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excess. I do not see how we can love too earnestly, or serve too devotedly, Him, whom it is our acknowledged duty to love and to serve with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength. (See Catechism.) Neither, I conceive, are we ever likely to be too zealous for our neighbour's good, when we are bound to love him as ourselves, and to do unto others as we would they should do unto us. No, it is not against an excess of religion that I would argue, but against a mistake in religion ; against a dangerous error, which consists, not in obeying Christ more than others, but in disobeying one part of his Gospel, under a notion of complying more strictly with the rest. The views with which your mind is now agitated, are, if I rightly understand them, violations rather than excesses of Christian principle. They lead not to the too zealous fulfilment, but to the direct transgression, of Christian duty. And my aim is to convince you that such is the case, by an enquiry into their nature and tendency, with a constant reference to the words and to the spirit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are many circumstances which render such an enquiry difficult, especially where there is no opportunity of personal conference. And it may be desirable in this first discourse, to point out and obviate some of these particulars, with a view to the more satisfactory result of the undertaking which we have now commenced. For indeed I would fain hope that our present communication is no vain, wrangling of words, no strife of ingenuity, or contest for victory. The peace of mind, perhaps the eternal welfare, of one or both enquirers is at stake. And we cannot surely doubt, that He who has given us the same faculties, the same language, the same word of revelation, has put it in our power to arrive at the same conclusions, on matters of such deep and common concern. Known unto Him are all our thoughts. Let no erroneous prejudice obstruct their right employment! To his providence we must refer this our unexpected conference; let us conduct it as in the presence of his all-seeing eye, with honest desire to be overcome of truth!
I. One circumstance which operates strongly against the success of any written communication on such subjects, is the difficulty of defining each word as it occurs, and of ascertaining whether each person attaches the same ideas, to the terms on which the controversy, if I may so call it, depends. Words are not used in the Bible with the same strict and unvarying significations, in which they occur in the works of human science. The Bible was written for mankind in general, it was adapted for the apprehension of all sorts of readers. And men ordinarily derive their apprehension of any single term from the sense of the whole passage in which it occurs. To such readers the Bible is in some respects more plain, than to those whose education has been of a more refined description. For it is the object of science, to ensure accuracy, by using one term in one sense only. And thus educated minds are apt to get a habit of attaching some one notion to each single term, without reference to the meaning of the context. That much error has flowed from this source has been very generally lamented. The manner in which it takes place may be understood by any one, who considers the various senses in which the word “faith” (Note III.) occurs in the New Testament, and the absurdities which have arisen from not keeping them distinct in the interpretation of the different passages. The same remark will apply to the several senses of the expression “ the world,” and of many others, to which I shall have occasion to refer hereafter. I wish then now to deprecate every thing like a captious interpretation of controverted terms. I wish to request your attention to the general tenour of the argument, and its accordance with the spirit of the Gospel. I wish to remind you that if this be established, any differences about particular expressions ought to be deemed of inferior importance.
II. A second most untoward circumstance in all such discussions may be thus stated : My duty is to argue against tenets, which are cherished in your imagination as the most exalted truths; as principles which the world has learned to doubt, only because it refuses to practise them. The line of argument I have to pursue seems to you, as though I were finding fault with piety, whilst that which you have adopted appears to agree with all those exhortations of the Gospel, which are directed against lukewarmness and indifference. But on this head I would have you well reflect, that the very question at issue is, not whether your standard of devotion be too high, but whether it be formed on a correct principle ; and that the course of life I have to propose is, not a relaxation of duty, but one which arises from a different view of duty; and one which instead of being more easy, is far more difficult; instead of being more worldly, is more truly evangelical. Such at least is the light in which I view it, and in which I