« ElőzőTovább »
the Redeemer ; but that I knew at present very little more of Christianity than this, that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin ; and that I must walk with wary step, and read and pray over my Bible before I ventured to join myself to any society of Christians, because, not. withstanding there are good men in every society, yet Christians are too apt to overrate the comparative excellence of their own society, and to underrate that of others.
I commended Mr. Clifford for his intention of learning the whole of his religion from the Scriptures, and particularly recommended the New Testament.
But why, Madam, cried he, the New Testament rather than the Old? Do they not both teach the same doctrine, hold forth the same atonement, and contain the same truths in every respect, except that the one was the shadow, and the other the reality ? Were not the sacrifices offered under the law the gospel preached to the Israelites ? and was not Aaron in his royal and priestly vestments the type of our great High Priest?
All this, Sir, I grant, replied I; yet a bad use may be made of the best things. If, for instance, you were to ask the man of sin, arrayed in his royal and priestly robes, sitting upon his throne in the temple of God, and showing himself that he is God, or exercising power which God has delegated to no one, what scriptural authority he has for this, he would immediately cite the example of Aaron, the Levitical high priest. Paul saw that the tendency of Judaizing in his day, was to make the cross of Christ of none effect; and yet at that early period, Judaizing Christians had made but little progress.
When that bitter plant had grown to his height, the man of sin had grown to his height also. And you may depend upon it, that lordly domination, enthroned bishops, Aaronical vestments, the sacrifice of the mass, and altars resembling the altars under the law, will all fall together: yes, they will fall like a mill stone into the sea, never to rise any more, to the great grief of those spiritual merchants who have long trafficked in the souls of men.
You have not mentioned tithes, Madam, said he.
Nor many other things, replied I. There being no command in the New Testament for the payment of tithes, when a proof of the divine right of tithes is required, they have recourse to the same authority as for the other fatal additions which have been made to Christianity.
Popery, Madam, said he, differs but little from paganism; and I thus 'account for it. When statesmen and bishops jointly undertook the work of conversion, and whole nations were at once to' be made Christians, they found it necessary to consult the temper of the people, who had been accustomed to worship departed heroes, and to observe feats in commemoration of them, accompanied with divers sports and athletic exercises; so that it is a matter of doubt whether the pagans were converted to Christianity, or the Christians to paganism.
That Christianity has been exceedingly corrupted, replied I, is evident. To avoid the corruptions of it as much as possible, let us endeavour to follow the faith, the practice, and the exhortations of the apostles, so far as God shall enlighten our understanding. If this determination be accompanied with prayer, and with a mind open to conviction, our errors will not be very pernicious. In things which are doubtful we must decide for ourselves in the best manner we are able, leaving others to do the same, without any breach of charity. Some indeed would extend this charity to those who reject all the capital truths of the gospel, inferring from the doubtfulness of some things that nothing is certain. There are however, things certain, as well as things doubtful. It is certain, for instance, that the Messiah is the one Jehovah, and that beside him there is no God: but what it is which constitutes the specific difference between the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit, is a matter of doubtful disputation. For my own part, I consiter each of those sacred persons as the one Jehovah; and in this my Bible abundantly confirms me. But when I attempt curiously to pry any further, I find many difficulties which I cannot solve. The same may be said con. cerning the prescience of God, his decrees, his permission of sin, and many other things. I do not perceive the impropriety of investigating these things with reverence and humility, provided we do not make our own conjectures, articles of faith, and anathematize our brethren for not seeing with our eyes.
I should think, Madam, said Mr. Clifford, we have no right to anathematize any persons, how wrong soever they may be ; since to their own master they stand or fall.
True, Sir, answered I, we have not. But if God in his word pronounce an anathema against those who pervert the gospel, or who love not the Lord Jesus Christ, we ought to credit it: and where persons appear to us, upon serious reflection, to answer to these descriptions, we ought, on proper occasions, in love to their souls, to apprise them that they are in a state of imminent danger. This is not antichristian highchurch bigotry ; it is not assuming a lordly domination over the faith of others; but it is charity, or love to the souls of men. It is endeavouring to save ourselves and those who hear us.
This, Sir, is the substance of our desultory conversation ; and if there be any thing in it which will repay the trouble of reading it, I have my reward. It gave me pleasure ; for next to my own salvation, nothing affords me greater satisfaction than to see a sinner rescued from everlasting destruction.
When you have leisure, I shall be glad to hear in what manner your conversion was effected. I am the more anxious to know this, because, by being sent into a popish country to complete your education, you were placed in a very unfavourable situation for becoming a protestant.
I must close this long letter with wishing you and my dear niece every blessing, if God in his providence should unite you. My best wishes attend your valuable father, Signior Albino, Miss Neville, and Thomas Livingstone, and his wife.
Believe me to be, Dear Sir,
From Mr. William Neville to Mrs. Worthington.
DEAR MADAM, I
RECEIVED your obliging letter, and rejoice to hear that God has delivered Mr. Charles Clifford out of the dreadful state which he described to you. We all feel ourselves exceedingly obliged to him for the concern he has shown for our dear Eusebia. I showed
your letter, and he determined to wait upon him, that he might hear him relate where he had been to inquire after my sister, and that he might tell him how much we all considered ourselves obliged to him.
Yesterday morning I accompanied my father to Poplar Grange, where we found the elder Mr. Clifford, Mr. and Mrs. Barnwell, and Mr. Law the rector of Barnwell ; but unhappily Mr. Charles Clifford was not at home. The old gentleman insisted upon our dining with him ; and we the more readily complied, that we might hear what Mr. Barnwell would say about my dear Miranda. He was silent about her till Mrs. Barnwell said after dinner to my father, I suppose, Sir, Miss. Barnwell intends to come home no more. She may think that we shall entreat her to return, but she is much mistaken : she is very unduti. ful, I assure you. As she was an only child, Mr. Barnwell has humoured her till he has spoiled her; and I tell him he must take it for his pains.
Truly, Sir, said Mr. Barnwell, I once thought her equal to any one, both in person and mind; but the girl is become a fool.
I have been informed that she lodges at old Livingstone's the hedger, and I have since heard that she is sometimes at your house. My sister Worthington told me that she was about to be married ; but I did not ask to whom, as I suppose it was to some beggar like herself,
Here Mr. Law took upon himself to help Mr. Barnwell
out, by saying that Mr. and Mrs. Barnwell were undoubtedly justly offended with her for keeping company with low people, the scum of the earth, and for not submitting to that authority which God and nature gave a parent over his children.
Had I given way to my feelings, I should have said something very severe to the rector. But I thank God that I maintained a proper government of my temper ; for persons, when they are angry, seldom do or say any thing of which they have not afterward cause to repent.
My father said in reply to Mr. Law, that he had been acquainted with Miss Barnwell from her infancy, and that, except the common foibles of childhood and youth, he had not observed any thing in her conduct or manners which did not recommend her to his esteem. With regard to you, Mr. Barnwell, said he, I fear there is something blameable in your conduct to your daughter. This suspicion flows from your own confession ; for I assure you Miss Barnwell has never mentioned you to me, but with the respect due to a parent.
You have intimated pretty plainly that you have no concern for her welfare ; or rather you have demonstrated it, by affirming that you have no desire to know any thing about the person who wishes to make her his wife. If he should be a person in low circumstances, you seem to suppose that she will have sunk into the depth of misery. But why should you think so ? If her husband be an honest, industrious, and religious man, he may render her happy, and be a suitable husband for her, if you are determined to disown her as you seem to be. Provided he be a man of that description, if you will do nothing for them, I will give them something to begin the world with.
Sir, you are very kind, replied Mr. Barnwell, and I know, mean the best. At the same time I cannot think it quite right that children should be encouraged to be disobedient to their parents. She knew that she would be welcome to my house, if she came with a determination to