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the highest knowledge; and a sense of weakness and deficiency, and sin, and ardent aspiration after whatever most dignifies and embellishes our natures, should induce us to apply to it as full of the best practical wisdom, the teacher of a generous and sublime morality, the parent and strengthner of the noblest virtue, of the most effectual comfort, and best founded and sweetest hopes. It bears evidence of its worth on every feature. He must be insensible and careless, one would think, who is incapable of discerning this worth, or discerning it, is not moved and attracted.
The motive to the study of Christianity from its intrinsic excellence, from the sublime reach of its iristructions, and its divinely breathing spirit, must have weight with all thinking minds. On Christians we may urge another motive,-faith in its heavenly origin. Jesus presented himself to the world in the character of God's ambassador. He came, as he tells us, in his Father's name; in his name he taught, speaking not of himself, but uttering to the world the things, which were shown him of the Father. His instructions thus have, in the view of his followers, a divine sanction. His religion is heaven's gift. Its doctrines and its morality, its promises and its threatenings, all proceed from God.Such is the Christian's faith. He believes that through Jesus God has spoken to the world. And when he speaks, shall man refuse to listen? When he utters his voice, shall man shut his ear? Shall we reject his offer to instruct and save us? We own ourselves Christians; let us not give occasion for the re
proach, that we are such but in name. We believe that Christianity is no forged tale; it partakes of the spirit neither of fanaticism, nor of imposture, but speaks the words of truth and soberness. And shall we manifest no strong desire to understand and apply its language? Shall we bestow more time on the attainment of every species of trifling knowledge, which accident or fashion recommends, than we allow to the teachings of God's unerring spirit? Let us be more consistent. If we reverence Christianity for the stamp of divinity it bears on the face of it, let us show our reverence by our efforts to become acquainted with the sublime truths it imparts.
Our limits will not allow us to dwell on the benefits to be derived from an attentive study of Christianity.-It is only by careful investigation that we can distinguish between a genuine and a corrupt form of it, between the thing itself and its abuses, between the instructions of Jesus, and the erroneous additions of men.
An enlightened and pure faith is the offspring of inquiry and reflection. The same methods nourish and confirm it. The evidences of Christianity are found to gather strength in proportion as we become familiar with it. They derive confirmation from a thousand latent and unlooked for sources. Intimate use, time, acquaintance with the sorrows of life, and gradual falling away of the objects of our earthly attachment, cause its value to be more and more felt, and inspire a growing interest in it.
But especially we should acquaint ourselves with
Christianity, that we may be assisted in the regulation of our temper and conduct. The end of doctrine is practice. Let us then read the discourses of our Saviour, the narratives of the evangelists and writings of the Apostles, not in a spirit of cavilling and levity, or to furnish ourselves with weapons of theological warfare, but with an earnest desire to excite and invigorate holy affections, to exalt our piety, to enlarge our charity, to enliven hope, to fortify our feeble resolutions, to nourish the virtues of humility, meekness, patience, submission, and trust, to moderate our attachment to the world, to secure cheerful reflections in sickness and age, and become finally prepared for a removal to a better and happier life.
We are not accustomed to look for
remarkable display of tender and charitable feelings, in the “ Spirit of the Pilgrims.” As the organ of the exclusive party we do not expect it to abstain from denunciation and reproach. But when it procreds, as in the number for December, to include under the sweeping charge of infidelity, such men as William Whiston, Chillingworth, Priestley, Wakefield, Lindsey, and Belsham, we pause with utter astonishment. Yet such is the fact. All these individuals are expressly named as infidels They “fell endlong 'into the “Serbonian bog' of a virtual infidelity!” Such shameless denunciations excite our surprise and pity. For the honor of our common nature we could wish they were never uttered. They will fail, we are sure, of their end. They may produce a temporary effect on ignorant, credulous, and timid minds, but only a temporary one. They wound the cause of christian peace and charity, but they will fail of producing the impression they are designed to make. It is too late for such weapons to succeed. It is vain to attempt to resist the progress of the age. It is vain to attempt to carry back the human mind to the state in which it was several centuries ago. It is vain to attempt to put down a spirit of research, and effectually to check the growth of liberal sentiments. They have struck too deep root to admit of being ever eradicated. Opposition will now serve only to strengthen their hold and quicken their progress. The time is past. The current has swollen to too great a magnitude, and is too powerfully set to be restrained. The advocates of spiritual tyranny and intolerance may throw up mounds—these mounds are no more than sands heaped together on the shores of ocean, which the next wave
The article in the “Spirit of the Pilgrims,” which has called forth these remarks, is designed to give some account of William Whiston, a celebrated English divine and mathematician, who died about the middle of the last century. His views of the Saviour were strictly Arian. He believed in his preexistence, and considered
him entitled to inferior worship. His character and sufferings are portrayed in a lively manner by Bishop Hare, in his very ingenious treatise on the “ Difficulties and Discouragements which attend the Study of the Scriptures." Those of our readers, who are not already familiar with the passage, will be gratified, we think, with an opportunity of perusing it. For ourselves, we have never been able to read it without deep emotion. Whiston, observes the Bishop, “ has all his life been cultivating piety, and virtue, and good learning. Rigidly constant himself in the public and private duties of religion; and always promoting in others virtue and such learning as he thought would conduce most to the honor of God, by manifesting the greatness and wisdom of his works. He has given the world sufficient proofs that he has not misspent his time, by very useful works of philosophy and mathematics; he has applied one to the explication of the other, and endeavored by both to display the glory of the great Creator. And to his study of nature, he early joined the study of the Scriptures; and his attempts, whatever the success be, were at least well meant; and, considering the difficulty of the subjects he has engaged in, it must be allowed that in the main they are well aimed; and, if he has not succeeded, no more have others who have meddled with the same subjects. Nor is he more to be blamed than they. To be blamed, did I say? I should have said, not less to be commended. For sure it is a commendable design, to explain scripture difficulties, and to re