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most, is convinced, at last, that he knows but little; and that, after all, man is, and must continue, on this side the grave, an ignorant, as well as a sinful being. True wisdom, -I mean such wisdom as man can attain,-mortifies, instead of nourishing pride, and generates the deepest humility. It has a tendency to infuse, into the mind of the real philosopher, the gentleness and docility of a child; and being taught, by the experience of his own deficiency, “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly,” he is ready to receive information from any other source whence it may possibly flow. Philosophy, then, so far from opposing, is the hand-maid of truth, and opens the door to religion. It shows the man how insignificant he is in himself, how incompetent to make great discoveries, and obtain a thorough insight into “ the things that are before him ;" he sees, therefore, clearly, that the things which are not before him, with which he has no direct intercourse, things, which come not under the notice of any sense, or any mental apprehension,-cannot be open to human research. Nay, of such things as he can know, much must be imparted from above. He is, therefore, in the first place,
anxious to learn, whether any such communication has actually been made; and when such a communication, or pretended communication, is tendered to him, he will weigh its evidences fairly, candidly, and with all his powers. But even in this case, even as to what is revealed from heaven,-he is sensible that there must be certain limitations : however copious the fountain which supplies the stream, the receptacle can hold no more than it is made to contain. The mind of man is so constituted by its great Maker, as to imbibe but a certain portion of knowledge : he is supplied with senses, which, by the notices they convey, furnish him with ideas; he sees forms, he hears sounds, he feels substances, he tastes flavours; and by comparing and combining what is thus brought home to the intellectual faculty, he is enabled to lay in a stock of knowledge, sufficient for all the purposes of human life. But here he must stop. The perception of earthly things will never carry him beyond the earth. If, then, a revelation be made to him from above, will it infuse new lights, of which before he had no perception ? Will it lay open to his mental view the abodes of the spiritual world, and make him acquainted with the nature, the occupations, the enjoyments, the sufferings, of spiritual agents ? Certainly not. The heavenly messenger must speak of heaven and heavenly things, as a mortal would speak of earth and earthly things :—not that there is the least resemblance, the least proportion of similitude, between the one and the other ; but because man has not faculties to perceive what is not corporeal, what has not some connexion with the world he inhabits : that which his eye has not seen, nor his ear heard, his heart cannot comprehend. To give him just ideas of a spiritual state, he must be endued with new organs, new mental powers; in short, he must become, literally, a new creature. A celestial teacher may instruct him more fully in his duty; may lay down new rules of conduct, stimulate him to obedience by more forcible motives, give him certain assurance of a future state, and perfect conviction of eternal judgments; but, while he is in this mortal body, he cannot be made fully to apprehend what is the nature of that state, any otherwise than by figures, and allusions to those things, with which he is conversant here upon earth.
imaged to the mind, while it is shut up in this house of clay, it were evidently most vain and absurd, to attempt any description or representation of that SUPREME SPIRIT, the sole cause, and inconceivable origin, of whatever moves or exists. Him the inspired prophet most aptly denominates “ the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity;" an expression, conveying a noble and sublime, yet still a confused idea, as every idea of such a Being must be: for we, who exist in time, and see all things in succession, can hardly entertain any just conception of eternity, in which there is neither past nor future, but an everlasting present. “ Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel," said the Divine voice from the flaming bush to his chosen delegate,-“I am hath sent me unto you:"-a mode of being, having no reference to what was, or what is to be, but a perpetual, ever-enduring present. And shall we, who cannot entertain the most distant conception of the manner of his existence,--who cannot even dimly discern the habitation of his glory, nor approach the light in which he dwelleth ;-shall we pretend to analyze his Nature, divide his Person, unite or disunité his Substance ? — When such rash and presumptuous questions are brought into discussion, “ I will lay mine hand upon my
mouth.” “ Shall mortal man be wise as his Maker ?” Shall he arrive at clearer conceptions of the Divine essence by metaphysical research, than the lively oracles of truth supply, and invent terms, and phrases, and subtleties of language, more precise and determinate than the simple style of "holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ?”
This vanity of human learning, or, to speak more properly, this arrogance of lettered ignorance, has proved very injurious to the cause of truth and piety. It has occasioned many
schisms and divisions among believers; while the unhappy prejudices of sceptical men have taken deeper root, by confounding the glosses of weak and dogmatical professors with the genuine doctrines of Christianity. In the Gospel there are no laboured discussions, no logical distinctions, no philosophical disquisitions : and surely, whenever we have occasion to recur to the sacred objects of religious veneration, it were more safe and more seemly to keep strictly to scripture phraseology. It is not for Christians to discard the words of inspiration, and adopt the dogmas