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and explicitly propounded to us from the supreme being, is so much an act of reason, and of homage to his holiness and sovereignty, that infidelity would be madness, and disobedience, treason. That the gospel, with all its preparations and appendages, is such a revelation, we have a series of evidences, and a cloud of witnesses, which nothing can resist. To obey the will of God, who is the eternal fountain and pattern of right and truth, who is also the creator and governor of the universe, must be the perfection and happiness of every reasonable being. The commands of God, delivered in the gospel, are “holy, just, and good,” and experience shews them to be adapted to our condition, and productive of our welfare.
The conditions of salvation, proposed by the gospel, are, therefore, the very law of reason and nature, illustrated and improved by a heavenly teacher, enforced by his authority, recommended by his love, and by the promise of his eternal favour.
Yet, alas, when we turn our eyes to the annals of religious history, is it not distressing to see, under this last most enlightened dispensation of mercy, (which is, in the fullest sense of the word, calculated to correct the errors of man, and carry truth to every mind, that is open to receive it,) how large a multitude, entertaining opinions utterly inconsistent with the purity of the gospel, even at this day, Christendom contains ?
If it be asked, what is that subject, the power of contemplating which, is the proudest distinction of the human understanding? I answer, the being and perfections of the -Deity. If it be asked, what is that subject, upon which the mistakes of man have been most numerous, and thrown the darkest blot upon his intellectual honour ? I answer, his inadequate conception of the laws and dispensations of his God.
If it be enquired what is that principle which is most eminently calculated, to animate the social virtue of man, and inspire into his breast the consoling expectation of a blessed immortality—to produce in him the faithful friend, the kind relative, the good neighbour, the patriot citizen, the useful member of that community with which he is connected, and the fervent lover of mankind? What is it that is most excellently adapted to make him all that men admire, and all that society wants ? I reply with readiness, and with pleasure, religion.
If it be enquired, what causes have most powerfully operated, to rob society of his services, have sequestered him from his fellow men, and frozen his social affections into the most torpid insensibility ; have buried his talents in the profoundest inactivity, have turned his humanity to the hardest stone, and have sullied his sword with the foulest stains ? I reply, with sorrow and with shame, errors in religion.
If it be said, as with truth it must be said, that there is no joy so sublime, no superiority to anxiety so serene, no sense of security, temporal and eternal, so tranquil, as that which religion inspires--with equal truth it may be said, that of all the melancholy, into which man has been ever plunged, the deepest has been religious melancholy,of all the excessive solicitudes, by which he has been harassed; that which has respected the divine acceptance of his services, has disquieted his bosom, the most, and of all the fears that have chilled his heart, the most icy he has felt, have been his fears of God.
We are all agreed that every man is bound to make an enquiry into religion ; and wherever arguments are fairly adduced, and questions thoroughly explored by the powers of reason, there can be no danger to truth, or to the friends of truth ; for in
every such investigation, truth must have a decided advantage over falsehood.
But questions are not always so explored, nor arguments always so adduced. Ingenuity is not unfrequently employed in obscuring, where it should illumine, and in perplexing, where it should clear ; thus, instead of possessing in themselves a perfect indifference for every thing but known and well-attested truth, regardless of the place from whence it comes, or of that to which it seems to be going ; the concern of too many, is not the trial, but the support of their opinions, which can be, in many instances, no otherwise provided for, than by keeping the arguments in favour of them always in view, and by contriving to have those of a less benign aspect, overlooked or forgotten. The first and surest means of acquiring the good we seek, is our love and affection for the object. This quickens our industry, and sharpens our attention. On this account the love of truth hath always been recommended by the masters of wisdom, as the best means of succeeding in the pursuit of it,- hardly, any person suspects that he wants this love, yet there are few whom their confidence does not deceive. We mistake the love of our opinions for the love of truth, because we suppose our own opinions true.
The great impediment to our advancement in the knowledge and nature of the Christian faith, appears then to be, that of adopting and espousing some favorite hypothesis, whereon to erect the gospel system. For every dispensation of true religion, consisting of means and end, the well adapting these to each other, produces what is called a system.
Now this may be built either on an hy