teach us many things worth our attention. The experience of every christian minister teaches him, that the increase of Christ's visible kingdom is the most desirable of all events; it is the end of all his labours and wishes; consequently his own feelings will urge him to render an admission to church fellowship as easy and accessible to genuine christians as in truth and conscience he can; conscience I say, not merely his own, for, while he provides for the peace of that, he should take care he does not offer violence to that of his brother.
Many pious persons have found, by their own experience, that there are several difficulties to surmount in joining a christian church; obstacles in themselves, obstacles in their worldly connections, and obstacles thrown in their way by the tempter : now what encouragement have this excellent class of men to surmount all these obstacles, if, after all, they cannot be admitted into a christian church, not indeed on account of any positive sin laid to their charge, but because they are supposed to possess a less degree of knowledge than the rest of their brethren?
The particular experience of enlarged and liberal minds seems to assort so well with the temper and disposition of Jesus Christ, and to be attended with $0 many beneficial consequences to the church, that it may justly occasion a doubt, at least, whether prejudice and temper may not have mixed with piety and benevolence, and abated the vigorous exertion of them in the investigation of this question.
Universal experience may serve to convince us, that the christian church, struggling against principalities, and powers, and wicked geniusses in high places, in one common cause for truth and virtue against error and vice, ought to collect all its force, that it may repel the general foe,
We want only the will to excel all other reformed churches, the power is in our hands. In this view we congratulate our brethren on the innumerable blessings, which as Britons and christians they enjoy. One of the chief is that of free religious controversy, by which we lead one another into the truth. The book of divine revelation lies open to us, and on this account our condition is better than that of the pagans. Liberty of reading that, and all other books, is also ours, and so we are in a state better than that of the Spaniards and Portugucze, who are obliged to purchase from the holy office a licence to read all books. The French, who have the scriptures, and who, consequently, if they read, must judge of their meaning, are not allowed to act on any principles of their own different from such as are established by law: but this is not our case.
We are not even obliged to procure an imprimatur, as our ancestors were ; but we may read, we may reason, we may lay down principles, draw conclusions, make our conclu
sions grounds of action, both act on them ourselves, and persuade others by preaching and printing to do so too.
This noble constitutional right, like every other gift of providence, may be a blessing, and it may not. If, on the one hand, men, who may be so free, choose to live in slavery, and to wear the fetters of prejudice and custom rather than give themselves the trouble of knocking off their chains, beside losing all the pleasure of conscious rectitude here, assuredly they will hereafter meet with the reproach of the slothful and wicked servant, mentioned in the gospel, who did not use his Lord's talent. If, on the contrary, we pervert this liberty into licentiousness, and gratify the violent passions of a depraved heart under colour of searching for truth, and defending it when found, we turn our blessing into a curse. May we be kept from both these extremes; and may the Lord direct our hearts into the love of God, and into a patient waiting for Christ, who, when he cometh, will tell us all things!