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body of which he is a member, I transcribe it for insertion in the Panoplist. C. Y. A. The Solicitor General, in continuation, observed, that,
"When he looked to the man at the head of the French Monar chy, surrounded as he was with all the pomp of power, and all the pride of victory, distributing kingdoms to his family, and principalities to his followers, seeming when he sat on his throne to have reached the summit of human ambition, and the pinnacle of earthly happiness, and he followed that man into his closet or to his bed, and considered the pangs with which his breast must be tortured, and his repose banished by the recollection of the blood he had spilled, and the oppressions he had committed; and when he compared with those pangs of remorse, the feelings which must accompany his honourable friend (Mr. Wilberforce) from that house to his home, after the vote of this house shall have confirmed the object of his humane and unceasing labours; when he should retire into the bosom of his happy and delighted family, when he should lay himself down on his bed, reflecting on the innumerable voices that would be raised in every quarter of the world to bless him, how much more pure and perfect felicity must he enjoy in the consciousness of having preserved so many nations of his fellow creatures, than the man with whom he had compared him, on the throne to which he had waded through slaughter and oppression."
The feelings of the house were so much in unison with
FROM the creeds and confessions adopted, and afterward frequently confirmed, by the fathers of New England, assem-. bled in Synods, we learn what were the essential articles of their religious faith. We find them summed up in the Westminister Confession of faith, and in that well known "form of sound words," the Assembly's Shorter Catechism.
I am aware, that it will be objected that creeds and confessions are unfriendly to the cause of truth, that they fetter the mind, prevent free inquiry, and foster bigotry. An abuse of them, I admit, may produce such effects, as the best things are liable to be perverted to a bad use; but we deny that these are their natural and legitimate effects. The opinion of the venerable Synods, who adopted these confessions, I apprehend, will be deemed by serious minds the correct opinion on this subject.
"It must needs tend much to the honour of the blessed name of the Lord Jesus Christ," say the members of the Synod who first adopted the Westminster
Confession, when many church- confession, and found the same
es join together in their testimony for the truth. The Lord hath signally owned the Confessions of the four first general Councils, for the suppression of heresies in primitive times. The Confessions of the Bohemians, Waldenses, and other Protestant reformed churches, have been of singular use not only to those who then lived, but also to posterity, even to the present day. It must needs be a work pleasing to God, for his servants to declare to the world, what those principles of truth are, which they have received, and purpose to live and die in the profession of. Nor are they worthy the name of Christians, who refuse to declare what they believe." They conclude in these prophetic words: "What hours of temptation may overtake these churches is not for us to say; only the Lord doth sometimes so order things, that when his people have made a good confession, they shall be put upon the trial some way or other concerning their sincerity in it. The Lord grant that the loins of our minds may be so girt about with truth, that we may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all to stand."
The synod of Connecticut, in 1708, declare their opinion of the nature and importance of confessions of faith, in the following words: "This confession we offer, as our firm persuasion, well and truly grounded on the word of God, and commend the same to the people of the colony, to be examined, accepted and constantly maintained. Having applied the rules of holy scripture to the articles of this Vol. III. No. 2.
to be the eternal truths of God, we recommend them (as such) to the people to remember them, and to hold them fast, and to contend for them, as containing the faith once delivered to the saints; to value them, as their great charter and instrument of their salvation; to maintain them all their days with undaunted resolution, and to transmit them safe and pure to their posterity."
It is proper here to remark, to prevent misconception and misrepresentation, that the learn ed and pious compilers of these confessions did not undertake to make a religion, but only to declare what were their views of that religion revealed in the word of God. Nor did they intend that their faith should be the ground or standard of the faith of those who should come after them; but they resolved all into the authority of God, speaking in his holy word. This word, not their confessions, was the standard of their faith, as it is of ours. Their confessions contained the doctrines which they received from this holy book. We bring them as evi dences, that our understanding of the scriptures is consonant to that of the great body of Christians, in all former ages. We appeal to them not as authorities, but as witnesses.
I anticipate another objection. It may be said; "The religion of our fathers, and of the ancient Christians, was well enough, nay perhaps very suitable for them, in the times and under the circumstances in which they lived. But times and circumstances are now changed, and
of course their opinions and views of religion will not suit the present age."
I know also, that it has been said by those who have chosen to depart from the old paths, and it is the principal argument on which they rest their own justification; “That in every science, not excepting the science of, theology, there is a natural progress to perfection; that of, course every succeeding age is wiser than that which went before; and that from this consideration, there is ground to expect, that with proper encouragement, revelation will soon be purged from every thing foreign and adventitious, and be reduced, at last, to a rational system, founded on the unerring principles of well interpreted scripture and truth."
To the objection and argument now stated, the following reply is offered. The parallel so often drawn by some men between sacred and profane literature, will not by any means generally hold. Human sciences of every kind, it is readily admitted, are progressive. It is not till after much labour and research, and many unsuccessful attempts, that they arrive at any considerable degree of perfection. But that the same progression obtains with regard to the great, distinguishing doctrines, which constitute the science of theology, no sober believer will hastily affirm. Christianity was introduced into the world by its divine Author in its full maturity and vigour, in a state of utmost perfection. It had no state of infancy and weak ness to pass through before its genius could be perfectly discovered. As it descended imme
diately from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness or shadow of turning, it was like its divine Founder complete in all its parts, incapable of receiving any improvement from human learning, or the discoveries of any future age. At the period of its first promulgation, it contained an entire system in itself, to which nothing can be added,, from which nothing can be taken without rendering it less perfect.* Its rich treasures deposited in one volume, which was complete in its first edition, published by its inspired authors, and which has been carefully copied, (with some various readings indeed of no essential importance) in the millions of editions since published. Christians in the first ages of the church were as capable of understanding its esential doctrines, as in any subsequent age. This sacred volume has ever been open to the inspection of all men, to which, as to a perennial fountain, all the learned and the unlearned are invited to come and take freely of the water of life.
But the absurdity of a progressive religion may be argued not only from the difference between sacred and profane learning, but also from the obvious design of revelation. The Christian religion was intended to benefit the whole human race. Its divine and merciful Author, therefore, in whose eyes the soul of the meanest rustic, and of the rudest savage is equally precious with that of the most profound philosopher, has so accommodated its truths, as that
See Rev. xxii. 18, 19.
they are intelligible and obvious to the most ordinary person, who studies them diligently, and with an honest mind.
It is readily admitted, that there are many things in the sacred books, and particularly in the mysteries, and some of the doctrines necessarily connected with and dependent on them,' which we cannot explain, which elude our most anxious inquiries, and refuse to be Brought under the test of our severest' reason. So there are many things in natural religion, relating to the divine existence, the creation and moral government of the world, and the origin of moral evil, concerning which it is easy for the weakest man to ask questions, which the wisest may find it difficult to answer. Perhaps clearer knowledge of what is now concealed' is unattainable in our present state; or it might be hurtful to us in a variety of ways, of which we have now no conception. "God' knoweth how much it is best to disclose to us in the present. state. On subjects of this mysterious nature, it is not expected that we comprehend, but that we believe; where we cannot unriddle, we are to learn to trust; where our faculties are too weak to penetrate, we are to check our curiosity, and adore.
The doctrines of Christianity' being all comprehended in the Bible, when once we have admitted that this book was written by men divinely secured from error, it follows, that from this book there lies no appeal; and that whatever is clearly re corded here is the truth of God, though it may be beyond our reason to comprehend or ex-b
plain. Excellent to this pur-
I shall conclude my observations with a pertinent passage from the pious and eloquent Saurin.
"All doctrines that are incomprehensible are not divine, nor ought we to embrace any opinion merely because it is be yond our knowledge. But when a religion, in other respects, hath good guarantees, when we have good arguments to prove that such a revelation comes from heaven, when we certainly know. that it is God who speaks, ought we to be surprised if ideas of God, which come so fully au thenticated, absorb and confound. us?
freely grant, that had Þ consulted my own reason only, D could not have discovered some mysteries of the gospel. Newsi ertheless, when I think on the immensity of God, when I cast my eyes on that vast ocean, when I consider that: immense all, nothing astonishes me, nothe ing stumbles me, nothing seems to me inadmissible, how incomprehensible soeverit may be. When the subject is divine, I am ready to believe all, to admit all, to re ceive all; provided I be convinc ed that it is God himself whos speaks to me, or any one on his parte After this loam no morej astonished that there are threer distinct persons, inque divine
birent to led
essence; one God, and yet a FATHER, a SON, and a HOLY GHOST. After this, I am no more astonished that God fore, sees all without forcing any; permits sin without forcing the sinner; ordains free and intelligent creatures to such and such ends, yet without destroying their intelligence, or their liberty. After this I am no more astonished, that the justice of God required a satisfaction proportional to his greatness, that his own love hath provided that satisfaction, and that God, from the abundance of his compassion, designed the mystery of an incarnate God; a mystery, which angels admire, while sceptics oppose; a mystery which absorbs human reason, but which fills all heaven with songs of praise; a mystery which is the great mystery, by excellence, 1 Tim. iii. 16, but the greatness of which nothing should make us reject, since religion proposeth it as the grand effort of the wis dom of the incomprehensible God, and commandeth us to receive it on the testimony of the incomprehensible God himself.: Either religion must tell us nothing about God, or what it tells us must be beyond our capacities; and in discovering even the borders of this immense ocean, it must needs exhibit a vast extent, in which our feeble eyes are lost. But what surprises me, what stumbles me, what frightens me, is, to see a diminutive creature, a contemps tible man, a little ray of light glimmering through a few fee, ble organs, controvert a point with the Supreme Being, oppose that Intelligence, who sits at the helm of the world; question
what he affirms, dispute what he determines, appeal from his decisions, and, even after God hath given evidence, reject all doc. trines that are beyond his capacity. Enter into thy nothingness, mortal creature. What madness animates thee? How darest thou pretend, thou, who art but a point, thou, whose essence is but an atom, to measure thyself with the Supreme Being, with him, who fills heaven and earth, with him whom heaven, the heaven of heavens cannot contain? 1 Kings viii. 27. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? high as heaven what canst thou do? deeper than hell what canst thou know?" Job xi. 7. "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, the pillars of heav en tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. Lo these are parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power, who. can understand? Gird up now thy loins like a man, for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding, ch, xxvi. 7, 11, 14. Who hath laid the measures thereof? Who hath stretched the line upon it? whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Who laid the corner stone thereof, when the morn ing stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea with doors, when I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick