Images de page
PDF
ePub

zation. We neither laugh alone, nor weep alone, why then should we pray alone ? None of our feelings are of a more communicable nature than our religious ones. If devotion really exists in the heart of each individual, it is morally impossible it should exist there apart and single. So many separate tapers, burning so near each other, in the very nature of things must catch, and spread into one common flame.

The reciprocal advantages, which public and private worship possess over each other, are sufficiently obvious to make both desirable. While the former is more animated, the latter comes more intimately home to our own circumstances and feelings, and allows our devotion to be more particular and appropriated. To most of the objections made against the one, the other is equally liable. Superstition can drop her solitary beads, as well as vociferate the repetition of a public collect; if symptoms of weariness and inattention may be observed in our churches, we have only to look into the diaries of the most pious Christians, and we shall find still heavier complaints of the dulness and deadness of their spiritual frame; the thoughts may wander in the closet when the door is shut; folly and selfishness will send up improper petitions from the cell as well as from the congregation; nay, public worship has this great advantage, that it teaches those to pray, who, not being accustomed to think, cannot of themselves pray with judgment. To all, it teaches that we are not to pray for exclusive advan

tages, but to consider ourselves as members of a community. Our inmost wishes learn restraint while our petitions are thus directed, and our desires by degrees conform themselves to that spirit of moderation and justice, without which we cannot join in the comprehensive prayer, that must include the joint supplications of a numerous assembly.

Public worship has this further advantage over private, that it is better secured against languor on one side, and enthusiasm on the other. If the devotional sentiment has not taken deep root in his mind, a man will scarcely keep up, in silence and in solitude, an intercourse to which he is prompted by no external appearance, and of which he is reminded by no circumstance of time or place. And if his sense of invisible things is strong enough to engage his mind in spite of these disadvantages, there is room to fear, lest, by brooding in silence over objects of such indistinct vastness, his bewildered ideas and exalted imagination should lead him to the reveries of mysticism; an extreme no less to be dreaded than that of indifference. When Mr Wakefield, to strengthen his argument for seclusion in our religious exercises, directs our attention to the mount of Olives and the garden of Gethsemane, he should recollect that our Saviour sustained a character to which we cannot presume to aspire; and that, however favourable the desert and the wilderness have been to prophets visited by extraordinary illuminations, they cannot be equally suitable to the regular devotion of ordinary Christians.

them for heretics who do not believe them."* It is not the same thing to reject the sacred text, and to mistake its sense. St Augustine says something to the same purpose; that “ it could hardly, if at all, be determined what made one a heretic.+ And surely it can as little be determined now, by a wise man, though fools are hasty. And therefore what he said elsewhere is very rational, and worth considering by those who are fierce and rash in their charge of heresy, Sæviant illi, &c. “Let them be fierce and cruel, who know not how easy it is to err.”

If such things were duly considered by hasty zealots, they would not be so prodigal of their anathemas; but would find the matter of heresy among conscientious Christians so very hard, and the precepts of love, peace, meekness and forbearance towards them who differ, so very easy, and plain to be discerned, that if an ill temper did not bias them more to what is cruel, and unkind, one would think none could be so bad a casuist, as not to determine on the plainest and most pleasant side of the question ; and so “ let brotherly love still continue.” At least it would make any good natured man speak with Salvian, Errant, sed bono animo errant; apud nos hæretici sunt, apud se non sunt, &c. “ They do not think themselves heretics, though we do; they err, but it is with an honest mind; and how it will go with them at the great day, none but the Judge himself can tell." This is more Christian, and becoming a modest sense of our darkness and difficulties, than to pronounce honest minded men odious to God, and to render them odious to ignorant men, by charging them with, and anathematising them for damnable heresies ; and that usually by rote as we have been taught, without knowing what, or how to answer, what they have to say for themselves, and which perhaps we are afraid should be known to others.

* Sherlock's Vindication of Protestant Principles about Church Government, p. 31. + Quid vero faciat Hæreticum, regulari quadam definitione com

aut omnino non potest, aut difficulter potest. Præfat. de Heresibus.

* De Guber. I. v.

« PrécédentContinuer »