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Heaven aids exertion; greater makes the great,
And half self-made !-ambition how divine !" Night 9. Addressing man,
"Dread eternity has sown her seeds
Ibid. Addressing Lorenzo,
“ And JUST are all, determin'd to reclaim;
Ibid. After expressing aversion to insist on the torments awaiting the wicked, he addresses the muse thus:
“ But rather, if thou know'st the means, unfold
Ah how! but by repentance, by a mind
-Reason rebaptiz'd me when adult,
Reason pursued in faith;
Ibid. These lines, and many others to the same purpose,
need comment;, we need not wonder, then, that a poet so nervous in his diction and so bold in his images, and whose leading sentiment in religion is so agreeable to the universal bias, should be very acceptable to the public, and that the press should scarcely supply the demands for his writings.
In this author, we have a lively instance, showing us, to what heights men may go, in fervent expressions, and even rapturous sentiments, about the atonement; while yet they consider all the grand things revealed concerning it, only as
so many good and excellent materials to work upon, in order to establish their own righteousness, and attain some dis tinguishing qualification beyond others for acceptance with God; or, in fewer words, while yet they consider them only as a proper footstool for human pride. What uninspired man ever expressed a bolder sentiment about the atonement, than what is contained in these lines ?
• My heart! awake, What can awake thee, unawak'd by this Expended Deity on human weal ?"
Night Yet, perhaps, it will appear in the sequel, that mistakes about the divine grace manifested in the atonement, mistakes far less obvious and glaring than those of this author, have proved the fatal means of utterly excluding such as entertained them, from partaking of the great and eternal benefit conveyed by that grace, to all who know and understand it in simplicity
Having now begun to enter upon my plea with Aspasio, I shall here put an end to this letter, and subscribe myself, with great respect.
Your friend and servant.
Thus I am still led to address you, from the endearing view I have of you in the sterling part of your creed; though I must own I behooved to have held you much dearer, had I found your
faith first and last fit to bear the apostolic stamp; the stamp which the apostles put on the faith of the first Christians, whom they addressed thus: To them who have obtained IPOTIMON equally precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Yet as
the precious metal disentangles itself from the vile in the furnace, I am not without hopes that your faith, on a proper trial, may work itself clear of the ingredients that sink its value. This I may hope from the great excellency of divine truth above human artifice, and its genuine abhorrence of every mixture.
Since I wrote my last, I have been taking a fresh view of the dialogues and letters, that I might the better assure my. self of Aspasio's real meaning; for the same end I have been looking again at the two volumes of Meditations, &c., presuming that Aspasio's meaning could receive no hurt by any illustration drawn from thence; and I must own, that while I made my survey, such was the effect of the 16th dialogue, that it seemed like a dark cloud arising in the west, and extending itself eastward, till it makes all the beauties of the morning to languish, and damps the hopes excited by the cheerful dawn, or like the chilling influence of the torpedo, which benumbs the hand and arm of him who touches it. Many glowing pages seemed to abate their fervour, and many nervous expressions to lose their natural vigour ; or perhaps it will be said, that when once the eye is tinged, every object begins to appear in a more disadvantageous light; but whatever be the cause, such was the effect.
I found evident marks of one spirit breathing through the whole; I cannot, therefore, agree with the suspicion I have heard hinted by some of your fondest readers, that you
had drank out of some impure fountain since the writing of the two volumes of Meditations, &c., and far less with others, who have dated your change of sentiments since the writing of the two first volumes of Dialogues. After all, I must do you the justice to own, that I find the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion, the capital print, making a more striking and distinguished figure in your writings, than in any that I have seen of the popular ministers, for some of whom you possess the highest regard. But never did the ancient proverb hold truer in any case than in this, A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. In most of their practical writings and sermons, I perceive the leaven almost at every opening of the book, but more especially when they come to make their applications, where I can find little beside.
yours I shall only say, I wish I had not found it at all. This is that leaven of which Jesus called his disciples to beware, even those disciples who had their religion from the very lips of the object of worship, and whose faith he had, by his approbation, stamped as genuine and divine.
Can any of us now imagine that we stand in less need of that caution than they did ? But the great difficulty is, to persuade us that our danger is equal to what their's was. All the names and designations under which the ancient opposers and underminers of the truth are pointed forth to us in the Scriptures, are now held odious, especially by such as walk in their very footsteps ; in like manner, almost every notable expression by which the truth is asserted and illustrated in the Scriptures, has been stript of the ancient simplicity of its meaning; not only so, but almost every passage of Scripture has been dislocated, and every clause or verse regimented according to the fancy of self-seeking men, in their several systems.
If I should say, that our modern demagogues have done more hurt to the souls of men, than all those stigmatized with the name of infidel writers have done together, the reflection would be thought odious. I would be referred to many pas. sages in their treatises, asserting almost every branch of the Christian doctrine, in words not easily to be contradicted; and though I might fairly show a complete system of self-dependence to be contained in these same treatises, yea, to be the leading scope and design of them, yet it is easy to see that such a discovery, or any attempt toward it, behooved to meet with the greatest opposition from all who feed on this compound doctrine, especially from those who have the largest share of religious pride. For men do not choose to be scared away by arguments from the food which they love best.
should throw some handfuls of barley among ever 80 great a quantity of pearls, the poultry will indeed resort to the pearls; but it is their natural food that draws them: and if they should swallow a few of the pearls, it is only as they sometimes do gravel, for the better digestion of their food; for it is the barley that fattens them. And well do the pastors, I speak of, know how to season and mix up the Christian truth with proper ingredients to suit the taste of the people, and the people accordingly flock in multitudes after them; or, to express myself in more obsolete style, They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world hear eth them. That I may not seem to have disjointed this ancient saying from its context, I would have it noticed, that the chief thing aimed at there is, to make us cautious of hearkening to every spirit or doctrine, by which men pretend to assure them selves of the favour of God, or that Christ abideth in them. The sacred writer, after showing us by what spirit he and his
fellows were assured of this, adds, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God. Then giving us several rules to judge by, he sums them up in these words, We (the apostles) are of God: he that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Keeping then this rule in our view, let us return to the examination of Aspasio.
I would willingly know by what authority Aspasio calls every one to believe that Christ died for him. The Scripture no where says, that Christ died for such a one who now for the first time hears the gospel; what then shall persuade him that it is true ?
Will the grave affirmation and earnest call of a devout and revered preacher be of any weight in this matter?
Or is this a point whose truth or certainty is made out by the pains taken to believe it?
Or does the Spirit that breathes in the Scripture, whisper any thing privately to the hearer in confirmation of this, beside what he publicly speaks in the Scripture ?
Perhaps it will be found upon inquiry, that the appropriation in question is supported by a concurrence of all these imaginations; and not only so, but is also subservient to several
purposes extremely foreign to the design of the gospel.
As to what is hinted in the first of these three queries, seeing Aspasio is not one of what is called the sacred order himself, what I have to say on this head will more immediately regard those of that order, who have taught or encouraged him in his account of faith, and whose honour is not a little concerned in it; especially such distinguished leaders of the people as escort him at the foot of his page ? leaders who have been considered as burning and shining lights in that part of the island where they lived, by multitudes who yet rejoice: in their writings. And it must be owned, that when the hom our of the clergy is entwisted with any error about the truth, and there are few wherein it is not more or less interested, it becomes, then, the more difficult to disentanglethe simple truth from the rubbish wherein it is buried.
Do not imagine that I am going to shock your delicacy, by entering upon the trite topics of wit against the clergy, by which the mirth of every fool is promoted; no, my plea is of a graver nature, and I am the rather encouraged by the singular modesty which appears in your writings, to express myself with freedom to you on this subject.