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their congregations, and say, “ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. 2 Cor. iii. 3.
Mr. John Roscoe. “ But you know we enforce virtue, and tell our hearers, that their final salvation depends on their becoming virtuous. This you will admit, is a powerful motive, more powerful than that which an evangelical preacher employs, who says that we may be saved without it."
Mr. Roscoe. No, he does not say, that we can he saved without becoming virtuous. This is an aecusation which cannot be substantiated; and to bring it forward, is to bear false witness against another. He does not require virtue on our part, as a pre-requisite to recommend us to the favour of God; but he enforces it, as expressive of our reverence for his authority, and of our gratitude to his sovereign goodness, in redeeming us from the curse of a violated law. He does not substitute our very defective righteousness, for the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which would be an entire abandonment of the most essential doctrine of the gospel: but he tells us that the grace of God that bringeth salvation teaches us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, Titus ii. 12. Indeed the evangelical minister requires a higher degree of virtue than kis opponent; and be employs more powerful motives to enforce it. He requires the entire renovation of the mind, and such a conversion from all the evil habits, and impure propensities of our nature, as shall constitute us new creatures in Christ Jesus. Do you enforce virtue from an appeal to the authority of God? so does your evangelical brother; do you enforce it by a reference to its own loveliness, and its tendency to promote personal and relative happiness ? so does he ; but he goes a step further; he presses into the service of the pulpit, the motives which arise from the redemption of the soul, by the death of the Lord of life; and if we look around us, we shall perceive that these have a more powerful effect on the principles and conduct of men, than any
other which ever have been, or ever can be employed. Men who will resist authority, may be
subdued by clemency, and those whom a dread of punishment could not reclaim from evil, have been turned from the errors of their way, after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward them hath appeared."
Mr. John Roscoe. “I grant, that the people who sit under an evangelical ministry, talk more about religion, than those who do not, and adopt habits which are certainly more conformable to religion; but I do not think that they are any better, (if so good, than their less ostentatious neighbours; nor can I avoid believing that many of them are insincere; and put on their cloak of profession, more as a badge of distinction, amongst men, than as an ornament in the sight of God.”
Mr. Roscoe. You certainly are right in your admission that those who sit under an evangelical ministry are more religious in their habits, and in their conversation, than those who do not; but how far your impeachment of their motives accords with the principle of justice, and of humility, remains to be ascertained. Yes, they do talk more about religion, and they understand more about it. I remember a poor woman of the name of Allen,* who once lived in the cottage which you so much admired this morning, who often used to perplex and confound me, when we conversed together on religious topics. I could not account for her superior knowledge, as she was very deficient in education, and the triumphant manner of her death, left an impression on my mind that there was a something in religion, which I had never attained, nor discovered ; nor is this a solitary instance.”
" Oh no!” said Mrs. John Roscoe, (making an apology for her interruption,)“ I am fully convinced that those who embrace evangelical sentiments are more religious in their conversation and habits than those who neglect them. But it is at the awful hour of death, when body and soul are on the eve of separation, that the difference between the two descriptions of persons becomes the more apparent and impressive. We had a servant, a member of the Dissenting chapel, who
• See Nus. 6 and 16 of this Series,
lived with us some few months, when she was taken ill, and left us.
She resided with her father, a poor pious man, several months, when she died. I often went to sce her, and was standing by her side when she breathed her last. She was composed, and eren cheerful, in prospect of her departure; but it was the cheerfulness of a spirit made happy by the consolations of religion, and which expected to be still happier in the celestial world."
Mr. Roscoe..“ It is now about twelve months since, I was travelling with an eminent physician; and our conversation turned on the state of religion in the country, and on the evangelical and anti-evangelical ministers and laity of our own church; when he stated a fact which produced a deep impression on my mind, as he said it produced a deep impression on his own. 'In the course of my profession, he observed, 'I am often called to witness the termination of human life; the retiring of the actors from the busy stage; the departure of intelligent beings from one world to another; and I have uniformly found, that those who have im bibed the evangelical sentiments die much more like the Christians of the Bible than those who have not. Indeed I give it, as the result of long experience, that evangelical religion, though much despised, is the most conducive to the happiness of man, especially in l.is last moments.'”
* The Author once knew a lady, who was celebrated in the town in which she lived, no less for her benevolence, than she was for her utter dislike to those persons who had embraced evangelical sentiments. She generally used to term them, hy way of reproach, Methodists, Enthusiasts, or Fanatics. For many years she was in the habit of visiting the poor and the infirm, sympathizing with them when in trouble, giving them money to purchase the necessaries and comforts of life, and originated several institutions of a public nature, which still remain as the memorial of her practical goodness. Often has she sat beside the lingering sufferer, wiping away the cold sweats of death, and administering with her own hands, the last portion of food, or of medicine, which nature has consented to receive. This lady, when conversing with a friend whose prejudices against the Fanatics of the day, (as the disciples of the Redeemer are styled,) ran as high as her own, said, " I don't know how to account for it, but find these people know more ahout religion than we do ; and appear more happy in their dying moments, than any other Thare ever met with.” Happy would it have been for her, if some friend had been present to have explained the cause of it—but no--living under the sombrous gloom of a pharisaical faith, which admits not of the clear light of the truth, she lived in ignorance of the nature of faith in Christ, and in ignorance she died.
Mr. John Roscoe. "Yes! the imagination, when acted upon by evangelical opinions, very often holds a pretended intercourse with Heaven, and sees sights, and hears sounds which are super-human; but are we so far gone from the sober restraints of reason as to become the advocates of its enthusiastic raptures ?”
Mr. Roscoe. “I am not surprised at your remarks, as I once made a similar one,* though I felt a little misgiving of heart as I gave it utteranoe; but now, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the delusion has vanished away, and I am convinced that what I once called, and what
still call, the raptures of a disordered imagination, are the triumphs of faith over the terrors of death-the scintillations of animated hope of a blissful immortality; and the sublime expressions which have fallen from the lips of the dying saint, who always dies as an unworthy sinner, are as much in accordance with the genius of the Gospel as they are reprobated by the spirit of scepticism."
Mr. John Roscoe. “I have no doubt but they will be saved, if they are sincere.”
Mr. Roscoe. “And why should you doubt their sincerity ? If you see a man devoting his mind to the pursuits of commerce, or of literature, or of pleasure, you do not feel yourself at liberty to impugn his motives; then why should you do it, if you see him devoting his mind to religion? Is religion the only subject which we are forbidden to approach ? or if we dare approach it with reverence for its authority, with ardent gratitude for its sacred communications, with deep and strong interest in its sublime enunciations of an ulterior state of existence, when we shall rise up 'to the full strength, and purity, and grandeur of our being,--are we to be reproached and maligned for insincerity and hypocrisy? You accuse us of ostentation, because we make a more decided profession of religion than some
+ See No. 14 of this Series, page 11.
of our neighbours; but allow me to ask you, if the spirit in which this charge originates has not exuded its venom against pure and undefiled religion, when it has been embodied in a living character, in every age of the Christian church?”
Mr. John Roscoe, Why you know that some who have made the greatest professions have been guilty of the most dishonourable conduct!”
Mr. Roscoe. '“ Yes, I know it; and I must confess that the inconsistent conduct of professors induced me, for many years, to cherish very unfavourable opinions against all who embraced evangelical sentiments; but I am now satisfied that I acted neither wisely nor equitably. Because one member of a family, or ten members of a religious community act inconsistently with their professions to each other, am I at liberty to condemn the whole ?"
Mr. John Roscoe. “But you will admit that it is calculated to excite suspicion."
Mr. Roscoe. "It may excite suspicion where an evil passion or an enslaving prejudice has gained an ascendancy, but not otherwise; as I do maintain, that the law of equity forbids us suspecting the sincerity and aprightness of any man until he gives us a cause. Am I to suspect the honour, the 'integrity, and the friendship of Mr. Stevens, because some one who goes to the same church, and professes to have imbibed the same theological opinions, has been guilty of an act of fraud, or sacrificed his honour by attempting to wound the reputation of his friend?"
Mr. John Roscoe. “But when people make a more splendid profession than their neighbours, it is natural for us to expect a more exemplary conduct."
Mr. Roscoe. “Certainly; and if they are not exemplary in their conduct you may impeach their sincerity; but you ought to confine the act of impeachment to the offender, and not extend it to others. Will any grand jury in this kingdom find a true bill against a loyal subject because he lives in the vicinity of a traitor? No. If a professor of religion run to the same excess of riot with others; if he press to your theatres; if he visit your card-parties; if he figure at your concerts or your balls,--you may very justiy reproach him; but if