Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

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the trinity of Chrisiian virtues. How lowly in the
heart did he seem — how entirelv clothed with hu-
mility 1 Instead of being pufiTed up with any thing
of his own, or uttering a sinsrle boasting expres-
sion, it was like a wound in his heart to hear any
one remind him either of his goofl deeds or dispo-
sitions; and he appeared in his own eyes less
than ever, while, like his emblem, the setting sun,
he expanoed every moment into greater magnitude
in the view of every spectator. Instead of envying
the possessions or the excellences of o«her men, it
was a cordial to his departing spirit that he was
leaving them thus distinguished : how kind was he
to his friends! — and as for his enemies, he had
none; enmity had died in his heart, he forgave aU
that was manifestly evil, and kindlv interpreted all
that was only equivocally so. Nothins lived in his
recollection, as to the conduct of others, but their
acts of kindness. Whrn intelligence reached his
ear of the miscondnct of tho'^e who had been hi-j
adversaries, he grieved in spirit, even as he rejoiced
when told of their coming oack lo pullic esteem by



I deeds of excellence. His very opinions seemed
under the infiaence of hjs love ; and, as he wished
well, he believed well, or hoped well, of many of
whom he had formerly thought evil. His meek-
ness and patience were touching, bis kindness in-
describable ; the trouble he gave, and tlie favors he
received, drew tears from his own eyes, and were
acknowledged in expressions that drew tenrs from
all around. There was an inefiTable tenderness in
his looks, and his words were the very accents of
benignity. He lay a pattern of all the passive vir-
tues; and having thus thrown off much that was
of the earth, earthy, and put on charity as a gar-
ment, and dressed himself for heaven, in his ante-
chamber, his sick room, he departed to be with
Christ, and to be forever perfect in Love.

There was a man in whom this was realized, and
some extracts from his invaluable Memoir, will
prove it ; I mean Mr. Scott, the author of the Com-
mentary.

" His mind," says his biographer, " dwell much
upon love : God is love, and he that dwelleth in
love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Faith
worketh by love. He seemed full of tenderness
and afiTection to all around him. *One evidence,'
he said, " I have of meetness for heaven : I feel
much love to all mankind— to every man upon
earth — to those who have most opposed and slan-
dered me.' To his servant he said, * I thank you
for all your kindness to me. If at any time I have
been hasty and short, forgive me, and pray to God
to forgive me ; but lay the blame upon me^ not
upon religion.'"

'' His tender afiection for us all is astonishing in
such a stale of extreme suffering, and cuts us to the
heart. He begjered his curate to forgive him, if he
had been occasionally rough and sharp. ' I meant
it for your good, but, like every thing of mine, it
was mixed with sin ; impute it not, however, to my
religion, but (o my want of religion.' He is so
irentle and loving— it is so delightful to attend upon
him, — that his servants, finding themselves in dan-
ger of conieniion which should wait upon him,
agreed to take it by turns, that each might have her
due share of the pleasure and benefit ; and yet he
is continually begging our forgiveness for his want
of patience and thankfulness. His kindness and
afiection to alt who approached him were carried
to the greatest height, and showed themselves in a
singularly minute attention to all. their feelings^
and, wliatever mi^t be for their comfort, to a de-
gree that was quite afTecling— lespccially when he
was sufiTering so much himself, often in mind as
well as body. There was an astonishing absence
of selfish feelings: even in his worst hours he
thought of the healrh of os all ; observed if we sat
up long, and insisted on oirr retiring ; and was much
afraid of paining or hurting us in any way. Mr.
D. said something on the permanency of his Com-
mentary ; * Ah 1' he cried, with a semi-contemptu-
ous smile ; and added, ' you know not what a proud
heart I have, and how yon help the Devil.' He

froceeded: * There is one feeling I cannot have, if
would : those that have opposed mv doctrine, have
slandered me sadly ; but I cannot ieel any resent-
ment; I can only love and pity them, and pray for
their salvation. * I never did feel anv resentment
towards them ; I only regret that I clid not more
ardently long and pray for their salvation.'^Thu»
is love^ and how lovely is it 1"

Can we conceive of a more beautiful exemplifi-
cation of the virtue I am describing? and this is
the temper we oi:ght all to seek. This is the grace^
blended with all our living habits, diffused through
all o'lr conduct, forming our character, breathing
i in our desires, speaking in our words, beaming ia



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CHRISTIAN CHARITY.



otir eyes ; in short, a living part of our living selves.
And thiSf be it remembered, is religion—practical
religion.



CHAPTER III.

CHRISnAN LOVB » NOT TO BE CONFOUNDED WTfH
THAT SPURIOUS CANDOR WmCH CONSISTS IN INDIF-
FERENCE TO REUOIOUS SENTIMENT, OR IN CONNTY-
ANCB AT SINFCTL PRACTICES.

A SEPARATE and entire section is devoted to this dls^
tinction of love from a coanterfeit resemblance of
itybecaose of the importance of the subject, and
the frequency with which the mistake is maae of
confounding things which are so different from
each other. No terms have been more misunder-
stood or abused than candor and charity. Some
have found in them an act of toleration for all reli-
gious opinions, however opposed to one another or
to the word of GKxl, and a bull of indulgences for
all sinful practices which do not transgress the laws
of our country : so that, by the aid of these two
words, all truth and holiness may be driven out of
the world; for if error be innocent, truth must be
unimportant ; and if we are to be indulgent towards
the sins of others, under the sanction and by the
command of Scripture, holiness can be of no con-
seauence either to them or ourselves.

If we were to hearken to some, we should con-
ceive of Charity, not as she really is — a spirit of
ineffable beantv, descending from heaven upon our
distracted earth, holding in her hand the torch of
truth, which she had lighted at the fountain of ce^
lestial radiance, and clad in a vest of unsullied
purity : and who, as she entered upon the scene of
discord, proclaimed " glory to GK>d in the highest,"
as well as "peace on earthy good-will to men;"
and having with these magic words healed the
troubled waters of strife, proceeding to draw men
doser to each other, by drawing them closer to
Christ, the common centre of believers; and then
hushine the clamors of contention, by removing
the pride, the ignorance, and the depravitv, which
produced them.* No: but we should think of her
as a lying spirit*— clad, indeed, in some of the attire
of an anffel of light, but bearing no heavenly im-
press, holding no torch of truth, wearing no robe
of holiness ; smiling, perhaps, but like a sycophant,
upon all without distinction ; calling apon men^ as
they are combating for truth and striving against
sin, to sheathe their swords and cast away their
shield.% to be indulgent towards each other's vices
and tolerant of each other's errors ; because they
all mean and feel so substantially alike, though
they have different modes of expressinp their opi-
nions and of giving mierance lo their feeling. Is
this chanty I - - N0 : it is Satan in the habiliments
of (Jabriel.



♦ An anonymous American writer has given the
following eloquent description.

"Her thrones seemed ivory, and over her white
robes floated an azure mantle besprinkled with
drops of heavenly lustre. On her head was a chap-
let of such floweiTj as sprin* in the regions of bliss;
and the summit of the diadem, was distinguished
by a centre of ravs that resembled the morning
star. The bloom of eternal youth was in her coun-
tenance, but her majestic form can only be describ-
ed in the language of that world where she is fully
known. In her right hand was "the Sword of the
Spirit," and at her side the symbols of power and
majesty. Beneath her feet the clonds were con-
densed in awful darkness, and her chariot wa«?
borne along by the breath of the Almighty."



That there is much of this spurious candor in
the world, and that it is- advocated by great names,
will appear bv the following, quotation from Dr.
Priestley :— " If we could be so happy, as to believe
that there are no errors but what men may be so
circumstanced as to be ifmoceiUly betrayed into;
that am mistake of the head is veiy consistent with
rectitude of heart ; and that all differences in modes
of worship may be onlv the different methods 1^
which different men, who are equally the ofl^ring
of Gtod, are endeavoring to honor and. obey their
common parent ; — our difference of opinion would
have no tendency to lessen our mutual love and es-
teem." Dr. Priestley, and the followers of his re-
ligious system, are riot peculiar in this sentiment.
Pope's Universal Prayer is to the same effect.

"Father of all, in every age,
In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, or bv sage^
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord."

The well-known metrical adage of this poet is
adapted, to the full extent of its spirit and oesi^,
by great multitudes who suppose that they are quite
orthodox both in opinion ancl practice, and who per-
haps boast of their charily, wnile they exclaim —

" For modes of faith, let graceless zealots fight;
His can't be wrong, whose life is in the right."

It is, I imagine, generally thought, by at least a
great part of mankind, that it is of little conse-
qnence what a man's religious opinions are, pro-
vided his condncf be tolerably correct ; that chariy
requires us to think well of his state ; and that it is
the very essence of bigotry to question the validity
of his claim to the character of a Christian, or to
doubt of the safety of his soul ; in other words, it
is pretended that benevolence requires us to think
well of men, irrespective of religious opinions ; and
that it is almost a violation of the rule of tove to
attempt to unsettle their convictions, or to render
them uneasy in the possession of their sentiments,
although we may conclude them to be faudament-
ally wrong. But does this disregard of all opi-
nions-^at least, this disposition to think well of per-
sons as to their religious character, and the safety
of their souls, whatever may be the doctrines they
hold, — enter e^veniially info the nature of lovel
Most certainly not ; but actually opposes it. Be-
nevolence is good-will to men, but this is a very
different thing from a good opinion of their princi-
ples and practices ; so different, that the former
may not only exist in all its force without the latter,
but' be actually incompatible with it ; for if I believe
that a man holds opinions that endanger his safety,
benevolence requires, not that I shouM shut my
eyes to his dans:er, and lull him into false confi-
dence, but that I should bear my testimony and ex-
f)ress my fears concerning his situation. Benevo-
ence is a very diffi'rent thing from complacency
or esteem. These are fcmnder! on approbation of
character ; the other is nothing more than a desire
to promote happinps*?.

The question, whether love is to be confounded
with indifference to relisfions principle, — for such
does the spurious candor I am contending against
amount to, — is best derided by an appeal to Scrip-
ture. "Ye shall know the truth,'* said Christ;
" and the truth shall make you free." " This is
life eternal, to know thee, the onlv tm*» Ghd, and
JesU"! Christ whom thou hast sent." " He that h**-
litfveth on the Son, hn'h everla^^ting life; and he
that believeth not the Son, shall not «^ee life, but
the wra»h of Ood abideth on him." With what erti-
phas!'» did the apostle .«5peak of the conduct of
those who attempted to pervert the great doctrine



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CHRISTIAN CHARITY.



of justification by faith, by introducing the obsolete
ceremonies of the Jewish law. " Bot though we.
or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel
unto von than that whicn we have preached unto
yon, let hixn be accursed. As we said before, so
say I now again, if any preach any other eospel
unto you than that ye have received, let him be ac-
cursed." Now, certainly, this is any thin^ but in-
diiOference to religious opinion ; for, be it observ>
ed, it was matter of opinion, and not the duties
of morality, or of practical religion, that was here
80 strenuously opposed. The apostle commands
Timothy " To hold fast the form of sound words ;
and to give himself to doctrine.*' The apostle
John has this strong language :— " Whosoever trans-
ffresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of ChrisL
nath not Gkxl. He that abideth in the doctrine, ot
Christ, he hath both (he Father and the Son. If there
com^ any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, re-
ceive him not into your house, neither bid him Gk>d
^>eed ; for he that biddeth him Ghxi speed, is par-
taker of his evil deeds." Jude commanos us to
"contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to
the saints." From these, and many other passages
which might be quoted, it is evident, not only that
truth is important and necessary to salvation, but
that error is guilty, and in manv instances is con-
nected with the loss of the soul. " If a man may
disbelieve ooe truth, and yet be free from sin for so
doing, he may disbelieve two; and if two, four;
and ir four, ten; and if ten, half the Bible; and if
half the Bible, the whole : and if he may be a
Deist, and vet be in a safe state ; he mav be an
Athiest ana still go to heaven." To such awful
lengths may the principle be pushed, that there is
no guilt in mental error. " Let those," says Dr.
Priestley, " who maintain that the mere holaing of
opinions (without regard to the motives and state of
tne mind through which men may have been led to
form them,) will necessarily exclude them from the
favor of God, be particularly careful with respject
to the premi<«es from which thev draw so alarming
a conclusion." Nothing can be more sophistical
than this passage ; for we do not in maintaining
the guiltiness of a fsdse opinion, leave out the state
of toe heart ; but contend that all errors in the
judgment have their origin in the depravity of our
nature, and, in so far as they prevail, discover a
heart not brought into subjection to Christ. A per-
fectly holy mind could not err in the opinion it de-
rived from the word of God : and it may be most
fairly presumed that there are certain fundamental
truths, which cannot be rejected, without such a
degree of depravity of heart, as i^ utterly incom
patible with true piety towards God.

It is to be recollected^ that the holiness required
in the word of God, is a very superior thing to
what is called morality. Holiness is a right state
of mind towards God, and it is enforced by motives
drawn from the view which the Scriptures give us
of the Divine nature, and of the Divine conduct
toi^rds us. If our views of God, and of his scheme
of mercy, be incorrect, the motives which influence
us cannot be correct. Hence all right feeling and
conduct are traced up by the sacred writers to the
truth. Do they speak of regeneration 1 they tell
us we are " begotten by the incorruptible seed of
the word." Do they speak of sanctification 1 they
a-scribe it, so far as instrumentality is concerned, to
the truth ; and the truth itself is characterized as
a *' doctrine according to godliness." It is evident,
that without the truth, or in other words, without
right opinions, we c&n neither be bom again of the
Spirit, nor partake of true holiness. The whole
process of practical and experimental religion is
carried on by the instrumentality of n'srht senti-
ments; and to .appose that holiness cnnld be pro-



duced in the soul as well by error as by truth, is not
only contrary to revelation, bnt no less contrary to
reason. If truth sanctify, error must in some way
or other pollute ; for to suppose that two causes,
not only so distinct but so opposite, can produce the
same effect, is absurd ; and the Scriptures every
where insist upon the importance of the truth, not
merely on its own account, but on account of its
moral efi^ect upon the soul.

If this view of the subiect be correct. Christian
charity cannot mean indinerence to religious senti-
ment ; for if so, it would be a temper of mind in
direct opposition to a large portion of Scripture :
nor are we required, by this virtue, to give the least
countenance to what we think is error. We may,
indeed, be called bigots ; for this term in the lips
of many, means nothing more than a reproach for
attaching importance to right sentiments. No word
has been more misunderstood than this. If by
bigotry is meant such an overweening attachment
to our opinions, as makes us refuse to listen to ar-
gument : such a blind regard to our own views, as
closes tne avenues of conviction; such a selfish
zeal for our creed, as actually destroys benevolence,
and causes us to hate those who difier from us ;— it
is an evil state of mind, manifestly at variance with
love : but if , as is generally the case, it means, by
those who use it, only zeal for truth, it is perfectly
consistent with love, and actuallv a part of it ; for
" charily rejoiceth in the truth." It is quite com-
patible with good will to men, therefore, to attach
nigh importance to doctrines, to condemn error^ to
denv the Christianity and safety of those who with-
hold their assent from fundamental truths, and to
abstain from all such religious communion with
them as would imply, in the least possible degree,
any thing like indinerence to opinion. It does ap-
pear to me, that the most perifect benevolence to
men, is that which, instead of lookmg with com-
placencv on their errors, warns them of their dan-
ger, and admonishes them to escape. It is no mat^
ter that they think they are in the right— this only
makes their case the more alarming j and to act
towards them as if we thought their mistaken views
of no consequencci is only to confirm their delu-
sion, and to aid their destruction.

It is true we are neither to despise them nor per*
secute them; we are neither to oppress nor ridicule
them; we are neither to look upon them with
haughty scorn, nor with callous inaifi*erence ;— but
while we set ourselves against their errors, we arc
to pity them with unaffected compassion, and to
labor for their conversion with disinterested kind-
ness. We are to bear, with unruffled meekness, all
their provoking sarcasms ; and to sustain, with deep
humility, the consciousness of our clearer percep-
tions; and to convince them that, with the steadiest
resistance of their principles, we unite the tender -
est concern for their persons.

And, if charity do not imply indifference to reli*
gious opinions, so neither does it mean connivance
at sin. There are some persons whose views of
the evil of sin are so dim and contracted, or their
good nature is so accommodating and unscriptural,
that they make all kinds of excuses for men's trans-
gressions, and allow of any latitude that is asked,
for human frailty. The greatest sins, if they are
not committed against the laws of society, are re-
dnced to the mere infirmities of our fallen naure,
'Which should not be visited with harsh censure;
and as for the lesser ones, they are mere specks
upon a bright and polished surface, which nothing
but a most fastidious preci>ion would ever notice.
Such persons condemn, as sour and rigid ascetics,
all who oppose and condemn iniquity; revile them
as uniting in a kind of malignant opposition^ to the
uheerfulne^s of society, the very dregs of puritan-



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11



ism aod barbarism ; and reproach them as being
destitute of all the charities and courtesies of life.
But if candor be a confounding of the distinctions
between sin and holiness, a depreciating of the ex-
cellence of the latter, and at the same tmie a dimi-
nishing of the enl or the former ; if it necessuily
lead us to connire with an easy and good natured
air at iniquity, and to smile with a kind and gentle
aspect upon the transgressions which we witness ;
—then u must be something openly at variance
with the letter and the spiru of revelation : and
surely that candor which runs counter to the mind
of Gtod, cannot be the Iotc on which St. Paul passes
such an eal(wium in this chapter. We are told by
the word of God, that sin is exceedingly sinful :
that it Is the abominaUe thing which uod hates;
that the wa^ of it are death ; that by an imholy
feeUn^ we violate the law : we are commanded to
abstain from its very appearance ; we are warned
against excusing it m ourselves, or in each other;
we are admonished to reprove it, to resist it, and to
oppose it, to the uttermost. Certainlr, then, it can-
not be required by the law of love, that we should
look with a mild and tolerant eye on sin. liove to
man arises out of Ijove to Gkxi ; but can it be dos-
sible to love Gtod, and not to hate sin 1 it is the miit
of faith, but faith purifies the heart ; it is cherished
by a sense of redeeming love : but the very end of
tne scheme of redemption is tne destruction of sin.
Indul|^ce of men in their sins, connivanee at their
iniquity, instead of being an act of benevolence, is
the neatest cruelty : hence the emphatic language
of Ood to the Israelites—" Thou shalt not hate thy
brother in thine heart ; thou shalt in any wise re-
buke thjr neighbor, and not sufier sin upon him."
Would it be benevolence to connive at that conduct
b^ which any individual was bringing disease upon
his body, or poverty into his circumstances 1 If
not, how can it be benevolent to leave him, without
a warning, to do that which will involve his soul
in ruin. To think more lightly of the evil of sin
than the word of God does ; to call that good, or
even indifferent, which by it is called evil ; to make
allowances which it does not make, for human frail-
ty; to frame excuses for sin which it disallows; to
lull the consciences of men, by considerations in
extenuation of guilt which it forbids^ or to do any
thing to produce other views and feelings in refer-
ence to iniquity, than such as. are warranted by the
Scriptnre,~is not charity, but a participation in
other men*s siiis.

It is the nature of charity, I admit, not to be hasty
to impute evil motives to actions of a doubtful na-
ture : not to take pleasure in finding out the faults
of others ; not to magnify them beyond the reality,
but to make all the allowance that a regard to truth
wiU admit of; to hope the best in the absence of
proof; and to be willing to forgive the offence when
It has been committed against ourselves : but to car-
ry it beyond this, and let it degenerate into a com-
plaitttnce which is afraid to rebuke, or oppose, or
condemn sin, lest we should offend tne transgressor,
or violate the law of courtesy, or subject ourselves
to the reproach of being a censorious bigot ; which
courts the good-will and promotes the self-satisfac-
tion of ot^^rs, by conniving at their sins; which
seeks to ingratiate itself in their affections, by being
indalgent to their vices ; is to violate at once the law
both of the first and of the second Table ; is to forget
every obligation which we are laid under, both to
love God and our neighbor. If this be candor it is
no less opposed to piny than to humanity, and can
never be tne love eniomed in so many plaoes in the
New Testament No, Christian charity is not a
poor old dotard, creeping about the world, too blind
lo perceive the distinction between good and evil ;
or a (kwning sycophant, too timid to reprove the



bold transgressor, and smiling with parasitical and
imbecile complacency upon the errors and iniquities
of the human race |— but a vigorous and healthy
virtue, with an eye keen to discern the boandaries
between right and wrong, a hand strong and ready
to help the transgressor out of his miserable condi-
tion, a heart full of mercy for the sinner and the
sufferer; a disposition to forgive rather than to re-
venge, to extenuate rather than to aggravate, to con-
ceal rather than to expose, to be kmd rather than
severe, to be hopeful of ^ood rather than suspicious
of evil,— but withal, the inflexible, immutable friend
of holiness, and the equally inflexible and immuta-



Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 3 of 121)