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ent with the brevity here intended: let the mention of a text, which these gentlemen advance for another opinion in their writings, serve as a specimen of their manner of quoting the Scriptures: this will show the force of religi ous prejudice, even in such great divines, especially in an age when the Bible had not been studied with sufficient exactness, after a reformation from some of the corruptions of Popery. Nor is this bearing too hard upon them: for, according to themselves, chap. 1, sec. 9, the only rule of interpretation of Scripture, is Scripture itself; by which all the doctrines of men are to be tried, and in whose sentence we are to rest.' In this spirit let us try one of their doctrines in the Shorter Catechism, that all mankind by the fall, to wit, of Adam and Eve, became liable to the pains of hell for ever.' To support this, among other Scriptures which any person may see to be equally impertinent, they produce Matt. xxv. 41, 'Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:'-with verse 46, These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.' Now, whoever will be at the pains of turning to this place in his Bible, may perceive, without any labour or critical skill, that our Lord is not there speaking one word of what men may suffer for Adam's offence, but expressly informing his disciples, what the wicked shall in fact undergo for their own sins. 'For,' says he in the person of his followers, I was an hungry, and ye gave me no meat,' &c. Here we are taught by the faithful and true witness, that the dreadful sentence passed against the cursed, will be wholly owing to their own want of good affections, and not to a sin committed by another person thousands of years before they were made. About the meaning of this text, then, Jesus of Nazareth and the Westminster Divines entertained different opinions. And which of them you will believe, judge ye. This is but one of many texts referred to in this Confession, which have no sort of relation to what they are quoted for. Would people, that do not desire to be deceived, examine it fairly, they would see, that the authors of it were indeed fallible: an entire persuasion of which, would be of no small advantage to many Christians. But this would require a temper truly teachable, and some degree of application.

Supposing, then, a thing not impossible in itself, that an upright Christian, desirous to know the will of God, and to do it, should, after due inquiry, deny his assent to some opinions in this Confession; or see that the Scriptures of truth are injuriously treated, in being drawn in to prove very absurd tenets, by what rule of Christianity shall he be excluded from the enjoyment of Christian privileges? The Church of Rome professedly takes the Bible from the people; and to what purpose does the Church of Scotland leave it in their hands, if they must neither study it without fetters upon their minds, nor understand it in a sense different from the clergy, under the high penalty of being shut out from Christian communion, and delivered over to Satan? In this matter, there seems to be just as much difference between the conduct of the spiritual fathers in these two Churches, as there would be found between two natural parents, the one of whom would keep wholesome nourishing food from their children entirely, while the other would put it into their hands, but correct them severely for making use of it.

It is also evident, that many, in almost every Christian society, are so constantly employed in providing daily bread for their families, that they have little enough time left to spend upon a more useful book, that is-the Bible: where they may find true religion quite free from those corrupt glosses and false interpretations that poison the mind, and blind the understanding to such a degree, that it cannot discern the plainest truths.

In these and the like cases, is it not entangling men with an intolerable yoke of bondage, to insist upon an assent to the numerous, abstruse, and perplexed articles of this Confession? Are not such persons laid under an absolute necessity, either to act by an implicit faith, that is, to become Papists, or to abandon their Christian profession, or at least to desert its most solemn positive institutions? Why should the clergy exercise such a spiritual tyranny over God's heritage, not only without, but in direct opposition to the divine law? Is it not an apostolic precept, that no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall, in his brother's way?' Does not this conduct nearly resemble that of the Scribes and Pharisees, which our Saviour has branded with infamy, their binding heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and laying them upon other men's shoulders? Has he not treated such practices


with a pointed indignation, no where to be found in his other discourses? An awful warning to Christians to keep at the greatest distance from the appearance of such an evil.

Here it will be objected, that upon these principles we may receive the Papists into our communion, for they will readily acknowledge, that they believe the Bible. But this objection is founded upon very confused apprehensions of the matter of fact. For though every Papist of common sense, will indeed own that he believes the Bible, yet no Papist, who knows his principles, and acts up to them, will at all grant, that he believes the Bible alone to be the rule of his faith or religious obedience. No; all real Papists of every denomination, take only a part of their religion from the Bible; and along with this, join the doctrines and decisions of their respective synods and assemblies. Whenever any man renounces these, and adheres to the Bible alone, from that moment he renounces Popery. And why should be not be received with open arms? Shall it be said, that people take the Bible in different senses? What does this prove, but that they should enjoy their several opinions in peace? Let me ask, if the members of any church are agreed about the meaning of their favourite system of articles? Far from it. Though uniformity in sentiment is the foundation of all human establishments of religion, civil or ecclesiastic, yet every one finds by experience, that this is quite unattainable. Our situation will not admit of it. While men have different educations, capacities, books, company, &c. they will necessarily differ in opinion. The utmost we should aim at, is unity in affection. For all men can never be equally wise. And suppose some of the Church of Rome should daily count their beads, as the necessary means of carrying them to heaven, why should we hate them, or quarrel with them upon that account? What is the consequence when Christians bite and devour each other, but that they are naturally consumed one of another, and become the objects of just scorn to deists and infidels? And what are the chief instruments of those unchristian divisions, that have so miserably torn the Christian world, but the different systems of articles, that proud mortals, lording it over God's heritage, are cramming down their brethren's throats, whether they can swallow them or not?

That unity among the disciples of Jesus, is both prac

ticable and extremely desirable, is evident from the solemn pathetic prayer of Christ to this purpose, in the 17th chapter of John; but do not human schemes of faith, set up as rules, standards, or tests, in the nature of the thing keep the different parties of Christians at an irreconcilable distance from each other? While the Church of Rome is devoted to the creeds composed by her old orthodox divines; and the Church of England no less warmly attached to the articles of her wise ancestors; and the Church of Scotland equally zealous for all the notions of her confession-makers: while this continues to be the case, can a union among these Churches be so much as hoped for? Without question, it cannot. Whereas, without these engines of discord, as there is but one Shepherd, so there might be but one sheep-fold. Then the distinguishing character which Jesus has given of his true disciples, would naturally take place. Having no cause to hate, they would love one another. There would be nothing to hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain; for the earth would be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'


(To be Continued.)

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A Summary View of the State of the Argument, on the Historical Evidences of Christianity, between Mr. Beard and his opponents Mr. Carlile and Mr. Taylor. (Continued from page 166.)

Mr. C.-Another fact is, that the earliest record of Christianity in existence, is the letter by Pliny to Trajan.

Mr. B.-It is by no means certain that Tacitus did not write that portion of his history, which proves the existence of Christianity before the fall of Jerusalem, until the sixtieth year of his age. According to Gibbon, he was occupied in collecting materials for his work (the Annals) during the greater part of his life. Say he lived seventy years, and the greatest part of his life forty. At thirty, then, he began to collect his materials. We are, therefore, authorised to refer the testimony of Tacitus to a much earlier part of his life than his sixtieth year. It is the time when our historian decides on the reception of a certain document, that his testimony refers. Now Tacitus was born at the latest, in the year 61 or 62, A. D.; and it is allowed by Bayle, and confirmed by Lardner,

that Tacitus flourished in the first century. Every impartial judge will, then, I imagine, think that Lardner bas placed the testimony of Tacitus sufficiently late, when he fixes it at 100, A. D. The evidence of Pliny is justly dated 106, A. D. consequently, that of Tacitus must be esteemed prior to it. But admitting the testimony of Pliny to be prior to that of Tacitus, still nothing would be conceded. On the contrary, we should gain the means of confuting our opponent's visionary conjecture, that Christianity first saw the light about the year 100, A. D. For the latest year to which Pliny's testimony can be referred, is 106; and he states that some had been Christians about twenty years. This, alas! brings us back fourteen years before the time that our theorist permits Christianity to see the light; fourteen years before our Grecian fabulist had fabricated his Christianity, this history, appealed to by Mr. Carlile, affirms Christians to have been in existence!-(L. i. p. 19-21.)

Mr. C.-Pliny, by his own confession, knew nothing of the Christians, before his coming into the Grecian cities of Asia Minor.

Mr. B.-This assertion you must substantiate, or your credit is lost. Here, then, follows Pliny's own account of the matter: your readers shall judge for themselves of the correctness of your assertion.

"Pliny to the Emperor Trajan, wisheth health and happiness. It is my constant custom, Sir, to refer myself to you in all matters concerning which I have any doubt: for who can better direct me when I hesitate, or instruct me when I am ignorant. I have never been present at any trials of Christians; so that I knew not well what is the subject matter of punishment, or of inquiry, or what strictness ought to be used in either. Nor have I been a little perplexed to determine whether any difference ought to be made on account of age, or whether the young and tender, and the full grown and the robust, ought to be treated all alike; whether repentance should entitle to pardon, or whether all who have once been Christians ought to be punished, though they are now no longer so; whether the name itself, although no crimes be detected, or crimes only belonging to the name, ought to be punished. Concerning all these things I am in doubt.

"In the mean time, I have taken this course with all who have been brought before me, and have been accused as Christians. I have put the question to them, whether they were Christians? Upon their confessing to me that they were, I repeated the question a second and a third time, threatening also to punish them with death. Such as still persisted, I ordered away to be punished; for it was no doubt with me, whatever might be the nature of their opinions, that contumacy and inflexible obstinacy ought

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