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I only consider myself as an inconsiderable errand goer
in the church of God. To convey my meaning less obscurely, I have written the first word of each new period in capital letters; and, I suppose, the following example from the beginning of the first Lecture may serve to shew how a minister would form the skeleton into a body, or how a young man may do so at home in his closet for his own private edification.
The doctrine of free religious inquiry, &c.
Brethren, It was a just and beautiful idea, which the royal Psalmist entertained of religion, when he called it inquiring in Jehovah's temple. Thus he speaks in the twenty-seventh psalm, a psalm written in trouble, and strongly expressive of that felicity, which revealed religion affords to good men under the heaviest of all afflictions, those I mean, which concern the soul. Ignorance of God; frailty of nature; limits of condition ; variety and speciousness of error; probability of annihilation or destruction; all these excite troubles in the minds of thoughtful men, and if they be miserable who can only conjecture concerning them, what must others be, who do not even aspire at the small consolation of conjecturing?
David implies two things in the expression just now mentioned. First, a right of inquiry in the people. The people of God, the jewish church, and before them the patriarchal church, always enjoyed this privilege. Their religion consisted of articles to be believed, and injunctions to be performed. These were preached by Enoch, Noah, Moses, and the prophets ; that is to say, they were proposed to the people first with evidence for examination, and last upon conviction for observation; for religion, which God required of them, is a reasonable service, an exercise of judgment and conscience, and not a course of mere animal motion. I said, the Jews enjoyed this privilege : but strictly speaking it is a native human right, that belongs to all mankind. Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free are all alike formed capable of making inquisition, and all possess strong natural emotions, and powerful exterior inducements, impelling them to make it: but as this right was not claimed by some pagans, and disallowed by some religions ; and as it was both claimed, allowed and gratified by people under revealed systems, so I ventured to call it a privilege. Indeed to inquire where none can answer, although it be a human right, is yet nothing more than a right to pain. Where satisfaction is attainable by inquiry, the exercise of it is privilege and pleasure.
Revealed religion, and this is the second thing implied,) revealed religion is sufficient to answer all reasonable inquiry. The temple contained the law, and the law contained answers even to inquisitive children :
children say unto you, what mean you by this service ? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians and delivered our houses. Exod. xii. 26.
What fit question can be proposed concerning religious truth, which revelation does not answer? Do we inquire, is there a God ? &c. &c.
This is sufficient to convey our meaning. The subjects may be varied, enlarged, abbreviated, illustrated, proved, a thousand different ways. It is one chief advantage of such analysis as these, that each idea may be clothed elegantly, plainly, or coarsely, according to the genius of the lecturer, and the conditions of the auditors. If the ideas be conveyed, the end is answered, be the style whatever it may
A list of Books on these subjects. Neal's History of the Puritans. Robertson's History of Charles V. Delaune's Plea. Towgood's Dissent fully justified: Calamy's Abridgment by Palmer, Palmer's Catechism. Oldmixon's Histories. Writers on the Dissenters late application to parliament,
such as Drs. Stennet, Kippis, Wilton, Messrs. Toulmin,
&c. &c. Confessional, and the several pieces occasioned by it. Locke on government, and others of the same class. Beccaria, Herport, Moshiem, Crosby, &c. &c. Sermons of Gale, Bradbury, Watts, Foster, &c. &c. &c.
INTENDED TO CONVEY,
IN A FAMILIAR MANNER,
JUST IDEAS OF
GOOD CIVIL GOVERNMENT,
[THE THIRD EDITION, PRINTED 1784.]