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line! All our conduct, I fear, is tainted, more or less, with evil. Perfection is not here! You complain that “religion is checked in her disposition to expand her territory, and enlarge the circle of her influence,” (p. 131). This may be too true in reality, but it appears to me, that as you mean it, you are taking the liberty of a figure in grammar, and putting Religion herself for her would-be-thought zealous partisans. It may be true, I repeat, as regards worldly-minded individuals, but it proves nothing as to opinion, inasmuch as our admitting the charge will not prove that every thing which injudicious partisans may contend for, must be, or is likely to prove, a beneficial addition to the
allotment,” as you term it, of religion. Witness monastic institutions, &c. Injudicious zeal is as likely to prove injurious to the cause of religion as to any other cause; and we know there is no enemy generally so much to be dreaded as a zealous friend who lacks tact and judgment. We, in resisting the encroachments of intemperate partisans, are not to be set down, as a matter of course, as resisting the real claims of the paramount, whose cause they affect to advocate. We do not thereby lay claim to our faculties and our powers as, a franchise, nor refuse the fines, aids, or heriots, customary or extraordinary, that we are satisfied our Lady Paramount requires. But we are not required to pay them upon demand, unless he who demands produces his authority to demand. Nor do we conceive that our liege Lady wishes us to do so. It would be as little in accordance with her dignity and the maintenance of her real rights, as with the attachment and prosperity of her vassals.
You go on—“ Hence it is that so little responsibility seems attached to high rank,” &c. (p. 133.) I answer, “ So it is,” unhappily, but“ hence it is not !” for the errors you charge us with are imperfection of service, not inadequate conception, as we allow the claim to be lawful whenever we are satisfied that it is from genuine authority. E. g. If I lend you a sum of money, your disowning the debt is one thing, your omitting to repay it is another, and your refusal to make an unusual payment of any portion of it, at the suggestion of an officious third person, who produces no authority from me to shew that it is my wish, is another thing still. Of the first, as a body, we are not guilty. Of the second we all are in part guilty. And of the third, if guilt you call it, we certainly are guilty, and I hope shall continue to be so !
You next proceed, as you say, to confirm your preceding statement, by “ appealing to the course of life of various classes of nominal Christians.” These you class by their vices and imperfections ; upon which you preach us a very good sermon
and we admit the justice of all you say upon
the subject. But then, this justice applies to the abuse, not to the use of riches; it is the very Scripture doctrine of their danger, instead of making us better, as the enjoyment of so many advantages should make us, we are, as we have been warned, too apt to become lax and negligent in our service. But this, true as it may be, is not an error of opinion—for no one of us would deny the charge, even though, while acknowledging it, he failed to amend. We should never, as regards religion, dream of defending dissipation, sensuality, ostentation, avarice, or criminal ambition, even though we felt our ownselves to be guilty of them. But these are abuses, and as such you have described them. What is it, then, that you would say ? mean to inculcate the old exploded doctrine of mortification and penance, or say, with certain northern puritans, “ Every thing pleasurable is a sin ?" If so, we certainly disagree : and if you are right, we must be wrong. In the only argument you have assigned to us, you have first assumed our total want of all active Christian charity, and then made us say, “We neglect no duty,” (p. 134). In speaking for ourselves, however, we beg leave to disclaim this, and to assure you, that we freely allow, that if we permit pleasure to occupy us so as to interfere with our duty, it is an excess, an
? Do you
abuse, and consequently, criminal. We condemn all “impiety," and abhor “a cold insensibility to opportunities of diffusing happiness,” as the worst of impiety. Your next accusation is, that, “even if we acknowledge these excesses and abuses as criminal, we do not condemn them as irreligious.” We do so condemn them if the question is asked of us; but our language on this head is not so properly referable to our insensibility to their religious guilt, as to the cautions given us not to judge others with whom we have no special concern, with reference to religion. Every one feels himself guilty, more or less; and hence, all language, of the nature you would have us use, has, by a sort of tacit consent, been laid aside as improper and unsafe.
To Mr. WILBERFORCE.
CHAP. IV. § 2. 8vo. edit. p. 144.
Prevailing inadequate Conceptions of practical Christianity
Further Effects of Religion degraded into a set of Statutes.
Having assumed, like a true partisan officer, that our resistance to the exactions of your party, in the name of religion, is treasonable resistance to Religion herself, you naturally enough proceed to proclaim our disaffection, accusing us of “ robbing her of her best energies, and degrading her into a set of statutes, which we look upon as abridging our natural liberty,” (p. 145). You have made an argument for us as usual! Three out of the six pleas, however, we would beg to decline as not ours, did we not thereby afford you a seeming advantage. Of the three last, one, of relaxation in practice, I have already explained in my last Letter; the other two are simple truisms, which neither of us would wish to deny until something is at