« הקודםהמשך »
random truths, not digested into order, nor supported on each side by those other truths with which they are closely connected, they are easily withdrawn again and lost. To give truth a solid and lasting establishment, it must be fixed on its first principles as on a basis of adamant ; truth must rise upon truth in due proportion and order, and all the parts must be strongly united. Against a mind thus prepared, the seducer will in vain waste his feeble efforts. The mind where truth resides is free from the power of delusion. And even 'such as have been enslaved by error, will at the approach of truth, feel their chains fall off as at the bidding of an angel.
I have been encouraged by considerations like these, to lay before the public a plain account of faith, hoping thereby to do more effectual service against enthusiasm, than by a direct attempt to refute its various errors.
Much hath been said on the subject of faith, and excellently said, by our most eminent Divines. But I do not recollect that they have any where left us a regular Theory of faith, describing its nature, its genuine powers and effects ; defining its boundaries, and tracing as it proceeds, the line which every where divides it from the bordering enthusiasm. This hath been attempted in the following sheets, in as brief a manner as the copiousness and importance of the subject would allow. I have not entered into a consideration of those single texts of scripture which the enthusiast is eternally misapplying, but have attempted rather to build my doctrines on the general scope and design of the gospel. He who can once seize the true spirit and design of the gospel, will be the best prepared to understand the meaning of particular passages. And though this method does not fur
nish an answer to every single difficulty that may arise, yet it enables the intelligent reader to answer them for himself, by supplying him with those principles of truth, which will by degrees enlarge and fill his mind, and give it an internal strength that will enable it of itself successfully to contend with error.
I have endeavored herein to imitate the skilful physician, who, to cure disorders in the extremities of the body, begins at the heart. He infuses the balsam into the vital stream, and the mass of the blood being once purified, carries as it circulates its healing virtues into the smallest vessels, and removes obstructions in the extremost capillary tubes.
It is proper to inform the reader, that this Essay is the substance of a course of sermons preached before the University of Oxford. This information is necessary, in order to give an appearance of propriety to one 01 two passages which have been retained, and which are addressed more particularly to our established seats of learning
ESSAY ON FAITH,
HAT must I do to be saved ?" How
important is this question, and how much doth it concern us to understand it clearly ! And fain would the serious inquirer flatter himself, that it cannot be difficult to obtain a full and satisfactory solution of it, in a land where the light of the gospel is permitted to shine without obstruction, and where the word of life is freely laid open to every eye.
PROVIDENCE hath generally made truths clear as they are important. And accordingly more hath been done to illustrate this question future ages
other that can be proposed. To clear up this inquiry, it was that the Son of God himself came down on earth, and left behind him the sacred records of his will to guide all
in the way of peace. Yet, alas! though the world hath now been in possession of this great discovery for more than seventeen centuries, when we look round on the various and inconsistent opinions which are still maintained concerning this great point, one would almost be tempted to think that the heavenly truth had never yet been unveiled to human eye, but was still surrounded with impenetrable darkness. Propose this question to different men amongst us, who all pretend to fetch their information from the scriptures, and one will affirm that you may be saved by faith alone; another will say, that it is necessary to add to your faith virtue; a third will assure you, that you may be saved without any endeavors of your own, that is, in effect, without either faith or virtue ; that we are entirely passive in the business of our salvation, and have only to wait for the impressions of the Holy Spirit upon our minds; though the question itself supposeth that something must be done by ourselves, in order to our being sav. ed. " What must I DO to be saved ?"
How painful must it be to every well-wisher of mankind, to reflect how widely some must err in a matter where all are equally concerned to think right. But on the other hand, how pleasing to a benevolent mind must be the at
tempt, to guide the unhappy wanderers back to the saving truth which they have lost !
That these different opinions however do not arise from any want of clearness in the Revelation itself, will be readily granted on all hands. No words can represent truth so clearly as to secure it from all possibility of misrepresentation or mistake. Prejudice and passion often form so thick a cloud about the mind, as not to give admission even to the strongest ray of truth,
There is besides a singularity in the conduct of Revelation, which, at the same time that it is a proof of wisdom, and a character of divinity, doth casually leave room for the seducer to build his pernicious designs upon, and gives some appearance of solidity even to the visions of enthusiasm.
Revelation was intended for the use of all mankind. The book therefore in which it is recorded, is a popular work. The rules of faith and practice are delivered in such a manner as to be clear to the plain and untutored mind, without observing always a metaphysical precision, or pursuing a logical method. Those books of morality and religion which have been composed by the greatest understandings merely human, are studiously worked up into a regular system'; where principles are laid down, remote consequences deduced from them, truths built upon truths, and where we are at first sight struck with the just dispo. sition of the parts, and the symmetry of the