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words imply as much,) St. Paul considered his Colossian converts more particularly exposed, it may not import us at present to inquire. It is supposed to have been principally the heresy of the Gnostics, a sect of philosophers much opposed to the purity of Christian doctrine; mixing with Judaical observances the worldly maxims of Heathenism. Its professors, learned and subtle, were men of great pretence and promise: but being despisers of the simplicity of Gospel truth, failed those who sought from them true Christian instruction. St. Peter compares them to wells without water ; inviting the thirsty pilgriṁ of the Desert, only to disappoint him: to clouds, which for a time seem ready to refresh the arid land, but in the hour of greatest need are carried away by the tempest *.
Whatever might be the heresy to which St. Paul alluded, the warning can never want an application. There never was a period in the history of the Christian Church when its faithful members were not exposed to the dangers, against whichthe Colossians are here premonished :-when doctrines, vain and deceitful, under the enticing name of philosophy, did not threaten to spoil them (a term of extensive power *)—to carry them
* 2 Peter ii. 17.
away captive, and strip them of their Christian principles and hopes : substituting the maxims of human learning and worldly wisdom for the pure, and spiritual, and heavenly precepts of the Gospel of Christ.
To the doctrines of a Gospel, which humiliates in order to exalt'; which begins by pulling down the strong holds of error, in order to lay a sure foundation for truth; which must first cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, before it can open a way for the free entrance of divine instruction; which must bring every thought of the heart into captivity, before it can bend the stubborn will to the obedience of Christ ; there ever was, there ever will be, a spirit of opposition in the human breast. In the first age of Christianity. this spirit assumed the imposing name of philosophy,
* Βλέπετε, μή τις υμάς έσται ο συλαγωγών. Tanquam prædam abducens. , De militibus usurpatur, qui prædam agunt, et captivos in servitutem redigunt et abducunt. Schleusneri Lexicon.
a proud title, well calculated to strike with awe the unlearned and humble disciple of a crucified Master. In this our day when, by the happy improvement in the system of education, knowledge has become almost suddenly, as it were, diffused among mankind, to an extent hitherto unknown; the same spirit is at work, if under less assuming pretensions, with no less dangerous influence. If it do not, like the philosophy of the Freethinker, attack religion in open day, it is covertly undermining its foundation. Manifesting itself in less direct efforts, it has scarcely yet obtained an acknowledged title; but begins to assume that of Liberality: and under this specious name wins its way into the heart and best affections of the young, the inexperienced, and the unsuspecting. Nothing indeed can be more amiable and attractive than genuine liberality of mind : when it is indicated by an enlightened freedom from long cherished errors; by a sacrifice of deep-rooted prepossessions to enlarged principles of sound reason; and by a wish to allow and to cherish the same freedom in others : when it seeks truth for the sake of truth; and seeks it by the pure light of knowledge, and under the guidance of a free unbiassed judgment: but if it go further ; if it assume a right to sit in judgment on Scriptural truth; to scan the attributes and
purposes of God, by the fallacious rule of human opinion, rather than by the clear revelation of His word and will; if it disparage His sacraments, and derogate from His everlasting ordinances : it is, whether it take the name of philosophy or liberality, in either and in both cases, falsely so called.
Fixed, as our several ministrations wisely are, my reverend brethren, to an assigned district, small perhaps in itself, but amply sufficient for the entire occupation of the faithful pastor of his flock; and satisfied as we must be, that our duties are best fulfilled within the appointed limit, we cannot, even in our retirements, be ignorant that amidst the great changes which have of late years taken place, and are taking place in the secular concerns of the world, the spirit of which I have been speaking, has begun to speculate upon Religion; and to hold a language calculated to check our pastoral exertions, and to put to hazard our ministerial usefulness. It will not therefore, I trust, be foreign at least to one of the purposes of our present meeting, if
I take occasion to advert to a few points in which this liberal, or rather latitudinarian spirit shews itself: and at the same time briefly notice some of those duties, which the cause of Christian truth appears to me (I say it with all due deference,) more especially to demand of us, under the present circumstances of the world.
There are not wanting, even among persons of great acuteness of intellect, and of highly cultivated powers of ratiocination, men who professing themselves the zealous friends of what is called general education, yet with the pretext of an enlarged liberality of spirit, and under the plea of forbearing to prejudice the infant mind, seem to consider the fundamental doctrines of Christianity an unnecessary part of elementary instruction. Give to the young scholar, they say, in the years of his mind's greatest susceptibility, the rụdiments of art, and the elements of science: art is of no sect, and science of no party : but withhold the dogmas of religion, until the judgment shall have become mature; and then let his own discretion guide him in the choice of his creed : then let him determine for himself, what