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disposed to receive it; we haften to a conclusion, in one short but necessary word to the professed members of the Christian church.
Whilst we are engaged in an earnest, though hum. ble, endeavour to preserve the unity of the Christian church, by bringing forward every confideration which may tend to prevent a separation from it; it ought, most affuredly, to be a matter of very ferious concern with the members of that church, that they do not render abortive our endeavour, by a voluntary ignorance of, or shameful indifference to, a subjects which must be regarded as involving in it their most important interests. To secure themselves against such an imputation, it is neceffary that they do justice to the church to which they belong; by making them. felves acquainted with the nature of its constitution, the design of its establishment, and the privileges of which they become partakers by their admission into it. Tlijs done, they will never forsake its communion; because they will be convinced, that no plan apon which any other Christian society has been formed, is so well calculated to promote the spiritual edification of its members, as that to which they belong. But if they will not seek to make themfelves acquainted with this interesting subject, not.
withstanding the abundant means graciously vouchfafed to them for that purpose; if the religion which they profess, instead of being built on the firm ground of sober and rational enquiry, is the mere result of early prejudice, and accidental circumstance; a kind of hereditary poffeffion handed down to them from their forefathers, of which they confessedly know little, and about which, perhaps, they still care less; if, when they come to a place of holy worship, they enter not into the services performed there; neither praying the prayers of the church, nor joining in the facraments; but when they ought to be on their knees, in humble fupplication for pardon and grace, they remain on their seats unconcerned and uninterested in the sacred business that is going forward: the necessary consequence must be, that they will be dead, not living, members of the church; and it will be no subject for surprize, if, after having continued in that state for years, without experiencing any communication of Divine spirit from the Head to which they professedly belong, they should be perfuaded to seek unhallowed fire elsewhere.
But be it remembered, the fault in this case is not in the church, but in its members; and by cutting themselves off from the church, upon the imaginary
idea of acquiring that fpiritual attainment, of which they are not in actual poffeffion, in consequence either of their abuse or disuse of those appointed means to which the Divine grace has been formally annexed; they only render their case, it is to be feared, in some sense more hopeless than it was before. A limb, though diseased, whilft it continue united to the body, may recover; which, when separated from it, must inevitably perish.
CONCLUDING DISCOURSE. .
To convince, is one thing; to prevail with men
to act in conformity with that conviction, is another. The former is the general effect of found argument, addressed to competent understandings; the latter is ofttimes attended with a species of humiliation, to which the pride of man will not suffer him to submit.
It is never too soon to tread back our steps, when convinced that we are not travelling in the right path; 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 reasoning 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 paint 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 judg: ment, 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
66 what I would have him do in the case?" To which the answer was obvious; that he should immediately return to the place from whence he had