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Never let the enemies to Christianity triumph over it, by asserting that it is an enemy to learning, and tends to introduce the ignorance of barbarism. Learning, under due regulations, contributes to soften the mind, and prepare it for the divine agency. A learned; virtuous, and religious man, whose religion is VITAL and truly Christian, is a superior being, even in this mortal state, and may be imagined, by us his fellow creatures, to be little lower than the angels.
Nobody can hold learning, and the inventions of human ingenuity, in higher esteem than myself; I look up to them with affection, and admiration. But after all, and however perfect and beautiful they may be they are but HUMAN, the product of poor, short-lived, fallible mortals. Whatever comes from the FATHER OF LIGHTS, from him who made that MIND which is capable of learning and science, must deserve more at: tention and honour than can possibly be due to the most beautiful and stupendous works of human ingenuity. These are not to be slighted, but beloved, pursued, rewarded. But I am a MORTAL. Every moment is bringing me nearer to that period when the curtain shall fall, and all these things be hidden from my eyes. My first attention and warmest affection therefore ought to be fixed on things spiritual and eternal.
All arts, all sciences, must be secondary and instrumental to the attainment of DIVINE ILLUMINATION. I AM. THE-LIGHT OF THE WORLD, says Jesus Christ. Can any reasonable man rest satisfied without coming to the light after such a declaration? Will he be contented with the radiance of dim lights and false lights, when he is invited to approach the brilliant and the true? ....
Learning is necessary for the purposes of this life; it is an ornament and a defence. It is highly useful in religious investigation. It furnishes arguments to enforce morality, to persuade to all that is good and greaty
and to deter from folly and vice. But let it ever keep to its own office, which is certainly, in religious matters, ministerial. It can amuse; it can inform; but it cannot supply the summum bonum; it cannot raise fallen man to his original state. GRACE only can restore man to God's image. If learning could have done it, why were the heathens unrestored? are not the infidels often learned? and would not the advent of our Lord and Saviour have been superfluous, if learning could have repaired the ruins of the fall?
Few (as I have already said) in the mass of mankind are learned. They are perhaps as one to a million What is to become of the millions then, if the gospel of Jesus Christ, by which alone they can live in the sweet tranquillity of a state of grace, and die with religious hope and confidence, cannot be received, with sufficient evidence, without deep learning, logical and metaphysical disputation? What is to prove it to them, who have neither books, leisure, nor ability to study, if God himself do not teach them by his SPIRIT? Blessed be his name, he has taught them, and continues to teach them. It is among the learned chiefly that INFIDELITT prevails. She inhabits libraries, and walks abroad in academic groves, but is rarely seen in the cottage, in the field, or in the manufactory. The poor and the unlearned do in general believe in the gospel most firmly. What is the evidencé which convinces them? It is the witness of the Spirit; and thanks be to him who said my grace is sufficient for thee. “ He that be" lieveth on the Son of God hath this witness in him“ self."
The opinion of a man like Dr. Isaac Watts on the true nature of Christianity, is almost of itself decisive. He was not only a devout and zealous Christian, but a profound scholar, a natural philosopher, a logician, and
a metaphysician. His life and conversation exhibited a pattern of every Christian virtue. Let us hear him.
.“ Every true Christian,” says he, “has a sufficient “ argument and EVIDENCE to support his faith, without “ being able to prove the authority of any of the cano“nical writings. He may hold fast his religion, and be " assured that it is divine, though he cannot bring any " learned proof that the book that contains it is divine « too; nay, though the book itself should even happen “ to be lost or destroyed: and this will appear, with open " and easy conviction, by asking a few such questions " as these:
“ Was not this same gospel preached with glorious "success before the New Testament was written?
“ Were not the same doctrines of salvation by Jesus "Christ published to the world hy the ministry of the “ apostles, and made effectual to convert thousands, " before they set themselves to commit these doctrines “ to writing? ,* And had not every sincere believer, every true con 1 “ vert, this blessed witness in himself, that Christianity “ was from God?
“ Eight or ten years had passed away, after the ascen“sion of Christ, before any part of the New Testament" was written; and what multitudes of Christian con“ verts were born again by the preaching of the word, “ and raised to a divine and heavenly life, long-ere this “ book was half finished or known, and that among the " heathens as well as Jews. Great numbers of the
“ Gentile world became holy believers, each of them *.“ having the efristle of Christ written in the heart, and
“ bearing about within them a noble and convincing “ proof that this religion was divine; and that without “ a written gospel, without epistles, and without a BIBLE.
" In the first ages of Christianity, for several hundred " years together, how few among the common people'
♡ were able to read? How few could get the possession
“ Be convinced then that Christianity has a more noble inward witness belonging to it than is derived « from ink and paper, from precise letters and sylla“ bles. And though God, in his great wisdom and “goodness, saw it necessary that the New Testament " should be written, to preserve these holy doctrines "uncorrupted through all ages, and though he has been
pleased to be the invariable and authentic rule of our “ faith and practice, and made it a glorious itstrument “ of instructing ministers and leading men to salvation “ in all these latter times; yet Christianity has a secret " witness in the hearts of believers, that does not depend “ on their knowledge and proof of the authority of the
scriptures, nor of any of the controversies that in lat“ ter ages have attended the several manuscript copies " and different readings and translations of the Bible.
“Now this is of admirable use and importance in the “ Christian life, upon several accounts. First, if we con“ sider how few poor unlearned Christians there are “ who are capable of taking in the arguments which are “ necessary to prove the divine authority of the sacred *« writings; and how few, even among the learned, can “ well adjust and determine many of the different read“ings or different translations of particular passages in “ scripture. Now a wise Christian does not build his “.faith or hope merely upon any one or two single “ texts, but upon the GENERAL SCOPE, sum and sub“stance of the gospel. By this he FEELS a spiritual
“ life of peace and piety begun in him. And here lies “ his EVIDENCE that CHRISTIANITY IS DIVINE, and
that these doctrines are from heaven, though a text 6 or two may be falsely written or wrong translated, and « though a whole book or two may be hard to be proved « authentic.
“ The learned well know what need there is of turn“ ing over the histories of antient times, of the tradi« tions and writings of the fathers, and all authors pious “ and profane; what need of critical skill in the holy " languages and in antient manuscripts; what a wide 6 survey of various circumstances of fact, time, place, " style, diction, is necessary to confirm one or another « book or verse of the New Testament, and to answer 6 the doubts of the scrupulous, and the bold objections '« of the infidel. Now how few of the common rank of 6 Christians, whose hearts are inlaid with true faith in “ the Son of God, and with real holiness, have leisure, 6 books, instruction, advantages, and judgment sufficient « to make a thorough search into these matters, and to 66 determine, upon a just view of argument, that these "books were written by the sacred authors whose. « names they bear, and that these authors were under “ an immediate inspiration in writing them. What a o glorious advantage is it then to have such an INFAL16 LIBLE TESTIMONY to the truth of the gospel wrought
and written in the heart by renewing grace, as does « not depend on this laborious, learned, and ARGUMEN“ TATIVE EVIDENCE of the divine authority of the Bible, 6 or of any particular book or verse in it!
6 Secondly, if we consider what bold assaults are”. « sometimes made upon the faith of the unlearned “ Christian by the deists and unbelievers of our age, “ by disputing against the authority of the scripture,
by ridiculing the strange narratives and sublime doc“ trines of the Bible, by setting the seeming contradic