« ForrigeFortsæt »
fear, over great fear if you will, of producing an evil result, that checks our zeal in this particular; it is in fact our want of confidence in the instruments employed, and too much has occurred to justify this want of confidence. But all this must remain matter of opinion; it is neither my object nor my wish to prove that missions should not be encouraged, but merely to point out that there are other reasons for our apparent want of zeal, than mere indifference.
You next bring against us two maxims, which you pronounce false, and which you put into our mouths as a source of error: (p. 14). First, you make us say, "It signifies little what a man believes; look to his practice." Secondly," Sincerity is all in all." You then proceed to descant upon their various false applications, assuming that we so apply them; but surely it would have been better for you to shew that we do so, by furnishing a context, instead of thus putting forth naked maxims, and throwing them in the worst, the most absurd sense you can devise, upon a whole class of educated people; and that class not a sect of defined opinions. Now I unhesitatingly deny that we ever do use these maxims in a way which would justify any man of common sense, in supposing for an instant, that we meant them to be understood as you interpret them. We know, as well as you do,
that "faith influences practice," and that for this reason it is enjoined; and if we say it signifies little what a man believes, we must, in all fairness, be supposed to allude to the innumerable non-essential distinctions in the opinions of the Christian world. It is the maxim of toleration. We judge not man's belief; we have no right to do so; but we know well, that if his practice is good, his faith is not likely to be essentially wrong. To make us apply such maxim to religious systems not professing Christianity, is at once to make us cease to be Christians ourselves; and this we must suppose to be your meaning, as we cannot suppose you to imagine that salvation is to be limited to certain forms and descriptions of Christian faith.
Another mistake in your argument is, that while we in our words "look to his practice," are proceeding upon the supposition of good, you are proceeding upon the contrary supposition of evil, (p. 16); whereas, if the practice we point to be evil, our maxim is no longer opposed to you; as in this case you would not oppose our condemnation, whatever might be the sinner's creed.
It is the same with the second maxim. We say sincerity," and by way of controverting us, you argue upon insincerity, and assert, that in popular notions, sincerity means insincerity (p. 17): but really, Sir, you must excuse our "lamentable igno
rance," if we were totally unaware of this. When we say sincerity, we mean sincerity, and in talking of Christianity, we mean Christian sincerity, an unfeigned mindfulness of the omnipresence of the Omniscient; and do not presume an ignorance of even the essentials of what may be termed natural religion. I suppose you will allow that men may differ, and yet be equally sincere-may differ, even in certain matters, shades, and degrees, of right and wrong-yet herein we should not conceive that you mean to imply a denial of the sufficiency of the means afforded for the distinction: (p. 16). The means are certainly sufficient for all general purposes, yet cases will arise, in which the good and evil are so intimately blended as to defy an analysis that shall satisfy all alike. Why else have the best and most learned so constantly disagreed?
The instances you quote want the grand primâ facie evidence of sincerity; they are deficient in our test of practice. We mean neither to defend madmen, nor to apply the term sincerity to such "as, from long habits of wickedness, are lost to the perception of virtue," (p. 17); nor, unless so specified, should our expressions be taken to apply at all to actions in their own nature evil, especially when you had just made us give practice (i. e. good practice) as the test. Nevertheless, I will meet you even here, and not deny that, in a peculiar position
of argument, we might even go so far as not only to palliate, but even to claim merit, under plea of sincerity, for actions in themselves criminal; to palliate, even where they would not fairly come under that part of your definition of true sincerity, which we would admit-" Honesty of mind, and a faithful use of the means of knowledge:" (p. 18). For instance-Our blessed Saviour, while on the cross, prays thus: " Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" Also, he adds no denunciation when he tells his disciples, "the time cometh, when he who shall kill you, shall think he doeth God a service." Now it can hardly be said that these persecutors generally were either strictly honest in mind, or had made a thoroughly faithful use of their means of knowledge. At least, others who had done so, saw enough in those means to enable them to recognise their Messiah. But these are only not condemned. On the other hand, St. Paul, in whom He who judges the heart saw real sincerity, and true, though misdirected zeal, was approved for that sincerity, his delusion was dispelled, and his zeal directed to the real service of the Master he had been endeavouring, though erroneously, to serve. I may instance also the patriarch Abraham, in his famous sacrifice. His action would have been highly criminal, even in his own day, but by his sincerity in his desire to please
God, by obeying what a faithful use of his means of knowledge told him was the command of God, even though that command was in direct opposition to the former commands of God, he earned both commendation and reward. It was his faith, you will exclaim. Mysterious word! Yes, it was his faith; for his faith was one of his means of knowledge; but his obedience to that faith, in a disagreeable command, was his merit, and this was the result or proof, which you will, of the sincerity of his desire to please the God he served: and if Clement and Ravillac were indeed equally sincere, their service, criminal as their acts may really be, will, we are bound to believe, be equally accepted by Him who alone can judge, even though their oracle may have been a delusion. The reason why we justify and praise the patriarch and the apostle is, that we believe in their sincerity; and if we condemn Clement and Ravillac, it is because we do not believe in their sincerity. The latter part of your definition of true sincerity we cannot admit. "Humble enquiry," and more especially "impartial and unprejudiced judgment," (p. 18) form no constituent parts of sincerity, although nothing, certainly, is more likely to effect them, as says your own excellent maxim, "An honest heart is the best casuist." But this, good as it is, I might equally pull to pieces, did I proceed upon