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'tis laborious ? but will go on, in defiance of all that has been said to convince him that he wastes himself in vain, and that there will be no fruits of all his labour, but to koow he knows nothing? I call that nothing, which will turn to no account.
But to fhew you I am disposed to make all possible concessions, I will grant that even this objection might be got over, were this the worst of it: But I have one argument still in reserve, that I am persuaded will be decisive. My
III. Third argument then is this ; That a painful, exact, impartial study of the Scriptures, will by some be thought not only to do no good, but also a great deal of hurt, both to the public and to yourself
is, It will do hurt to the public. It will disturb the peace of the church, and that cannot but have a malignant influence on the state.
'Tis certain that disputes in the church, disturb the peace of it. And 'tis as certain these disputes have been generally raised by men pretending to a superiour knowledge of the Scriptures, and to discoveries that have escaped others. The Scriptures have always been made this use of by the heretics of old : And’lis
the character of the great heretics of this and the last age; who have set up for a free and impartial search into the literal sense of the Scriptures, above the rest of the christian world. But with what success? They have purchased their pretended knowledge of the Scriptures at the expence of their reputation, and their study has destroyed their orthodoxy. And were not their books and opinions carefully suppreít, and their persons rendered odious to the peo. ple; who knows what distur bunces they might have created to the church ? On the other hand, the peace the church has enjoyed for many yearśamong its own members, seems to be owing to no one thing more, than to a general negleft of this study; and the dangers that at prefent threaten its tranquillity, come wholly from men, who have endeavoured to revive a study, that has so often proved pernicious to its peace.
Nor can it well be otherwise. - For what security has a man that sets out in this way; that attempts to study the Scrip!ures in a free and impartial manner, laying aside all preposa sessions and previous notions, resolving to see with his own eyes, and judge for h'mself, and to believe nothing that he is not upon his own fearch convinced is clearly contained in them; what security has such a man, that he thall not fall into some opinions that have been already condemned as erroneous and heretical, or which may interfere with those that are commonly received ? Which, if they do not immediately Atrike at any fundamenial point, yet will be thought to do so; and may have a tendency to put scruples into weak minds, and to disturb the peace of the church, by railing doubts about the meaning or truth of some articles, or by asserting that an explicit belief of them is not necessary ? 'Tis so natural for curious and inquisitive minds to deviate from the common road, and the examples are so many, that 'tis odds but you do so too, uoless you had more lead in your constitution, or a more resigned understanding, than any curious man ever had yet: Otherwise you cannot be fure, that you shall not study yourself into doubts at least, if pot into opposite opinions concerning some rea ceived notions. You will doubt perhaps of the authority or author of some canonical book, and think perhaps that some passages are interpolated, or that some celebrated texts are nit genuine, or should be otherwise read, or have not been rightly understood, or do not prove the point. they are commonly brought for. You may fall into notions that will be thought tending to Arianism or the like. You may reject arguments brought from the Old Testament; to prove
the Trinity; as triling, and proving nothing but the ignorance of those that make use of them. You may think a prophefie has a literal meaning, where commonly the mystical is thought the only one. You may think that many texts in the New Teftament, which are strong against the Socinians, do not prove against the Arian notion. That the title of Son of God, has not always one uniform meaning in the gospel ; and that that single expression, of itself, is no proof of any thing in God analagous to genera. tion in men. That the identical consubftantialia ty of the fon, the eternal procession of the spirit, and many other notions relating to the trinity, tho' they may be true in themselves, are not so in virtue of the texts alledged for them. These notions, learned men have fallen into; and from thence 'tis to be presumed, you will not eafly keep clear of them. I chuse to instance chiefly in matters relating to the Trinity, because 'tis the controversie now on foot *: But the like may be said on many other articles; in each of which the truth is but one, but the errors infi. nite: And there is hardly any notion with respect to any of them, which some learned man, by following his own private judgment, instead of taking the doctrine of the church for his guide, has not fallen into. - * See a late book, intitled, The true doctrine of ibe New Testament concerning Jesus Chrift: printed 1767: wherein the Trinity is demolished for ever.
Now if you should study yourself into any new opinions, or into old ones that have been condemned, what will you do? Will you keep them to yourself, or publish them? Or shall I rather say, 'tis no question? The authors of new notions are apt to be very fond of them; they think it barbarous and cruel, to stifle the infant in its birth. There is a secret pleasure
in fingularity. To differ from the vulgar, is . in appearance to be above them; and to be
diftinguished from the herd, is too great a temp. tation to be easily resisted. But had you pru. dence enough to govern your ambition, confrience may come in here, and make you do what ambition could not. The truths you think you have discovered, either are, or will be thought by you of too much importance to the honour of God and the good of religion, to be concealed. You will look on them as the blelings of God on your studies; and think it a capital crime to extinguish the light, and suppress the knowledge he has imparted to you. In short, you will think yourself under the highest obligation not to disemble io religious matters, and conceal from the church of God, opinions which you are convinced are not only true but of great service to it. Let me then conclude, that the novel or revived opinions