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Wor. Well, Sir, for all this we don't want to exchange Mr. Lovegood for Mr. Slapdash.
Loveg. Do, Sir, let us give a turn to the conversation. Wor. If you don't like it, we will drop it; but in my opinion Mr. Deliberate is a better preacher than Mr. Legal-definition.
Loveg. As to Mr. Legal-definition, I could very readily put up with his long and tiresome definitions, of which he makes almost the whole of his sermons, if he would but give us more of the gospel.
Wor. I think I have heard him preach three times, and one of his sermons was tolerably evangelical; but the others had not a word of the gospel in them: all the time was taken up upon the duty of forgiving our enemies, as the conditions of our salvation.*
Loveg. And what a fine opportunity he had of impressing that excellent duty from evangelical principles, when we are directed "to forgive one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven us !" It is much to be admired, how closely St. Paul urges all social, and relative duties, as resting upon no other principles, than those which are evangelical; as though he knew no other arguments to be conclusive among Christians, but those which spring from the atonement and salvation of our Lord. We are 66 bought with a price; therefore, we must glorify God in our bodies, and spirits, which are his." When the mortification of sin is mentioned, it is said, we are "crucified with Christ," and "made conformable to his death;" that thereby "we are crucified unto the world, and the world unto us ;" so that "we reckon ourselves to be dead unto sin," through his death; and that we are so completely dead unto sin,
* They who choose to call such graces of the Spirit the conditions of salvation, which never can exist till after we are saved, should remember by what mere grace and power these conditions are accomplished on the heart.
that we are even said "to be buried with him." So in regard to that heavenly-mindedness, which is the very life and soul of all spiritual obedience, we are said "to be made partakers of the power of his resurrection;" to be" risen with Christ; quickened together with Christ;" and that we are "made alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." How poor and low are the dry arguments of the moralists, when compared with these! If these motives will not prevail against our corruptions, I am sure no others will.
Wor. I know that all other arguments in defence of morality, have argued almost all morality out of the country. We never can have practical religion, but upon evangelical principles. But Mr. Legal-definition is very fond of what he calls, "guarding the gospel," which he only ventures now and then to bring out as a rarity.
Loveg. Guarding the Gospel! Why what guarding can the gospel need? They must have a poor opinion of divine truths, who talk in this cold inconsistent manner. We are only set upon our guard, when we suspect an evil. And what evil is there to be suspected from the gospel? What part of the gospel-dispensation have I to guard? When the gospel freely holds forth the name and salvation of Christ alone for the pardon and acceptance of sinners, how are we to guard it? It is to be hoped, not by contradicting; not by saying that our repentance is to be mixed with the divine mercy, to render it effectual: If so I have as much reason to love, and thank myself, as I have to love and thank my Saviour and while we lessen our obligations to love him, we certainly lessen our obligations to obey him; how then can the interest of holiness be promoted, by preaching in such a style, so as to tempt the ruined sinner to keep away in despair? What motives can be stronger to create a spirit of loving obedience upon our
hearts than those encouraging promises of our free forgiveness and acceptance, whereby we may "draw near to God, and have grace given us, that we may go and sin no more?"
Wor. Yes, it is upon this very principle that they think the gospel should be guarded, "lest we continue in sin that grace may abound."
Loveg. And so this inconsistent, cautious tribe of guarders, think they do credit to divine truths, by bringing forward the objection started, and which ever will be started by its enemies, in all ages of the church, while upon that very subject St. Paul shews, how the gospel guards itself: "How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?" But these people seem to me, to have no idea of the gospel, but as it is limited to the justification of our persons, through the redemption of Christ. Is not the sanctification of our natures, by the influence of the Divine Spirit another essential part of the gospel, whereby the blessing of personal holiness, is absolutely secured to all the redeemed of the Lord? and can we be tempted to live in sin, by receiving such a glorions salvation from sin?
Wor. I cannot see what we have to be afraid of, or to guard in all this.
Loveg. Why, I suppose we are to tell people, that as they are not to trust too much in the merits of Christ on the one hand, so they should be aware lest they trust too much to the work of the Spirit, on the other: as if living on the grace of the Holy Spirit, could feed their corruptions, and make them unholy.
Wor. One would suppose, what you frequently call the gospel of our "sanctification," operated by the rule of reverse; as though lectures on honesty need to be guarded lest they should direct us to be thieves; or lectures on chastity should teach us to be impure.
Loveg. I really do not know what they can mean by
"guarding the gospel," unless it be a perverted gospel; and as perverted truth is nothing better than falsehood, so a perverted gospel is no gospel at all. Some persons seem to think, though it is as contrary to truth as light is to darkness, that the gospel is within a hair's breadth of downright Antinomianism, which turns the holy truth of God into a licentious lie; whereas nothing can be more inconsistent with truth than that foul and filthy error. Am I in danger of error, while I receive the truth? or must I guard against wickedness, while I humbly submit to be ruled by that doctrine which is according to godliness? I wish all our worldly prudence about guarding truth, and preaching it moderately, or soberly, as they call it, may not lead to something much worse, by producing ignorance, and indifference, which must ultimately terminate in corrupting or giving up the whole.
Wor. Well, Sir, nobody will suspect you of such sort of false fears, though I am sure you are quite as practical as you are evangelical.
Loveg. Yes, Sir, and I hope I shall always feel it my duty, to dwell upon the practice which such principles must ever produce; for although the gospel needs no guarding, yet I should still call those unguarded preachers, who greatly injure the sacred cause, by such a neglect.
Wor. I think ministers of divine truth, have nothing to do, but to "contend earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints."
Loveg. Then, Sir, we need not guard those holy truths, which God himself hath "delivered to the saints;" and if delivered to the saints, it was designed of God, that we should be "sanctified by the truth." Thus, all this guarding the gospel seems to come home against the gospel itself. In my opinion, it is in itself a most unguarded expression; no wonder if the bad consequences
of these truths are suspected by others, while we seem to suspect them ourselves.
Wor. I do not know that Mr. Deliberate is by any means such a great "guarder of the gospel" as Mr. Legal-definition is. I believe he knows much more of the truth, and is therefore much less afraid of preaching it, though his style of preaching renders him tedious and dull.
Loveg. When I was curate at Abley, there was a clergyman in those parts, who lived in a parish, near to my honest warm-hearted friend Mr. Slapdash, called Mr. Slopdash; and he seemed to be just the reverse of Mr. Deliberate. For while Mr. Deliberate scarcely dares speak at all, but as he continues looking at every expression again, and again, lest it should be otherwise than the most judicious and correct; Mr. Slopdash without any consideration whatever, will be pouring out vollies of the most disgustful nonsense. Notwithstanding the cold, plodding, phlegmatic disposition of Mr. Deliberate, may render him a heavy preacher, yet I had rather a thousand times attend on the good sense of the one, than the mere rhapsody and nonsense of the other.
Mrs. Wor. And so had I. But then it appears to me, that of two evils, I should only choose the less.
Mrs. Considerate asked Farmer Littleworth how he liked the sermon, and he said,-" Ah, madam, to my liking, our own dear minister out-tops them all. This gentleman has so many heads and tails, and so many tops, and bottoms to his sermons, that we country folk can scarcely know how to make him out." And poor Thomas Newman said, while Mr. Deliberate was splitting his heads, that by attending to him, he thought his own head would have been split at the same time.
Loveg. Why, half the skill of preaching to a country congregation