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the most candid in forming their decisions. “ Masters in Israel” will hardly expect, from a work necessarily so circumscribed in its extent, any considerable accessions of knowledge on topics already familiar to their minds. But to less experienced students, nothing is unimportant
may open a way for pursuing a safe and satisfactory course of inquiry into religious truth. Knowing by what principles the Christian scholar is to conduct that inquiry, and what helps are necessary to insure its success, they will be better able to judge of the various matters of controversy presented to their view, and better armed against the errors of an age, unstable and unwary, prone to follow every phantom that flits before it, and lightly to regard the attainments of former times. The labour will not be lost, if, through the Divine blessing on the endeavour, faith be, in any instance, strengthened by hearing, and hearing lead to a right understanding of the word of God.
SE R M O N II.
John vii. 17. If any man will do his will, he shall know of
the doctrine, whether it be of God. MANY difficulties present themselves in attempting the solution of that important question, Whence comes religious error ? For, not only are the several species of error so various and discordant, as to make it scarcely possible to trace them all to similar causes ; but no less different are the dispositions, the habits, and the attainments, of those by whom they are upholden. On the one hand, we see the thoughtless and the considerate, the vain and the modest, the sober and the licentious, the illiterate and the scholar, linked together by some common bond of opinions respecting what they deem to be the truth : on the other hand, we see persons for the most part similar in their moral
and intellectual qualities, who, on these subjects, appear to be irreconcileably at variance.
This anomaly in the human character it may not be easy to explain. But of one thing we are certain, that whatever is repugnant to truth, is repugnant to the Divine will. That the merciful God and Father of all would « have " all men to be saved and to come to the
knowledge of the truth“,” is a maxim entirely consonant with every notion we can form of the Divine perfections, as well as with the declarations of Holy Writ. No error can be supposed to issue from Divine wisdom, or to be the object of Divine approbation. Its source must be sought elsewhere ; since the very term error denotes a deviation from some line of rectitude : and what but rectitude can proceed from Him who is the acknowledged Fountain of perfection?
Searching the Scriptures for an elucidation of this subject, we there find not only unbelief, but heresy and schism also,
a 1 Tim. ii. 4.
ascribed partly to human perverseness, and partly to the influence of a spiritual adversary operating upon fallen man's predisposition to evil. This indeed is the solution there offered to us of moral evil in general, as well as of that particular species of it which leads men to “ make
shipwreck of their faith.” The parables of the sower and of the tares place the subject in this point of view : and various apostolical admonitions concur in representing that the will of man, whether yielding to its own inward propensities, or to some evil suggestions from without, is deeply concerned in every departure from the truth.
Conformably with this representation, our Lord frequently charges the Jews with wilfulness and obstinacy in rejecting his doctrine. He addresses them as persons possessing the means of reasonable conviction, but not disposed to use them aright. He says of them, that they had “ no cloke “ for their sin b” in this respect; that
b John xv. 22.