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is, in sterling weight, as much superior to external, as a saving faith is to a mere historical assent; yet there is an introductory character and office belonging to the latter, which renders it absolutely indispensable. External and historical proofs form, as it were, the title deeds of our inheritance. To these, therefore, we must at least always be able to have recourse: we must know where they are; whether, in particular instances, we can then interpret them fully for ourselves, or only through assistance of others. But the possession and safe keeping of them somewhere, is essential.
This being acknowledged, I forbear to lengthen a Lecture, merely prefatory, by urging considerations which might well commend a ready making of the admission hereupon demanded. It shall suffice, at present, briefly to vindicate the choice of such an argument before such an audience; and to state the method after which the inquiry will be pursued.
If, then, (notwithstanding what has been advanced,) it be objected, that a learned audience does not properly admit of an appeal to that foundation of belief, which is the foundation of the faith of the vulgar: I reply by asking even the most learned to search out of his own heart, honestly, whether, in reality, his faith does ultimately rest upon any different foundation from theirs ? or whether it be possible, until we ex
ercise it under the dominion of an unreserved and unfeigned faith, to apply the learning which is here acquired to its most effectual purpose ? For should the labours of a learned, but a wavering mind even prove efficacious (through appointment of an all-wise Providence, educing good from whatever source it pleases) to the benefit of others ; still, is it possible for them to ensure an equal benefit to the indecisive spirit itself, from whence they proceed? This is a question for great learning or superior talent to
consider; lest haply, after having proved an in1 Cor. ix. strument of general good, it should itself be
found a cast-away.
But I think it will appear sufficiently as we
go on, that no discouragement is hereby offered Cf. Lectt. either to learning or to industry: wherefore I
am persuaded, that such elementary faith does really contain in it the true strength of the very strongest, as well as of the weakest among us all; so much so, that, in fact, without it all our seeming acquired strength becomes only our greatest danger.
For it must be by suffering themselves precipitately to be challenged as learned or as rea
that so many are ensnared, through these temptations insidiously offered to their vanity, to forget their only invulnerable character
of believing Christians ; or that some are even 1 Tim. vi. shamed out of it. Perverse oppositions of science
ü, 13, 14.
falsely so called tempting us to yield to an affected candour points never perhaps to be recovered ; to contend with objectors on their own ground alone ; in short, to submit spiritual things to the vain measure of natural ;-these cf. 1 Cor. have beguiled us. The aspects of a great portion of the professed literary and scientific world in particular; the cases that may be seen of so many of our own most promising students, almost as soon as they are once detached from what is represented as the “thraldom of early “ prejudices," allow no other interpretation
I know what may be said of this; and it must take its course. But it being no matter of doubtful speculation, that both as a Nation and a Church we stand, at this hour, in a posture of much jeopardy, it becomes too oppressive a conviction to be withheld, that if we would indeed have God for our Protector, with Christ for our Saviour, and the Holy Spirit for our Comforter, we must return to a more primitive and healthful state of mind, and receive him first unequivocally as our Lawgiver. Thus only shall acquired knowledge become truly profitable ;
c Does not the same truth appear, even yet more seriously, through the failures of several eminent writers in their arguments for Natural Religion, where, by giving up point after point to meet the Deist on his own ground, they have ceded him a fair advantage? See Ellis's “Knowledge of Divine “ Things from Revelation, &c."
and it is on this ground that implicit faith appears amongst the most reasonable, because amongst the most indispensable, of all things.
This being said in vindication of the principle on which the present inquiry will proceed, I would subjoin the mention of a hope, which, under existing circumstances, has led to the selection of a general, in preference to a confined, subject.
That all real believers in the revelation of Jesus Christ, but more especially, that all we who belong to the same venerable Church, must be of one mind in our estimate of what the Christian state truly desirable is, can admit of no doubt. We must place it in a piety, at once fervent and practical, yet chastised, sober, and reasonable; at once spiritual, and regulated; lasting, and obedient.
That there must be a way (for such as will become teachers) of setting forth the scheme revealed in holy Scripture, agreeably to such estimate; so as to convey real, and spiritual, and undisguised truth, without either suppressing or exaggerating peculiar doctrines beyond their just proportion, as vital, yet still relative, parts of a consistent whole ;—this also must be certain, how few soever may attain to it.
Nevertheless, that, as things are, all do not follow the most excellent way, can admit of no doubt either. We cannot be following the best
way, either of teaching or of learning, so long as party differences are suffered to break down respectively the fences of forbearance and of duty; and an almost exclusive attention to special points of controverted doctrine usurps that first place in our contemplations, and in our affections too, which ought to be devoted to the whole revelation of divine mercy ;-to universal Christianity.
By which expression of “universal Christia
nity,” I do not mean Christianity divested of its mysteries, or peculiar doctrines, or precepts, to render it a vapid object of universal acceptation, or rather non-resistance; God forbid! But entire Christianity ; that one continuous dispensation of divine mercy, which is the subject of both Testaments; which, as the method of restoring fallen man to his Maker's favour, is adapted to the state and nature of man; which, therefore, to study at the fountain head, and in its continuity, must needs instruct us best in the mode of adıninistering its truths to others, since Cf. Matth. it will teach us best to know ourselves.
Luke vi. 39. Herein, then, lies a hope, by such view of Scripture as that now to be offered of withdrawing attention for a while from subordinate arguments, and from a morbid thirst for too literal definition in things manifestly and mercifully undefined, to a quiet and uncontentious examination of the internal excellence and character