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cism, were to contend that we have no grounds whatever for supposing the song of Deborah and Barak to be recorded as an inspired hymn; that is a question not to be answered in the foolish and hasty way in which some persons are apt to settle it; but on which this is not the place to enter. But be this as it may, we need not lose the benefit of the words of the text; they may be true, though not inspired. Their spirit is, that God does allow largely for ignorance where He finds sincerity; that they who serve Him honestly up to the measure of their knowledge, are according to the general course of His providence encouraged and blessed; that they whose eyes and hearts are still fixed upwards, on duty not on self, are precisely that smoking flax which He will not quench, but cherish rather, till the smoke be blown into a flame. So it was with Christ's own apostles. Amidst how much of ignorance, how much, according to His own very words, of incapability to receive His full truth, did He yet receive them into communion with Him, and give them the blessed name of His friends, and pronounce them, with one exception, to be all clean. And turn to a later period, to some of those scenes in the Christian Church which most resemble the case of Jael; to some of those stories of persecution, where good men, alas the while for human nature! were both the victims and the executioners. When we read some of those sad yet glorious martyrdoms, amidst all our un
mixed admiration for the sufferers, may we not in some instances hope and believe, that the persecutors were moved with a most earnest, though an ignorant zeal, and that like Jael, they sought really to please God, although like her they essayed to do it by means which Christ's Spirit condemns? If this be not so, what shall we say of two of the purest and brightest names of their day, of Calvin and of Cranmer? Can we doubt that it was a sincere, though ignorant zeal for God's glory, which led Cranmer in particular,-a man constitutionally the very reverse of hard or cruel,—to urge the young King Edward VI., in spite of all his reluctance, to condemn a beretic to the flames? And what if it be said, as is most true, that there is a great deal of ignorance which is not excusable but sinful; that men can and do often deceive themselves, and fancy that they are serving God, while they are really serving their own evil passions. All this, indeed, is most important to us in judging of ourselves, in leading us for ever to suspect our own hearts, lest they call that ignorance or honest error, which is in reality falsehood and sin; but yet it does not interfere with that other truth, which is very useful towards softening our judgments of others, that if there be a sinful ignorance there is an innocent ignorance also; that God the Judge of all will infallibly decide which is the one and which the other; but that if it be innocent ignorance,
there the sincere faith and desire to please God shall be blessed, notwithstanding its lack of knowledge. And for ourselves, how great is the lesson here given us of the necessity of a sincere obedi
For if the single-minded man be accepted, even amid much moral ignorance, what becomes of those who are double-minded amidst abundant knowledge? What will be said of us, if being taught all divine truth, if being able to see, which she could not see, that Jael's act was evil, we have yet nothing of her zeal, which, if joined with our knowledge, would burn indeed with a heavenly flame? What inheritance can we expect in her blessing, who without any of her excuses for evil are full of evil; who with far more than her reasons for serving and loving God, will yet neither serve Him nor love Him? Right and good is it that we should condemn the acts of many of those recorded in the Old Testament; for we have seen what prophets and righteous men for many an age were not permitted to see; but no less right and needful is it, that we should imitate their fearless and earnest zeal, without which we in our knowledge are without excuse, with which they, by reason of their unavoidable ignorance, were even in evil deeds blessed.
June 8th, 1834.
JUDGMENTS AND CHASTISEMENTS.
2 SAMUEL, xxiv. 14.
And David said, I am in a great strait : let us fall now into
the hands of the Lord; for his mercies are great : and let me not fall into the hand of man.
We are all familiar with these words of David, his answer to the prophet who came to him from God with a choice of one of three heavy judgments, the pestilence, famine, or war. And the choice which he made is one which we feel was wisely made. He preferred any of those evils which arise directly from the hand of God acting upon natural causes, to those which are produced by the evil passions of men. He thought it better to suffer three days' pestilence, or three years' famine, rather than to taste all the miseries of unsuccessful war in a three months' flight before an invading enemy.
Now the evils by which this country is threatened at this time are of both these kinds; both natural -that is to say, such as befall us without being in any degree caused by other men—and moral evils, by which I mean evils that are occasioned by the fault of men, whether ourselves or others. The prayers which have been appointed for this day's service allude chiefly to the former class of evils; not that they are by any means the greatest, but because, with regard to these, people are all of the same mind; whereas when we speak of moral evils, or those caused by the fault of man, there is a very great difference of opinion about them, and these differences are very apt to excite angry feelings. Still the opportunities afforded by this day would be greatly wasted, if, while turning our minds towards the evils which assail or threaten the country, we were to omit those from which we have infinitely the most to fear, and from which we may, with a far stronger assurance of faith, pray to God to deliver us.
First, however, I will say a few words on the natural evils which are besetting us; that is, on the new and fatal disease which has appeared in several parts of the kingdom, and which is likely to spread itself over the whole of it. It is a very old remark, that new and alarming dangers are apt to breed a great deal of folly and superstition. Men's minds become highly excited, and their