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Lastly, we come to the old contrast, (p. 356), newly applied. Formerly, we used to understand these characters to represent the man with and the man without religion. Here, I must suppose they are to represent your real and nominal Christian. This, then, means as before, broadly to affirm, that all religion consists in your definition: and yet
you do not insist upon metaphysical niceties!!" Really, Mr. Wilberforce, when I think of the just celebrity of your name as a Christian, reflect upon your numerous good deeds, and the sincere and fervent piety I myself believe you to possess, and then read these passages of your book, it does indeed enforce upon my mind the truth of our weakness and corruption, and give me a lesson upon humility, which makes me tremble, and inclined to exclaim, like Felix, "What is truth?"
To Mr. WILBERFORCE.
CHAP. VII. § 2. 8vo. edit. p. 357.
Practical Hints to various Descriptions of Persons-Advice to some who profess their full assent to the fundamental Doctrines of the Gospel.
In the second section of your seventh chapter I have little to complain of. As general preachment, I fully acquiesce in it, and am happy to find it go far to prove, what I have all along contended for, that the difference in our general opinions of Christianity, is very trifling, and chiefly, if not wholly, confined to language.
You begin, indeed, with your usual assumption, but soon fall into a more intelligible strain. When you talk of people "resolving" to do any thing, (p. 358), we must suppose them to have free will. You certainly add, "through the help of the Spirit;" but we say this also. Indeed, the language you here make use of, is exactly what you found so much fault with us for using upon a former occasion,
But you justly
when you put the same doctrine into our mouths. Your language here acknowledges the power in man to resolve to do a thing by the help of the Spirit which should mean, not that any extraordinary operation of the Holy Spirit must be necessary to the forming, though it may be to the accomplishment, of his resolution. observe, that when he has formed his resolution and invoked the aid of the Spirit, that "his work is not then done; and if he so considers it, he will have to begin over again." Let us see! what is the work he has to do? "To strive," you say, "with persevering alacrity, for the acquisition and improvement of every Christian grace." This is all right. Your present distinction between nominal and real, is perfectly intelligible to us, and the only one that is so we know nothing of " another sort" of either! As to pretences to superior sanctity, we hold that they are never allowable; they would of themselves suffice to desecrate one, who, but for them, would be perfect!
Section 3d, p. 362.-Your third section you address to sceptics and Unitarians. Your dissertation upon "the progress of infidelity," though put in the usual form of insinuation, amounts to a definitive charge against us, as false as it is heavy. Young men bred up by what we have termed nominal Christians!" (p. 363).
Why, Sir, you
have so termed us all, whether laity, or clergy, by whom every young man of condition is educated.
If their parents preserve still more the customs of better times, they are taught their catechism, &c." Then a boy being made to learn his catechism, is an exception to the general rule, is it? Now, Sir, will you pretend to tell me that you do not know that it is not an exception? shall I say to this little word, "If?" say that "travelling tends to weaken our nursery prejudices," if you really mean nursery prejudices," it is well; but if this, as is is meant as a sneer, I deny it. nothing to lose can lose nothing.
He who has
But if, as is
often the case, the germ of real religion be obscured and obstructed by, what may very appropriately be termed nursery prejudices,-the young man sees other Christians than his own countrymen, other forms both of Christian faith and worship than his own; this teaches him toleration, his mind is expanded, and he learns to distinguish genuine Christianity from outward forms, manners, and language; to distinguish the real from the unreal. Those parts of religion which, as you say, are calculated to perplex and offend, are just those which are the common subjects of controversy, therefore can hardly be called essentials, as that which is essential really must, if the religion itself be just, be plain
and reasonable: (p. 364). You
know Christianity chiefly by the difficulties it contains." I should say, on the contrary, as indeed you told us in your first chapter, that they too seldom, perhaps, know much about its difficulties. They know it chiefly by the two first articles of the Apostles' creed, and by its moral doctrines, of which reason shews them the propriety, but to which, alas, they are too generally disobedient, because they are weak and thoughtless, and yield to their corrupt passions and inclinations against both reason and acknowledged precept. I do not mean to say, that the case as you have here put it, may not sometimes occur; nor should I have observed upon it at all, but for the general charge of scepticism endeavoured to be thrown upon us.You seem to think it necessary to apologise for your extraordinary liberality in condescending to use the name Unitarian, lest it should be thought to be too near Christian. I have always understood that those commonly called Unitarians believe in the Christ, and look for salvation through him only; indeed, for all I know to the contrary, many of them would assent to all you have written in the book I am now reviewing. I remember no such definite assertion of the divinity as should forbid the possibility. I think with you, that there is a material error in the Unitarian creed;