S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
I would have every zealous man examine his heart thoroughly, and, I believe, he will often find that what he calls a zeal for his religion, is either pride, interest, or ill-nature. A man who differs from another in opinion, sets himself above him in his own judgment, and in several particulars pretends to be the wiser person. This is a great provocation to the proud man, and gives a very keen edge to what he calls his zeal.
There is nothing in which men more deceive themselves than in what the world calls zeal. There are so many passions which hide themselves under it, and so many mischiefs arising from it, that some have gone so far as to say it would have been for the benefit of mankind if it had never been reckoned in the catalogue of virtues. It is certain, where it is once laudable and prudential, it is a hundred times criminal and erroneous: nor can it be otherwise, if we consider that it operates with equal violence in all religions, however opposite they may be to one another, and in all the subdivisions of each religion in particular.
Intemperate zeal, bigotry, and persecution for any party or opinion, how praiseworthy soever they may appear to weak men of our own principles, produce infinite calamities among mankind, and are highly criminal in their own nature; and yet how many persons eminent for piety suffer such monstrous and absurd principles of action to take root in their minds under the colour of virtues! For my own part, I must own I never yet knew any party so just and reasonable, that a man could follow it in its height and violence, and at the same time be innocent.
To imitate the highest examples, to do good in ways not usual to the same rank of life, to make great exertions and sacrifices in the cause of religion and with a view to eternal happiness, to determine without delay to reduce to practice whatever we applaud in theory, are modes of conduct which the world will generally condemn as romantic.
To have co-operated in any degree towards the accomplishment of that purpose of the Deity to reconcile all things to himself by reducing them to the obedience of his Son, which is the ultimate end of all his works,to be the means of recovering though it were but an inconsiderable portion of a lapsed and degenerate race to eternal happiness, will yield a satisfaction exactly commensurate to the force of our benevolent sentiments and the degree of our loyal attachment to the supreme Potentate. The consequences involved in saving a soul from death, and hiding a multitude of sins, will be duly appreciated in that world where the worth of souls and the malignity of sin are fully understood; while to extend the triumphs of the Redeemer, by forming him in the hearts of men, will produce a transport which can only be equalled by the gratitude and love we shall feel towards the Source of all good.
Robert Hall: Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Minister.
When I think, after the experience of one life, what I could and would do in an amended edition of it; what I could and would do, more and better than I have done, for the cause of humanity, of temperance, and of peace; for breaking the rod of the oppressor; for the higher education of the world, and especially for the higher education of the best part of it,woman: when I think of these things, I feel the Phnix-spirit glowing within me; I pant, I yearn, for another warfare in behalf of right, in hostility to wrong, where, without furlough, and without going into winter-quarters, I would enlist for another fifty-years campaign, and fight it out for the glory of God and the welfare of man.
Our zeal performs wonders when it seconds our inclinations to hatred, cruelty, ambition, avarice, detraction, and rebellion: but when it moves against the hair towards bounty, benignity, and temperance, unless, by miracle, some rare and vertuous disposition prompts us to it, we stir neither hand nor foot. Our religion is intended to extirpate vices: whereas it skreens, nourishes, and incites them. We must not mock God. If we believe in him, I do not say by faith, but with a simple belief, that is to say, (and I speak it to our great shame,) if we did believe him as we do any other history, or as we would do one of our companions, we should love him above all other things for the infinite bounty and beauty that shines in him: at least he would go equal into our affections, with riches, pleasures, glory and our friends. The best of us is not so much afraid to injure him as he is afraid to injure his neighbour, his kinsman, or his master.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. lxix.
No man is fervent and zealous as he ought, but he that prefers religion before business, charity before his own ease, the relief of his brother before money, heaven before secular regards, and God before his friend or interest. Which rule is not to be understood absolutely, and in particular instances, but always generally; and when it descends to particulars it must be in proportion to circumstances, and by their proper measures.
Jeremy Taylor: Twenty-five Sermons Preached at Golden Grove: XIII., Of Lukewarmness and Zeal.