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sumptive reasonings. When the question is, therefore, concerning the degree of religious knowledge, which such men as Cranmer and Ridley possessed, let it be remembered, “ 'That Erasmus (who lived and died before the English Reformation had made any considerable progress, and the benefit of all whose ligħt and knowledge those Reformers, therefore, had) that this learned man, I say, had, in those days, explained himself as reasonably, on almost every great topic of revealed religion, as any writer has since done, or is now able to do."
This fact, however, does not imply, that the age of the Reformation was equally enlightened with the present; or that the clearer light, we enjoy, is of no service to religion. Our improved CRITICISM has been of use in ascertaining the authority, and, sometimes, in clearing the smaller difficulties, of the sacred text; and our improved Philosophy has enabled many great men to set the evidences of revealed religion, in a juster and stronger light: but, with the doctrines themselves, our improvements, of whatever kind, have no con
Be our proficiency in human science what it may, those doctrines are the same still. Reason, under any degree of cultivation, may, if we please to misapply it, perplex and cor
rupt our faith ; but will never be able to see to the bottom of those judgments, which are. unsearchable, nor to clear
up which are past finding out d.
To conclude: I am not, now, making the panegyric of those venerable men, to whom we are indebted for our religious establishment, They were our inferiors, if you will, in many respects. But, if, measuring ourselves by ourselves, and comparing ourselves among ourselves, we overlook their real abilities and qualifications; if we pronounce them ignorant of good letters, because they lived in an age, which we have learned to call barbarous; and ignorant of the Christian religion, because they were not practised in our philosophy; we, probably, do THEM great injustice, and take, it may be, not the best method of doing honour to OURSELVES.
d Rom. xi. 33.
S E R M O N XIV,
PREACHED APRIL 27, 1766.
St. Mark, iv. 24.
St. LUKE, viii. 18.
says the Apostle, cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Goda. The assertion was strictly true in the early days of the Gospel, before books were yet written and spread abroad for the edification of the Church. The inlet of faith was, then, the ear : through that organ only was conveyed, from the tongue of the preacher, the word of God. But the case is much the same at all times; even now, when books are enough multiplied, and perhaps more than enough, in the Christian world. For, it having pleased God, that a standing ministry should be kept up for the instruction of mankind in the faith, and a woe being denounced against such, as have received this commission, and yet preach not the Gospel b, the sole way by which faith cometh to most men, and the principal, by which it cometh to almost all, is still that of hearing. It is still by the word preached, that men, in general, come to the faith of Christ, and are confirmed in the profession of it.
a Rom. x. 17.
Our Lord, then, foreseeing how much would depend on this faculty of hearing, and finding by experience how liable it was to be abused, thought fit to give his Disciples a particular, and what may almost seem a new, precept, for their conduct in this respect. The ancient masters of rhetoric, and of morals, had frequently warned their scholars to take heed what they speak : but our Divine Master carries his attention still farther; and while his ministers are required, to speak, as the oracles
b I Cor. ix. 16.
of God, the people are very properly instructed by him, to take heed what they hear.
Now, that this admonition may have its full effect, it will be proper to explain the reasons, on which it is founded; to lay before you
the several considerations which shew of what infinite concern it is to those, who hear the word, to be attentive in hearing.
And it naturally occurs, as the
I. First reason for this attention, that what is spoken, is delivered to them, as the word of God.
When a person in high place and authority thinks fit to honour us with a message, though it be in a matter of no great importance, with what submission is it received! How diligently do we listen to it! How circumspectly is every sentence, and even syllable, weighed! We do not stand to make exceptions to the messenger, who may have nothing in his own person to command our respect; we do not much consider the grace with which he delivers his message; we are not curious to observe in what choice or elegant terms it is expressed. We are only concerned to know, that the message