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ON THE

RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT, &c.

In neceffariis-Unitas;

In non neceffariis - Libertas;
In utrifque-Charitas.-

Rife-let us no more contend, nor blame
Each other, blamed enough elfewhere; but ftrive,
In offices of love, how we may lighten
Each other's burden in our fhare of woe.

MILTON.

WE are informed in various parts of the

evangelical history, that Jefus Chrift upbraided the Pharifees with their obftinacy, and with their indolence. Very attentive to the appearances of nature around them, they fhould have been still more attentive to the figns of the times. The advent of the Meffiah had been long ago predicted, and its attendant circumftances minutely fpecified. They, however, difregarded thefe evidences of our Saviour's Meffiahfhip, and with this inattention he thus reproaches them. When ye fee a cloud arife out of the west, straight way ye fay, there cometh

a fhower, and fo it is. And when ye fee the South wind blow, ye fay, there will be heat, and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can difcern the face of the fky and of the earth, but how is it, that ye do not difcern this time? And,

WHY EVEN OF YOURSELVES JUDGE YE NOT WHAT IS RIGHT?

Jefus Chrift, by this expoftulatory reproof, evidently intimates, that it is our indifpenfible duty to exercise our reason in matters of reli gion; and this duty is the more ftrongly inculcated by reproaching the Pharifees with a neglect of it. Other paffages of a fimilar import might be felected from the New Teftament. But to this pointed declaration of our Bleffed Saviour, I would now with the attention of the reader to be fteadily directed.

The gospel of Jefus Chrift is frequently divided into two parts; that which is to be believed, and that which is to be practifed. Both these parts are delivered to us in the fcriptures; and it is our bufinefs to confider what information is there

communicated refpecting them. The fpeculative part of revelation has a special reference, to the understanding, and contains doctrines which require our belief. Thefe doctrines are declarations made concerning the nature, the properties, and the relations of certain perfons or fubjects with which we are concerned. The perfons and fubjects in which we are interested

as intelligent and accountable agents, are, GodJefus Chrift-the gospel-the present ftate, and the world to come, The declarations or doctrines respecting these most momentous points of Revelation, must be the fubjects of our enquiry. We must use our reafon or judging faculty, not only to afcertain the evidences with which the gospel is attended; but also to find out the pecific meaning of the infpired penmen, concerning these interesting subjects.

The fame fpirit of investigation fhould be applied to the practical branches of revelation. Is it of confequence to know what we are to believe? Itis equally important that we know what we are to practise. In perusing the fcriptures, we muft therefore use our reason to afcertain the nature, number, and importance of the precepts, moral and pofitive, which it is incumbent upon us to obey. We must enquire into the origin of these duties, into the motives by which they are enforced, and into the advantages with which the. difcharge of them is accompanied. The duties we owe to God, to ourselves, and to our fellow creatures, together with the right adminiftration of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, claim our particular attention. Thefe precepts and inftitutions, as well as the doctrines which have been already mentioned, are contained in the word of God.

But alas-in all ages of the church, different opinions have been entertained refpecting them,

and this diffonance of fentiment has given rife to violence, confufion, and even to the fhedding of blood. The fcriptures were wrefted out of the hands of the people. A particular interpretation was impofed upon their contents. Some dared not to judge even of themselves. Others who dared were punished with an inquifitorial feverity. But religion is a perfonal concern; the fcripture fhould be in the poffeffion of every individual, and our reafon fhould be exercised in the fear of God, to afcertain its true meaning. The infpired writers would not communicate error for our belief; nor recommend evil for our practice. But unless we are attentive, cautious, and humble, we may misinterpret their writings, and yet confidently imagine ourselves to be acquainted with their genuine fentiments.

So far was Jefus Chrift from prohibiting, or even difcouraging the exercise of reafon in matters of religion, that he exhorts his difciples to the ufe of it, and condemns his enemies for the neglect of it. Prophecies and miracles, the two moft capital evidences of his Meffiahfhip, were a direct addrefs to this ennobling principle of our nature. His apoftles alfo, in their epiftles to the primitive Churches, inculcate the fame important doctrine, and prefs it home with great folemnity upon the hearts and confciences of the first converts to the Chriftian religion. Nor in the fucceeding ages of the church

have those minifters of the gofpel, who underfood the commiffion of their divine Mafter, ceafed to appeal, upon the awful topic of religion, to the understandings of mankind :

'Tis reafon our great Mafter holds fo dear;
'Tis reafon's injured rights his wrath resents;
'Tis reafon's voice obey'd his glories crown'd.

YOUNG.

Many, indeed, are the inducements which fhould operate with Christians, to judge even of themselves what is right in matters of religion. A few of the most obvious, and confequently the moft intelligible, are here refpectfully fubmitted. to the attention of the rifing generation.

1. We fhould judge even of ourselves concerning the religion of Chrift; because the faculty of judging lies in our poffeffion?

The Divine Being gives nothing in vain. It is the characteristic of wifdom to adapt certain means to certain ends.. The poffeffion of a mean indicates an end. Who ever doubted that the eye was formed for feeing, the ear for hearing, and the other fenfes to perform their refpective functions? Equally improper would it be to doubt whether reason was given us to afcertain what revelation prefents to the human mind. We find ourselves in the poffeffion of a faculty by which we receive ideascompare them with one another, and then draw

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