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be consulting measures for the relieving of public calamities, never understand the state of a question, nor even come nigh the subject of deliberation : but employ that time in vain declamations, foreign from the matter, which ought to be devoted to the discussion of a particular point, on which the fate of a kingdom depends ? How needful is such a rectitude of thought in a council of war? What, pray, is a general destitute of this ? He is an arm without a head : he is a madman, who may mow down ranks on his right hand, and cover the field with carnage on the left : but who will sink under the weight of his own valor, and, for want of discernment, will render his courage often a burden, and sometimes a ruin to his country. This article of my discourse addresseth itself principally to you, who are heads of families. It is natural to parents to wish to see their children attain the most eminent posts in society. If this desire be innocent, it will engage you to educate your children in a manner suitable to their destination. Cultivate their reason, regard that, as the most necessary science, which forms their judgments, and which renders their reasoning powers exact.
This is particularly necessary to those, whom God calls to officiate in the church. What can be more unworthy of a minister of truth, than a sophistical turn of mind ? What more likely method to destroy religion than to establish truth on arguments, which would establish falshood? What can be more unreasonable than that kind of logic, which serves to reason with, if I may be allowed to speak so, only from hand to mouth: which pulls down with the one hand what it builds with the other ; which abandons, in disputing with adversaries of one kind, the principles, it had established, in disputing with adversaries of another
kind ? What sad effects does this method, too often practised by these, who ought to abhor it, produce in the church ? Are we called to oppose teachers, who carry the free agency of man beyond its due bounds? Man is made a trunk, a stone, a being destitute of intelligence and will. Are we called to oppose people, who, under pretence of defending the perfections of God, carry the slavery of man beyond its due bounds ? Man is made a seraphical intelligence; the properties of disembo died spirits are attributed to him, he is represented capable of elevating his meditations to the highest heavens, and of attaining the perfections of angels and cherubims. Are we called to oppose adversaries, who carry the doctrine of good works too far? The necessity of them is invalidated; they are said to be suited to the condition of a christian, but they are not made essential to christianity; the essence of faith is made to consist in a bare desire of being saved, or, if you wilt, of being sanctified, a desire, into which enters, neither that knowledge of the heart, nor that denial of self, nor that mortification of the passions, without which every desire of being sanctified is nothing but an artifice of corruption, which turns over a work to God, that he hath imposed on man. Are we called to oppose people, who enervate the necessity of good works? The christian vocation is made to consist in impracticable exercises, in a degree of holiness inaccessible to frail men. The whole genius of religion, and of all its ordinances, is destroyed, the table of the Lord is surrounded with devils, and fires, and flames, and is represented rather as a tribunal where God exerciseth his vengeance, as a mount Ebal, from whence he crieth, Cursed be the man, Cursed be the man, than as a throne of grace, to which he inviteth penitent sinners, and imparteth to them all the riches of his love. Are we called to oppose men, who would make God the author of sin, and who, from the punishments, which he inflicts on sinners, derive consequences injurious to his goodness and mercy ?
? All the reiterated declarations of scripture are carefully collected, all the tender expostulations, all the attracting invitations, which demonstrate that man is the author of his own destruction, and that Cod will have all men to be saved, and to come to the kpowledge of the truth, 1 Tim. ii. 4. Are we called to resist adversaries who weaken the empire of God over his creatures? God is made, I do not say an inexorable master, I do not say a severe king; O horrid! he is made a tyrant, and worse than a tyrant.
It has been seriously affirmed that he formed a great part of mankind with the barbarous design of punishing them for ever and every in order to have the cruel pleasure of shewing how far his avenging justice, and his flaming anger can go. It hath been affirmed, that the decree pronounced against the reprobate before his birth, not only determines him to punishment after the commission of sin; but infallibly inclines him to sin, because that is necessary to the manifestation of divine justice, and to the felicity of the elect, who will be much happier in heaven, if there be thousands and millions of miserable souls in the flames of hell, than if all mankind should enjoy the felicity of paradise.
Ah! my God! If any among us be capable of forming ideas so injurious to thy perfections, impute it not to the whole society of christians; and let not all our churches suffer for the irregularities of some of our members! One single altar prepared for idols, one single act of idolatry, was formerly sufficient to provoke thy displeasure. Jealous of thy glory, thou didst iuflict on the republic of Israel thy most terrible chastisements, when they associated false gods with thee. Hence, those dreadful calamities, hence, those eternal banishments, hence, heaven and earth employed to punish the guilty. But if Jews experienced stich a rigorous treatment for attributing to false gods the perfections of the true God, what punishments will not you suffer, christians, if in spite of the light of the gospel which shineth around you, you tax the true God with the vices of false gods: if by a theology unworthy of the name, you attribute to a holy God the cruelty, the injustice, and the falshood, of those idols to which corrupt passions alone gave a being, as well as attributes agreeable to their own abominable wishes ? That disposition of mind which conducts to univesal truth, frees a man from these contradictions, and harmonizes the pastor, and the tcacher with himself.
3. Truth will deliver you from disagreable doubts about religion. The state of a mind, which is carried about with every wind of doctrine. Eph. iv. 14. to use an expression of St. Paul, is a violent state, and it is very disagreeable, in such interesting subjects as those of religion, to doubt whether one be in the path of truth, or in the road of error ; whether the worship that one renders to God, be acceptable or odious to him ; whether the fatigues and sufferings that are endured for religion, be punishments of one's folly, or preparations for the reward of virtue.
But if this state of mind be violent, it is difficult to free one's self from it. There are but two sorts of men, who are free from the disquietudes of this state: they who live without reflection, and they who have seriously studied religion; they are the only people who are free from doubts,
We see alınost an innumerable variety of sects, which are diametrically opposite to one another. How can we flatter ourselves that we belong to the right community, unless we have profoundly applied ourselves to distinguish truth from falshood?
We hear the partisans of these different religions anathematize and condemn one another. How is it, that we are not afraid of their denunciations of wrath?
Wecannot doubt that, among them who embrace systems opposite to ours, there is a great number who have more knowledge, more erudition, more genius, more penetration, than we. How is it that we do not fear, that these adversaries, who have 'had better opportunities of knowing the truth than we, actually do know it better; and that they have employed more time to study it, and have made a greater progress in it ?
We acknowledge, that there are in the religion we profess, difficulties which we are not able to solve, bottomless depths, mysteries, which are not only above our reason ; but which seem opposite to it. How is it, that we are not stumbled at these difficulties? How is it, that we have no doubt of the truth of a religion, which is, in part, concealed under impenetrable veils ?
We are obliged to own, that prejudices of birth and education, are usually very influential over our minds. Moreover, we ought to remember, that nothing was so carefully inculcated on our infant minds as the articles of our faith. How can we demonstrate that these articles belong to the class of demonstrative truths, and not to that of the prejudices of education ?
We know, by sad experience, that we have often admitted erroneous propositions for incontestible principles; and that when we have thought ourselves
; in possession of demonstration, we have found our