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principles, do I think that there is the least reason to con-
clude, that (if we separate what belongs to the form, from
what is peculiar to the power of religion) their scheme has
any one proper advantage for religious and moral purposes.
On the other hand, it seems to me to be, in many respects,
unfavourable to the true spirit of christianity, or to that tem-
per and disposition of mind which is peculiarly called chrif-
tian; confisting, in a more especial manner, of the virtues
of humility, meekness, mercy, and benevolence. It is un-
favourable also to genuine piety, and indeed to every branch
of vital practical religion. I think I could point out the
cause of this, but it would lead me much farther than I
propose to enter into this subject at present.

If I be asked why those persons who hold these opinions
are not abandoned to all wickedness, when they evidently
Jay them under so little restraint, I answer, that this is often
the case, with those who pursue these principles to their just
and fatal consequences; for it is easy to prove, that the
Antinomian is the only consistent absolute Predestinarian. But
our wise creator has by no means left our moral conduct at
the mercy of our opinions; and the regard to virtue that is
kept up by those who maintain the doctrines above men-
tioned, is owing to the influence of some principles im-
planted in our frame ; which, in many cases, will not suffer
us to follow, or even to perceive, the immoral tendency of
the most licentious opinions; so that, in general, they are
only those who are previously depraved, that openly avail
themselves of them. The consideration of this should
make us both humble and thankful.

Besides, the opinions above recited are lo contrary to natural reason, and the general tenor of the scriptures, that better sentiments are continually obtruding themselves upon the mind; and these are the principles that, really, though secretly, influence the conduct of those who are truly pious and virtuous among Calvinists; and by no means the principles which they openly profess, when they are questioned about them: and it is happy that they do not distindly perceive

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the inconsistency there is between their principles and their conduct. We are, also, fo formed, that we naturally turn our chief attention to the most favourable aspect of our sentiments, as well as of every thing else belonging to us; so that we seldom attend to what is very shocking, and has a bad tendency in them.

It confirms this observation, that many of the more moderate Calvinists, as I am informed, and the greater part of the Methodists, feldom infift upon the doctrines of absolute election and reprobation, especially in their public discourses, This must be owing to their being secretly dissatisfied with them, to some latent suspicion, or confused kind of feeling that they are not to be depended upon; at least that they are not fit to be the subjects of frequent meditation with the bulk of mankind, and that they are in great danger of being abused. Mr. Venn himself, though he makes a great parade of, I believe, every other branch of what he calls orthodoxy, in his answer to my treatise, is quite filent on this head. If his good sense be really staggered at these do&rines, a little more thinking will give him reason to entertain suspicions of the rest: for the whole system is closely connected, and the doctrine of unconditional election, together with that of the subjection of the whole human race to the everlasting wrath of God, on account of original fin, are the chief corner stones of the whole building. Take away these, and the whole complex, but compact fabric, falls to the ground.

Difficult as it is to account for the virtue of those who call themselves orthodox on the principles mentioned above, they are such as themselves must necessarily allow: for they consider our sentiments as exceedingly licentious; and yet (whatever Mr. Venn may do) I know there are among them, who cannot help acknowledging, that there are genuine marks of unfeigned piety and goodness among those whom they call new schemers. To account for this fact, therefore, they must have recourse to the influence of principles that are not explicitly avowed by us, just as I do with respect to them.

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SECTION IV.

Of the Causes of Difference of Opinion, and the Reading of

the Scriptures recommended.

I

CANNOT help withing that persons of all fects and parties

would study their bibles more, and books of controversy less. But all persons have their favourite authors, to which they too much confine themselves, even to the neglect of those authorities, from their agreement with which all their merit is acknowledged to be derived. Were it not for this circumstance, it would be absolutely impossible that the individuals of mankind, whose intellects are so much alike, should differ so widely in their religious sentiments as they now do; at least that they should lay so great a itress on the points in which they differ.

Since the understandings of men are similar to one another (at least fo much, as that no person can seriously maintain that two and two make five) did they actually read only the same books, and had they no previous knowledge to mislead them, they could not but draw the fame general conclusions from the same expressions. But one man having formed an hypothesis from reading the scriptures, another, who follows hiin, studies that hypothesis, and refines upon it, and another again refines upon him; till, in time, the scriptures themselves are little read by any of them; and are never looked into but with minds prepossessed with the notions of others concerning them. At the same time, feveral other original readers and thinkers, having formed as many other hypotheses, each of them a little different from all the rest, and all of them being improved upon by a fuccession of partisans, each of whom contributes to widen the difference; at last no religions whatever, the most distinct originally, are more different from one another, than the various forms of one and the same religion.

To remedy this inconvenience, we must go back to first principles. We must begin again, each of us carefully

Rudying

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ftudying the scriptures for ourselves, without the help of commentators, comparing one part with another. And when our minds shall, by this means, have been exposed, for a sufficient time, to the same influences, we shall come to think and feel in the same manner. At least, all chrif. tians, being sensible that they have, in many, and in the chief respects, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, they will keep the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace.

In reading books of controversy, the particular texts, from which favourite opinions are chiefly inferred, are kept continually in view, while others are kept out of sight; so that the person who confines himself to the perusal of them, neceffarily forms a very wrong notion of the general tenor of the scriptures, and lays a disproportionate stress on particuJar opinions. He never looks into the scriptures, but it is with a state of mind that leads him to expect to find his opinions either clearly expressed, or plainly referred to, in every chapter. Now, it is well known, that all strong expectations tend to satisfy themselves. Men easily persuade themselves that they actually fee, what they have absolutely depended upon seeing.

Were it possible for a number of persons to make but an essay towards complying with this advice, by confining themselves, for the compass of a single year, to the daily reading of the scriptures only, without any other religious books whatever; I am persuaded that, notwithstanding their previous differences, they would think much better of one another than they had done before. They would all have, more nearly, the fame general ideas of the contents of scripture; and of the chief articles of christian faith and duty. By reading the whole themfelves, they could hardly avoid receiving the deepest impressions of the certainty, and importance of the great and leading principles, those which they would find the most frequently and earnestly inculcated; and their particular opinions, having come less frequently in view, would be less obstinately retained. It was in this. inanner, I can truly say, that I formed the most distinguish, ing of my opinions in religion.

I do

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I do not say that this practice would have the same effect with all persons. I have no hopes of its succeeding with those who are advanced in life. I would not even recommend it to them ; fince the consequence of unbinging their minds, though by a conversion from error to truth, might possibly do them more harm than good. Nor have I have much hope of those who are hackneyed in controversy, and to whom the methods of attack and defence, peculiar to any system, are become familiar. But I would earnestly recommend this method of studying the scriptures to young persons, before their common sense and natural feelings have been perverted; and while they are capable of understanding the obvious meaning of a plain expression.

In this case I cannot help thinking, that, notwithstanding the seeming force of the texts that are continually in the mouths of those who call themselves orthodox; and notwithstanding our present translation of the bible, which (being made by men who were fully persuaded of the truth of that fyftem) is, in many places, much too favourable to it; yet that both the general tenor of the whole (which, with a person who reads the scriptures much, cannot but have far greater weight than any particular texts whatever) and also that numbers of emphatical single passages, would effectually over-rule any tendency to that which is commonly called orthodoxy.

To mention a single instance. Would not a constant attention to the general strain in which Moses, all the antient prophets, John the Baptist, our Saviour, and the apostles, address finners, wear out, in time, every trace of the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation? The language in which the Divine Being is uniformly represented in speaking, is, As I live, faith the Lord, I would not the death of a sinner, but had rather that he would repent and live. Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die, oh house of Israel. What a folemn, and cruel mocking of mankind would this be, if the Divine Being, at the same time that he made this declaration, was purposed that many, if not the greatest part of them, should not repent, but die without mercy ?

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