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move you. You are already in the bosom of a church as nearly conformed to apostolic order as any on earth. If the testimony of Scripture; if the writings of the fathers, in the earliest and purest ages of the church; if the weight of numbers, of piety, and of learning, throughout the protestant world, be of any value, they are clearly on our side. Every successive step that I take in this inquiry, impresses on my mind a deeper conviction of the truth of my principles, and of my obligation to bless God for casting my lot in the Presbyterian church.
But, brethren, while you feel this confidence, let me warn you against being partakers with our opponents in the positiveness and bigotry which some of them manifest. I feel much satisfaction in knowing that you generally cherish the most liberal sentiments towards all denominations of Christians; that you are disposed to embrace as brethren all who give evidence that they love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, however they may differ from you in forms of worship, or in modes of external order. Cultivate to a still higher degree this disposition, so ornamental to your character as Christians, and as members of civil society. Let no provocation on the part of others induce you to abandon it. Remember that you are not yet free from a criminal bigotry, if you have not learned to bear with bigots. It is a difficult lesson; but we are required to learn it. You will not consider me as framing an apology for error, or as exhorting you to look upon it with approbation. It is your duty to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. But " let us not," to use the language of the amiable Ganganelli-a language more honourable to him than the triple crown-“Let us not lay aside charity to maintain faith." This is never necessary; and when it is done, is always the effect of that unhallowed fire in which our Lord has declared he has no pleasure.
Even if our episcopal brethren were unanimous in maintaining and urging the unscriptural claim which has been refuted, we ought to dismiss all bitterness and resentment, and as much as possible, to cherish towards them a spirit of conciliation and respect. But my firm persuasion is, as expressed in a former letter, that scarcely a twentieth part of that sect of Christians in the United States, are disposed either to advance or concur in such a claim.
It is the delusion of a few only; a delusion which I have good reason to believe is rejected and reprobated, by the great body of the clergy, as well as the laity of that communion. Let me, then, guard you againt the injustice of charging on a whole denomination the odium of such opinions. Impute them to none but those who fasten the charge on themselves, by an open avowal. Convince Episcopalians, by the liberality and candour of your deportment, that you have no prejudices against them as a church. And even convince those who embrace every opportunity of denouncing your ministry and ordinances, that you cannot be overcome of evil, but that you know how to overcome evil with good.
Numerous are the considerations which press upon us the duty of cultivating peace and love with all denominations of professing Christians. A bold and impious infidelity abounds. We are surrounded with thousands who not only neglect but despise all religion. How will it rejoice the hearts of these enemies of our common faith, to see those who profess to be followers of the same Master, to be animated by the same spirit of love, and to be candidates for the same heaven, either avoiding the society of each other, or coming together only to deal in reciprocal reproaches and anathemas. Be it YOUR study, brethren, whatever others may do to give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. Let it be apparent to all, that you cherish no dispositions, advance no claims, employ no language, which can reasonably disturb the harmony of your intercourse with other Christians. Let it be seen that you know how to esteem those who differ from you, as well as to contend for the truth; and to cover with the mantle of charity, that which you cannot approve. There is a charm in this conduct, which even infidelity itself cannot resist. It will do more than a thousand carnal weapons to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and to " extort a trembling homage" from those who know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The present perturbed state of the world, is another motive to peace and love among Christians. The struggles of ambition, grasping and devouring every thing within its reach; the desolations of war, widely spread, and murderous beyond former example; and the prevalence of those selfish and ferocious passions which fill the earth with animosity, hatred, violence, and destruc
tion, all concur, with infidelity, to call the minds of men away from the truth, and to prevent them from listening to the benign and heavenly voice of religion. Nor is this all. A consideration still more solemn presses itself upon the serious mind. Providence has cast our lot in those latter days, which are pre-eminently characterised in Scripture as perilous times. Trials are coming on the church, which, were not her king in the midst of her, would appal the stoutest heart. Is this a time for the followers of Christ to be divided? Is this a time for them to fall out by the way, and to bile and devour one another? Alas! no. Under these circumstances, how solemn is the call to union and love! In this situation, how obvious is the duty of all who believe the gospel, to unite in exhibiting our common Christianity to mankind in her meekest, loveliest, and most attractive form! How honourable might not such an example be to religion! how ornamental to the church! how confortable to ourselves! how useful to our troubled world!
The equal rights and privileges enjoyed in this country, by all sects of Christians, impose on them an additional obligation to live together in harmony and peace. Our civil government makes no discrimination among churches. In this respect, we all stand upon a level, and are permitted to worship God according to the dictates of our own consciences, having none to molest or to make us afraid. Under these happy circumstances, what temptation is there to cultivate a spirit of bigotry or contention? Why can we not quietly and meekly enjoy our privileges together? Let us prove to the world, that there is something in the spirit of Christianity which enables those who possess it to differ from each other with more mildness, urbanity, and genuine benevolence, than the wrangling politicians around us.
Finally, Christian brethren, remember that the period is hastening on, when all the real followers of Christ shall meet in a more harmonious and a more happy world. Oceans now roll between them; mountains and deserts keep them asunder; and differences of opinion and denomination, often more inhospitable than the most dreary desert, place at a distance from each other those for whom Christ died. But in that blessed and holy society which you are speedily to join; in that glorified multitude which no man can number, gathered out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, these differences will be for ever unknown. There
perfect holiness and perfect love shall reign undisturbed and eternal. Let this happy prospect fill you with the tenderest love to all who bear the image of Christ; let it comfort you amidst the contentions and divisions of the present imperfect state; and let it excite you daily to cherish those dispositions which will form the best preparation for that kingdom where all christians shall appear to each other, what they are in fact, one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
END OF PART I.