« 上一頁繼續 »
exclamation from the mouth of a man otherwise reasonable and judicious, is a volume. It shows how the party-soul is narrowed down: and how all its perceptions are directed to those things which put Christians asunder, instead of those things which should bring them together; and which, for their importance, may not, without degradation, be named in company with the causes of their disunion. With one, the watch-word is "our excellent, our apostolical church”—with another, "the mode of baptism”—with a third, “the solemn league and covenant”—with a fourth, “the Burgess oath”—with a fifth, "psalmody.” Upon these subjects, and such as these, their respective partisans collect their information and their strength-they whet each other till they become “as sharp as a needle.” A stranger hearing them talk on their favourite topics, would be astonished at their understanding and answers. But lead them away from their peculiarities to those things which concern the kingdom of God-which are common to the household of faith-which require a general Christian mind and how lamentable, for the most part, is the falling off! “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.” And here is the explanation of that ordinary phenomenon, that the rise of party-sense is the fall of sacred knowledge. Sectarian fires put out Christian light.
Nor does the practical judgment suffer less. This is clearly seen in the estimate which animated sectarians form of character. The good qualities of their own adherent they readily perceive, admire, and extol. His failings they endure with patience; and his faults, which they dare not justify, they can overlook and extenuate. But should he quit their connexion, the first are disparaged, the second are no longer tolerable, and the third swell into crimes. On the other hand; Virtues and graces in a different party they are apt to admit with reluctance; and rarely without qualification. It shall go hard if some " dead fly” do not taint the “good ointment”-if some scrupulous “but," some “fear," some “wish,” do not insinuate a doubt where there is no room for denial; and relieve them from the pain, by throwing a cloud over the lustre, of excellencies not their own. But lo! all is altered! The light which only dazzled, grows suddenly mild and cheering! Our breasts fill with the milk of human kindness;" and we welcome to our hearts the
very man whom a week before we eyed askaunt, and should have thought to be a “spot in our feast of charity!” Nay, we often are summarily convinced that a person of dubious character has been injured and persecuted. Our inquiries are conducted with the nicest delicacy. So gentle
our temper! so charitable our constructions! se large our allowance for infirmity! so deep our sympathy! Whence the miracle? Has a seraph, with fire from the altar of God, touched these men of unclean lips, and taken away the stains which alarmed our purity ? Oh no! they are precisely what they were. Wherefore, then, this change in eye-sight, in feelings, in behaviour ? Şimple inquirer, thou knowest nothing of partymagick! They have come, or are coming, or are expected to come, over to US.
With such a perversion of the judgment it is impossible that zeal should be well directed either in the choice of its objects, or in the mode of attaining them. The memory of an observer who only glances over the scenes which pass before him can furnish many examples of passions excited, principles sacrificed, and efforts wasted, for the sake of party-baubles; while interests of primary importance to the glory of earth and heaven are neglected or thrust aside. It is inconsistent with the nature of our faculties and affections to pursue great and little things with equal ardour. He who is occupied with the little, cannot rise to the great. He who rises to the great, cannot sink down to the little. A candidate for empire will not fight for toys. He who can fight for toys is unfit for empire. The man of "broad
phylacteries” will give himself no trouble about
members being judges; and is succeded by hardfaced formality. So that the complaint uttered more than a century ago by the venerable Owen, is not inapplicable now. “Whilst men have contended about ordinances and institutions, forms and ways of religion, they have grown careless and regardless, as unto personal holy conversation, to their ruin. They have seemed like keepers of a vineyard, but their own vineyard they have not kept. How many have we seen withering away into a dry sapless frame, under an hot, contending, disputing spirit about ways and differences of worship? Whilst they have been intent on one part of profession, the other of more importance hath been neglected."*
This witness is true. And what is yet worse, with such confessions from time to time on their lips, they proceed in the very same course; and instead of awakening to a just sense of their sin and folly, they “ love to have it so;" and bold as their enemies, and as the enemies of good order, all who endeavour to cease from their “janglings;" and who, laying greater stress upon the bond of their union in him, than upon the partycoloured thread of ecclesiastical faction, stretch out the hand of fellowship to them “who love
* On Heb. ch.jv. 1. vol. 2. 194. fol.