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Far. Aye, and many a drunken, worldly-minded farmer and grazier has told me of that text before
As though the Lord was afraid that we, poor sinful creatures might be too righteous and holy ;lest we should repent too much; pray too much; or love God too much. Now, though I am but a country farmer, yet I can give you a properer meaning to it than that, if ever you chuse to make a sermon on it. For it means, don't be too rigorous and over severe in your judgment and dealings with your fellow creatures; but let mercy and forbearance be mixed with judgment. I think this sounds more consistent, than to suppose, that a most righteous God should forbid is to be over righteous. And would not such notions make the Bible appear to be all contradiction and nonsense? while we are commanded in that blessed book, to be “holy in all manner of conversation;' to* perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord;" and to “ be perfect, even as our father who is in heaven is perfect."
Smir. I suppose, Mr. Littleworth, you are frequently going down to Mr. Lovegood's for fresh Icctures in divinity, for you can quite out do us.
Far. O yes, Sir, I am with him as often as my. business will permit; and when I heard him the Sunday before last preach his excellent sermonagainst this ribaldry, that you, gentlemen, have been supporting, I remember he told us, how much such farcical nonsenses were against the spirit and timper of real christianity. [To his Daughter.] Nancy, my child, you know we marked down his proof texts on that head also, as soon as we came home. Let us sce which they were.
Nancy. Why, the first text was this. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sucrifice, holy, ac-. ceptable to God, which is your reasonable service;
and be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God.” And he asked, where could be the christianity of those who were entirely conformed to the world, and who ran after all its vanities; and were “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”
Far. And then, you know, he brought out these texts, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence,” &c. “ Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world ; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him ;” for “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.”. Now, pray young gentlemen, to be plain with you, though you are so much more larneller than I am, is it possible for any one to be more in friendship with the world than you are ? And is it possible, that they who attend where you have been to-night, can be among the pure in hcart who unfeignedly say,
“ lead us not into temptation ?” and who “ watch and pray lest they should enter into temptation,” when they seem to tempt the very
Mrs. Lit. I am sadly afraid gentlemen my husband bears a little too hard upon you. Let me give you another glass of wine.
Smir. Thank you, madam, but we are in no great fear of an answer, after Mr. Littleworth has brought out all his texts.
Miss Polly. I am afraid that will be a long time first; for nothing now goes down with my father but the Bible. For morning, noon, and night, he is always at it ; breakfast, dinner, and supper, he must have his Bible. He seems Bible mad.
Far. You sce, gentlemen, my daughter has brought home no great deal of mannerly or christian-like be
haviour to her father, by going with you to the play to-night. We will, however, bring a few more texts to confirm our point; for, pray, when you was with all the giggling thoughtless set that were at the play, were you with those who were “ heavenly minded,” and spiritually minded; who “were led by thc Spirit;? who had “ the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which was given them,” who were giving all diligence before God to make their calling and election sure, lest a promise being left to enter into his rest, any of them should seem to come short;" who were “ striving to enter in at the strait gate;" who were “ working out their salvation with fear and trembling;” who were “crucified to the world, who were even dead to it," "whose lives were hid with Christ in God;" and who have “Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith?” Were you among those who are panting after God; who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness;" who
“pressing towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ;” who are “ redeeming the time, because the days are evil;” who are “ thro’ the Spirit, mortifying the deeds of the body;"> who are “ blameless and harmless, the sons of God;"? who “ let their light shine before men, that they may see their good works and glorify their Father, which is in heaven?” Were you among those who,
« in what soever they do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him; and who likewise, “ whether they eat, or whether they drink, or whatsoever they do, do all to the glory of God?" If so, you have all been at the play to the glory of God. Now, gentlemen, this is not the hundredth part of the Bible against such loose amusements; and the Lord make you sensible what you should be, and then you will know where you should be, and what you should do.
Smir. Well, Sir, if you admire nothing else in us, at least, you should admire our patience to hear you say so much; and after all, nothing to the purpose; for all these texts were only designed for primitive times. For, where will you find christians in this day of such a stamp, excepting a few narrowminded people of Mr. Lovegood's cast.
Far. And so truely the Bible is to be no more to us now-a-days than an old Almanack.-Mr. Brisk, can't you help Mr. Smirking out, by some proper texts of scripture to prove his point. Here's the Bible for you, Sir.
Brisk. It cannot be expected that my recollection should be sufficiently clear, having but just come from the play.
Far. No wonder that going to the play should have thicken'd your senses in regard to the Bible; but to my mind, it should seem very odd, that time should alter the mind of God, and that what was necessary, in a way of holiness, a thousand years ago, is not necessary now: and if we go on, as we have done of late, in about five hundred years longer, even by the approbation of God himself, men may be devils outright. Why, gentlemen, where have you been for such dectrine as this? According to this rate, the Bible is nothing better than an old lease that is now run out, and whose covenants and agreements can bind no longer; and if this be the case, how are we to come at the truth? And who is to draw us out a new rule for the present times? I am afraid, if done according to the fashion of the times, it will be a desperate wide one. Well, gentlemen, till you can shew me a reason to the contrary, I shall always suppose that good old Book is the standard for my faith and practice; and as God cannot alter in himself, so he cannot alter in that holy word of his,
which he has given us to make us wise unto salvation.
Smir. Though I like your arguments very well Mr. Brisk, of taking these troublesome texts and putting them up, out of the way of these modern enthusiasts, by confining them to primitive times; yet, I think, the same business is better accomplished among rational Dissenters, by calling them strong eastern expressions, and representing them asabstruse metaphors; that being born again, or being new creatures, only means being brought from the old Jewish religion into the christian, which was then a
And being led by the Spirit,"only means, led by a good disposition. Andas forall these other strong expressions that Mr. Littleworth seems so fond of, they now only mean, that we, christians, should not be remiss in the sober practice of virtue and morality.
Far. Now, gentlemen, if you wish me to believe all this, you must furnish me with a new set of brains: for it was but about three weeks ago that Mr. Dolittle was here, and then I was to believe, that all our good old church books were to be understood according to a double meaning, for and againsi, or contrary to their meaning. And now all that the Bible means, is to mean nothing. Do any of us think that we are at liberty, after the same fashion, to explain away a book of man's making as we explain away the book of God? And now, gentlemen, you must give me leave to speak to you the thoughts of my heart in a homely manner.
You have been encouraging a set of these loose fellows, whose lives, you know, are generally wicked, and who are so profane in their conversation that you would be ashamed to make them your companions, or take them into your houses; and these are the men you hire to play the fool to please you, and spread corruption where