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Indeed, Madam, I do, answered he. No society upon carth will bear to be measured by the word of God, except the church of which I am a member, and the church. es in connexion with us. Yet I have no doubt that there are many Christians beside those in fellowship with us; but the voice of God to them is, Come out from among them, and be ye separate.
You suppose then, said I, that all the members of your society are real Christians ? No, Madam, replied he, I do not.
Then I find, Sir, that in your church, as well as in others, there are both good and bad.
Be it so, Madam, answered he: but then we profess an entire subjection to Christ; and whenever it appears that any one does not yield an unreserved submission to all his precepts, we put away the unclean from among us. Like the church of Ephesus, we cannot bear those who are evil; who say that they are Jews, and are not; but who manifest by their works that they are of the synagogue of Satan.
I commend every society of Christians, said I, for carefully watching over the conduct of its members. I am also ready to acknowledge, that protestant dissenters, in general, have been remiss in this particular duty. They have too much endeavoured to acquire large, and, as they are falsely called, flourishing congregations; and have too often neglected to purge out the old leaven, except for notorious evils. But is it not possible to run into the contrary extreme, and to pluck up the wheat together with the tares? Your society, Sir, will not be able, any more than others, to shut out those from its communion, who have the address to imitate both the faith and practice of Christians, as long as that imitation is attended with honour and interest. Many followed the Redeemer when he was here upon earth, not because they saw his miracles, but because they had eaten of the loaves; and he has had such followers in all ages.
True, Madam, replied he; but protestant dissenters, in general, do not so much as profess to be obedient to all the laws of Christ : it is no wonder, therefore, if their obedience be very deficient. No sin ought to be esteema ed little, nor any of the commands of Christ of small importance. When do your ministers press upon their hearers abstinence from blood? When do they enforce the kiss of charity? or when do they exhort the friends of Jesus to follow his example, by washing each other's feet? Do they ever so much as mention it to be the duty of Christians to lay up treasure in heaven, in opposition to laying it up on earth, which our Lord has called by the name of covetousness? If a minister of the gospel were to tell a company of modern professors, that it is covetousness to lay up treasure on earth, and that the covetous are among those who will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven, they would deride him, as the Pharisees, who were covetous, derided Christ.
I perceive, Sir, said I, that you insist upon our receiving the commands of Christ in their most literal sense ; and if that be the sense in which they were intended to be understood, you are certainly right; but that remains to be proved. From blood I myself abstain, as do mảny with whom I ami acquainted : it was always esteemed a sacred thing, as well before the institution of the law of Moses as since its abolition. The kiss of charity I consider as a mode of salutation common to the time and place in which it was enjoined. Laying hold of each other's hand is the manner of salutation in this country, and as much love may be expressed in that mode as any other; not that I am disposed to find fault with those who are otherwise minded. I am likewise a stranger to the precise manner in which the first Christians saluted each other, as I believe, Sir, you are too. I confess I have never washed any one's feet; but I have been ready to do the servants of Christ the meanest offices; and I assure Mr. Rose, that whenever' washing his feet will be of any benefit to him, or whenever it shall be in my power to render him any other service, I will cheerfully do it. When sandals were worn, to assist any one in washing his feet was a friendly office.
In every country, it is requisite that Christians should be humble, and that they should condescend to alleviate the distresses of their brethren as much as they can. They who act otherwise, manifest themselves to be strangers to the spirit and temper of Christ, who, in condescending to wash the feet of his disciples, did not enjoin the observation of a ceremony, but taught them by his example to do
the meanest offices for each other. :, It does not become Christians, Madam, replied he, ta
explain away the precepts of Christ. The apostasy of our first parents was owing to such a mode of reasoning.
I acknowledge, Sir, said I, that to adhere to the letter of scripture is a good general rule ; but it is not without many exceptions. Transubstantiation is founded on scripture literaly understood, as well as several other errors of the Romish church. We ought to take care, that in avoiding one error we do not run into the contrary extreme.
And pray, Madam, cried he, how do you understand the command of Christ not to lay up treasure on earth ? I doubt not but you can explain it in such a manner as to make it mean the very reverse. : The servants of Jesus, replied I, are taught, that he who clotheth the grass of the field, and feedeth the fowls of the air, will also provide for them. It is their duty therefore to be diligent in business, without being anxiously concerned about making provision, either for a long time to come, or even for the morrow; since an eager solicitude of that kind can be of no advantage, but must rather add a weight to the present evils, which our Lord observes are sufficiently heavy.--To attend more immediately to your question, let me appeal to yourself. Are we not as expressly commanded to take no thought for the morrow, and to sell that which we have and give alms, as we are not to lay up treasure on earth? Wherefore then do you pay such great regard to the literal sense of this last text of scripture, when you pay so little to that of the two former? In my opinion, it is much more the duty of the opulent to lessen their fortunes in order to alleviate the necessities
of the indigent, than it is of a poor man to give away every thing which remains to him out of his daily labour, without making provision for a time of sickness or for old age. Would it not be presumptuous in him to trust to an interposition of Providence in his behalf, while he neglected that duty which he owes to himself? It is as much the du. ty of one who is rich to be mortified to the world, as it is of one who is poor; and there is as much danger of cove. tousness and sensuality in the possession of riches, as in the increasing of them.
When the Church is in great distress, said he, it cer. tainly becomes us, not only to give away the surplus of our income, but even to sell our possessions, as the first Churches did, and to distribute as every one has need.
I agree with you, Sir, replied I: but if the church is not in that distress, it appears to me to be more lawful to increase our substance, after having dedicated a part of our profits to charitable uses, than it is to spend our whole income upon ourselves, without regarding the necessities of others. If, Sir, I do not mistake, you have ten children. Several of them you have put apprentices to such businesses as will require a considerable sum to set up in: and Thomas and William will be but poor grocers if they have empty shops. Your daughters too have received a genteel education, which will be a real injury to them if you do not give them fortunes.. But I believe, Sir, they have little to fear. That diligence which my friend mani. fests in his business, not to say that eagerness with which he pursues the world, is a proof to me that he is but an indifferent convert to his own doctrine. His conduct in this respect is I think a little censurable. Is it right, my! dear Sir, to lay a trap for tender consciences, and to neglect that which we enjoin upon others ? I should like very much to know whether my friend is worth no more now than he was five years ago.
Why, Madam, said he, as my family have increased, I have been obliged to increase my business, and have there. fore required a greater capital. But I do not call this lay
ing up treasure on earth ;-I can no more carry on niy trade without money, than a husbandman can sow his land without seed.
Very true, Sir, replicd I; but still you have increased your possessions, which I look upon as an evil, only because my friend allows that in himself which he condemns in others. What is the difference between your extending your trade as your wealth increases, and another person's putting his money out at interest, or placing it in the funds, because he has no opportunity to enlarge his trade? We ought not to keep a bag of deceitful weights, and to use one weight for ourselves and another for our neighbours. You are not the first, Sir, that I have seen, who has denied the lawfulness of laying up treasure on earth, at the same time that he has been unremittingly pursuing the world. I will readily acknowledge that the love of money is the root of all evil. A covetous Christian sounds no better in my ear than a cheating, lewd, or drunken Christian. The word of God contains many exhortations to be rich in good works, and willing to communicate of our substance to all who are in distress, but especially to our own household, and to those who are of the household "of faith. It also contains rules, whereby we may proportion our liberality in common cases, as well as precedents which it may be proper for us to follow. Zaccheus proposed giving the half of his goods, or perhaps of his income to the poor, and also making a fourfold restitution to those whom he had injured ; Jacob dedicated a tenth of his substance to God; and I doubt not but their examples have been imitated by many of the servants of God.
One of the rules which the holy Spirit has prescribed is, that every one should give cheerfully what he has purposed in his own heart. There are times and seasons when Christians enjoy much of the divine presence, and when they are better disposed than at other times. In those tender and endearing moments, it is natural for them to inquire what they shall render unto the Lord for all his benefits : and 'what they then' resolve to do for Christ in