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itself, and professes to do no more than supply the deficiency of natural religion, to answer the necessities and new relations of mankind occasioned by sin. And in the controversy between christians and deists, the dispute is, not whether man be a rational creature, and natural religion divine; but whether reason and natural religion be of themselves sufficient to conduct sinners to eternal life. Deists maintain the affirmative; christians support the negative, and say that natural religion, being given to man in a state of innocence, made no provision for his recovery from sin, because it contemplated him as an upright creature; and that a new relation being induced by his apostacy from God, a new or revealed religion became necessary; which, contemplating all the relations of man, might make effectual provision for all his necessities.

You see, then, whither your principle will carry you; that it will extinguish all religion, and prove that reason is not a gift from God. Nay, it will further evince, that mankind can be neither the subjects of his moral government, nor the creatures of his almighty power. For, can we believe that a race so wicked, vile, and depraved have derived their existence from a Being so holy, or live under his government which, like himself, must be holy? This length, I presume, you are not prepared, nor willing, to go: and I have pursued the principle in all its just consequences to their full extent, to open your eyes upon that dreadful precipice to which it leads, and convince you that it is false and deceitful.

The conclusion which should be drawn from the corruptions of the christian church, is, that mankind are so depraved that they will abuse every gift of God; that even the influence of revealed religion, unattended with a divine power on the heart, is not suf ficient to restrain the corruptions of men and make them virtuous and pious; and that only, when accompanied by the all-conquering energy of the Holy Spirit, can the preaching of the gospel answer its great design. "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”

It may be further observed, that reason is more responsible for the vices of this dark period, than christianity; for it is a fact, that not only the common people, but the clergy were ignorant of the doctrines and precepts of the christian system. Very few of the teachers of religion were able to read; and those who were, instead of studying the scriptures, and deriving their ideas from this pure fountain, studied the writings of Aristotle, and made, not Jesus Christ, but this heathen, lord of their

by its precepts, and can find no countenance from its doctrines, an unfavourable conclusion cannot with justice be drawn. The dishonour is apparent not real. Apply this rule to the christian religion. Can you discover any immoral tendency either in its doctrines or in its precepts? Show the precept that allows, the doctrine that countenances ambition, luxury, avarice, sensuality, pride, uncleanness, injustice, spiritual tyranny, or any vice. Search the scriptures, and you will find that the christian system, in all its parts, is eminently calculated to promote justice, equity, humility, gentleness, meekness, benevolence, and every other virtue conducive to the happiness of society. The religion of Jesus, then, is not responsible for the crimes of its professors.

But, it may be asked, can we believe that a religion coming from God should have so little influence as christianity had in that period, in forming the manners and conduct of men? Admit, that the corruptions of the christian church become an insuperable objection to its divine authority. What is the consequence of pursuing the principle on which this conclusion is grounded? Then, natural religion cannot be from God; for these men were the subjects of this as well as of revealed religion. Then, reason cannot be from God; for these men were rational creatures as well as professors of religion. The force of such conclusions cannot be evaded by saying, that the perversion of reason, and the corruption of natural religion, were owing to the belief of christianity. This is giving up the principle from which objections are derived against christianity; for it is grounded on the supposition, that a gift or religion coming from God cannot be abused. Now, if you allow that reason and natural religion may be abused, and thence infer that the abuse of them makes not against their divine origin, you ought, in justice, to allow that revealed religion may be abused, and that the abuse of it cannot make against its claims to divine authority. But if you will insist, that the corrupt lives of its professors prove that it cannot be from God; then, to be consistent with yourselves, you should, on the very same principle, maintain, that natural religion and reason cannot be from God; because every professor of christianity is, and must be, a subject of reason and natural religion, and, therefore, they are responsible for his conduct as much as christianity. Revealed religion makes no opposition either to reason or to natural religion. On the contrary, it supposes man to be a rational creature, addresses him as such, and maintains, that enlightened reason must approve of all its doctrines and precepts when rightly understood: and it, moreover, incorporates the whole of natural religion with

itself, and professes to do no more than supply the deficiency of natural religion, to answer the necessities and new relations of mankind occasioned by sin. And in the controversy between christians and deists, the dispute is, not whether man be a rational creature, and natural religion divine; but whether reason and natural religion be of themselves sufficient to conduct sinners to eternal life. Deists maintain the affirmative; christians support the negative, and say that natural religion, being given to man in a state of innocence, made no provision for his recovery from sin, because it contemplated him as an upright creature; and that a new relation being induced by his apostacy from God, a new or revealed religion became necessary; which, contemplating all the relations of man, might make effectual provision for all his necessities.

You see, then, whither your principle will carry you; that it will extinguish all religion, and prove that reason is not a gift from God. Nay, it will further evince, that mankind can be neither the subjects of his moral government, nor the creatures of his almighty power. For, can we believe that a race so wicked, vile, and depraved have derived their existence from a Being so holy, or live under his government which, like himself, must be holy? This length, I presume, you are not prepared, nor willing, to go: and I have pursued the principle in all its just consequences to their full extent, to open your eyes upon that dreadful precipice to which it leads, and convince you that it is false and deceitful.

The conclusion which should be drawn from the corruptions of the christian church, is, that mankind are so depraved that they will abuse every gift of God; that even the influence of revealed religion, unattended with a divine power on the heart, is not suf ficient to restrain the corruptions of men and make them virtuous and pious; and that only, when accompanied by the all-conquering energy of the Holy Spirit, can the preaching of the gospel answer its great design. "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."

It may be further observed, that reason is more responsible for the vices of this dark period, than christianity; for it is a fact, that not only the common people, but the clergy were ignorant of the doctrines and precepts of the christian system. Very few of the teachers of religion were able to read; and those who were, instead of studying the scriptures, and deriving their ideas from this pure fountain, studied the writings of Aristotle, and made, not Jesus Christ, but this heathen, lord of their

faith. So that the church, by neglecting the Holy Scriptures, was brought to a level with those who have never enjoyed their light; and the corruptions and vices of its members, as they were the natural consequence, were also a just punishment of their chusing darkness rather than light.

The ignorance and wickedness of the christian church during the dark ages, so far from being an argument against the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, form a very strong one in favour of it. This deplorable state of things was a fulfilment of scripture prophecy. That it was clearly and distinctly foretold, is evident from the following quotations from the writings of St. Paul: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." 1 Tim. iv. 1-3. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." 2 Tim. iii. 1—5. "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way; and then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming; even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth,

but had pleasure in unrighteousness." 2 Thes. ii. 3-12. Here you see, that the corruptions of the christian church were foretold in a manner plain, distinct, and accurate; so that no candid person can, after comparing the events with the prophecy, deny that the one is a manifest fulfilment of the other. And is not such an accomplishment of prophecy a strong and convincing evidence of the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures? Who but the omniscient God could have foreseen and predicted an event so strange as the rise and progress of the papal empire, and the vile and abominable lives of men professing the pure and holy religion of Jesus?

Instead, therefore, of being shaken in your belief of christianity by the corruptions of the church in the period contemplated, you should be established in it; and you should also be convinced of the necessity of divine influence to restrain the wickedness of human nature, and to render the preaching of the gospel successful in turning men from sin to holiness.

Y.

A DISSERTATION

ON THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES, TAKEN IN A CONTRASTED view.

GENESIS ii. 17, But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof, THOU

SHALT SURELY DIE.

CHAPTER iii. v. 4, And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall

NOT SURELY DIE.

IT being the object of every believer to arrive at the truth, no advantage can arise from distorting the evident import of scripture, by putting the constructions of our own fancies on the terms used, or by displaying our ingenuity in explaining away the meaning of words. As the creatures of God, and as accountable to him for our opinions and actions, we are concerned to make his word, in all cases, the standard of faith. Whatever be our wishes and feelings, there is but one path marked out, in which we may safely proceed; and that is, to learn the mind of God as expressed in the revelation which he hath put into our hands.

At an early period of the world we find, that different and contradictory sentiments have been advanced on religious subjects. Laying aside all prejudice and prepossession, we do honour to ourselves, and to the truth, by searching after the doctrine of infallible wisdom and unerring rectitude. In the passages before us, we find a most express and pointed contrariety. This contrariety is

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