Billeder på siden

presence." But to this you add, "And whatever receives not its sacred stamp, is to be condemned as inherently defective, and at once relinquished." Begging your pardon, this is a non sequitur. You have told us that religion is not designed to destroy our passions and desires, but to regulate them. We are to prefer God to the world where they come in competition, but are not required to renounce the world. There are many things that are allowable, that cannot, in any fair sense, be said " to receive the sacred stamp of religion." If this were conceded as an axiom, there is no saying how far it might be carried. To act upon it strictly, every luxury, and most of the amusements which even you yourself would pronounce innocent, must be relinquished, as you would find it difficult, without casuistry, to prove that any one of them could shew this "sacred stamp." You may possibly not mean it so strongly as I take it, yet such is the force your axiom might claim if unguardedly admitted. Your two sentences, taken together, would naturally imply, not merely that neither letter nor spirit of religion were to be invaded by the endeavour or pursuit, but that every indifferent thing must have actual reference to, and be done for, the actual furtherance of religion. As if, in short, you words of St. Paul,

would interpret literally the

(1 Cor. x. 31), "Whether, therefore, ye eat or

drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it all to the glory of God,"-without any reference to the context. Yet you would hardly say that you eat a plum-pudding, dance a hornpipe, or indulge yourself in any other trifling, though harmless gratification, " to the glory of God:" although, where such trifles give offence, no matter whether reasonably or unreasonably, to the religious prejudices of those you may be among, you might be required to abstain from them, "to the glory of God."

Your following charge (p. 131), although somewhat invidiously, and not very fairly put, we will not deny; the terms may certainly be proved, only we should not say, "Religion can claim only a stated proportion of our thoughts, time, fortune," &c. but " claims only," &c. We hold that religion, far from requiring us to renounce the world, bids us both live in and enjoy it, if we can, with gratitude to the Divine bounty so undeservedly bestowed, and without forgetting her supremacy.

We next come to what you state to be "the consequences of the above error." of the above error." We deny the error, but admit what you call its consequences as the consequences of our imperfection as Christians. If you ask us why we are not then perfect, I can only answer by the question, Are you? You talk of the boundary of religion's territories, as if it were a reality. Alas! alas! it is a very imaginary

line! All our conduct, I fear, is tainted, more or less, with evil. Perfection is not here! You complain that "religion is checked in her disposition to expand her territory, and enlarge the circle of her influence," (p. 131). This may be too true in reality, but it appears to me, that as you mean it, you are taking the liberty of a figure in grammar, and putting Religion herself for her would-be-thought zealous partisans. It may be true, I repeat, as regards worldly-minded individuals, but it proves nothing as to opinion, inasmuch as our admitting the charge will not prove that every thing which injudicious partisans may contend for, must be, or is likely to prove, a beneficial addition to the

[ocr errors]

allotment," as you term it, of religion. Witness monastic institutions, &c. Injudicious zeal is as likely to prove injurious to the cause of religion as to any other cause; and we know there is no enemy generally so much to be dreaded as a zealous friend who lacks tact and judgment. We, in resisting the encroachments of intemperate partisans, are not to be set down, as a matter of course, as resisting the real claims of the paramount, whose cause they affect to advocate. We do not thereby lay claim to our faculties and our powers as a franchise, nor refuse the fines, aids, or heriots, customary or extraordinary, that we are satisfied our Lady Paramount requires. But we are not

required to pay them upon demand, unless he who demands produces his authority to demand. Nor do we conceive that our liege Lady wishes us to do so. It would be as little in accordance with her dignity and the maintenance of her real rights, as with the attachment and prosperity of her vassals.

You go on-" Hence it is that so little responsibility seems attached to high rank," &c. (p. 133.) I answer, "So it is," unhappily, but " hence it is not!" for the errors you charge us with are imperfection of service, not inadequate conception, as we allow the claim to be lawful whenever we are satisfied that it is from genuine authority. E. g. If I lend you a sum of money, your disowning the debt is one thing, your omitting to repay it is another, and your refusal to make an unusual payment of any portion of it, at the suggestion of an officious third person, who produces no authority from me to shew that it is my wish, is another thing still. Of the first, as a body, we are not guilty. Of the second we all are in part guilty. And of the third, if guilt you call it, we certainly are guilty, and I hope shall continue to be so!

You next proceed, as you say, to confirm your preceding statement, by "appealing to the course of life of various classes of nominal Christians." These you class by their vices and imperfections; upon which you preach us a very good sermon


and we admit the justice of all you say upon


subject. But then, this justice applies to the abuse, not to the use of riches; it is the very Scripture doctrine of their danger, instead of making us better, as the enjoyment of so many advantages should make us, we are, as we have been warned, too apt to become lax and negligent in our service. But this, true as it may be, is not an error of opinion-for no one of us would deny the charge, even though, while acknowledging it, he failed to amend. We should never, as regards religion, dream of defending dissipation, sensuality, ostentation, avarice, or criminal ambition, even though we felt our ownselves to be guilty of them. But these are abuses, and as such you have described them. What is it, then, that you would say? Do you mean to inculcate the old exploded doctrine of mortification and penance, or say, with certain northern puritans, "Every thing pleasurable is a sin?" If so, we certainly disagree: and if you are right, we must be wrong. In the only argument you have assigned to us, you have first assumed our total want of all active Christian charity, and then made us say, "We neglect no duty," (p. 134). In speaking for ourselves, however, we beg leave to disclaim this, and to assure you, that we freely allow, that if we permit pleasure to occupy us so as to interfere with our duty, it is an excess, an

« ForrigeFortsæt »