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goes, that it is got rid of on the alleged unbelief of its freinds, for it is said, if they believed it in reality, they would act in greater conformity to its requirements. When the Church of Christ, shall by its spirit and conduct, bear the same testimony for the gospel, as the gospel does for itself, then in the mouth of these two witnesses, shall the truth of Christianity be established, beyond, I will not say the power of refutation, for that it is already, but beyond the possibility of objection.
It is I think, extremely probable, that great injury is done to the Christian character and profession, by an abuse of the commonly admitted fact, that there is no perfection upon earth. By the aid of this humiliating concession, it is to be feared that many cile themselves to far more and greater imperfections, than are in any case compatible with consistency, and in some with sincerity. There is no perfection. But is there no command to us to seek after it? Is it not our duty to obtain it? The man who does not make it the object of his desire and pursuit; who does not wish and endeavour to obtain every kind of holy excellence, and in every possible degree, has reason to doubt the reality of his religion. A professing Christian ought to be a character of universal loveliness, in which no degree, not even the smallest, of any kind of known imperfection should be allowed to remain. It should be with him as to holy character, as it is with persons of much neatness and nicety as to their dress, who are not only rendered uncomfortable by great defilements, but who are uneasy till every discernible speck of dust is removed, and the whole garment presents an unsullied surface. There is such a thing as moral neatness, which, in addition to freedom from and abhorrence of greater sins, adds a sensitiveness to lesser ones, and a studious effort after universal purity. Perfection is our duty; perfection should be our wish, and perfection our aim ; by which I mean to say that a Christian is not to allow himself to practice
any degree of any sin ; and is to seek every possible degree of every holy virtue. How different an aspect would the Christian Profession present, if all who made it were to make perfection of character their aim, and according to apostolic exhortation were to “perfect holiness in the fear of God,” and to stand forth before the world, “blameless and harmless, the unrebukable sons of God.”
It was not my intention in this work, to enter into the consideration of private, experimental, or doctrinal religion, so much as into its practical parts; and to contemplate the believer rather as a professor, than a Christian, or at least, rather as a Christian in relation to the church and to the world, than in his individual capacity, or in his retirements. To have followed precisely in the same track as Mr. Jay, in his lovely work, “ THE CHRISTIAN CONTEMPLATED," would have been worse than unnecessary.
I design this little volume as a sequel to “ The Church Member's Guide,” and as an amplification of some topics touched upon incidentally in that work. It has been the fate of that book, to obtain for its author a notoriety which he certainly did not contemplate in composing it. Advantage has been taken, by one of the tricks of controversy, of the admissions of abuses to which, like every thing else that is good, the principles of nonconformity have been subjected in the practices of some of the churches, to turn these candid exposures, against the whole system of voluntary churches. This is a disingenuous artifice, a miserable sophism, a dangerous weapon, since no system in this world of imperfection can stand before it ; no, not even that set up by Apostles themselves ; for the same kind of evils, which I have acknowledged are to be found amongst us, are to be traced in all the primitive churches planted and superintended by inspired men.* Perhaps the same means will be employed in reference to this volume. If so, those who use them are quite welcome to them. To guard, however, as much as possible against misconception, or misrepresenation, I would affirm, once for all, that I think professors of all denominations are much below their privileges, their principles, and their obligations; and that I have not addressed the contents of these chapters to my own flock, because I think they are behind others in piety, but because I wish them to be above and beyond the average religion of the day.
* Mr. Hall, in replying to one of his opponents in the controversy on“ The Terms of Communion,” complains indignantly of the same species of disingenuous warfare. Speaking of some quotations that had been made from his own writings, he says—"It is obvious that he who wishes to judge of them fairly, must view them in their pro per place, accompanied with their respective proofs and illustrations; and that to tear them from their connection, and exbibit them in their naked form, as though they had been expressed in the author's own terms, is a direct appeal to prejudice. The obvious design is to deter the reader at the outset, and to dispose him to prejudge the cause before it is heard. To mingle in the course of controversy insinuations and inuendos which have no other tendency than to impair the impartiality of the reader, is too common an artifice; but such an open barefaced appeal to popular prejudice is of rare occurrence. (Not rare now.) It is an expedient to which no man will condo scend who is conscious of possessing superior resources. To this part of the performance, no reply will be expected, for though the author feels himself fully equal to the task of answering his opponent, he confesses himself quite at a loss to answer himself. Like a certian animal in the Eastern part of the world, who is reported to be extremely fond of climbing a tree for that purpose, he merely pelts the author with his own produce."-Hall's Works, vol. ii. page 229.
It will be expected, perhaps, that I ought to take some publie notice of a volume of letters addressed to me by Mr. BEVERLEY. I do not know that the circumstance of my name being placed in the title page of that book, lays me under any obligation to notice its contents at all, much less to reply to them. I can have no hesitation, however, in briefly adverting to that singular production. My own opinion of it, and of the author's other works, accords in some measure with those which have been already expressed from other quarters. It is a book which can please none, and yet may improve all, if indeed they are in a mood to receive and profit by what is administered in no very gentle manner. It may be called, to use an artist's phrase, a study in church polity, in which among some things to commend, there are more to condemn. There are some truths, but many fallacies. As a writer, Mr. BEVERLEY is more of a caricaturist than a portrait painter; and á satirist rather than a censor. His great fault lies in speaking too dogmatically upon subjects, with which he can be from his situation but imperfectly acquainted, and in drawing general conclusions from too narrow a range of facts. I trust we shall never adopt his views on the subject of a learned ministry; and on the other hand, never be induced to put learning in the place of piety, as the only or first qualification for the sacred office. Our ordination services admit, perhaps, of improvement, but cannot be dispensed with, intended as they are, to introduce a minister to pastoral functions, but not to consecrate a priest for sacerdotal offices.
It is difficult to believe that Mr. BEVERLEY wishes to be the founder of a new sect; I would rather charitably hope that his desire is to bring back those which already exist, to what he conceives to be the primitive simplicity of apostolic Christianity. Yet, why has he placed himself in the situation of a voluntary outlaw from the Christian church ? More of a destructive than a reformer, he is skilful in demolition, but is prepared with no scheme for reconstructing the ruin he has occasioned. He is capable of doing something better than he has yet achieved. He can write with effect, and will write with good effect, when he will allow pious earnestness, and courteous fidelity, to gain the ascendant in his composition, over caustic severity, and an exaggerated representation of the faults both of systems and their supporters. Passages of considerable beauty might be selected from all his productions, but there has been in most of them a want of seriousness, which makes them more adapted to please the scoffer, than to improve the believer.
Still, however, I wish his last work, nominally addressed to myself, to be widely circulated and attentively read. Even his sarcasms may do good ; and his fierce, and almost lawless severity may be turned to account. He has told us some faults of which we are guilty, though not perhaps in the degree he has represented: and he has accused us of others from which, I think, we are clear; the former let us amend, the latter avoid. His gravest accusation is, that we have too little spiritual piety, and brotherly love. Whether he be thought the fittest man to tell us so, or whether he has told us of it in the best manner, let us not stay to ask, but bow to the rebuke, which, in common with all other denominations, and perhaps not more than they, we deserve, and endeavour by God's grace to improve. I hesitate not to express my conviction that he wishes to do us good, though it may be doubted whether he has chosen the best method of demonstrating his respect, or promoting our edification.