Imatges de pÓgina
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scruple to call another a fool, who should shew vast industry, and equal ingenuity, in finding out and bringing to perfection some new bauble for children; but, in the name of common sense, with what face? with what assurance? Is it because he hath chosen a bauble of somewhat greater significance to compliment with his understanding and time? What minute distinctions, what almost imperceptible preferences, are sufficient for vanity to boast of! All his pomp, his parade, his wealth, are but the rattles of a little older child, in the eye of true wisdom. If death cannot demonstrate this, futurity at least will do it, to the infinite mortification of that pride, which values itself on worldly wisdom. Then he only will be found to have been wise, and to have been blessed with true greatness of soul, who made it his chief study to find out the right religion, and who, having found it, made it his chief endeavour to hold it fast;' that is, to retain it in an understanding thoroughly convinced, and in a heart deeply affected; to impress it strongly on all his thoughts; to make it the rule of all his actions, and his guide to God.

If man was made like a swine, only to eat, drink, and die; or like a peacock, to flutter, to make a vain show for awhile, and then perish for ever; he would be in the right on it to indulge himself in his draught and feathers, and look no farther but then what need of coaches and palaces? what need of thrones and sceptres? why is he always looking upwards, and aiming at something greater than he hath yet attained to? Why are the solid satisfactions of the beast laid aside for the airy but anxious pursuits, for the imaginary but dangerous schemes, of the man? Why does he not prudently live down to his own principle, and seek for ease and safety in his sensuality?

No, he was made for greater things. Not greater, surely, if not better. But what can be either greater or better, if to-morrow he dies? dies, soul as well as body? O death! how satirically dost thou grin at the folly of avarice and ambition! Wert thou an Atheist, thou wouldst do the same; because the scheme of life they prescribe, is not much more consistent with infidelity than religion. It is true, indeed, man was made for much greater things than this world can promise, or a short life accomplish. He was made for God,

for heaven, and eternity; and the greatness of his soul is suited to the dignity of the objects. But he no sooner loses sight of these, and meanly turns his unbounded appetite of grandeur to low and little objects, than he presents us with the ridiculous view of a sage quarrelling for cockle-shells, or an emperor catching flies; proud, if his worthy endeavours succeed; and miserably chagrined, if they fail. There is but one thing in nature commensurate to the wishes of an immortal soul; and the true religion alone shews us how to arrive at that. Nothing else can restore us to the dignity of our nature, can denominate us truly wise, can make us truly great and happy. Why do we esteem ourselves superior to the brute creation, if it is not because we are endued with reason? But what comes of this distinction, if reason serves no better purpose than teaching us to be a little more ingeniously brutal? If in this consists the excellence of our nature, why is it decased to mere animal uses? Why does it not teach us to aspire, through rational piety and love, to the source of all being, all beauty, all excellence, all good? What is man without reason? He is a world inhabited by nothing but serpents, wolves, and lions. And what is reason. without religion? It is a lamp not yet lighted; or an eye in the dark; or a country naturally fertile and beautiful, but so blasted, that all above the soil is withered; and all the roots and seeds of useful plants beneath are as totally destroyed, as if some malignant spirit had been preparing it for the habitation of himself, and his hideous associates. The whole creation would be nothing, or worse than nothing, without God. But the rational soul must be the most lost and miserable of all creatures, if cut off from God; for God is the light, the life, the very soul, of the soul. Now nothing but religion can unite the soul to God. And what is religion, but the knowledge, the fear, the love of God, curing the corruptions, and exalting the virtues of the soul to a resemblance of infinite excellence ?

But God is not seen as he really is; and consequently cannot be regarded, imitated, or served, as he ought to be, through the medium of a wrong religion, which misrepresents him to the mind, as a wavy uneven glass does all objects to the eye. If he is represented to us as nothing but mercy, he cannot be feared; if as nothing but justice, he

cannot be loved; if he is not both loved and feared, he cannot be worthily served, unless his proper service is supposed to consist in presumption, or despair. If he is set forth as vicious, revengeful, cruel, he cannot be imitated, but to the farther depravation of the soul. If he is exhibited as neither knowing, nor caring for, what his creatures do, as neither a rewarder of virtue, nor a punisher of vice, then religion differs not in effect from Atheism; all law must be imposition; all government, tyranny; and the whole world a hell of wickedness and confusion.

Hence it appears, that a false religion is better than not religion, only in proportion as it approaches nearer to the true. And what follows? but that it is the first duty, and the highest interest of a man, to search, with all possible candour, with all possible diligence, for the true religion; and when he hath discovered it, which, I think, such an inquirer cannot fail to do, is it not then as much his duty and interest to give it the absolute government of himself? If he can make himself easy before he hath accomplished this work, let his stupidity in other things be ever so great, I must assure him, his ease of mind on this head is infinitely the highest proof of his folly. What name then shall we give it in him, who, as to all other knowable matters, surprises us with the evident signs of sensibility, judgment, and prudence? Here language fails me, and therefore I shall make an end with

Most humbly beseeching the Father of Lights, and Fountain of Wisdom, to guide us by his Holy Spirit into all truth, that, 'having proved all things, we may hold fast that which is good,' to the eternal salvation of our souls, and the glory of his name; to whom be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.

DISCOURSE II.

THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD.

2 TIM. III. 14-17.

Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them:

And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

THE word 'Scripture,' of which so high a character is given in this passage, signifies, by its derivation, only a writing; but here is put for certain writings, whereof God is supposed to be the author or inspirer. When the apostle tells Timothy, he had known these Scriptures, or writings, from a child,' he speaks of the books contained in the Old Testament only, which, as they prophesied of the Messiah, and pointed out him, and his religion, to the reader, were able, therefore, to make that reader wise unto salvation, through faith in Jesus' the Messiah; but, when he says 'all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,' he extends the signification of the word to the writings of the New Testament also, which he took to be the dictates of Divine inspiration, as well as those of the Old.

The books he comprehends under the name of Scriptures, thus eminently understood, speak in the same high strain concerning the inspiration of God, and of its necessity, in order to true and saving wisdom. They acknowledge there is a rational faculty in man, whereby he may attain to knowledge in sensible and temporal things; and whereby also he may judge of higher matters, when God is pleased to instruct him therein; but, as to these latter, they represent God as the only sufficient teacher, and every where send us to him for instruction. There is a spirit in man,' says Elihu, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them

understanding;' Job xxxii. 8. God himself intimates the same by the questions he puts to Job, chap. xxxviii. 36. 'Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?' David prays incessantly to God for wisdom: Give me understanding, and I shall live,' Psalm cxix. 144. Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord; give me understanding, according to thy word;' ver. 169. Solomon exhorts his readers, on all occasions, to seek for wisdom of God, to whose gift alone he ascribes it, both in himself and others: The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding;' Prov. ii. 6. Christ thanks his Father,' Luke x. 21, 'for revealing those articles of wisdom unto babes, which he had hid from the wise and prudent;' and promises, chap. xxi. 15, ‘to give his disciples a mouth, and wisdom, which all their adversaries should not be able to gainsay, or resist.' 'If any of you lack wisdom,' says St. James, chap. i. 5, 'let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given you.' St. Peter ascribes all prophecy to inspiration: The prophecy,' says he, 'came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;' 2 Pet. i. 21. A great deal more might be added, to shew, that the penmen of the Bible endeavour to represent God as the fountain of wisdom, or true religion; and themselves as only the scribes, who record in writing what God is pleased to dictate.

But whereas every religion lays claim to a divine original, as well as that contained in the books just now mentioned; and whereas Mahometism produces a written record of itself, which it ascribes to God, and his angels, as inspiring or dictating whatsoever Mahomet committed to writing; it is the business of a rational inquirer to examine them all by the rules and signs recommended in the former Discourse, that he may make a competent judgment of their merits, before he finally fixes his choice. To avoid impertinence and prolixity on this occasion, we will suppose this inquiry over in regard to all religions but that of the Bible; and terminated in a rejection of some, for wanting a fixed system of principles properly recorded; and, of others, not for wanting a record indeed, but for having one stuffed with such absurdities and contradictions as reason cannot possi

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