Imatges de pÓgina

It opens

duty of the theological student; a duty, never to be unconditionally exacted, where the composition is merely human; never to be on any pretence dispensed with, where it is confessedly Divine.

This frame of mind is evidently included in that faith which the Scriptures represent as the proper inlet to spiritual knowledge. This is the main spring by which the work of religion operates both upon the heart and upon the intellect of man.

the eye to see the wonders of the Divine law: it opens the ear to hear the voice of heavenly wisdom : it removes mountains in the way to knowledge : it invigorates every faculty for the labour it has to accomplish.

The Scriptures abound in declarations to this effect. Yet none of these may be understood to affirm, that faith, however lively or sincere, shall enable the inquirer to comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, by giving him powers of discernment beyond the reach of man; or that he. shall hence be qualified, without the aid of human learning, to interpret the Sacred


Word aright. On the contrary, a willingness to know and to do the will of God, implies a willingness to resort to all necessary helps for advancement in the truth, and for security against error.

The meaning therefore of any such passages can only be, that without faith, without the disposition to conform to the Divine will, none will be adequately qualified for the purpose, however otherwise gifted with the best natural or acquired endowments. Hence St. Paul says, “ If any man think “ himself wise, let him become a fool that “ he may, be wise ";" that is, let him renounce any pretensions to a wisdom superior to that which the word of God imparts to him. Hence also our Lord warned his disciples, that “ except they became as little “ children," they could not enter into his kingdom; and gave thanks to his heavenly Father, that he had “ hidden those things “ from the wise and prudent, and revealed " them unto babes P." In the same sense we

o Matth. xviii. 3.

n 1 Cor. iii. 18.
p Matth. xi. 25.


may also interpret the promise, that “ to “ him that hath shall be given, and he « shall have more abundance";” implying, that where that which has been already communicated is carefully improved, there will be the greatest proficiency in religious knowledge. The interpretation of the Sacred Word will, doubtless, be most easily ascertained by those whose dispositions are most congenial with its character : and the tendency of all these Scriptural illustrations is, to shew that the first requisite in the study of Divine truth (whether with reference to the general credibility of Revealed Religion, or to the interpretation of its particular doctrines) is a genuine singleness of heart, which has one main object in all its researches, that of knowing and obeying the will of God.

To the case of avowed unbelievers there cannot be much difficulty in applying this criterion. For, though there may be many whose generally virtuous conduct seems to give them a claim of exemption from the

9 Matth. xiii. 12.


charge of intentional disregard of truth; yet strong presumptive evidence will almost always appear of a radical indisposition in the will to a careful investigation of the subject. Few, if any, manifest a serious inclination to " receive with meekness * the engrafted word,” as an authority to which they owe submission. On the contrary, some principle repugnant to it, some root of bitterness that admits not of its cordial reception, usually betrays itself, where infidelity has taken fast hold upon the mind. This it is, which magnifies every difficulty, generates suspicion and distrust, and misleads the judgment by presenting the object of contemplation to the understanding through a fallacious medium.

Nor is it much more difficult to adapt this same criterion to those who, professing a general belief of Christianity, maintain opinions at variance with its essential doctrines. Want of faith is more or less discoverable in almost all who depart from the standard of Scripture truth. Not that this is rashly to be assumed, in cases where only slight shades of difference prevail, or


respecting the exposition of doctrines transcending the comprehension of the human intellect and revealed to us only in general terms. But where a doctrine inseparable from Christianity itself is either rejected or misinterpreted, from evident prepossessions of the mind against it, (for this it is which properly constitutes heretical pravity,) there we can hardly avoid imputing that perversity of the will which our Lord teaches us to regard as the proximate cause of all religious error.

The fact appears to be, that a very great proportion of the heresies, which have from time to time sprung up in the Christian Church, may be traced to some lurking principle of infidelity operating upon the mind. A favourite maxim of false philosophy, or a vain conceit of the imagination, takes possession of the understanding; and, fully persuaded of the unanswerable truth of the opinions thus adopted, yet unwilling entirely to relinquish the Faith, the slave of prejudices adverse to Revealed Religion commences the work of new interpretation, and ex



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