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man reason in opposition to the authority of the revealed word.
Having failed in his first vigorous effort to root out Christianity by the violence of persecution; the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat with the view of choking that word, which he had attempted in vain to extirpate. In the early days of Christianity, men began to be wise above what was written; fancying that the human mind was competent to bring forth a Revelation of its own, more perfect in kind than what was generally received.
When a false principle has once been adopted; till that principle is discarded, error will maintain its ground against the most demonstrative truth. The pride of human intellect is incompatible with a Religion founded in humility. Where then this false principle prevails, mysteries are rejected, because they are what divine wisdom intended they should be, incomprehensible; and which, if they were not, they would cease to be mysteries. And till this false principle is discarded, till men are disposed to receive the kingdom of God like little children, rather than
with arrogance to cavil and dispute about
This spirit had its origin in heaven; and
The Jews had a saying, that there was a grain of the golden calf in all their subsequent judgements. And we may truly say, that there is a spice of the first sin, namely, pride, in all our sins and delusions. And would we search impartially, we should not fail to find it. This is what corrupts both our practice and our profession; and hinders us as much from working as from believing right.
To trace the effects of this fatal principle, under the Christian Dispensation, as
they have been manifested in the various aberrations of vain and undisciplined minds from one heresy to another; would be to write the most humiliating history of human weakness and human folly. It would be to represent a great part of mankind, like the blind Heathen governor, engaged in inquiring after truth; at the same time that their eyes are shut to the brightness which Revelation throws around the subject: whilst they are eagerly embracing every thing but the truth, because an over-weening opinion of their own judgement, will not suffer them to receive it, through the channel that divine wisdom has appointed to convey it.
The testimony of Scripture is doubtless competent to the purpose for which it has been vouchsafed; otherwise we should not be referred to it for information on spiritual subjects. When therefore any fact or doctrine has been plainly declared in Scripture; all probable reasoning, metaphysical speculation, or conjectural criticism which tend to generate doubt on the subject, must give way to the conviction, that the writings, in which such fact or
doctrine is contained, were divinely inspired.
In proportion then as we depart from Scripture, as a Divine Revelation, we depart from the standard of infallibility: Whilst by an enquiry into the various opinions, which the pride of human reason and the fallibility of human judgement have built upon it; at the same time that we are exchanging a lesser authority for a greater, we are perplexing subjects, which it was the design of Scripture to reveal with a degree of plainness, suited only to the circumstances of man's present condition. In so doing, we shew ourselves ignorant of the design of Revelation, which was not so much to make us knowing, as believing Christians: a design to which nothing can be more obnoxious than that pride of reason, which is exercised in endless disputation; because it considers itself competent to the perfect solution of all spiritual subjects; and that it is a degradation of the human intellect to admit any thing to be true, which it is not able to demonstrate. A species of pride which cannot be better exposed than in the following strong lan
guage of the book of wisdom. .
66 What man is he that can know the counsel of God, or can think what the will of the Lord is; for the thoughts of mortal men are miserable, and our devices but uncertain. For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind, that museth on many things. Hardly do we guess aright at the things that are upon
the earth; and with labour do we find the things that are before us; but the things that are in heaven who hath searched out? and thy counsel who hath known; except Thou give wisdom, and send thy holy spirit from above ?” Wisd. of Sol. ix. 13.
Considering then, that the difficulties in which some spiritual subjects are involved, are not derived so much from the testimony of Scriprure itself, as from the authority annexed to different interpretations of it, together with the criterion by which our judgement on them is determined; our object in view in the foregoing Discourses has been, so far as might be, to make the Scripture its own interpreter; by bringing together the evidence which dif