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A LSPECTFULLY ADDRESSED
TO THE YOUNGER CLERGY.
HE well known adage, “ Nihil dici
potest quod non dictum prius ;” applies perhaps more strictly to the subject of Divinity, than to any other whatever : for on no other subject has the mind of man been so generally exercised. Though the age therefore in which we live wears much of the Athenian cast about it, being taken
for the most part“ in telling and hearing some new things,” Acts xvii. 21; yet to attempt at this time to bring forward any thing on Religion, which may have the charm of novelty to recommend it, would be an undertaking not less vain than unprofitable: because on a subject of this important nature, it is not novelty, but
truth alone which ought to challenge attention.
The substance of the Christian faith, must for ever remain what the Scripture has fixed it. And to the doctrine of Atonement the general tenor of Scripture bears testimony.-To reason then with the Apostle; “ what if some do not believe; shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect?--God forbid.” God must be true, though every man be found a liar.
From whence it follows, that the diversity of opinion which prevails on Religion, proves the imperfection and corruption of the human understanding, not the fallibility of the standard which has been set up for its direction.
The Religion of God, like man when first created, came perfect from his hands. And because it did so, and is calculated to answer the purpose of its divine institution, by furnishing that knowledge which is necessary to man's fallen condition, it has been the continued object of the grand enemy of mankind, to corrupt or pervert it through every stage of its progress. Hence the authority of Divine Revelation
itself has failed in establishing a general standard for religious truth. In consequence of the vain reasonings, corrupt affections, and fanciful conceptions of mankind, which the arch Deceiver has industriously employed, for the purpose of obliterating that benign plan, which was graciously intended to counteract the mischief he had wrought; the science of Theology has undergone more frequent and strange metamorphoses than any other science whatever. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, when that light which was designed to lead mankind in the way of peace, has, in consequence of the false mediums through which it has passed, been turned into comparative darkness ; that the creature who is to be conducted by it, should be left at some loss with respect to the course he has to take: in other words; if, amid the perplexity of various opinions, and the parade of imaginary improvement, the mind of man should frequently lose sight of that sure ground of faith and hope, to which it was the chief object of Revelation to direct his thoughts.
It was an observation of Dr. Johnson's, that “no honest man could be a deist; for no man could be so after a fair examination of the proofs of Christianity.”—But the misfortune is, according to the loose system of morality now prevailing, it is not generally considered to be any impeachment of a man's honesty, for him to pronounce a decided judgement on a subject of the utmost importance to the welfare and happiness of his fellow creatures, which he has had neither the patience nor candour fairly to examine.
Such was the case with Hume; who confessed that he had never read the New Testament with attention. And such is the case with all those falsely called Philosophers, who, governed by that grand principle of error, which Lord Bacon has excellently described to be “nimia et præpropera mentis festinatio ad conclusiones temerè dedncendas;" are zealously employed in eradicating all settled ideas from the human mind; for the purpose of introducing those baseless theories, which are the misshaped creatures of their own ungoverned fancy. Hence have we to lament that
disregard for received opinions, and that contempt for established institutions, which have by degrees generated that loose system of morality, and that general indifference for religion, which it will require the wisdom and exertion both of the Statesman and Divine effectually to counteract. But effectually to counteract an evil, we must be competent to trace it to the source from whence it has proceeded.
The doctrine of the Church must, generally speaking, be grossly corrupted, before the establishment of it will be overturned in any country : for the Candlestick, it is presumed, will not be removed whilst it sends forth its due portion of useful light. But this corruption will necessarily take place, in proportion as our knowledge of spiritual things is attempted to be derived from any other fountain than that of Revelation. Heathenism was originally built on the corruption of Revelation. And by the neglect of that divine source of illu-' mination, many Christians have fallen, and are continually falling back into a similar state of spiritual darkness. In both cases the vain imagination of foolish man has