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I must now draw to a close.Your time will not admit of my urging upon my fellow-Christians, at any length, by the various and powerful motives which might be presented to their minds, the important duty of "holding fast that which is good."
All truth is good. The truth revealed in "the glorious gospel of the blessed God," is peculiarly good :-good in its own nature;-good in its holy and happy influence ;-good in all its present, and in all its eternal consequences.-Let me exhort you, my brethren, to hold it fast purely, firmly, meekly, practically.-Purely; without any admixture of error: -firmly; not "halting between two opinions," fluctuating and undecided, or imagining that truth and error may be embraced and held with equal safety:-meekly; maintaining it with an humble consciousness of your own natural blindness, and a feeling of your entire obligation to the enlightening Spirit of God;—with benevolent affection to the persons of your opponents; and with the patience and gentleness of Christ-practically; exemplifying, in the whole of your conduct, personal and social, private and public, in the family, in the church, and in the world, its renewing, and purifying and gladdening efficacy.
To all, I would say, and with the earnestness of affectionate entreaty, "Search the Scriptures." Examine them for yourselves. Examine them with a seriousness becoming the importance of the inquiry, and the magnitude of those consequences that are necessarily connected with it. Derive no foolish and vain excuse for neglecting to do this, from those differences of sentiment which you may observe to subsist amongst the professed followers of Jesus Christ. The sentiments of others are nothing to you. It is not of others, but of yourselves, that you must give an account to God. Let each individual, therefore, attend to the gospel, as if he were
himself the only creature to whom it is addressed. O! beware of satisfying yourselves at present, with such excuses as, you must be conscious, will never bear the scrutiny of the great day. Your immortal souls are at stake. Be therefore, in earnest. Take nothing upon trust. What you hear from us, or from others, examine by the light of the Divine word. If we speak not according to that word, there is no light in us. It is not what we say, but what God says, that is "able to save the soul."-" My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding ; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;-then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God."*-May God thus incline your hearts to "PROVE ALL THINGS, AND TO HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD."
Prov. ii. I-5.
ON THE UNITY OF GOD, AND THE TRINITY OF
DEUT. vi. 4.
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, is one Lord."
DEISTS have often contemptuously smiled, at the diversity of sentiment which exists amongst professed believers in revelation. It is no part of my present purpose, to examine into the causes of this diversity. It ought not, however, to be unnoticed, that amongst Deists themselves, the differences, in proportion to the extent of their creed, and the nature and number of the topics which it embraces, are neither fewer, nor less considerable. No two of them seem to be agreed, as to what are, strictly speaking, the articles of faith, in the System of Natural Religion. There are few phrases, indeed, of which the proper import is more undefined.
Various circumstances may be considered as contributing to account for this important and curious fact.
In the first place: In a country where Divine revelation is possessed, and where its truths are in general currency, there will always be found, amongst those who reject its authority, a great deal of unacknowledged obligation to it. Truths are brought forward by persons of this description, as the result of their own unassisted investigation, which, without the aid of revelation, were never discovered by philosophers of the most sagacious and comprehensive minds; and for the knowledge of which, they are, in reality, indebted to that very revelation which they disbelieve and contemn. They thus
borrow from the armory of God the very weapons with which they oppose his cause. They pilfer fire from the altar of Jehovah, to burn the sacrifice at the shrine of their own wisdom. They abstract the coin of Heaven, and proudly stamp it with the image and superscription of Reason.The variety of degrees in which this kind of secret sacrilege is practised, contributes, of course, to the diversity of sentiment amongst the professed opposers of revelation, respecting the true extent of the natural powers of discovery, on such subjects, possessed by the human mind.
2dly. Another consideration, conducing to the same effect, is, that in the speculations and reasonings of such men, theory is resorted to more than fact. Now to the variety of theoretical speculation there are hardly any assignable limits.-But surely men who, on such a subject as that before us, are content to deal in theory, are miserably inconsistent with themselves. In science and philosophy, they are accustomed to insist on facts, and on experimental induction, as the only basis on which theory should rest. Yet here, although facts without number present themselves, in the history of every age and of every nation in which revelation has been unknown, theory is still pertinaciously adhered to: and human reason has been most ingeniously and plausibly shown to be eminently capable of effecting, what in fact it has never done. The truth is, that of the air-built speculations of such philosophers the whole fabric is at once overthrown, by a single glance into the state and history of the heathen world. It is a case determined by an extent of practical evidence, such as hardly ever bore on any other question. One great experiment was made for the long space of four thousand years, during which the world in general was left to itself, with full opportunity to try its powers. The experiment was on a large scale; it was tried with every possible variety of circumstances; and
the unvarying and undeniable result was, that "the world by wisdom knew not God.”*
3dly. An important distinction, although in itself very obvious, has, on this subject, been frequently overlooked: I mean the distinction between any truth being agreeable to reason when made known, and the same truth being discoverable by reason, without supernatural illumination.-Some of the truths of revelation are so strikingly consonant to right reason, and, even when the hearts of men are at variance with them, commend themselves so instantly to their judgments, that we are apt to be seduced into the belief that mankind could never possibly be ignorant of them. When once revealed, the proof of which they are susceptible is so plain and so conclusive, that Reason gets the credit of their discovery, although uniform fact pronounces the credit to be undeserved.
Some, indeed, have gone so far on the other side, as to express a doubt whether mankind, entirely apart from revelation, could ever have attained to any conceptions at all of the being and perfections of God. If in the term revelation we include original and traditionary, as well as written revelation, it is obvious that this is a question, which hardly admits of any certain determination: for, on the supposition of original revelation having been possessed by men, (and of this there cannot surely be a doubt, on any ground, either of reason, or of scripture) it becomes quite impossible to say, what proportion even of the' ideas which have prevailed in the world, should be considered as the remnants of sadly corrupted tradition: especially when we take into account the resemblance which has, in various instances, been discovered, and which in some cases, indeed, forces itself upon our observation,
* 1 Cor. i. 21.