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afforded them, he gives them up to vile affections and judicial blindness, so that they take light for darkness, and darkness for light. Their habits and characters being once formed under the guidance of lust and passion, every thing is viewed through a false medium, and the simplicity of pure truth 'has no attractive charms. Whatever, under the abused name of religion, administers to pride,' ambition, and sensual pleasures, best accords with their acquired habits and depraved principles.
As tliis representation is verified by every page of ecclesiastical history, in every period of the church from the apostolic age to the present time, so it answers to the testimony of scripture, and
may without difficulty be accounted for. The love of honour and of pleasure, the love of power and of riches, weaken or exclude the love of God and benevolence to men. If
any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved.”. “ And because iniquity shall
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abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Religious knowledge and practice have a reciprocal influence. Practical diligence, in God's appointed way, leads to spiritual wealth. « The hand of the diligent maketh rich.” And this wealth when acquired, incites to further exertion, and to a more extended sphere of usefulness. also that is slothful in his work, is brother to him that is a great waster.” He that would find the precious ore of knowledge must “search” and “dig” for it; not by perplexing speculations, so much as by“ doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God:” not so much by the exertion of genius, as by scriptural self-denial; by being ready to distribute, and willing to communicate; by visiting the widow and the fatherless in their affliction; by persevering without weariness in well-doing; by always abounding in the work of the Lord; and by constantly cultivating a purity and simplicity of intention in all his actions. “If thine
be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” When men aim not at glorifying God, and neglect the divine Teacher, they prepare themselves for strong delusions, for embracing error instead of celestial truth.
11. They who do evil, and live in a carnal, worldly element, cannot bear the light of holy truth, and the doctrines which are according to
godliness; and consequently their search will be, if they search at all, after those principles which are most indulgent to the ways they like. Thus infidel principles are embraced by many, in order to obtain a quieter retreat from the reproaches of truth, the light of which they cannot or will not endure, because they are determined to make no costly sacrifices, to renounce no carnal indulgences : they resolve in short, to retain the cargo, falsely valued by deceitful fancy, at the hazard of shipwreck: for them to receive gospel truth, would be to entertain that by which they are reproved and condemned. The characters just noticed exhibit, it is true, an extreme case: but the same considerations are applicable to many others who do not depart from truth to the same excess. Though denying the power of godliness, many retain the form of it from political or self-interested motives. They will be friendly to religion as long as religion subserves their particular pur-, poses; but were it not regarded as an useful auxiliary, its intrinsic worth they would despise. In short, he who has most personal and practical religion, in the scriptural acceptation of the term, is the most likely, other things being equal, to arrive at the knowledge of the whole truth, as it is in Jesus, because he has the fewest prejudices and hindrances to overcome.
§ 12. In the second place, cultivate Christian candour. An enquirer after truth, (and the same is applicable to a controvertist,) if he would prove successful, should be candid, open and ingenuous. No concealments of the force of an objection, no evasion, no caricatures. Every thing of this sort is mean and despicable. y Recollect that the contest should be for truth, and not for superiority of skill. If consequences are deduced, let them be deduced honestly: if accusations are preferred, let them be substantiated. It discovers a total absence of generosity to make a man an offender for a word, when that word is no fair exponent of his real sentiments, --- designedly to interpret an expression in a sense disapproved by him who employs it, Christian candour implies tenderness and sincere good will even towards those who treat our sentiments with contumely and defiance. Though firm in advancing an argument when that argument appears to be conclusive, it is very far from dogmatizing without proof. Its prevailing desire is, that unadulterated truth may prevail, that God may be glorified among men, and that their immortal welfare may be promoted. It inculcates a humble and cheerful readiness to receive more light, and mingles prayers and devout aspirations for the spread of pure and undefiled religion.
§ 13. Christian candour, moreover, is utterly averse from crafty and politic manoeuvres; it disdains to excite unfounded prejudices, nor will it implant a sting in the innocent by deciding on characters and sects in the mass. If conscious of superior evidence, it vaunteth not itself, nor behaveth itself unseemly. Though it censures real faults, it acknowledges all excellencies, and wherever found, with gladness. It pours a tear over erring humanity, and while it admires the patience of heaven in bearing with its perversities, carnestly endeavours to imitate an example so exalted. Depraved and erroneous as men are, it is willing, like charity, to hope the best of all parties. It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Such is Christian candour. May the writer and the reader of these remarks, anxiously covet a larger portion of it!
§ 14. In the third place, forbear to systematize without extensive information. Many detached parts of scripture are plain. The well-disposed, without much controversial knowledge or skill in discriminating abstracted truths, may become wise, unto piety and salvation. But there is no small danger in attempting to systematize on contracted or on false principles. To justify an endeavour to generalize