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pride; our dogmatical ignorance and uncharitable bigotry; "for now we see through a glass darkly, but hereafter we shall see face to face: now we know in part, but then, we shall know, even as we shall be known.” Now we plume ourselves on understanding all mysteries and all knowledge; then we shall know, that we are ignorant and blind, and that the greatest of all the spiritual graces is Charity.
I beseech you, therefore, brethren, to rest satisfied with “ those things, which are revealed.”. Let not your attention to that word, " which is able to save your souls," be distracted by unprofitable speculations: nor your tempers soured by a peevish and arrogant imposition of your sentiments upon others; thus blasting the fruits of genuine religion by bigotry and uncharitableness; abandoning real knowledge for fanciful acquirements; and forgetting the first principles of righteousness, while you endeavour to be religious over much.
Leaving, therefore, secret things to God, and diligently studying those Divine truths, which are revealed for our edification, may we learn to obey the Divine law, and to grow in grace and in the knowledge and obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
OUR SAVIOUR'S DOCTRINE CONCERNING GOD.
EPHESIANS iv.-6. “One God and Father of all: who is above all, and
through all, and in you all."
soon as man was capable of reflecting on his own nature and situation, he must have perceived, that there is a God, some Being superior to himself and his fellow mortals. When he looked abroad into the world, he must have been satisfied, that the magnificence, order and beauty of the Universe, were the effects of consummate wisdom and power.
When he surveyed the living creatures around him, and contemplated the provision made for their subsistence and comfort, he must have been sensible, that this superior Being is bountiful and kind. As his experience and reflecting powers increased, his conviction of these truths would be strengthened; till he acquired the idea of an invisible power,
supremely mighty, benevolent and wise. A more comprehensive view of the creation and the harmonious correspondence of its parts might naturally lead to a belief, that the whole was the production of one Being, assisted, perhaps, by subordinate agents. This last idea unhappily took such strong possession of the minds of men, as to give rise to the various systems of idolatry, which prevailed throughout the Heathen world, and still maintains its ground over a large portion of the globe. From these errors, the Jewish nation alone was exempted; and that, only by a Divine revelation. By such observations and reflections, the mind of man might have attained a conception of the Divine Being, and of our relation and duties to Him, sufficiently sublime and edifying; and there are not wanting instances of men, who so far availed themselves of the light of nature, as, in a great degree, to fulfil these expectations.
When the human intellect had arrived at greates maturity, it perceived, that there was still something wanting in its idea of the Deity. Though a knowledge of creation was well calculated to excite devotion, and to lay a solid foundation for piety, the visible universe was bounded: the presence and operations of the Divinity might be limited: there might be other Gods in distant spheres. In short, the attributes of eternity, infinity, immensity, and absolute perfection, did not actually and necessarily result froin the works
of creation, which are finite. By these considerations thoughtful men were led to inquire, whether these properties might be ascertained by abstract principles; whether there were, in the human mind itself, the means of demonstrating the unity of the Supreme Being, and the unbounded extent of all his attributes, natural and moral. In this, also, I think they have succeeded to the satisfaction of every reasonable man, who is capable of following them through these sublime speculations.
After all, there is reason to suppose, that, in this important branch of knowledge, mankind were not entirely abandoned to their own conjectures ; and that it was not left to chance, whether they should ever discover the origin of their existence, and recognise the author of their being. It is reasonable to imagine, that the original pair, and their immediate descendants, were not left ignorant of truths, which were essential to their answering the purposes of their creation.
Agreeably to this, we are assured by the uniform testimony of history, sacred and profane, that no portion of mankind has, at any time, been wholly ignorant of this truth. The active curiosity of the present age has incited men of great abilities, knowledge and enterprise, to penetrate into regions heretofore unexplored; and the
religious opinions of the inhabitants have been a principal object of their inquiries; yet it has not hitherto been clearly ascertained, that any tribe of men are totally ignorant of the existence of God. In any doubtful case, it is reasonable to suspect, that our pre-conceived opinions may defeat our inquiries; that men, habituated to the solemnities and doctrines of revealed religion, may be incompetent judges of the manners and sentiments of savages, to whose language they are strangers; or that the original tradition may, in some one instance, be lost.
It is even probable, that no individual ever remained in a permanent state of doubt concerning this fundamental point. Of those, who have been reckoned in the class of Atheists, many did, in reality, acknowledge the existence, and only questioned the providence of God. Others fell under this suspicion, for having more enlightened ideas on the subject, than were usual among their contemporaries. Of the rest, some wrote under the influence of passions not favourable to the discovery of truth, or affected the reputation of singularity: and it is likely, that none of them could retain their persuasion for a longer time, than while their minds were so occupied by their sophistical speculations, as to exclude every other consideration.
. This, however, is a matter of little importance: their number is not worthy to