Hannah More.

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ence her common business, restrain her indul-
gences, and sanctify her very pleasures.

But it seems that many, who enter&in a ge-
neral notion of Christian duty, do not consider
it as of universal and unremitting obligation,
but rather as a duty binding at times on all, and
at all times on some. To the attention of such
we would recommend that very explicit address
of our Lord on the subject of self-denial, the
temper directly opposed to a worldly spirit:
* And he said unto them all, if any man will
come ailer me, let him deny himself, and take
up his cross n&iLV.* Those who think self-de-
nial not ot universal obligation will observe the
word aU ; and those who think the obligation not
constant^ will attend to the term daily. These
two little words cut up by the root all the occa-
sional religious observances grafUd on a worldly
life; all transient, periodi^ and temporary
acts of piety, which some seem willing to com-
mute for a life of habitual thoughtlessness and

There is, indeed, scaroelv a more pitiable be-
ing than one who, instead of making her religion
the informmg principle of all she does has only
just enough to keep her in continual fear ; who
drudges through her stinted exercises with a
superstitious kmd of terror, while her general
life shows that the love of holiness n not tiie
governing principle in her heart; who seems to
sufler all the pains and penalties of Qiristianity,
but b a stranger to *that liberty wherewith
Christ has niade us free,* Let it not be thought
a ludicrous invention^ if the author hazard the
producing a real illustration of theee remarks,
m the instance of a lady of this stamp, who re-
torning from church on a verv cold day, and re-
marking with a good deal of self-oomplacency
how much she had suffered in the performance
of her duty, comforted hereelf with emphatically
adding, * that she hoped it would answer.*

There is this striking diflbrence between the
real andHhe worldly Christian, the latter does
net complain of the strictness of the divine law,
bat of the deficiencies of his own performance ;

Vol. I. C 2

while the worldly Christian is little troubled at
his own fkilures, but deplores the strictness of
the divine requisitions. The one wishes that
God would expect less, the other prays for
strength to do more. When the worldly person
hears real Christians speak of their own low
state, and acknowledge their extreme unworthi-
ness, he really believes them to be worse than
those who make no such bumiliating confes-
sions. He does not know that a mind which is
at once deeply convinced of its own corruptions,
and of the purity of the divine law, is so keraly
^ve to the percei>tion of all sin, as to be hum
bled by the commission of such as is compara-
tively small, and which those who have less cor
rect views of gospel truth, hard^ alk)w to be
sin at alL Such an one, with Job, says, *Now
mine eye »eeA Thee.'

But there is no permanent comfort in any re-
ligion, short of that by^ which the diligent Chris-
tian strives that all bis actions shall have the
love of God for their motive, and the glory of
God, as well as his own salvation, for their end;
while we go about to balance our good and bad
actions, one against the other, and to take com*
fort in the occasional predominance of the for-
mer while the cultivation of the principle from
which they should spring is neglected, is not
the road to all those peaceful fruits of the Spirit
to which true Christianity conducts the humble
and penitent believer. For, afler all we can do,
Christian tempers and a Christian spirit are the
true criterbn of a Christian character, and serve
to furpish the most unequivocal test of our at-
tainments in religion. Our doctrines may be
sound, but they may not be influential ; our ac-
tions may be correct, but they may want the
sanctifying principle ; our frames and feelings
may seem, nay they may be devout, but they
may be heiglUened by mere animal fervour
even if genuine, they are seldom lasting ; antf
to many pious persons they are not given : it is
therefore the Christian tempers which most ir
fallibly indicate the sincere Christian, and best
prepare him for the heavenly state.

I am aware that a better cast of characters
than those we have been contemplating ; that
even the amiable and the well-disposed, who
while they want eourage to resist what the>
have too much principle to think right, and Uv
much sense to justify, will yet plead for the pal
Hating system, and accuse these remarks of^un
necessary rigour. They will declare 'That
really they are as religious as they can be ; they
wish they were better : they have little satisfac-
tion in the lifo they are leading, yet they cannot
break with the world ; they cannot fly in the
face of custom ; it does not become individuals
like them to oppose the torrent of foshion.* Be
ings so interesting, abounding with engaging
qiuilities; who not only feel the beauty of good-
ness, but reverence tiie truths of Christianity
and are awfullv boking for a general judgment,
we are grieved to hear lament * that they only
do as others do,* when they are perhaps them,
selves of such rank and importance that if they
would begin to do right, others would be brought
to do as they did. We are grieved to bear them
indolently assert, that, * the v wish it were other-
wiM,* when they possess the power to make it

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otherwiie, by setting an example which they
know would be followed. We are sorry to hear
them content themselves with declaring, * that
they have not the courage to be singular,* when
they must feel, by seeing the influence of their
example in worse things, that there Would be
no such great singularity in piety itself, if once
they become sincerely pious. Besides, this diffi.
deuce does not break out on other occasions.
They do not blush to be quoted as the opposers
of an old mode, or the inventors of a new one :
nor are they equally backward in being the
iSrst to appear in a strange fashion, such an one
as often excites wonder, and sometimes even
offends against delicacy. Let not then diffidence
be pleaded as an excuse only on occasions where-
in courage would be virtue.

Will it be thought too harsh a question if we
-venture to ask these gentle characters- who are
thus entrenching themselves in the imaginary
safety of surrounding multitudes, and who say,
' We only do as others do,* whether they are
willing to run the tremendous risk of conse-
quences, and to fare as others fare 7

But while these plead the authority of fashion
as a sufficient reason for their conformity to the
world, one who has spoken with a paramount
authority has positively said, * Be ye not con-
formed to the worlds* Nay, it is urged as the
very badge and distinction by which the cha-
racter opposite to the Christian is to be marked,

* that the friendship of the world is enmity with

Temptation to conform to the world was
never perhaps more irresistible than in the days
which immediately preceded the Deluge; and
no man could ever have pleaded the fashion in
3rder to justify a criminal assimilation with the
reigning manners, with more propriety than the
patriarch Noah. He had the two grand and
contending objects of terror to encounter which
we have ; the fear of ridicule, and the fear of de-
struction ; the dread of sin, and the dread of
singularity. Our cause of alarm is at least
eqiMlly pressing with his ; for it does not appear,
even while he was actually obeying the Divine
command in providing the means of his future
safety, that he saw any actual symptoms of the
impending ruin. So that in one sense he mi^^t
have truly pleaded as an excuse for * slackness
of preparation, * that all things continued as they
were from the beginning ;* while many of us,
though the storm is actually, begun, never
|hink of providing the refuge : it is true he was

• warned of God,' and he provided * by faith.*
But are not we also earned of God? have we
not had a fuller revelation 7 have we not seen
Scripture illustrated, prophecy fulfilling, with
everv awful circumstance that can either
Quicken the most sluggish remissness, or con-
firm the feeblest faith ?

Besides, the patriarch's plea for following the
fashion was stronger than you can produce.
While you must see that many are going wrong,
he saw that none were going right. * All flesh
had corrupted his way before Go<);* whilst,
blessed be God ! you have still instances enough
of piety to keep yon in countenance. WhUe you
lament that the toorld seduces you (for every one
has a little world of his own) your world per-

haps is only a petty neighbourhood, a few
streets and squares ; but the patriarch had really
the contagion of a whole united world to resist;
he had literally the example of the whole face of
the earth to oppose. The * fear of man also
would have been a more pardonable fault, when
the lives of the same individuals who were
likely to excite respect or fear was prolonf^ed
many a^s, than it can be in the short period
now assigned to human life. How lamentable
then that human opinion should operate so pow*
erfully, when it is but the breath of a being so
frail and so short-lived,

That be doth cease to be.
Ere one can say be is ?

Ton who find it so difficult to withstand the in-
dividual allurement of modish acquaintance,
would, if you had been in the patriach's case
have concluded the struggle to be quite ineffec-
tual, and sunk under the supposed fruitlessness
of resistance. * Myself,* would you not have
said ? * or at most my little family of eight per-
sons can never hope to stop thia torrent of cor-
ruption ; I lament the firuitlessness of opposi-
tion ; I deplore the necessit3r of conformity with
the prevailing system : but it would be a fooliBh
presumption to hope that one family can effect
a change in the state of the world.' In your
own case, however, b it not certain to how wide
an extent the hearty union of even fewer per-
sons in such a cause might reach : at least is it
nothing to what the patriarch did ? was it no-
thing to preserve himself from the general de
struction ; was it nothing to deliver his owr
soul 7 was it nothing to rescue the souls of h«f
whole fkmily 7

A wise man will never differ from the world
in trifles. It is certainly a mark of a sound -
judgment to comply with custom whenever we
safely can; such compliance strengthens our
influence by reserving to ourselves the greater
weight of authority on those occasions, when
our conscience obliges us to differ. Those who
are prudent will cheerfully conform to all the
innocent usages of the world ; but those who are
Christians will be scrupulous in defining which
are really innocent previous to their conformity
to them. Not what the world, but what the
Gospel calls innocent will be found at the grand
scrutiny to have been really so. A discreet
Christian will take due pains to be convinced
he is right before he will presume to be singular:
but from the instant he is persuaded the Gospel
is true, and the world of course wrong, he wiD
no longer risk his safety by following multitudes,
or hazard his soul by staking it on human
opinion. All our most dangerous mistakes
arise from our not constantly referring our prac-
tice to the standard of Scripture, instead of the
mutable standard of human estimation by which
it is impossible to fix the real value of characters.
For this latter standard in some cases deter-
mines those to be good who do not run all the
lengths in which the notoriously bad aUow
themselves. The Gospel has an universal, the
world has a local standard of goodness ; in cer-
tain societies certain vices alone are dishonour
able, such as covetousness and cowardice ; while
thoee sins of which our Saviour has said, that

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ftey wKiteh commit them * shall not inherit the
kingdom of Grod,* detract nothing from the re-
•peet some persons receive. Nay, those very
characters whom the Almigfity has expressly
«nd awfully declared *■ He will iudge,** are re-
ceived, are admired, are caressed, in that which
calls itself the best company.

But to weigh our actions by one standard
now, when we know they will be judged by an-
other hereaAer, would be reckoned the height
of absurdity in any tronsctions but those which
involve the interests of eternity. * How readest
thoa 7* is a more specific direction than any com-
parative view of our own habits with the habits
of others : and at the final bar it will be of little
avail that oor actions have risen above those of
bad nen, if our views and principles shall be
found to have been in opposition the Gospel of

Nor is their practice more commendable, who
•re ever on the watch to pick out the worst ac-
tions of good men, by way of justifying their
own conduct on the comparison. The faults of
the best men, * for there is not a just man upon
earth who sinneth not,* can in no wise justify
the errors of the worst : and it is not invariably
the example of even good men that we must take
for our unerring rule of conduct : nor is it by a
single action that either they or we shall be
jad^^ed ; for in that ease who oonld be saved ?
but It is by the general prevalence of right prin-
ciples and good habits and Christian tempers ;
by the pre£}minance of holiness and righteous-
and temperance in the life, and by the
r of humility, fiuth and love in the heart


On the leading doctrines of Chrtstianity. — The
eorruption of human nature. The doctrine of
redemption. The necessity of a change of
heart and of the divine influences to produce
that change. With a sketch of the Christian

Thk author having in this little work taken a
view of the false notions often imbibed in early
life froip a bad education, and of their pernicious
effects ; and having attempted to point out the
respective remedies to these; she would now
draw all that has been said to a point, and de-
clare plainly what she humbly conceives to be
the source whence all these false notions and
*his wrong conduct really proceed : the prophet
Jeremiah shall answer: *It is because they
have forsaken the fountain of living waters,
and have hewn out to themselves cisterns,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.* It is
an ignorance past belief of what true Christi-
anity really is : the remedy, therefore, and the
only remedy that can be applied with any pros-
pect of success, is aKuoroir, and by Religion she
would be understood to mean the Gospel of
. Jesus Christ

It has been befbre hinted, that religion should
be taoff ht at an early period of life ; that children
■iMmldbe brought up * in the nurture and admo-

• Hebrew, xiii. 4.

nition of the Lord.* The manner in which they
should be taught has likewise with great plain-
ness been suggested ; that it should be done in
so lively and nimiliar a manner as to make re-
ligion amiable, and her ways to appear, what
they really are, * ways of pleasantness.* And a
slight sketch has been given of the genius of
Christianity, by which her amiableness would
more clearly appear. But this, being a subject
of such vast importance compared with which
every other subject sinks into nothing ; it seems
not sufficient to speak on the doctrines and
duties of Christianity in detached parts, but it
is of importance to point out, though in a brief
and imnerfect manner, the mutual dependence
of one doctrine upon another, and the influence
which these doctrines have upon the heart and
life, so that the duties of Christianity may be
seen to grow out of its doctrines : by which it
will appear that Christian virtue differs essen
tially from pagan : it is of a quite different kind,
the plant itself is different, it comes from a dif-
ferent root, and grows in a different soil.

It will be seen how the humbling doctrine of
the corruption of human nature, which was fol-
lowed from the corruption of our first parents,
makes way for the bright display of redeeming .
love. How from the abasing thought that * we
are all as sheep going astray, every one in his
own way ;* that none can return to the Shep
herd of our souls, * except the Farther draw
him :* that * the natural man cannot receive the
things of the Spirit, because they are spiritually
discerned :* how from this humiliating view of
the helplessness, as well as the corrvptton of hu-
man nature, we are to turn to that animating
doctrine, the offer of divine assistance. So that,
though human nature will appear from this view
in a deeply degraded state, and consequently
aU have cause for humility, yet not ^ne has
cause for despair : the disease indeed is dread-
ful, but a physician is at hand, both able and
willing to save us : though we are naturally
without * strength, our help is laid upon one
that is mighty.* If the gospel discover to us
our lapsed state, it discovers also the means of
our restoration to the divine image and favour.
It not only discovers but impresses this image ;
it not only gives us the description, but the at
tainment of this favour ; and while the word of
God suggests the remedy, his Spirit applies it

We should observe then, that the doctrines
of our Saviour are, if I may so speak, with a
beautiful consistency, all woven into one piece.
We should get such a view of their reciprocal
dependence as to be persuaded that without a
deep sense of our own corruptions we can never
seriously believe in a Saviour, because the sub-
stantial and acceptable belief in Him must
always arise from the conviction of our want of
Him ; that without a firm persuasion that the
Holy Spirit can alone restore our fallen nature,
repair the ruins of sin, and renew the image of
Grod upon the heart, we never shall be brought
to serious humble prayer for repentance and
restoration ; and that, without this repentance,
there is no salvation : for though Christ has died
for us, and consequently to him abne we musk
look as a Saviour, yet he has himself deohied
that he will save none but true penitents.

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On tk$ doctrine of human eorruption.

To come now to a more particular itatement
of theae doctrinet. When an important edifice
is about to be erected, a wiae builder will dig
deep, and look well to the firandations : know-
ing that without this the &brie will not be like^
to stand. The foundation of the Christian reli.
gion, out of which the whole structure mnj be
said to arise, appears to be the doctrine oi the
^ of man from his original state of righteous-
Hess; and the corruption and helplessness of
human nature, which are the consequences of
this fall, and which is the natural state of ever^
one bom into the world. To this doctrine it is
important to conciliate the minds, more especi-
ally of young persons, who are peculiarly die-
posed to turn away from it as a morose, unami-
able and gloomy idea. They are apt to accuse
those who are more strict, and serious of unne-
cessary severity, and to suspect them of think,
^ng unjustly ill of mankind. Some of the reasons
. which prejudice the inexperienced against the
doctrine in questbn appear to be the Allowing :

Younff persons themeelves have seen little of
the world. In pleasurable society the world
puts on its most amiable appearance ; and that
softness and urbanity which prevail, particularly
amongst persons of fiuhion, are liable to be mis-
taken for more than the^ are really worth. The
opposition to this doctnne in the young, arises
partly from ingenuousness of heart, partly from
a habit of indulging themselves in favourable
suppositions respecting the world, rather than
of pursuing truth, which is always the grand
thing to be pursued ; and partly fh>m the popu-
brity of the tenet, that every body U to wonder-

'rtis error in youth has however a still deeper
foundation, which is their not having a right
standard of moral ^ood add evil themselves, in
consequence of their already partaking of the
very corruption which is spoken of, and which,
in perverting the wHl, darkens the underetand-
ing also ;ahey are therefore apt to have no very
strict sense of duty, or of the necessity of a right
and religious motive to every act

Moreover, young people usually do not know
themselves. Not baring yet been much exposed
to temptation, owing to the prudent restraints
in which they have been kept, they little sus-
pect to what lengths in vice they are liable to be
transported, nor now &r othen are actually car-
ried who are set free from those restraints.

Having laid down these as some of the causes
of error on this point, I proceed to observe on
what strong grounds the doctrine itself stands.

Profane history abundantly confirms this truth:
the history of the world being in fact but little
else than the history of the crimes of the human
race. Even though the annab of remote ages
lie so invplved in obecuriW, that some degree of
uncertaiitty attaches itself to many of the events
eoorded, yet thbonc melancholy truth is always
clear, that most of the miseries which have been
brought upon mankind, have proceeded from
this general depravity.

The world we now live in furnishes abundant
proof of this truth. In a world formed on the
decoitfvl theory of those who assert the inno-

cence and dignity of man, almost all the prufo
sions, since £ey would have been rendered use
less by such a state of innocence, would not
have existed. Without sin we majr &iriy pre.
game there would have been no sicknr.ss ; sc
that every medical p rof essor' is a stsnding evi
dence of this sad troth. Sin not only brmigfaf
sickness but death into the world ; ooosequently
every funeral presents a more irrefiagaUe ar
gument than a thousand sermons. Had man
persevered in his ori^rinal integrity, there could
have been no litigation, for trore would be no
contests abodt property in a world where noaw
would be inclined to attack it Professors of
law, therefore, from the attorney who prosecutes
for a trespass, to the pleader who def^ids a cri-
minal, or the judge who condemns him, loudly
confirm the doctrine. Every rictory \rf sea or
land should teach us to rejoice with humilia-
tioo, for conquest itself brings a terrible, tbongb
splendid attesUtioo to the truth of the &D of

Even those who deny Ae doctrine, ad univer>
sally more or less on the principle. Why do we
all secure our houses with bolts, and bars, and
locks 7 Do we take those steps to def^d our
lives or property from any variiemUr foar ; from
any suspicion ofikio neighbour, or Ikat servant,
or the iher invader 1 No — ^It is from a practicB]
conriction of the common depravity ; from a
constant, pervading, but undefined dread of im-
pending evil arising from the sense of general
corruption. Are not prisons built, and laws en-
acted on the same practical principle T

But not to descend to the more d^rraded part
of our species. Why in the fairest transadioo
of business is nothing executed without bonds,
receipts, and notes m hand ? why does not a
perfect confidence in the di^rdty of kmman no-
turt abolish all these securities ; if not between
enemies, or people indifferent to each other, yet
at least between friends and kindred, and the
most honourable connexions ? why, but because
of that universal suspicion between man and
man, which, by all we see, and hear, and feel,
is become interwoven with our very make?
Though we do not entertain any ht^MtuH sos
picion, nar« though we have the strongest fer
Bonal confidence, yet the acknowledged princi-
ple of conduct has this doctrine for its baaos. * I
will take a receipt, though it 'were from my bro
ther,* is the established voice of mankind ; or at
I have heard it more artfully put, by a fallacj
of which the very disguise discovera the pnnci.
pie, * Think every man honest, but deal with
nim as if you knew him to be otherwise.* And
as in a state of innocence, the beasts, it is pre-
sumed, would not have bled for the sustenance
of man, so their parchments would not have been
wanted as instruments of his security against
his follow man.*

But the grand arguments for this doetrtm
must be drawn fit>m the Holr Scriptures ; am
these, besides implying it almost continually

* Bishop Botlerdiftiaetly dedarM tbis irvth to be en
dent IhMQ eipctienoe as well as Hevelatiofi, * lliat tins
world exhibits an idea of a ilirfw;' and lu win bazar)
much wtm ventaree to assert tbat Batlar dsAadsd Clwls-
tianitjropon principles naconsoiia at to r^tmtn^fkOmm

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 97 of 135)