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that these works have ftimulated fome diftinguifhed characters amongst the Laity, and many amongst the Clergy, to exert their talents in removing fuch difficulties in the Chriftian system, as would otherwise be likely to perplex the unlearned, to shipwreck the faith of the unftable, and to induce a reluctant fcepticism into the minds of the moft ferious and best intentioned. Some difficulties ftill remain, and it would be a miracle greater than any we are instructed 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 fpurns with contempt the illufions of fanaticism and the tyranny of fuperftition, is often unhappily misemployed, in magnifying every little difficulty attending the proof of the truth of Christianity, into an irrefragable argument of its falfehood. The Chriftian Religion has nothing to apprehend from the strictest investigation of the most learned of its adversaries; it fuffers only from the misconceptions of fciolifts, 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 Christianity 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 mafter-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 best able to defend the former who is leaft ftudious to fupport the airy pre tenfions of the latter. The effect of eftablished fyftems in obftructing truth is to the last 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 Romanifts any handle for their doctrine of Transubstantiation, 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. Auguftine in the doctrine of abfolute perfonal reprobation and election, inculcating it as a fundamental article of faith, with nearly the fame unchristian 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 Hiftory 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 those 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 Tertulliannec aliż 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 press 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 Gofpel 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

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their zeal in bringing every one within its pale, which can never be urged by Proteftants with any shadow of justice, and propriety.

There are many queftions in Divinity, in the investigating of which the mind fluctuates with an irksome uncertainty, unable to perceive fuch a preponderance of argument as will warrant it in embracing as true, either the one fide or the other. This hefitation arifes, in many cafes, from our not understanding the full meaning of the language, be it common, or figurative, in which a doctrine is revealed; in fome it proceeds from our at tempting to apprehend definitely, what is expreffed indeterminately, or clearly what God hath not thought proper clearly to reveal; in others it is to be attributed to an indecifion of temper, to which fome men are peculiarly fubject; but let it originate from what cause it may, it is far more tolerable than an arrogant temerity of judgment. A fufpicion of fallibility would have been an useful principle to the profeffors of Christianity in every age; it would have choaked the fpirit of perfecution in its birth, and have rendered not only the church of Rome, but every church in Christendom, more shy of affuming to itself the proud title of Orthodox, and of branding every other with the opprobrious one of Heterodox, than any of them have hitherto been. There are, you will fay, doubtless fome fundamental doctrines in Christianity,Paul the Apostle has laid down one foundation, and he tells us that, other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is, JefusThe Chrift.But this propofition- Jefus is the Meffiah includes, you will reply, feveral others which are equally true. I acknowledge that it does fo, and it is every man's duty to fearch the Scriptures that he may know what thofe truths are; but I do not conceive it to be any man's duty, to anathematize those who cannot subscribe to his catalogue of fundamental Christian verities. That man is not to be esteemed an Atheist, who acknowledges the existence of a God the Creator of the univerfe; though he cannot affent to all the truths of natural religion, which other men may undertake to deduce from that principle: nor is he to be esteemed a Deift, who acknowledges that Jefus of Nazareth is indeed the Chrift, the Saviour of the world, though he cannot affent to all the truths of revealed religion which other men may think themselves warranted in deducing from thence. Still you will probably rejoin, there must be many truths in the Christian religion concerning which no one ought to hesitate, inasmuch as without a belief in them he cannot be reputed a Chriftian.reputed! By whom? By Jesus

Jefus Chrift his Lord and his God, or by you? you? -rafh ex pofitors of points of doubtful difputation; intolerant fabricators of metaphyfical Creeds, and incongruous Syftems of Theolo gy! Do you undertake to measure the extent of any man's understanding except your own; to eftimate the ftrength and origin of his habits of thinking; to appreciate his merit or demerit in the use of the talent which God has given him; fo as unerringly to pronounce that the belief of this or that doctrine is neceffary to his falvation? It is undoubtedly neceffary to your's, if you are perfuaded that it comes from God; but you take too much upon you, when you erect yourfelf into an infallible judge of truth and falfehood. We as Christians are under no uncertainty as to the being of a God; as to his moral government of the world; as to the terms on which finners may be reconciled to him; as to the redemption that is in Jefus Chrift; as to a refurrection from the dead; as to a future ftate of retribution; nor with refpect to other important questions concerning which the wifeft of the Heathen Philofophers were either wholly ignorant, or had no fettled notions. But there are other fubjects on which the Academicorum non may be admitted, I apprehend, without injuring the foundations of our Religion. Such are the queftions which relate to the power of Evil Spirits to fufpend the laws of nature, or to actuate the minds of men; to the materiality or immateriality of the human foul; the ftate of the dead before the general resurrection; the refurrection of the fame body; the duration of future punishments, and many others of the fame kind. Some one will think that I here fpeak too freely, and accufe me, probably, as an encourager of fceptical and latitudinarian principles.

What! Shall the church of Chrift never be freed from the narrow-minded contentions of bigots; from the infults of men who know not what spirit they are of, when they would stint the Omnipotent in the exercife of his mercy, and bar the doors of heaven against every fect but their own? Shall we never learn to think more humbly of ourselves and less despicably of others? To believe that the Father of the universe accommodates not his judgments to the wretched wranglings of pedantic Theologues, but that every one, who with an honeft intention, and to the best of his ability feeketh the truth, whether he findeth it or not, and worketh righteousness, will be accepted of him? I have no regard for latitudinarian principles, nor for any principles but the principles of Truth; and Truth every man muft endeavour to inveftigate for himself; and, ordinarily speaking, he will be most



fuccessful in his endeavours, who examines, with candour and care, what can be urged on each fide of a greatly controverted queftion. This fort of examination may, in fome inftances, produce a doubt, an hesitation, a diffident fufpenfion of judgment, but it will at the fame time produce mutual forbearance and good temper towards those who differ from us; our charity will be enlarged, as our understanding is improved. Partial examination. is the parent of pertinacity of opinion, and a froward propensity to be angry with those who queftion the validity of our principles, or deny the juftness of our conclufions, in any matter respecting philofophy, policy, or religion, is an infallible mark of prejudice; of our having grounded our opinions on fashion, fancy, intereft; on the unexamined tenets of our family, fect, or party, on any thing rather than on the solid foundation of cool and difpaffionate reasoning, Iliacos intra muros peccatur et extra Churchmen as well as Diffenters, and diffenters as well as churchmen are apt to give a degree of affent to opinions beyond what they can give a reason for; this is the very effence of prejudice: it is difficult for any man intirely to diveft himself of all preju dice, but he may furely take care that it be not accompanied with an uncharitable propensity to ftigmatize with reproachful appellations, those who cannot measure the rectitude of the Divine difpenfations by his rule, nor feek their way to heaven, by infifting on the path which he, in his overweening wifdom, has arrogantly prescribed as the only one which can lead men thither.

This intolerant fpirit has abated much of its violence in the course of this century amongst ourselves; we pray to God that it may be utterly extinguished in every part of Chriftendom, and that the true spirit of Chriftianity, which is the fpirit of meek-nefs, peace, and love, may be introduced in its ftead. If different men, in carefully and confcientiously examining the Scriptures, fhould arrive at different conclufions, even on points of the laft importance; we truft that God, who alone knows what every man is capable of, will be merciful to him that is in error. We trust that he will pardon the Unitarian, if he be in an error, because he has fallen into it from the dread of becoming an Idolater, of giving that glory to another which he conceives to be due to God alone. If the worfhipper of Jefus Chrift be in an error, we truft that God will pardon his mistake, because he has fallen into it from a dread of disobeying what he conceives to be revealed concerning the nature of the Son, or commanded concerning the honour to be given him. Both are actuated by the fame principle-THE FEAR VOL. I. b


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