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a conclufion refpecting the whole. In common life we readily exercise this discriminating faculty, to determine what is good and what is evil. Is it faid, that reason fhould be laid afide when religion claims our attention? For what purpofe? Are you afraid that the Chriftian faith fhould be fcrutinized? If you are, you do it a manifeft injuftice. If you are not afraid, for God's fake, do not fubject your religion to cruel and unjust fufpicions. It is an error, fays an excellent divine*, to difcard the use of reafon in religion, and inveigh against human nature, out of refpect to revelation and the grace God. 'Tis not more certain that the eye could do little, in fome cafes, without a telescope, than that the telescope can be of no ufe without the eye; and our calling in the mechanifm of art to improve that of nature, is a conceffion that nature is the foundation of art, which only finishes what the other begins. Thus revelation is a kind of fupplement to reafon, and grace to nature; the gospel brings new light, and new enforcements of ftrength; but the old faculties are fill employed, and Divine affistance to be expected upon no other terms but our making the beft ufe of these." It is, indeed, only by the use of reason, that we can judge of the external and the internal evidences of the gospel, and maintain our ground against Infidels, Jews, and Pagans. That reason, there


* Grove of Taunton.

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fore, fhould lie dormant refpecting the doctrines and duties of this fame gofpel, is a pofition at once both abfurd and ridiculous. Reafon indeed has its limits, and thefe limits are known. to wife and good men. The fober ufe of this faculty in all our affairs, and especially in the momentous concerns of the foul, cannot be too much commended. Both the doctrines and the duties of the gospel of Jefus Chrift, fhould be carefully examined, firmly believed, and zealeufly maintained. Our religion has nothing to fear from the minuteft enquiry, or from the feverest investigation. Like the works of nature, the farther we examine it, the more fully will its excellence appear, and the more effectually will its glory be displayed!

2. By not judging even of yourselves concerning the religion of Chrift, you are expofed to error. in belief, and to folly in practice.

Whence arose the abfurd dogmas, and superftitious fooleries of Popery? From having given up the use of reafon in the affairs of religion. Reafon is the monitor placed by Almighty God in the breast of every individual, to preferve his intelligent and accountable creatures from the commiffion of evil. In this prefent ftate, we are ftrangely deceived by appearances, and examination becomes neceffary to rectify even our most ordinary judgments. Docs not the ignorant and


uninformed contemplator of the heavens imagine a ftar to be no bigger than a diamond, and fuppofes the fun to be no larger than a circular plate about twelve inches in diameter? Philofophy, however, has pronounced both thefe judgments to be extremely erroneous. In a fimilar manner, a fuperficial acquaintance with the fcriptures has led thoufands to believe that they contained fentiments which are incompati'ble with the perfections of God, and inimical to the best interefts of mankind.. It is not fo much the poffeffion, as it is the proper use of reason, which conftitutes the fuperiority of man over the brute creation. The freaks of enthufiafm, and the mummeries of fuperftition, arife from the dormant ftate of this faculty in the breaft of the individual. In ecclefiaftical history we uniformly find, that reafon is decried by enthufiafts and impoftors; but our bleffed Saviviour Jefus Chrift acts a very different part, and manifefts a very different fpirit. He calls on all to examine. He condemns them for the want of examination. He even warns the deluded Jews of the long train of evils which would neceffarily arife from their indolence; and thus affords the strongest incentive to his difciples to exercife the right of private judgment, where · the important affairs of religion are concerned. Would to God! that his followers had been equally zealous to explain, recommend, and


practife this effential duty! A modern prelate of confiderable eminence*, alluding to former times, when firft heathenifm, and afterwards Popery, prevailed in this country; remarks, concerning this fubject, "Had the ufe of reafon been abandoned in the affairs of religion, we might have been still plucking misletoe with the Druids, or mixing a little flower and water into the fubftance of the incomprehenfible God !"

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3. By not judging even of yourselves concerning the religion of Chrift, Proteftants ftand chargeable with grofs inconfiftency.

The whole Chriftian world, (excepting an inconfiderable portion of it) was once overfpread with Popery. Our forefathers, galled by its yoke, at length difclaimed pontifica ufurpation, and boldly afferted the right of private judg ment. To attain the invaluable privilege of thinking for themfelves, they were grievous fufferers. We, their defcendants, acknowledge the juftness of their caufe, glory in the exertions which they made; and are come into the poffeffion of bleffings which they purchased with their blood! For us, therefore, to lay afide our judging faculty, when the doctrines and duties · of religion are the subject of attention, is a palpable inconfiftency; and to difcourage by any one method, the exercife of it in others, is downright Popery. It is a It is a matter of indiffer

* Dr. Watson, the prefent Bishop of Landaff.

ence under what fpecious name it choofes to conceal itself. In Calvinifm, Arminianifm, Arianifm, Socinianifm, or indeed in any other ifm which the reftlefs ingenuity of man has devifed-Intolerance is equally contrary to the genius of our religion, and equally fubverfive of the peace and happiness of mankind. Strange as the title may found in our ears, fuch kind of Chriftians, wherever they are found, may be termed Popish Proteftants; and this motley title is too applicable to many of the profeffors of Chriftianity. For their fincerity and good intentions. we give them ample credit; but it is certainly not breach of charity to fay of them, they understand not the nature, nor have they imbibed the fpirit of the New Teftament.


If Proteftants" (lays* the celebrated apologift for the Quakers, speaking of uncharitablenefs and intolerance) "do juftly abhor these things in Papifts, is it not fad that they should do the like themselves? A thing, that at their first appearance, when they were in their primitive innocency, they did not think on, as appears by that faying of Luther-Neither pope nor bishop, nor any other man, hath power to oblige a Chriftian to one fyllable, except it be by his own confent. And again, I call boldly to Chriftians, that neither man or angel can impofe any law upon them but so


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