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self; and gained the character of truth, of important, necessary, awful, and perhaps excellent truth; and the unwary think themselves bound in conscience and duty to maintain it with zeal; and then, whoever endeavours to correct it, though ever so much in the spirit of meekness and peace, must do it at his peril. Hence those grosser instances of persecution and bloodshed which have fouled the christian name; hence those wranglings, debates, heats, and animosities, which have destroyed christian societies. This is one reason why the sceptic, who is indifferent to any principles, when he finds absurdity mixed with the christian faith, taking the whole for a true account of christianity, rejects the whole. By this unhappy means what numbers have been drawn into deism! And by this unhappy means, I strongly suspect, if the truth were known, religion appears but in a doubtful light to many who seem to be strict professors of it; for where it is not received in its proper evidence, there cannot be, I think, a full and strong assent of faith; and no man can receive it in its proper evidence, who doth not endeavour carefully to understand its principles.
I have made the preceding remarks, not more on account of the subject of natural religion, than those which are necessarily connected with it, and which are hereafter to be at. tended to. The things chiefly to be learnt and understood in scripture are principles
, and propositions, or the grounds and reasons of things; and precepts, which are the rules of duty. Now, if we mistake either, we shall throw all into confusion; our way will be all mist and clouds; that which should be light will be darkness, or, which is all one, a false light to mislcad us; that which should be our joy, will be our heaviness; that which should be our comfort, and inspire cheerful hope, will be a dead weight to burthen our spirits and clog our course. Our path, which should be as a shi. ning light, that shineth more and more, will be a gloomy, melancholy road, and we shall make our way with difficulty, because we want that true sense, and knowledge of the ways and will of God, which are necessary to give life, comfort and vigour. Chimeras and frightful images will terrify our consciences, and fill us with groundless fears; God will be painted in monstrous colours and all the ravishing glo
ries of his truth, wisdom, and love, which should powerfully draw our hearts to him, will be hid from our eyes; the lustre of redeeming grace will in part or wholly be eclipsed; some parts of religion will be superstitiously magnified, while others, of greater consequence, and especially those, when suitably regarded, which give most glory to God, and conduce most to the happiness of mankind, will be undervalued.
The advocates of revealed religion, by mistaking principles, and the divine evidences by which alone they are tenable, involve such palpable absurdities as to amount almost to a denial of its truth, and of its susceptibility of rational examination. This, instead of proselyting men to christianity, emboldens infidelity to rear its head, and lift its heel against the dominion of Jesus Christ, the divinity of his character and doctrines. This is not all: Deism, or scepticism at best, is the consequence of such advocation; and thus the moral obligations imposed by the scriptures upon the minds, and hearts of men fail, through the failure in establishing their truth by the proper testimony, and its right use in the argument.
The contradictions, if I may be permitted the expression, which have existed in some form or other since the
apostolic age, in almost every, plan of the christian faith, formed into a system by human wit, have had their foundation in the erroneous ideas which have obtained in the minds of men relative to the capacities and powers of the human mind. They have originated, in part, in mistaking the nature and use of revelation in words, and the design of miraculous works, as they have been employed, and ought now to be used, (though of record) in communicating supernatural knowledge and establishing its truth, otherwise unattainable; and in misapprehending the imaginations and passions, the feelings, and the affections excited by religious subjects, for the immediate operations of the spirit of God. Natural religion, or that capacity of mind upon which it depends for acquiring ideas and knowledge of spiritual and invisible things by natural, without spiritual light, or the revelation of God's spirit, forms a chief foundation upon which those errors rest. It was first introduced into the plan of celes
tial wisdom by the Platonic christians, with whom also originated scholastic theology, and mystic divinity. It was with an eye to these great errors that the apostles guarded the churches and persons to whom they wrote, ·lest any man spoil them through philosophy and vain de ceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.' "The profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called,' were of the same character.
Natural religion necessarily destroys the real nature and state of things as they exist in the human mind in reference to spiritual and divine knowledge. It contemplates man as in a state very different from his real one, and far superior to it. It denies the fact, that by original transgression man lost his moral ability, and his union and communion with God as an intelligent and moral being, and with them the knowledge of him; and that they are restored by the atoning or expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God's spirit through him, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, and faith in hiin in his proper characters. It also denies the fact, that it is by the revelations of God's spirit in words, or that it is by the word of God that the human race, circumstanced as they are, acquire the name and knowledge of God and his character, together with his will and future purposes concerning them. Natural religion asserts that the natural powers of the human mind, without spiritual light, or the revelations of God's spirit by words, or immediate inspiration, can have spiritual perceptions; and, on the same account, denies that the book which we call the scriptures is the revelation of God, and that the human mind is dependant upon it for spiritual ideas. Upon the refutation of these opinions de pends the universal acknowledgement of the indispensible necessity, the worth and the excelleney of the scriptures as being the only mean of spiritual knowledge, for the learting of truth and righteousness, as being that which is persect, and sure, what endureth forever, enlightens the eye, (the mind's eye) converts the soul, gives understanding to the simple, and is able to make all men vise unto salyation.
Should I be as successful in this investigation as I con. fidently anticipate, every voice under heaven will be silenced upon spiritual subjects in regard to their original ideas, but the voice of God's spirit; and this will be the first great step towards rectifying the many errors which human imagination has introduced
into christianity. Natural religion silenced, or the opinion subverted that the human mind, without the aid of revelation, has a power of discerning God, the scriptures assume their proper character as the glass of spiritual vision. “There the mind's eye expatiates in a boundless field of heavenly light, and clearly views the objects and prospects of truth, where the light of mere nature could never have penetrated; there it beholds things through description which are not seen by the eye of sense, and which are eternal; there we see the being of God asserted and proven, his nature and perfections, his glorious majesty and universal sovereignty, described by his own spirit, as alone knowing the things of God, with the justest propriety of sentiment, and simple magnificence of language, which the Holy Ghost alone teacheth; revealing and explaining spiritual things by spiritual words; there we read, and through that reading learn, that not only an everlasting God exists, but also that he is the Lord, the possessor of all being, of all wisdom and power, who made the earth, and created man upon it; that he stretched out the heavens and commanded all their hosts that he measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out the heavens with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains and the hills in a balance--that he toucheth the mountains and they smoke, he looketh upon the earth and it trembleth; he be. holdeth the nations as a drop of a bucket, and he counts them as the small dust of the earth; he takes up the isles as a very little thing. The whole universe rests wholly upon his arm, and is entirely subject to the disposals of his will. When we cast our eyes above; he created all these things, and brings out their host by number; he calls them all by name, by the greatness of his might, for he is strong in power, not one of them fails; in understanding he is infinite; he is mighty in wisdom, wonderful in council, and
excellent in working. He fills heaven and earth, nor can any hide himself in secret places from his all-penetrating eye.
The earth is full of his glory and riches, and his providence is perpetually exercised about all and every one of his creatures. God is love; the Lord is good and doeth good; he is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works; he is daily loading us with benefits. The righteous he will bless; to them he will give grace and glory; and even to the wicked the Lord is plenteous, and rich in mercy.
These are the views of faith, or the perceptions of the mind through and by the revelations of God's spirit. These are objects and relations which are only discernible through that medium. These are the doctrines of scripture, and are to be found no where else, as the ideas which compose them can be produced from no other source. In this divine glass we find a two-fold covenant, one of works which threatens death to transgression, and the other of grace
which grants the benefit of redemption and pardon. There we learn how God erected a kingdom, or a peculiar congregation, (the Jewish theocracy) amongst the nations, to prevent the universal corruption of the world, and to serve as a beacon upon a hill, to diffuse the light of spiritual, and divine knowledge in the darkness of the earth, which were lost in consequence of the loss of communion with God by reason of transgression. At length we see the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, who, in the divine mind, had been slain before the foundation of the world, and by virtue of which our sinful world was supported, appear to take away sin, to bring in an everlasting righteousness, or salvation, to illustrate the grace of God, and give the plainest explanation of his will and our duty; to shew the future world in the clearest and most awful view, and to appoint the most powerful means to attract our hearts to God, and to guide our feet in the ways of peace. In this gospel we see the dead, small and great, restored to life, and appearing before his judgment-seat to receive a sentence according to what they have done in their bodies. There he has, by his death, and resurrection, and verbal explanation, opened the glories of heaven to our sight, and shewn to our faith the