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the gospel'ought not to be mangled and torn to pieces. Take away its doctrines, and you take away the food of God's people. Insist on them alone, and you transform us into religious epicures. And you may as well talk of the pleasure you experience in eating, when you are actually deprived of sustenance, or of the exquisite enjoyments of a state of total inactivity, as boast of experimental religion unconnected with doctrinal and practical godliness. The conduct of a man who walks with God, appears to me to resemble, in some measure, that of the industrious husbandman, who eats that he may be strengthened to labor, and labors that he may find pleasure in sitting down to a meal.

Business calls me away. I must therefore take my leave.

Crish. Farewell, my dear friend. But I hope we shall soon have an opportunity of some further conversation on this subject.

-But, my

time is gone.


Crispus. How do you do, my dear Gaius? As I was providentially coming into your neighborhood, I could not help calling on you; though, I must confess, that as the weather is fine, I was somewhat fearful, lest I should interrupt your evening walk.

Gaius. Indeed, my friend, I am always glad to see you; but particularly now. I have been from home to day longer than usual, on business; and don't intend to walk this evening. I was just wishing that some friend would drop in, and spend an half hour with me.

Crisp. I was thinking, as I came along, about the subject of our last conversation. You made some remarks on the indifference, of the present age, with regard to religious principles, which struck me forcibly. I should be glad to know what degree of importance you ascribe to the leading doctrines or principles of Christianity

Gai. If you mean to ask, whether I consider the belief of them as essentially necessary to the enjoyment of good neighborhood, or any of the just or kind offices of civil society, I should certainly answer in the negatire. Benevolence is good will to men; and so far as good will to them can consist with the general good, we ought to exercise it towards them as men, whatever be their principles, or even their practices. But if your question relate purely to religion, I acknowledge that I consider a reception of the great doctrines of Christianity (in those who have an opportunity of knowing them) as necessary to holiness, to happiness, and to eternal life.

Crisp. If your ideas be just, they afford room for very serious reflection. But will you not be subject to great difficulties in deciding what those truths are, and to what degree they must be believed? You cannot deny that even good men entertain different opinions of what the truth is; nor that those who receive the truth, receive it in very different degrees.

Gai. The same objection might be made to the express decision of Scripturë, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. It might be said, you will find great difficulties in deciding what true holiness is and what degree of it is necessary to eternal life: for you cannot deny

that even good men entertain different opinions of what true holiness is, nor that those who are subjects of it possess it in very different degrees.

Crish. And what would you answer to this objection?

Gai. I should say, that no upright heart can be so in the dark respecting the nature of true holiness, as to make any essential mistake about it. Whether I can determine with metaphysical accuracy the different component parts of it, or not, yet, if I am a true Christian, I shall feel it, shall possess it, shall practise it. As tu determining what degree Christ is the believer's sanctification extent will carry a man to heaven, that is not our business. We do not know to what Divine mercy will reach in the forgiveness of sin; but this may be said, that he


be assured that he has no true holiness in him at all, who rests contented with any degree short of perfection.

Crisp. Will this answer apply to truth as well as to holiness?

Gai. Why not? If the way to salvation be so plain, that a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein, what can but prejudice that renders the truth difficult to be understood? He who does the will of God shall know of his doctrine. · Surely then I may say, that no one who is in a right temper of mind can be so in the dark respecting what truth is, as to make an essential mistake about it. Whether I can determine the question with accuracy or not, yet, if I am a Christian, the truth dwelleth in me. As to the precise degree in which we must receive the truth in order to be saved, it is not our business to decide. But this is incontestable, that he who does seek after the wbole

of revealed truth, and sit as a little child at the feet of his Divine Instructer, the truth is not in hin.

Crisp. But is it not easier to discover what holiness is, than what truth is?

Gai. I grant that conscience assists in determining betwixt right and wrong, which it does not in many things respecting truth and error.

But if we were entirely on God's side, we should find the revealed dictates of truth as congenial to our hearts, as those of righteousness are to our consciences; and in that case the one would be as easily determined as the other.

Crisp. But is there not a difference between the importance of believing the truth of God, and that' of complying with his commands?

Gai. You would not think more favorably of a child who should discredit your testimony, than of one who should disobey your authority; and the same Being, who declares that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, hath declared, that he who believeth not the record that God hath given of his Son, hath made God a liar,that he who believeth not, shall be damned!

Criep. But should every error or mistake, to which fallible mortals are liable, be considered as unbelief, and as subjecting us to damnation?

Gai. By no means. There is a specific difference between error and unbelief. The one is a misapprehension of what the Divine testimony contains; the other supposes that we understand it, but yet discredit it. It is the latter, and not the former, that is threatened with damnation.

Crish. Do you then suppose error to be innocent?

Gai. The answer to this question must depend upon the cause from which it springs. If it arise from the want of natural powers, or opportunity of obtaining evidence, it is mere mistake, and contains in it nothing of moral evil. But if it arise from prejudice, neglect, or any evil bias of heart, it is otherwise, and may endanger our eternal welfare.

Crisp. Will you be so good as to illustrate this distinction?

Gai. Had David been engaged in the most wicked conspiracy when he fled to Abimelech; and had Abimelech in this circumstance given him bread and a sword; yet, if he knew nothing of it, less or more, nor possessed any means of knowing it, his error would have been innocent, and he ought to have been acquitted. But had he possessed the means of knowledge, and, from a secret disloyal bias, neglected to use them, giving easy credit to those things which his heart approved, he would have deserved to die.

Crisn. Amongst human errors, can we distinguish betwixt those which arise from the want of power or opportunities, and such as spring from the evil bias of the heart?

Gai. In many cases we certainly cannot, any more than we can fix the boundaries betwixt light and shade; yet there are some things, and things of the greatest importance, that are so plainly revealed, and of so holy a tendency that we are taught by the Scriptures themselves to impute an error concerning them, not to the understanding only, but to the heart. The fool hath said IN HIS HEART, there is no God. Why do ye not understand my speech? Because YE




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