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ET all the different fects and parties of christians ato
tend with candour to the opinions and practices of others, and freely adopt whatever they are convinced is good
in any of them. There is no sect or party but hath some thing belonging to it of an adventitious nature, and that is no necessary part of the general system ; and let not our party prejudices blind us so far, as to make us condemn and reject what is good in any set of men, merely because they hold it; but be the system ever so bad, let us glean from it every good idea, and every useful custom. Were all parties faithfully to attend to this, the very worst of them would be made tolerable, and they would all soon be brought nearer to one another in affection and mutual charity, if not in opinion also.
Let us all accustom ourselves to the consideration of having one proper head, and make less use of other names, by way
distinction. We are to call no man father, or master, upon earth; for we have one father, even God; and one master, even Chrift. The use that is made by many of the authority of the Reformers, and others, appears to me to be an infringement of this injunction. The use of the names of men-tends much more to enfame a party spirit, than any other method of distinguishing one another. Befides, by frequently calling one another Arians, Socinians, Calvinifts, &c. we are too apt to forget that all these are only different denominations of christians; and in order to raise an odium against their adversaries, many scruple not in so many words, to say they are no christians. Now had men kept to the diftinction of opinions only, I cannot conceive how any man could ever have been called a deift, or an infidel, who professed to believe the divine mission of
Christ. But the terms Arians, Socinians, &c. easily pass into that of no christians. This, howeyer, is a most base, and disingenuous proceeding; and those persons might, with the same propriety, call their adversaries Mahometans.
In all our disputes about different tenets, and modes of the christian religion, let us be careful not to lose sight of the great end and design of christianity in general, viz. that Christ came to bless mankind, in turning them away from their iniquities ; to redeem (or deliver) us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. The chief thing, therefore, that we should attend to, and the only rule for estimating the importance of any opinions, is their efficacy for this moral purpose. Let us, then, not suffer ourselves to be deceived by mere words, and pompous founds. As to those who follow other rules of estimating the importance of opinions, and who think that mere belief can be of any avail to recommend them to the favour of God; they ought, as I observed before, to have very good reasons for their persuafion. For, if once the above mentioned plain and obvious rule be quitted, it will not be easy to find another that can be applied to any good purpose. After losing this clue, men will be involved in an endless labyrinth. They will often cry peace, peace, to themselves, when there is no peace; and they will, also, often fear, where no fear is.
I have nothing more to recommend to the different feets and parties of christians, but to remember that we are all men; and to be aware of the force of prejudice, to which, as such, we are all liable. If we be not strangely infatuated indeed, we shall be sensible, that there have been great and good men of all parties. Ridley and Latimer were men who entertained very different opinions, with respect to the points which are now denominated orthodox; yet they were both burned at the same stake, and suffered martyrdom with equal constancy. This consideration alone, if sufficiently attended to, cannot fail, I should think, to stagger the faith of those, who believe the favour of God to be confined to
any one party, especially if they be naturally men of moa desty and candour. As men, however, we are certainly all of us fallible, and liable to adopt opinions without sufficient evidence. Let us, therefore, as becomes reasonable beings, in these circumstances, be careful to keep our minds always open to conviction ; let us cultivate humility, and a diffidence of ourselves, and earnestly apply to the God of truth, that we may be led into all truth.
What effect these considerations may have upon my readers is very uncertain. It is not improbable, but they may inflame the animosity of some against the author and his friends ; but on others, it may be hoped, they will have a different and more favourable influence. If they be of any use to make any persons think and reflect, and search the scriptures more than they have hitherto done, it is all that I desire; having no doubt, but that the result will be favourable to what I think to be the cause of truth and virtue. Whether we preach or write, we are properly compared to those who low feed; and this it is our duty to take every proper opportunity of doing, though we know not whether it will be productive. Eccl. xi. 6. In the morning fow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knoweft not whether shall prosper. For though Paul may plant, and Apollos water, it is God that gives the increase; that is, the success depends upon the operation of causes, and the influence of circumstances, which, though they be unknown to us, are under the direction of that great Being, who, in his infinite wisdom, disposes of us and of all things. May his will be done, and to him be glory, through Jesus Chrift, Amen.