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Is it too much to ask such persons (as would abjure the union of Christians on any other terms than those of perfect identity of opinion with themselves] to place themselves in company with their divine Lord, and to follow him through all the scenes of his incarnation, for the purpose of asking from what action, or from what expression, they can feel authorized to treat with hostility, and to reject with scorn, the efforts that are being made to strengthen the bonds of . brotherhood between his disciples ? Is it from his Sermon upon the Mount, when he poured his benediction upon the peace-makers, and called them the children of God? Is it from his frequent rebukes to his too litigious followers ? Is it from his conversation with the woman of Samaria, and his labors on that occasion, among a people hated and shunned by his own kindred? Is it from his inimitable parable of the good Samaritan? Is it from his reproof of the distempered zeal of his disciples, who would have stopped the man that cast out demons, because he followed not them? Is it from his forbearance with his apostles, under their cloudy apprehensions of his doctrine and his will, their impure motives, and their defective sanctity? How wide the interval which separated his religious knowledge and attainments from those of his disciples ! - he, the fountain of illumination; they, encompassed with infirmities: but did he recede from them on that account? No: he drew closer the bond of union, imparted successive streams of effulgence, till he incorporated his spirit with theirs, and elevated them into a nearer resemblance of himself. ...... Is there, notwithstanding our differences, a principle known, a principle attainable by us all, - a principle which is an integral part of our religion, a principle which, if it were more cultivated and in full exercise, would subjugate all that is low and selfish and malevolent in our nature; and which, while it filled our own bosom with peace, would give us peace with our fellow-Christians of every name? There is. It is Love, - holy love, — heavenly love, Christian love. But where is it to be found ? In the heart of God, in the bosom of Jesus, in the minds of angels, in the spirits of just men made perfect, and in the pages of the New Testament, we know; but where on earth shall we find it? It ought to be seen in beauty and in vigor in the church of Christ: this is built to be its mansion, and for its residence. But how little is it to be found in this its own and appropriated abode! JOHN ANGELL JAMES : Union in relation to the Religious Parties of England; in Essays on Christian Union, pp. 206–7, 217–8.
His [Christ's] most distinct command was to love all mankind; which obligation, on our part, he grounded upon the universal love of the Father in heaven, who makes his sun to shine equally upon all nations, and sends his rain as plentifully upon those who are most benighted or deformed by vice, as upon those who are decorated with the fairest virtues. The neighbor to be loved as one's self was every man without exception; and, by thus representing love to the weakest and most unworthy of mankind, in connection with love to the Almighty Father in heaven, as the substance of all morality, our Lord entirely and for ever abolished all party considerations in respect to distinction of family, rank, nation, and religion. ... Christ appeared on earth invested with sublime and holy doctrines, which he labored to impart, not to sects and sectaries, but to universal man. — E. L. MAGOON : Republican Christianity, pp. 303-5.
By introducing these and other extracts on behalf of a spirit which would embrace within its grasp all sincere Christians of whatever name or belief, and which would not dare appropriate to any one particular sect the possession of all truth and all saving faith, to the entire exclusion of others, we do not wish to be understood as implying that Trinitarianism is in itself, or apart from the doctrines with which it is usually connected, naturally and necessarily productive of an arrogant or illiberal demeanor towards its opponents. All that we mean to indicate is, that, though the unchristian and anticatholic spirit has been too frequently allied with the profession of Trinitarianism, its best friends are united, in heart and purpose, with its greatest foes, in proclaiming Christianity to be a religion of perfect freedom and universal love.
Nor are we so foolish as to imagine, that, by any selection of extracts from the writings of good men, we could prove the religion of Jesus to be preeminently a religion of love. The nominal disciples of Christ may, indeed, show, in their conversations and their lives, that they have not yet learned the lesson of hạman brotherhood; and, in justification of their unbelief, the enemies of Christianity may point the finger of scorn at the animosities and strifes of sectarians, and say, “Behold! these are the fruits of your religion." But no one who opens the New Testament can avoid seeing on almost every page, written in characters of light, the glorious doctrine of the fraternity of all God's children. If the reader of the gospel records be blind to this blessed truth, no mere authority and no mode of reasoning will convince him of it. We make the extracts, therefore, not for this purpose, but to exhibit the inconsistencies of Christians so called, and to urge them, by considering the mercies of God, the benign spirit of the Master whom they profess to serve, and their own solemn responsibilities, to give no countenance, by the cherishing and manifestation of uncharitable dispositions, to the inference of the unbeliever, that Christianity cannot be a revelation from heaven.
SECT. II. - TRUE ZEAL ACCOMPANIED BY A SPIRIT OF WISDOM, LOVE,
AND HUMILITY; FALSE ZEAL, BY AN IGNORANT, UNCHARITABLE,
DOMINEERING, AND PERSECUTING SPIRIT.
Love talks with better knowledge, and knowledge with dearer love.
When we would convince men of any error by the strength of truth, let us withal pour the sweet balm of love upon their heads. Truth and love are two the most powerful things in the world ; and, when they both go together, they cannot easily be withstood. The golden beams of truth and the silken cords of love, twisted together, will draw men on with a sweet violence, whether they will
Let us take heed we do not sometimes call that zeal for God and his gospel, which is nothing else but our own tempestuous and stormy passion. True zeal is a sweet, heavenly, and gentle flame, which maketh us active for God, but always within the sphere of love. It never calls for fire from heaven to consume those that differ a little from us in their apprehensions. It is like that kind of lightning, which the philosophers speak of, that melts the sword within, but singeth not the scabbard : it strives to save the soul, but hurteth not the body. True zeal is a loving thing, and makes us always active to edification, and not to destruction. ... True zeal is an ignis lambens, a soft and gentle flame, that will not scorch one's hand : it is no predatory or voracious thing. But carnal and fleshly zeal is like the spirit of gunpowder set on fire, that tears and blows up all that stands before it. ... Let this soft and silken knot of love tie our hearts together; though our heads and apprehensions cannot meet, as indeed they never will, but always stand at some distance off from one another. Our zeal, if it be heavenly, if it be true vestal fire kindled from above, will not delight to tarry here below, burning up straw and stubble and such combustible things, and sending up nothing but gross and earthy fumes to heaven; but it will rise up, and return back pure as it came down, and will be ever striving to carry up men's hearts to God along with it. It will be only occupied about the promoting of those things which are unquestionably good; and, when it moves in the irascible way, it will quarrel with nothing but sin. DR. RALPH CUDWORTH : Sermon I. appended to the Intellectual System of the Universe, vol. ii.
I know those that would draw you into such a contentious zeal will tell you, that their cause is the cause of God, and that you desert him and betray it if you be not zealous in it; and that it is but the counsel of flesh and blood which maketh you pretend moderation and peace; and that it is a sign that you are hypocrites, that are so lukewarm, and carnally comply with error; and that the cause of God is to be followed with the greatest zeal and self-denial. And all this is true, if you be but sure that it is indeed the cause of God, and that the greater works of God be not neglected on such pretences, and that your zeal be much greater for faith and charity and unity than for your opinions. But, upon great experience, I must tell you, that, of the zealous contenders in the world that cry up “ the cause of God and truth," there is not one of very many, that understandeth what he talks of; but some of them cry up the cause of God, when it is a brat of a proud and ignorant brain, and such as a judicious person would be ashamed of....... Zeal without judgment hath not only entangled souls in many heinous sins, but hath ruined churches and kingdoms; and, under pretence of exceeding others in doing good, it makes men the greatest instruments of evil. There is scarce a sin so great and odious, but ignorant zeal will make men do it as a good work. Christ told his disciples, that those that killed them should think they did God service; and Paul bare record to the murderous, persecuting Jews, “ that they had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” RICHARD BAXTER : Practical Works, vol. ii. pp. 130–1, 327.
“ The temple of the Lord,” said the Jews, as we read in Jeremiah, “ The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these.” In the same spirit do some of our contemporaries exclaim, “ The gospel, the gospel, the gospel of Jesus, is here, and here only." Perhaps, my brethren, it were unkind and uncourteous to apply to these misguided declaimers those indignant terms in which Jeremiah speaks of his countrymen, “ Trust not in lying words.” But I cannot be charged with indecorum or harshness, when I recommend to these accusers of my ecclesiastical brethren a little more charity to their fellow-Christians, and a little more distrust in themselves; and much more discipline from knowledge, as the correction of headstrong zeal and frantic enthusiasm.
The pride which generates impatience of contradiction upon points which have long exercised our intellectual faculties, and which we often conceive to be intrinsically of higher moment, because we had been accustomed to meditate upon them, and to contend for them; the fondness which we insensibly contract for certain formularies of religious belief, and certain modes of religious ceremonies; the dread which we feel of fickleness and lukewarmness in what we think the cause of Heaven, when it was really the cause of our own prepossessions, our own antipathies, our own credulity, and our own ignorance, — all these circumstances may lead us into measures which a well-directed and well-disciplined conscience would represent to us as injurious to the best interests of society, and adverse to the plainest and soundest principles of virtue and religion. To his own Master, say those principles, let every religionist stand or fall, while the Master is not man, but God; and, as to the glory of God, surely his perfections, his. moral government, and his revealed will, never will permit us to believe that it is promoted by injury to persons who are the objects of his care as a Creator, a Redeemer, and a Sanctifier. The glory of God, indeed, as we learn from history, has been the avowed justification of the most flagrant enormities. For the glory of God, and the law given by him to Moses, the Jewish rabble, decoyed and goaded by the Jewish priesthood, dragged the blessed Jesus to the cross; inflicted upon the meek and pious Stephen the most barbarous violence; caused an execrable conspiracy of forty zealots to bind themselves by an oath, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had slain Paul; subjected him to a long and comfortless imprisonment at Rome; and brought upon the noble army of primitive martyrs all the miseries of dungeons, chains, tortures, and death. For the glory of God, Mahomet raised the standard, maddened his illiterate and sanguinary followers with the wildest frenzy in the defence of the Divine Unity, and spread around him the most hideous desolation. For the glory of God were undertaken those frantic crusades which for a long time agitated the Christian world, and have left behind them the most frightful traces of superstition, intolerance, plunder, and bloodshed. For the glory of God, the bigot, as I told you, whether a Romanist or Protestant, has consigned many a studious, virtuous, and devout Christian to the flames. The glory of God incited Anabaptists and other fanatics to trample upon the authority of laws, and to convulse well-founded and well-administered governments with all the tumults of sedition, and all the atrocities of carnage. Yet the bewildered imagination and infuriate passions of these self-appointed champions for the honor of their Maker, pushed them onward from one outrage to another, not merely without the strong reproach, but with the prompt, lively, and full approbation, of their perverted consciences. — DR. SAMUEL PARR: Works, vol. v. pp. 119 and 4724.