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powers, and used every possible means to ascertain the truth for yourselves, and acted accordingly. On your own principles, therefore, will you be judged.
Others, who have not gone these lengths, have yet been tempted to despair of finding out what is the true religion. Amidst the opposition of opinion which continually presents itself before us, (say they,) how are we, plain people, to judge and act?' If you mean to intimate that it is vain for you to concern yourselves about it, that is the same as saying, it is vain to attempt any thing that is accompanied with difficulties, or to walk in any way that is attended with temptations; and this would lead you to stand still in other things as well as in religion. But if it be the real desire of your soul to know the right way, and walk in it, there is no reason to despair. Follow no man as your guide ; but go to your bible, and your God, and there decide the question. You need not say in your heart, Who shall ascend into heaven; or who shall descend into the deep? The word is nigh thee* -To read controversial books may, in many cases, be useful: but seldom, when it is done with a view to decide the great ques• tion, What is the right way to everlasting life? A book, as well as a sermon, may be the means of affording such direction. But when the mind is in a state of suspense, it is, beyond all comparison, the safest to consult the oracles of God. To launch into controversy, without having obtained satisfaction on the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, is to put to sea in a storm, without a rudder. One great reason why men are “carried about with divers and strange doctrines," is, their “ hearts are established with gracet." They have no principles of their own, and therefore are carried away with any thing that wears the appearance of plausibility.
* Rom. x. 69.
† Heb. xiii. 9.
But one of the worst inferences that is drawn froni the discordant doctrines which abound in the world, is, that doctrine itself is of little or no account. As intolerance and bigotry, under the specious name of zeal, distinguished former ages, so skeptical indifference, under the specious names of candour, liberality, and moderation, distinguishes this. This is the grand temptation, perhaps, of the present times. It would seem as if men must either fight for truth with carnal weapons, or make peace with error ; either our religious principles must be cognizable by human le. gislators, or they are neither good nor evil, and God himself must not call us to account for them ; either we must call men masters upon earth, or deny that we have any master, even in heaven.
It is a favourite principle with unbelievers, and with many professing Christians who verge towards them, that error not only has its seat in the mind, but that it is purely intellectual, and therefore innocent. Hence they plead against all church censures, and every degree of unfavourable opinion, on account of doctrinal sentiments, as though it were a species of persecution. But if the causes of error be principally moral, it will follow that such conclusions are as contrary to reason as they are to scripture.
The above remarks are far from being designed to cherish a spirit of bitterness against one another, as men, or as Christians. There is a way of viewing the corruption and depravity of mankind, so as to excite bitterness and wrath, and every species of evil temper; and there is a way of viewing them, that, without approving or conniving at what is wrong, shall excite the tear of compassion. It does not become us
to declaim against the wickedness of the wicked in a manner as if we expecled grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles;, but, while we prove ourselves the decided friends of God, to bear good-will to men. It becomes those who may be the most firmly established in the truth as it is in Jesus, to consider that a portion of the errors of the age, in all probability, attaches to them; and though it were otherwise, yet they are directed to carry it benevolently towards others who may err: « In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God, peradventure, will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth.”
Finally: There is an inportant difference between rasing the foundation, and building upon that foundation a portion of wood, and hay, and stubble. It becomes us not to make light of either: but the latter may be an object of forbearance, whereas the former is not. With the enemies of Christ, we ought, in re. ligious matters, to make no terms; but towards his friends, though in some respects erroneous, it behooves us to come as near as it is possible to do, without a derelection of principle. A truly Christian spirit will feel the force of such language as the following, and will act upon it: “ All that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours, grace be unto them, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ-Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sin cerity!"
* 2 Tim. ü. 25.
VI. Goodness of the Moral Law,