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ness of criticism. The fpiritual state of the common people all over the world falls nearly under the fame predicament; but at the fame time a proportionable degree of fatisfaction will always be derived to every man from every degree of rational affurance that he is in the right way; or belongs to a communion wherein the truth is held in purity approaching nearest to the standard of primitive Christianity.

What is truth? —Say others. We are no ftrangers to the doctrines publicly established; to the faith afferted in your Articles, and expreffed in your Creeds; but to these Subfcription is much more universal than agreement. We can produce you names even among yourselves of perfons not a whit bebind the very chiefeft Divines in point of rank, probity, or understanding, who nevertheless hold that God is to be worshipped after a way which you call herefy; who preach another Gospel than that which ye have received from your fathers, conftantly affirming, or perpetually infinuating, that ye do ing the Scriptures.

err, not know

Too

Too true indeed it is that the principal controverted points fubfifting among those "who profess and call themselves Christians” are of the most serious nature. If the tenets of our gainfayers and adverfaries of many appellations are right and juft, the doctrines of the Trinity, and of the refurrection of the body, (which will be the objects of the enfuing difquifitions,) are herefies of the most abominable, or ridiculous tendency. However, these are circumftances which fhould not check, but ftimulate the spirit of investigation. It will be of infinite moment to inquire whether we or they are the miftaken party, and on which fide error really lies; whether our doctrines or theirs have the strongest foundation in scripture and antiquity; are beft fupported by prefumptive argument, and corroborative evidence; or have least recourse to artifice, and the pitifulness of fubterfuge and evasion. We do not wifh to have this matter determined either vulgarly by a majority of voices, or invidiously by the reputation of names.

But

But again, fay others, What is truth ?What good purpose is answered, or what advantage gained by this extraordinary zeal for theory and establishment? What doth it but gender ftrifes, and feed the flame of contention? The practical doctrines of the gospel are fo forcibly, yet fo familiarly inculcated, as not to be liable to mifinterpretation. Concerning the faith thousands have erred, but, as one of our own poets hath faid,

"His can't be wrong, whofe life is in the right."

It is well for us there is nothing argumentative in the jingle of a couplet. I confefs myfelf to be one of those who are hurt by every effort that has a plain afpect towards refolving all religion into morality. I confider every attempt of this kind as an indirect attack upon the fundamentals of Chriftianity. According to the idea of these reafoners, the character of the Messiah, and of the Son of God, will dwindle into that of a mere Legislator, or moral philofopher, who teaches us to live foberly, righteously, and godly in this prefent world. This text, and texts + Tit. ii. 12.

con

congenerous with this, may plaufibly be urged in exaltation of good works to the exclufion of faith: but let them be contrafted with the following, he that believeth, and is baptiz'd fhall be faved; he that believe thon the Son bath everlasting life, † &c. &c; and where is boafting on the part of moral honesty, or evangelical righteousness? As fpeciously, or as juftly as men may harangue in demonstration of the excellence of piety and virtue; or as loudly, or as reasonably as they may exclaim against the violence, and much more the virulence, which has actuated the spirit of controverly in too many inftances; I prefume, no intelligent perfon, if he is impartial, will deny, that the faith which St. Jude tells us was once delivered to the Saints, whatever we are precisely to understand by it, is fomething entirely diftinct from mere morality; that it ought earnestly to be contended for, agre ably to the fame Apostle's exhortation; that it is very poffible to contend with meekness; that errors, and fchifms, and herefies are represented in fcripture as things more or less finful, dangerous, and damnable; and

* Mark xvi. 16.

↑ John, vi. 47•

that

that confequently it is of the utmost importance to our spiritual interests to be right in principle as well as in practice. The petulancy, the pride, and the malevolence of bigots, and of difputers of this world, as the Apostle calls them, will no doubt be brought into judgment no less than the groffeft immoralities; but this will not by any means fuperfede, or retard an honeft and charitable attempt to enquire into and ascertain the leading doctrines of our common Christianity.

Complaints against the damnatory claufes of the Athanafian Creed, as it is commonly called, reverberate from more quarters than one. People do not seem to be fufficiently aware that a right faith and a good life are required by this form of confeffion under the fame penalty. "Which faith except a man

keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he "shall perish everlastingly. They that have "done good shall go into life everlasting, and "they that have done evil into everlasting fire. "This is the catholic faith, which except a "man believe faithfully he cannot be faved."

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