« VorigeDoorgaan »
MORAL AND POLITICAL
WILLIAM PALEY, D.D.
ARCHDEACON OF CARLISLE.
EDMUND LAW, D. D.
LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE
Had the obligations which I owe to your Lord
ship's kindness been much less, or much fewer, Ź place in my mind for deliberation or for inquiry; in
than they are; had personal gratitude left any selecting a name which every reader might confess to be prefixed with propriety to a work, that, in many of its parts, bears no obscare relation to the general principles of natural and revealed religion, I should have found myself directed by many con. siderations to that of the Bishop of Carlisle. A. long life spent in the most interesting of all human pursuits—the investigation of moral and religious truth, in constant and unwearied endeavours to advance the discovery, communication, and success, of both; a life so occupied, and arrived at that period which renders every life venerable, commands respect by a title which no virtuous mind will dispute, which no mind sensible of the importance of these studies to the supreme concernments of mankind will not rejoice to see acknowledged. Whatever difference, or whatever opposition, some why peruse your Lordship’s writings may perceive beiween your conclusions and their own, the good and wise of all persuasions will revere that industry, which has for its object the illustration or defence of our common Christianity. Your Lordship’s researches have never lost sight of one purpose, namely, to recover the simplicity of the gospel from beneath that load of unauthorized additions, which the ignorance of some ages, and the learning of others, the superstition of weak, and the craft of Tesigning men, have (umbrappily for its interest)
cheaped upon it. And this purpose, I am convinced, was dictated by the purest motive ; by a firm, and I think, a just opinion, that whatever renders religion more rational, renders it more credible; that he who, by a diligent and faithful examination of the original records, dismisses from the system one article which contradicts the apprehension, the experience, or the reasoning, of mankind, does more towards recommending the belief, and, with the belief, the influence, of Christianity, to the understandings and consciences of serious inquirers, and through them to universal reception and authority, than can be effected by a thousand contenders for Creeds and ordinances of human establishment.
When the doctrine of Transubstantiation had tąken possession of the Christian world, it was not without the industry of learned men, that it came at length to be discovered, that no such doctrine was contained in the New Testament. But had those excellent persons done nothing more by their discovery, than abolished an innocent superstition, or changed some directions in the ceremonial of public worship, they had merited little of that veneration, with which the gratitude of Protestant churches remembers their services. What they did for mankind, was this : they exonerated Chris. tianity of a weight which sunk it. If indolence or timidity had checked these exertions, or suppressed the fruit and publication of these inquiries, is it too much to affirm that infidelity would at this day have been universal ?
I do not mean, my Lord, by the mention of this example, to insinuate that any popular opinion which your Lordship may have encountered, ought to be compared with Transubstantiation, or that the assurance with which we reject that extravagant absurdity is attainable in the controversies in which your Lordship, has been engaged; but I mean, by calling to mind those great reformers of the public faith, to observe, or rather to express my own persuasion, that to restore the purity, is most effectually to promote the progress, of Christianity; and that the same virtuous motive which hath sancrified their labours, suggested yours. At a time when some men appear not to perceive any good,