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manner which we should have deemed most eli. gible and efficacious.
3dly, It must be confessed that Reason, though of admirable use in judging of the evi. dences and investigating the doctrines of revelation, is yet incapable of producing uniformity of opinion: This the Romanists urge as an irrefragable proof of that infallibility to which they advance fo bold a claim, and which is, as they say, absolutely necessary to the preservation of the unity and purity of the Christian faith. But, as Dr. Clarke admirably observes, “the true unity “ of Christians is not a unity of faith in the bond “ of ignorance, or a unity of profession in the bond “ of persecution, but a unity of the Spirit in the “ bond of peace”.
Experience proves that a diversity of sentiments in Religion is not attended with those pernicious effects which in former times even wise and gờod men in general fo needlessly apprehended. Those who are in the habitual practice of reading the Sa. cred Scriptures with a view to their religious information and improvement, can scarcely fail to imbibe much of the spirit of Christianity; in comparison of which a just view of its fpeculative doctrines is of little consequence. Diversity of opinion bibe where it subfifts affords ample scope for the exercise of some of the most amiable of the Chris. tian virtues; and it is not improbable that a coincidence of opinions may at length take place in the Christian world, which the flaming zealots
of the present age would view with astonishment. If, however, uniformity of sentiment should be supposed utterly and for ever unattainable, fincerity surely is attainable by all; and a fincere enquirer after truth, who is actuated by the ge. nuine fpirit of Christianity, can never fail of recommending himself to the Divine approbation and acceptance who is I say actuated by the genuine spirit of Christianity; for I willingly acknowledge, that by far too great a stress has been placed upon fincerity, when uninfluenced and unenlightened by a single ray of that mild, humble, and benevolent fpirit. Sincerity is indeed one of the most important and effential branches of Religion; but it is not therefore to usurp the place of all the rest: Sincerity is a virtue highly commendable; but fincerity will of itself go but a very little way towards forming a character of distinguished moral excellence. Vir tue consists in an undeviating re&itude of action, resulting from perfect rectitude of principle; but how far short does sincerity fall of this idea of virtue. A man may be fincere, yet almost all his actions may be pernicious; almost all his mental affections and motives of action may be detestable. I know not that the sincerity of Bonner can be justly called in question, when with a firebrand in his hand he appeared like a fiend let loose from Hell ranging for revenge, and filling every corner of the land with scenes of blood and horror. Calvin was without question sincere when,
with unrelenting barbarity, he urged the legal murder of Servetus; but is that execrable action therefore less the subject of our indignation or abhorrence? And St. Paul, whose fincerity when breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the difciples of Christ no one can doubt, does not fcruple to style himself the chief of finners, and not worthy to be called an Apostle, because he perfecuted the Church of God. St. Paul well knew, after his conversion at least, that the virtue which must recommend us to the favour of God does not consist in a blind and furious zeal for even truth itself, and much less for pernicious dogmas fraught with falfhood and folly, but in what he styles the fruits of the Spirit, patience, long fuiffering, justice, temperance, meekness and charity:
though I give my body to be burned,” says that great Apostle, “and have not charity, it profiteth
me nothing.” The Pharisee described by our Saviour as praying in the Temple, is represented as entertaining a very high idea of his attainments in moral excellence; his sincerity as far as appears was unimpeachable; yet we are afsured that the Publican went down to his house justified rather than the other : The truth is, that a man's believing himself to be virtuous no more constitutes virtue than a man's believing himfelf to be skilled in the sciences constitutes learning. The Scripture declares, that if we have not the spirit of Christ we are none of his:
let us beware then of an error so fatal as must be the supposition that because we are sincere, i. e. because under the influence of a strong delusion, we vainly and falfely imagine our actions conformable to the standard of moral rectitude, we cannot justly incur punishment for any fpecies of misconduct proceeding from the most corrupt heart or depraved inclination.
4thly, The last observation I have to make, whether it may be thought the concession affords an advantage to the Roman Catholics in this argument or not, is, that it appears to me an undeniable fact, that the bulk of unlearned Christians are, as the Catholics alledge, wholly incompetent to enter into those discussions which are necessary to form an opinion upon just grounds, either respecting the evidences or the doctrines of Christianity. I am sensible that the generality of Protestant writers have maintained that the evidences of Christianity are so strong, and the doctrines of Christianity so clear, that the unlearned multitude may safely be left to decide for themselves upon these important points; and I readily acknowledge that they ought to be left at full liberty fo to do; but as a question of fact, I cannot but admit that they are incompetent to form a true and accurate judgment; how then is this apparent incongruity to be reconciled? Concisely, and I think satisfactorily, thus: I deny the claim of the Romish Church to infallibility; or
of any Church whatever to any degree of autho. rity, for the reasons so often and so ably urged by various writers: It is a claiin wholly unsupported by Reason or Scripture: it is a most daring usurpation over the consciences of mankind; it is raising an insurmountable obstacle in the
way of religious information and improvement: “ brings to one dead level every mind,” and it has a tendency to produce an universal torpor of all the mental powers; but I do not think it necessary in order to invalidate this claim, to maintain, that all persons are sufficiently qualified to judge for themselves upon religious subjects. I content myself with asserting, that all men have a right to judge for themselves; and when the right is once established I have no doubt but those who are qualified to judge, will in general exercise that right; and though there may be a considerable difference of opinion amongst those who are best qualified to judge, yet when perfect freedom of investigation is allowed, and the abi. lities exerted in the support of opposite opinions may be supposed nearly equal, those who are en. gaged on the side of truth must upon the whole possess a manifest advantage over those who are engaged in the cause of error; and however im. perceptible the bias may originally be, if it is real, the effects must in time be apparent Truth must insengbly and gradually gain ground, till it fhall at length attain a decided and permanent superi, grity; and the experience of all ages demonstrates