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extent were the natural and undoubted possession of their understanding, wherein there was nothing exempt from its decisions, or that escaped its comprehension."* Astronomers require their pupils to “ take care always to approach the firmament, that divine book, as they do the other book of God; with reverence and humility, not having too high an opinion of their own abilities, as if they could with the line of human reason fathom all the depths of divine counsels.”+ What these great masters discovered in the sụblimer works of nature, the countryman discovers in a polype in his cottage ditch ; and all mankind are forced to believe the existence of objects, the certainty of facts, combinations of qualities, of which they have no adequate ideas, and of which they can give no account.
4. No man ever yet proposed a system of religion free from mystery. Even those gentlemen, who discard many received doctrines on account of their mysteriousness, are obliged to own, that “ the most rational and important doctrines imply something beyond the narrow capacity of our comprehension." I
5. The belief of those facts, which we call doctrines of the gospel, is analogous in christianity to self-love in the law of nature. “ God has inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual. In consequence of which mutual connection of justice and human felicity, he has not perplexed the law of nature with a multitude of ab. stracted rules and precepts, referring merely to the fitness or unfitness of things : but has graciously reduced the rule of obedience to this one paternal precept, that man should pursue his own happiness. This is the foundation of what we call ethics, or natural law.”+ Thus in revelation, God hath not perplexed christianity with disquisitions, the understanding of which would require a long train of metaphysical investigations : but he hath revealed a few facts, which he declares, he either hath brought to pass, or will bring to pass ; and these facts have ever been found the most irresistible motives to constrain men to obey the law of nature. The unity of two
Essay, Introduction. † Long's Astronomy, pref. p. 7. Bourn's Discourses, vol. ii. disc. vii. Ŝ Blackstone's Comnientaries, Introduction, s. 2.
natures, constituting the dignity of the Author of christianity, is one of these facts.
6. To deprive christianity of its mysteries is to reduce it to a feeble human science: we get rid of mystery and motive together. The removal of, what are called by some, corruptions of christianity, is to be rewarded, it seems, with the conversion of Jews and Mohammedans. But let us not too eagerly follow these illusory dreams. Let us consider four things. '1. It is not certain, that Jews and Turks reject christianity on account of our doctrine of Christ's divinity: They do not study our polemical divinity ; they study easier books, our lives, and in them they read objections against christianity. 2. If it be true, that Christ's divinity is a stumbling-block to the modern Jews, nothing is seen in it but the fulfilment of prophecy. The Lord of hosts is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to them, as he was to their fathers, who stumbled at Christ, that stumbling stone.* 3. The doctrine of accomodation, which is the ground of these pretences, is the most dangerous doctrine in the world. A miser suumbles at the laws of liberality, a proud man stumbles at the gospel motives to humility, a mere rationalist stumbles at the invisible realities of faith ; and by endeavouring to accommodate the gospel to these dispositions we explain it all away. 4. Were wę to divest religion of all these offensive credenda, and were we to reduce it to the gospel of Socrates, or to the more refined gospel of Professor Hutcheson, would it convert the Turks and the Jews ? A great authority assures us, Science and philosophy always operate slowly; and it is long before their influence reaches the people, or can produce any sensible effect upon them. They may perhaps gradually, and in a long course of years, undermine and shake an established system of false religion, but there is no instance of their having overturned one.”+ A reflection well worth the attention of those, who would reduce the gospel to an enfeebled system of mere moral philosophy.
God hath not been pleased to reveal the modus of his exis
* Isa. viii. 13. 14. Rom. ix 32, 33. 1 Pet. ii. 4, &c. Dr. Robertson's Hist, of Charles V. book xii.
ABSURD AND IMPIOUS
tence to us : but he hath been pleased to say, Let all bitterness and wrath and evil speaking be put away from among you. I have not, therefore thought myself at liberty to call names, and to denounce judgments. I have seen
a writer on one side prove that Jesus Christ thought not of the impious robbery of being equal with God, by repeatedly declaring that the doctrine of Christ's divinity is A MOST DOCTRINE ; and I have seen one on the other side affirin, Christ died both with respect to his human and divine nature and prove it by adding, They who maintain the contrary, belong to the devil both body and soul.* But I have disliked this method of reasoning ever since I saw a book entitled Foxes and Firebrands.
I have no design by this Letter to enter into a controversy with any man, nor should I have found time to have written it, unless an attention to my health had confined me.
If I have let fall one unkind reflection on any conscientious man, I beg pardon; it was undesigned. I would rather bring the subject home to my own bosom, in the pious soliloquy of my most worthy friend the Reverend Mr. Turner.t
How, my soul, doest thou stand affected towards this Saviour? What hast thou seen of his excellencies, and how far have they, indeed, impressed and moved thy affectionate powers? Thou owest all to him that thou canst call enjoyment either in possession or in hope ! Let the glories of thy Redeemer be more attentively considered-let his love constrain thee to the supreme love of God, and just love to man.- To this fulness go in all thy necessities ; here look for light, and life, and joy eternal.---To his service and pleasure devote all thy powers ; live to him in improving holiness—let the liberty he has given thee of applying to him as the fountain of happiness, encourage thee to diligence and constancy in that application.---Let thy thirst be always for these living waters, which alone are capable of satisfying thee.--As he is all fullness to thee, be thou all gratitude, and love, and praise to him; rejoice in
* Musculus. Bayle. Rem. K.
+ Sce that excellent little piece entitled, Short MEDITATIONS ON SELECT Portions of SCRIPTURE; a piece, which it would be difficult to commend, as its merit demands. The above is from Medit, V.
him as thy light, thy strength, thy righteousness, and thy salvation ! Amen!
Hail, thou ETERNAL FULNESS, hail !
Great source of bliss divine !
All thy great Father shine.
that best of names
In heaven my rapturous song !”
F Ι Ν Ι 8.