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Let us inquire, whether our revilers have not some foundation for the charge? Whether
we have not sought our own glory more than that of God? Whether we are not more disappointed at missing that revenue of praise, which we thought our good works were entitled to bring us in, than at the wound religion may have sustained? Whether though our views were right on the whole, their purity was not much alloyed by human mixtures? Whether, neglecting to count the cost, we did not expect unmixed approbation, uninterrupted success, and a full tide of prosperity and applause, totally forgetting the reproaches received, and the obloquy sustained by "the Man of Sorrows."
If we can, on an impartial review, acquit ourselves as to the general purity of our motives, the general integrity of our conduct, the unfeigned sincerity of our endeavours, then we may indeed, though with deep humility, take to ourselves the comfort of this divine beatitude. When we really find, that men only speak evil of us for his sake in whose cause we have laboured, however that labour may have been mingled with imperfections, we may indeed " rejoice and be exceeding glad." Submission may be elevated into gratitude, and forgiveness into love.
ON THE PROPRIETY OF INTRODUCING RELIGION IN GENERAL CONVERSATION.
MAY we be allowed to introduce here an opinion warmly maintained in the world, and which indeed strikes as the root of all rules for the management of religious debate recommended in the preceding chapter? It is, that the subject of religion ought on no occasion to be introduced in mixed company; that the diversity of sentiment upon it is so great, and so nearly connected with the tenderest feelings of our minds, as to be liable to lead to heat and contentions: Finally, that it is too grave and solemn a topic to be mixed in the miscellaneous circle of social discourse, much less in the festive effusions of convivial cheerfulness. Now, in answer to these allegations we must at least insist, that should religion, on other grounds, be found entitled to social discussion, the last observation, if true, would prove convivial cheerfulness incompatible
with the spirit and practice of religion, rather than religion inadmissible into cheerful parties. And it is certainly a retort difficult of evasion, that where to introduce religion herself is to endanger her honour, there she rather suffers in reputation by the presence of her friend. The man endeared by conviction to his religion will never bear to be long, much less to be statedly separated from the object of his affections: and he whose zeal once determined him "to know nothing" among his associates, "but Jesus Christ, and him crucified," never could have dreamt of a latitude of interpretation which would admit a Christian into scenes where every thing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, might be recognized with credit.
These principles appear so plain and incontrovertible, that the question seems rather to call for a different statement: viz. why religion should not be deemed admissible into every social meeting and friendly circle in which a Christian himself would chuse to be found? That it is too weighty and important a subject for discussion, is an argument, which, standing alone, assumes the gross absurdity that either men never talk of that which most nearly interests them, or that when they do, they talk improperly. They will not, it is true, introduce a private concern, how
ever important, in which no one is interested but themselves. But in the subject of religion, who is not interested? Or where will topics be found more universal in their application to all times, persons, places and circumstances, as well as more important, than those which relate to the eternal welfare of mankind?
Nor will it be avowed with greater colour of reason, that topics so important suffer in point of gravity, or in the respect of mankind, by frequent discussion. We never observed men
grow indifferent to their health, their affairs, their friends, their country, in proportion as these were made the subjects of their familiar discourse. On the contrary, oblivion has been noticed as the offspring of silence. The man who never mentions his friend is, we think, in general most likely to forget him. And far from deeming the name of ONE, greater than any earthly friend "taken in vain,” when mentioned discreetly in conversation, we generally find him most remembered and respected in secret, by those whose memories are occasionally refreshed by a reference to his word and authority in public. "Familiarity," indeed we have been told, "produces contempt;" a truism, on which we are convinced many persons, honestly, tho' blindly, rest their habitual, and even systematic reserve on religious subjects. But "familiarity"
in our mind has reference rather to the manner, than to the act, of introducing religion. To us it is synonimous with a certain trite and trivial repetition of serious remarks, evidently "to no profit," which we sometimes hear from persons familiarized, rather by education than feeling, to the language of piety.
More particularly we refer it to a still more criminal habit, which, to their disgrace, some professors of religion share with the profane, of raising a laugh by the introduction of a religious observation, or even a scriptural quotation. “To court a grin where we should woo a soul," is surely an abuse of religion, as well in the parlour as the pulpit. Nor has the senate itself been always exempt from this impropriety. Dr. Johnson has long since pronounced a jest drawn from the Bible, the vulgarest because the easiest of all jests. And far from perverting religious topics to such a purpose himself, a feeling Christian would not often be found, where such would be the probable consequence of offering a pious sentiment in company.
That allusions involving religious questions are often productive of dispute and altercation,is a fact, which though greatly exaggerated, must yet, in a degree be admitted. This circumstance may in some measure account for the singular reception which a religious remark is often ob