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whose faith is most exact in all points. For ic is not to this which our Maker so much looks (though we must endeavour all we can to obtain the truth), as to our diligence in seeking, and sincerity in professing, what we do know, and in practising those moral and Christian duties of which none cari plead ignorance. A man may have just sentiments of God and Christ, and of the gospel as an apostle ; and yet fall short of Heaven's bliss, if his life hath not been conformable to his better knowledge,
Lastly. No one that has lived and con : versed much in the world, and has remarked what has passed in it of late years, with respect to the temper of christians one towards another, when differing in points hitherto held most essential, but must have observed a change for the better, in their becoming more mild, and not condemning and anathematizing each other as they were wont to do.
There are still undoubtedly exceptions ; and not a few show the same flaming intolerant zeal againt those who dissent from them in
points of faith and worship: but the prevailing temper is certainly that which I have described.
And although it has been ascribed, as it is a thing that has much been taken notice of, to the general indifference about religion which has obtained among all ranks, especially those that are in ease and affluence; yet this does by no means account for all the effect. For those who are so indifferent as to care nothing about religion, and believe less, are generally violent persons against any changes, and are for having things remain as they are. But this mild and tolerant spirit is discernible among those who are sincere believers, and zealous and earnest in their particular persuasions, of which very extraordinary instances might be named were this a place for them. So that we may reasonably hope that it is the prelude of a better spirit coming on among differing christians, and may not hesitate to pronounce that it flows from its best source ; from a persuasion that others have an equal claim to judge for themselves, and follow their own convictions, as we have to follow ours; that if they be honest and sincere, however in error, and live virtuously according to their
light and knowledge, they will be equally acceptable to the common heavenly Father, who gave thein their talents and capacities, as those whose minds have been more enlightened; and as they will be no less dear to Him, the great judge of all, in the end, they ought to be so to us here, and to receive all kind offices from us.
Then, when this shall take place, will christianity approach its perfect state here below. Not, as many have supposed, in an uniformity and agreement in opinion upon disputed. points, a thing impossible, though seas of blood have been shed, and the peace of the world disturbed in almost all ages to obtain it; but in an uniformity of sentiment and agreement on this one point, not to look with jealousy or an evil eye on another’s using that liberty of judging for himself which no one can exercise for him ; but to love and do good to each other notwithstanding the widest differences of religious opinion; and to believe, that all who are virtuous and sincere will meet in heaven at last, notwithstanding they may seem to take different routes to it.
And this will in time bring on a greater uniformity and agreement in all important
points, especially in the great object of christian worship; — the worship of the Father alone, which the blessed Jesus prescribed and practised, and which is now only prevented by those prejudices and animosities that hinder calm reflection and consideration.
As we may hope that this learned Jew who conversed with our Lord went away from him convinced of the great defects of his own cha .. racter, especially in the love and duty that he owed to God and his fellow-creatures of mankind, and by serious reflection afterwards might become his true disciple;
It will be happy if we carry away from the same instructions of our heavenly Teacher, which have been before us this day, what may make us wiser and better ; with more humble sentiments of ourselves, and a most extended benevolence and real sympathy and concern for the virtue and happiness of our brethren of mankind, which are the things that are to qualify us for the improvements and felicities of our future eternal state.
O God, blessed for ever! the overflowing VOL. 11.
fountain of life and happiness to all thy creatures !
All-sufficient in thyself, thou needest nothing from any one.
But thou hast appointed the poor and afflicted of this world thy substitutes, to receive in thy stead their share of thy common bounty and support from others more favoured by thee in worldly thing3 ; having graciously declared, that whosoever giveth to these lendeth unto thee.
Create in us, we pray thee, a heart tender and compassionate, and make us 'ever mindful of the wants of others; that we may not penuriously hoard and bury thy gifts to us, nor consume them upon ourselves, but
may with a generous profusion deal them out to others; firmly trusting in thy providence, that the cruse of oil shall never fail, and that nothing shall be lost which is given or done for thy sake, and to benefit others.
And suffer not any difference of country or climate to alienate our affections from those of our own kind; and especially permit not any difference of opinion relating to thee, O God! and thy nature and worship, to diminish aught of our love and kindness to them ; remem