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this course is calculated to circulate the errors which it professes to restrain, and that the proposed exhibition of false doctrine, heresy, and schism, has a tendency to excite doubts and difficulties in the minds of the inexperienced, to unsettle their religious principles, and to disturb the peace of their future lives. The objection has been anticipated, and it is hoped that the danger which is common to all religious controversy will be counteracted by corresponding advantages. Whether an erroneous belief, like a vicious practice, to be hated needs but to be seen in its real unqualified deformity, or whether a familiarity with heretical opinions may not abate the offence which is excited by a more distant acquaintance, are questions on which it is not meant to insist. It will probably be admitted, that little mischief is to be apprehended from exposing the nakedness of the precipice, which none but the blind or the desperate will venture to approach, and that it is more necessary to warn the incautious traveller of the concealed and secret chasm, which is covered
with such wild and luxurious berbage as delights his eye at the same time that it entangles his feet, and through which he is tempted to pursue his course, in the hope of finding a less incumbered path, until he is suddenly precipitated into the yawning abyss. It is even so in the mazes of error and unbelief. The infidel, who denies at once the truth of Christianity, or of any of its received doctrines, offers such violence to the prepossessions of every educated mind, as generally provokes a refutation as vehement and unqualified as the original assertion. It is by sophistry, and the appearance of reasoning, and by the gradual insinuation of doubts and difficulties, that the simplicity of the unwary is ordinarily overcome. This danger is not admitted into our inquiry. We do not produće, or pretend to refute, the reasoning from which the several classes of religious opinions are derived; but we state the conclusions only, which are drawn from that reasoning, and oppose to them the plain authority of the Scriptures. The reasonings remain 'where they were found : and if any shall be tempted to a further trial of the poison which it has been our endeavour to neutralize, with him be the danger, and with him be the blame. We warn him of his peril, and before he makes the hazardous experiment, we call upon him in the words of the Apostle, to beware of philosophy and vain deceit; and we entreat bim to prove the vigour of his constitution, and the strength of the antidotes which he hath provided, before he ventures to taste of waters which may stupify and render delirious, where they have not power to destroy. · It will be our studious care that no material error shall appear, without being contrasted with a corresponding authority from the Scriptures : and if there be some whose temerity and perverseness will lead them to the pursuit of error, others more wise and ingenuous will seek to be confirmed in the knowledge of the truth, and of that sound doctrine by which gainsayers may be convicted and convinced. In the allegation of these scriptural testimonies, it will be shewn that there is no error which hath not been predicted, and hence will arise a new' argument in confirmation of the faith generally, when even the weaknesses of his Church are made to bear evidence to the truth and the wisdom of Jesus, by whom they were foreknown and foretold; and of particular articles also, when each specific error, which is asserted by its advocates, is repelled by a distinct assertion, or by an appeal to the ordinary tenor of the Scriptures. While this, cur, sory and superficial application of the divine oracles does but little justice to the argument, it may lead the zealous student to a more diligent and elaborate trial of their strength in controversy ; in which he will be convinced that there is nothing in which human error and inspired truth are more opposite to each other, than in the simplicity of the one, and the intricacy of the other. The general propositions of the one confound, those of the other edify the mind : and in the detail and process of their several arguments, the one distresses, by exciting such anxieties, and doubts, and subtle scruples, as end in desperation and
unbelief; the other conveys to the soul, comfort, instruction, and confirmed faith, until it is filled “ with all joy and peace “ in believing,” and made to “ abound in “ hope, through the power of the Holy 66 Ghost d.”
It is the nature of truth to be uniform, of error to be variable and inconsistent. Many proofs of this assertion will arise in the course of the ensuing inquiry, in which it will be made indirectly to appear, that the advocates of conflicting errors might usefully employ all their energies in opposition to each other, and leave the apologists of the truth to be silent arbiters of the contest. It is necessary however, that the arbiters should be deeply acquainted with the questions which are at issue; and in the mutual jealousies which agitate all descriptions of religionists, it is often painful to observe how little they seem to understand, and how willing they are to misrepresent, the sentiments of each other. Hence are much learning, much judg
d Rom. xv. 13.