« ForrigeFortsett »
down or on visiting the Sunday-school, he pats some one's little boy on the head, and speaks to him kind and pleasant words, while he passes their little son unnoticed. He has no improper design in what he does; but it happens so; that is all. The idea of partiality never enters his mind. But they fancy he has got something wrong in his mind towards them; and it is certain now that they have got something wrong in their minds towards him. And now his sermons are quite changed. The marrow and fatness are all gone, and there is nothing left but "the husks which the swine should eat." And every sermon he preaches seems worse than the one which went before, until at length they get quite weary, and their only comfort is, if they be Methodists, that Conference will come some day, and they will have a change. And all this time the preacher is just the same good man he ever was, and his sermons are the same; only they are changed. They have misjudged him, and become the subjects of unhappy feeling, and are no longer capable of doing either him or his sermons justice.
And the longer the unhappy feeling is allowed to remain in their minds, the stronger it will become, and the more mischievous will it prove. After disabling or perverting their judgments with regard to their pastor, it will be in danger of separating them from the Church; and when once they get out of the Church into the outside world, no wonder if they make shipwreck both of faith and of a good
And so it is continually. Our views of men's characters, talents, sentiments, are always more or less influenced by our feelings and affections. If we like a man very much, we look on his views in the most favorable light, and are glad to see anything like a reason for adopting them ourselves. We give his words and deeds the most favorable interpretation, and we rate his gifts and graces above their real value. On the other hand, if we dislike a man,—if we are led to regard him as an enemy, and to harbor feelings of resentment towards him, we look on what he says and does with distrust; we suspect his motives; we underrate his talents, and are pleased to have an excuse for differing from him in opinion.
THE AUTHOR'S CASE.
We see proofs of this power of feeling and affection over the judgment on every hand. The mother of that ordinarylooking and troublesome child thinks it the most beautiful and engaging little creature under heaven; while she wonders how people can have patience with her neighbor's child, which, in truth, is quite a cherub or an angel compared with her's. You know how it is with natural light. You sit inside an ancient cathedral, and the light from the bright shining sun streams in through the painted windows. Outside the cathedral the light is all pure white; but inside, as it falls upon the pulpit, the pillars, the pews and the people, it is purple, orange, violet, blue, red, or green, according to the color of the glass through which it passes. It is the same with moral or spiritual light; it takes the tint or hue of the painted windows of our passions and prejudices, our likes and dislikes, through which it enters our minds. The light that finds its way into men's minds, says Bacon, is never pure, white light; but light colored by the medium through which it passes. Look where we will, whether into books or into the living world, we see differences of opinion on men and things that can be accounted for on no other principle than that the judgments of people are influenced by their passions and feelings, their prejudices and interests. The Royalists looked on Cromwell through spectacles of hate and vengeance, and saw a monster of hypocrisy and blood. The Puritans looked at him through spectacles of revolutionary fanaticism, and saw a glorious saint and hero. The clergy looked on Nonconformists through conservative glasses, and saw a rabble of fanatics and rebels. The Nonconformists looked on the clergy through revolutionary glasses, and saw a host of superstitious formalists, and blind, persecuting Pharisees. The man who looks through the unstained glasses of impartiality, sees much that is good, and something that is not good, in all.
Who, that knows much of human nature, expects Catholics to judge righteously of Protestants, or Protestants to judge righteously of Catholics? Who, that knows anything of the world, expects revolutionary Radicals to do justice to the characters and motives of Conservatives, or ejected Irishmen to see anything in Englishmen but robbers
and tyrants? I know that all this is great weakness, but where is the man that is not weak? The man who thinks himself free from this weakness, has probably a double share of it. The man who is really strong is some one who is keenly sensible of his weakness, and who feels that his sufficiency is of God. .Weakness and humanity are one.
I dwell the longer on this point because, as I have already intimated, a right understanding of it will go far towards explaining the disastrous change which took place in my own mind with regard to Christianity. One great cause of my separation from the Church, and then of my estrangement from Christ, was the influence of bad feeling which took possession of my mind towards a number of my brother ministers.
ORIGIN OF THE UNHAPPY FEELING-CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AUTHOR'S MIND-RATIONALIZING TENDENCY.
OW came I to be the subject of this bad feeling? I will tell you.
As a young minister I had two or three marked tendencies. One may be called a rationalizing tendency. I was anxious, in the first place, clearly to understand all my professed beliefs, and to be able, in the second place, to make them plain to others. I never liked to travel in a fog, wrapped round as with a blinding cloud, unable either to see my way, or to get a view of the things with which I was surrounded. I liked a clear, bright sky, with the sun shining full upon my path, and gladdening my eyes with a view of a thousand interesting objects. And so with regard to spiritual matters. I never liked to travel in theological fogs. They pressed on me at the outset of my religious life, on every side, hiding from my view the wonders and the glories of God's word and works; but I never rested in the darkness. I longed and prayed for light with all my soul, and sought for it with all my powers. Regarding the Bible as God's Book, given to
ORIGIN OF THE UNHAPPY FEELING.
man for his instruction and salvation, I resolved, by God's help, to find out both what it said and what it meant, on every important point of truth and duty.
1. I became sensible, very early in life, that the doctrines I had received from my teachers were, in some cases, inconsistent with each other, and that they could not therefore all be true; and I was anxious to get rid of this inconsistency, and to bring the whole of my beliefs into harmony with each other.
2. I was also anxious to bring my views into agreement with the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. I wished every article of my belief to rest, not on the word of man, but on the word of God. I believed it to be my duty to come as near to Christ as possible, both in my views and character. And I wished my style of preaching and teaching to be, like His, the perfection of plainness and simplicity. I felt that my chief mission was to the masses,-that I was called especially to preach and teach the Gospel to the poor; and it was my wish to be able to make it plain to people of the most defective education, and of the humblest capacity.
3. I was further wishful to see an agreement between the doctrines which I gathered from the Sacred Scriptures, and the oracles which came to me from the works of God in nature. If nature and Christianity were from the same All-perfect God, as I believed, their voices must be one. Their lessons of truth and duty must agree. They must have the same end and tendency. Christian precepts must be in harmony with man's mental and bodily constitution. They must be conducive to the development of all man's powers; to the perfection and happiness of his whole being. They must be friendly to the improvement of his condition. They must favor every thing that is conducive to his personal and domestic happiness, and to the social and national welfare of the whole human race. And the doctrines of Christianity must be in harmony with the constitution, and laws, and phenomena of the visible universe. If there be one Great, All-perfect Creator and Governor of the world and of man, then man and the universe, the universe and religion, science and revelation, philosophy and Christianity, the laws of nature and the laws of Christ,
must all be one. I wanted to see this oneness, and to feel the sweet sense of it in my soul.
4. I wanted further to see the foundations on which my belief in God and Christ and in the Sacred Scriptures rested, that I might be able to justify my belief both to myself and to others. I wished to have the fullest evidence and assurance of the truth of Christianity I could get, that I might both feel at rest and happy myself, and be able to give rest and comfort to the souls of others.
5. With these objects in view I set to work. I prayed to God, the Great Father of lights, and the Giver .of every good and perfect gift, to lead me into all truth, and to furnish me to every good work. I read the Bible with the greatest care. I searched it through and through. I studied it daily, desirous to learn the whole scope and substance of its teachings, on every point both of truth and duty. I marked on the margin of the pages all those passages that struck me by their peculiar clearness, and their fulness of important meaning. These passages I read over again and again, till I got great numbers of them off by heart. I gave each passage a particular mark according to the subject on which it treated. I then copied the whole of these passages into large Note Books, placing all that spake on any particular subject together. I also arranged the passages so far as I was able, in their natural order, that they might throw light on one another, and present the subject on which they treated, in as full and intelligible a light as possible. I divided the pages of my Note Books into two columns, placing the passages which favored one view of a subject in the first column, and those which seemed to favor a different view in the second. I placed in those Note Books passages on matters of duty, as well as on matters of truth. In this way I got nearly all the plainer and more important portions of the Bible arranged in something like systematic order. Having done this, I went through my Books, and put down in writing all that the passages plainly taught, and marked the bearing of their teachings on the various articles of my creed, with a view to bringing my creed, and the teachings of Scripture, into agreement with each other."
6.. To help me in these my labors, and to secure myself