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but if the Bible be true there can remain for them no hope, their condemnation is sure. Let us beware then, my brethren, of that false and destructive sentiment professed by infidels, and sceptics, that they will not believe what they cannot comprehend, a sentiment whether applied to religion or to other subjects, that would lead to conclusions the most extravagant and dangerous.


There is this difference," saith an old writer, "between natural things and supernatural. Natural things are first understood and then believed; but supernatural mysteries must be first believed, and then will be better understood. If we first set reason to work and believe no more than we can comprehend, this will hinder faith; but after we have assented to divine mysteries we set reason to work this will help faith. For it is the most unreasonable thing in the world to reject the testimony of the infinite God concerning his own mysterious existence, when every process of nature baffles our feeble powers, and when the wisest philosophers allow that we can only

know that things are so, but cannot comprehend the manner how, or the reason why they

are so."

Be it therefore our care, my brethren, to render ourselves learned and stable in what is plain and essential, to secure the knowledge of what is absolutely necessary in scripture, before we too anxiously inquire into what is more obscure. In all our researches, let us take due care that our desires may be so regulated that we neglect not what more nearly concerns us, by too earnest a pursuit after questions which are subtle and difficult. Respecting points that are dubious, subjects that admit not of demonstration, a truly good man will neither be too solicitous himself nor intolerant towards others; they may perhaps be permitted to divert his thoughts or to call forth his ingenuity; but never will they be permitted to occupy the place of what is infinitely of more importance, nor will they at any time influence his conduct towards his brethren. It hath ever been the case in philosophy as well as in religion, that those who know from experience

what it is to have been engaged in patient investigation and laborious study, who are well aware of the difficulties of a subject, who see clearly where those difficulties exist, and where they do not; men of sound parts and of solid learning are ever the last to pronounce with an offensive confidence, to censure with an uncharitable severity, or to intrude officiously their own peculiar opinions upon others.

Finally, therefore let us, my brethren, take due care that we enter upon every scriptural inquiry from proper motives, and with proper dispositions of mind. Not with the presumption to suppose that we alone are the only persons qualified to clear up the difficulties of scripture, and to disclose their mysteries. This, my brethren, is not a temper of mind either naturally fitted for such a work, nor such a temper of mind as God hath promised to direct and to bless. If ever we hope to make our inquiries successful, they must be conducted with that modesty and diffidence, with that candour, liberality, and distrust of ourselves which is due to the nature of such inquiries, and to the abilities and researches of others.

They must at all times be conducted with humility in the spirit of charity, and in a constant dependence upon the blessing of God. It is humility and devotion, my brethren, that best qualify us for such researches as these, and will do more towards directing a man to the right understanding of scripture than without them could be attained by all the gifts and all the abilities in the world; for it will ever be true on this as well as on every other occasion, that "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." Among creatures so short-sighted and so subject as we all are to mistake, differences of opinion on religion as well as on other subjects will exist. Different minds will draw different conclusions; different men will view the same points in different lights. But, my brethren, to withhold our kind offices, or to think ill of each other on this account, must be repugnant to every truly Christian mind. Whilst therefore we maintain with consistency and firmness those principles which we conceive to be right, let us not withhold our love and charity from such as differ from us; let us be careful to shew the same tenderness and

respect for the consciences of others as we would wish and would claim for ourselves, lest in our zeal to be orthodox we forget to be Christians.*

* It may be interesting to know what view our own church hath taken of the doctrines we have been considering. I am aware that some persons either from a zeal to maintain their own particular doctrines, or from being but partially acquainted or altogether ignorant of the history of our articles and liturgy, and of the peculiar circumstances under which they were compiled, have asserted, that the system of Calvin and the doctrines of an absolute and unconditional election and reprobation to eternal happiness or misery were intended to be conveyed by our church: but those who have taken the pains to inform themselves on the subject, who are well read in the history of that period in which the articles of our church appeared, and are acquainted with the arduous task which our reformers had to satisfy the clamours of different parties, must be convinced that nothing could have been further from their intention than the espousing any particular system of divinity whatever; but whilst with a wisdom and moderation that will for ever demand our gratitude and reverence, they accommodated themselves to the temper and spirit of the times in which they lived, conciliating all parties by suitable concessions, thus securing to us the grand objects of the reformation, they left the abstruser points of religion, as they are left in scripture, to be determined by the general analogy of faith, and by the best conceptions we are


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