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LET TER XVIII.
My Christian Brethren,
In preceding letters I have attempted to unveil some of the causes and evils of contention among Christians, that they may be seen in a true light. It has been my aim to write with friendly feelings towards my brethren of all denominations,-and to express my views in a dispassionate and inoffensive
But if in this I have failed, or should it be thought that I have misinterpreted some passages of scripture, still I hope that my readers will not regard my faults as an excuse for omitting a thorough examination of the subject for themselves. For however imperfect my efforts may have been, the subject is unquestionably of great practical importance. It is my belief that duelling can be as easily vindicated on Gospel principles, as the mutual revilings of Christians of different opinions. So far as any of my writings may have evinced an unkind or a censorious spirit, I would humbly implore the forgiveness of God, and the forgiveness of all my fellow Christians who have been injured by my remarks, or misled by my example. I have doubtless often erred in the opinions I have expressed, while I verily believed them to be correct. As an excuse for such errors I may plead the fallibility of my understanding, or the want
of means to obtain correct views.
For my conscience bears me witness, that truth has been the object of my inquiries, and that I have never intentionally published erroneous opinions. But if I have indulged bitter or unchristian feelings towards any of my brethren, for these I have no excuse to make; but must plead guilty, and supplicate for pardoning mercy.
Of the Turks it has been said—“ Their religion inspires them with contempt and hatred for those of another creed.” It is to be feared that this may be said of too many who bear the name of Christians ; but if so, it is "their religion"-not the religion taught by Jesus Christ, which bears such bitter fruit. His religion, like the Father from whom it descended, seeks the good of all. It is that “wisdom” from above, which is “full of mercy and good fruits.” When I compare with this the wisdom which is frequently displayed in sectarian strife, the contrast is shocking; and I seem to see a cause for the prevalence of Deism in the most favored countries of Chris. tendom. If by any means I should be made to believe that the Christian religion has authorized the unkind and censorious spirit which has so often agitated society, I should either doubt its divine origin, or relinquish the idea that “God is love." But when I perceive that all party bitterness and reviling are forbidden by the Gospel, and are the reverse of what its precepts enjoin, my faith in the divine origin of this religion is really strengthened by observing the deplorable contrast. For it then seems unquestionable that a religion so pure, so peaceable, so forgiving, and so benignant, must have descended from above; that it could not have been invented by such beings as men have been in all past ages. Indeed the character of the Christian religion seems to me one of the best proofs that there is a God; that he is wise and good; and that he has made to men a revelation of his character and his will.
To some persons it may be gratifying to know that the views I have expressed in this series of letters on the evil and danger of ascribing error of opinion to wickedness of heart, are not the effect" of recent changes in my own mind. When I was a Trinitarian, and nearly forty years ago, I published similar views of that principle in what I then wrote to the late Dr. Baldwin, on the subject of “ Close Communion." Very soon after I entered on the work of the ministry, I became dissatisfied with the practice of referring all error of opinion on religious subjects to a criminal source; and also with the practice of reproaching whole sects of Christians as destitute of piety, on the ground of their alleged erroneous opinions. The more I have reflected on the subject since that period, the more I have been convinced of the injustice and the danger of such practices. The more too I have been convinced that such practices imply a deplorable want of humility in those who adopt them, and an astonishing degree of blindness in regard to their own liability to err.
Some of the views however, which are contained in these letters respecting the principle of dignity
established by the Messiah-his example in his treatment of his erring and contending apostles, and his New Commandment, are of more recent origin in my own mind. I cannot but wonder that they did not occur to me at an earlier period of my inquiries. If these views are correct, it is surely of vast importance that they should be diffused, clearly understood, and reduced to practice by Christians of every name.
Should Christians generally, adopt the principle of spiritual dignity, as stated by our Lord, and conform to his New Commandment in their treatment of each other while of different opinions, there will be further occasion to adopt the animating language of David—“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" The due observance of that one principle, and one command would exclude from Christendom all national hostilities—all persecution and sectarian strife, and fill every Christian country with the blessed fruits of love, peace, and joy. Nor is this all; the benign influence would be continually extending the boundaries of Christendom till it should embrace all the nations of the earth. Then too would be seen a cheerful compliance in every land with Paul's exhortation to the Colossians ;
“But now do ye put off all these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him ; where there is
LETTERS TO CHRISTIANS.
neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all. Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering ; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. If any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness ;and let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body,—and be ye thankful.” Col. iii. 8—15.
Such a reformation as would result from due conformity to this exhortation, might remove every doubt as to the divine origin of the Christian religion, or its adaptedness to promote the happiness of mankind, both in this world, and in the world to come. To show the necessity and importance of such a reformation, has been a principal object in writing this series of letters, which is now to be closed. The more there is in Christians of different sects a disposition to contend about " which of them is the greatest,” the more they need to be changed and reformed. I. what I have written should on y be the means of exciting in myself and a few of my brethren a more due consideration of what Christ said to his apostles when he saw them thus contending, my labors will not have been in vain; and that these letters may be of use to myself, as well as to others, is the ardent desire of your ffectionate brother.
April, 1831. NOAH WORCESTER.