• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

An 18C Exhortation to 21C Zealots

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was one of the leading lights of the 18C revival, a protegé of Isaac Watts whose writing helped convert William Wilberforce.

Hear what Brother Doddridge has to say in his great work of devotion, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, as if he were writing to us here in the blogosphere. (His frame of reference is Christianity, but the implications of his wisdom go out to everyone.)

How does your mind stand affected toward those who differ from you in their religious feelings and practices? I do not say that Christian charity will require you to think every error harmless…. But to hate persons because we think they are mistaken, and to aggravate every difference in judgement or practice into a fatal and damnable error that destroys all Christian communion and love, is a symptom generally much worse than the evil it condemns.

Do you love the image of Christ in a person who thinks himself obliged in conscience to profess and worship in a manner different from yourself? More than this, can you love and honor that which is truly amiable and excellent in those in whom much is defective–in those in whom there is a mixture of bigotry and narrowness of spirit, which may lead them perhaps to slight or even to censure you? Can you love them as the disciples and servants of Christ who, through a mistaken zeal, may be ready to “cast out your name as evil” (Luke 6:22) and to warn others against you as a dangerous person?

To show such love, says Doddridge, is one of the great triumphs of the work of God in one’s life.

I aspire to showing it much more…

(The quotation is from David Lyle Jeffrey, ed., English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley, republished by Regent College Publishing.)

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