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nitely; it is parcelled out into fectaries of a thousand denominations. The fact is, though the right of private judgment in matters of religion, which has been exercised from the beginning, was justly and neceffarily afferted by the leaders and friends of the REFORMATION, it must be acknowleged, folly, perverfeness, pride, and enthusiasm, have, by feverally maintaining it, been productive of that strange multiplicity of religious fentiment which we have fo much caufe to lament; of that fchifm, herefy, scepticism, and infidelity, which have all along disturbed the Church, but fix a mark of peculiar difgrace on the last and present century.

And indeed, when it is confidered, that the Scriptures are on many accounts particularly liable to be mifapplied, perverted, or misconstrued ;(a) that fome paffages are to be understood in a literal, and fome in a figurative fenfe; that fome things are expreffed agreeably to the modes of common speech, and some in pure condefcenfion to the human capacity that paffages are to be compared

with each other in order to a true understanding of them, and doctrines to be deduced, not so much from fingle and separate texts, as from the manifeft tenor of the Scriptures at large; that not unfrequently one and the fame text shall be capable of different, and even oppofite.conftruction; that though moft places in holy writ are of univerfal importance, yet fome are of temporary and oc cafional purport only; that the facred writ ings, ftrictly speaking, are the foundation of a rule of faith andi manners, fuch as a creed, formulary, or confeffion, rather than the rule itself, as will, I truft, in due time more fully appear; and that an affent to the collective body of fcripture, as true, does not imply a knowlege, or belief of all fcriptural truths; when all this, to which more, were there accafion, might be added, is fairly confidered, we cannot poffibly be at a loss to account for that variety of notion, that wildnefs and abfurdity of conceit, that extravagance, or impiety of opinion, which I just now observed has more or lefs fo fhamefully dishonoured the Chriftian name in all ages.

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Of this exuberance of folly and wickedness Popery has ever been industrious to avail itself. From the acknowleged liableness of the Scriptures to the groffeft abufe, when in the hands of fuch as are unlearned and unftable, (to use the apostle's words,) the Church of Rome draws her moft fpecious argument against the common use of them; and would fain have us infer the neceffity, or the cere tainty of an infallible authority lodged in the Church for the decifion of controverfies, and afcertainment of a rule of faith, from the confeffed convenience and utility of fuch an authority. (b) But, unfortunately for her pretenfions, as much error and abfurdity has re peatedly been demonstrated to be within her pale as out of it. What is truth? becomes therefore with many a queftion of as much difficulty as importance; or, rather, of more form than importance; fome encouraging themselves in fcepticism from these circum→ ftances, and others blindly acquiefcing in any mode of religion, or in none at all, or at beft in that which is ufually called natural religion, from a pretence of the utter impoffibility of

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discovering the true under fuch a complication of perplexity.

With points of inferior confequence I shall not trouble myself; but to fuch as deny, or call in question the capital articles of our religion on the strength of the above confiderations, let me insist that nothing of this nature ought to fuperfede their endeavours to find the truth, and much lefs to difcourage their obedience to it when found. After inquiry we may in fome refpect or other be mistaken, but without it we are inexcufable. In fact, the very diverfity, or contrariety complained of may be justly urged in behalf of the faith which is received in the Church. Were the doctrine of the Trinity, for inftance, impugned from one quarter only, and by consistent and uniform oppofition, infidelity would be a much more formidable thing than it is; but you may as well look for one language at Babel as for a catholic fyftem of unbelief, if I may be indulged with the expreffion. To enumerate all the herefies which have at different times torn and difmembered the Church

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Church of Chrift, is in a manner to confute them; and thefe, their common animofity against her excepted, are at perpetual enmity among themselves. Nay, what is yet more extraordinary, we fhall find infidelity itself abounding in myfteries, even while it reprobates them almost with the confidence of a faith which could remove mountains! If the facred theory we are to maintain be in many refpects incomprehenfible, the substitutions of human wisdom will in due time be fhewn to be at leaft equally fo; and to require the fame degree of affent without any thing like the fame foundation.

What is truth, fay others among us, what is it but a fyftem of doctrines officially taught, and formally tranfmitted from generation to generation?

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But if doctrines are true, why not officially taught, and carefully tranfmitted? Is profeffion ridiculous, or authority contemptible, as *fuch? Indeed, the queftion is not, what faith the Church?-but-what faith the

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