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christian experience; and some of them, it is to be feared, yet rem:in 30; but the most of them are either deadl, expelled, or withdrawn.
Such persons were principally formed into two classes, and were noi only opposed to each other, but 0;posed to the piɔus and experienced part of the church.
One class believed that all their sins had been transferred to Christ; and his righteousness so transferred to them, that they had been eternally justihed; and all required of them was to believe this; and of course, all works of oledience were only a base attempt to patch their righteousness upon the righteousness of Christ.
I hardly need tell you, that most of them were immoral in their practices; by which the name of Christ was scandalized. Mr. Goodman was distressed on their account, and among other things, asked how the Ephesians were once children of wrath even as others, if they had been eternally justified. But his admoniions and instructions were to no purpose; the immoral part of them were therefore expelled, and the rest withdrawing, united and settled a minister, who fed them according to their own perverted appetites. They boast of the purity of their faith, and decry works; as if to pray and watch, and to be charitable, were the only damning practices in the world.
The other class were in the opposite extreme. They denied the doctrine of human depravity, the atonement of Christ, and the new birth. So far they were consistent; because one cannot be denied without the other, nor one be believed without drawing after it the belief of the other. Mr. Goodman insisted strongly on these doctrines in his public ministry, and private conversation ; they were often offended, and railed upon him with great bitterness. They at length withdrew, and going to a neighboring parish, found a minister who pleased them, by speaking diminitively of all experimentai godliness, and by extoling human merit, and the value of, what he termed, good works.
Since their departure we have had little trouble in the church. During our present minister's residence among us, there have been several precious revivals of religion, in which numbers have been added to the church, and the most of them continue stedfist in the Lord. Some, indeed, have turned back to the world. This is no more than might be expected, if we judge from the past.
I am happy to find, (said Charles,) that our views, relating
to the great concerns of salvation, so well accord; though I perceive we belong to three different denominations. The conversation has not only been enlightening, but highly sat isfactory. I have sometines enjoyed a pleasing expectation, and am now confident in it, that I'shall meet many in Heaven, who differed from me on earth. I therefore hope, in future, I shall readily emorace all in the arms of fellowship, who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
The next morning they parted with their host, whose company they had found so agreeable, inviting them to call again. They mounted their horses, and rode off; having but a moderate day's journey, they concluded to spend the day in conversation, and by remarking on such objects as attracted their attention.
Charles having noticed as he came nearer the metropolis, profane swearing became more and more common; observed to the General, that he was not a little surprised at it. It is not so much a matter of surprise, (said he, that the ignorant vulgar should be guilty of this very impolite and impious practice; but to find men dressed as persons of high rank, appearing to have a good education, and I presume have been otherwise well taught, as free with plasphemous oaths, and horrid imprecations, as with the most common words in our language, is one of the most astonishing things I have noticed in my travels. It must be an indelible stain on the character of the well taught. They must be mistaken, indeed, to suppose it is congenial, either with the rules of politeness, or religion. Are such men esteemed as gentlemen ? Are they admiited to the company of the well bred, the civil, and the moral? Or are they a set of conceited fops, who ase sociate among themselves, and have adopted profanity as a test of distinction, and a mark that they bid defiance to all that is polite and good ?
The General replied-To give you a full view of this subject, it will be necessary to ol serve, that profane swearing has gained greatly on society since the revolutionary war. Before that period, suck profane wretches were generally
slighted. During the war, where British troops and officers were quartered, children and young persons caught the infection, and it has “ grown with their growth, and strengthened with their strength.” Our own army, by some means, adopted the infamous vice, and when it was disbanded, many officers and soldiers brought it home with them, and the evil was spread further. Where fathers have allowed themselves in it, their children have copied it from them; and when they became fathers, their children have done in like manner.
The writings of Tom. Paine have spread a kind of low bred infidelity among us, and such as have been corrupted by them, have endeavored to put all religion at defiance; taking a kind of pride in showing that they neither fear God nor regard man. They are a kind of would-be infidels, who have no other system than to ridicule and blaspheme christianity.
Some inconsiderate and ignorant young persons, have adopted this kind of irreligious bravado, under the notion that it helps to make a gentleman, because they hear it from some of the rich and finely dressed. By all these means, it has become a too prevailing evil. One can hardly walk the street, or go to the market, or be in any shop, or take a passuge in a stage; hut he is incessantly pained with language, which more resembles that of devils, than of human beings, who live under the light of the gospel. And some are so obstinately bent on their course of profanity, that they will not take a reproof; but the moment they are reproved, will send out some volleys of oaths extraordinary.
But I am happy to say, notwithstanding this great prevalence of profane swearing in and about the metropolis, there are many men, both of high and common rank, who have so much of the gentleman and the Christian remaining, they not only despise the practice, but think those unfit for associates, who are habitually guilty of it.
Do your ministers, said Charles, not sharply reprove this evil, and do your magistrates never enforce the laws against it?
Such ministers among us as feel the worth of souls, said the General, and are struck with the enormity of the crime, reprove it in public and private ; but seemingly to little purpose. Under sermons of reproof, may be seen the miserable offenders, grinning defiance and disdain ; so that one might almost pick out every guilty individual. In some of our reviva's of religion, huwever, numbers have been happily converted from this evil, asd their tongues are now more nobly employed, for the purposes of prayer and praise.
The magistrates, of late, seldom enforce the laws ; the erime is become so general, they have given it up for an incurable case. Beside, some of the magistrates are put into office by these very fellows ; and being chosen from such as they know will not regard their oath of office, they feel themselves safe, though they are ever so often or criminally guilty. And I am sorry to add, that some have the office, and are under the solemn oath of magistrates, who have need of others that regard their oath, to keep them from that profanity which is a flagrant breach of the laws. So that under this state of things, common swearers feel themselves in no great danger of being called to an account at the tribunal of an earthly judge; and they seem to feel as little concern. ed about appearing at the tribunal of the impartial Judge of the world.
But, though I asked the question concerning magistrates, said Charles, yet I have sometimes doubted the propriety of putting civil law in force against such criminals. I should like to know your mind more fully concerning it, and what reasons can be given in vindication of fining or punishing men for profane swearing.
In reply to this, Charles, I must say, that to me it appears the practice is perfectly just ; and if magistrates had not shamefully neglected their duty at first, the evil would not have been so overgrown, as to become unnaanageable. As far as the crime respects religion, I conceive the civil law has no legal cognizance ; as this must be left to be judged and punished by the Judge of quick and dead. Civil law can, therefore, take no farther hold on this crime, than it has a bearing on the good of civil society. And the evil in this respect is very great, and much more so than what one would at first suppose. Such as trifle every hour with oaths, taken in the name of God, cannot be thought capable of feeling the force of an oath, when inducted into any office hy it, or when taken in any matter of dispute before a legal court. If a person sworn into office, without feeling the obligation of his oath, sees it for his interest to violate it, and thinks he shall escape detection, will he not do it? Or, if an evidence of this description, when before a court, can get a bribe, or save a little property, if he can-conceal the perjury, will he not commit it ?
Let us now consider how much the good and safety of civil society depend on the obligation of oaths, duly adminis
tered; and, that in the same proportion as profanity abounds, and the obligation of an oath is lost, in the same proportion is that safety put in danger of being destroyed; and add to this, where the law is enforced against profane swearing, it has a tendency to prevent the evil which causes the danger; and we shall have no hesitancy in saying, the crime is within the proper jurisdiction of civil law. The intention of civil law is to protect life and property, and both often lie at the mercy of men under oath, either as magistrates or evidences; and if they feel not the obligation of their oath, both may unjustly be destroyed, and thus the very end of civil law be defeated. Whatever, therefore, tends so immediately to undermine good society, and to nullify all good laws, certainly ought to be itself within the reach of law.
said Charles, that I have never considered the subject exactly in this light before; but as far as I am now able to judge, there appears nothing unreasonable in the observations. And for my own part, I could wish to see an end put to an evil which so disgraces human nature, and violates the very rules of language. But observations like these, made in private conversation, are likely to have no use in reforming such men. But can there nothing be done to reform them? If there can, what ought it to be ?
Several measures might be taken, said the General, which I think would have a tendency to check, and at length overcome, what is now a growing evil.
Let all who value their reputation enough to refrain from the sin, treat those guilty of it with the contempt their conduet merits, hy refusing to associate with them, till they will refrain, Let all persons of suitable age and wisdom, and especially all ministers, be faithful in their public and private reproofs. Let the magistrates be encouraged by all the sober part of the community, to put the laws in force, and persevere therein ; till these sons of Belial are ashamed and afraid to carry the mark of the beast any longer in their foreheads. Let satire, argument, religion, and every probable method be tried; and I doubt not, but in the course of one generation, the evil would nearly disappear.