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at variance with each other; primary and independent sources of spirit and of matter, of light and of darkness, by whose conflicting operation this world and man himself were originally framed, in their present state of manifest imperfection. Upon this monstrous position were grounded many strange speculations concerning the nature of the Deity, the nature of man, and the person of our blessed Saviour, utterly irreconcileable with the sacred Word. A multiplicity of other sects issued from this parent source, distinguished chiefly by their respective application of the principles of their great leader to certain particular doctrines of holy writ; some corrupting the doctrine of the Incarnation, others adopting fanatical persuasions of the power of attaining to spiritual perfection by an entire abstraction of the soul from the body; others, again, rejecting large portions of sacred writ; and others even asserting the whole of the Old Testament to have been the work of the evil principle, in opposition to the New
Another similar source of error and contention is found in the inexhaustible subject of the Divine decrees. This involved the various difficulties of reconciling God's foreknowledge with contingent events; the sovereignty of Divine grace with man's free will ; the universality of the Christian redemption with the final perdition of a great portion of the human race; and numberless other
questions subordinate to these, on which Scripture is silent, and unenlightened reason can tell us nothing How injurious many of them have proved to the best interests of truth and charity, is but too well known.
Thus far may suffice respecting the first class of questions proposed to be considered, as properly falling under the apostolical censure in the text; questions relating to points neither within the reach of our natural faculties, nor fully made known to us by revelation. The diversity of “ strange doctrines,”— doctrines unknown to the Scriptures, and even subversive of the Christian faith, which have been espoused, not only by individuals, but by entire communities of professed Christians, respecting the subjects here adverted to ;-afford very striking proof of the mischiefs arising from neglect of the Apostle's salutary caution. Further evidence to the same effect may be produced when we come to the consideration of the next class of
questions to which that caution is applicable; those which, whether or not they be really capable of satisfactory decision, are yet in
their kind unprofitable and unimportant. Between these and such as have been already noticed, such a line of distinction is requisite
may determine what greater latitude in the discussion of them can be safely allowed.
For the present, it remains only to be observed, with reference to the points already noticed, how necessary it is to bear constantly in mind that maxim of the Apostle, “We “ walk by faith, not by sighta.” The mysteries which even “angels desire to look into b;" and which are intercepted from our view by the veil which the Almighty himself hath cast around them ; it is not for us presumptuously to explore. Questions, indeed, will sometimes occur on matters of this description, which even the most humble and diffident cannot entirely dismiss from their thoughts. But a reverential sense of the nature of the subjects, and of the immeasurable distance betwixt things finite and infinite, betwixt divine and human knowledge, will hardly fail to repress the too inquisitive spirit, and impose a salutary restraint upon the ardour of its pursuit. If enough is revealed to shew us the path of life, and if we have the full assurance of faith for all that it really concerns us to know or to believe, wherefore should we weary ourselves for what can profit nothing, or what may even shake our confidence in truths on which our surest hope is founded? The time, indeed, is approaching, when our aspirations after higher things may more abundantly be gratified. But it is in vain to anticipate that period. Rather will it be our wisdom to content ourselves with the lesser degree of light we already enjoy, in full assurance that “ blessed are they who “ have not seen, and yet have believed.”
b 1 Peter i. 12.
a 2 Cor. v. 7.
2 TIM. ii. 23. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid ; know
ing that they do gender strifes.
56 Cease, my
THERE is more difficulty than might at first be apprehended in distinguishing pretended from real knowledge, and false wisdom from that which is true. “ son,” says Solomon,“ to hear the instruction " that causeth to err from the words of know
ledgea:" and a greater than Solomon hath said, “ Take heed that the light that is in thee “ be not darkness b." St. Paul affirms that 6 the wisdom of this world is foolishness with “ God";" and he speaks, in this Epistle to Timothy, of some who were “ever learning, 6 and never able to come to the knowledge “ of the truth?” These admonitions imply that there may be an imposing semblance of
a Prov. xix. 27. b Luke xi. 35. c1 Cor. iii. 19. d 2 Tim. jji. 7.