תמונות בעמוד

On the other hand, there is hardly any branch of human knowledge, that can be learned to any good purpose, without some exertion of our intellectual powers; and therefore, we should not expect, that Divine truth shall be discovered without some vigorous exertions of our mental faculties. Many important discoveries in natural knowledge escaped the penetration of mankind for ages, which afterwards disclosed themselves to men of peculiar sagacity and diligence. In like manner, it may be the will of God, that many portions of the Divine word should be attended with peculiar difficulty, in order to exercise our faith and our perseverance. God is no more bound to instruct us in all the mysteries of religion, than in all the secrets of nature; but may leave both to our own investigation.

If these obscure points in Divine truth and hu. man science were indispensable, the one to salvation and the other to subsistence, it is plain, that the whole human race must have been long since involved in temporal and eternal death: and we have, therefore, the strongest reason to believe, that it is not the will of heaven, that this knowledge should be indispensable in one case more than in the other.

Still, many of those truths, both human and Divine, though not absolutely essential to this life or the life to come, may be exceedingly im. portant to both. We know, that the comfortsand powers of the human race have been prodigiously enlarged by many very late discoveries in the natural world; and we may hope, that by the indefatigable diligence now: exercised on the sacred book, great light may be thrown upon the scheme of redemption, and great help and encouragement afforded to the attainment of life eternal. It is plain, however, that, whatever good effects may result from the researches of wise and learned men, no advantage can possibly accrue from the ignorant, obstinate and uncharitable bigotry of the vulgar. While, therefore, we exercise that liberty of inquiring and judging, which every man claims for himself, let us allow the same privilege to our brethren. Let us beware of involving ourselves, with an uncharitable zeal, in doubtful disputations: and, having diligently searched the Scriptures, let us remember, that there are still secret things, which belong solely to the Lord our God. The first part, then, of the economy


grace consists of the particulars, which I have already mentioned, as very important and indispensably necessary to have taken place, but not at all necessary for us to know, believe, or form any opinion upon. The second consists of those doc. trines, which are clearly revealed, and are calculated to operate upon our minds; and of the precepts and moral instructions, which naturally result from and are enforced by them. These. are included in the next branch of the text. “ Those things, which are revealed, belong unto us and to our children for ever." Of these, the principal are the moral character of God, and his almighty power and universal presence and knowledge; the Divine mission and authority of our Lord; the immortality of the soul; a state of retribution, and the means of attaining to eternal life. These principles, as far as they are calculated to affect our minds and conduct, are perfectly intelligible; yet, if we reason upon them and inquire into particulars, we find them involved in mystery; and as soon as we find this, we should either give over the inquiry, and refer such curious questions to the former head of Divine secrets; or meditate upon them only as curious speculations, which we cannot expect fully to comprehend, and which were never intended to be articles of faith. But though we should rather avoid pursuing such investigations so far as to perplex our understandings, and spoil our tempers; yet it is our duty diligently to study those principles of Divine truth, which have been revealed for our edification, so as to derive from them all the benefit, that they are fitted to produce; and it must be the will of God, that we should believe them; for otherwise they cannot have any effect upon our tempers or conduct. We-should, therefore, meditate upon them with candid, pure and pious hearts; and pray to God for assistance and light to understand his will.

If, however, after a diligent and fervent application to the study of Divine truths, we should find ourselves incapable of comprehending or believing some principles of religion, we may indeed lament, that we are thus deprived of the benefit intended for us; but we need not fear the displeasure of God: for if it had been essential, that we should understand and believe these particular points of doctrine, he would have bestowed upon us the powers necessary for this purpose; whereas it is evident, that a great part of mankind are disqualified for comprehending or reasoning upon any abstruse or difficult questions in morals or religion; and, if the belief of such doctrines were indispensable to salvation, there would be “ few, indeed, that could be saved." God re. quires a willing mind, and a docile temper; but not a metaphysical head, nor an implicit, irrational faith, without understanding or knowledge; because such a faith could neither work by love nor be fruitful of good works; neither enlighten the mind, nor warm the heart, nor animate and regulate the conduct. It is not, however, necessary, that we should clearly see the effect, which a doctrine is likely to produce on our lives. If it be revealed, it is our duty to suppose, that there was good reason for revealing it; and that it is the will of God, that we should believe it. There are principles of religion, and also religious institutions and observances, which may be adapted to produce the most beneficial effects

on our minds, though we may no more see their tendency, than an infant can understand the use of the alphabet.

The third part of this concise and comprehensive text is, “ that we should do all the words of the law of God.” We are to leave secret things in his hands, because we cannot be guided or influenced by what we do not know: we are to study the things that are revealed, because they will enable, instruct and encourage us to obey the will of God. This is the end of revelation. We are not to indulge in mystical and fanatical notions, which can produce no good effect on our minds; nor are we to consider revealed truth, merely as a subject of barren faith and airy speculation, but as the mean, help and support of piety and virtue. What imports implicit faith in a form of words, that we do not understand, and that have no meaning to us? What signifies all the knowledge that we are capable of acquiring, or even receiving? It is but the rudiments, the first elements of spiritual wisdom, tinctured too with the grössest ignorance and error. What do all these pretensions avail, merely as intellectual acquirements? Nothing without charity: love to God and love to man. The meanest of a superior order of beings may smile, with pity or contempt, on the absurd mistakes and fanciful conjectures of the wisest and most learned among us; and may justly deride our vanity and spiritual

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