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his church; and for serving his enemy, and dividing
; his people, and hardening infidels and ungodly ones by these scandals. Return to the primitive simplicity; that we may return to unity, and love, and peace. The God of peace give wisdom, and peaceable principles, minds, and hearts, to his servants; that, though I shall not live to see it, true love and piety may revive in the Christian world, by the endeavours of a healing ministry !"
What do we owe to Infinite Benevolence, that the aspect of the Christian Church, in our own times, is, in so many points of view, the happy contrast of this pathetic lamentation ! So much has God done for us: what then do we owe to him ?
Yet, let it not be ascribed to moroseness, to the love of spying or proclaiming faults, to the spirit of arrogant judging and ill-becoming presumption, if one, who has too much reason to acknowledge his own participation in the delinquencies complained of, still solicits his brethren to " strengthen the things which remain," and to seek to have their works perfect (filled up to the requisite amount) before God," in order that the religion which we are sending through the world, may be of the best quality, having the least mixture of unworthy and debasing adulteration, and such as shall be the most entitled to the love and imitation of converted nations.
One of the most obvious symptoms of a state which ought to awaken our anxious dissatisfaction, is the low degree of religious knowledge which extensively prevails; and the flimsy and puerile character of that knowledge which is actually possessed by many professors of serious piety, in whatever degree it may subsist.
If we did not live under a condition of society in which, more than in any former period, large, comprehensive, and solid knowledge is required, upon all the topics of literature, and science, and the arts of life; if universal investigation, uprooting the quietude of ancient prejudices, demanding clear conceptions, and well-defined descriptions, and solid evidence for all conclusions, were not the character, or at least the profession, of our age; there is that all-commanding majesty in religion, which should, at all times, make these demands, and enforce their utmost application. Its sublime topics, God and man, life, death, and an eternity of happy or miserable consciousness; the bright and awful beaming of a personal interest with which it looks upon every child of man; the means of its conveyance, levying and sanctifying all the aids of philology, history, and philosophy, for the service of Bible-interpretation; and its consequences, affecting, an immortal duration, and that in modes which no human expression, no human thought, can reach ; these, and their associated considerations, might surely be expected to produce, even in the most dull and unreflecting age, habits of intense and profound study upon the science and art of religion; the science, whose noble archetype is found in the moral perfections of God; the art of practically attaining the highest ends of existence, living to God, being conformed to his holiness, and being blessed with his happiness. So, in fact, it has been. The wild excursiveness of the Platonic philosophy, and the amazing depths of a metaphysical theology, even in some of the Mahometan speculatists, have been ample attestations of the strength of these impressions on the human mind. In the darkest period of Christian Europe, the prejudices and complicated manacles of a soul-restraining superstition could not prevent such men as Anselm, Bradwardin, Peter Lombard, and Aquinas, from exercising their mighty spirits upon the great and deep things of God. How then is it, that, in a day like ours, pre-eminent in opportunities and means and fearless avowals, many Christians content themselves with a quality and degree of religious knowledge, so servilely adopted, so superficial, scanty, and ill-provided with intelligence and proof, as to awaken most serious fears, in thoughtful observers, that the frail texture would be driven away by the first wind of false doctrine that might be directed upon it ? Poverty and want of advantages cannot be pleaded as the excuse of a numerous class of men, concerning whom these apprehensions force themselves upon us. Often, in truth, pious persons of the lower orders in society. discover an extent of knowledge, and an acquaintance with facts and principles and their just evidence, in the great things of God and his revelation, which might put to the blush many of the polished and elegant disciples of our modern churches. It is not a little remarkable, that these very persons will take an unsparingly solicitous care, that their sons and daughters shall have
for the most accurate initiation, and the most perfect proficiency, in one or more languages, in mathematics, or even the mere ornaments or fashionable accomplishments which they deem requisite to their station. They will engage the ablest teachers, they will purchase numerous and
costly books and instruments, they will sacrifice years of time; to secure for the objects of their anxiety the most comprehensive knowledge, the most distinguishing and fastidious correctness, the most masterly practice. Yet, to obtain sacred and divine knowledge, they content themselves with provision and efforts, which, as to both kind and degree, are most manifestly meagre, unattractive, and inadequate. The theological part of what they may, perhaps, call their library, is so scanty and ill-chosen, as to form a remarkable contrast with the amplitude of their expendings upon the furniture of a drawing-room, or a genteel accomplishment for a daughter, or a study necessary to obtain honours or an' establishment for a son.
Scarcely less to be lamented and censured, is the practice of purchasing, indeed, some excellent books of Christian divinity, guided in the choice by accident, or by recommendation, or by the celebrity of a name; having them well adorned with the devices of gilding and figuring, and then tastefully disposed in a splendid book-case. But, when these adjustments are completed, the matter is nearly ended. These depositories of truth and wisdom are rarely opened ; or are read in a cursive and desultory manner; or are turned to only for the purpose of marking passages, that have been pointed out as peculiarly tender or powerful; while there is but a very faint intention of getting the mind enlightened, the conscience awakened, and the practice directed, by their impression.
The eminent Author of the work which is now republished in the ensuing pages, has a Discourse
upon · The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth ;' founded upon the words, “ When, for the time, ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” The arguments which he employs, are in his usual manner of perspicuous and powerful simplicity. Among his • Directions for the Acquisition of Christian Knowledge, with which the discourse is concluded, he gives this advice : “ Procure, and diligently use, other books, which may help you to grow in this knowledge. Many excellent books are extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that, through a loathness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books, indeed, which now and then, on Sabbath-days, they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them ; and it is now become a dull story, a mere task, to read them.”
Many persons, indeed, satisfy themselves with an avowed abjuration of human writings, under the pretext, that those writings, even the best of them, being only streams from the fountain, and being so far only true and valuable as they deduce the waters purely “out of the wells of salvation ;” that fountain, also, being always open and near at hand, in the WRITTEN WORD OF INSPIRATION; it never be necessary, and it may be prejudicial, to im