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May we, my friend, be found within the vortex of that influence, which is the source of all light and life in heaven and on earth!
So prays your’s most affectionately.
THE ACTIVE AND PASSIVE PARTS OF THE
MY DEAR FRIEND, If ever there was a period in which the Christian was called on, by a voice more distinct and loud than that which is usually heard, to examine closely the records of salvation, to scrutinize the ground on which he stands, the foundation on which he builds his hopes and comforts, most assuredly that period is the one in which we live. After the lapse of eighteen centuries from the rise of Christianity, the historical evidence of our holy religion is disputed by a race of political infidels, who reject the Bible in order that they may overthrow our altars and our throne. The objections of former times are raked up from the rubbish in which they lay, are brought forward in a new dress, republished with as much apparent confidence as if they had never been refuted; and, accommodated to the lowest capacities, are circulated by myriads in tracts adapted to the pecuniary resources, as well as to the understandings, of the uneducated portion of Society.* If the cloven foot were not so apparent through the thin disguise by which its concealment is attempted,-if the real object of the present conspirators were not equally clear with that of their Jacobin predecessors, the Illuminati of the Continent,-if the horrible issue of Infidellity in the history of the world during the last forty
* The following important and judicious remarks, extracted from the primary charge of the present Lord Bishop of Bristol, cannot have too wide a circulation, and are therefore subjoined.
“ The subject to which I shall in the first instance allude is one, that concerns not only the members of our own church, but all who profess to believe in the Divine origin of the Gospel; I mean the wide dissemination of Infidel Opinions in the present day. Infidelity, it is true, is not an evil of modern growth; but it has of late assumed a very different form from that under which it long displayed itself to the world. Formerly its disciples were to be found only among the higher ranks of society; either amongst the rich and powerful, who, dissatisfied with the uncompromising purity of the Gospel Precepts, were disposed in consequence to deny their divine authority; or amongst the Disputers of this World, who, desirous of acquiring a reputation for superior talent and sagacity, thought that they could not better attain their object than by calling in question truths, in which the great majority of mankind had long acquiesced with undoubting confidence; and who received at length the appropriate punishment of their presumption, being themselves entangled in the web of their own sophistry. But now the baneful influence of Scepticism is no longer confined within the same narrow limits; it extends to all classes of the community; men in the obscurest walks of life have caught the contagion, and have learned to think and to speak of the Gospel as a mere imposture, as a scheme devised by crafty men for the purpose holding their fellow men in a state of subjection.” P. 6.
years, and in the deaths of the leading enemies of God and man, Voltaire, Diderot, the infamous Paine, and others ;-if these did not concur in furnishing a remedy to the moral epidemic ; and, above all, if the church of Christ were not founded on a rock, against which the gates of
And again :
“With respect to the precise degree in which Infidelity has been diffused amongst the lower classes of the community, I am aware that there exists a considerable difference of opinion. Yet that man must, I think be strangely blinded by prejudice, who can in the present day deny that it prevails to an alarming extent. To the Christian Minister, who feels that it is peculiarly his duty to watch over the spiritual interests of his poorer and less instructed Brethren, this must be a subject of frequent and painful meditation; and his thoughts will be anxiously directed to the consideration of the most effectual means, as well of bringing back those members of his Flock who have been led astray by the specious arguments of the Infidel, as of firmly establishing the Faith of those who have hitherto been preserved from the contagion. Could these desirable objects be attained by the force of reasoning alone, the task of the Advocate of the Gospel would be comparatively easy. So long as the labours of the great Luminaries of our church remain, he can never be at a loss for weapons with which to repel the most formidable attacks of the adversary. In their writings he will find a probable solution of every doubt, and a satisfactory answer to every cavil which sceptical ingenuity has been able to urge.
But if I may without presumption hazard a remark on this subject in the presence
whose experience in the work of the ministry must render them much better qualified than myself to decide upon the most effectual mode of influencing the minds of their hearers, it is my persuasion that disquisitions on the evidences of Christianity, however ingenious and profound, when addressed to persons in the lower stations of life, will seldom answer the end proposed. Such persons are for the most part unaccustomed to close and accurate
hell shall never prevail ;-we should, indeed, have reason to tremble at the present aspect of the world.
But our era is remarkable not only for the number of those who, in spite of the long accumulating evidence derived from a successive
reasoning, and are consequently incapable of following us in our argument and of perceiving the connexion between our premises and our conclusions. Our appeals must be addressed to the heart rather than the head. We must dwell upon the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, upon those doctrines whicii, proceeding as they did from him who knew what was in man,' cannot but be best calculated to command the assent, and to influence the practice of man. Speak to your congregations of the general corruption of human nature, and of their own particular transgressions, topics on which their own consciences will bear witness to the truth of your representations ; bid them review their past lives and see how infinitely short their practice has fallen even of their own imperfect notions of duty: having thus brought them to a just sense of the need in which the whole human race must stand both of pardon for their sins and of support for their weaknesses, proceed to convince them how impossible it is for man by his own unassisted efforts to procure that pardon and support; then turn to the sacred volume, and show them that all their wants are abundantly supplied in the gracious provisions which God has been pleased to make for the redemption and sanctification of his fallen creatures. It is not by dwelling in our discourses on the nature of the evidence which is necessary to establish the truth of a Divine Revelation, that we can hope effectually to secure our less educated brethren against the insidious attacks of Infidelity; but by making them feel the exquisite adaptation of the promises and precepts of the Gospel to the actual condition of man, and thus affording them as it were an experimental proof that it proceeded from the same Almighty Being who called man into existence and best knows what his condition requires."