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is an eternal truth, that the revelation of the gospel rises triumphant over all liis reasonings. New arguments are discovered, new proofs produced; if those may be called new which have only been concealed for want of inquiry.
Among other objects of attack from this quarter, books of picty and religion, those instructors of the ignorant, and solace of the miserable, come in for no inconsiderable share. “ Books,” says a modern philosopher of this school, (and he speaks only the language of the Voltaires, D'Alemberts, and Diderots of the day) " have been “ handed down from generation to genera“ tion as the true teachers of piety and “ the love of God, that represent him as so “ merciless and tyrannical a despot, that “ if they were considered otherwise than “ through the medium of prejudice, they “ would inspire nothing but hatred *.”
This general censure of books of piety ought to have truth for its foundation, or else they are-verba et præterea nihil. Whether it
* Godwin's Enquirer, p. 135.
glances glances at the best of books, I pretend not to determine. If it does not, it ought to have made this exception ; for if all other books were extinct, this would supply the fountain of knowledge, and make us wise unto salvation.
If it reflects only on some misguided melancholy minds, it is equally ľundeserving of a reply; for there is no
profession of science, much less of religion, where some eccentric artist, some ignorant enthusiast, will not broach doctrines, which could not meet the approbation of men of deeper research in the arts, men of sounder faith in theology.
If the caviller will inquire, he will find that the object of books of practical reli5 gion is to improve the moral faculties of • men, and to give them happiness both here
and hereafter, by means of a revelation perfect and complete in all its parts, sanctioned by divine favour, and offered equally to all- as well to him who was born yesterday, as to him who shall be born at the distance of à thousand years, if the world should so long continue. He will find also, that pure religion by no means
represents the Supreme Being as “a mer“ ciless and tyrannical despot.” On the contrary, the scripture every where reveals him under this awful and engaging description—"The Lord, the Lord God, merciful " and gracious, long suffering, and abun“ dant in goodness and truth, keeping
mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that he will
by no means clear the guilty *.” It is the last clause which occasions all the censure. So long as a man continues guilty, he has indeed no claim to mercy; but our benevolent revelation proceeds further, and informs us, that “God com« mendeth his love towards us, in that while
we were yet sinners, Christ died for
ust:”—“blotting out the hand-writing of “ ordinances that was against us, which
was contrary to us, and took it out of “ the way, nailing it to his cross I.”
Such is the account which the gospel gives of the administration of divine Providence in its dealings with mankind.
Ex. xxxiv. 6.
+ Rom. v. 8.
Col. ii. 14.
Such is the account which numerous books of piety give of the same transactions. If we are at any time tempted to think the doctrines which they inculcate severe, let us examine our own hearts, and we shall soon see on which side the prejudice lies. But if, instead of scrutinizing our actions, and intentions, instead of inquiring what the will of the Lord is, we continue in the crooked paths of error, paths which incontestably always lead to vice, it will not be thought surprizing if our evil habits gain every day fresh strength, and, like the arch-apostate in Milton, we approach the God of mercy only to tell him, how we hate his beams.
In our language, and conformable to the profession of religion in the church of England, there are many excellent assistances to our private meditations. The latter end of the seventeenth century, and the beginning of the eighteenth, produced several of this description. The fanatical compositions of the commonwealth, succeeded by the immoralities of king Charles the second's reign, excited the devotion of many learned and pious men: and, thanks
to their labours ! under the providence of God, their works still edify the church. But the progress of letters, in the course of the last century, rendered something more necessary to arrest the attention of a more polished age; and the country has been enriched, though perhaps not in the same strain of plain unaffected piety, but by the publication of many excellent discourses from the pulpit. In some instances, it
may be, a tame morality has been incultated, instead of the abundant doctrines of the gospel. This has been more the error of the times than of the preacher; who, in endeavouring to avoid the exuberance of gospel expressions, rendered suspicious by the use which was made of them under the administration of Cromwell, fell into the opposite extreme, and did not discern the rational piety to be met with in the writings of the first reforiners.
However excellent ancient books may be, they will not be generally received, because they differ in form and manner from those in present use. Let it not, therefore, be an object of censure that old truths are re