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A true conformity of temper and disposition to our blessed Lord, and to the genuine tendency of his gospel. How lovely was the whole of his temper and conduct! How impossible it is, we should discern its beauty, and not be concerned to imbibe and imitate it.

A spirit of love, ardent zeal, genuine philanthropy, activity for God, and resignation to God, meekness, gentleness, selfdenial, and love to enemies. He could not, indeed, set us an example of repentance. But his gospel tends to inspire and increase it, all through life, and to promote tenderness of conscience.

It is a strong evidence that we have the Spirit of Christ, when we have a proportionate regard to the different branches of evangelical religion, both towards God and man: having respect to all his commandments, and not being partial in his law. Christ's was an obedient spirit.

The continual tendency of all discoveries from the Holy Spirit, will be to strengthen us in holy practice, and to excite an irreconcilable hatred of all sin, and an insatiable thirst after perfect conformity to the Saviour.

If we have the Spirit of Christ, we shall love his cause, delight in his image, seek the welfare of his people, long to promote his kingdom, and rejoice to see others called. We shall set our affections on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. We shall live here as strangers and pilgrims, who seek a better country, that is, an heavenly


XC. THE USE OF REASON IN MATTERS OF RELIGION. [Preached at the Bristol Monthly Lecture, 1801.]

Rom. xii. 3. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think : but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Though I have selected this passage to illustrate the important subject which I am called this evening to discuss,

I would propose

yet I frankly admit that the caution it contains, appears more immediately to refer to the comparative estimate of our abilities, and of the duties of our respective stations, rather than to the judgment we should form of the human faculties in general. But the same rule which shows it to be a duty not to overrate those talents, by which one man is distinguished from another, teaches us also, that it is of equal, if not of superior importance, that we do not entertain a false and extravagant opinion of those powers which we possess in common with other men.

And, in fact, those who incline to arrogate more than they ought, to reason in matters of religion, have no common standard of truth which they unite in following; but turn aside each to his own way, and lean each to his own understanding; so that the evil against which we are to be chiefly guarded this evening, is very nearly identified with that to which the text immediately refers. therefore,

FIRST, To inquire what is meant by reason, in the present discussion, and make some general remarks on its nature and exercise.

Reason is that power of the mind, by which we form a judgment of the truth of propositions : either judging by intuition and self-evidence, or comparing ideas to see their agreement or disagreement with each other; and deducing one proposition from another, or proceeding from premises to conclusions. That exercise of reason, which is called reasoning, or argumentation, consists in discovering the truth of a proposition, which did not appear to our reason immediately, or when considered alone ; but which is evinced by the help of some other proposition, on which it depends. This power distinguishes rational creatures from the irrational, and is common to all mankind, except ideots, or persons afflicted with madness; though it can scarcely be exercised by very young infants, and in adults it is found to differ much, as to its degree of acuteness and accuracy, and is capable of vast improvement by exercise.

The bare mental faculty .could discover very little, without suitable means of information; e. g. the bodily senses, the memory, the testimony of

others, tradition, and historical records. Reason determines that we may depend on these as sources of knowledge, and then admits a variety of truths on each of these grounds. And surely revelation may be as good a source of information as either of the former, and still better and more worthy of dependance; unless reason could prove revelation impossible, or that which professes to be so, false. Reason is suited to the discovery of truth, and truth must be favorable to virtue ; and therefore, we may be sure right reason is favorable to true religion; yet it is very evident from fact, that sensible people are not always the most virtuous. Reason does not prevent persons from frequently forming wrong judgments, especially in cases wherein they are under the influence of passion. Reason will not gain information on subjects to which a man does not apply his faculties: nor will it guide him right, if it be employed in a wrong direction, or under the influence of some selfish, or improper bias. In cases, therefore, wherein the passions are interested, we must be on our guard, or the judgment of the individual will be so warped in his own favor, that he will form an opinion contrary to truth, and to the sentiments of all impartial judges; and the more self is interested, the more will he be fixed in prejudice, and blind to evidence. As to moral truths, reason does not teach all men their duty to one another, or nations would not so often engage in ruinous wars, to the injury of both parties. So, men of keen parts are often bad members of society.

Much less will reason alone teach our whole duty to God, or discover all we need to know concerning him. And yet I would proceed,

SECONDLY, To consider the great use of reason in matters, of religion.

Reason is not only of some use in religion, but there can be no true religion without it. We cannot truly worship an unknown God. Hindoos may place their religion in repeating the name of Ram, or Kreeshnoo, which they learn of their goroo. Papists may say, Ignorance is the mother of devotion; but God says, that, “ for the soul to be without knowledge is not good.” He requires a rational service.

Every part of true religion is worthy the approbation of a rational creature. God would not accept of the services of those, who are not convinced of the truth of his being, the excellence of his character, the equity of his government, the justice of his law, and the wisdom and glory of his plan of salvation. The preaching of the cross, is to them that perish, foolishness; but to them that are saved, Christ crucified is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Revelation does not preclude the exercise of reason; for reason must be used, not only to convince us of the need, and existence of revelation, but of the meaning of its contents. Not, indeed, presuming to reject its doctrines, because they were not obvious to reason previous to their being revealed, which would be putting reason out of its place, and confounding reason and the rule of reason, or making our own prejudices the standard of truth. Reason is not to dictate, but to learn what God has said ; yet, unless revelation contain none but self-evident propositions, we must use reasoning, or argumentation, to get acquainted with the full extent of revealed truth. Let it then be used soberly.

Reason is employed soberly, and as it ought to be employed, when we seriously inquire after the Author of our existence, and the means of knowing his will, and examine into the need and importance of a revelation from God.

Reason is exercised soberly, when we make use of it in examining the evidences of a professed revelation, to determine whether it be really from God. They who have an opportunity for an extensive acquaintance with history and ancient writings, may take a wider range. They may study the evidence arising from the prophecies, from miracles, or from the propagation and preservation of the gospel. But the illiterate may obtain satisfaction by a shorter course; else what shall Hindoos and Hottentots do? The true account the scriptures give of the human heart, discovery of sin, and salvation. As you try a telescope on nearer objects, and so trust it as to those that are more remote. A distant spire, and then Saturn's orb.

We think soberly of ourselves, and as we ought to think, when we carefully examine the contents of scripture, com

paring one part with another. e.g. As to the person of Christ. Did he speak and act as thinking it no robbery to be equal with God ? claiming power to forgive sin, receiving divine worship, intimating that he possessed omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience ?

We reason soberly and as we ought to do, when we carefully consider the end, for which the various truths of divine revelation were made known. Did God reveal the atonement of Christ to lessen our abhorrence of sin, or to increase it ? Did Christ give himself for us that we might live to ourselves, or to him who died and rose again? Did he chuse his people that they might be holy, or that they might suppose that they had no need to be so? Did he give us exceeding great and precious promises that we might be careless of our conduct, or careful?

On the other hand, it should be our concern to guard against the abuse which would follow from an overweening conceit of our own reason.

Surely, to imagine that reason renders revelation unnecessary, is to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

Men without revelation are not at all agreed about religion. If men all took one way without revelation, it would give much more plausibility to their plea who reject it. But where does the sufficiency of reason appear among the old heathens ? Varro says that there were 288 opinions about the chief good; and modern Deists are far from being agreed. Men without revelation are at a loss about the most important truths; the unity of God, the pardon of sin, the sanctification of our nature, and the future state. Reason could do little for men without means of information. If deprived of the senses of sight and hearing, (a calamity seldom suffered indeed,) what would men know? And surely, without revelation, we may well believe little would be discovered of religious truth, especially, if there be evidence that all men are sinful and corrupt, and have been so for ages.

So that reason has not only to search after truth, but to discriminate it from errors which have been accumulating for centuries; and not only to find out the duty of innocent creatures, but to seek after pardon for the guilty.

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