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tages. If your ministers can discover the truth, they have no temptation to conceal or pervert it; and you are equally free to adopt their sentiments, if they can convince you of their truth. They are not obliged to conform to an antiquated standard ; neither do you expect them to flatter your preju. dices. You choose them as instructors of all, and not as organs of the prejudices of the majority. Neither party is subject to any human control; and both have the free use of Scripture. We inherit no creed of human composition, and entail none on our posterity. We can all worship in spirit and from the heart, in truth and sincerity, and speak our sentiments without prevarication or reserve. We are neither fond of novelty, nor afraid of innovation: neither pledged to the support of established error, nor fearful of stumbling on some heretical truth. For my own part, I am more afraid of sin. gularity, than ambitious of originality. I have always felt a dread of dealing out my own crude conceptions for your spiritual nourishment; and have preferred food, that had been well concocted by more skilful hands; diluted with “ the pure milk of the word,” “and seasoned with salt.” Having, however, freely exercised my privilege of selection, this volume is not composed on the plan of any prior system. It is consistent only with itself and the Gospel.
The Antitrinitarian and Arminian doctrines recommended in these sermons are the same, that were formerly inculcated by those eminent ministers, Haliday and my Grandfather, Drennan and Brown, Mackay and Crombie; and lastly, hy myself and my son, with such variations as must be expected in men, neither shackled by subscriptions, nor guided by formularies. Of the principles of older ministers, Kirkpatrick, M‘Bride and Adair, all distinguished men in their day, and their predecessors, I am not competent to speak with preci. sion. With similar allowance, they have been maintained by the Presbytery of Antrim, for the same period; and have long prevailed in the Synod of Munster, and among the Presbyterians of England, though, in that country, lately mingled
with Socinianism.* They are making extensive, though silent progress through the General Synod of Ulster.t They have been gaining ground in Geneva, the birth place of Cal. vinism, since the commencement of the last century, and have now obtained the ascendency. They are widely diffused through the academies and congregations of the French Protestants, the Dutch churches, the north of Europe, and the United States of America.
The instructions of your teachers have, at all times, been combined with the principles of civil and religious liberty, and the rights of free inquiry and private judgment. Civil freedom is the parent and nurse of religious liberty, and is maintained and defended by her in return. Freedom of inquiry, and the privilege of private judgment, are the parents and guardians of Protestantism. Protestant establishments correct and restrain papal influence and power;
* I am far from using Socinianism in an offensive sense. I adopt it as the only term, that discriminates between those, who deny the pre-existence of Christ, and other Unitarians. It has no reference to the other doctrines of Socinus, which are little known to the public. I am content to be called an Arian; though I may differ from Arius; and I object to calling the Humani. tarians, Unitarians simply; because I also am an Unitarian, but not of their sect; on the same principle, that I object to the common practice of appropriating the title of Protestant to the Episcopal church. Unitarian has a disingenuous appearance, implying a wish to include Arians against their will, in order to swell the number of Humanitarians. This last term is even more exceptionable than Socinian, having been formerly applied to the Anthropomorphites. It would be more noble to bring a disreputable name into repute by their learning and piety, as the Quakers have done. Some suppose, that the disciples at Antioch were denominated Christians, by way of reproach, as the disciples of one Christ, who had been crucified. Both have become ho. nourable appellations. I had occasion to explain myself on the subject of this Note in the Monthly Repository, vol. viii. p. 515.
+ This has been clearly evinced, since the publication of the First Edition. The Synod has set a noble example to other ecclesiastical bodies, by leaving subscription to the Westminster Confession optional. They have thus broken down the wall of partition between them and the Presbytery of Antrim, and vindicated the wisdom and piety of our ancestors.
and Dissenters enlighten and check the establishment. The philosophical Christian imbibes zeal from the enthusiast; and the fanatic is moderated by the rational believer. The sceptic becomes the voluntary cause of certainty; and the infidel, an unconscious instrument in confirming and purifying faith. The austerity of a sect may retard the precipitancy of a dissolute age; the learning and liberality of the age may infuse a portion of good sense and good nature into the sect; and a bigoted partiality for ancient systems in one party, may counteract, and be counteracted by an inconsiderate love of novel.. ty in another. All work together for good. In this chain you are an important link. In this spiritual warfare you occupy a strong post. Defend it with vigour and fidelity, neither dazzled with the glare of fashion, nor bribed by the mammon of unrighteousness; neither soured by bigotry, nor bewildered by fanaticism.
You have now my sentiments on natural religion, in my Treatise on the Being and Attributes of God; my opinions on Christian Doctrine, in these sermons; and my thoughts on Church Government, in the Appendix to Towgood's Dissent. ing Gentleman's Letters ;* a book that should occupy a con. spicuous place in the house of every Dissenter. That God
enable you to give a good account of your talents, to persevere in what is right, and improve in what is good, is the sincere and fervent
WILLIAM BRUCE. Belfast, March 17, 1824.
* Newry Edition, 1816.
ON THE STUDY OF THE BIBLE.
Ezra, the Priest, brought the Law before the Congregation, both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, and read therein from morning until mid-day.”
WHEN we are convinced, that the Holy Scriptures contain a Revelation of the will of God, the duty and advantage of reading thein are points, on which, though it cannot be necessary, it may yet be profitable to enlarge. You all know, how forcibly this obligation was impressed on the Jews, and with what perseverance they discharged it. Their kings were bound to transcribe the law with their own hands; and David made it his delight, and meditated on it day and night. On the people this duty was inculcated in such strong expressions as these: “Thou shalt bind the words of the law upon thy hands; and
they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes; and thou shalt write them on the posts of thy house, and on thy gates;" so that some thought it necessary to make these texts, in particular, parts of their personal ornaments. They were also commanded “to have the law in their mouths and in their hearts; to teach it diligently to their children, and to talk of it, as they sat in the house, or walked by the way; when they rose, and when they went to rest.”
That these injunctions extend to Christians, can hardly be doubted by any among you. Our Saviour ascribes the errors of the Jews to igno. rance of their Scriptures; and appeals to them for evidence of his divine authority. The Bereans were applauded for “ searching the Scriptures daily:" Apollos is celebrated as a “man mighty in the Scriptures:" and St. Paul reminds his disciple Timothy, that “from a child he had known the Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation."
From this, however, it does not follow, that every part of the Bible is equally edifying; or, that it is incumbent on Christians to be equally conversant with it all. With respect to the Jews, indeed, the rule hardly admitted of any exception; for it was indispensable with them to be intimately acquainted with the history of their nation, their constitution of government and their religion, which were so interwoven, that they