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of philosophy, physical or metaphysical, which it came not within the province of the inspired writers to reveal. Nor can we forget those unworthy subjects of contention and separation, which, even among protestants, have too often occurred on matters of discipline, and the ritual of the Christian Church. To what extent these were carried at an early period of the reformation in our own country ;—when almost every decent rule or ceremony was, by some or other of the malcontents, proscribed with no less vehemence than even the grossest idolatries of the church of Rome;—is but too well known to every reader of our ecclesiastical annals.
As an antidote to these and to all other unimportant or unprofitable speculations in theology, it were well if those who engage in controversy of whatever kind, connected with revealed religion, would duly consider that Christianity itself deals not in scholastic subtleties and perplexities, neither was it chiefly intended for the exercise of our intellectual powers. Its greater truths, however mysterious and inscrutable, are for the most part clearly and intelligibly propounded. In conformity with these, every subordinate truth must, undoubtedly, be interpreted; and the comparative importance of any minor topic of
discussion is to be estimated, not only by the authority it appears to derive from Scripture, but also by the relation it bears to these main articles of our faith. Regard, therefore, is principally to be had to the great fundamental verities of the Gospel ; and especial care is to be taken, that every truth, less important in itself, or less clearly and explicitly revealed, be made to harmonize with these. Still more necessary is it to beware that with any of these truths, whether of greater or lesser moment, nothing be intermingled of human conceitor of doubtful authority. “ Other foundation,” says the Apostle, “ can
no man lay, than that is laid, which is Je“sus Christ. Now, if any man build upon “ this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, “ wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall “ be made manifest'. For the day shall de“ clare it, because it shall be revealed by fire: “ and the fire shall try every man's work, of “ what sort it is." All Scripture being given by inspiration of God, is indeed “ profitable “ for instruction :" but men may build upon Scripture what will not abide the test it must hereafter undergo; and while Scripture itself remains firm and unshaken, false expositions, and false applications of it will, sooner
11 Cor. iii. 11, 12, 13.
or later, fall to the ground, and their memorial perish with them.
The surest safeguard against these errors will be to cultivate that wisdom from above which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, “ and easy to be entreated, full of mercy
and good fruits, without partiality, and without “ hypocrisy".” The more this wisdom is cultivated, the less relish will men have for vain and unprofitable disputes. They will cease to be “wise in their own conceits"," and deem it to be their best and noblest distinction, that they “ receive with meekness the en
grafted word, which is able to save their 6 soulso.”
m James iii. 17.
n Rom. xii. 16.
• James i. 21.
2 TIM. ii. 23.
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, know
ing that they do gender strifes.
WHATSOEVER tends, in any respect, to the real elucidation of Scripture-truth, derives from that circumstance a certain degree of importance, which entitles it to attentive consideration. No questions, therefore, can properly come under the description of those here censured by the Apostle, which are conducive to that end. The highest of all knowledge, the most perfect of all wisdom, being that which issues from this sacred source, the utmost efforts of human ability can never be more beneficially employed, than in drawing from hence those inexhaustible supplies of instruction, which were intended for the universal good.
This observation may sufficiently obviate any misapprehension of what has already been said, in discouragement of those in
quiries in theology, which, though they carry with them a great show of zeal for the truth, and may be unexceptionably well-intended, are yet far from promoting its real advancement. The censure could only be meant to apply to researches productive of no additional information, and even tending to obscure that of which we are already in possession. The sacred volume still lies open to all; and its treasures are not to be withholden from any
who will search for them with faith and patience. No investigation is to be discouraged, which has this for its object; none, but such as has other purposes, or other tendencies, at least, than those which Revelation was designed to promote. It is not the suppression of any one truth, but the
prevention of manifold errors, which the Apostle, and every one who enforces the Apostle's admonition, must be supposed to have in view.
As this has been the sole object of the two Discourses already delivered on this text of Scripture, so will it be in what yet remains to be said upon it. The caution it contains has hitherto been considered with reference to such questions as are either too profound for human investigation, or too unimportant and unprofitable to be made subjects of contention. The same caution is now to be