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which whilst it confifts with all the paffages of fcripture and the experiments of believers, is evidently confiftent with itself, and all other species of human knowledge, must be reckoned a good fyftem, till we find a better, of the philofophy of revealed truth.
Every hypothefis in either of these branches of philofophy, ought ever to be exposed to strict and repeated scrutiny: for we are finite beings, new discoveries may arise which shall diffipate a long received hypothesis, like as a breath, the winged feeds of dandelion. I conceive true critics of every class to be a set of men, "whose business it is to pick holes in the fabric of knowledge wherever it is weak and faulty, and when these places are properly repaired, the whole building becomes more firm and folid than it was formerly." The hypotheses of philofophers refpecting the works of God, are treated with freedom, they rife, they are fully examined, they occasionally fink: thus alfo no hypothefis for explaining the scriptures can be rationally fecluded from free investigation.
In church history relations are not unfrequent of the rife, progress, and fall of an hypothefis in religion, notwithstanding the abfurd endeavours of men, prompted by carnal policy or other motives to establish and perpetuate uniformity of faith, that is, when stripped of disguise, uniformity of hypothefis. The attempt to establish, perpetuate,
and render an hypothesis permanent, whether by a pontiff, a general council, or a national government seems to me at best, the offspring of blind zeal and presumption, actually inimical to free difcuffion, and probably to the progress of reli. gious truth. Certainly every intelligent and fenfible protestant must admit, that as every sect of christians is more or less erroneous, to establish a fyftem by civil authority, is virtually to set up an Antichrift.
I grant that national encouragement given to creeds has cherished something approaching to religious truth in the world:-That fuch furtherance has fometimes had its utility, though at other times it has been an occafional injury to the cause of truth-And that fuch collateral affiftances have been not only admitted and permitted, but approved by our Maker. Kings were in his wife providence to be nursing fathers, and queens nurfing mothers to his Ifrael. Ifaiah 49, 23. But this is a diftinct thing from the establishment of a fyftem, before cenfured, and which, I think, the fcriptures no where authorize.
As the bee gathers honey from all flowers, fo we are warranted to gain knowledge from any writers we can read with fafety. But, perhaps, fome of my brethren have fat fo much at the feet of papifts, that they begin to kifs. a toe what I am going to fay will not be relifhed by fuch. I fay, that, in my judgment it is a queftion of chrif
tian prudence, and that as fuch it may be lawfully debated whether it is good, all things confidered, that civil governments should continue to provide for the fupport of chriftian worship, according to the fentiments adopted by the majority.
I think it cannot be disputed, whether it is lawful for a civil government to provide for the expences of the popular worship of a country, for "the majority have a right to adopt what mode of worship they please," the question is, its expediency. It will be alledged on the one hand that fuch support provides a more regular ministry throughout a whole country, than would be the refult of independent focieties; and that in fact fuch fupport contributes to render religion popular. And it will be urged on the other hand, that the late discovery, and general use of the art of printing, renders it difpenfible by superseding all Its benefits
that it tendeth to carnalize the chrif. tian societies, chiefly, as throwing a bait to infidels in respect of a sacred office, and as being the grand fource of fyftematic perfecution: and that the example of the progrefs of religion, under the denominations of quakers, baptifts and methodists, in the present century, without national provision, establishes irrefragable evidence that christianity needs no more than civil protection of the rights of human beings, for making its way in the world.
But although it may be debated, whether, all
things considered, it is best for civil governments to provide for the accommodation of the popular worship; yet, surely, it does not need debate to discover that the popular creed of a country ought to be open to revision. Surely a liberal and generous mind will not hold it disputable whether it is right, or even politic, for civil governments to sanction creeds by measures respecting dissenters, which violate the natural unalienable rights of mankind. May the great Author of Christianity, hasten the time when consciences shall be unfettered, and pious enquiry in religious matters be protected and encouraged all over the globe!
The writer of this Essay being at an early age attached to religion, and addicted to study, he wished to harmonize the points he had received. The acknowledged difficulties attending opposing systems were soon remarked: and after much thought on the subject, he was led to conceive that improved and determinate notions of Power, human Preference, and the kinds of human Inclinations, would obviate inconsistencies, and throw light ont the philosophic debate between the reformed churches. At several seasons he committed his thoughts on these themes to writing, and some years since, printed the disquisitions on power and on human preference, which are now published with improvement. The writer did not rest here, but has sketched delineations of his ideas of scripture doctrines
doctrines and experience, as affected by these disquisitions; which compose the two following volumes, now submitted to the serious consideration of the Reader.
I. A Disquisition on Power.
SECT. 1.-Of a determinate Notion of Power. SECT. 2.-Of Operation, Influence, and Efficiency. SECT. 3.-Of Causes and Effects.
SECT. 4.-Of Necessity.
SECT. 5.-Of Things related to Power, and other objects, which have been confounded
SECT. 6.-Objections and Replies.
II. A Disquisition on Human Preference, and Inclination of mind.
SECT. 1.-Of Human Preference in general.
SECT. 4.-Of Inclination of Mind.
SECT. 5.-Of Wish.
SECT. 6.-Of Purpose.
SECT. 7.-Of Will or Volition.
SECT. 9.-Of the Diversity of Choices.