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their children and their children's children to the latest generation here taste the joy and peace of believing, and find that this is unto them, as it has been to their fathers, none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven!

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I owe to the Society, with which it is my happiness to be connected, some explanation of my delay in complying with their request. The following discourse was not originally designed, and does not now seem to me well adapted for the press. From the extent of the subject, the views which it offers are unavoidably very general. The necessity, also, of preserving, as far as might be, the distinction between a sermon and a dissertation, has occasioned a want of fullness in the reasoning and illustrations, which—though pardonable, perhaps, in what is intended only to be spoken—may not meet the same indulgence, when submitted to the inspection of a reader. I had concluded, for these and other cbvious reasons, to decline to comply with the wishes of my friends. This determination, however, has been changed by the informa

tion I have recently received, that some parts of this discourse have been much misapprehended, and misstated. It is now published, as it was originally delivered, except some verbal corrections, and a few unimportant additions.

I am sensible that it may appear presumptuous, to have undertaken to speak in the name of my brethren. The motive, which justified it, however, was well known to those to whom the discourse was addressed ; and if it should chance to meet the eye of any others, they will of course perceive, that though the plural form is used, nothing more than the sentiments of an individual are given. I have endeavoured, it is true, to represent accurately the opinions of that class of christians, with which I habitually think; but it is proper distinctly to say, that no part of this discourse was communicated to any person before its delivery; and that, therefore, the writer alone is responsible for the correctness of the statements it contains.

In speaking of the principles advanced in this discourse, as the characteristics of particular christians, it will not be supposed, that these christians claim to be the exclusive adherers to them. Nothing more is meant, than that these are some of the general maxims which they agree in receiving, and which they adhere to, it may be, with something more of fidelity and consistency than others. So far from arrogating an exclusive regard to them for any single body of christians, I take great pleasure in believing, that they are held substantially by a large proportion of the members of all Protestant communions, whether adopting the distinctive names of Lutherans, Calvinists,* Episcopalians, or Arminians. There is no general principle, indeed, taken in this discourse, for which there

may not be produced the authority of persons of each of these churches, and those too among the most illustrious for learning and piety.

After these remarks, I need scarcely observe, that, when the phrase, “ rational christianity," is used in the following discourse, it is by no means to be considered as applicable merely to a comparatively small number of christians, who hold

* I am perınitted, I fear, to claim the authority of those christians, who are known by the name of High Calvinists, or by the kindred name of Hopkinsians, for but few of the principles, which I have advanced. Except in our own country, however, the number, I believe, is small, of those, who make the chief peculiarity of Calvin a fundamental article of faith. I subjoin a quotation on this point from the Rev. Robert Hall; who will, I presume, be universally admitted to be the most distinguished ornament of what is called the orthodox or evangelical party in Great Britain. In speaking of the evangelical clergy, he remarks : “ we cannot dismiss this part of the subject, without remarking their exemplary moderation on those intricate points, which unhappily divide the christian church; the questions, we mean, in relation to predestination and freewill, on which, equally remote from Pelagian heresy and Antinomian licentiousness, they freely tolerate and indulge a diversity of opinion, embracing Calvinists and Arminians with little distinction; provided the Calvinism of the former be practical and moderate, and the Arminianism of the latter be evangelical and devout. The greater part of them, we believe, lean to the doctrine of general redemption, and love to represent the gospel as bearing a friendly aspect towards the eternal happiness of all to whom it is addressed ; but they are much less anxious to establish a polemical accuracy, than to win souls to Christ." Strictures on a work entitled Zeal without Innovation.” p. 35. Lond. 1809,

particular opinions on the metaphysical nature of our Lord. Such an appropriation of that phrase I conceive to be entirely unjust; and to breathe something of the same narrowness of spirit, which these christians are not backward to censure in others.

But neither bigotry nor liberality are exclusively of any sect; and all men ought to guard against the tendency, which the pride of spiritual superiority produces, to think that our own opinions are identified with the conclusions of reason, the dictates of conscience, and the commands of God,

The term “apology,” in the title of this discourse, is used in its original sense as nearly synonymous with “ defence" or " vindication.” Anomoria, the learned reader will recollect, is employed by St. Peter in the text.

FEB, 9, 1815.



The general principle of the conformity of christianity to the conclusions of enlightened reason will hardly be disputed by intelligent christians. It is a ground, which has always been taken by the most able and judicious defenders of the gospel. It was very fully surveyed and illustrated about

the middle of the last century, by Dr. Doddridge, Dr. Benson, Dr. Randolph, and Dr. Leland, in the controversy occasioned by the deistical tract entitled Christianity not founded on Argument.


" Reason is natural revelation, whereby the Eternal Father of Light and Fountain of all knowledge communicates to mankind that portion of truth, which he has laid within the reach of their natural faculties. Revelation is natural reason enlarged by a new set of discoveries, communicated "by God immediately, which reason vouches the truth of by the testimony and proofs it gives that they come from God. So that he, that takes away reason to make way for revelation, puts out the light of both; and does much the same, as if he would persuade a man to put out his eyes, the better to receive the reinote light of an invisible star by a telescope.”

Locke's Essay, B. iv. c. 19.


To those especially, who seek for conviction in certain inward feelings, which the warmth of their imaginations represents to them as divine, I would recommend the serious consideration of this important fact; that the foundation, which they lay for the Bible, is no other than what the Mahometan is accustomed to lay for the Koran. If you ask a Mahometan, why he ascribes divine authority to the Koran, his answer is : because, when I read it, sensations are excited, which could not have been produced by any work, that came not from God.***But do we not immediately perceive, when the Mahometan thus argues from inward sensations, that he is merely raising a phantom of his own imagination ?***The christian, who thus argues, may answer, indeed, and answer with truth, that his sensations are produced by a work, which is really divine, while the sensations excited in the Mahometan are produced by a work, which is only thought so. But this very truth will involve the person, who thus uses it, in a glaring absurdity. In the first place he appeals to a criterion, which puts the Bible on a level with the Koran: and then to obviate this objection, he endeavours to show the superiority of his own appeal, by presupposing the fact, which he had undertaken to prove.”Prof. Marsh's Lectures. P. II. L. III. p. 51–52. American edition.

D. I am anxious, that the principles, which have been advanced under this head of the discourse, should be taken with the explanations and limitations, which I have endeavoured studiously to annex to them. I would particularly beg it to be observed, that it is by no means denied, that the objects, to which the truths of revelation relate, may contain many things not fully comprehensible by reason. Indeed there is perhaps no object pre

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