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INFIDELITY, though driven from the
open field, is daily making a thousand covert attacks; whilst the Socinians, who wage a bolder warfare, leave untried no measure which may spread their conquests, and add to the number of their forces. such a moment, it must appear desirable to all who reverence the established church, that those of her members, whom secular engagements leave but little time for religious meditation, should be furnished with arguments, short, plain, and cogent, in favour of the doctrines which they profess. It is not too much to affirm, that the members of the establishment are, generally, less informed on subjects of religion, and less skilful in maintaining their own particular tenets, than Socinians are in defending their
more lax interpretation of the Scriptures; or than infidels are, in adducing arguments subversive of revelation altogether. The reason of this is sufficiently obvious: large states are not commonly so much on the alert, as small ones; he who feels himself secure in his post, is generally less careful to have his men well armed, and his weapons. well pointed, than he whom insecurity makes watchful; he whose cause is established, is for the most part more supine, than he whose cause is doubtful; he who has the justice of his pleas decided, by an immense majority in his favour, is less anxious to strengthen his party, than he who feels that he is in a sad minority.*
The sceptic, if he would give currency to
Who doubts that if Socinianism were to become the established religion of the country, and the doctrines of our church those of a sect, the zeal of the Socinians to make converts would be transferred to Churchmen, and the supineness of Churchmen to Socinians?
The reader is apprized that the word sceptic is applied in the following work to all who reject revelation; as well those who expect, as those who disbelieve a state of future existence.
his opinions, nay, if he would preserve them from detestation, is eminently called to measures of great vigour, and great caution. He has an unamiable cause to plead : he sets himself to rob his fellows of a cheering faith, and brilliant prospects; of the delightful hope of future blessings; of belief in that book, where alone such blessings are promised, and from which alone they can be inferred. Such prospects men do not lightly renounce, to adopt wild speculation, or a cheerless view of "the first dark day of nothingness" in their stead; and little does he deserve the title of a benevolent being, who would lead his fellow-creatures to forego them; who would snatch from his neighbour the sweets of anticipated pleasure, and give him nothing to fill up the void.
If the assurances of the Gospel that we may attain to future happiness, are not to be depended on, we have no sort of assurance of future bliss; it is a chimera of our own creating; contradicted by analogy, probability, and the light of nature.
The sceptic then, setting himself to
rob men of hopes which, if they have no certain foundation in the Gospel, have no foundation at all; must needs, if he would make any progress, be very cautious in his advances; must have provided -weapons of exquisite sharpness; and have learnt to use them with dexterity, alike in attack, or defence. And accordingly we find that, in general, as disputants, sceptics have considerable skill; that by their ingenious sophistry, they silence many a sincere believer, who, though not convinced, is at least staggered; rendered for a moment very uncomfortable, and half dissatisfied with a religion which, as he thinks, cannot plead its own cause. He is too apt to attribute to the imperfection of his religious code, what results merely from his own (it may be unavoidable) want of skill in argument; or (what he might have avoided) from his ignorance of that book, whence his religious notions are drawn.
The Socinian comes to the charge, sounding before him the trumpet of all-forgiving mercy, upon repentance, without the ne