Page images
PDF
EPUB

of their own party. They not only record the conduct of Judas in betraying their Lord, and the conduct of Peter in denying him ; but they also record the disputes of the apostles, about which of them should be the prime minister, while they were so in the dark as to suppose that Jesus had come to reign as a temporal prince on the throne of Davidhow James and John would have called fire from heaven to avenge the unkind treatment given to their Master by the Samaritans; and how they all forsook him and fled, when he was arrested by a band of soldiers.

The conduct of the Evangelists in recording the miscarriages and errors of their own party, has something in it deserving of special notice. It does not appear to have been done to fix reproach on the character of any one, but to furnish an opportunity the more fully to illustrate the forbearing spirit of our Lord towards them, while he knew them to be very imperfect, and in great errors of opinion.

How happy it would have been for the world had all the ministers of the Gospel uniformly displayed the forbearing spirit of our Lord and the four Evangelists! But when we compare many of the writings of ministers of past ages and of the present day with the writings of the Evangelists, how lamentable is the contrast! When the Evangelists had closed their narratives of important facts, they forebore to subjoin any bitter remarks, appeals, or invectives, to excite prejudice against those who had acted as enemies to them or their Lord., This caution appears highly commendable, when we consider that they were writing memoirs of one who was so dear to them, and how naturally it might have been supposed that their minds were strongly pre possessed against his persecutors. How different from this has too often been the conduct of ministers of the Gospel, in speaking of brethren who only dissented from them in opinion! How often, on such ground, have many ventured to censure the hearts of their dissenting brethren, when they might have known themselves to be in such a manner interested and prejudiced persons, as would disqualify them for jurors in the opinion of well-informed and impartial men ! And not content with this, how

many,

under such circumstances, have dared to do what they , could to excite prejudice in the minds of others against their dissenting brethren! How different from this were the dispositions and the conduct of the four Evangelists !

LETTER X V.

PERNICIOUS EFFECTS OF CENSORIOUS JUDGING.

My Christian Brethren,

As censorious judging has been shown to be às clearly forbidden by the Gospel as theft or mur

der, it is natural to infer, that it must be pernicious in its effects. Some of which have been incidentally mentioned; but others of them seem to demand more distinct notice.

1. Censorious judging, on account of differences of opinion, tends to divert the attention of people from the law of love as the true standard of Christian character, and to fix it on the creed of the party to which the persons severally belong. Hence instead of regarding the divine precepts as a common standard for all, each party has a standard of its own ; and then party love very naturally becomes a substitute for that benevolence which is the fulfilling of the law, and the bond of peace. The consequences of this must be dreadful.

2. The practice tends to prevent the usefulness of those who are censured and defamed. It cannot be reasonably doubted that the censorious conduct of the scribes and pharisees did much to prevent the success of the preaching of, even Christ and his apostles. Their slanderous accusations could not fail to prejudice the minds of their adherents against the Saviour and his doctrines. New opinions, or opinions which are regarded as new, are very commonly deemed erroneous and dangerous, whether they be true or false ; and their propagators are generally calumniated as wicked men.

It was so with Christ and his apostles. The evils of this cruel and mischievous policy have been in some measure counteracted by that law of providence which usually produces in the minds of the consid

erate a sympathy for the persecuted. Were it not for this, it is difficult to conceive how a reformation of doctrines could ever be effected against the clamor which is so uniformly raised against the teachers of new opinions.

3. The practise of censorious judging also tends to diminish the usefulness of those who indulge themselves in it. For it tends to blind their own eyes, and to turn off their attention from the care of their own hearts—it also sours and embitters their minds, and thus prevents the exhibition of that meek and quiet spirit which is necessary to a person's own usefulness. Their conduct may be applauded by persons of their own disposition; but the truly humble of their own party must be shocked by the contrast between such conduct and the precepts of the Gospel

4. This odious practice tends to excite and cherish the spirit of war. The war spirit is but the censorious spirit acted out in political conflicts. Hence the person who indulges the censorious spirit must naturally be in a great measure blind to the evils of war and persecution.

5. Censorious judging tends to prevent the progress of light and truth, as well as of love and peace. When new views of any doctrine or of any passage of Scripture are discovered and proposed, it is by no means certain that they are true, nor that they are false. All improvements or advances are made by new discoveries. True wisdom would dictate that such discoveries should be examined with impartiality and candor, not hastily received nor rashly rejected. How happy it might have been for myriads of the Jews had they but candidly examined the new doctrines, or new views of religion inculcated by the Messiah ! But self-sufficiency blinded the minds of the scribes and pharisees ; so they rejected the counsels of God against themselves and led others into the ditch.-People of this age should take warning by their sad example.

6. The practice in question has a pernicious influence on the rising generation. It gives them false views of the nature of true religion. The children of different sects naturally imbibe the feelings as well as the opinions of their respective parents, and of course grow up with a spirit of hostility towards such as are despised and reproached by their guides. How exceedingly pernicious must have been this practice to the Jewish children in the days of the Messiah! Perhaps stronger prejudices never existed against any Teacher than the unbelieving Jews indulged towards him. The children of course heard him reviled as a Sabbath breaker, a glutton, a drunkard, an impostor and a blasphemer. The common people sometimes" heard him gladly," and they might perhaps generally have done so to their own advantage, had it not been for the slanderous tongues of their religious teachers. But these leading men embittered the minds of their followers against the Messiah, and prepared them to raise the cry—“ Crucify him! Crucify him!" It seems in fact that the prejudices thus formed and

« PreviousContinue »