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IN religious matters we easily run into extremes. Nothing is more common than to see people embracing one error, under the plausible pretence of avoiding another.
Many, through fear of infidelity, during the night of ignorance and storm of passion, run as gainst the wild rocks of superstition, and enthu.. siasm.: and frequently do it with such force, that they make shipwreck of the faith, and have little of godliness left, except a few broken pieces of its form.
Numbers, to shun that fatal error, steer quite a contrary course : supposing themselves guided by the compass of reason, when they only follow that of prejudice, with equal violence they dash their speculative brains against the opposite rocks of deism and profaneness; and fondly congratulate themselves on escaping the shelves of fanaticism, whilst the leaky bark of their hopes is ready to sink, and that of their morals is perhaps sunk already. Thus, both equally over.look sober, rational, heart-felt piety, that lies between those wide and dangerous extremes.
To point out the happy medium which they have missed, and call them back to the narrow path, where reason and revelation walk hand in hand, is the design of these sheets. May the Father of lights so shine upon the reader's mind, that he may clearly discover truth, and notwithstanding the severity of her aspect, prefer her to the most soothing error.
If he is one of those, who affect to be the warm votaries of reason, he is intreated to be a closethinker, as well as a free-thinker; and with careful attention to consider reason's dictates, before he concludes, that they agree with his favourite sentiments. He has, no doubt, too much can. dour, not to grant so equitable a request ; too much justice, to set aside matter of fact ; and too much good sense, to disregard an appeal to com
Should he incline to the opposite extreme, and cry down our rational powers; he is desired to remember, right reason, which is that I appeal to, is a ray of the light that enlightens every man who comes into the world, and a beam of the eternal Logos, the glorious Sun of righteousness.
God, far from blaming a proper use of the noble faculty, by which we are chiefly distinguish. ed from brutos, graciously invites us to the ex. ercise of it: Come now, says he, and let us reason together. Jesus commends the unjust steward, for reasoning bettenupon his wrong, than the children of light upon their right principles. Samuel desires the Israelites to stand still, that
he may REASON with them before the Lord. St. Peter charges believers to give an answer to every one, that asketh them a REASON of their hope. And St. Paul, who reasoned so conclusively himself, intimates, that wicked men are UNREASONABLE ; and declares, that a total dedication of ourselves to God is our REASONABLE service : and, while he challenges the vain disputers of this world, who would make jests pass for proofs, invectives for arguments, and sophistry for reason; he charges Titus to use, not merely sound speech, but, as the original also means, SOUND REASON, that he who is of the contrary part may be ashamed.
Let us then, following his advice and example, pay a due regard both to reason and revelation : So shall we, according to his candid direction, break the shackles of prejudice, prove all things, and, by divine grace, hold fast that which is good.
MATTER OF FACT, &c.
IN every religion there is a principal truth or error, which like the first link of a chain, necessarily draws after it all the parts with which it is essentially -connected. This leading principle, in christianity distinguished from deism, is the doctrine of our cor rupt and lost estate : for if man is not at variance with his Creator, what need of a Mediator between God and him? If he is not a depraved, undone creature, what necessity of so wonderful a Restorer and Saviour as the Son of God? If he is not inslaved to sin, why is he redeemed by Jesus Christ? If he is not polluted, why must he be washed in the blood of that immaculate Lamb? If his soul is not disordered, what occasion is there for such a divine Physician? If he is not helpless and miserable, why is he perpetually invited to secure the assistance and consolations of the Holy Spirit? and in a word, if he is not born in sin, why is anew birth so absolutely necessary, that Christ declares