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tends. If therefore the perfections irreconcilable with the ordinary of God are not inconsistent with the course of events in this world ? It is sufferings of sinners in this world, not true that reformation necessarily what reason can be assigned why procures an exemption from the conthey should be inconsistent with sequences of irregular and criminal them in the world to come? If the conduct, or reinstates the offender divine justice and benevolence do in those advantages which he had not prevent the guilty and sinful forfeited. Such in fact is the estabfrom suffering in the present state, lished order of events, that the evil why should it be thought that they consequences of particular vicious will prevent them from suffering in practices are often experienced, a future state? It is absurd to attri- long after these practices have been bute the connexion, which we ob- entirely abandoned. And if this be serve to exist between sin and mi- so in the present state, from what sery, to chance; or to any supposed source of evidence can it be infernatural tendency of things, indepen- red, that the case will be different dently of the constitution of nature in a future state ? The scriptures, which God has established, and most certainly, contain no promises which he carries into effect by his of eternal life to any supposed reimmediate operation. The miseries pentance and reformation, which of the present life, although they can exist detached from that faith may take place according to an es- which receives and rests upon Christ tablished constitution, and accord- alone for salvation, as he is offered ing to general laws, are really the to us in the gospel. punishments annexed by divine jus The validity of analogical evitice to transgression. Indeed the dence arises from the admirable uniformity with which they take unity and harmony of design, which place, according to an established every where characterize the works constitution, is indubitable proof of God. We find no part of the unithat they are such. And from a verse, submitted to our observation, consideration of the uniformity and entirely unlike, and insulated from harmony of the divine dispensations every other part. An astonishing so far as our knowledge extends, uniformity, amidst the greatest vaand that justice will be more per- riety, appears to pervade the whole; spicuously manifested by such an evincing with irresistible evidence arrangement, we have no small rea- a unity of counsel and operation in son to believe that in a future state, the formation and government of as well as in the present, punish the world. ment will appear to follow trans Although the most important use gression by natural consequence; of this kind of reasoning is to repel according to general laws and a objections against truths which rest fixed constitution.
on their own distinct and appropriAnother example will serve, still ate evidence; it may also be em. further, to illustrate the use of the ployed, in a very interesting and analogy of nature to vindicate the instructive manner, to reflect light doctrines of the gospel. There are from what is known, upon what is some persons who affirm it to be a otherwise comparatively obscure or dictate of reason, that a reformation unknown. By the analogies of those of life will necessarily secure an things that are submitted to our imexemption from the penalty of past mediate examination, we are able transgression, and the enjoyment of to form conjectures, possessing in future happiness, without regard to many instances a high degree of the mediation and righteousness of probability, in relation to those Jesus Christ.
things which are not otherwise But is not this assumption utterly within the reach of our investiga
tion. Many important discoveries action, which we behold, at present, in different branches of physical only in their incipient state? science, which have been complete The peculiar doctrines of the gosly verified by actual experiment and pel have often been pronounced to observation, were first suggested in be unreasonable, and contrary to this manner. Some of the most sub- reason. It is admitted that an opiTime truths in astronomy, which are nion which is plainly inconsistent now established with demonstrative with the common reason of mankind, evidence, had no other proof in the cannot be true; but before we can minds of their original discoverers, be justified in rejecting it on this than the analogy of what they ob- ground, the inconsistency ought to served upon the earth. Even in the be clearly evinced. General depresent state of knowledge, there nunciations of this kind, as they are are some opinions relating to this the usual expedient of dogmatical science, which although regarded and superficial declaimers, will as highly probable, if not as certain, have little weight with the enlighthave no other direct support. ened and judicious.
It is still more interesting to con If by this objection it be meant template the analogies furnished by that a belief of the doctrines of the the subjects of intellectual and mo- gospel is inconsistent with the laws ral science, From what has been of our rational nature-this opialready stated it appears, that our nion is contradicted by the fact, conceptions of the powers, princi- that they have been believed by ciples of action, and intellectual multitudes of the wisest and best of operations of all other beings, are
men in every age, They are conformed analogically, from what we tained substantially in the creeds are conscious of in ourselves. There and confessions of all the reformed is no other way in which we can churches; and have received the proceed. Our conceptions will be assent, and cordial approbation of the best within our power, if, formed immense numbers of the most enin this manner, they are varied ac- lightened and best cultivated uncording to the external indications derstandings that the world ever of the intellectual phenomena to witnessed. which they relate.
But if, by this objection, it be All the information which the meant that the doctrines of the gosscriptures afford respecting a fu- pel are inconsistent with each other; ture world, is conveyed in language it may be readily admitted that derived by analogy from the things many persons, professing to exwith which we are conversant in pound the doctrines of Christianity, the present world. Besides that have exhibited theories and princino other language would be intelli- ples inconsistent in themselves, as gible, may we not believe that the well as at variance with each other. present state of things was consti- This fact, however, ought not to tuted to form an elementary school, prejudice our minds against the to qualify our minds for the higher genuine doctrines of Christianity, scenes of action and enjoyment, pre- as contained in the scriptures; for pared for the righteous in a future every subject of human knowledge state of existence; that points of has suffered the same treatment, resemblance between them will be from the hands of unskilful or inte. found more numerous and striking rested men. Such indeed are the than we are prepared at present to limited powers of the human underanticipate ; and that hereafter we standing, that it is almost imposshall witness the full development, sible to avoid the appearance, at and perfect exercise of those great least, of contradiction and inconprinciples of intellectual and moral sistency, in a long work on any
subject; and the difficulty is greatly highest degree, in regard to this, augmented by the ambiguity, and upon which the present hopes and other imperfections of language; eternal welfare of man essentially which, however, is to be resolved depend. By studying the Holy ultinately into the same cause. Scriptures with docility, assiduity
It is a powerful argument in and perseverance, we may expect, proof of the inspiration of scripture, with the divine blessing, to obtain that its most ingenious and indus- the most important advantages: trious enemies have never been able difficulties will be gradually surto detect in it any real contradic- mounted; apparent inconsistencies tion. That a number of men, who will disappear; obscure passages lived in succession during the long will become plain; and we shall
be period of fifteen hundred years, of enabled to perceive the evidence, very different natural capacity, the harmony, and the superlative education and habits of life, should, excellence of the truths that are rewithout concert or apparent de- vealed in them. sign, concur harmoniously in the It becomes those who charge the same statement of facts, and in the doctrines of Christianity with being same exhibition of principles, is inconsistent with each other, to point truly wonderful; and can be ac out distinctly, in what the inconcounted for, only by supposing that sistency consists; to show that they wrote under the immediate what is affirmed in one proposition guidance of divine inspiration. is denied in another. 'Until this Apparent inconsistencies may oc be done, such vague assertions will cur to the superficial reader; but justly be considered as indicating they are easily explained upon a the want of more precise and demore patient and accurate investi- finite argument. gation. When we enter upon a But if the objection be designed new subject of inquiry, our minds to intimate that the doctrines of the are often embarrassed by the ap- gospel are contradicted by other pearance of anomalies and contra- unquestionable truths, it will then dictions, which the limited state of belong to them who make the obour knowledge renders us inca- jection, to show what these truths pable of explaining. But as our in- are. What facts do we witness in formation becomes more extensive the constitution of nature, the disand accurate, they gradually dis- pensations of Providence, or the appear, until at length the subject order of society-what principles seems to accord in its several parts; are suggested by the phenomena as well as to harmonize with the either of matter or mind, which other parts of our knowledge. It contradict the plain doctrines of is not therefore surprising, that scripture ? difficulties and apparent incon The truth is, the doctrines of the sistencies, should perplex those Bible are in perfect accordance with who have merely a superficial ac the soundest principles of modern quaintance with the scriptures. philosophy: The systems and theoFrom the nature of the case, we ries of ancient philosophers, having cannot reasonably expect it to be no better foundation than mere conotherwise. It would, however, be jecture, exerted a pernicious influpreposterous to neglect the study ence over the minds of those Chrisof the Bible, or to reject it altoge- tians who embraced them, in modither, on this account. Such a course fying and perverting the simple of conduct would be considered ir- doctrines of the gospel. Ecclesirational, in regard to any other astical history discovers numerous subject of inquiry; and certainly errors in religion, which are to be it ought to be considered so, in the traced to the theories of the dif
ferent philosophical sects, whose which involve in their connexions, authority happened to prevail in many things which lie beyond the the church. When hypothetical reach of the human understanding. theories in philosophy are regarded The truths revealed in scripture, as unquestionable truths, they must and the manner in which they are have an influence in modifying our revealed, correspond to the capareligious opinions, in a greater or city of the mind, and to those pow. less degree, according as their con ers of comprehension which are acnexion is perceived to be more or quired by the previous exercise of less intimate.
reason, in relation to the various There is no danger, however, to objects that solicit our attention. be apprehended from the principles If this be not the case, the Bible is of sound and enlightened philoso- no revelation to us; and therefore phy. As God is the author, both of cannot be either believed or disbethe constitution of nature, and of lieved. the scriptures, they cannot, when It may perhaps be said, that I fairly interpreted, be at variance have mistaken the import of the exwith each other. When philoso- pression we are considering, and phy consists in hypothetical sys- that it is designed to convey the tems and fanciful theories, it is no idea, that the peculiar doctrines of less hostile to genuine science than Christianity must be learned ex: to scripture. But when it confines clusively from the scriptures. If itself to a simple statement of facts, this be the meaning of those who in relation either to matter or mind, employ this phraseology, it must be (and this alone deserves the name admitted that their language is not of philosophy,) instead of being in very precise or accurate. any degree adverse to the doctrines Every distinct subject of knowof revealed religion, it is adapted ledge has its peculiar and approto afford them the most effectual priate evidence. Our knowledge support.
of the operations of our own minds, The friends of Christianity have is furnished by consciousness. Our often declared that its doctrines are knowledge of the qualities of matabove reason, although not contrary ter, is furnished by our powers of to it. This language, however well external perception. Our knowintended, is not very intelligible ledge of the peculiar doctrines of or precise. What is reason, but Christianity, is furnished by divine the capacity of the mind to dis- revelation. The exercise of reason cover truth, according to the dis- is not to be excluded from any of tinct nature and appropriate evi- these different modes of acquiring dence of the subject presented to knowledge. And certainly the last our consideration? And will not requires the employment of its nothis aphorism mean, when strictly blest and most exalted powers. interpreted, that the doctrines of Where shall reason, that distinChristianity are not subjects of hu- guishing characteristick of our naman knowledge
ture, find its most appropriate and That the truths of religion are honourable employment, if not in related to other things which are the investigation of those sublime not revealed, and which therefore truths, which are made known by cannot be known by us, will not the testimony of God, contained in justify this mode of expression. his word? The case is perfectly similar in The word reason, as appears every other branch of science. In from what has been said, is often every department of knowledge used in a very vague and indefinite relating to actual existences, we manner. The language of many necessarily believe many truths, would lead us to suppose, that it
constitutes an original capacity of dicated his will, not only by the judging; and affords fixed princi- immediate emotions and judgments ples of belief, independently of the of the human mind, but also
by the different sourees of knowledge invariable connexions and tendenwhich are within our reach. No. cies which he has established. The thing can be farther from the truth, truths of natural religion; that is, than such a notion. All our ideas the truths relating to God and his are acquired. We have no innate will, which are discovered by a principles of knowledge or judg: just interpretation of the frame and ment. Our knowledge is acquired order of nature, concur, so far as and our judgments are formed, only they go, in a most harmonious and by employing the various powers pleasing manner, with the truths of reason and understanding, ac of revealed religion. It appears cording to the different means of therefore that, in many instances, information and sources of evi we have the advantage of a number dence, with which the Creator has of witnesses; and that their testifurnished us. Without facts sub- mony, when correctly understood, mitted to our investigation, and evi- is always harmonious and consistdence by which we may judge, rea- ent. son can give no decision.
Our moral sentiments depend, From the details into which we in no inconsiderable degree, upon have entered, we may perceive the our connexion, especially in the numerous and ample means of in- early period of life, with our brethstruction, with which we are fa ren of mankind. In childhood, our voured; and their wise adaptation opinions on many subjects, are reto the powers of the human under- ceived implicitly upon the authostanding, and to the circumstances rity of our parents and teachers. in which we are placed. No plea The direction and regulation of our is afforded for ignorance or error, minds, depend very much upon by their deficiency or unsuitable. them. And in mature age, very Dess. It appears however that few possess independence, or obstidocility, caution and application, nacy of mind, sufficient to resist are indispensable to the full enjoy- the influence of prevalent opinions ment of the advantages which they and customs. The system of opiare fitted to bestow.
nions embraced by any individual, It also deserves to be remarked, will, almost infallibly, be modified that in many instances, instruc- by the current opinions of the age tions relating to the same important or country in which he lives. truths, are furnished from different Admitting therefore the powersources. The original dictates of ful influence of custom and educathe understanding, concerning the tion, yet we are by no means to sacredness and indispensable
obli- suppose, that the moral judgments gation of the fundamental rules of of mankind are entirely arbitrary morality, are powerfully confirmed, or factitious. Such is the nature to the apprehension of those who of man, and such is the uniformity are accustomed to observe the con- in the constitution and course of stituted connexions of events, by things, in every period of the world, views of general expediency; by that to a certain extent, there must discovering their uniform tendency always be a uniformity in the moral to promote both individual and sentiments of our race. The dispublick welfare; and, on the con- tinctions between right and wrong trary, by discovering the uniform in human conduct, are so palpable, tendency of immorality, to produce and a knowledge of them so indismisery, both to individuals and pensable to human welfare, that to communities. Thus God has in- they never can be wholly lost or