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forced, however reluctantly, to launch into the boundless ocean of controversy, meets with a gust of argument that makes him give up all for lost, forsakes the rudder, drives before the wind uncertain whither, and reaches, with dangerous rapidity, the quarter most remote from his first course; whilst the man who had been directed by a due and single attention to the Gospel would have enlarged his experience, and confirmed his confidence by every trial.

In proportion to the extent of observation, it will perhaps be discovered that genuine faith, as proved by its fruits, exists under very different forms and professions of sentiment. Yet it is not possible for all these to be equally agreeable to the Word of Truth. Is it not more reasonable to apprehend, that they owe their being to the ignorance and inattention of Christians? A proper investigation of scripture might detect the fallacy by which contending parties have set their favorite texts at imaginary variance; would bring the jarring systems much nearer to each other, and would leave a charitable and humble freedom in such points as could not be absolutely decided.

There are doctrines which, from their ample evidence in revelation, and from their necessary connexion with the foundation of our hope, appear to be of the first importance. A superficial and mistaken application of texts to the support of these grand truths, is often inju. rious to their influence by the advantage- it affords to the learned acuteness of a skeptical, or worldly-minded person, over the weakness of a sincere but too inattentive believer, Nay, the very authenticity of the scrip: tures has been rendered doubtful to the minds of such

persons, by the disappointment of finding in them things which they plainly never were designed to communicate. Of this detrimental tendency are the arguments that have sometimes been drawn from the Bible, for the preference of one political or philosophical theory to another. It cannot be thought strange that a Saracen ordered all books to be burned, except the Koran of Mahomet, upon the idea that if they opposed that, they were blasphemous; and if they agreed with it they were unnecessa, ry, when we understand that an astronomer was once persecuted by Christians, for asserting the probability that the planets were habitable. A due attention to the revealed Word ,will furnish us with all necessary spiritual knowledge; but will convince us, that this alone is the end for which it was given.

Ministers who converse with their pious hearers, frequently find them in a distress, occasioned by their having appropriated to themselves such threatenings as in the Scriptures are denounced against characters opposite to theirs. Nor is it less common for others of a lively imagination, to derive a transporting degree of comfort from passages that appear, in their genuine meaning, to be quite unconnected with their own situations. Benevolence would shrink from the interruption of their enjoyments, were there no danger to be apprehended from the state of security on the one hand, or of despondency on the other, that is too likely to succeed a satisfaction apparently delusive. What then can be more effectually opposed to the needless dejection or hazardous elevation of spirits, so often remarkable among serious people, than a solid judgment respecting the sense of scripture? This, it may be hoped, will al

so prove the best remedy for that deadness, of which they often complain in the perusal of the sacred pages. There are some, the customary darkness of whose minds seems only to be rendered more terrifying by the occasional flashes of truth that dazzle their apprehensions; when (if I may risk the expression) they stumble upon the clear and forcible meaning of the inspired word; or, in other terms, when their faculties are so peculiarly enlivened, as to surmount the obstacles by which, through the want of a judicious and connected view of its contents, their way to profit and comfort is unavoidably impeded. By this assistance, they might discover a rich fund of instruction in those texts which, taken apart, seem to be inexplicable; and on those which appear most plain, a very different light would sometimes be thrown; not perhaps so striking as that which caught their first glance, but far more illustrative of the state of the reader, and therefore, more useful to his edification.

Whilst, in these respects, a great part of the benefit that might be derived from the Bible, is lost by crumbling it to atoms, instead of attending to the natural cohesion of its parts, there is, on the other hand, a sense, in which it is, commonly and improperly, regarded only in the mass, or lump, without analysing its materials, or even piercing its surface. As the Old and New Testaments are both delivered to us in our own language, in one volume, and at one time, many are ignorant that they are translated from different languages, or that the numerous distinct writings which compose them, were dictated at very distant periods of time; recorded by persons of very different descriptions and addressed to people of various characters and circumstances. Of the latter, no more than two grand classes are usually distinguished, Sinners and Saints; and the difficulty often experienced by the sincere reader, in ascertaining to which of these he himself belongs, is much increased by the want of observing the different shades of character to which the several promises and threatenings of Scripture are addressed. The various features, so beautifully discriminated on the sacred canvass, are mingled and confused by the universal glare shed over the band of believers, gathered together around their Lord, from so many climates and ages of the globe: whilst, on the nearer side of this anticipated judgment-seat, the awful but profitable distinctions exhibited in the inspired representations of the unbelieving world, are, from the same cause, lost in impenetrable gloom. Hence, no personal and practical instruction can be obtained from either, till their real objects and natural appearances are defined, by a close and constant inspection of the Scriptures themselves. Some characters will then probably be restored to their proper groupe, and many actions will appear fit for imitation or censure, that were apprehended to have been the reverse.



SOME cursory thoughts have been offered on the utility of this object. The practical evils which were then imputed to a common deficiency in such a knowledge, having been suggested chiefly by experience and abservation, will probably have been allowed to exist. The attentive and candid reader may even have been engaged in tracing them to that deficiency, as one of their principal sources. But, except this occasion of defilement can be separated from the sacred streams, the attempt that has been made to detect its noxious consequences may have a totally different tendency from what was designed, and may disgust,'or terrify from approaching the waters, the very persons for whose benefit the adulteration was pointed out, in order to be remedied.

In undertaking the considerate and devotional examination of the whole revealed will of God,” which was recommended as the grand antidote, a serious inquirer may be discouraged by the apprehension or experience of difficulties apparently insurmountable. That some obstacles are inseparable from the circumstances in which we receive the Holy Scriptures, cannot be disputed; but that they may be overcome, so far as of general importance, will, it is presumed, be the result of a fair investigation.

The nature of certain truths, which are absolutely asserted, or necessarily iniplied, in the word of God, is such as renders them incapable of being reduced to the contracted sphere of our understanding. At the same time, by their sublimity and magnitude, they command our attention and reverence; and have a proportionate influence by adding effective force to the comprehensible and practical branches of so grand a system. But if these cannot be understood by us, they may be, and VOL. III.


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