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On Doctrinal, or Controversial Preaching.
457 manifest : and they would say this impressed with the obligations which with a great appearance of truth. For, we are under to perform our duty. suppose two persons sold manufactured We go not to inform our reasor., bit goods, and one of them exposed his to excite and improve our feelings wares in the most public manner, and not to be informed, but to be pershewed them in the best light, but suaded. the other very carefully deposited them As to the affirmative part of your in the darkest corner of his warehouse, object in going to a place of worship, and shewed the greatest reluctance to well and good; and are not proper expose them to view it is not diffi- means made use of to answer it? cult to guess in what manner even The Scriptures are read ; devout unprejudiced persons would be dis- hymns and psalms are sung; and your posed to construe their motives respect- wants and devout wishes are made ively.
known unto God by the common I have been told by those who are prayers and supplications of the conaverse to the introduction of contro- gregation. Yet more-the sermons versia! subjects into the pulpit, that are generally of a moral and practical the practice is a sure mark of bigotry. tendency. But is it reasonable that Be it so. “If I by Beelzebub cast your feelings be exclusively regarded out demons, by whom do your child that public worship should monopodren cast them out?" Let every lize your affections, and banish your denomination take as much as belongs reason? Must your pious affections to them of this bigotry, and let not and devotional feelings be necessarily other sects throw a stone against the injured, and the word become unproUnitarians, I will not say till they are fitable to you, if sometimes your themselves without sin, but only till minds be informed concerning the they have as little as the Unitarians in doctrines of Christianity, if your intelthis respeet.
lectual powers, those which make you This as an argumentum ad hominem rank among the higher order of beings, is as conclusive as I can wish. But I be called into exercise ? Has God in will not rest the matter here. I con- the institution of public worship, made tend that occasional preaching on the provision only for your affections, doctrines of Christianity is both proper and left your reason to shift for and necessary.
How are the Scrip- itself? tures to be explained if not from the As to the bigotry of controversy, it pulpit? How are we to get rid of the is a quality which does not necessarily anti-christian doctrines which have belong to it. Controversy may be, and been so long received, if we are not ought to be managed with a charitable to utter a syllable against them? How and even brotherly spirit towards those are the minds of those who read but whose opinions we oppose. The little to be informed and enlightened? manner and the spirit constitute and the bulk of all congregations bigotry, not the opposition of senti. consists of such persons: and, it may ment. There is no bigotry in a liberal, be asked finally, what are we to teach exposition of our opinions; the essence if not Christian truth, the preaching of bigotry consists in the damnatory of which, of course, is controversial spirit, the exasperation of feeling, the preaching, if it has been contro- evil surmises, the ungenerous susverted ?
picions and the unkind propensities The answer which I have heard which are attendant on controversy made to this last interrogatory may be conducted in an unchristianlike manconsidered as another argument against ner. controversial preaching worthy of brief I have been told by the opposers of notice.
all controversial preaching, we have We do not go, it is replied, to a a sufficient knowledge of the doctrines place of worship ready prepared with of religion, but we want constantly our critical scales to weigh arguments; to be impressed with a sense of our we do not go there to be puzzled with duty, and to have our devotional feeldefinitions and syllogisms; we do not ings habitually exercised. go for the exercise of our intellectual I cannot admit the correctness of the powers; but we go for the sake of first part of the argument. Very few cherishing devout affections towards indeed have a comprehensive know, the Deity, and to be more deeply ledge of the Christian Scriptures, and
On Doctrinal, or Controversial Preaching. the doctrines which they contain. with the doctrines of Christianity ? ! The corruption of Christianity has do not believe it. These persons been so radical, and the language of surely have a dislike of strong meats, the Scriptures has been so systenjati- because they are by them indigestible. cally misinterpreted, that the reading of But grani there are some who are a few meditations and prayers, and a well informed on such topics--will few select sermons, written in a liberal they be so interested in their feelings style, can neither discover the error, as not occasionally to allow what is nor inanifest the truth; both of which suitable and necessary for others-the are equally necessary for the perfect ignorant ? There is certainly a nuemancipation of the mind. Most merous class that want infotination persons, it is true, have a general concerning the doctrines of Christisuperficial knowledge of Christianity; anity. Those whose education and and were a preacher to take a super- situation in life, whose daily necessary ficial common-place view of any doc- attention to the concerns of life, to trine, there would be some justice in their daily bread, preclude the acquithe objection, as far as it regards those sition of much knowledge by reading who are really well informed. But and books, are they never to be inthe truth of the case too generally is, structed in the fundamental truths of that even of those who will resort to religion, and never to be informed of this argument, few, I fear, have more and guarded against erroneous opithan a superficial knowledge of differ- nions, lest fastidious ears should be ent systems of religion, or of the inter- offended? The young people in most pretation of the Scriptures. I have sociсties are without much elementary certainly a strong suspicion that their knowledge on the subject of religion. dislike of attending to the doctrines Are they, too, to be led to suppose by of religion, and the arguments by the quality of the matter that always which they may be defended or descends from the pulpit, that the assailed, arises immediately and en- Christian religion is sufficiently laught tirely from their unacquaintedness and inculcated by a few well-turned with them. I believe it to be always sentiments about the amiableness of a plain matter of fact, that those who virtue, the pleasures of refined emo, are least acquainted with the sub- tions, and the harmony of well-tuned jects of controversy, are least interested affections? I have no damnatory in the discussion of them, and vice clauses in my creed; but I know very versa.
well what dependence is to be placed Involved in religious error as men on this kind of Christian institution have been for ages, systematically For one thing our most notable deperverted as the language of the Scrip- fections, of which I scarcely ever knew tures has been from time immemorial, an instance which was grounded upon so completely changed as almost every avowed principle, are to be attributed expression of the Sacred Writings bas to the policy which dictates this kind been from its original intention; is it of public instruction. at all probable that general readers, It has been asserted, that controthose who have a dislike for all contro- versial preaching necessarily scandaversy, those whose reading is trifling lizes the minds of those who differ and fashionable, those who deem it a from us, and that t us frequently the mark of great ignorance of the world most excellent and worthy men, even and rusticity of manners to avow friends and relations, are disunited in undisguisedly and publicly singularity charity and estranged in affection from of religious profession or opinion, and one another; and that, therefore, for exhibit indeperdence of religious cha- the sake of peace and charity, controracter ; that those who never think of versial subjects should never be intro reading any thing, on religious subjects duced into the pulpit. but a prayer and a chapter, or per- Peace and charity are certainly inost chance a volune of sermons, or lec- excellent things, and, well understood, tures, or sacred dramas, by some are to be considered among the essenpopular writer, which the aura popu- tials of religion ; but they are not the laris may have sufficiently consecrated, only essentials, nor should we suffer with perhaps a treatise on education thai to be sacrificed to them, which is in which religion is forgotten-ihat more important and essential than these should be sufficiently acquainted themselves--iruth.
On Doctrinal, or Controversial Preaching. It is a thing of general notoriety, barbarous and priestly-tyrannical suthat great difference of opinion exists perstition substituted for the religion of between very, worthy and good men. Christ: and, in a word, if this arguNow, is human nature, improved by ment means any thing, we must leave religion too, really so constituted, that the world for peace and harmony's the arowal of our belief, and the de- sake in quiet possession of all its mulfence of our principles, must necessarily tifarious idolatries, errors, superstitions, lead us to hate and injure one another rices. O, all ye holy martyrs and conAnd must wise and good men mutually fessors, what infernal enemies were you conceal their sentiments with great to the peace and tranquillity of the care, and religiously forbear to urge world: the holy zeal with which your their claims on the attention of man- noble army was animated, was a brand kind, lest they should be scandalized, from Hell. Thou Martin Luther, with and be led into disputes? And would thy undaunted host of reformers, whiat this kind of forbearance and conceal- a pest wert thou to the world :-how ment be that thing which we call much malignity was displayed in conChristian charity?
sequence of thy reformation; how Surely, a very false notion of charity inany bloody wars were kindled; how and peace is iniplied in the above argu- many cities reduced to ruins; and how ment. Jesus Christ said, that he came inany fair provinces laid waste and deto set a man at variance with his neigh- populated. And thou, O Priestley, bour, the father against the son, and (fumam qui terminet astris,) whose unthe son against the father, &c. Here common sagacity in discovering, and is an undoubted breach of charity. unappalled courage in publishing to But surely he is not guilty of it, though the world, truths long obscured and he be the occasion, who believes in lost, naturally attracted the enmity of Christ, and follows him; but he is mobs and interested priests; though guilty of it, who suffers the conscious thou hadst enlightened and benefited integrity of him who honestly avows Europe by thy discoveries, and thy na his belief in Christ to be the occasion tive country might be proud of numof enmity and variance. “Offences bering thee amongst her most honoured must come;" but the woe is to him by sons; yet, enemy of tranquillity, well whom they unreasonably come, not to didst thou deserve thy fate: laudable him who is the innocent occasion of was the design of the infuriated mob, them.
instigated to burn thee, together with If we allow its full scope to this ar- thy library and apparatus ; holy were gument, it proves too much, and is the maledictions, lies and calunnies of plainly inadmissible. If peace and thy interested enemies; and glorious harmony are the only things to be con- for the conclusion of the eighteenth sulted, Jesus Christ should not have century was thy banishment to a disa preached repentance, a change of re- tant region, beyond the confines of ligious sentiment and practice, to the civilized inhumanity. world, nor should he have so vehe- I am afraid that the spirit of rational mently attacked the Jewish Scribes inquiry has been long declining among and Pharisees because he differed from the Presbyterian and rational Dissentthem. The apostles acted very wrong ers; and the richer class, I am well in unsettling the minds of men, and aware, are exceedingly averse to every setting them at variance by their novel innovation, to every improvement, to all opinions, and, as it were, turning the church-discipline, to doctrinal preachworld upside down. All missionary ing, to the exposition of the Scriptures: undertakings since the days of the they will give no countenance to cateapostles to our own, must be regarded chizing, to lectures, to associations for as crusades against peace and charity. information. It is no wonder that our We should never assail the idolatry societies in many places are in a deand superstition of the Heathen, be- pressed state, in some extinct. They cause their minds, of course, are scan- will become extinct in many more, dalized and offended: the Mahometans without a renovation. I could disclose must be left in quiet and peaceable pos
more of the evil, if this were the proper session of the errors of their false pro- place. I think I could point out as phet, of their seven heavens, their radical causes of our decay as have yet beautiful virgins, &c.: the Catholics appeared in any of the communications must be quietly suffered to retain a you have published, but this does not
Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Punishment.
belong to my present subject, and I of the reproach of proselytism, while must return.
reason and persuasion are my only The richer members of Presbyterian weapons of conversion. congregations appear to be ashamed to In justice to a numerous class of belong to a sect, and they wish their opulent Presbyterians and Unitarians, ministers to conforın as much as pos- it gives me great pleasure to observe, sible to the more liberal party in the before I conclude, that there are many Church. They must say their prayers most honourable exceptions to a too from a book in a monotonous manner, common rule. Many are truly conand they must read for sermons short sistent in their conduct; and by their moral essays, without any reference to consistency they maintain that respectthe peculiar doctrives of the gospel, or ability and dignity of character, which the anti-christian errors and delusions the others never fail to sacrifice, by of the age. These persons have too aping the manners of the world, and long continued to give the lon to our sacrificing independence of principle: Presbyterian congregations: they have still, many to whoin this praise truly damped and half extinguished free belongs, might do more, much more, and liberal inquiry: they have tied the by a renewed attention to the interests hands of our ministers: they have of religious truth—by their example
, numbed the energies of our people: by their wealth, by their personal exthey mistakenly imagine that a zeal for ertions and general influence. their religious profession and opinions Sir,--If these remarks should induce would disqualify them for the general any of your readers duly to consider the society of men of their own rank in the subject, more especially if they should world. Hence they become ashamed excite amicable discussion, and promote of the peculiarities of the conventicle, practical improvement, my object will like a rich man of his poor relations; be fully answered. I am, your's, &c. and their ingenuity from this time is
HOMILY. wasted on devising means how to serve God and Mammon, or how most spe- Apparent Inconsistencies of great Minds
, ciously to desert the former for the exemplified in a Scries of Extracts on latter. It would be much better for Future Punishment. the Presbyterians if such persons would [Concluded from p. 330.] leave them at once, as a thing of course, as soon as they became rich: for as it is, generally read: it may be proper, they not only will not enter themselves therefore, in the same view, to mention into the kingdom of heaven, but they a few of those, which are universally hinder others from entering.
celebrated and admired. This process has been gradually The classic moralists of the United going on since the Restoration. At Kingdoms, though the most profound that time the Nonconformists consisted reasoners in matters of practice, yet, of many persons of rank and influence: seldom deviate from the strait line of at this time, I believe, they cannot lay orthodoxy, so called, in matters of claim to an individual of the nobility theory, Though the avowed friends or gentry. We perfectly, however, of toleration, and enemies to bigotry understand the process by which this and persecution in every form, they transformation has been effected-by never censure the ecclesiastical estameans of the prevalence of a worldly blishments of their own country, either spirit over religious principle. Though in doctrine, constitution, or discipline. many men of property still remain No doubt they either thought all these among us, yet the too general spirit of things right and as they should be, or conformity to the world, and the dread they had their reasons for proceeding of being suspected partial to the
no farther, into which we do not Tiarities of a sect, and zealous in propa now inquire. But there is one cite galing heresy, are sad presentiments of cumstance here which deserres notice: still further defections. But we hope notwithstanding all their wit and all that the defection of the degenerate their wisdom, they sometimes, in their will be well supplied by the virtue and theological essays, adopt a kind of courage of fresh accessions : for I am phraseology, neither called for by the not ashamed to avow my prayer and occasion, justifiable by the comnion desire that truth and righteousness use of figurative language, nor even should prevail. I shall never be ashamed upon their own religious principles,
Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Punishment.
461 and which should not be drawn into Surely, this can never be the religion precedent. In The Guardian, No. 88, of Jesus ! « Whom should we teach the writer, representing the advantages knowledge, and cause to receive inof revealed religion, above those of na- struction? Them that are weaned tural, observes, “It is owing to the from the milk, and drawn from the God of truth, who caine down froin breasts." heaven, and condescended to be him Dr. Kippis, the late pious and learned self our Teacher!" This is neither editor of the Biographia Britannica, to sense nor orthodoxy: it is the language the life of Daniel de Foe, written by his of a modern Swedenlurgian. Thus, colleague, Dr. Towers, adds a note, the likewise, Mr. Addison concludes a su. substance of which we shall here inblime paper on the Passion, with this sert. Many fine displays of natural extraordinary sentiment:- Sure, Na- sentiment occur in Robinson Crusoe's ture, all Nature, is departing with her man, Friday, one of which is particuCreator!" But this by the way. larly striking. In a conversation with
These adınirable writers also appear, his master concerning the Devil, being in general, to adopt the popular ideas told that God is stronger than he; he of future punishment. We shall only inquires, in his broken dialect, why, if quote one passage from The Guardian, this be the case, the Almighty doth ou the opposite side of the question. not destroy this evil being, and so put
In this work, No. 158, the author, an end to his wickedness? To this under the similitude of a dream, in- Crusoe replied, that God would at last troduces his readers into the court of punish the Devil severely; that he is Rhadamanthus, one of the supposed reserved for judgment, and is to be cast heathen judges of men after death. into the bottomless pit, to dwell with Among the rest, a certain female was everlasting fire. Friday, however, still brought before him, who, to his first dissatisfied, returns upon his masterquestion, replied, that “ she had done Reserve at last ?'-and thinks it unBo hurt;" but when it was asked, accountable why such a malevolent “ what good she had been doing?" being was not destroyed long ago !-made no answer, and appeared in You may as well ask me,' replied much confusion; when immediately Crusoe, 'why God doth not destroy one of the attendants took her by the you and me, when w do wicked hand to convey her to Elysium, and ihings that offend him; we are preanother with the intention of conveying served to repent, and be pardoned.'Ac her to Erolus : but “ Rhadamanikus, this, Friday appears highly pleased observing an ingenuous modesty in her and goes on to express his satisfaction countenance and behaviour, bid them in being, persuaded, that both wicked both let her loose, and set her aside for men and devils are preserved to repent, a re-examination, when he was more at and that God will finally pardon all !". leisure." Here, the ingenious writer The annotalor adds, “ Perhaps it evidently suggests, that there are cha- would be going too far to assert, that racters, which, after death, inay be De Foe here intended covertly to insiconsidered as neither fit for heaven or nuale, that there might be a more mere hell; and that such will assuredly meet ciful distribution of things in the final with a correspondent treatment, from results of Divine Providence, than he a righteous and impartial Judge. ..dared, at that time, openly to exhibit."
Mrs. Chapone, in her elegant Letters, It is presumed from this specimen, (L. 3.) after describing the judgment few of our readers will doubt, that the day, and the sentence of the wicked, as pious biographer was fully justified in that which must“ determine their fate suggesting these ideas of De Foe's real to all eternity," instead of entering into sentiments, which, also, the present the reasons of this supposed irreversible writer hath every reason to believe, sentence, presently adds" Let us turn froin a long, happy, and personal acfsom this horrid, this insupportable quaintance and intercourse with him, view!" What! a doctrine of the gos- ' were fully congenial with his own.* pel,
“ horrid and insupportable” even There are, however, many modera in idea—that will scarcely bear a mo- professors, who appear far inferior, in ment's reflection that cannot admit of being impressed upon the juvenile and * See also, in this view, the Life of the tender mind for a single instant, with. Earl of Shaftsbury, in the new edition of out danger of benumbing its faculties! the B. B.