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to make of this circumstance; one thing, I suppose, is clear, “ That the genius of the
Gospel does, in fact, discountenance their “ high demands of evidence.” So that, taking the Christian religion for what it is (and for such only, the rules of good reasoning oblige us to take it) it is very certain that no man is authorized to expect other or stronger proofs of its divinity than have been given. On the contrary, such proofs, as men account stronger, could only serve to weaken its evidence, and overthrow its pretensions.
III. Lastly, Though no distinct reason could have been opposed to these high expectations in religion, yet common sense would have seen, “That they are, in general, PRESUMPTUOUS
For what man, that thinks at all, but musť acknowledge that sacred truth, that God's ways are not as our ways; and that it is the height of mortal folly to prescribe to the Almighty? What man is he that can know the council of God ? Or, who can think what the will of the Lord is ?-Hardly do we guess aright at things that are upon the earth, and with labour do we find the things that are before us : but the things that are in heaven who hath searched out o?
* Isaiah lv. 8.
Such passages as these have, I know, been sometimes brought to insult and disgrace REAson, when employed the most soberly, and in her proper office. But I quote them for no such purpose. I mean not to infer from these testimonies, that we are not competent judges of the evidence which is laid before us (for why, then, was it offered ?); but, that reason cannot tell us, what evidence it was fit for Heaven to give of its own councils and revelations. We may conjecture, modestly conjecture, without blame. Nay the wisest and best men, and even angels themselves, have a reasonable desire to look into these things: and their speculations, if duly governed, are, no doubt, commendable and useful. But we are not, upon this pretence, to dogmatize on such matters. Much less, may. we take upon us to reject a well-attested Revelation, a Revelation, that bears many characteristic marks, many illustrious signatures and impresses of divinity, because this or that circumstance, attending it, does not accord to our narrow views and shal
low surmises. In short, men would do well to remember that it is no less a maxim of reason than of Scripture, that the things of God, knoweth no man but the Spirit of Godr : a maxim, we should never lose sight of, a moment, in our religious inquiries,
But this, though an important consideration, is a common one, and I pursue it no farther. Let it suffice to have shewn, “ That when, in matters of religion, men indulge themselves in fancying what evidence would have been most convincing to them, and then erect such fancies into expectations, they are, at best, employed very idly:"
“That the worthiest apprehensions, we can frame of the divine wisdom, and both the genius and letter of the Christian religion, discountenance these expectations, as improper and unreasonable to be complied with :"
And, “that, from the slightest acquaintance with ourselves, we must needs confess them to be presumptuous.”
The use to be made of the whole is, that men think soberly, as they ought to thinks ; and that, if ever their restless curiosity, or some worse principle, impells them to make the demand in the text, shew us the Father, they repress the rising folly by this just reflexion, that they have no right, in their sense of the word, to see the Father.
I Į Cor. ü. 11.
s Rom. xii. 3.
Not but his infinite goodness hath vouchsafed to unveil himself so far, as is abundantly sufficient to our conviction. But then we must be content to see him in that light, in which he has been graciously pleased to shew himself, not in that unapproachable light t in which our madness requires to have him shewn to
The evidences of Christianity are not dispensed with a penurious hand : but they lie dispersed in a very wide compass. They result from an infinite number of considerations, each of which has its weight, and all together such moment, as may be, but is not easily resisted. To collect and estimate these, much labour and patience is to be endured; great parts of learning and genius are required; above all, an upright and pure mind is demanded. If, conscious of our little worth or ability, we find ourselves not equal to this task, let us adore in silence, and with that humility which becomes us, To call out for light, when we have enough to serve our purpose, is indeed foolish; but to make this noisy demand, when we have previously blinded our eyes, or have resolved to keep them shut, is something more than folly.
t Φως απρόσιτον. 1 Τim, vi. 16.
After all, there is one way, in which the meanest of us may be indulged in the high privilege of SEEING the Father, at least, in the express image of his Son. It is, by keeping the commandments. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, says our Lord himself, I will love him, and will MANIFEST myself to him w. In other words, he will see and acknowledge the truth of our divine religion.
w John xiv. 22.