« السابقةمتابعة »
TO convince, is one thing; to prevail with meni
to act in conformity with that conviction, is another. The former is the general effect of sound argument, addressed to competent understandings; the latter is ofttimes attended with a species of humia liation, to which the pride of man will not suffer him to submit.
It is never too foon to tread back our steps, when convinced that we are not travelling in the right páth; because the difficulty of our return to it increases in proportion to our distance from it. But, alas! all men possess not firmness of mind, to enable them to do justice to their reafoning faculty; choosing rather, out of compliment to the opinion of the world, which is rarely worth obtaining, to continue in error, than to take (as they conceive) shame to themselves, by acknowledging that they have been
mistaken; which is in fact, in other words, to say that they are wiser to-day than they were yesterday.
This remark is, perhaps, more frequently exemplified in religious, than in any other concerns in life: for in proportion to the importance of the object in pursuit is, generally speaking, the strength of prejudice in favour of the plan adopted for the purpose. Hence it is, that of the many who separate from the church, very few can ever be persuaded to return to it. You may succeed, if master of the subject, in removing all objections, in answering all arguments, in satisfying all scruples; so that separatists shall in a manner be left speechless: but when you think yourself upon the point of accompanying them to the house of God as friends, there is a lion in the way--the pride of the human heart will not suffer them to proceed. I once remember having a long and interesting conversation with a parishioner, of whose understanding I had formed a favourable judgment, upon the subject of his leaving the church; and was so happy as to succeed in convincing him. When arrived at this desired point, his immediate question was, " what I would have him do in the case?" To which the answer was, obvious; that he fhould im. mediately return to the place from whence he had
gone astray. The question subjoined to this advice manifested the infirmity of human nature. fir, (continued he) what shall I do with all those, whom I have drawn after me from the church?” * Bring them back with you to the church again, as the best amends that can be made for your past error, and the strongest testimony that can be given of your present sincerity;' was the reply. But, alas! this was a trial too hard for flesh and blood; the man was not proof against the remarks to which he foresaw his conduct must subject him; he therefore continues to this day a member of the Meeting, in spite of his better judgment. This case, it is to be feared, is by no means a singular one. Little hopes, therefore, can be entertained, that in a subject of this kind conversion will often accompany conviction. For when schism once takes poffession of the human mind, it bears some resemblance to a cancer in the human body, which spreads its poisonous influence so generally through the system, that the disease seldom terminates but with the life of the patient.
Nevertheless, how desperate soever the case, the physician, while life remain, perseveres in his attempt to cure. Upon this principle, rather than upon any fanguine hope of success, I have thrown
together the foregoing thoughts upon a subject, which to me appears of the utmost importance. My earnest wish in so doing has been, in the first instance, to discharge some part of my duty towards those įmmediately committed to my care.
In the second, to do some little good in a more general way, should God think me worthy to become an instrument of doing good in such a cause.
It is not to be expected that what has been written, should make impression upon those who will not give themselves leave to think differently from what they may have been accustomed to think; for prejudice, generally speaking, turns its back upon reason: but I cannot help indulging a hope, that where it meets with a candid and ingenuous mind, it will not fail of being attended with some effect. The only probable way to succeed in this case seems to be, by putting men upon the proper use of their rational faculties, from a conviction that ignorance is the prolific parent of error.
All men, it is certain, are not qualified to penetrate into the depths of science; nor is it necessary for the general purposes of life, that all men should be either historians, metaphysicians, logicians, or critics. But all men are concerned to know what plan has been
revealed for the promotion of their eternal welfare;
in order to lead them blindfold in their Christian journey. On the contrary, we are desirous that they should see for themselves, and see clearly; upon the idea, that the more they see, the less prejudice they will entertain, and the more they will be fatisfied with the direction of their appointed guides.
With this view the Bible is put into their hands; and they are required, after the example of the Bereans, to search and examine, whether what has been said upon the subject of the church be agreeable to the tenour of the Apostolic writings. For that is the standard to which all opinions upon
this subject must be ultimately referred.
From these writings, principally, we have collected what appears to us decisive evidence respecting the nature, design, and constitution, of the Christian