Imágenes de páginas

made use of by the apostles to declare their doctrines to the world, are liable to be misreprefented.

· I made choice of this latter instance the rather; because the writer, 'to whom I just now referred, proposing the example of the apoftles to the imitation of protestant churches, alks, *“ What course they look in this exigency? whether they framed a new creed or confeffion, or inserted into an old one a new article importing, that no man should do evil, for the sake of procuring the greatest imaginable good ?” and then answers, “ No, they left the calumny to be confronted by the gospelhistory, and the tenor of their own writings and conversation, and gave themselves no farther trouble about it.” We find however, that St. Paul was led by it to write thus to the Romans ;

s. If the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a finner; and not rather, as we be Nanderously reported, and 'as fome affirm, that we fav, let us do evil that good may come? whose damnation is just.” Care therefore was taken by the apostles explicitly to condemn this doctrine, and to insert an article in opposition to it, if not into any creed or confeffion distinct from the scriptures, yet into the scriptures themselves.

· When those, who allow, that +“ such methods of promoting christianity as are plainly recommended by scriptureprecedents, ought to be strictly followed, complain of it as an unwarrantableencroachment on Christian liberty,” that subscriptions 1hould be required to be made to religious propositions expressed in any other than scripture-language ; one is apt to fulpect, that by a scripture-precedent they mean a precedent of a confession recorded in the scriptures, and expressed there in unscriptural words. But without looking for such inconsistencies, it is enough for us to find, that St. Paul, when he commanded Timothy and Titus to examine into the faith of all those whom they should receive into the ministry, gave them no directions to use only scripture-language: for we may reasonably conclude from hence, that they were left at liberty to propose their questions in any words, which would ascertain their meaning.

• Do we therefore say, that I “ new and unscriptural words will better fix the sense of scripture-doctrine, than the words of Christ and his apostles ?” To take off the invidiousness of this question, I will beg leave, before I answer it, to ask another. Do not they, who object this to us, hold, that pastors and teachers by familiar, clear, and usual forms of speech can make the sense of scripture more plain to their hearers, than if they

Confessional. ibid. compare Rom. i'. 7. 8. + Confessional. p. 29. 19.

I Confellional.

P.I. Ś Confeflional. p.41.

R 2


were to read it to them in the words, which Chrift and his apeft'es made use o:? They muit, if they think otherwise, maintain, that all preaching and interpreting of the scriptures is entirely useless, and that the public teachers in protestant churches have nothing elie to do for the instruction of their congregations, but to read the bible to them. I do not mean from the utility of preaching or interpreting the scriptures in Chritian atremblies I to infer the utility of eftablithed confessions, but to remind the oppolers of such confeffions, that what they hold in one case is exactly similar to what they imagine would bring an odium upon us, if we were to say it in the other. For if the sense of scripture may be expreiled more plainiy, why not more precisely, than in the words of Christ and his apoftles ? To pass over the ordinary mutability of language; every feet, which has sprung up since the firit planting of christianity, has had an interpretation of scripture peculiar to itself; and much pains have all along been taken by the several leaders of these numberless contending parties to give such a sense to the words of Christ and his apoftles, as might appear most suitable to their own favourite opinions. Thus by the perverse difputings of men of corrupt minds a variety of meanings has been found out for those fcripture-expreffions, which were originally intended to convey but one; and nothing is more common, than to extract very unscriptural doctrines from scripture-language. The governors of the church have therefore found it necesary to introduce what are called new and unfcriptural words and expressions, not to fix the sense of scripture-doctrines, but to fix the sense, in which fcripture-expressions are understood by those, who are candidates for the office of public teaching, and whose faith and doctrines they have therefore a right to examine into and ascertain.

When these objectors come to explain themselves; they do not seem to mean, that the senfe of scripture cannot, but that it ought not, to be more exactly fixed, than it is in the words of scripture. For they sometimes make it matter of complaint, that any church should I “ require assent to a certain sense of fcripture cxclufive of all other fenfes ;" because this cannot, they say, be done “ without an unwarrantable interference with the rights of private judgment, which are manifestly secured to every individual by the scriptural terms of Christian liberty." But can any one imagine, that Christ and his apostles purposeJy delivered their doctrines in such expressions, as would admit of different interpretations, that each particular person might interpret them for himself, and might, in determining what his faith fhould be, have a variety to chufe out of? If this

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

was not their design; if they intended, as certainly they did intend, not to leave any such ambiguities in their discourses or writings, but to deliver a fixed and certain religion to all mankind, and to oblige all those to have gone faith, who profess to have one-Lord ; though the cunning craftiness of designing interpreters may have found out a variety of senses for any paflages of scripture, yet the terms, which secure to each Christian the sight of interpreting them for himself, cannot without impropriety be called the scriptural terms of Christian liberty : they Thould rather be called the natural terms of an accidental liberty, which belongs to Christians in their present situation. But whatever names we may make use of, the question is, whether this liberty, call it how we will, is not unwarrantably interfered with by requiring Christians to assent to any certain sense of fcripture, where they are persuaded, that it will admit of other fenses, and have a right to judge for themfelves, which is the true one? The answer is obvious. No Christian is required to subscribe to such confeffions, as I am speaking of, who is not in his own private judgment convinced, that they are agreeable to the word of God. On the contrary, as they are designed to be tests, by which the governors of the church may find out, whether they, who desire to be appointed paitors and teachers, assent to the faith and doctrines contained in them, or not, whoever subscribes to them, when he does not assent to them, fruftrates the purpose, for which they were established.'

These are the principal remarks which the Doctor makes upon the ConFESSIONAL. It would be no difficult task to reply to what he has advanced ; but the Author of the CONFESSIONAL is best able to defend his own cause, and we hope his will is equal to his ability. The subject, though often handled, is still important, as the grievances, so long and so often complained of, are not yet redressed.

§ Ephes. iv. 5.


A comparative View of the State and Faculties of Man with those

of the Animal World. The third Edition *. 12mo. 35. Dodsley T gives us no small pleasure to find that the opinion we

formed of this very ingenious and entertaining work is so amply confirmed by the public approbation, which has encouraged the Author to correct, and considerably enlarge this third edition. In a very sensible and modeft preface, he gives an account of the general train of sentiments that gave rise to his work; our Readers will be pleased with what he says:

See our account of this work at its first publication, Rev. Vol. XXXIII. p. 356.

[ocr errors]

• By

· By an advertisement prefixed to the first edition of this book, says he, the public was informed that it consisted of some difcourses originally read in a private literary society, without the most distant view to their publication. The loose and careless manner in which they are written, is too strong an internal evidence that they never were intended for the public inspection. But, for what purpose they were originally compoled, and how they came into the world, are questions which a Reader will never ask: he has an undoubted right to censure them with all the severity which their faults deserve, and to censure likewise the Author of them, unless he could pretend they were published without his knowlege. The unexpected favour he has met with from the public has encouraged him to correct and enlarge this edition; but when he attempted to treat bis fubject with that fullness and accuracy which its importance required, he found it run into so great an extent; that he was obliged to abandon it, being necessarily engaged in business and studies of a very different nature. He would gladly have suppresled some sentiments freely thrown out in the confidence of private friendship, which may be liable to misconstruction ; but he was afraid that, by too anxious an attention to guard against every objection, he should deprive the book of that appearance of ease and nature in which its only merit consisted. When we unbolom ourselves to our friends on a subject that interests us, there is sometimes a glow of sentiment and warmth of expression that pleases, though there is nothing in what is said, particularly ingenious or original.

• The title of the book does not well express its contents. The public is too well accustomed to books that have not much correspondence with their titles, to be surprized at this. But it would have been an imposition of a worse kind to have changed the title in this new edition. The truth is, the subjects here treated, are so different, that it was impossible to find any title, that could fully express them. Yet unconnected as they seem to be, there was a certain train of ideas that led to them, which it may not be improper to explain.

< When we attend to the many advantages which mankind possess above the inferior animals, it is natural to enquire into the use we make of those advantages. This leads us to the 'confideration of man in his favage state, and through the progrefive stages of human society. Nian in his favage state is, in fone respects, in a worse condition than any other animal. He has indeed superior faculties, but as he does not pofless, in so great a degree as other animals, the internal principle of instinct to direct these faculties to his greatest good, they are often perverted in such a manner as to render him more unhappy. He posledics bodily strength, agility, health and what are called the

animal faculties, in greater perfection, than men in the more advanced states of society, but the nobler and more diftinguishing principles of human nature lie in a great measure dormant.

• There is a certain period in the progress of society, in which mankind appear to the greatest advantage. In this period they have the bodily powers and a l the animal functions remaining in full vigour. They are bold, active, steady, arden in the love of liberty and their native country. Their manners are simple, their focial affections warm, and though they are greatly inAuenced by the ties of blood, yet they are generous and hospi. table to ftrangers. Religion is universally regarded among them, though disguised by a variety of fuperftitions. This state of foc ciety, in which nature shoots wild and free, encourages the high exertions of fancy and passion, and is therefore peculiarly favourable to the arts depending on these ; but for the same cause it checks the progress of the rational powers, which require coolness, accuracy, and an imagination perfectly subdued and under the controul of realon. The wants of nature, likewise, being few and easily supplied, require but little of the allistance of ingenuity; though what most effectually retards the progress of knowlege, is the difficulty of communicating and transmicsing it from one person to another.

This state of society feldom lasts long. The power neces{arily lodged in the bands of a few for the purposes of public safety and utility, comes to be abused. Ambition and all its direful consequences succeed. As the human faculties expand themselves, new inlets of happiness are discovered. The intercourse in particular with other nations brings an accession of new pleasures, and consequently of new wants. Tke ad vantages attending an intercourse and commerce with foreign nations are, at fiçst view, very specious. By these means the peculiar advantages of one climate are, in some degree, commu. nicated to another, a free and social intercourse is promoted among mankind, knowlege is enlarged and prejudices are removed. On the other hand, it may be faid, that every country, by the help of industry, produces whatever is necessary to its own inhabitants ; that the necessities of nature are easily gratified, but the cravings of false appetite, and a deluded imagination, are endless and insatiable; that when men leave the plain road of nature, superior knowlege and ingenuity, instead of combating a vitiated taste and inflamed passions are employed to justify and indulge them; that the pursuits of commerce are deitructive of the health and lives of the human species, and that this destruction falls principally upon those who are most distinguished for their activity, spirit and capacity.

• But one of the most certain consequences of a very extended commerce and of what is called the most advanced and po


[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »