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learning into the science of theology. And to this ill-judged mixture of Heathenish and Christian ideas, the truth and simplicity of the Sacred Writings had well nigh fallen a sacrifice. It is to be lamented, that such is the condition of even the best things below, that we could not have the use in this case, where it was so much wanted, and where it may always be most profitably employed, without having to deprecate the abuse.

From this first state of degeneracy the science of Divinity was not recovered, when the barbarous ignorance, which followed the desolating footsteps of the Northern invaders, put a fatal stop to the progress of all intellectual improvement. The dark night of bigotry and superstition, at length giving place to the returning dawn of enlightened reason, this divine science emerging from her long state of cloistered concealment, gradually shook off the unintelligible jargon of the schools, and once more presented an object worthy the attention of rational minds.

The

The seventeenth century bore witness to such a rapid progress of the human understanding, as no preceding age had experienced. Human reason, by a more than ordinary exertion, seemed desirous of redeeming the time she had lost. The science of divinity could not fail to reap advantage from the increasing knowledge of an improving age: and was manifestly travelling back towards that state of primitive perfection, from which it had long since departed. But as evil sometimes arises out of good, so it may be questioned, whether the same reasons which confessedly contributed to the revival and reestablishment of true divinity, have not since proved instrumental to its corruption.

Human reason, it should seem, had not long been restored to the full exercise of her just rights, before she discovered the same disposition which had been manifested in Paradise, to set aside the letter of Revelation, and to bring all spiritual subjects under her own immediate jurisdiction. Human learning at the same time making hasty advances towards the supposed ze

nith of its perfection, Divines, in compliance with the prevailing taste, had recourse to it; instead of applying, as they ought to have done, to the Oracles of God for assistance. Thus human learning and human reasoning, grafting themselves on the old and decaying stock of divine knowledge, produced in time, a system of such a mixed and heterogeneous quality, as bore too imperfect a resemblance to the simple and substantial character of primitive divinity, to be acknowledged for its genuine descendant. When in compliment perhaps to a learned age, the Christian

, minister classed himself with the unenlightened sage of antiquity, and conde

, scended to draw arguments on the subject of his profession, from the impure fountain of heathen philosophy; it is not to be wondered at, that natural religion, that base born child of the human imagination, should take advantage of the ground on which it was imprudently placed; and having first claimed precedence of divine Revelation, should by degrees gain a firm establishment at the expence of its utter rejection.

This fatal consequence of an undue mixture of sacred and profane knowledge, sound divinity has to put in the balance against the benefit she derived from the change of dress, in which an improving age had clothed her. • They who have attended to the state of this science, in its different stages of progression, will best determine what comparison the polished systems of some modern divines will bear with the simple, less adorned, and less sophisticated productions of a preceding age. And should it be found, that refinement and paradox have not unfrequently occupied the place of sound criticism; they need not hesitate to pronounce, that the present age is, in some respects at least, gone backwards in the study of the most important of all sciences; and that instead of knowing more, we for the most part know perhaps much less than the generality of those, whom we affect so lightly to esteem.

The fallibility of ancient Commentators, discoverable in some instances, no sooner became the subject of remark, than the human mind, as if possessed of a general distrust of antiquity, seemed prepared to receive any interpretation that had novelty and ingenuity to recommend it. A field being thus opened for the boundless exertion of literary abilities, and the specious display of fanciful interpretations, it has sometimes happened, that, in a rage for improvement, old things have been hastily rejected before they have been thoroughly understood, and before the value of the new ones, substituted in their stead, has been duly ascertained.

distrust tended

Of the ancient Commentators in general it may be said, that in their interpretations of Scripture, they looked no farther than to the obvious sense of the passage under consideration. It would have been as well, perhaps, if modern Commentators had for the most part followed their example; or at least had not overlooked the obvious sense, through eagerness to discern latent meanings. The science of Divinity, we may venture to say, would have suffered less from the want of originality in the writings of its Professors, than it has from the fanciful speculations and specious improvements of its pre

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