Page images
[ocr errors]

then most to be dreaded, because then he can most" successfully deceive. mol eidī ji oj. Such are the general consequences resulting from a separation from the Church of Christ! An more particular investigation of them would lead into a wider field, than is proposed to be entered upon on this occasion. prolod yodt didw

[ocr errors]

Perhaps, indeed, some indulgence may be required on the part of the reader,tovexcuse the disproportionate length to which the discussion of this subject has already been drawn out. Not without hopes, however, that what has been said, though in a less complete and systematic form than the importance of the subject demanded, may be sufficient to answer the purpose in view, where it meets with a mind disposed to receive it; we hasten to a conclusion, in one short but necessary word to the professed members of the Christian Church.

Whilst we are engaged in an earnest, though humble, endeavour, to preserve the unity of the Christian Church, by bringing forward every consideration which may tend to prevent a separation from it; it ought, most assuredly, to be a matter of very serious concern with the members of that Church, that they do not render abortive our endeavour, by a voluntary ignorance of, or shameful indifference to, a subject which must be regarded as involving in it their most important interests. To secure themselves against such an imputation, it is necessary that they do justice to the Church to which they belong; by making themselves acquainted with the nature of its constitution, the design of its establishment, and the privileges of

which they become partakers by their admission into it. This done, they will never forsake its communion; because they will be convinced, that no plan upon which any other Christian society has been formed, is so well calculated to promote the spiritual edification of its members, as that to which they belong. But if they will not seek to make themselves acquainted with this interesting subject, notwithstanding the abundant means graciously vouchsafed to them for that purpose; if the religion which they profess, instead of being built on the firm ground of sober and rational enquiry, the mere result of early prejudice, and accidental circumstance; a kind of hereditary possession handed down to them from their forefathers, of which they confessedly know little, and about which, perhaps, they still care less; if, when they come to a place of holy worship, they enter not into the ser vices performed there; neither praying the prayers of the Church, nor joining in the sacraments; but when they ought to be on their knees, in humble supplication for pardon and grace, they remain on their seats unconcerned and uninterested in the sacred business that is going forward: the necessary consequence must be, that they will be dead, not living, members of the Church; and it will be no subject for surprise, if, after having continued in that state for years, without experiencing any communication of Divine spirit from the Head to which they professedly belong, they should be persuaded to seek unhallowed fire elsewhere.

But be it remembered, the fault in this case is not in the Church, but in its members; and by

cutting themselves off from the Church, upon the imaginary idea of acquiring that spiritual attainment, of which they are not in actual possession, in consequence either of their abuse or disuse of those appointed means to which the Divine grace has been formally annexed; they only render their case, it is to be feared, in some sense more hopeless than it was before. A limb, though diseased, whilst it continue united to the body, may recover; which, when separated from it, must inevitably perish.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

TO convince, is one thing; to prevail with men to act in conformity with that conviction, is another. The former is the general effect of sound argument addressed to competent understandings; the latter is ofttimes attended with a species of humiliation, to which the pride of man will not suffer him to submit.

It is never too soon to tread back our steps, when convinced that we are not travelling in the right path; because the difficulty of our return to it increases in proportion to our distance from it. But, alas! all men possess not firmness of mind to enable them to do justice to their reasoning faculty; choosing rather, out of compliment to the opinion of the world, which is rarely worth obtaining, to continue in error, than to take (as they conceive) shame to themselves, by acknowledging that they have been mistaken; which is, in fact, in other words, to say that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.

This remark is, perhaps, more frequently exemplified in religious, than in any other concerns in life; for, in proportion to the importance of the object in pursuit, is, generally speaking, the strength

of prejudice in favour of the plan adopted for the purpose. Hence it is, that of the many who separate from the Church, very few can ever be persuaded to return to it. You may un bie may succeed, if master of the subject, in removing all objections, in answering all arguments, in satisfying all scruples, so that separatists shall in a manner be left speechless; but when you think yourself upon the point of accompanying them to the house of God as friends, there is a lion in the way the pride of the human heart will not suffer him to proceed. I once remember having a long and interesting conversation with a parishioner, of whose understanding I had formed a favourable judg ment, upon the subject of his leaving the Church; and was so happy as to succeed in convincing him. When arrived at this desired point, his immediate question was, "what I would have him do in the case?" To which the answer was obvious; that he should immediately return to the place from whence he had gone astray. The question subjoined to this advice manifested the infirmity of human nature. "But, sir, (continued he) what shall I do with all those whom I have drawn after me from the Church ?" you to the Church again, can be made for your past error, and the strongest testimony that can be given of your present sincerity," was the reply. "But, alas! this was a trial too hard for flesh and blood; the man was not proof against the remarks to which he foresaw his conduct must subject him; he therefore continues to this day a member of the Meeting, in spite of

"Bring them back with as the best amends that'

« PreviousContinue »