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If it be really so, let the admirers of the ancients honestly tell us what lessons in theology are to be learned in their school, and what we are to think, not only of Socrates and Aristotle, but of Homer, Ovid, and Virgil, for Doctors of Divinity ? I shall be told, perhaps, that it is not the matter of their discoveries, but only the manner of their enquiry, their method of investigation, and the principles they have laid down, which are proposed as a model worthy of imitation, and a fit pattern for us to copy after, But still I must be allowed to ask, whether this method, and these principles, did actually answer the purpose of leading them to the discovery of truth, or whether it was really truth, which they were thus successful in discovering? It is strange that we cannot be fayoured with a direct answer to this plain, simple question, but are still put off with artful evasions, and high encomiums on the knowledge and wisdom of the ancients, without ever being informed what end this wisdom and knowledge served to themselves, or can serve to us.

“ I shall acknowledge that the examples of some of these ancients are a reproach, and will be a part of condemnation to many who have been blessed with clearer light. and yet have not walked worthy of that light, But this will not prove that they are to be our patterns, or their principles to be our guides. As to the two “ ancients” in particular, who are mentioned by our aushor in terms of such high veneration, I would be glad to know what there is so " venerabie" in the names of Socrates and Aristotle, that entitles them to so peculiar a mark of distinction. Were they Aborigines, the first of mankind, or even the first of philosophers ? Was ļruth unknown to the world, till they appeared ?


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Whence had they their wonderful wisdom (as was once asked on another occasion) “ from heaven, or of men ?” Surely there were sages and instructors long before their days, as long before them, as they are before us. If the study of the ancients be the school of wisdom, why not go as far back as antiquity can carry us, or as far as antiquity furnishes records for our direction ? This would be really and truly to study the ancients, and would bid as fair for fixing the “ standard of truth," as the inventions of later ages.

We should thus indeed be taken out of the schools of Socrates and Aristotle, but committed to the guidance of names fully as venerable ; for we should be set to the more edifying task of “ searching the scriptures," and studying the writings of Moses and the Prophets, explained and applied as they have so happily been by CHRIST, and his Apostles.*"

Various reasons prevented the publication of the two letters, which have been thus abridged, at the time when they were written; but it may be agreeable to some, and useful to others, among the readers of this memoir, to observe Mr Skinner's sentiments, and his manner of expressing them, on a subject, which he considered as of the most essential consequence to the credit and character


* As it was often observed by Mr Skinner,

Non joca delectant semper, non seria semper,

Semper delectant Seria mixta jocis. So, agreeably to this maxim, when he had finished his two serious letters on Dr Beattie's “ Standard of Truth,” be employed his muse in a jocular strain, and amused himself with composing that humourous Latin piece which he called “ Ode Horatiana, Metro Tullochgormiano,” every stanza ending with “ Doctissime Doctorum,” and which the reader will find in Volume III.

of the Christian Revelation, “ the TRUTH as it is in Jesus.”

The next literary production that excited his attention, and employed his pen, was a work far inferior in reputation to the “ Essay on Truth,” but aiming at a still higher mark in the way of popular applause, by attacking a body of men, whose powers have afforded no small scope for raillery and ridicule among those who are disposed to laugh at what they do not understand, and to rail at what they do not like. The performance now alluded to, under the title of an Enquiry into the powers of Ecclesiastics, on the principles of Scripture and reason," was the work of the Rev. Thomas Gordon, at Speymouth, who, though a minister of the Presbyterian establishment, thought it the most effectual service he could do to the interests of religion“ and society," to undermine the foundation of that establishment, by denying the “ power" of Presbyters, as his brethren had denied the “ power” of Bishops, in the government of the Christian church. A blow thus levelled against all rule, authority, and order, in that blessed society, Mr Skinner thought it his duty to parry, by every means in his power; and, as on his remarks on Dr Beattie's “ Standard of Truth,' he had to contend against a warm and zealous partizan on the side of the heathen ancients, so in his answer to Mr Gordon's laboured “ Enquiry" he had to encounter a violent opposer of all that respect and veneration, which have been so generally entertained for pure Christian antiquity. Anxious to maintain this singular opposition, the "

Enquirer” makes it a subject of hcavy complaint, that in support of many tenets, opinions,


and usages, even protestants “ derive their weight, not “ from the Scriptures, not from the reason of the human “ mind, but from a very different source, from antiquity, that is, from the practice of what they are “ pleased to call the primitive church, from the writ“ings of some venerable father, or from the decision +6 of some national or general council, in short, from " some quarter or other, which, in the last resort, may “ be properly resolved into human authority."

This unseemly attack on the primitive Church, strengthened by some odious invectives against priests and priestcraft, was the first thing that attracted Mr. Skinner's attention, and produced the following defence of an old friend of the christian world.'-" In the first

place,” says he, honest untiquity is not here fairly “ dealt with ; it is not the writings of some one Father « that constitutes what protestants call antiquity ; but the “ concurring writings of all the Fathers, the consentiens judicium ecclesise catholica, the quod semper, quod ubi

que, qnod ab omnibus, the joint testimony of these early 4 times, when that is to be met with, as in most points “ which you oppose, it is. Besides, it is to be remember“ ed, that most protestants limit what they principally mean

by the Primitive Church, to a time when there were “ few national councils, and not one general

neral council “ held, unless the fifteenth chapter of the Acts present

an exception.

“ But secondly, why do you call antiquity a very “ different source from scripture and reason? Had not “ these Venerables scripture and reason as well as you,

or were they all atheists and idiots ? You say (page 9)

“ the public are candid, and it is well for antiquity that “ they are so.

“ In the third place, what do you mean by resolving antiquity, as different from reason, into human autho

rity ? Is the reason of the human mind a divine au“thority? If you could prove that point, I should be

sorry for disclaiming it. But that I am satisfied you never can, so I shall rest myself easy. Indeed, from

your way of treating the primitive Church, upon all “ occasions, it is evident what fears you have about it, “ and how much you suspect an opposition from that


But another object of Mr Gordon's apprehension, as something that was likely to prove hostile to his plan, he spends a whole chapter in discussing, and entitles it " On Tradition;" a subject which he makes, as he had made the primitive Church before, the constant butt of his ridicule. But, as Mr Skinner justly observed, “ri“ diculing a witness is not confuting his testimony. It

may display wit, or gratify ill-nature, but with un“ prejudiced spectators, it takes nothing from the force

of the declaration." But if Mr. Gordon asked, " Are we then to believe all and every thing that the “ Fathers have said, when the mystery of iniquity be

gan so early to work?” To this his answerer replied, " I ask in return, is a priesthood in general part “ of the mystery of iniquity? The Fathers say and write, " that in, and immediately after the Apostolic age, there “ was un order of priesthood, such an order as you are

fighting against, and this they say unanimously, not one “ venerable Father only, but every Father whom we

66 have

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