Page images

The sacrifice, too, is by no means mutual, nor equivalent as to what is lost or gained on either side. On the contrary, it is exclusively made by that party which alone ought to be tenacious of its superiority. For, when such Liberality leads to the suppression or concealment of what is right and good, great encouragement is given to what is adverse to these; and the interests of the former cannot but essentially suffer: while, on the other hand, Vice and Irreligion lose nothing by being admitted to a free and unconstrained intercourse with their opposites; but gain so much the greater credit with the world, and spread so much the more extensively their seductive influence.

We cannot wonder, then, that the most vehement advocates of this indiscriminate Liberality of Sentiment are usually to be met with among those who are in these respects the most interested in its prevailing influence. We cannot wonder that they whose opinions and conduct will not stand the test of a more rigid scrutiny, are desirous of being sheltered from censure, by the operation of a principle which confers upon them, as well as upon the most blameless members of the community, the privilege that none shall - think evil” of them. Nor can we wonder at the obloquy which such persons are ever ready to cast upon all who cannot be persuaded to acquiesce in this concord of Christ with Belial, this communion of Light with Darkness.

But it may well excite our astonishment, that this attribute of Christian Charity should ever be so perverted and misapplied by men of a higher class ; men who, in their own sentiments and practice, endeavour to “ walk “ worthy of the vocation wherewith they are “ called.” These persons are seriously called upon to consider, whether that simplicity and singleness of heart which the Gospel enjoins, can consist with such deference as this to popular opinion. “Happy is the man,” says the Apostle, “who condemneth not himself “ in that thing which he alloweth :” and again, says the same Apostle, “ Abstain from "all appearance of evil.” But how shall these maxims be observed, if we profess to “ think “no evil” of that which we cannot but “abhor" as evil; and if we outwardly conform to what we inwardly disapprove ? Nor is the injury less to others, than to ourselves. The same suppression of virtuous sentiments which corrupts our own integrity, wounds the consciences of the weaker brethren among us, while it hardens those who are already inclined to evil. In every way, therefore, Truth and Goodness suffer, while Error and Corruption are made to triumph. Neutrality, wherever the interests of Truth, of Virtue, and of Piety, are concerned, is, indeed, of most pernicious tendency; such being the prevalent corruption of mankind, that unless all the weight of public opinion, as well as of private practice, be thrown into the right scale, the balance will soon preponderate in favour of the wrong: and in no case will our Lord's maxim be more fully verified, “He “ that is not with me, is against me.”

Let it not, however, be imagined that these observations are meant to give encouragement to intolerance, to ill-timed reproofs, to officious interference with other men's conduct, to morose censures of matters indifferent, or to rigid non-compliance with established modes and customs, which, whether laudable or otherwise, involve no abandonment of principles worth contending for. That many well-intentioned persons err through an over-strained scrupulosity, or bring reproach upon the cause they mean to promote, by intemperate and injudicious zeal, cannot be denied. These must also be admonished carefully to consider all the great distinguishing features of that Christian Charity which St. Paul has so admirably pourtrayed; and to remember, that without the exemplification of those virtues which it comprises, “ all our doings are nothing worth.” For, “ Love is the fulfilling of the Law;" and “ with what measure we meet, it shall be measured to us again."

A word, however, of apology may not be here misplaced, for some who, with no disposition to offend, have not always that selfcontrol which prevents them from giving cause of offence.

Accusations of Uncharitableness are very frequently raised against men whose irreproachable and exemplary conduct in other respects ought, at least, to shield them from hasty imputations of an unchristian spirit. Great allowance ought also to be made for the provocation which good men experience, when they have to encounter Falsehood and Vice. In every well. regulated mind, there arises a sentiment of laudable indignation at the perverseness of evil-doers, and towards the disseminators of evil principles, which operates as a powerful safeguard of Truth and Probity, and which may be permitted to plead strongly in excuse for those whose zeal for what is good may occasionally overstep the bounds of moderation. Of such men it is more probable that

their accusers should judge uncharitably, than that they themselves should foster a malevolent spirit. Charges of this description are readily alleged against the purest characters, when Vice and Folly smart under their correction. But virtuous Indignation is not Uncharitableness ; honest Reproof is not Calumny; conscientious Firmness is not Bigotry.

And, after all, do we find that the greatest pretenders to Liberality of Sentiment are, in general, more invulnerable in this respect than those whom they are wont to accuse of harsh dispositions ? Too frequently the very reverse of this is to be observed. Who are more ready than the clamorous partizans of Civil and Religious Liberty to inveigh against persons in authority, and to impute to them, on any, or on no grounds whatever, the worst motives and intentions? Who are more forward to overwhelm with reproach or ridicule the sober and reflecting members of the community, than they who seem desirous that every man should “ do that which is right in his own

eyes,” without molestation or restraint ? How

many who are indignant that any one should “think evil” of insubordination and disaffection in the State, or of heterodoxy and divisions in the Church, heap the most

« PreviousContinue »