« ForrigeFortsæt »
CHRISTIAN LOVE IS NOT TO BE CONFOUNDED WITH THAT SPURIOUS CANDOUR WHICH CONSISTS IN INDIFFERENCE TO RELIGIOUS SENTIMENT, OR IN CONNIVANCE AT SINFUL PRACTICES.
A SEPARATE and entire section is devoted to this distinction of love from a counterfeit resemblance of it, because of the importance of the subject, and the frequency with which the mistake is made of confounding things which are so different from each other. No terms have been more misunderstood or abused than candour and charity. Some have found in them an act of toleration for all religious opinions, however opposed to one another or to the word of God, and a bull of indulgences for all sinful practices which do not transgress the laws of our country: so that, by the aid of these two words, all truth and holiness may be driven out of the world; for if error be innocent, truth must be unimportant; and if we are to be indulgent towards the sins of others, under the sanction and by the command of Scripture, holiness can be of no consequence either to them or ourselves.
If we were to hearken to some, we should conceive of Charity, not as she really is a spirit of ineffable beauty, descending from heaven upon our distracted earth, holding in her hand the torch of truth, which she had lighted at the fountain of celestial radiance, and clad in a vest of unsullied purity; and who, as she entered upon the scene of discord, proclaimed "glory to God in the highest," as well as 66 peace on earth, good-will to men:" and having with these magic words healed the troubled waters of strife, proceeding to draw men closer to each other, by drawing them closer to Christ, the common centre of believers; and then hushing the clamours of contention, by removing the pride, the ignorance, and the depravity, which produced them. No: but we should think of her as a lying spirit-clad, indeed, in some of the attire of an angel of light, but bearing no heavenly impress, holding no torch of truth, wearing no robe of holiness; smiling perhaps, but like a sycophant, upon all without distinction; calling upon men, as they are combating for truth and striving against sin, to sheathe their swords and cast away their shields, to be indulgent towards each other's vices and tolerant of each other's errors; because they all mean and feel substantially alike, though they have different modes of expressing their opinions and of giving utterance to their feelings. Is this charity?-No; it is Satan in the habiliments of Gabriel.
That there is much of this spurious candour in the world, and that it is advocated by great names, will appear by the following quotation from Dr. Priestley:
a" If we could be so happy, as to believe that there are no errors but what men may be so circumstanced as to be innocently betrayed into; that any mistake of the head is very consistent with rectitude of heart; and that all differences in modes of worship may be only the different methods by which different men, who are equally the offspring of God, are endeavouring to honour and obey their common parent;
our difference of opinion would have no tendency to lessen our mutual love and esteem." Dr. Priestley, and the followers of his religious system, are not peculiar in this sentiment. Pope's Universal Prayer is to the same effect.
"Father of all, in every age,
In every clime adored,
The well-known metrical adage of this poet is adapted to the full extent of its spirit and design, by great multitudes who suppose that they are quite orthodox both in opinion and practice, and who perhaps boast of their charity, while they exclaim
"For modes of faith, let graceless zealots fight;
It is, I imagine, generally thought, by at least a great part of mankind, that it is of little consequence what a man's religious opinions are, provided his conduct be tolerably correct; that charity requires us to think well of his state; and that it is the very essence of bigotry to question the validity
of his claim to the character of a Christian, or to doubt of the safety of his soul: in other words, it is pretended that benevolence requires us to think well of men, irrespective of religious opinions; and that it is almost a violation of the rule of love to attempt to unsettle their convictions, or to render them uneasy in the possession of their sentiments, although we may conclude them to be fundamentally wrong. But does this disregard of all opinions,—at least, this disposition to think well of persons as to their religious character, and the safety of their souls, whatever may be the doctrines they hold,-enter essentially into the nature of love? Most certainly not; but actually opposes it. Benevolence is good will to men, but this is a very different thing from a good opinion of their principles and practices; so different, that the former may not only exist in all its force without the latter, but be actually incompatible with it: for if I believe that a man holds opinions that endanger his safety, benevo lence requires, not that I should shut my eyes to his danger, and lull him into false confidence, but that I should bear my testimony and express my fears concerning his situation. Benevolence is a very different thing from complacency or esteem. These are founded on approbation of character; the other is nothing more than a desire to promote happiness.
The question, whether love is to be confounded with indifference to religious principle,-for such does the spurious candour I am contending against amount to, is best decided by an appeal to Scripture. "Ye shall know the truth," said Christ;
"and the truth shall make you free." "This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." "He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." With what emphasis did the Apostle speak of the conduct of those who attempted to pervert the great doctrine of fustification by faith, by introducing the obsolete ceremonies of the Jewish law. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Now, certainly, this is anything but indifference to religious opinion; for, be it observed, it was matter of opinion, and not the duties of morality, or of practical religion, that was here so strenuously opposed. The Apostle commands Timothy "to hold fast the form of sound words; and to give himself to doctrine." The apostle John has this strong language:-"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds." Jude commands us "to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints."* From
Gal. i. 8, 9. 2 John viii. 11. Jude 3.