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into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."-Here I think is plainly a duty with regard to opinions, altogether different from that of forbearance. The one requires us not so much as to judge our brethren; the other requires us to con tend earnestly with them. The one supposes the trifling difference to be wholly buried; the other implies, that it should be kept clearly in view, and all possible pains taken to support the truth, and to refute the error. The one supposes entire peace and union; the other implies a firm and resolute opposition, so as to come to no terms which imply consent or approbation. The phraseology through the whole passage teaches us to interpret it as I have done: "There are certain men," says he, crept in unawares ;" plainly signifying, that if they had not crept in secretly, they would not, or ought not to have been suffered to come in openly. Now, if charity and forbearance be the same thing, here are some persons described, whom we are not to forbear, and consequently for whom we are to have no charity: therefore it must have some limitation. Let it be as extensive as you will, it is not boundless.
Titus i. 10, 11, 13. "For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the cir cumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. Wherefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." Now, let me ask any unprejudiced reader, whether sharp rebuke be not a very different thing from forbearance? How can you rebuke those whom you may not so much as judge? Or why should you attempt to make them sound in the faith, if they are already received of God? as it is expressed, Rom. xiv. 3. Besides, what is the meaning of subverting whole houses? and of stopping the mouths of the false teachers, to prevent or remedy this subversion? In the same epistle, chap. iii. 10. the apostle says, A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition, reject." Docs not this sup
pose, that it is possible for a man to be a heretic? Does not the apostle here ordain a sentence of expulsion to be passed against him, after the pains taken to reclaim him appear to be fruitless? It is plain, therefore, that if charity be the same with forbearance, it must have limits; for if every body must be forborn, then certainly nobody can be expelled.
I must not here pass by an astonishing interpretation put by some, and men of learning too, upon the following verse of the same chapter: "Knowing that he that is such, is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself;" that is, say some, no man is an heretic in the sense of this passage, but who is self-condemned, or acting contrary to his own conviction; so that he must be rejected, not for the error of his judgment, but for the obstinacy and depravation of his heart. I do not remember to have seen any stronger instance of the power of prejudice, than giving such a sense to the word self-condemned. If any man can really conceive a case in his own mind, of a heretic obstinately persisting in his error, and suffering for it, in opposition to his own inward conviction, and at the same time this circumstance clearly ascertained as the foundation of his sentence, I wish he would teach me how to conceive it: at present it seems to me utterly impossible. If any person thus speaks lies in hypocrisy, is it to be supposed that he will confess it? and if he do not confess, how is it possible to prove it? The plain meaning of being condemned of himself, in this passage, is, that his errors are so contradictory to the other articles of his faith, such an abjuration of his former profession, and generally tend so much to immorality in practice, that he is condemned as it were out of his own.mouth.
In the 2d epistle of John, the apostle says, ver. 9, 10, 11. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring
not this doctrine, receive him not into your house; neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds." I shall not stay to examine nicely the import of not receiving such a one into our house, and not bidding him God speed. It is sufficient for my purpose, that no sense can be put upon it low enough to make it agreeable to the treatment we ought to give to our brethren whom we are forbidden to judge. These we are to receive as Christ hath received them, and to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
To all these I only add, without any reflection upon it, the reproof of Christ to the church of Pergamus: Rev. ii. 14. "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate."
2. If charity be the same with forbearance, it must have limits, or it would be the strongest impeachment of divine wisdom and goodness, in not giving marks sufficiently clear to distinguish truth from falsehood. If we are to entertain a favorable opinion of the sentiments and state of others, it must be entirely founded on the supposition, that they have inquired with honesty and impartiality; and that they are not blinded by prejudice or corrupt passions. This I suppose will be readily allowed; because it is the usual way of speaking or writing on the subject. "They may be mistaken,' it is often said, "but without their fault: they may have freely and impartially inquired, and yet may, after all, think differently with equal sincerity." This, I .contend, can only hold in matters of small moment, and in themselves of a doubtful nature; and in these, the observation is just, and corresponds with reason, scripture, and experience. But in truths of the highest moment, if there are any such at all, to suppose that
men equally sincere and impartial, may, notwithstanding, have sentiments directly opposite, seems to me an impeachment of divine wisdom. How can it be, unless the evidences for and against them be pretty equally balanced? How is the judgment determined at all, But by a sort of compared ratio, to speak in the language of mathematicians, of the outward evidence, and the prepossession of the mind? Strong prepossessions will account for my opinion, however absurd; but if two persons of equal capacity, and equal integrity, draw opposite conclusions on any question, it must certainly arise from the doubtfulness of the question itself. Now, if there be any truths of moment not attended with sufficient evidence, how can we acquit or justify the conduct of Providence? There does not seem to me to be any alternative; but we must lay the blame either upon the evidence, or the mind; that is to say, in other words, it must be put to the charge either of God or man.
3. If charity is the same thing with forbearance, it must have some limits; otherwise the value of truth itself is absolutely annihilated. If I am to believe a man in as safe a state, and as much accepted of God, in one opinion as another, upon all subjects, it is plain, not only that every truth is of equal moment with another, but that truth and error are of equal value. This, I think, is indisputable; for if it makes no difference, either in point of character or state, I see nothing else from which their value can be estimated. What then becomes of all the fine encomiums, we have on the beauty, the excellence, the importance of truth? the necessity and benefit of freedom of inquiry? It would be much better to be satisfied with any opinions, be what they will, than to give way to doubts and suspicions, to fatigue our minds, and waste our time, in longand difficult researches. If it be said, that they may be the same as to the sincerity of the inquirer, but different principles may have different effects in practice; this is yielding up the point in debate: for if one opi
nion leads to holiness, and another to wickedness, in practice, they can never be in the same state of safety, nor equally acceptable to God, who hold these opposite sentiments. Besides, it is common with the advocates for this mistaken sort of charity, in order the better to support their opinion, to deny this difference in effect, and to say, "It is no matter what a man's opinions are, if his life be good." Now, it is evident, that this assertion is absurd; or rather the supposition is impossible, unless the influence of truth and falsehood upon the life, be absolutely equal. Grant but the least superiority or advantage to one above the other, and the argument is destroyed; for if truth be better than falsehood, it must be some matter what a man's opinions are, in order to his life's being good. How weak and inconsistent creatures are we! The very same persons who make the greatest stir about a pretended search after truth, and freedom of inquiry, will needs have it, that Christian charity implies, that all opinions are alike, and ought to be treated with equal respect : and then, to crown all, they give us the most hideous pictures of the terrible effects of superstition, and certain religious sentiments which they are pleased to condemn. Alas! where is the charity then? Are all opinions equal? Is it no matter what a man's opinions are, if his life be good? At last you have found out some whose lives are ill by the impulse of their opinions. Certainly, charity, in the sense of forbearance or approbation, is not due to them.
4. If charity is the same with forbearance, it must have some limits; because otherwise things would be carried to an extravagant length; and such cases might be supposed as very few would be willing to admit, and indeed I think no man can rationally admit. I might give a multitude of possible examples; but, for the greater satisfaction of the reader, shall only mention a few that are real.
(To be concluded in our next.)