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attended with an enlightened ability to defend and enforce them. Our young people do not sufficiently store their minds with the proofs and arguments of the opinions they have adopted. They are satisfied with believing without proof. This is not the case with the advocates of error.
They are instructed in the whole system of attack and defence. They are skilful in all the manæuvres of controversy: sophisms, assertions, interrogatories, arguments, are all at their command. The friends of truth are, in these respects, often behind them. Reposing an unlimited confidence in the invulnerable security, and the impregnable strength of their cause, they do not exercise themselves in the use of their arms, and appear sometimes to a disadvantage in skirmishing with their opponents. Be you not behind them in ability to defend your principles. The truth is of infinite value; may you clearly and comprehensively understand it; cordially and practically believe it; sincerely and ardently love it; and be able both to state it with precision, and to support it with argument.
I cannot conclude this chapter without recommending to you the perusal of an excellent sermon by Dr. Pye Smith, “ On the best means of obtaining Satisfaction with Regard to the Truth of Religious Sentiments.”!
After a suitable introduction, he points out, as the common and principal sources of error with regard to divine things, (1) The weakness of our faculties; (2) Our taking up wrong subjects of investigation ; (3) And our being affected by the secret influence of sinful dispositions
and habits. Under the last particular we find the following impressive observations:
6. A sinner,? says the wise king of Israel, * seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not.' tire want, or the great deficiency, of love, reverence, and devotedness to God, cannot but give a fatal obliquity to our professed researches after truth. Such a state of mind is also invariably connected with wrong affections in relation to ourselves. Instead of an humble, adoring and delightful admiration of the universal perfection of the Most High, there will be pride, self-confidence, and a determination to think at all events favourably of our own dispositions and practices. The judgement of God will be little regarded, and its impression felt very slightly. His supremacy will be the object of secret murmur, or of virtual denial. The heart will rise in dislike against his glorious and unchangeable rectitude, and the necessary obligation of his rational creatures to love him with a perfect heart. His sole and sovereign competency to determine whether at all, to what extent, and in what way and manner, he may be pleased to pardon and bless sinners, will be met by a strong, though perhaps disguised repugnance. And the duty of a cheerful and implicit reliance on the unsullied purity, righteousness and benevolence of Jehovah, notwithstanding the perplexity of present appearances, may indeed be faintly acknowledged in words, but, as to practical effect, it will be treated with neglect, or even with disgust. These, and all other movements of the heart which is under the power of revolt from God, will most certainly darken the understanding, and mislead the judgement; evil will be put for good,' and good will be treated as evil.”
”-pp. 14, 15. 66 The remedies of the erroneous tendencies of the human heart, are stated to be-1. The maintenance of right affections towards the great Author and Revealer of religious truth. 2. A habit of entire subjection to the authority of the Holy Scriptures. 3. The use of all proper methods of acquiring and improving the art of just reasoning. 4. Establishment in the evidence and influence of primary truths. 5. Living under the benign and purifying influence of divine truth. 6. Cautious observations of the effect of particular sentiments upon ourselves or others. 7. Keeping in mind, that what has been adopted on impartial inquiry and sufficient evidence, is not to be lightly given up on the mere occurrence of some new objection. 8. Fervent Prayer.
“ The constant, serious, and affectionate practice of this great and necessary duty, will have the most happy effect in obtaining and preserving the rational and scriptural satisfaction of the truth of our sentiments, if they be indeed true; and, if otherwise, of leading us to the timely and beneficial discovery of our errors. Prayer elevates the soul above the nists and darkness of this revolted world, and places us under the very shining of the Everlasting Light. It tends to exterminate the greatest obstruction to the entrance of that light, the prepossessions of sin in the heart. It gives vigour and delicacy to the sanctified perceptions. It guides that holy mental sense, which is the characteristic of the real christian, to the quick discrimination, and the delighted reception of truth and goodness.
Through prayer, the hallowed medium of intercourse with heaven, the devout mind ascends to its closest enjoyment of communion with the Lord God of truth: and from him descend the returns of prayer, 'every good gift, and every perfect gift.' "-pp. 29, 30.
On the nature of true Religion.
All other questions compared with this, are trifles light as air, or but as the dust of the balance: philosophy, literature, commerce, the arts and the sciences, have, it is true, a relative importance; they soften the manners, alleviate the evils, multiply the comforts of life; yet it is impossible to forget that they are the mere embellishments of a scene, which we must shortly quit; the decorations of a theatre, from which the actors and spectators must soon retire together. But religion is of infinite and eternal moment, and then developes, most perfectly, its consequences, in that very moment when the importance of all other subjects terminates for ever.
A mistake in this affair, persisted in till death, is followed by effects infinitely dreadful, and of eternal duration. You should bring to this inquiry, therefore, my children, a trembling solicitude to be led in the right way.
Some consider religion as a mere notional assent to certain theological opinions, others as a bare attendance on religious ordinances, others as the performance of moral duties. They are all equally wrong: for instead of being any one of these separately and apart from the rest, it is the union of them all. Religion admits of many definitions in Scripture language. It is
repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ :” or it is " faith working by love:” or it is receiving “ that grace which bringeth salvation, and teacheth us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present evil world :” or it is “ denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following after Christ :” or it is being born again of the Spirit, and sanctified by the truth: or it is the supreme love of Christ, or the habitual fear of God. Each one of these phrases is a definition of true piety; but I shall now adopt another, and represent it as “ A right disposition of mind towards God, implanted in our nature by the influence of the Holy Ghost, and exercising itself according to the circumstances in which we are placed.
Religion is the same in substance in all rational creatures, whether innocent or fallen. In angels, it is still a right disposition towards Gud; exercising itself in a way of adoration, love, gratitude, and obedience; but not of faith, hope, and repentance, because their circumstances preclude the possibility of these acts. Religion, in reference to fallen man, is a right disposition of mind; but inasmuch as he is a sinful and ruined creature, yet a creature capable of salvation through the mediation of Christ, it