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If, by the blessing of God upon our common ene deavours to lead and to be led into all truth, I shall be so happy as to bring you to entertain the same views of these things with myself, we shall rejoice together ; and if, after all that I may be able to advance, you should still think differently from me, I trust you will, at least, be disposed to think with more candour of some of your fellow-christians, who love the gospel, and are zealous for its honour, though you may think them mistaken in their conceptions concerning it. Let me intreat you therefore, my brethren, to give me a patient and candid hearing. Attend, in the {pirit of meekness, to what I shall say from the earnestness of my heart; and exercise the reason which God has given you upon this occafion, which is the noblest on which it can be exercised, and for which you may, therefore, conclude, that it was principally given you.

I. OF THE USE OF REASON IN MATTERS OF

. RELIGION. Be not backward, or afraid, my brethren, to make use of your reason in matters of religion, or where the scriptures are concerned. They both of them proceed from the fame God and Father of us all, who is the giver of every good and every perfect gift. They cannot, therefore, be contrary to one another, but must mutually illustrate and enforce one another. Besides, how can we distinguish one scheme of

religion

religion from another, so as to give the preference to that which is the most deserving of it, but by the help of our reason and understanding? What would you yourselves say to a mahometan, whom you would persuade to abandon the imposture of Mahomet, and embrace christianity, but bid him use his reason, and judge, by the help of it, of the manifest difference between the two religions, and the great fuperiority of yours to his? Does not God himself appeal to the reason of man, when he condescends to ask usy Whether his ways be not equal? Ezek. xviii. 29. Does not the apostle exhort us that, in understanding we be men? 1 Cor. xiv. 20. Are we not expressly commanded to prove all things, and then hold fast that which is good? 1 Thess. v. 21. Also when we are commanded to search the scriptures, John v. 39. more must be meant than merely reading them, or receiving implicitly, the interpretations of others. Searching must imply an earnest endeavour to find out for ourselves, and to understand the truths contained in the scriptures; "and what faculty can we employ for this purpose, but that which is commonly called reason, whereby we are capable of thinking, reflecting, comparing, and judging of things?

Distrust, therefore, all those who decry human reason, and who require you to abandon it, wherever religion is concerned. When once they have gained this point with you, they can lead you whither they please, and impose upon you every absurdity which A 2

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their sinister views may make it expedient for them that you should embrace. A popiíh priest would require nothing more than this, to make you believe the doctrine of tranfubftantiation, and that a man is infallible ; or to persuade you to commit the most flagrant wickedness, as a means of doing God service. For the first of these articles they do not fail to urge the words of scripture, which expressly say, concerning the bread that is used in the Lord's supper, that it is the body of Chrift; Matt. xxvi. 6. and there is no poffibility of replying to them, but by appealing to reason, as the necessary and proper judge of the sense of fcripture. The papist, therefore, as might well be expected, is forward, on all occasions, to vilify human reaion, and to require men to abandon it; but true protestants will not part with it. It is by the help of reason, in conjunction with the scriptures, that we guard vurieires agame the grois delulions of the papists, who, after relinquishing reason, have been made to believe a lie ; and by the diligent and continued use of the same power, let us endeavour to combat every remaining error, and trace out and reform every corruption of christianity, till we hold the pure truth as it is in Jesus, and obey it in the love thereof. . Do not think that, by recommending the use of reason, I am about to decry the scriptures. My appeal fhall be to both, upon every subject on which I address you; and I think you cannot but see that the plainest and most obvious sense of the scriptures is in favour of those doctrines which are most agreeable to

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reason. A good man will rejoice to see them thus go hand in hand, mutually illustrating and enforcing one another. II. OF THE POWER OF MAN TO DO THE WILL

OF GOD. One of the subjects with respect to which I earnestly wish that you would attend to the voice of reason and the scriptures, and with respect to which one mistake will be followed by many others, and mistakes of great consequence, is concerning the power of man to do the will of God. It is a favourite opinion with many teachers of religion, that men have naturally (or by that constitution and frame which God their maker hath given them) no power at all to do any thing that is good, not even to think a good thought, much less actually to obey any of the çoinmands of God; so that, if men were left to themselves, they could do nothing but sin, and must be under a necessity of aggravating their condemnation; by every. thought, word, and action of their lives. But, my brethren, how does this doctrine agree with the scriptures, and particularly with the manner in which the Divine Being constantly expoftulates with the sinful sons of men; as when he says to the jews, Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; why will ye die; O house of Ifrae!. Eżek. xxxiii, 11. Wah ye, make you clean. Ceafe to do evil, learn to do well, &c. &c. &c. lfa. i. 16.

Is it not plain from this, that it depends upon men themselves, whether they will repent and turn to God

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or not? And how can it depend upon themselves, if they have not, naturally, a sufficient power to do it? You cannot think that God would command, and expect obedience, when he had not given power to obey; and much less that he would urge men to provide for their own safety and happiness, when himself had put an effectual bar in the way of it.

Suppose that any inan's children were shut up in a building that was on fire, while he himself was without, and had the key; and that, instead of opening the door, to favour their escape, he should only call out to them to Aee out of the place, in order to avoid instant destruction; and that, as the necessary consequence of this, they should all perish in the flames before his eyes; what would you think of such a father? You would want words to express your abhorrence of his cruelty ; and yet in this very light do many christian divines represent the conduct of that God whose tender mercies are over all his worksy and who has folemnly declared, that he hath no pleasure in the death of a linner but rather that he would turn from his way and live. Ezek. xxxiii. II. yea, uho would bave all men to be saved. Tim. ii. 4.

The conduct of our merciful God and Father is certainly far different from this, and more agreeable to reason and equity. If he designed us to be account. able creatures, and treats us as such, we must have talents given us, which we may either improve, or misimprove. If we be the subjects of his moral

government,

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