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have fuffered himself to have been diverted from the investiga tion, by the pursuits of wealth, or honour, or any temporal con cern, much less by notions taken up without attention, argu ments admitted without examination, or prejudices imbibed in early youth from the profane ridicule, or impious jeftings, of fenfual and immoral men. It is from the influence of fuch prejudices that I would guard that part of the rifing generation which is committed to our care, by recommending to them a ferious perufal of the tracts which are here prefented to them. Let them not refufe to follow this advice, because it is given to them by a churchman; he can have no poffible interest in giving it, except what may refult to him from the confcioufnefs of endeavouring to discharge his duty, and the hope of being serviceable to them in this world and the next. They need not question his veracity, when he speaks of religion as being ferviceable to them in this world; for it is a trite objection, and grounded on a misapprehenfion of the defign of Chriftianity, which would reprefent it as an intolerable yoke, fo oppofite to the propenfities, as to be utterly deftructive of the felicity of the human mind. It is in truth, quite the reverse; there is not a fingle precept in the Gospel, without excepting either that which ordains the forgiveness of injuries, or that which commands every one to poffefs his vessel in Sanctification and boyour, which is not calculated to promote our happiness. Chettianity regulates, but does not extinguish our affections and: in: the due regulation of our affections confifts our happinets as reafonable beings. If there is one condition in this life more happy than another, it is, furely, that of him, who founds all his hopes of futurity on the promises of the Gospel; who carefully endeavours to conform his actions to its precepts; looking upon the great God Almighty as his Protector here, his Rewarder hereafter, and his everlafting Preferver. This is a frame of mind fo perfective of our nature, that if Christianity, from a belief of which it can only be derived, was as certainly false, as it is certainly true, one could not help wishing that it might be univerfally received in the world. Unbelievers attempt to make profelytes to Infidelity, by preffing upon the minds of the unlearned in Scripture knowledge, the authorities of Bolingbroke, Voltaire, Helvetius, Hume, and other Deiftical writers. It is proper that young men fhould be furnished with a ready anfwer to arguments in favour of Infidelity, which are taken from the high literary characters of thofe who profefs it; let them remember then, that Bacon, Boyle, Newton, Grotius, Locke, Euler -that Addifon, Hartley, Haller, West, Jenyns- -that Lords
Nottingham, King, Barrington, Lyttleton with an hundred other laymen, who were furely as eminent for their literary attainments in every kind of fcience as either Bolingbroke or Voltaire, were profeffed believers of Chriftianity. I am quite aware that the truth of Christianity cannot be established by authorities, but neither can its falfehood be fo established, Arguments ad verecundiam have little weight with those who know how to use any others, but they have weight with the lazy and the ignorant on both fides of the queftion. But though I have here fuggefted to young men, a ready answer to fuch of their profligate acquaintance as may wish to work upon their prejudices in favour of Infidelity; yet I hope they will not content themselves with being prejudiced even in favour of Chriftianity; they will find in this Collection, fuch folid arguments in fupport of its truth, as cannot fail to confirm them, on the most rational grounds, in the belief of the Gofpel Difpenfation. They may wonder, perhaps, if religion be so useful a thing as is here reprefented, that their parents should have feldom or never converfed with them on the subjectif this should be the fact, I can only fay, That it is a neglect of all others the most to be regretted. And indeed our mode of education, as to religious knowledge, is very defective; the child is instructed in its catechism before it is able to compre hend its meaning, and that is ufually all the domeftic inftruction which it ever receives. But whatever may But whatever may be the negligence of parents in teaching their children Christianity, or how forcibly foever the maxims and cuftoms of the world may, confpire in confirming men in infidelity, it is the duty of those to whom the Education of youth is intrufted not to defpair; their diligence will have its ufe; it will prevent a bad matter from becoming worfe: and if this foolishness of preaching into which I have been betrayed on this occafion, has but the effect of making even one young man of fortune examine into the truth of the Christian Religion, who would not otherwife have done it, I fhall not repent the having been inftant out of season.
Difcite, O Miseri, et caufas cognofcite rerum
Quid fumus, et quidnam victuri gignimur: ordo
These were queftions which even the Heathen Moralifts thought it a fhame for a man never to have confidered. How much more cenfurable are thofe amongst ourselves who waste their days in
folly or vice, without ever reflecting upon the providential dif penfation under which they live, without having any fublimer piety, any purer morality, any better hopes of futurity than the Heathens had?
In recommending this Collection to the careful perusal of the younger Clergy, I would not be understood to vouch for the truth of every opinion which is contained in it; by no means; there is no certainty of truth but in the word of God. Their Bible is the only fure foundation upon which they ought to build every article of the faith which they profefs, every point of doctrine which they teach. All other foundations, whether they be the decifions of councils, the confeffions of churches, the prefcripts of popes, or the expofitions of private men, ought to be confidered by them as fandy and unsafe, as in no wife fit to be ulti-' mately relied on. Nor, on the other hand, are they to be faftidiously rejected as of no use; for though the Bible be the one infallible rule by which we must measure the truth or falsehood of every religious opinion, yet all men are not equally fitted to apply this rule, and the wifeft men want on many occafions all the helps of human learning to enable them to understand its precife nature, and to define its certain extent. These helps are great and numerous, they have been fupplied in every age, fince the death of Christ, by the united labours of learned men in every country where his religion has been received. Great Britain has not been backward in her endeavours to establish the truth, and to illuftrate the doctrines of Chriftianity: fhe has not abounded fo much in fyftematic Divines as Germany and Holland have done; yet the most difficult points of Theology have been as well difcuffed by our English Divines as by thofe of any other nation. In proof of this, I might mention the works of Pearson, Mede, Barrow, Burnet, Chillingworth, Stillingfleet, Clarke, Tillotson, Taylor, Benfon, Jortin, Secker, and an hundred others; but the fermons preached at Boyle's Lecture, and the Collection of Tracts against Popery, render every other argument in fupport of the Obfervation wholly unneceffary. The freedom of enquiry too, which has fubfifted in this country during the prefent century, has eventually been of great fervice to the cause of Christianity. It must be acknowledged that the works of our Deistical writers have made fome few converts to Infidelity at home, and that they have furnished the Efprits forts of France, and the Frey-Geifters of Germany, with every material objection to our Religion, which they have of late years difplayed with much affectation of originality: but at the fame time we must needs allow,
that these works have ftimulated fome diftinguished characters amongst the Laity, and many amongst the Clergy, to exert their talents in removing fuch difficulties in the Chriftian fyftem, as would otherwise be likely to perplex the unlearned, to shipwreck the faith of the unstable, and to induce a reluctant scepticism into the minds of the most serious and best intentioned. Some difficulties still remain, and it would be a miracle greater than any we are inftructed to believe, if there remained none; if a being with but five fcanty inlets of knowledge, feparated but yesterday from his mother Earth, and to-day finking again into her bofom, could fathom the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of Him which is, which was, and which is to come,the Lord God Almighty, to whom be glory and dominion for ever and
We live in a diffolute but enlightened age; the restraints of our Religion are ill fuited to the profligacy of our manners, and men are foon induced to believe that fyftem to be falfe, which they wish to find fo: that knowledge, moreover, which spurns with contempt the illufions of fanaticism and the tyranny of fuperftition, is often unhappily mifemployed, in magnifying every little difficulty attending the proof of the truth of Christianity, into an irrefragable argument of its falsehood. The Chriftian Religion has nothing to apprehend from the strictest investigation of the most learned of its adverfaries; it suffers only from the misconceptions of sciolifts, and filly pretenders to fuperior wisdom; a little learning is far more dangerous to the faith of those who poffefs it than ignorance itself. Some, I know, affect to believe, that as the restoration of letters was ruinous to the Romish Religion, fo the further cultivation of them will be fubverfive of Chriftianity itself. Of this there is no danger, it may be fubverfive of the Reliques of the Church of Rome by which other churches are ftill polluted; of perfecutions, of anathemas, of ecclefiaftical domination over God's heritage, of all the filly outworks which the pride, the fuperftition, the knavery of mankind have erected around the citadel of our faith; but the citadel itself is founded on a rock, the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, its master-builder is God, its beauty will be found ineffable, and its ftrength impregnable when it shall be freed from the frippery of human ornaments, cleared from the rubbish of human bulwarks. It is no fmall part of the province of a teacher of Christianity to diftinguish between the word of God and the additions which men have made to it. The objections of unbelievers are frequently levelled against what is not
Christianity, but mere human fyftem; and he will be beft able to defend the former who is least studious to fupport the airy pretenfions of the latter. The effect of established fyftems in obftructing truth is to the laft degree deplorable, every one fees it in other churches, but fcarcely any one fufpects it in his own. Calvin, I question not, thought it almost impoffible that the Scriptures could ever have been fo far perverted as to afford the Ro manifts any handle for their doctrine of Tranfubstantiation, or that the understanding of any human being could have been fo far debased, or rather fo utterly annihilated, as to believe in it for a moment: yet this fame Calvin followed St. Augustine in the doctrine of abfolute perfonal reprobation and election, inculcating it as a fundamental article of faith, with nearly the fame un christian zeal which infatuated him when he faftened Servetus to the ftake. A thousand inftances of this blind attachment to fyftem might be taken from the Ecclefiaftical History of every century; indeed the whole of it is little more, than the history of the ftruggles of different fects to overturn the fyftems of others, in order to build up their own, and the great leffon which every fect, and every individual of every fect, ought to learn from its perufal is-Moderation. Want of genuine moderation towards thofe who differ from us in religious opinions feems to be the most unaccountable thing in the world. Every man, who has any religion at all, feels within himself a stronger motive to judge right, than you can poffibly fuggeft to him; and, if he judges wrong, What is that to you? To his own mafter he standeth or falleth, his wrong judgment may affect his own salvation, it cannot affect your's; for, in the words of Tertullian nec alii obeft aut prodeft alterius religio: this you must admit, unless you think it your duty to inftruct him; but inftruction may be given with moderation, and, confidering that the Bible is as open to him as it is to you, you ought not to be over certain that it is your duty to prefs your inftruction upon him; For what is, ordinarily fpeaking, your inftruction, but an attempt to bring him over to your opinion? This principle fhould be received with great caution, or it may do much mischief; for it is on this principle that the Roman Catholics light up the fires of the inquifition, and compass sea and land to make a profelytea profelyte! to what we Proteftants believe to be the delufion of Satan, the very canker of Chriftianity, the grand apoftacy from the Gospel foretold by St. Paul. The Catholics however in this point act confiftently; for, believing in the infallibility of their church, they have a plea for