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against being ensnared by their own morbid sensibilities. But for them, you never had been troubled with a remark of mine.
To Mr. WILBerforce.
CHAP. V. 8vo. edit. p. 272.
Prevailing inadequate Conceptions of Practical ChristianityOn the Excellence of Christianity in certain important particulars—Argument which results thence in proof of its Divine Origin.
UPON your fifth chapter I have nothing to remark, save that it proceeds in the same strain of assumption and insinuation. As to particulars, I find none that have not been previously observed upon, up to p. 316, in the following chapter.
Chapter vi.-I think, generally, that your fears and deductions are visionary; that you mistake change of language and manner for want of religion. Doubtless, we are far worse than, as reasonable beings, we might be expected to be, with the advantages we enjoy. I say nothing to your general charge and exhortation; but I cannot allow that we have any title to plead want of instruction, or that we are, in fact, ignorant, as you
affirm, of any essential of Christianity. In the days of the eminent reformers you speak of, (p. 293), I firmly believe we were infinitely worse. In what proportion the clergy generally should mingle articles of faith with precepts and doctrines of practice, (p. 296), must remain matter of opinion, and dependent upon circumstances. A parish priest, addressing the same congregation every Sunday, would become intolerably tiresome were he continually to preach upon articles of faith, after he had once made his audience understand what they should believe. He can only recur occasionally to the subject, to keep it in the minds of his flock. For my part, I must do the clergy the justice to say, that in the little preaching it has fallen to my lot to hear, I have not found articles of faith by any means neglected.
Your appeal to novels, as a proof of want of religion in society of the present day, (p. 298), is, in my opinion, far from satisfactory. They are written merely to amuse; and I cannot think them at all proper vehicles for theological or metaphysical discussions, and such seems to be the general opinion. Such subjects, therefore, are usually carefully avoided. If a clergyman be introduced, the author must make him abstain, at all events, from preaching what you would call a scriptural sermon, or unless as a satire, as in Old Mortality, &c. and
not go down.
even then with becoming brevity, the thing will Witness the few experiments that have been tried. The book ceases to be considered as a novel.
What you say, with regard to a certain class of literati, (p. 299), is too true, and very strange it is. But after all it is but a small portion, who would not be noticed but for their power of giving publicity to their opinions. When you complain of those, not infidels themselves, for not discarding a brother philosopher because he is not a Christian, I answer, it would be both absurd and presumptuous so to do. You can scarcely mean to contend, that a Christian is bound to avoid all useful intercourse, showing the charities of life, or an interchange of knowledge, with even an avowed enemy of his faith. You might as well contend, that it were unlawful to trade with infidel countries, or to learn their arts. The very Jews, in the infancy of their establishment, where the professed design was to separate them from other nations, were hardly forbidden this, where the intercourse was unconnected with religious rites. Take courage, Sir, if Christianity be, as we believe it, the will of God, it will be supported, as it has been, through worse times than these. Not one jot nor one tittle either will or can fail! You should consider it a greater triumph, that even infidel
philosophers acknowledge practical Christianity as correct and reasonable, even while they deny its Divine origin, than as a subject of despair, that there should still be infidels.
You allude to an objection against your system, as being too strict; but you really have proposed nothing that can bear the title of a system. The very thing I most complain of, that has given me this endless task of repetition, is, that you never will commit yourself to a definition of your opinions, but always shelter yourself under the wording of Scripture, when you ought to expound it. We may, indeed, glean, from the general tone of your book, that in an abstractedly commendable zeal for the theory of Christianity, you would wish, without any attention to the actually existing circumstances of the world, to force its perfections into ordinary, general, and individual practice, in a degree which any man, of common week-day sense, must see that, however desirable, the world is not yet ripe for.
What you call a refutation of the objection, (p. 302), is not even an attempt at refutation. It is, on the contrary, an admission, in part, accompanied by an assertion that you are right, notwithstanding the difficulties you admit.
You profess to be willing to consider how far the theory can be reduced to practice, but when it