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of individuals and nations, is always gradual and progressive. But it appears from the history of the Christian church, that the practice of war, even in self-defence, was condemned by the primitive Christians for the first three centuries: and after the visible church became corrupted, and had apostatized from the Truth, there were large numbers, in almost every age, who bore a faithful testimony against the shedding of human blood,—against oaths of every kind,— against priestcraft and persecution,—and against many of the corruptions in faith and practice which had crept into the church.
There were great numbers of these dissenters in Italy, from the ninth to the thirteenth century, who bore the name of Paterines, and a similar people were known in Piedmont by the name of Waldenses, who continued, for five or six centuries, till about the time of the Reformation.* The Moravian brethren professed nearly the same principles, both before and since the Reformation, and the Society of Friends have borne the same testimonies for nearly two hundred years past. All these people suffered severely from persecution, and immense numbers sealed their testimonies with their blood in martyrdom, rather than take up the sword in self-defence; but they were sometimes wonderfully preserved, and seldom suffered from any others than the false professors of Christianity. Even the savages of North America respected the Friends and Moravians, although in the first settlement of Pennsylvania they were entirely unprotected by arms, and professed the principle of non-resistance. .
These holy and benevolent principles must prevail more generally, among professing Christians, before that happy era can arrive, when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, when the outcasts of Israel shall be gathered, and Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God.
*For a foil account of these people, see Jones's Church History. Some notice of them may be found in Mosheim's Ecc. History.
Every one who professes to be a follower of Christ, in this enlightened age, should reflect deeply upon these things, and endeavour to walk in the narrow path of self-denial; for we shall not be judged by the measure of knowledge that was imparted to other men of former ages, but according to what has been made known to ourselves. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Luke xii. 48. If the holy men who are mentioned in the Old Testament, lived up to the#law that was given to them, we ought likewise to live up to the law that is given to us, which is not an outward law that can take cognizance of outward acts only, bat is an inward law that takes hold of the motives and principles of action, being written by "the spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of the heart." Jer. xxxi. 33, and 2 Cor. iii. 3. It is this "law of the spirit of life iii Christ Jesus which makes free from the law of sin and death." See Rom. viii. 2. For it will (in those who are obedient to it) "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts."
When the "love of God is shed abroad in the heart," and becomes our governing principle, it will make us love all God's creation, and especially all mankind; "for he made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell On all the face of the earth."
If God is "good even to the unthankful and to the evil," will not his holy Spirit prompt us to pursue the same course? And if his beloved Son laid down his life for the good of mankind, and prayed for his persecutors, will not his dominion in our hearts be attested by the same kind of fruits?
These truths are undeniable;—and 1 think it is equally clear, that the man who comes fully under the government of Divine Love, will not only bear a faithful testimony against all contention, oppression, and injustice, but against every thing that is opposed to the peace and happiness of man. He cannot enrich himself by dealing in that which makes other men poor; neither can he become an instrument of evil by encouraging in any way, the frequent or unnecessary use of ardent spirits, when he sees how many thousands in oar country are falling a prey to intemperance, and how many tens of thousands it has reduced to misery and ruin. •
John. I should think the effect of true religion must be, not only to restrain us from evil, but to lead us into all goodness.
Father. Certainly it is. We must not only "cease todo evil," but we must "learn to do well," and thus obtain the fulfilment of that blessed promise; "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, and though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isaiah i. 16-18.
Our holy and blessed example, Christ Jesus, went about continually doing good;—it was his meat and his drink to do his Father's will, and all those who would be his disciples must follow his steps, as far as light and ability are afforded.
"Is not this the fast which I have chosen," saith the Lord, "to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not, to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thy own flesh." Isaiah lviii. 6, 7.
He who does these things from the pure motive of Christian charity, will not sound a trumpet before him, but will endeavour to "do them in secret, and he who seeth in secret will reward him openly." It is true that the Divine Being looks at the state of our hearts, and the motives of our actions, rather than the actions themselves,—but pure motives and good feelings cannot long exist in us, without bringing forth their appropriate fruits;—therefore the apostle James says, that "faith without works is dead," and that "pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world." Now in order to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, we must not •only forsake its vices, but we must turn away from its vain fashions and trifling amusements. We must not "be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds." Rom. xii. 2. And we are required "to walk in wisdom towards them that are without, redeeming the time; and let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." Colbs. iv. 5, 6.
These are the genuine and invariable fruits of being "born again of incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever;"—and it is not possible for any soul to participate in the joys of heaven, either here or hereafter, without being born again, and made a "partaker of the Divine nature." The gospel of Christ (by which I mean the "power of God unto salvation," Rom. i. 16,) is truly a glorious gospel, for it saves men from the dreadful effects of sin, not by an imputative righteousness, but by taking away the sinful nature out of the heart, so that those who have been dead in sin are raised up in newness of life. We cannot be reconciled to .God while we remain in a state of sin, for "what communion hath light with darkness, and what concord hath Christ with Belial?" That corrupt nature in man, which has sinned, must be crucified and slain, (Rom. vi. 6,) in order that Christ may reign in us; for "if any man be in Christ he is a new creature, all old things are done away, and all things are new, and all things of God." We must "put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all, and in all." The true Christian knows no distinction of party or sect, of rank or condition; for he loves all mankind;—and all those who are governed by the same pure spirit, whatever may be their name or profession of religion, he can salute as brethren. He does not expect the fellowship of the gospel to be always accompanied by an entire uniformity of opinion, for it is "the unity of the spii-it" that is "the bond of peace;" and if all the professors of religion were governed by that one pure spirit which speaks "peace on earth and good will to men," there would be no occasion for creeds to define the boundaries that separate one sect from another. It has always been the effect of human creeds and systems of religion, to array sect against sect, and 'brother against brother; but our Divine Master has given us no creed to bind the consciences of men, except that one rule by which their principles may be known, which is to try them by their fruits, for a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor an evil tree good fruit.'
"Love m the fulfilling of the law," and "by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
Let no man think himself converted, or regenerated, until he finds the pure spirit of Divine Love to be his governing principle in thought, word, and deed, so tHat "whether he eats, or whether he drinks, or whatsoever he does, it is all for the glory of God." Then, and not till then, can it be truly said that he is renewed in the spirit of *his mind, and that he has "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Ephesians iv. 24.