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verity not to be found in the Scriptures ; and is
scrupulously rigid in oondemninp diversions
against which nothing is said in the New Tes.
tament Each objector, however, is so far rea-
sonable, as only to beg quarter fbr her own fa-
vourite diversion, and g^enerouslv abandons the -
defence of those in which she herself has no
particular pleasure.

But these objectors do not seem to understand
the true genius of Christianity. They do not
consider Uiat it u the character of the gospel to
exhibit a scheme of principles, of which it is
the tendency to infuse such a spirit of holiness
as must be utterlv incompatible, not only with
customs decidedly vicious, but with the very
spirit of worldly pleasure. They do not consider
that Christianity is neither a table of ethics, nor
a system of opinions, nor a* bundle of rods to
punish, nor an exhibition of rewards to allure,
nor a scheme of restraints to terrify, nor merely
a code of laws to restrict; but it is a new prin-
ciple infused into the heart by the word and the
Spirit of God ; out of which principle will in-
evitably grow right opinions, renewed affections,
correct morals, pure desires, heavenly tempers
and holy habits, with an invariable desire of
I • Pranical View, fte. bv Mr WilberfoKo.



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394



THE WORKS OF HANNAII MORE.



pleaBuigf God, and a constant fear of offending
him. A real Christian whose heart is thorough-
ly imbued with this principle, can no more re-
torn to the amusements of the world, than a
philosopher can be refreshed with the diversions
of the vulgar, or a man be amused with the je-
ereations of a child. The New Testament is
Bot a mere statute book-: it is not a table where
erery offence is detailed, and its corresponding
penalty annexed : it is not so much a compiU-
fson, as a spirit of laws : it does not so mach
prohibit every individual wrong practice, as
•oggest a temper and imjilant a general princi-
pie with which every wrong practice is incom-
patible. It did not, for instance, so much attack
the then reigninr and corrupt fkshions, which
were probaUy like the fiishions of other coun-
tries, temporary and local, as it struck at the
worldliness, wluch is the root and stock from
which all corrupt fashions proceed.

The prophet Isaiah, w1k> addressed himself
more particularly to the Israelitish women, in-
veighed not only against vanity, luxury, and
immodesty, in general; but with great propriety
censured even those precise instances of each,
to which the women of rank, in the particular
country he was addressing, were especially ad-
dicted ; nay, he enters into the minute detail*
of their very personal decorations, and brings
jbecific charges against several instances of
their levity and extravagance of apparel ; mean-
ing, however, chiefly to censure the turn of cha-
racter which these indicated. But the ffospel
of Christ, which was to be addressed to allages,
stations, and countries, seldom contains any such
detailed animadversions ; for though many of
the censurable modes which the prophet so se-
verely reprobated, continued probably to be still
prevalent in Jerusalem in the days, of our Sa-
viour, yet bow little would it have suited the
universality of his mission, to have confined hu
preaching to such local, limited and fluctuatinflr
customs ! not but there are many texts which
actually do define the Christian conduct as well
as temper, with sufficient particularity to serve
as a condemnatiott of many practices which are
pleaded for, and often to point pretty directly at
them.

It would be well for those modish Christians
who vindicate excessive vanity in dress, expense,
and decoration, on the principle of their being
mere matters of indifference, and no where pro-
hibited in the gospel, to consider that such prac-
tices strongly mark the temper and spirit wiUi
which they are connected, and in that view are
so little credttoble to the Christian profession,
as to furnish a just subject of suspicion against
the piety of those who indulge in them.

Had reter, on that memorable day when he
added three thousand converts to the church by
a single sermon, narrowed his subject to a re-
iDonstrance against this diversion, or that pub-
lie place, or the other vain amusement, it might
indeed have suited the case of some of the fe-
male Jewish converts who were present, but
such restrictions as might have been appropri-
ate to theTn, would probably not have applied to
the cases of the Parthians and the Medes, of
which his audience was partly composed* or such
• baiab, chap^ iii.



as might have belonged to then, wouid have
been totally inapplicable to the Cretes and Ara-
bians ; or again, those which suited thes^ would
not have applied to the Elamites and Mosapota^
mians. By such partial and circumscribed ad-
dresses, his knulti&rious audience, composed of
all nations and countries, would not have been,
as we ifre told they were, ' pricked to the heart'
But when he preached on the broad ground of
general ' repentance and remission of sins in
the name of Jesus Christ,* it was no wonder
that they all cried out, *What shall we do 7*
These cc^lected fbreigiiers, at their return home,
must have found very diffivent usages to be cor-
rected in their different countries; of course a
detailed restriction of the popular abuses at* Je-
rusafem, would have been of little use to stran-
gers returning to their respective nations. The
ardent apostle, therefore, acted more consistent
ly in communicating to them the large ano
comprehensive spirit of the gospel which should
at onoe involve all their scattered and separate
duties, as well as reprove all their scattered and
separate corruptbns, for the whole always in-
cludes a part, and the greater involves the less.
Christ and his disciples, instead of limiting their
condemnation to the peculiar vanities reprehend-
ed by Isaiah, embraced the very eoul and prin-
ciple of them all, in such exhortations as the
following : ' Be ye not oonfi>nned to the world :*
— * If a man love the world, the love of the
Father is not in him :*— * The fashion of this
world passeth away.' Our Lord and his apos.
ties, whose future unseleoted audience wai
to be made up out of the various inhabitants of
the whole world, attacked the evil hearty out of
which all those incidental, local, peculiar, aad
popular corruptions proceeded.

In the time of Christ and hb immediate fol-
lowers, the luxury and intemperance of the Ro*
mans had arisen to a pitch bislbre unknown in
the world ; but as the same gospel, which its
Divine Author and his disciples were then
preaching to the huuffry and necessitous, was
aftetvi^ds to be preached to high and low, not
excepting the Roman emperors themselves ; the
large precept, * Whether ye eat or drink, or
whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,*
was likely to be of more general use, than any
separate exbortation to temperance, to tbank
fhlness, to moderation, as to quantity or expense,
which last indeed must always be lefl in some
degree to the judgment and circumstances of
the individuaL

When the apostle of the Gentiles visited the
* Saints of Cesar's household,* he could hardly
fail to have heard, nor could he have heard
without abhorrence, of some of the fkshinnabls
amusements in the court of Nero. He must
have reflected with peouHar indignation on
man^ things which were practised in the Cir.
censian games ; ^et, instead of pruning this cor.
rupt tree, and singling out even the inhuman
gladiatorial sports for the object of his condem>
nation, he laid his axe to the root of all corrup-
tion, by preaching to them that Gospel of Cfarisl
of which * he was not ashamed,' and showing tn
them that believed,- that ' it was the power of
God and the wisdom of God.' Of this gospel
the great object was, to attack not cue populai



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THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORE.



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«fi], bat the whole lx>^ of sin. Now the doc
trine of Cbrut crucifieti, was the moat appropri.
ate means for destroying this; for by what
other means could the fervid imagination of the
apostle have so powerfully enforced the heinous-
ness of sin, as by insisting on the costliness of
the saerifioe which was o£rered for its expiation?
It is somewhkt remarkable, that about the yery
time of his preaching to the Romans, the public
taste had sunk to such an excess of deptaTity,
that the yery women engaged in those shocking
encounters with the glaidiators.

But in the first plaoe, it was better that the
right practice of his hearers should grow oat of
the right principle; end next, his specifically
reprotnting these diyersions might have had this
ill-effect, that eucoeeding ages, seeing that^they
in their amusements came somewl^t short of
tiiose dreadfhl excesses of the polished Romans,
would only have f^umed themselves on their
own comparative superiority ; and on this prin-
ciple, even the bull fights of Madrid might in
time have had their panegyrists. The truth is,
the apostle knew that such abominable oorrup.
tions could never subsist together with Chru-
tianity, and in fact the honour of abolishing
these barbarous diversions, was reserved £n
Constantino, the first Christian emperor.

Besides, the apostles, by inveighing against
some particular diversions might have seemed
to sanction all which they did not actually cen-
sure : and as, in the lapse of time, and the revo-
lution of governments, oustoms change and man-
ners fluctuate, had a minate reprehension of the
fiwhions of the then existing age been published
in the New Testament, that portion of scrip,
tore must in time have become obsc^te, even in
that very same coantry, when the fashions
tbemselfes should have changed. Paul and his
brother apostles knew that their epistles would
be the oracles of the Christian world, when these
temporary diversions would be forgotten. In
' consequence of this knowledge, by the universal
preoept to avoid 'the lust of the flesh, the lust
of the eye, uid the pride of life ;* they have pre-
pared a lasting antidote a||[ainst the prineipU of
all corrupt p&asures, whusb will ever remain
equally applicable to the loose fashions of all
ages, and of every country, to the end cf the
world.

Therefore, to vindicate diversions which are
in themselves undiristian, on the pretended
l^ound that they are not specifically condemned
in the gospel, would be little less absurd than if
the heroes of Newmarket should bring it as a
proof that their periodical meetings are not con-
demned in seriptore, because ^ Paul, when
writing to the Corinthians, did not speak against
these diversions ; and that in availing himself
erf the J sthmian games, as a happy iDustration
of the Christian race, he did not cuop any cen-
sure on the practice itself: a practice which
was indeed as much more pure than the races
of Christian Britain, as the moderation of being
contented with the triumph of a crown of leaves,
IS superior to that criminal spirit of gambling
which iniciuitoosly enriches Uie victor by beg-
garing the competitor.

Jiocal abuses, as we have said, were not the
obiect of a book whose instructions were to be



of universal and lasiiing application. As a proof
of this, little is said in ma gospel of the then
preyailioff corruption of pmygamy; nothing
against the savage custom of exposing children,
or even against slavery; nothing expressly
against suicide or duelling ; the last Gothic cue
torn, indeed, did not exist among the crimes of
Paganiam, But is there not implied a prohibi-
tion against polygamy, in the general donunci-
ation against admtery ? Is not exposing of chil.
dren condeomed in that charge against the Ro
mans, that * they were without natural affection?
Is there not a strong censure against slavery
conveyed in the command, to ' do xmto others
as ^ou would have them do unto you ?* and
against suicide and duellinff, in the general pro-
hibition against murder, which is strongly en-
forced and affectingly amplified by the solenm
manner in which murder is traced back to its
first seed of anger in the sermon on the mount?

Thus it is dear, that when Christ sent the
gospel to all nations, he meant that that gospel
should proclaim those prime truths, general
laws, and fundamental doctrines, which mast
necessarily involve the prohibition of all indi-
vidual, local, and inferior errors ; errors which
could not have been specifically guarded against,
without having a distinct gospel for every coun-
try, or without swelling the divine volume into
such inconvenient length as would have defe^
ed one great end of its promulgation.* And
while its leading principles are of universal ap-
plication, it must alwavs, in some measure, be
lefl to the discretion of the preacher, and to the
oone^ence of the hearer, to examine whether
the lifo and habits of those who profess it, are
conformable to its main spirit and design.

The same Divine Spirit which indited the
Holy Scriptures, is promised'to purify the hearts
and renew the natures of repenting and believ-
ing Christians ; and the compositions it inspired,
are in some degree analogous to the workman
ship it effects. It prohibited the vicious prae-
tices of the apostolical days, by prohibiting the
passions and principles which render them gra-
tiiying ; and still working in like manner on the
hearts of real Christians, it corrects the taste
which was accustomed to ^d its proper grati-
fication in the resorts of vanity ; and thus effec-
tnally provides for the reformation of the habita
and mfuses a relish for rational and domestic
enjqymentsi and for whatever can administer
pleasure to that spirit of peace, and love, and
hope, and joyi which animates anfl rules the re
newed heart of the true Christian.

But there is a portion of scripture which,
though to a superficial reader it may seem but
very remotely connected with the present sub.
ject, yet to readers of another cast, seems to set-
tle the matter beyond controversy. In the pa-
rable of the great supper, this important truth is
held out to us, that even things good in f Aemsf lees,
may be the means of our eternal ruin; by drawing
our hearts from Grod, and causing us to make
light of the oflfers of the gospel. One invited guett
had bought.an estate, another had made a pur
chase,equaliy blameless, of oxen; a third had mar
ried a wife, an*act not illaudable in itself. The>

• * To tbo poor the govpel it preached.'— Luke ?ii. 22.



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396



THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORS.



had all difierent reasons, none of which appeared
to have any moral turpitude; but they all agree in
this, to decline the invitation to the Bupper. The
worldly possessions of one, the worldly business
of another, and what should be particularly at-
tended to, the love to his dearest relative, of a
third, (a love by the way, not only allowed, but
commanded in Scripture) were brought forward
as excuses for not attending to the important
business of religion. The consequence, how-
ever, was the same to alL * None of those which
were bidden shall taste of my supper.' If then
things innocent^ things neeetsary, things louda-
bUf things commanded^ become sinful, when by
unseasonable or excessive indulgence, they de-
tain the heart and affections from God, how vain
will all those arguments necessarily be render-
ed, which are urged by the advocates for certain
amusements, on the ground of their harmlest-
nest ; if those amusements serve (not to men-
tion any positive evil which may belong to them)
in like manner to draw away the thoughts and
affections from all spiritual objects !

To conclude ; when this topic happens to be-
come the subject of conversation, instead of ad-
dressing severe and pointed attacks to young
ladies on the sin of attending places of diversion,
would it not be better first to endeavour to ex-
cite in them that principle of Christianity, with
which such diversions seem not quite compati-
ble ; as the physician, who visits a patient in an
eruptive fever, pays little attention to those spots
which to the ignorant appear to be the disease,
except indeed so far as they serve as indications
to let him into its nature, but goes straight to
the root of the malady ? He attacks the fover, he
lowers the pulse, he changes the system, he cor-
rects the general habit ; well knowing that if
he can but restore the vital principle of health,
the spots, which were nothing but symptoms,
will die away of themselves.

In instructing others, we should imitate our
Lord and his apostles, and not always aim our
blow at each particular corruption ; but making
it our business to convince our pupil that what
brings forth the evil fruit she exhibits, cannot
be a branch of the true vine ; ^e should thus
avail ourselves of individual corruptions, for im-
pressing her with a sense of the. necessity of
purifying the common source from whence they
flow — a corrupt nature. Thus making it our

Sand business to rectify the heart, we pursue
e true, the compendious, the only method of
producing universal holiness.

I would, however, take leave of those amiable
and not iU-disposed young persons, who oonli-
plain of the rigour of human prohibitions, and
declare, * they meet with no such strictness in
the Gospel,' by asking them with the most
affectionate earnestness, if they can conscien-
tiously reconcile their nightly attendance, at
every public place which they frequent, with
such precepts as the following : * Redeeming the
time;'— 'Watch and pray :'—• Watch, for ye
luiow not at what time your Lord cometh :* —
* Abstain from all appearance of evil :' — 'Set
your affections on wings above :' — * Be ye
spiritually minded :'—* Crucify the flesh with
its afiections and lusts !' And I would venture
to offer one criterion, by which the persons in



question may be enabled to decide on the posi
tive innocence and safety or such diversions ; 1
mean, provided they are sincere in their scru-
tiny and honest in their avowal. I^ on thett
return at night from those places, they find they
can retire, and * commune with their own
hearts ;* if they find the love of God operating
with undiminished foroe on their minds ; if they
can * bring every thought into subjection,' and
concentrate every wandering imagination ; if
they can soberly examine into their own state
of mind — : — I do not say if they can do all
this perfectly and without distraction : (for who
almost can do this at any time 7) but if they caa
do it with the same degree of seriousness, pray
with the same degree of fervour, and renounee
the world in as great a meaeure as at other
times ; and if they can lie down with a p^oefiil
consciousness of having avoided in the evening,
* that temptation' which they had prayed not to
be ' led into* in the morning, ti^y may then
more reasonably hope that all is well, and that
they are not speaking fidse peace to their hearts.
— Again, if we cannot beg th^ blessing of our
Maker on whatever we are going to do or to
enjoy, is it not an unequivocal proof that the
thmg ought not to 6e done or enjoyed ? On aD
the rational enjoyments of society, on all health-
fill and temperate exercise, on the delights of
friendship, arts, and polished letters, on the
exquisite pleasures resulting from the enjoy,
ment of rural scenery; and the beauties of na-
ture ; on the innocent participation of these we
may ask the divine fevour — ^for the sober enjoy-
ment of these we may thank tho divine beneH.
cence : but do we feel equally disposed to invoke
blessings or return praises fiur ' gratificatioae
found (to say no worse) in levity, in vanity, and
waste of time 7 — If these tests were feirly used ;
if these experiments were honestly tried ; if
these exammations were conscientiously mads,
^ay we not, without oflfonce, presume to ask
— fjQuld our numerous places of public resort,*
eotdd our ever.multiplyin|f scenes oif more select
but not less dangerous diversion, nightly over-
flow with an excess hitherto unparalleled in the
annals of pleasure 7»

* If I mif ht prenune to reeommend a book fFhich of
all others exposes the insigoiftcance, vanity, litUeness
and emptiness of the world, I should not hesitate to
name "mx. Law's Serious call to a devout and holy life.*
Few writers exeept Pascal, have directed so much acute-
ness of reasoning and so much pointed wit to this obJMi.
He not only makes the reader afteid of a worldly bfe

Kn account of its rinftilness, but ashamed of it on ae-
Mint of its folly. Few men perhaps have h%d a deeper
insight into the human heart, or have more skiUUlly
probed its corruptions : vet on points of doctrine his
views do not seem to be Inst ; and bis disquisitions are
often unsound and fkndnil, so that a^M«r«/ perusal of
his works would neither be profiuble nor intelligible. Ta
a ikshionable won^an immersed in the vanities of life*
or to a busy man overwhelmed with iu care«. I know
no book 80 applicable, or likely to exhibit with emal
force the vanity of the shadows thev are pursuing. Bat
even in this work. Law is not a safe guide to cvan^di*
cal light ; and in many of his others he is highly vision-
ary and whimsical: and I have known some exc«lleat
persons who were first led by this admirable genius to
see tbe wanU of their own hearts, and the utter in-
suflkiency ofthe world to fill up the craving void, who,
though they became eminent for piety and self-denial,
have bad their usefulness abridged ; and whose minds
have contracted something of a monastic severity by aa
unqualified perusal of Mr. Law. True Christianity does
not call on us to starve our bodies, but our eonrupUons



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THE WORKS OF HANNAH tf ORE.



8M



CHAP. XIX.

A worldly ipirit i$icompatibiU mth the $pirU of
Ckrittiamiy^

1b it not wbimMcal to bear such complaints
■gainst the strictness of relijgrion as we are fre-
qoentlj hearing, (torn the beinffs who are volun-
tarily parsning, as has been shown in the pre-
ceding chapters, a course of life which fashion
makes innnitely more severe. How really
burdensome would Christianity be if she enjoin-
ed such sedulous application, such unremitting
labours, such a succession of fatigues ! If re-
ligton commanded such hardships and self-
deniaJ, such days of hurry, such evenings df
exertion, such nights of broken rest, such per-
petual sacrifices of quiet, such exile from family
delights, as faohion imposes, then indeed the
aerTice of Cbristianitr would no longer merit its
present appellation of being a * reaoonaUe ser-
▼jce :* then the name of perfect slavery might
be justly applied to that which we are told
in the beautii\il language of our church, is
* a service of perfect freedom ;' a service the
mat object of which is * to deliver us from the
bondage of corruotion into the glorious liberty
of the children of God.'

A worldly temper, by which I mean a di8])o-
sition to prefer worldly pleasures, worldly satis-
factions, and worldly advantages, to the immor-
tal interests of the soul; and to let worldly con-
siderations actuate us instead of the dictates of
religion in the concerns of ordinary life; a
worldly temper, I say, is not, like almost any
other fault, the effbct of passion or the conse*
quence of surprise, when the heart is off its
guard. It is not excited incidentally by Uie
operation of external circumstances on the in-
firmity of nature : but it is the vital spirit, the
essential soul, the living principle of evil. It is
not so much an act, as a state of beb^ ; not so
mach an ocdUBional complaint, as a tamted con-
stitution of mind. It does not always show
itself in extraordinary excesses, it hafi«o perfect
intermission. Even when it is not immediately
tempted to break out into overt and specific
acts, it is at work within, stirring up the heart
to disaffection a^^alnst holiness, and inflising a
kind of moral disability to whatever is intrinsi-
cally right It infe^ and depraves all the
powers and faculties of the soul ; for it operates
on the understanding, by UindW it to what-
ever is spiritually «Md ; on the wiU, by making
it averse firom UoSi on the afibetions, by dis-
ordering and sensualizing them; so that ooe
may almost say to thoee who are under the su-
preme dominion of this spirit, what was said to
the hosts of Joshua, * Ye coiumC serve the Lord.'

The worldliness of mind is not at all oommon-
Iv understood, and for the following reason : —
reople suppose that in thb world, our chief
business b with the things of this world, and that



Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 95 of 135)