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Agninst Uncharitableness—ITherein the Secret Springs of that
lice are traced, and the Mischievous Effects of it brietty surveyed.
Written to Expose that most Cnchristian Iniquity of Censures,
Resilings and Church-Anathemas, on te Account of
Rox. xiv. 3.--Let not bim which eateth not, judge him that eateth : For
God hath received him. LUKE ix. 54, 55.—His disciples—said, Lord, wilt thou that we command
fire to come down from heaven and consume them ?-But he turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not wat mamer of spirit ye are of.
L“. Tantæne animis cælestibus iræ ?
INTRODUCTION. CHARITY in the soul of man is the very picture of the godhead, taken as it stands in the fairest light. Wisdom and holiness, power, sovereignty and justice are various features of the Deity: They are indeed his very nature and essence; yet the scripture rather chuses to express, that God is love, and that twice in one chapter, 1 John iv. 8. and 16. The beloved disciple that leaned on the bosom of Jesus, took peculiar delight in the contemplation of God, under this character. This appears in his gospel, as well as in his epistle. The other glories of that infinite beauty shine with awful beams, and command my reverence: But methinks, I love to look upon so glorious a being, in his inost condescending air, and to converse with him in his mildest and most inviting aspect.
Charity in man is a grace of that alluring sweetness, that my pen would fain be attempting to say something in favour of it: I find a strange pleasure in discoursing of this virtue, hoping that my very soul may be moulded into its divine likeness. I would always feel it inwardly warming my heart. I would have it look through my eyes continually, and it should be ever ready upon my lips to soften every expression of my tongue. I would dress myself in it as nuy best raimcut. I would put it on upon my faith and hope, not so as entirely to hide them, but as an upper and more visible vesture, constantly to appear in among men. For our christian charity is to evidence our other virtues.
Uncharitableness is a loathsome part of the image of the fallen angel: It is a-kin to the hatred God. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hus not seen; 1 John iv. 20. He that hates his fellowchristian, and brings railing accusations against him for a difference in little opinions, how can he expect to be beloved of God, who beholds in the best of us so many monstrous follies, and guilt of a more aggravated nature? By the word uncharitableness here, I would not include our neglect of charity to the poor and hungry, nor our aversion to errors of the grosser kind ; but I mean our aversion to such persons who not only profess to be christians, but who also agree with us in the chief doctrines of christianity, viz. the pardon of our sins by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the sanctification of men by the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit, and the necessity of faith in Christ, and good works, &c. I mean our aversion to those who differ from us in little punctilios of doctrine or duty which are not expressly and plainly written in the New Testament; those who maintain such an aversion to their fellow-christians, as to pronounce damnation upon them, or some terrible and unchristian censures, because they do not come up to our sentiments and practices in things which are of little moment, while we agree in all fundamental points, and such as are of most importance. This uncharitableness is a vice attended with such a train of mischiefs, that I would set all my biggest powers in array to fight against it. It is a fountain of such bitter waters, that I would fain dam up the spring. It is a plant of so poisonous a product, that I would dig deep and search for the roots, and tear up all the fibres of it, though they twined about my heart-strings.
Sect. I.—The Causes of Uncharitableness. An uncharitable humour springs generally from some of these following causes :
I. From a malicious constitution of nature, an acrimonious or a choleric temper of blood. There are some animal engines of human flesh, that have their juices all soured in their very formation; and there is an ill ferment raised in such persons at the perception of every object, that is not just suited to their present fancy and inclination : And by the hard laws of union between soul and body in this our fallen state, the spirit too often complies with the fretful distempers of the flesh. There are but few that attempt to suppress the ferment, and to resist the angry motions of the animal; and of those few that attempt it, scarce one in ten is very successful: For it is a work of toil and difficulty, perpetual watchfulness and unceasing prayer.
This ill humour mixes itself with religion, as well as with civil affairs. It diffuses its malignity through all the studies and the manners of the man, and gives a visible tincture to his notions and his practices. Furio can never converse about the calmuest and most speculative points of divinity, but his indignation kindles against every different opinion, his fiery temper breaks out and blazes, and he bestows on his own deportment the honourable names of shining light and burning zeal. His peevish and angry passions are so blended with his understanding, that kard names are his best arguments; most convincing to himself, though they are the just scorn of the wise. lle stahs his brethren that differ from liim to the heart, with pointed railing; and from an aversion to an opinion rises to an immortal hatred of the person. If our great Creator has united any of our souls to bodies that are less infected with this vicious juice, we have reason to adore his sovereign moodness.
II. Self-love and pride, and a vain conceit of our opinions, is another spring of uncharitable carriages. Did you ever see a weak and humble soul sensible of its own poverty and ignorance, and ready to esteer others above himself, easily indulge this uncharitable humour? Alas! poor foolish mankind is very prone to esteem itself wise and k owing. Little Laudillus, who is almost always in the wrong, has much ado to persuade himself, that he was ever capable of mistaking: lle secretly thinks all his opinions to be divine truths, and therefore he is very lavish in probouncing error and heresy upon every notion and practice that differs from his own. lle takes the freedom to chuse a religion for himself, but he allows no man besides the same liberty. He is sure that he has reason to dissent froin others, but no man has reason to dissent from him. He sets up for infallibility without a triple crown, and fiscs a see of ecclesiastical sovereignty on this side the water. Jle awes some slavish spirits into submission, and they become treacherous to their own souls, and to the rights of human nature, by delivering up their faith and cousciences to kis imperious dictates : Then the man grows haughty, surly and severe, especially if he be advanced to any degree of honour and authority in the church: Then in his inflexible justice he delivers up the humble and inquisitive christian unto Satan, because he cannot assent and consent to all and every thing contained in his scheme; and he teaches perhaps his elder brethren the doctrines and discipline of the gospel, as Gideon did the elders of Succoth, with the briars and thorns of the wilderness ; Judges viii. 16.
III. This hateful vice may be derived froin a third original; and that is a constant and friendly acquaintance with the men anil books of our own opinion, and an avoidance of all the writers and persons that differ from us. This has a mighty influence to beget and maintain uncharitable notions ; yet this is the constant practice, not only of the unlearned, but of too many of the learned world. Ilermes sits all the year in his own cell, and never looks
abroad beyond the clan of his own fraternity : Hermes reads the - controversies as they are described only by one party, and dis
putes them over only in the books that are written on one side. He finds a great appearance of argument and scripture there, and then proclaims it impossible that the adverse party should shew equal reason or revelation : And thus he proceeds to censure them as men of corrupt mind's, reprobate concerning the faith, and twisting the scriptures to their own damnation. Cicero in his treatise “ De natura deorum,” marks this humour, and brands it, Vestra solum legitis, vestra amatis, cæteros causa incognita condemnatis*.
But let you and I, my friend, who delight in charity, let us converse a little with authors that differ from our present opinions, and we shall see their sentiments dressed up so plausibly, and set in so fair a light, that might easily persuade men of sincere consciences to embrace them; and this will prevent us from censorious thoughts concerning our candid adversaries, and their disciples. There is scarce any thing that enlarges the mind more, and more disengages it from Narrow and selfish principles, than a free converse with the virtuous and ingenious of all parties.
There is a memorable story to this purpose, concerning two neighbours in an unsociable town, who were always quarrelling about the private meeting and the parish-church : Both places of worship in that town were well supplied with preachers of good sense and serious religion : but each of them was the subject of unmerciful reproach between these two neighbours, whensoever they met, and their different methods of worship were matually reviled ; the one as formal and spiritless, the other as enthusiastical and indecent : At last Pacifico their common friend persuaded them to hear cach others minister, and accompanied them both one day to their different assemblies ; and they were both surprized to hear the gospel preached with a due degree of decency and fervour, both at meeting and at church ; And though they continued still to adhere to their own party, as judging it, in some respects, suited best to their edification ; yet they maintained hearty friendship, with each other, and delightful socieiy in religious conference: Thus the quarrelsome mistake was rec. tified by better acquaintance: They lived many years together in peace; they composed the animosities of different parties, that dwelt in the town; they died in perfect charity, aud left a sweet influence behind them, and a honourable example.
IV. A fourth spring of uncharitableness is, our reading the word of God with a whole set of uotions established before-hand: And yet how common a method, and low constant is this?
* " You read only your own books, you love only your own, and you con. demo others before you know sufficient reasoti, for want of knowing their opinions."
Diæcion bas long ago determined, that bishops must be superior to presbyters ; he has received ordination from episcopal hands : and hopes one day himself to be capable of ordaining others. Thus while he is growing up towards the mitre, he reads the scriptures only to confirin his own determined opinions. He stretches and torments many an unwilling text, to make it speak the language of his own thoughts. He neglects the passages that favour all other forms of government and methods of minis. tration; or else lie constrains them to mean episcopacy too : Every word that he reads, hath a diocesan aspect; and the first verse of Genesis can prove prelacy, for ought I know, as it has been able heretofore to demonstrate papacy, when In principio creavit Deus cælum et terram, decided the controversy, and set the pope above the emperor : For God made all things from one begiuning, and not from two.
· Synodias reads the bible with a presbyterian glass, and Fratrio with a congregational optic: They can find nothing but their own opinions, and both of them wonder that Diæcion should not see them too. Fratrio turns over the scriptures with great diligence and meditation, and as often as he finds the word church" there, he thinks of nothing but a congregation of faithful men ; as the church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, are so many single congregations. When Synodias meets the same word in his bible, he is often in the midst of an assembly of divines ; and especially when any power is attributed to the church, he is sure it must intend a classis of presbyters, or consistory of elders. When the same word falls under the eye
of Diæcion in his course of reading the New Testament, he cannot imagine any thing is meant short of a diocese : All his churches are or should be as big as counties or shires. And I might add, that when poor Parochianus the mason finds leisure to read a chapter, and lights upon the mention of a church in it, he thinks immediately of a tall stope-building with a steeple upon it, a bell or two, and a weather-cock. I might give the like instances of many other terms and expressions in scripture, to which men have unalterably fixed their several different ideas, and raised consequences from them, and interpret the word of God by them, without enquiring whether their ideas are conformable to the sense in which the scripture uses those expressions: And then it is no wonder that their schemes of ecclesiastical government are 80 different : And yet each of these prepossessed opinionators think their own exposition of the text so evident, that they chide thie perverseuess of all other men, as though they were resolved to wink against the light. It is like a person of a fretful constitution, whose eyes are also tinged with the jaundice, he quarrels with every man that he meets, because he will not consent to call all things yellow. Thus by the false light of affection in which