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itself has failed in establishing a general standard for religious truth. In consequence of the vain reasonings, corrupt affections, and fanciful conceptions of mankind, which the arch Deceiver has industriously employed, for the purpose of obliterating that benign plan, which was graciously intended to counteract the mischief he had wrought; the science of Theology has undergone more frequent and strange metamorphoses than any other science whatever. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, when that light which was designed to lead mankind in the way of peace, has, in consequence of the false mediums through which it has passed, been turned into comparative darkness ; that the creature who is to be conducted by it, should be left at some loss with respect to the course he has to take: in other words; if, amid the perplexity of various opinions, and the parade of imaginary improvement, the mind of man should frequently lose sight of that sure ground of faith and hope, to which it was the chief object of Revelation to direct his thoughts.
It was an observation of Dr. Johnson's, that “no honest man could be a deist; for no man could be so after a fair examination of the proofs of Christianity.”—But the misfortune is, according to the loose system of morality now prevailing, it is not generally considered to be any impeachment of a man's honesty, for him to pronounce a decided judgement on a subject of the utmost importance to the welfare and happiness of his fellow creatures, which he has had neither the patience nor candour fairly to examine.
Such was the case with Hume; who confessed that he had never read the New Testament with attention. And such is the case with all those falsely called Philosophers, who, governed by that grand principle of error, which Lord Bacon has excellently described to be “nimia et præpropera mentis festinatio ad conclusiones temerè dedncendas;" are zealously employed in eradicating all settled ideas from the human mind; for the purpose of introducing those baseless theories, which are the misshaped creatures of their own ungoverned fancy. Hence have we to lament that
disregard disregard for received opinions, and that contempt for established institutions, which have by degrees generated that loose system of morality, and that general indifference for religion, which it will require the wisdom and exertion both of the Statesman and Divine effectually to counteract. But effectually to counteract an evil, we must be competent to trace it to the source from whence it has proceeded.
The doctrine of the Church must, generally speaking, be grossly corrupted, before the establishment of it will be overturned in any country : for the Candlestick, it is presumed, will not be removed whilst it sends forth its due portion of useful light. But this corruption will necessarily take place, in proportion as our knowledge of spiritual things is attempted to be derived from any other fountain than that of Revelation. Heathenism was originally built on the corruption of Revelation. And by the neglect of that divine source of illu-' mination, many Christians have fallen, and are continually falling back into a similar state of spiritual darkness. In both cases the vain imagination of foolish man has
superseded the infallible standard of religious truth: and the effect in both cases has not failed to correspond with the cause.
On spiritual subjects nothing can be discovered by the light of unassisted rea
What is to be known on those subjects, man must be contented to learn in the way and degree in which God has thought fit to teach him. To consider, therefore, any spiritual subject by the light of Nature and Reason, whilst we neglect that Revelation whose professed object it is to furnish all necessary information upon it; is to reject day-light and an open
road to travel in, that we may shew our genius or our self-sufficiency, by taking an adventurous walk among pits in the dark, at the risk of falling headlong into the first that lies open in our way. In this case there is doubtless too much at stake. Consequently to every wise man, opinions, however plausible and ingenious, will afford but a poor compensation for any deviation from the standard of Divine Truth.
Rational Criticism, it must at the same time be admitted, can seldom, if ever, be misemployed. But to be entitled to the
[ ] honourable distinction of rational criticism, it must proceed on this acknowledged principle; that what has been revealed must be true; and consequently that no defect of comprehension on our parts can justify an argument against the clear letter of Scripture. Under the sanction of this distinction it will be readily allowed, that the science of Divinity owes much of its present improved state to that talent for close reasoning and critical investigation, which distinguishes the writings of some modern divines; and renders them hardly less serviceable to the cause of Christianity, than the pious, learned, and unwearied labours of its more early professors.
Soundness in the faith, and an hearty zeal for its promotion, were the excellencies which particularly marked the character of the primitive Fathers of the Church. Their writings, for the most part, had neither elegance of language, nor ingenuity of thought to recommend them. It sufficed that they were plain, simple, and convincing. Philosophical researches, metaphysical subtleties, and vain reasonings, accompanied the introduction of human