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christians "contend earnestly for the faith given to the saints;" but it is also its express injunction that they "forbear one another in love," that they cultivate that "charity which covereth a multitude of sins," and "receive those who are weak in the faith, as Christ himself received them." These injunctions are applicable to mistakes in opinion as well as to sins of infirmity; and they who refuse to tolerate even the slightest shade of the former, and who demand perfect unity of sentiment as an indispensable condition of communion, are guilty of rearing a barrier expressly disclaimed by the word of God.
Monstrous as seems such a principle, and involving as it does almost all the absurdity and the guilt without the consistency of the Roman Catholic pretension to infallibility, it has yet been avowed by many Protestant ministers and by many Protestant churches. If there are multitudes of professing christians who are still ignorant of the grounds and reasons of religious forbearance, and of the extent to which it may lawfully be carried, it need not seem surprising, when we recollect that many of their instructors are just beginning to learn the rudiments of the subject, while there is still a considerable number who adhere to the system of intolerance with inflexible pertinacity, and scowl sullen defiance on the combined force of religion, and reason, and common sense.
* Jude 3.
As this subject teaches us humility, in reference to ourselves, and forbearance to others, so it teaches,
3d, Veneration and submission towards God. His nature is infinite, his counsels are unfathomable, and his ways unsearchable. The range of his government reaches to all the departments of the immeasurable
Eph iv. 2; 1 Pet. iv. 8; Rom. xv. 7.
universe, and to all the ages of eternal duration. How presumptuous, then, for us, the dwellers in the dust, the children of a day, to find fault with the arrangements and operations of the great and incomprehensible Jehovah.
"Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” "Hast thou an arm like God, or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?" Thy wisdom is but folly, thy strength is weakness. Beware, then, not to cavil at the proceedings of him who is not accountable to thee for his matters. "Is it fit to say to a king thou art wicked? How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands."+
The greatness and the incomprehensibility of God, are not the only attributes of his character which should lead us to submit contentedly to his will. If an earthly friend had conferred on you innumerable and inestimable favours; and if some of his measures, which seemed at first inexplicable or unkind, proved in the issue to be replete with wisdom and love, you would think it but reasonable to trust him in future in reference to those of his plans which are but partially developed. How much more reasonable for you, who profess to be the children of God, to act on this principle in regard to your Father in heaven, to whom you are indebted for your being and for all your blessings, and who is possessed not only of incomprehensible greatness and uncontrollable dominion, but of boundless goodness and unerring wisdom. Recollect that he acts not simply according to his will, but according to the "counsel of his will," according to his will as regu
*Rom. ix. 20.
† Job xl. 9.
Job xxxiv. 18, 19.
lated by his wisdom; and recollecting this, where you cannot unriddle, learn to trust. Recollect that, though "clouds and darkness may be round about him, yet justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne, mercy and truth go before his face." Recollect, in fine, that now you know but in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away; and then that which seems crooked will be made straight, and that which is wanting will be numbered.
4th, Let us be thankful that those things which are essential to salvation are so clearly revealed, and let us diligently improve these necessary doctrines. That every thing essential to salvation is plainly declared in scripture, is a truth which has already been repeatedly stated; but it is a truth of such importance, that in a discourse on the present imperfection of human knowledge, it is not unnecessary to state it once more.
Let me remind you, therefore, that as those material substances which form the necessaries of life, are produced in the natural world in greatest abundance, so those religious truths which are the most momentous, are most luminously and expressly stated in the divine word; and the knowledge of them may be obtained even by those whose minds have never been invigorated by the pursuits of human literature, or expanded by the discoveries of human science. The road to the celestial city may be found by the astronomer and the philosopher, but it may be found also by the peasant and artizan, whose reason has never been taught to stray "far as the solar path or milky way."
These considerations ought to excite all of us, and more particularly it ought to excite the poor and the
*Psalm lxxxix. 14; xcvii.
unlearned, to emotions of devout and ardent gratitude. They ought to excite us also to a diligent improvement of the means of knowledge, as they give us the prospect that, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, our efforts will not be unsuccessful. And they should impress also with a salutary fear, as they remind us, that if we fail in obtaining the knowledge of any thing essential, the failure must originate either in the most culpable negligence, or the most criminal prejudice on our part, so that on either supposition we will be utterly without excuse. The moment, indeed, that we pass beyond the circle of necessary and practical truths, we enter on a territory which is covered, like the land of Egypt, with a darkness that may be felt, and where spectres and chimeras of grim and threatening aspect rise on every hand and warn us to withdraw; but so long as we keep within that hallowed region, like the Israelites in Goshen, we have light in all our dwellings. Let us then, my brethren, direct our regards incessantly to those truths which are vital and practical; let us study them with docility and self application; and, above all, let us fervently and constantly implore the teaching of that Spirit who can reveal them to babes, but without whom they will be hid from the wise and the learned.
Let me just add, that every thing in our mental constitution and in our external condition, indicates to us that we are formed for action rather than for speculation; and that that knowledge even, to which speculation is intended to conduct, is useful, chiefly as influencing our practice. "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and a good understanding have all they that do his commandments."
FAITH OVERCOMING THE WORLD.
JOHN v. 4.-This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
THE condition of the good man in the present life is often represented in scripture as a state of warfare. The contest, indeed, in which he is engaged, is of a spiritual and internal nature, and it is therefore widely different from those wars which the nations of the world wage with each other. The representation of scripture is not on that account the less just, for in the very nature of the present condition of the christian, a foundation is laid for keen and unremitted hostility. He has been taught to direct his attention and his affections to the distant and invisible rewards of the future state; but he is surrounded by objects of sense, and perpetually assailed by temptations, arising from the pleasures, the honours, and the riches of the world. In those evil passions which lurk in his own bosom, and which war against the soul, these external temptations find too often a powerful auxiliary. "The man's foes are those of his own household." "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so