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always suspecting happiness, always casting over religion an air of something bordering upon that which is frivolous, and vexatious; degrading the majesty of the gospel, and painting the Lord of all things, as a God of trifles, and narrow observances; as a God raging for ever against those most trivial omissions, which even the best, and ablest of his creatures can forget, and, forgive. But the most fatal of all errors which proceeds from this modern fanaticism, is, the contempt, and the horror, which they express for all the practical doctrines of christianity insisted upon from the pulpit; the zeal with which they cry down any attempt to render men better in their daily conduct, and to produce some actual useful improvement: We might suppose, from such notions of the Christian faith, that christianity was a set of speculative disquisitions, where, if a man agreed only with the barren, and useless results, he was left in liberty to follow the devices of his own heart, and to lead what manner of life his fancy, or his passions, might dictate. It is evangelical, according to these notions, to preach to men of high and exalted mysteries; it is unevangelical to warn
men against pride, against anger, against avarice, against fraud, against all the innumerable temptations by which we are hurried away from our duty to our Creator, and from the great care of salvation. All these subjects, it is now in the practice of fanatics to call by the name of moral, as if they had nothing to do with the gospel, as if (as I before observed,) the gospel busied itself only with some unfruitful propositions, and remained quite passive at, and unconcerned by, the actions of mankind. But let any man turn to his gospel, and see if there is a single instance of our blessed Saviour's life, where he does not eagerly seize upon every opportunity of inculcating something practical, of bringing some passion under subjection, of promoting the happiness of the world, by teaching his followers to abstain from something hurtful; and to do something useful.— The effort, and the object, of our blessed Saviour, is always to draw some inference, and to make some application from the events before him ;-the most practical book that ever was written is the gospel; and the great point, where it differs from human morals, is, that human morals say, do so for present
convenience, and the gospel says, do so for eternal reward ;-human morals say, do so because it has appeared to wise men to be the best rule of life; the gospel says, do so because it is the will of God;-they both say do it, but they differ in the authority, and the motive, as much as Omniscience differs from frailty, and Eternity from time. But the moment fanatical men hear any thing plain and practical introduced into religion, then they say this is secular, this is worldly, this is moral, this is not of. Christ. I am sure you will think with me, that the only way to know Christ, is not to make our notions, his notions, or to substitute any conjectures of our own, as to what religion ought to be, for an humble, and faithful enquiry of what it is.-The books which contain the word of life are open before us, and every one may judge of their nature and object; if they consisted of lofty and sentimental effusion; if they indulged in subtle disquisition, then, perhaps, it might be our duty to appear before you, sometimes with disordered feelings, sometimes with the spirit of profound investigation; but the ministers of the established church are
practical in their doctrines, because the scriptures which they explain are practical; when they attack any vice to which the nature of man is subjected, they conceive themselves to be punctually fulfilling the commands of their great master:-they do not believe that you will call for Tabana, and Farfar, and the rivers of Damascus, because God has commanded you to wash in the waters of Israel; they do not imagine you will ask for mystery, when it has pleased God to give you that which is simple, and intelligible; they cannot doubt, but that you will remember, though morals and religion teach us abstinence from the same crimes, that abstinence, in the one case, is a question of prudence; in the other, a question of salvation ;-in the one case, we only believe the rule to be right, in the other, we are sure it is right. Can any man, however fond of opposing morals to religion, suppose that the practical duties, which may be found in the gospel, were first taught to mankind by the gospel? does he imagine, that there were not ten thousand books before the coming of our Saviour, which said, do not kill; do not commit adultery; cultivate benevolence; moderate pride; follow the rules of tempe
rance? Our Saviour did not come to preach new discoveries to mankind; but to give to the rules of conduct, which men had discovered by the light of nature, the higher authority, and the more powerful motives of religion. How, then, is it possible to comply with those unreasonable persons, who require something totally different from moral rules, before they will allow that you are saying any thing about religion? A moralist, and a religionist, must both equally inculcate charity, and forgiveness of injuries; when you hear the one, you say it is prudent, and expedient to act so; when you listen to the other, all the sublimity of good and evil is before you, and you are moved by an eternity of joy and pain. I have dwelt long upon this erroneous notion of religion, because it is one of the most useful weapons of fanaticism, and is daily producing much practical mischief.
There is a contrary excess in matters of religion, not less fatal than fanaticism, and still more common: I mean that languor, and indifference, upon serious subjects, which characterises so great a part of man