Page images
PDF
EPUB

ambition-who has rode triumphant over slaughtered thousands, wrapped cities in flames, and hurled empires into ruins-ask him if he is happy; ask him what he has gained by conquest. Let the characters of the greatest heroes of ancient or modern times be consulted. What was Alexander the Great? He carried his arms and his conquests wherever he thought there was an object worth his notice; and wept because he could not find another world to conquer. He was tossed by every tempest of passion; and died in the midst of his days, and his end was among fools! What was Pompey? One of the greatest generals that ever directed the Roman legions. He rose to power and fame by the success of battles, and sunk by the very means of his former aggrandizement-became a fugitive from the sword-was assassinated by those on whom he had thrown himself for safety and finally, his body, left unburied on the sands, was burned by an old fisherman on a pile of rubbish. And what better was Cæsar, who overthrew him? —He became a great man (if power could make him great), at the expense of millions of human lives. He rioted awhile in the sunshine of prosperity, if prosperity it might be called, and died by the hands of his friends.

And thus we might trace the pages of history.-Descending from age to age, we find neither happiness nor safety obtained by the sword.

[ocr errors]

Nor are there less striking instances in modern, than in ancient times. And through all, we shall find those bold adventurers, who feared not God nor regarded man, though nations had trembled at their displeasure, were as much the victims of their own madness, as the humblest soldier that perished in their battles. "Action and reaction," says a modern writer, "are equal in the moral, as in the natural world.' And when we injure a fellow creature, we invariably injure ourselves. This is one of the laws decreed by the Great Ruler of the universe, and which we can no more annul, than we can suspend the succession of day and night, or stop the planets in their courses. Whoever, therefore, is an enemy to man, is, in the same proportion, an enemy to himself. Nor are these injuries of a temporal nature: for the feelings of strife and

*Thomas Clarkson..

ill will cannot consist with love to God. We cannot be the disciples of Christ, without charity and love to one another. We cannot love God, while our feelings towards each other are those which lead to violence. So that whatever excites those passions which dissolve the bonds of fellowship, and separate man from man, does, at the same time, separate man from his Maker; and thus involve not only present, but eternal consequences.

But if we leave the interposition of a Providence out of the question, and consider war as proceeding entirely on its own principles, the justice of a cause is no criterion by which to judge of the result of a battle. The contest then of two nations, is at once resolved into the question of respective powers. It is not, who is right? but, who is strongest? But this has nothing to do with the original question. How monstrously absurd is it then, to appeal to the sword in questions of right and wrong! The result is understood to depend on which possesses the most power, or the most skill in the work of destruction. To decide which-wealth, lives, and happiness are squandered with a demoniac prodigality! If power and right are inseparably connected, why not let the parties count their men and resources, and let the aggregate upon paper attest the justice of their respective claims? If this idea is preposterous, if the principle on which the decision is to rest is obviously absurd, as totally unconnected with the merits of the case in dispute, the same may be said of every principle and contingency, which can be assumed in the case of war. The advocates for war have no right to claim the intervention of an overruling Providence, controlling the natural operation of physical causes, in cases of war; since they deny the agency of that Providence in the preservation of peace, and the protection of those who endeavour to serve him.

On those who direct the measures of governments, and put in operation the dreadful machines which manufacture guilt and misery on the large scale, an awful responsibility must rest. They are called upon by reason and religion— by the sympathies of our nature, and the laws of God-to make a solemn pause, The Christian, however humble may be the sphere in which he is placed, is entrusted with an important charge:-"Ye are the light of the world."

The light afforded is not designed for your direction alone, but to dispel the darkness which involves those around you. Should you extinguish or conceal this, through motives of ease or interest, how will you be able to answer for the consequences! Or what will you do in the day of solemn investigation, if the blood of slaughtered thousands-the guilt and agonies of millions, should rise in judgment against you? And let the ministers of the gospel take heed to the Let those who name the ministry they have received. name of Christ, and profess to be ambassadors for him, consider what was the sentence (Gal. i. 8, 9.) pronounced on those who preached any other gospel, than that which was preached by Christ and his apostles; which was the gospel of peace and salvation.

CHAPTER XVII.

THE CONCLUSION.

On looking over the foregoing pages, it will not be difficult to discover, that many striking arguments which had been already advanced in support of particular doctrines, are omitted. It has not been intended to say all that has been said by others, nor all that might be said. The mind sincerely disposed to come to the knowledge of the truth, will rarely, if ever, require the whole body of evidence which might be produced.

[ocr errors]

The object of all arguments—of all the labours of instruments, should be, to bring mankind to that divine principle which was promised—“ to lead us into all truth.” When men are thus brought to an acquaintance with this divine intelligence, they can adopt the language that was used to Now we believe, not because of the woman of Samaria : thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." John iv. 42. Hence, the messengers of the gospel have nothing to claim to themselves; and their only rejoicing is in the prevalence of that power, which will be exalted over all.

I am aware that nothing can be written to meet the views

of all. And consequently, objections from some quarter or other are to be expected, against whatever may appear on doctrinal subjects. But though I anticipate this result— though, in the present state of the world, it is next to an impossibility to be otherwise-yet I have felt, and still feel, an earnest desire to cut off all occasion of offence. treat the forbearance of those who, at first view, may not see the propriety of the course I have taken, or of the doctrines I have vindicated. All the advantages of that patient and candid examination of the subject, will be their own.

I en.

Should any have remarked that I have not made the trinity and the atonement subjects of distinct articles, and be dissatisfied with the supposed omission; I would observe, that a belief in God and his divine attributes, is evident throughout the whole work, and did not appear to me to require a particular article; seeing also that this first principle of religion is universally believed. The divinity of Jesus Christ, together with his appearance in the fleshand the benefits which all men have derived from what he did outwardly, and may derive from what he does inwardly. is fully acknowledged in an article devoted to that purpose; and also in several other articles, which are nominally on other subjects. The Holy Spirit, and its presence and operation in the hearts of men, according to the precious promises of our blessed Lord, are acknowledged in the article on immediate revelation, and in divers other parts of the work. I have therefore chosen to follow the example of the holy scriptures, or the holy men who were inspired to write them, in leaving the subject on this general ground, rather than to imitate those speculative theologists, who, attempting to explain the Divine Nature and its mode of subsistence, have involved themselves in endless difficulties.

In relation to the atonement, I have been governed by similar feelings. Having stated our belief, that Jesus Christ, by his coming, and what he did and suffered, HAS placed all men in a capacity to be saved; and that, by his Spirit and power in our hearts, he is offering us complete redemption and salvation; I have considered it improper to pry into the secret counsels of Almighty God-and pretend to tell why, and how, he prepared the means of redemption which he appointed.

These reasons I hope will satisfy the candid, inquiring

mind, that does not desire to push its inquiries beyond what God is pleased to reveal.

I cheerfully subscribe to the belief, that true piety and acceptance with God, are not confined to any name or profession of religion; and it would be very far from my intention, to wound the feelings of any of those pious Christians, who are to be found under different denominations. I wish however, to invite their attention, impartially, to the doctrines on which we differ.

We, as intelligent and accountable beings, are placed here in a state of probation for a few fleeting days. The great object is, to please God, and obtain an inheritance among them that are sanctified. We are therefore bound to examine ourselves, and the principles by which we are governed; for we shall all, and individually, be judged according to our works, and the means of improvement bestowed upon us.

But, after all, if the zealous of other denominations should still believe, that they derive comfort and advantage from the use of certain ceremonies, which we have believed it right to avoid; as these ceremonies are regarded, by those who use them, as instrumental means, and not as the only media, through which the various operations of grace are experienced; it is reasonable to hope they will conclude, that these operations are not less efficacious, when carried on by the immediate power" of an endless life," than by any feelings or affections which can be excited by instrumental means. The apostle says: "The love of God was shed abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost which was given them." And if this love is brought into its just preeminence in us, it can be no objection that it is by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit.

There are some practices however, among the professors of Christianity, which we decline, that do not come under the character of ceremonies. Such, for instance, are the practices of war and slavery. And if those whose education has reconciled them to these things, before their judgments were sufficiently matured to draw correct conclusions, should not find their own minds prepared to abandon them —will they not be so charitable, or rather so candid, as to agree that our principle and practice, in relation to these subjects, are not without foundation?

« PreviousContinue »