« ZurückWeiter »
in every event which we behold around us, yet that he speaks, through these, only in a general manner, to our spirits and our consciences ; to our implanted sense of good and evil, of right and wrong, purified (as it now is) by revealed knowledge of a heaven- wherein dwelleth righteous-2 Pet. iii. ness, and of a “ grace,” which we and all Christians must seek, and may obtain, to prepare us for that immortality; we shall rather learn to cast all the present sights which strike or perplex us; all the warnings which awaken our fears, all the preservations which call forth our grati. tude, into storehouses of faith, wherein to lay up living principles of self-examination, and improvement of our own hearts, personally and cf. Ps. iv. privately : being (of course) observant of all *. marked events, which we cannot heļp interpreting as lessons; but neither dwelling on such Cf. Ps.
** lviii. 10, to the detriment of charity, nor rashly proclaim- 11.
* Cf. Luke ing our inferences from them, whatever they xiii. 1,5. may be ; for the mind almost immediately passes from such process into a perilous approbation of itself. Above all things, never referring to any individual's final portion, but drawing general conclusions, as to the “ sure « effects of obedience, or disobedience;" 6 of - belief, or unbelief;" “ of practical religion, or “ the want of it,” according to what the Scriptures of divine truth have declared concerning such dispositions at all times, and under every
dispensation, from the very beginning: by consequence, learning and resolving to cleave to that which is holy, and just, and good, for our own portion individually; to uphold that which is good, with all the authority of our respective stations; to recommend that which is good to others, by the light of personal example: that so, they who will not listen to the words, may
be brought to reverence the works of the Spirit; Matt. v. 16. and led at last to glorify our Father which is in
I am anxious to awaken reflection to this point particularly, because there appear to be found among us two very opposite tempers, generated by the prevalence of evil in the world, both very dangerous.
The one is a temper, (the more dangerous, if found united, as it sometimes is, with a stronger piety,) which if too much listened to would tend ultimately to destroy " the essential love of “ right” that is in man, and « detestation of “ wrong ;” and to superinduce a species of
“ fatalism.” It is to be traced, in a too eager Čf. Lect. v. readiness to look upon prevailing evil in the Introduction to part light of an impediment, which, because we our
selves can certainly neither see nor expect its end, is hardly to be considered as surmountable; but almost as a subject of despair. From which subjection to the power of “ wrong," merely by reason of its immensity, or seeming per
manency, the descent may often prove only a single step to the toleration of abstract evil by deliberate choice; either as a thing in which we must acquiesce, and shall therefore do wisely to become reconciled to; or (in some particular cases) as a burden even preferable to certain other possible conditions, upon a balance of expediency d.
Now we admit the existence and the prevalence of much and monstrous wickedness; we observe its progress with grief; we expect its consequences with fear and trembling. It does
d I cannot forbear adverting (in illustration of this last position) to that most inconsistent favour shown towards BUONAPARTE, by many pious people ; arising, I suppose, from calculation with themselves, that the dominion even of such a man were a less evil than the restoration of Popery. Possibly, meditation upon the deeper parts of Scripture may have become the cause of this preference, by pointing to the tyrant as an instrument likely to fulfil yet unaccomplished prophecies. But if so, then, surely, speculations of that sort are highly dangerous. For all fulfilled Scripture, all the light of conscience within us, all the experience of past ages, concur, in persuading us to abhorrence and resistance of such a monster, at the hazard of any consequences. The voice of God, I am persuaded, is clear on this point; be the intentions of unsearchable Providence concerning that man really what they may. But it is far from clear, that we are justified in so interpreting the deep things of the Spirit yet to befall, as to let them obliterate all convictions generated by the past for our moral preservation. Such convictions, too, are common property; which no person, bolding only a joint share, has a right thus to adventure.
not come upon us unprepared. Our Saviour
has forewarned us of it, and of its present calaMatt. xxiv. mitous effects ; Because iniquity shall abound,
the love of many shall wax cold. We cannot even hope, therefore, to witness its suppression; and yet we must contend against it, and contend perseveringly! Strange seeming contrariety! and yet perfect consistent truth! in itself a sufficient and conclusive argument, that the moral certainty, however great, of an end which rests in other hands, does not dispense with the diligent employment of such righteous means, conducive to it, as are entrusted to our own.
But here the second dangerous temper, just now mentioned, presents itself to view,- in the impatience of a self-complacent “ philosophy," which, because religion does not operate to the extinction of evil, with a speed and power answerable to its own estimate of necessary and possible reform, rejects the divine counsel in this matter altogether, and, passing it by, springs forward, in its own strength, to the amendment of the world at once. As though it actually saw, and could measure both the source and the extent of evil, more surely than Scripture; and could bring a better hope to the desire of subduing it.
Now clearly there is a mistake here, either on the one side or the other. And we think it is
on the side of the philosopher, and not of the believer, for such reasons as these.
Christian faith certainly desires, nay, demands the “ perfection" of man, as much as the most sanguine philosophy can do. Religion sees and laments the domination of wrong, as keenly as the purest reason can. It is true, that “ reason” and “ religion,” “ philosophy” and “ faith,” presently part company, when a closer analysis of “ evil” begins, in order to ascertain the means of cure. And we may admit, that the extent of immediate visible relief anticipated by the theorist, is greater than any upon which the believer presumes to reckon with peremptory confidence.
Which if it be so, it may perhaps be objected, —that then, surely, the philosopher appears to have this manifest and great advantage; that as he sets to work under a brighter hope, he will proceed with a more lively courage ; since he himself considers his desire possible, his energies will be the more persevering, in proportion as his prospect of success is greater and nobler. Whereas the Christian, being sure beforehand that his success will not be more than partial, will be likely soon to retreat into his reserved
• This was written before the “ Plan” proposed by Mr. Owen was brought before the public. That plan, and the previous publications of Mr. Owen, may serve to illustrate the observations here made.