Imatges de pÓgina
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stamp of Divine authority. They all proceed likewise on a supposition that there is some imperfection or insufficiency in the Scriptures, which is to be supplied by one or other of these infallible remedies. In these false conceptions of the subject, each is equally reprehensible. Each confounds, what ought to be carefully distinguished, the obscurity of the doctrines revealed in Scripture with the obscurity of Scripture itself; as if a doctrine might not be laid down in a clear and distinct manner, although it be in itself above the full comprehension of the human faculties. Each is also equally defective in the remedy it proposes.

For it is not oral tradition, nor human infallibility, (if such were to be found,) nor the utmost perfection of human reason, nor such illuminations as Enthusiasts rely upon, that can throw more light upon

the doctrines than the Scriptures have already shed upon

them. The same insurmountable barriers betwixt Divine and human knowledge will still remain, and by faith alone will the doctrines be received. Still let us not suppose that Church

authority,

authority, or reason, or the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, may be lightly esteemed, in the work of Scripture-interpretation. These are all evidently intended by their Divine Author to be instrumental to this great purpose. But a fuller discussion of their just and proper limits, as helps to the knowledge of God's will, must be reserved for our further continuation of the subject in the next Discourse. In the mean while, with reference to the errors we have now been considering, let us remember that there are lights which dazzle and mislead; which blind the judgment instead of showing objects in their true shades and colours. - Take heed, therefore;"—it is the emphatical warning of the Redeemer himself;- Take heed, that the light which is in - thee be not darkness!”

s Luke xi. 35.

SERMON

SERMON IV.

1 PETER IV. 11. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles

of God. THE general proneness of mankind to adopt extremes in matters of Religion renders it especially necessary, on the part of a sincere inquirer after truth, to beware that in refuting one error he give no encouragement to another.

To a neglect of this maxim may be attributed many prevailing mistakes on points of great importance. When men, eager to combat some false and dangerous persuasion, conceive that the only effectual means of doing so is to establish the doctrine most diametrically opposite to it, they not unfrequently involve themselves in perplexities scarcely less mischievous than those they

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are solicitous to avoid. Hence disputes are carried on, wherein both parties confidently ground the truth of their own opinions on the overthrow of those of their adversaries; when probably a moderator in the controversy might easily shew, that, although each was successful in convicting his opponent of error, each was unsuccessful in establishing the truth of his own positions.

To the subjects entered upon in the last Discourse, this observation will be found particularly applicable. “ If any man “ speak,” says the Apostle, “ let him “ speak as the oracles of God:"_let him found his doctrine on the Word of God; let him search there for what he intends to deliver as sacred truth; let his first inquiry and his last appeal be directed to that Fountain of heavenly Wisdom. In opposition to this principle, different maxims have been inculcated by different parties. “ If any man speak,” says the Papist, “ let. “him speak as the oracles of the CHURCH;" -according to primitive Traditions, to General Councils, or to the Pope's Decretals; whose decisions are infallible, nay, on whose

authority

authority the verity of Scripture itself depends. “If any man speak,” says the selfcalled Rationalist, “ let him speak as the “ oracles of REASON ;”—according to the measure of his own understanding, or the agreement of what is proposed to him with the notions he has formed of that which is most befitting the Divine Wisdom and Goodness. “ If any man speak,” says the Fanatic, “ let him speak as the oracles of “ the INWARD LIGHT;"—trusting to a special illumination of the understanding by the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit, bestowed

upon

the chosen few, the faithful, the Elect of God, for their infallible guidance and direction.

With these several parties the sound Scriptural Christian has to contend, in maintaining the supreme authority of the oracles of God. Upon the genuine principles of the Protestant Reformation, undebased by any impure admixture infused into it by mistaken zeal or sceptical indifference, he has to establish this main foundation of Revealed Religion. He is bound to shew that no dictates of Church-autho

rity,

H 2

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