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with insipid feebleness, or which cramp its majesty into an artificial form at once distorted and mean, must grievously injure its influence. An intelligent Christian cannot look into such works without feeling thankful that they were not the books from which he got his conceptions of the Gospel. Nothing would induce him to put them into the hands of an inquiring youth, and he would be sorry to see them on the table of an infidel, or in the library of his children, or of a student for the ministry.-Foster's Essays.
These sentiments answered so astonishingly to my own thoughts, that I read them with the greatest delight. I laid them, in substance, before my brethren. I explained them. I illustrated them by quotations from books and sermons. I gave them instances of the various faults pointed out by Foster, taken from their favorite authors, and in some cases from the discourses of living preachers. I wrote several essays on the causes of the slow progress made by Christianity, in which I embodied and illustrated many of Foster's views. I wrote essays on "Preaching Christ," in which I embodied and illustrated Wesley's views on the subject, including his condemnation of what, in his days, was falsely called "Gospel Preaching." I wrote quite a large volume on these subjects, and read the contents, so far as opportunity offered, to my colleagues at our weekly meetings. I was badly requited for my pains. In some cases my colleagues listened to me and stared at me with amazement. They thought I "brought strange things to their ears." One, who is now dead, said I should be really an excellent fellow, he believed, if I could only get the cobwebs swept out of my upper stories. Everything beyond his own poor standing common-places was cobwebs to him, poor fellow. The remarks on this subject in the LIFE of the preacher referred to, show that my ideas and plans at that time are not yet understood by all his brethren.
Travel, they say, frees men from their prejudices. The more they see of the wonders of other countries, and of the manners of other nations, the more moderate becomes their estimate of the marvels, and of some of the views and customs of their native land. And it is certain that the more a man travels through good books by men of different Churches from his own, the less important will some of the
FOSTER ON RELIGIOUS WRITERS.
peculiarities of his own denomination appear. As ignorance of the world is favorable to blind patriotism and home idolatry, so ignorance of Churches, and systems, and literatures different from our own, is favorable to bigotry and sectarianism. And as free and extended intercourse with foreign nations tends to enlarge and liberalize the mind; so the more extensive a Christian's acquaintance is with different branches of the Church, and with their customs, and writings, and manners, the more likely will his sectarian bigotry and intolerance be to give place to liberal views and to Christian moderation and charity.
But just in proportion as he becomes the subject of this blessed transformation, will he be regarded with suspicion and dread by those who still remain the slaves of ignorance and bigotry.
It was so in my case. I travelled through extensive regions of religious literature different from that of my own Church, and I did so with an earnest desire to learn what was true and good in all. The consequence was the loss of many prejudices, and the modification of many more. I lost my prejudices against all kinds of Christians. I could believe in the salvation both of Quakers and Catholics, and of all between, if they were well disposed, God-fearing, good-living men. I could believe in the salvation of all, not excepting Jews, Turks, and Pagans, who lived according to the light they had, and honestly and faithfully sought for further light. I believed that in every nation he that feared God and worked righteousness was accepted of Him. I believed that honest, faithful souls among the pagans of old would be found at last among the saved. I regarded the moral and spiritual light of the ancient pagans as light from heaven, as divine revelation. I looked on all mankind as equally objects of God's care and love, as His children, under His tuition, though placed for a time in different schools, with different teachers, and with different lesson-books. I came to believe that God was as good as a good man, as good as the kindest and best of fathers, and even better, and I felt assured that He would not permit any well-disposed soul on earth to perish. I believed that some who were first in privileges, would be among the last in blessedness; and that some that were last in privileges would be among the first in blessedness.
Yet I believed in missions. I believed that it was the, duty of all to share their blessings with others; to give to others the light that God had bestowed on them, that though pagans might be saved without Christian light, if they lived according to the light they had, Christians could not be saved if they did not, as they had opportunity, impart their superior light to the pagans.
I respected the good moral principles, and the portions of religious truth that I found in the ancient Greek and Roman authors, just as I lamented and condemned the moral and religious errors that I found in Christian books.
THE CURE OF PREJUDICE.
"I seized on truth where'er 'twas found,
and made it part of my creed: and I warred with error though entrenched in the strong-holds of the Church. respected what was true and good in all denominations of Christians; and even in all denominations that called themselves Christians, whether they came near enough to Christ to entitle them to that name or not. If I saw anything good in the creeds or the characters of other denominations I accepted it, and tried to embody it in my own creed and character.
And I did, as I thought, see good in every one that I did not see in others. I could see things in some Protestants, which I thought Catholics would do well to imitate; and I could see things among Catholics, which I thought Protestants would do well to imitate. I could see things in Quakerism, which it would have been to the honor and advantage of other Christians to imitate; and I could see good things in other Churches which Quakers would have done well to copy. I could see even among Unitarians of the older and better class, an attention to matters practical, a naturalness of style, and a freedom from certain anti-christian expressions and notions, which it would have been well for orthodox Churches to have made their own; and I could see where Unitarians had both gone too far through their dislike of orthodox error, and fallen short of truth and duty through dread of orthodox weaknesses or imperfections. And I had an idea, that it would
be well in all Churches, instead of avoiding, or scolding, or abusing one another, to study each other lovingly, with a view to find how much of truth and goodness they could find in each other, that they could not find in themselves, and how much of error and imperfection they could find in themselves, that they did not find in others. I saw that no Church had got all the truth, or all the goodness, and that no Church was free from anti-christian errors and defects. I saw that to make a perfect Christian creed, we should have to take something out of every creed, and leave other things in every creed behind; and that to secure a perfect exhibition of Christian virtue, and a perfect system of Christian operations, we should have to borrow from each other habits, customs, rules and machinery in the same way, and leave parts of our own to fall into disuse.
And I was willing to act on this principle. I saw that Christ and Christianity were more and better than all the Churches and all the creeds on earth put together, and that, all the Churches had errors and faults or failings which Christ and Christianity had not; and I had an idea that one of the grandest sights conceivable would be to set all the disciples of Christ to work striving to get rid of everything anti-christian, and to come as near to Christ, and to each other, as possible, both in truth and virtue.
But to proceed with my story.
I frequently spoke on religious subjects with my colleagues when we met, along with the leading laymen, at the houses of our friends. Some new book, some particular sermon, or some article in the magazine, or perhaps the fulness of one's own mind with the subjects of one's studies, would turn the conversation on the state of the Church and the ministry, and the need of improvement in the theological systems and dialects of the day, and the manner of handling religious subjects generally, both in the pulpit and through the press. Whatever the subject under consideration might be, I expressed myself with the utmost freedom. I stated my beliefs and disbeliefs, my doubts and my convictions, without the least reserve. And I as readily gave my reasons for my views. I was generally prepared with the passages of Scripture bearing on the subjects introduced, and gave them, with my impressions of their
meaning. And I did my best to draw my colleagues and friends into a thorough investigation of every point, in hopes that we might all come as near as possible in our views to a full conformity to the teachings of Christ. The results of these conversations, and of my other labors, were in some cases, very satisfactory. Some were led to exercise their minds on religious subjects who had never troubled themselves about such matters before. Some that had been accustomed to think and read a little were led to think and read more, and to better purpose. Some that had been helplessly and miserably perplexed had their minds put right, and were delivered from their distresses. Some had their minds directed more seriously to the practical requirements of Christianity, and labored more, and made more sacrifices, for the prosperity of the Church and the salvation of their fellow-men. In considerable numbers the standard of Christian knowledge and piety was raised, and the eral tone of the churches improved.
MY COLLEAGUES IN THE MINISTRY.
In other cases the results were of a very different character. During the early years of my religious life I supposed that all professing Christians, and especially all ministers of the Gospel, were anxious to be as wise and good as possible, and that they would be delighted, as I was myself, to get any new, or larger, or clearer views of truth and duty. I judged of others by myself, and gave them credit for the same desires and longings that swelled my own soul. I gave them credit too for unlimited capacities to take in and appreciate the truth, and for any amount of ability to use it, when received, in doing good to others. I had seldom any difficulty in understanding them; and it never entered my mind that they would have much difficulty in understanding me. And I never felt myself even tempted, much less disposed, to misrepresent the words or sentiments of my friends, or to take advantage of the freedom with which they spoke, to injure them in the estimation of their friends. I had no intolerance myself, so far as I can recollect, and I had no disposition to cause intolerance in others towards my brethren. How it was with my brethren I will not undertake to say, but, as a person with any knowledge of human nature would have anticipated, I was greatly misunderstood and misrepresented. Some of my col