Imatges de pÓgina
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pious and absurd as this presumption certainly is, it is not unfrequently met with in infidel writers, both with respect to the matter of religion, and to the evidence by which it is supported. We of the present age possess great advantages, in point of knowledge and religion ; and because we can now, abstractedly from all direct reference to revelation, reason out several iinportant truths, we imagine, perhaps rashly, that the human mind is of itself, and independent of all external help, capable of such exertion. Thus, in the pride of mental improvement, and of literary acquirements, we employ the faculties bestowed upon us against the Author of our being and of those very faculties. The misapprehension or misrepresentation of truth, however, does not annihilate it. The proofs of a Deity, and of a divine revelation, are capable of being estimated in their full force only by those who lead their lives in all godliness and honesty, who feel, and are ready to acknowledge, the weakness of their nature, and the errors of human reason, and who thence become humble, candid and docile : who, at the same tine that they may have traversed the whole range of philosophic and literary 'pursuits, do not, therefore, so plume themselves upon their acquirements, as to forget that they are men, and that their knowledge, however extensive, is restricted to a very small portion of the Universe,--to

a mere point in the system of nature. " He who doth my will, shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." But because some men, of enlarged minds, but apparently of perverse wills, and haughty spirits, do not choose to bring to the consideration of these important subjects that moderation and humility which become such a creature as man, when considering the works of Omnipotence, and are thence occasionally led to spurn the whole, without examination, or without ajust examination of its proofs,—it is no just argument against its truth. They had not the due preparation, and therefore could not possibly be capable of weighing the force of the evidence ; just as a person, without a proper foundation in preliminary studies, will never arrive at eminence in science, that is, will never certainly arrive at truth.

Objections are very easily started to the most serious and important truths, and the objections of a subtle or restless spirit, which may be stated in a single page, may require a volume to answer them; not because they are of any real force ; for it is probable their fallacy is seen at once by both parties, but because a variety of important considerations, which the objector has artfully kept in the back ground, are necessary to be stated and taken into the estimate. Indeed there is not a more common talent, one more easily acquired, or which ought to be more carefully avoided by all candid men, than

that of raising objections. It is a faculty of the most dangerous kind, and, if indulged without reserve, would lead to the annihilation of all learning, of all principle and truth, whether scientific or religious. It would doubtless be better, if that were the only alternative, to continue in error, than thus for ever to be passing from one uncertainty to another, and to be thus forever distracting the mind with endless objections. Enquiry after truth is just and proper, and objections stated to erro. neous opinions are necessary and laudable ; nor will truth finally suffer from any such enquiries modestly conducted. But this we seldom find to be the case with infidels. They reason and object under various pretences; but it is victory, not truth, they seem chiefly to aim at; and they appear uniformly to forget or despise consequences of their reasoning, which are and must be extremely fatal to numerous individuals. Improper enquiries after truth generally terminate in error, and the faculty of raising ob. jections, unless very cautiously used, leads to universal scepticism. These consequences, it is granted, are no ways injurious to truth and certainty, in general, or to those who have strength of mind sufficient to see the falla. cy of those enquiries, and the absurdity of those objections. But they are peculiarly fatal, both to the peace of mind, and to the

virtue of numerous individuals, who are not possessed of those powers. The minds of the majority of men, unfit for speculation, are anxious for certainty, and they will rather rest in error than be confused, confound. ed, and distracted with endless scepticism : -effects which have been uniformly the consequence, and almost the only consequence, of the indefatigable labours of religious sceptics.

“ What is truth?-is a question which has been ofted afked, but very variously determined. The answer is different as the persons, and various as their sentiments. Various, however, as the opinions on this subject are, it must exist somewhere, and our enquiries and conceptions, however various and contradictory, cannot possibly alter it.

Truth must be the object of our enquiries, even though she should sometimes elude our grasp. In making these enquiries, however, a certain disposition of mind, very different from that of the modern sceptic, is to be zealously cultivated. We must be disposed to embrace it, wherever it is to be found, and however contrary to our preconceptions, or inimical to our passions and partialities; and where such an honest disposition does obtain, we may almost confrdently assert, that the enquiry will be successful. Pride and passion are great enemies to truth, and seldom allow those in whom they predominate to stoop to her

humble level. They excite preconceptions, which allow her no influence, and start objections which she disdains to answer.

“ We are told, by some philosophers, that inquirers after truth, however young and uninformed, and however ill prepared for the enquiry, ought to investigate all opinions and all systems, and, from this general investigation, to draw what conclusion they think most proper.

But this advice, though it has some appearance of candour and liberality, will be found, on consideration, to be less valuable than probably a first view of it might lead us to imagine. The mind may thus be filled with prejudices and false conceptions, before the judgment is at all formed, and before truth shall have made her appearance; and if that should be the case, as in uninformed minds it generally would, the consequences would indeed be very fatal. For it is a lamentable fact, but a fact experience shows it to be, that error is more congenial to the human mind, than that which, after the fairest investigation, has been determined to be true; and the reason is, that error always allows a greater licence to the passions and appetites than truth. The religion which Christians, on an accumulation of evidence, believe to be divine, has thus strong prejudices to overcome, because it strikes at the root of all those vices which, in our commerce with mankind, we are tempted to commit. It is

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