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approves; and hourly subjects himself to inward reproach for desertion of his duty, by outwardly assuming a character revolting to his own feelings; disregarding the maxim of the Apostle, “ Happy is he who condemneth “ not himself in that thing which he al6 loweth.”

There can be little doubt that this false shame has had considerable influence in increasing the number of parties and divisions in the Church. Every man is inclined to denominate his own particular views of Christianity“ the Gospel of Christ,” to the exclusion of all other views of it, sanctioned by whatever authority. Attaching himself, therefore, to such bodies as coincide with him in this persuasion, he becomes confident in the avowal of his opinions, and even goes forth in the spirit of proselytism to spread and extend them. However timid or reluctant before, he now courts observation, feeling strong in the protection of numbers, though at the hazard of “ making shipwreck of his faith.” That many have thus fallen into the snares of Socinianism and even Deism on the one hand, or of Fanaticism and Superstition on the other, will hardly be doubted by those who have watched the progress of the human mind, in its efforts to overcome that infirmity of purpose, which is “ tossed about by every “ wind of doctrine,” unable to withstand the assailants of its peace, however weak or contemptible. Amidst the zeal, therefore, which is manifested for conflicting opinions, and the confidence with which they appear to be maintained, it may still be questioned whether a firm attachment to pure and genuine Christianity, abstracted from party purposes or secular views, has increased among us.

n Rom. xiv. 29.

From being ashamed of the simple unadulterated truths of the Gospel, it is an easy transition to adopt some factitious representation of it, under the influence of favourite teachers; and whether those teachers ground their popularity on “ adding to” its sacred truths, or “ taking from " them, the effect

may

be equally injurious. Nor will the evil terminate with the parties themselves. Others seeing the Gospel thus exhibited in various and even opposite characters, begin to think lightly of it in every form, and to hold it in disrespect. Deriving their notions of it from the misrepresentations of others, they either become indifferent, if not hostile, to the entire system; or rashly adopt opinions the most imworthy of it, after discarding those which it

o Rev. xxü. 18, 19.

ought to have been their pride to retain. Thus may that which originated perhaps in too sensitive an apprehension of the censure or ridicule of others, terminate in that which most justly brings discredit upon

themselves. Against these evils there can be no effectual security, but in that firm conviction of the truth and excellency of the Gospel itself, of its perfect adaptation to our necessities, and of its efficacy as “the power of God unto “ salvation,” which will determine us to accept it in all its particulars, without reservation or exception. If Scripture be indeed the work of God, and its writers were under the constant guidance of Inspiration from above, vain must be the wisdom of man in opposition to it, or the attempt to modify it in deference to human imaginations. It must be received, or rejected, as a whole ; not“ divided against “ itself;” not “ handled deceitfully,” to give countenance to men's preconceived opinions. A miracle or a prophecy must not be resolved into natural causes, to suit the taste of a sceptical philosopher. A matter of fact must not be turned into a vision or an allegory, because a fastidious inquirer cannot find any thing parallel to it in the ordinary course of human events. A specific injunction or prohibition must not be rashly set aside, in compliment to the prevailing spirit of the age we live in, or because it is at variance with certain worldly practices or maxims. The test, that we are not ashamed of our religion, will be found in openly and manfully upholding the real truth and spirit of Holy Writ, against all efforts of the vain and thoughtless to weaken its sanctions, or to bereave us of its consolations. Without this, no man can be assured of “holding fast his integ

rity.” He will be an easy prey to every scoffer that would undermine his faith or his practice. He will be instrumental also to the falling off of others, by his own pusillanimity; and may become (however unintentionally) a powerful agent of unbelief and unrighteousness, by his imbecility and irresolution.

The example of the Apostle, then, has lost nothing of its interest or importance by change of circumstances or by lapse of time; nor will it diminish in value even to the end of the world. Until the period arrive when “ all things that offend shall be gathered “ out”;” it must be the lot of the faithful Christian through “ evil report and good re

porto” to contend for the prize that is set before him; and, to prepare for the conflict, p Matth. xiii. 41.

9 2 Cor. vi. 8.

he must“ take unto him the whole armour of “ God.” “ By the word of truth, by the power “ of God, by the armour of righteousness on “ the right hand and on the left®,” he will be fortified against the snares of temptation, the illusions of raillery, the scoffs of the profane, the insults of overbearing and dictatorial self-sufficiency. And while thus provided for his own defence, he will become a tower of strength to his fellow-labourers in the same cause. Every effectual resistance he makes to the adversary, will be so much gained to their confidence. Every temptation he escapes, will be a succour also to them who are in like wise tempted. Such indeed is the influence of individual conduct, whether of irresolution on the one hand, or of constancy on the other, that none can be fully aware to what extent his own personal demeanour may operate, in the increase of good or evil. But however incalculable or however doubtful this may be, none can question the reward, both temporal and eternal, which a faith and practice regulated upon such a principle will ensure to the individual himself. That Gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation to every “ one that believeth,” can never fail of its effect, where it is faithfully and thoroughly

1 Ephes. vi. 13. s 2 Cor. vi. 7.

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