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: The question then will be, ON WHAT PRINCIPLES such APOLOGY MUST BE FORMED ? A question the more important, because the apologies of all times have been too generally constructed on false and pernicious principles; on such as cannot support, but rather tend to weaken and disgrace, the very cause they would defend.
Such were the apologies, many times, of the ancient Christians, who would incorporate with the divine religion of Jesus the vain doctrines of the Gentile philosophy : and such have been too often the more modern apologies, which debase the word of God, and corrupt it, with the dreams of our presumptuous metaphysics.
Our Religion has suffered much in both these ways : not, that reason or philosophy of any kind, truly so called, can dis-serve the cause of a divine Religion ; but that we reason and philosophize falsely, or perversely; that is, we apply falshood to truth ; or, we misapply truth itself, in subjecting the incompréhensible mysteries of our faith to the scrutiny and minute discussion of our best reason.
From these miscarriages, we are admonished what to avoid ; the example of the Apostle Paul, who spake as to wise men, may instruct us in the right way of prosecuting the defence of the Gospel
From him, then, we learn to frame our answers and apologies to inquisitive men, on the great established truths of natural and revealed Religion; to assert the expediency of divine
l Revelation, from the acknowledged weakness and corruption of human nature, and from the moral attributes of the Deity; to illustrate the @conomy of God's dispensations to mankind by arguments taken from that æconomy itself; to reason with reverencel on the nature of those dispensations, to shew what their general scope and
purpose is, how perfect an agreement there is between them, and how divinely they are made to depend on each other.
In doing this, we shall find room for the exercise of our best and most approved reason: we shall look far ourselves, (and be able to let others) into the harmony of the divine councils, as they are set before us in the inspired volumes: and, though we may not penetrate
all the depths and obscurities of those councils, yet, as in contemplating the works of God, which we know but in part, we can demonstrate his eternal power and Godhead, so, in studying his WORD, we shall see enough of his unsearchable wisdom and goodness, to put to silence the ignorance of foolish, and to satisfy the inquiries of wise, men.
I say, to satisfy the inquiries of wise men: for wise men do not expect to have all difficulties in a divine system cleared up, and every minute question, which may be raised about it, answered (for this, God himself, the author and finisher of it, can only perform, and much less than this is abundantly sufficient for our purpose); but all they desire is to see the several parts of it so far cleared up, and made consistent with each other, and, upon the whole, to discover such evident marks of a superior wisdom, power, and goodness in the frame and texture of it, as may convince them that it is truly divine, and worthy of the Supreme Mind to whom we ascribe it.
When we speak thus as to wise men, we do all that wise inen can require of us: if others be still unsatisfied, the fault is in themselves; they are curious, but not wise.
I lay the greater stress on this mode of defending the Christian Religion from itself, that is, by arguments taken from its own nature and essence, because it shortens the dispute with inquirers, and secures the honour of that Religion, we undertake to defend.
First, It shortens the dispute with Inquirers, by cutting off the consideration of all those objections which men raise out of their own imaginations. The defender of Christianity is not concerned to obviate every idle fancy, that floats in the head of a visionary objector. Men have not the making of their Religion, but must take it for such as the Scriptures represent it to be. And if we defend it on the footing of such representation, we do all that can be reasonably required of us.
It is nothing to the purpose what men may imagine to themselves concerning the marks and characters of a divine Revelation: it is enough, that there are such marks and characters in the Religion of Jesus (whether more or fewer, whether the same or other, than we might previously have expected, is of no moment) as shew it, in all reasonable construction, to be divine. And thus our labour with Inquirers is much abridged, while all foreign and impertinent questions are rejected and laid aside. .
on ystem of nature. Want of
Next, this mode of defence secures the honour of that religion, we undertake to support. For, if we fail in our endeavours to unfold some parts of the Christian system, we are but in the condition of those, who would experimentally investigate and clear up some difficulties in care, or diligence, or sagacity, may subject both the Divine and the Philosopher to some mistakes : but either system is the same still, and lies open to the pains and attention of more successful inquirers. Nobody concludes that the system of nature is not divine, because this or that Philosopher has been led by hasty experiments to misconceive of it. And nobody should conclude otherwise of the Christian system, though the Divine should ers as much in his scriptural comments and explications. Whereas, when we attempt to vindicate Christianity on principles not clearly contained in the word of God, we act like those who form physical theories on principles which have no foundation in fuct. The consequence is, That not only the labour of each is lost, but the system. itself, which each would recommend, being hastily taken for what it is unskilfully represented to be, is vilified and disgraced. For thus the Christian system has in fact been reviled by such as have seen, or would only