페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

godliness; and consequently their search will be, if they search at all, after those principles which are most indulgent to the ways they like. Thus infidel principles are embraced by many, in order to obtain a quieter retreat from the reproaches of truth, the light of which they cannot or will not endure, because they are determined to make no costly sacrifices, to renounce no carnal indulgences: they resolve in short, to retain the cargo, falsely valued by deceitful fancy, at the hazard of shipwreck: for them to receive gospel truth, would be to entertain that by which they are reproved and condemned. The characters just noticed exhibit, it is true, an extreme case: but the same considerations are applicable to many others who do not depart from truth to the same excess. Though denying the power of godliness, many retain the form of it from political or self-interested 'motives. They will be friendly to religion as long as religion subserves their particular purposes; but were it not regarded as an useful auxiliary, its intrinsic worth they would despise. In short, he who has most personal and practical religion, in the scriptural acceptation of the term, is the most likely, other things being equal, to arrive at the knowledge of the whole truth, as it is in Jesus, because he has the fewest prejudices and hindrances to overcome.

[ocr errors]

$ 12. In the second place, cultivate Christian candour. An enquirer after truth, (and the same is applicable to a controvertist,) if he would prove successful, should be candid, open and ingenuous. No concealments of the force of an objection, no evasion, no caricatures. Every thing of this sort is mean and despicable. Recollect that the contest should be for truth, and not for superiority of skill. If consequences are deduced, let them be deduced honestly: if accusations are preferred, let them be substantiated. It discovers a total absence of generosity to make a man an offender for a word, when that word is no fair exponent of his real sentiments, - designedly to interpret an expression in a sense disapproved by him who employs it. Christian candour implies tenderness and sincere good will even towards those who treat our sentiments with contumely and defiance. Though firm in advancing an argument when that argument appears to be conclusive, it is very far from dogmatizing without proof. Its prevailing desire is, that unadulterated truth may prevail, that God may be glorified among men, and that their immortal welfare may be promoted. It inculcates a humble and cheerful readiness to receive more light, and mingles prayers and devout aspirations for the spread of pure and undefiled religion.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

§ 13. Christian candour, moreover, is utterly averse from crafty and politic manæuvres; it disdains to excite unfounded prejudices, nor will it implant a sting in the innocent by deciding on characters and sects in the mass. If conscious of superior evidence, it vaunteth not itself, nor behaveth itself unseemly. Though it censures real faults, it acknowledges all excellencies, and wherever found, with gladness. It pours a tear over erring humanity, and while it admires the patience of heaven in bearing with its perversities, earnestly endeavours to imitate an example so exalted. Depraved and erroneous as men are, it is willing, like charity, to hope the best of all parties. It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Such is Christian candour. May the writer and the reader of these remarks, anxiously covet a larger portion of it!

§ 14. In the third place, forbear to systematize without extensive information. Many detached parts of scripture are plain. The well-disposed, without much controversial knowledge or skill in discriminating abstracted truths, may become wise unto piety and salvation. But there is no small danger in attempting to systematize on contracted or on false principles. To justify an endeavour to generalize. detached sentiments, the subject should be viewed on all sides, in all its relations and connections, its antecedents and consequences, its causes and effects. As one part of a religious system should not oppose another, so no part should oppose the sacred oracles. A theological theory which depends in a great measure on mere verbal criticisms for support, deservedly excites our suspicion. It is better to abide by the facts, the histories, the doctrines, and duties of religion, as plainly revealed, without attempting a reconciliation of difficulties, or stating a systematic view of the whole, than to adopt for this purpose vague hypotheses incapable of proof, or uncertain conjectures, the pabulum of scepticism. Men may be good and useful Christians though not versed in systems of divinity, and though destitute of a deep and critical knowledge of many particulars; but in order to correct the systems of others, these ought to be thoroughly known on the points of difference;--and when an unfair statement of them is made, it follows as a plain inference, that this must be owing either to the want of information, or of candour. Before we blame, let us be well informed.

[ocr errors]

§ 15. In the fourth place, enquire after truth and growing knowledge with a devotional teniper. An undevout enquirer is almost sure

of being disappointed, because he neglects the source of wisdom. True devotion calms the passions, and improves our love of truth. Connecting every object and event with God, as either appointing or permitting it, it is more likely to lead the mind to view every part of truth or of error in its proper cause. The devout mind has unfeigned pleasure in the divine will, and prevailing desires to know it more fully; and therefore (cæteris paribus) there is greater probability of success. And it is worthy of observation, that the most useful men in the church of Christ hare been eminent for piety and a devotional spirit. But real devotion is not confined to set times and forms; the subject of it prays without ceasing, and evermore gives thanks to the Father of mercies. place and at all seasons, he lifts up his heart to heaven, without wrath or doubting. The word of God is the treasury from whence he draws instruction; but he looks up for the Spirit of Wisdom, that he may have an accurate conception of every part, not neglecting the subordinate helps which are placed within his reach. This method, pursued with diligence, will “give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion;" and will prepare him “ to understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark

In every

« 이전계속 »