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so conducted, tend indeed to little but mutual recrimination ; and while such misconceptions prevail, every argument will fail of conviction, because to each party it appears to be founded on some inadmissible assumption.
A few words only remain now to be added, in conclusion of the whole subject. It has been the main object of this and the two foregoing Discourses, to point out some of those evils incident to theological controversy which arise from the agitation of questions which cannot be determined, of questions unnecessary to be determined, and of questions founded upon
verbal misapprehension. If polemical divinity could be divested of these, what then remained to occupy the thoughts and the labours of the sincere inquirer into Christian truth would more amply repay the toil; and the minds of controversialists would be so much less frequently soured and irritated as these incitements to animosity were diminished.
It is in vain, however, to hope for the entire extinction of religious animosity. “There “must be heresies among you,” says St. Paul, “ that they which are approved may be made “ manifesto ;” and we are not to pay a compliment, even to well-intentioned errors, at the
cl Cor. xi. 19.
expense of truth.
But though it be an imperative duty to “ contend earnestly for the “ faith ;” yet is the faith itself weakened rather than strengthened, when points of debate are unnecessarily multiplied; when men “ beat the air” in agitating questions unfit for discussion, or unworthy of it, or which only betray their ignorance of each other's meaning, and, perhaps, of their own.
Nothing, indeed, is more to be deprecated than that pruriency of mind which is
perpetually in quest of religious novelties, and perpetually seeking fresh topics for polemical display. This disposition not only turns aside the student in theology from subjects more worthy his attention, but extends its pernicious influence even to those classes of the community which are least capable of improving by it, and most liable to imbibe error. The unlettered peasant, or artificer, when the question is put to him, “ Understandest thou 66 what thou readest?” disdains to answer, “ How can I, except some man should guide “ med?” He is ready to set at nought the instruction of his pastor, and deems himself qualified to teach the teacher. Who can wonder, then, if " foolish and unlearned ques“ tions” are thus multiplied, and continually engender strifes ?” Who can wonder that rash speculations on dark and mysterious points of divinity are preferred to the plain and practical lessons of the word of truth? that men will rather bewilder themselves in perplexities they can never unravel, than be taught to “add to their faith virtue o,” and to “ live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this
d Acts viii. 30, 31.
present world '?”—that their delight is in those “secret things which belong unto the “ Lord our God,” more than in “the things “ which are revealed, and which belong unto 6 them and to their children 8?"
The main antidote to these evils is to have a never-failing regard to the substantial edification of ourselves and others; discouraging, as far as may be, needless and vain discussions, and fixing our thoughts chiefly on those great leading truths of holy writ, which must, after all, be made the test of every subordinate opinion. This, together with a just reverence for the collective wisdom of the Christian Church, handed down from age to age, and exhibited in those comprehensive confessions of faith which have survived the wreck of time, and withstood the united attacks of adversaries from generation to generation; will be our best safeguard against the waywardness of a disputatious and licentious age. To this, however, must be added that corrective of the heart, as well as of the understanding, which the word of God itself most amply furnishes, and which must further be sought for by earnest supplications at the throne of grace.
e 2 Pet. i. 5. f Titus ii. 12. g Deut. xxix. 29.
It will, indeed, be the wisdom and the happiness of every one of us, while we “prove all
things,” to “hold fast that which is good ";" not to be “carried about with every wind of “ doctrine';" not to be ambitious of joining those who “burn incense to vanity, and cause “ men to stumble in their ways from the an“ cient ways, to walk in paths in a way not “ cast upk.” Above all will it be our security and our confidence to pray with the Apostle, “ that our love may abound yet more and
more in knowledge and in all judgment; “ that we may approve things that are excel
lent; that we may be sincere and without “ offence till the day of Christ, being filled “ with the fruits of righteousness, which are
by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise 6 of God!."
h 1 Thess. v. 21. | Phil. i. 9, 10, 11.
i Eph. iv. 14.
k Jer. xviii. 15.
GENESIS i. 27.
So God created man in his own image: in the image
of God created he him.
IT is one of the most striking proofs of the limited extent of our natural faculties, and the general defect of human acquirements, that we cannot attain even to a perfect knowledge of ourselves without the aid of Revelation. In whatever point of view man is contemplated, whether with respect to his origin or his destination; to his endowments physical, intellectual, and moral; to the purposes for which he was brought into existence, or the means by which those purposes are to be effected ; doubts and perplexities arise which no sagacity, no research, conducted by the unassisted powers of the human understanding, has hitherto been able entirely to remove.