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pedient of finding out a new sense for the words, not in contradiction to those notions which you espouse, and which you are unwilling to abandon. Take care, James, what you are about: you seem to me to be in danger of trifling with sacred things, and of being more anxious about the establishment of your own sentiments than the discovery of truth. If this should be the case, I must in honesty tell you, that if you persevere in this mind, it would be better for you to be among the blindest tribe of savages, worshipping an idol, than to have the word of God in your hands, and to treat it so.
James. One thing, John, I will not conceal from you; my confidence in my cause is somewhat abated since you have discovered to me that you were speaking the very words of our church; nor will I retract the concession I made, that those words seem, at first sight, not only to favour your views, but, indeed, plainly to express them. Let the matter end as it may, I am forced in honesty to acknowledge so much. The truth is, John, I have been so much in the habit, from the influence of the society in which I lived, of taking for granted, that those who were known to hold your sentiments had nothing reasonable to say in their defence, that I had little doubt of being able, in point of argument, easily to put you to silence; and, unless you should prove deaf to the plainest principles of common sense, of even reclaiming you from your aberrations. But what has past has fully convinced me, that on this point I was in error; and though I still disagree with you as to the truth of your doctrine, I do not hesitate to say, that it is my intention to examine the subject; and to ascertain whether my religious sentiments accord with the authentic standards of that church of which I profess myself a minister. Nor am I ashamed to confess, that
till now the matter never struck me in a light so obviously practical and important. Why, indeed, should any man be ashamed to acknowledge his errors when he becomes convinced of them?
John. It gives me sincere pleasure, James, to hear you speak in this You know that my preway. judices were, not long ago, as great as yours are now; and that I used to speak all manner of evil of those sentiments of which I am now the sincere, but feeble advocate. At that time I considered the title of Evangelical Clergyman, as one of so opprobrious a nature, that nothing could induce me to go in the way of those who were thus distinguished. But notwithstanding all my jealousy and caution, I was brought into contact with one of them, who became rector of the parish contiguous to my own; and thereby had an opportunity of observing facts that served to remove my prejudices at first, and led finally to that change which has exposed me to your censure. The former incumbent of that parish had, like too many, chosen the clerical profession, merely with a view to preferment, and had felt no interest in the spiritual welfare of the flock. The consequence was what might have been expected.
His church was
badly attended; his parishioners were ignorant and immoral; and, in short, every thing around him indicated disorder and neglect. The present incumbent, as I told you, called, in contempt, an Evangelical Clergyman. It is now about three years since he came to the parish; and I may say, with truth, that no one had a greater dislike of his principles than I had, at the time of his first becoming my neighbour. I can well remember, with what a jealous eye I watched over his conduct, in the hope of finding him guilty of some irregularity which might authorize a public expression of my disapprobation: but
in this I was completely disappointed; for his zeal was so tempered with discretion, that it was always exercised within the limits of those boundaries prescribed by the church to which he belonged; and in accordance with those principles, which, as a minister of the Establishment, he felt himself called upon to maintain. To the change that soon began to manifest itself in his parish, I could not be an indifferent spectator: and I confess with shame, that I was even mortified to witness facts so favourable to those principles which I at that time disliked; though facts which, in themselves, ought to have given me pleasure. The church, which had before been deserted, was soon filled, and even enlarged: and his conscientious attention to his parishioners of all ages, soon discovered itself in the altered character both of the old and young. I could not avoid observing, how little this accorded with the vulgar charge brought against him, of holding and preaching a licentious doctrine: but I was not in a disposition at that period to give way to convictions so little agreeable to my principles; and I endeavoured to get rid of reflections, the tendency of which was to shake my confidence in long-cherished and deep-rooted opinions. Thus matters continued for some time, till an unexpected incident brought me into immediate contact with the man, whom I affected to despise for his fanaticism, but whom I secretly respected for his consistency. One interview with him made me desirous of another; and this led to a free intercourse on religious subjects, the effect of which was a daily diminution of my prejudices; and the final result, a deliberate adoption, by the blessing of God, of my present principles.
James. You were easily overcome, John.
John. I do not know that, James; I fought every inch of
ground, until I was driven step by step from all my strong-holds; and at last shut up in a corner, out of which I could not by any means escape. My friend produced the plain words of Scripture, and the doctrines of our church as founded upon that infallible standard. He showed me, not only that I was erring from the word of God, but that my sentiments were in plain contradiction to the very creed that I had bound myself to preach and defend; and that, while I was accusing him of disaffection to the Established Church, (to which I now know his conscientious attachment,) I was myself, in reality, the dissenter from it, by holding sentiments opposed to its authorized standards, and by contending against its genuine principles.
James. Supposing all this to be true, John, tell me honestly, do you think the change a matter of vital importance?
John. Undoubtedly, James, I do. Believe me, it is a question not about a certain modification of faith, but about Christianity itself. If wine has been gradually diluted so as to have lost all its characteristic flavour, and to have only the properties of the water remaining, by which its virtue has been destroyed, no man in his senses will expect, that the liquor thus altered and debased will or can produce the effects of wine. Equally unreasonable with such an opinion, is the identification of what is now called Christianity, with what was originally meant by that term; and equally vain the expectation that it answers the same purposes, and will issue in the same consequences. No, my friend, the Christianity of the world, is not, as people suppose, a system, the same in kind with the primitive faith, but with diminished strength: it is something distinct, in its very essence, from that faith; and, in fact, is found to be compatible with what primitive Christianity was intended
to destroy. The genuine Gospel of God aims at the overthrow of our self-dependence, and at the subjection of our hearts: and by presenting to us an object of faith equally calculated for the attainment of both objects, it either effects them, or leaves us without excuse in our disobedience. The doctrine of justification by faith in a crucified Saviour, when understood, levels all the proud pretensions of man, founded upon a personal righteousness and leads the sinner to a thankful acceptance of mercy, as the way, and the only way, by which a guilty creature can be saved; and the love manifested in the voluntary humiliation and sacrifice to which that Saviour submitted, produces a return of love, and of devotedness, which could not arise from any other consideration. In these two points, we find the very essence of Christianity; and where they are kept out of sight, we may have indeed the name, but we want the nature and substance of that which brings peace in this life, and leads to glory in the next. You need not be surprised then, James, if those who are called Evangelical (a term which, by the way, they do not apply to themselves) should be tenacious on a subject, which they consider as involving a distinction no less important than between real and nominal Christianity, Could they conscientiously enter into any compromise on this subject, they would probably be allowed to pass without much mo
lestation: but believing as they do that the controversy is about substantial and practical truth, they dare not qualify their doctrine, to please their opponents. "Let them come unto thee, but go not thou to them," is the rule they must go by; to whatever censure their apparent uncharitableness may expose them. They must maintain what they consider the truth of God, against every doctrine that may be put in competition with it, with the same jealousy that the Jews were to assert the honour of Jehovah, in exclusion of all the idols of the nations.
James. I cannot enter into your views, John; but I can say with truth, that I see the subject in a different light from what I did at the commencement of our conversation; and it is my decided intention to inquire farther into the matter, and to judge for myself. Should I be convinced that I have been in error, I trust I shall not be ashamed to acknowledge and retract.
John. Remember, my dear friend, the danger to which those are exposed who lean to their own understanding; and earnestly seek of the Father of lights, a happy issue of your inquiries, through the promised influences of that Spirit, by whose teaching alone we shall "know the things that are freely given to us of God."
James. I hope I shall, John. Farewell.
John. Farewell, my dear friend,
THE inclosed appeared a few years since in a provincial paper: should you deem it worth the attention of your readers, its insertion in your valuable miscellany will oblige the original contributor, and your present correspondent,
It must surely be owing to want of consideration, that the numerous tribe of Gipsies have been hitherto neglected, as it respects endeavours being made to reclaim them from their wandering course of life. That their situation is such, as to
render the effort desirable, must be evident to every person who reflects upon it. But as it is possible, that some may not have hitherto bent their thoughts this way, I venture to intrude upon the patience of your readers, by making a few observations on the state of the Gipsies, as it regards themselves and the country at large.
Perhaps some may be ready to object, that they live as they choose, and it does not concern us to meddle with them; but I conceive, when a true statement of their manner of life is unfolded, no person, who calls himself a Christian, will see it objectionable, to endeavour to better their condition and reform their moral conduct.
Their state appears to be a degraded one. Wanderers from place to place, with no certain dwelling, their habits greatly differ from those of civilized life. Denominated rogues and vagabonds, and continually liable to imprisonment, if the laws are exerted against them; and now, by various means, prevented from residing in those places where they have usually lived, their lives must be comparatively wretched.
Their state is one of loathsome idleness. How rarely are they usefully employed! day after day lying about the roads and commons, spending their time in an unprofitable irksome manner. Only conceive how grating to human beings, for the whole family to lodge together, like a herd of animals. Surely all decency must soon be banished from such a community, Idleness must naturally be attended with its usual concomitants, want and pain. These they frequently endure in all their rigour, from a privation of necessary food, clothing, and comfortable habitations.
If we look at their moral state, we shall find them ignorant. How painful, in this land of intellectual light and scriptural knowledge,
that a whole class of people should voluntarily remain in a state of barbarous darkness of mind! This ignorance might be, in part, removed, were they in the habit of attending divine worship on the day set apart for this important service. But where are the churches
in which they present themselves among the people of God? Who, among your readers, ever saw one of them at church? Alas! the Sabbath, though a day of gladness and holy delight to thousands, brings no additional happiness to them.
In addition to this, we consider them to be profane. They are not unacquainted with the name of the great God. But what is the effect of this knowledge? does it lead them to adore and praise him? Alas! few of them make any use of this knowledge, except to profane, and daringly swear by that name at which even devils tremble. They know of Sabbaths; but they spend them in idleness and wickedness, very rarely attending any place of worship, and thus practically live without God in the world.
If we inquire what benefit society derives from them in their present condition, I fear it will appear to be less than none; for it is well known, that they are a dead weight in the scale of beings. They travel about, and eat and drink; but they work not; at least, comparatively speaking, their labour is of no material advantage. They are mere drone bees in the great hive of industrious and useful members of society; and live by the labour and exertions of the more deserving and industrious. While other inhabitants of the country are diligently pursuing their particular callings and occupations, these people are travelling from house to house, and clamorously demanding, for a living, the fruit of other men's labours.
But this is not the darkest shade
in their conduct: they are generaily dishonest. Pilfering is a trade at which they are considered to be very expert. Hedges, for fuel, are their constant prey; poultry and game, also, when opportunity serves, they do not scruple to seize upon; and, it is supposed, that some of them are horse and sheep stealers.
They are highly injurious to the moral characters of our servants; frequently tempting them to rob their masters' cellars and pantries, &c.; and inducing them to listen to such deceitful stories and pretences about fortune-telling, &c. as often embolden and encourage females, especially, either to depart from the paths of virtue, or at least to contract imprudent and unhappy marriages.
It may be inquired, why I draw the character of the Gipsies in such gloomy colours? Not to reproach them as being worse than others; for it is more than probable, that many enlightened welleducated people are equally depraved. But that those, who have it in their power to remove their ignorance, and introduce them into a state of civilized and religious life, may be induced to exert that power for this purpose. Let us, then, briefly consider the advantages that would arise from their being induced to adopt a different course of life, both as it respects themselves and the community.
With regard to themselves, the benefits would be great. They would be brought from a state of idleness and ignorance, to one of industry, useful exertion, and the acquisition of useful knowledge. They would no longer live a degraded life, little superior to the brutes; but be brought to live like other rational beings. That many of them are persons of very superior natural capacity, may be inferred from their fluency of speech, their skill in music, &c.
whence we may reasonably suppose, that, were their abilities cultivated by a suitable education, many of them might (instead of being nuisances wherever they rove) become ornamental and useful characters. They would be induced to yield obedience to laws, both human and divine; and, being acquainted with the duty they owe to God and the King, their conduct, we would humbly hope, would be entirely changed: their families would be trained up in moral and religious habits; they would learn and labour truly to get their own living, and to do their duty in that state of life to which they were called. They would, many of them at least, become useful members of society; would imbibe the true doctrines of the church, and prove worthy members of the same.
Let those exalted personages, whose talents and influence are such, as may enable them to be of essential service in this case, consider the present state and probable results of applying their influence for a while to this business. True, it may not immortalize their names in the page of history; but the happiness, usefulness, and perhaps eternal salvation, of thousands, in the present and succeeding generations, may be the happy and successful issue, and remote consequence, of such exertion.
If we turn our attention for a moment upon the worth of the soul, this, if nothing else, should have some weight with us. He, who spake as never man spake, and who alone could know the value of the deathless soul of man, rated the worth of an individual soul at more than the world. To be instrumental in the deliverance but of one soul from eternal perdition, would fully repay every exertion that can be made; and may we not hope that such would be the case, not with one only, but with many?
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,