« ZurückWeiter »
to the word of God itself. It is obvious, with what recoil a variety of tempers and attainments will shrink back from it.
1. For example; to the man of “liberality," of speculative turn, and general attainments, affable and accomplished; not conversant, from any immediate cause, with divine things in particular; and accustomed, himself, to require and to give a reason in those human matters with which he has to do, and where it may well be given ;-to him, such a thought will very probably awaken others, of ignorance, prejudice, and darkness.
2. Much more, then, if such liberality of sentiment be extended into “ free-thinking," will the unbeliever so pronounce upon a faith, which he himself esteems so lightly: or the half-believer, who will naturally rejoice in contributing, by its rejection, to the increase of that wavering spirit, which is so favourable to his own views.
3. Again; to the man of learning and comprehensive ability united together; to whom the labyrinths of research are easy; and who has a sort of proprietor's delight in showing forth the treasures of antiquity, as a possession of his own; it will appear like indolence and weakness.
4. Again ; to the man well versed in all the ways of theological controversy, and all the melancholy errors recorded in Church history; and · trèmblingly alive, in consequence, to the corruptions flowing from a servile superstition; who is thereby made habitually, and prudently, jealous of a credulity, so evidently capable of gross abuse; it runs the hazard of appearing in the light either of unmanly timidity, or of dangerous fanaticism. · But however these things may be, the question of faith is one, in which there are souls at issue. While, therefore, we respect the claims of all, and would desire, in humility, to exercise true candour and liberality towards all men ; while we honour learning, and bless the gracious order of an all-wise Providence, by which a few are so enriched and endowed with more excellent ability, for the benefit of the many; while with gratitude we reverence as well the courage, as the circumspection, of orthodoxy ;-we must not, through an over-willingness to allow their due to others, forego, to the soul's peril, that which is our own., By which I mean, (forbearing, for the moment, all consideration of positive duty,) that individual right which we possess, as candidates for Christ's kingdom of glory, of resting our faith and hope, not upon any proof, or series of proofs, which scepticism has made it customary to insist upon, to show the truth of our religion ; but, upon that which best attests the divine authority of holy Scrip· ture to our own hearts, according to the propor
tion of means and opportunities, of personal dispositions and abilities, with which it has been the pleasure of the Almighty severally to invest usb. · There being, then, according to commonly received language and opinion, two general divisions of the evidences by which the religion of Jesus Christ is commended to men's acceptance-external and internal ; it is my intention, in furtherance of the end just now proposed, to advance a familiar argument of the latter kind: not with a purpose to confute any who are disposed, or determined, to object; but with a desire, under the blessing of Providence, to furnish consolation to many such as are disposed to believe on broad and simple grounds : to those,
♡ Provided only, that we do not confound Christianity itself with any form only of professing it, lest we fall into the error of taking up positions, which cannot be maintained; and expose ourselves, besides, to a yoke of oppression, in particulars, which might not well be borne. Nevertheless, I do not hesitate to express a persuasion, that our own case happily is such, in the established Church of England, that we may rightly, and are bound to, receive the faith of our forefathers, as delivered to us in its authorized form, by the same measure of acceptance, in kind, as we receive Scripture itself : not hastily taking part against it (as so many do) on account of incidental or subordinate objections ; bat accepting it, in Christian duty, as it is, and abiding by it, until, after experiment of holy living, it shall be proved perilous, or at least inadequate, to the soul's welfare, according to the very terms of Scripture.
who see, intuitively, the fearful portion of the infidel, and are sure that he is wrong'; and who yet, in the midst of a perverse generation, may want sympathy, in secret, to justify their faith to their own judgments, as well as to their hearts. For they must not be uncandid and uncharitable to the unbeliever : this, they see, Lect. iii. . is at once laurtful to their own cause, and unavailing with him: yet, for various reasons, they cannot fully strive with him with his own wear pons; and he will not admit theirs. ... · God forbid I shonld be thought desirous either of 'suppressing, or of shunning, any right inquiry into the most momentous of all subjects! (though, undoubtedly, there are abstruser branches of that search, which but very few are competent to set in order properly :) I would only suggest a disposition, and a kind, of research, apparently more fit for the majority of those who seek to be true Christians; a disposition, not wảntonly bent to discover doubts, and by discussion to provoke difficulties; but to perceive and comprehend the truth, through a real desire of obtaining, and an expectation of finding it. - The proposition which will form the topic of the ensuing Lectures will be, in substance, this: that, "LOOKING AT THẾ RELIGION PROPOSED TO QUR ACCEPTANCE' IN HOLY SCRIPTURE, AS WE THERE' FIND IT; ACCEPTING IT, FIRST, BY THE
COURTESY OF GOOD WILL, AS TRUE, FOR THE VERY FACT'S SAKE, THAT IT IS PRESENTED TO US UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES AS IT IS ; AND WEIGHING ITS PRETENSIONS, NOT BY ANY CONFORMITY, OR NON-CONFORMITY, WITH PRECONCEIVED ABSTRACT PRINCIPLES, BUT BY ITS CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE ACTUAL PHENOMENA OF MORAL NATURE, AND WITH THE HISTORY OF MAN; THERE IS AN EVIDENCE OF TRUTH AND AUTHORITY IN HOLY WRIT ITSELF, WHICH WILL THEN CONSTRAIN US TO ABIDE BY IT: WHICH EVIDENCE IS TO BE SEEN IN ITS SUFFICIENT AND ADMIRABLE ADAPTATION TO ALL OUR WANTS AND WEAKNESSES, OUR HOPES AND DESIRES ; IN ITS COMPREHENSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN NATURE ; IN ITS INHERENT, ELASTIC, AND PERPETUAL APPLICABILITY TO ALL THE JUST DEMANDS OF MAN, THE CREATURE MADE SUBJECT TO ITS JURISDICTION, FOR EVER. · Such being the declared object of the Lectures, in order that we may not be supposed to proceed blindly, without respect of necessary conditions, let it be acknowledged, that such an argument (however plausible a case might be made out upon it) could not be admitted to avail at all, if it were not, beforehand, really the judgment of wise, and learned, and honest men, that external and historical proofs of Christianity have been abundantly and reasonably established. For though internal evidence may be and