Imatges de pÓgina

abhor and fly from him, as they would do from a person infected with the plague.

As to men of but moderate talents for controversy, who, although unhappily entangled in the new opinions, do nevertheless still retain an honest regard for the truth, ought they not to hear and read, as well on the one side as the other? Since their modesty makes them the disciples of others, it ought, one should think, to convince them, they may possibly have made a wrong choice of teachers. Such men as, for want of sufficient literature, are unable to go through with a work so very difficult, even to the learned, and therefore must, in some measure, depend on others, ought undoubtedly to listen with the one ear as well as with the other, and to 'try all things,' that they may, in the end, hold fast that which is good.'

They may easily judge, whom they ought to follow, by the fruits of their instructions. Is not virtue banished, wherever piety hath been extinguished? And what remains of piety are to be found, where the new opinions have taken place? It is evident to every common observer, that respect for the holy Scriptures, for the sacraments, for the sabbath, and for the sanctions of religion, hath retired from the minds of mankind, in proportion as the novel doctrines have advanced; and that dissolution of manners hath followed the dissipated faith, and licentious principles, of our new apostles. Their disciples need be referred no farther than to their own breasts, for an experimental proof of this. Why then will men, still retaining some tincture of a good meaning, give up their minds to leaders so long accustomed to treat their own understandings with pernicious novelties, that it is manifestly become unsafe to be within the obnoxious air of their conversation, which infects as fast as it is breathed? Avicenna makes mention of a girl, who, having been fed, from her infancy, on certain species of nutritive poison, came at length to have a constitution incapable of bearing any other kind of food, extremely distempered in itself, and contagious to all who approached her. He does not tell us, however, that she, like the intellectual plagues above-mentioned, was fond of a crowd, or shewed any industry to infect others. In this particular, our new teachers rather resemble the Talus of

Eustathius, a man made wholly of brass, who had a trick of going into the fire, and staying there till he was as hot as that could make him, and then rushing out to embrace those whom he would destroy.

Beside the dangerous tendency of their principles, these venders of new opinions shew themselves to be very unfit instructors for a well-meaning man, by the disingenuous artifices and double dealing wherewith they make all their proselytes. They declare, in the most solemn manner, for any system of principles, though never so contrary to their real sentiments, if place and profit happen to be annexed to it; and then, without the least scruple, employ all the credit that place can give them, to inculcate a contrary system, but under such disguises as give them, in the eyes of the undiscerning, some shew of believing and acting in conformity to their declarations. Base enough to do this, they have also the assurance publicly to defend it when done, and to repeat it, in the face of mankind. Shall a man of honest intentions give himself up to these mercenary, these self-detected deceivers, and refuse to hear or read any thing, but that which they think fit to recommend? It is impossible. The partisans of a known impostor are always impostors themselves.

For men, thus deceiving, or wishing to be deceived, the following Discourses were neither written, nor published; but for those only who honestly look for the truth, and prefer a painful ruffle, at the entrance, to the most pleasing doze in error. The Author, conscious that the principles he maintains are true and necessary; that the Almighty Being not only authorizes, but prescribes the defence of them; and that the dignity of a cause so highly noble and important merits the service of much greater talents than hath been bestowed on him; writes therefore freely and boldly, at the full stretch of those he hath.

However, he submits his performances, first, to you, Gentlemen, and then to every other sensible and honest peruser; earnestly wishing, the abilities had been equal to the spirit that gave them birth; and humbly hoping, that, while the dullest treatises on the side of heresy and irreligion are devoured, with a kind of greediness, these, which speak for God and truth, may possibly meet with ac

ceptance; especially in case they shall happen to seem not less rational, less spirited, or entertaining.

He will bless God for your approbation, Gentlemen, if he shall be so happy as to obtain it; and will esteem it the greatest comfort of his life. But as to the censures of the dishonest, of whom alone he writes with severity, he will consider them as applause; believing what he says hath pierced to the quick when the hardened dissembler is forced to complain.

To conclude this already too tedious address, I most earnestly beseech God to bless and preserve that church, whereof he hath shewn himself so long remarkably the protector, and in nothing more, than in giving you to be its pastors. May he make it, by your ministry, fruitful in faith and good works, for the sake of Him who purchased it with his blood. I am,

Right reverend, and reverend Gentlemen,

Your most sincere well-wisher,

And most faithful, and dutiful, humble servant,



&c. &c.



1 THESS. V. 21.

Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.

THIS precept of the Apostle contains sound and useful advice, in regard to all branches of knowledge, and all kinds of choice. He does but throw a die for his own happiness, who neglects the former part of; and he who acts against the latter, hath no right to complain of the thief and the robber: but the force and beauty of the precept lies in the connexion between its parts. He can never be rationally tenacious of his choice, who hath not made it on due examination; because he can never be sure it is judiciously made, if chance (or others have made it for him; and firmly to adhere to that which he neither is nor can be sure is right, is obstinacy and folly.

As, however, the Apostle intended this most excellen piece of advice for a religious purpose only; and as our Saviour, with the same view, says, 'Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?' we are to interpret both as an appeal to the sense and understandings of mankind, in relation to the evidence whereby one religion may be distinguished, as true and genuine, from others that are false and spurious. Be the evidence of Christianity what it will, its Author had the confidence to submit it to the reason, nay, to the very senses, of all men. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. If I do not the works of my Father,

« AnteriorContinua »