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our misconception, is wholly unfair ; for it is unfair to bring forward, as evidence against the religious feelings or opinions of any large body of people, the strictly literal abuse of language indulged in by the thoughtless and worldly, without any reference to religion whatsoever. As it does not
As it does not prove either criminal want or misconception of religion in the body generally, but merely that it has among it thoughtless individuals, who will misapply words, which, but for their misapplication, are by no means unreal: for pride and spirit, strictly speaking, are proper or improper, according merely to the object to which they are directed, and the principles and motives which rouse them into action.
To Mr. WilbeRFORCE.
CHAP. IV. § 3. 8vo. edit. p. 160.
On the desire of Human Estimation and Applause—The gene
rally prevailing Opinions contrasted with those of the true Christian.
SIR, Our next step is a disquisition upon the desire of human applause and estimation. You begin with what you call “ contrasting the prevailing opinions with those of true Christians.” But your argument turns, as usual, entirely upon the contrast between the prevailing practice and true Christianity. You commence by making for us an argument, (p. 164), to which we will not object, until, in the last page of it, you make us " prefer a desire for human estimation and applause, for general use, before higher (i. e.) Christian principles of morals.” We do not prefer them, but we do not consider that Christianity disdains the aid of our passions, properly directed ; but, on the contrary, where the spark of good is, will fan it into flame, and direct it to its legitimate object. You then make an attack upon our vindication, which, you say, “ proceeds upon the innocence of error,” (p. 165). You should have proved, not assumed the error, and then shown the process. Your Objector urges his vindication always under the supposition of the due regulation of the passions, and defends not their excess. Here, as elsewhere, you seem to forget who you are arguing with, or choose to suppose your opponent not a Christian, and argue, not against the three or four pages of vindication you have given him, but merely against the objectionable sentence I have noticed. Your argument, in fact, supposes us to propose desire of human estimation as a substitute for the motives of Christianity; which you well know we do not. The light left to Pagan moralists, showed them, indeed, the abuses of these passions, but by no means thoroughly nor truly. The whole life of Christ was a practical lecture upon their undiscovered abuses. You begin your
“ Scripture lessons” by entirely ceding to your opponent all you have made him contend for—the use of these passions distinct from their abuse. You then rally to a second attack, (p. 167), first upon the maxim, is true or false, accordingly as the actions it produces, and the pursuits to which it prompts, are beneficial or mischievous to mankind." We thus
" that glory define the matter, because by this test alone can we judge whether it is, or is not, according to the will of God: for we hold, that nothing which is not consonant to the will of God, can be really beneficial to mankind'. You, then, in talking of our
exalting ourselves, instead of giving the glory to God,” suppose a distinct wrong, by no means necessary; for we may thank God who has entitled us to the approbation of our fellows, by making us the happy instruments of his benefits, for the benefits conferred, and for the due sense given to others of those benefits. Successful obedience cannot be called an "encroachment upon the prerogative" of him who is obeyed. The conduct of the gallant soldier, though applauded by the whole army, detracts nothing from the merit of the general who directed, the parents who educated, or the country which produced him : his honour is their honour. So, where the minds of men are so far regenerate as to feel in consonance with the Spirit of God, his approval and theirs are one. You say, that “whatever is opposite to, or even different from, worldly interests
It must of course be understood, that I cannot mean this to apply to any acknowledged evil instrument, through whose involuntary agency Divine Wisdom may still work a result ultimately beneficial.
and pursuits, will be deemed needlessly precise,” (p. 168.) This is one of those assumptions so often used in default of argument. But be it so. It does not prove the converse meant to be implied, that all that we deem needlessly precise, must, therefore, be genuine Christianity. You now, Sir, in p. 168, assume the question, and immediately cede it again, for the second time, in the course of the two following pages. In p. 171, you again return to the charge, under the head of “ generally prevailing notions opposed to those of Scripture :" calling that a misconception, which is no misconception on our part at all, as you yourself confess in the following page, (p. 172), but merely a fact of imperfection of practice, which we do not, because we cannot, deny. Dishonour, disgrace, or shame, may be either real or unreal; but we conceive that one great object of Christianity, and the example of Jesus, was to teach us to distinguish right from wrong, in this particular especially, and that the manner of the sacrifice of atonement was public execution, for this very purpose.
You next bring two proofs, as you call them, of our false notions, (p. 173); but, in fact, they are no proofs of our opinions, but, as usual, of our imperfect practice. They prove merely that we do not sufficiently command our tempers, and that we are too apt, in our outward conduct, to heed more