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CAUTIONS IN RELIGIOUS INQUIRYTHE LAWS OF NATURE INSCRUTABLE.
IN all inquiries after knowledge, prejudice
of every kind fhould carefully be avoided. A man who is improperly credulous, as well as the profeffed fceptic, is easily drawn into any hypothefis, however abfurd, which favours his prepoffeffions. This often becomes a truly pitiable, nay, contemptible, and what is worse, a dangerous fituation; when either weak principles or wrong notions of the difpenfations of providence, are imbibed to the fubverfion of pure morality; but when good men, in order to fubftantiate the evidence of even orthodox opinions, either advance strange and inadmiffible theories, founded on an erroneous zcal for folving all apparent
apparent difficulties, they are not aware what injury they do religion, by giving fubtle adverfaries room for infulting those divine truths which they will not receive, not becaufe they are defiitute of fatisfactory evidence, but because they fet bounds to licencious principles.
We fhould not therefore endeavour to account for miracles, for this would be to deftroy revelation; we must not endeavour to explain the manner in which God created the world; we must not ftrain at an explanation of the facred Trinity, a doctrine which we should reverently receive on the authority of the fcriptures, but fhould never arrogantly endeavour to investigate. In all religious inquiry, true zeal must be influenced by caution truth lies obvious to candor and ingenuity, and is to be received in her fimpleft attire; fhe needs not the tinsel ornaments of fickly imaginations, nor to be seen through the magnifying glaffes of monsterforming comments, which inftead of procuring distinct vision, paint her beautiful image in the form of a fpe&re, terrifying even to common fenfe. To be guilty of pious fraud, and wilful perverfions of facred writ to fupport a favourite hypothefis under the pre
tence of promoting religion, is the moft daring impiety, and to be ranked among the vileft crimes. It is to be hoped that but few are guilty of it? But if we are fincere, it is but right that we use the most judicious caution how we introduce even pious dreams which we may fancy to be realities, among the weighty and valuable doctrines of revelation, which ftand in need of no affiftance from the weak mifguided zeal of inconfiderate and mifguided votaries.-No!--Religion wants no fuch aid, nor these defenders.
Non tali auxilio nec defenforibus iftis.
It is, however, on the contrary, a pleafing reflection, that men of the most exalted genius, extensive knowledge and erudition, and exemplary characters, have ranged themfelves on the fide of revelation; and that fuch men, who have been the means of cultivating human fcience, and enlightening the rational faculties of mankind, have acknowledged and profeffed themselves the fincere advocates of thofe divine doctrines without which, the foul of man, as to moral virtue, is but darkness and confusion. But at the fame time let it be noted, that these men never attempted to account for the
manner in which God first formed and created the world. Altho' the illuftrious Newton discovered the laws of nature in her apparent operations, yet he never pretended to know the laws of creation, or to account mechanically for the formation of the world; and yet how many, who could not pretend to either the capacity or learning of a Newton, have made ridiculous attempts of this kind attempts which might indeed be paffed by unnoticed, were it not that Mofes is made out to be the author of them.
But I would advife all fuch perfons in future, before they attempt new theories, to read and digeft that moft excellent work of the great Keil, entitled " an Examination of Burnet's and Whifton's Theories," in which, he has in the most fatisfactory and masterly manner, expofed the ignorance and folly of world-makers. In the mean time I fhall, in behalf of Mofes, and in vindication of his principal defign, apply the words of Cyril, in anfwer to Julian the Apoftate, as a fufficient argument to prevent future mifreprefentation.
ἐθέσπιση Μωσῆς πρόθετο φυσιολογία σχνῶς, ἦγον φάνε Τι περί τῶν λεγομένων πρώτων αρχῶν, ἤ τῶν ἐξ ἀυτῶν τοιχείων περιεργότερα γαρ τιμόνι ταῦτα xas ταῖς κινῶν διανοίας κ ἁλώσιμα, σκόπει δε γέγονεν αυτῷ τον τῶν τηνικάδε νέν τοῖς της ἀληθείας επιςησαι δόγμασι. Πεπλάνηλο γαρ δς από δοκῶν ἕνας Προσκυνῶνες ηλίσκολο, και τον ένα νέο φύσω θεός έξι αμαξίας της ἄ γαν ἠγιοαύτες, λελά φεὔκασι τῇ κτίσει. και οι μὲν θεὸν ἐπιγράφοντα τον ἐςανόν; Ἕτεροι δε τον ήλιο κύκλον. εἰσι δε οι αξ σελήνη, καρο καὶ γῆ, καὶ φυτοῖς, καὶ τῇ τῶν υδάτων φύσεις πτηνοῖς τε και ζώα ἀλόγοις, τῆς ἀνωτάτω φύσεως δόξαν απονέμειω ἐς πέδαζαν καθισμένο δη των πραγμάτων τις τότο αυτοις, να της ὕτω δεινῆς ἀρρώσ κατανεμηθείσας απάλας τὰς ηπι της γῆς, ἐπίκερος ην ο Μωσης, κατ των καλλίςων ἅπασι μαθημάτων εἰσηγήτης ανεδείκνυτο, εις μεν ὅτι κατα φύσιν εσὶν ὁ τῶν ὅλων δημιυργὸς διαῤῥηδην ανακεκραγώς, αφισὰς δὲ των αλλων ἅι και δε αυτῷ παρήχθη προς το εἶναι πε ὑπάρχειν όλως χρειωδέςατα τοίνυν; και μάλα σοφῶς τὸ πολὺ λέων χνομάθεια επαρέλασας, επί τον τῶν ανακαιοτέρων κεχώρηκε λόγον
It was not the purpofe of the divine Mofes to engage in philofophical difquifitions, or to expatiate on firft principles, for thefe are matters of fuperfluity and curiofity, not adapted to every capacity. But his defign was, at that time, to attract the attention of his people to a proper way of thinking, for they were of a wandering reftlefs difpofition, and paid adoration to the objects of fenfe, and being ignorant of the unity of the godhead, they worfhaipped the creature, fothe applied the name of God to the fun, others attri