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inevitably fixed. Since it is scarcely possible to account for their conversion upon any other supposition than the truth of all the matter contained in the New Testament.

And this brings us directly to the meaning of the text, as it relates to ourselves. By proving all things, we have, in the first place, to satisfy ourselves of the truth of the Scriptures, if we have

that point: and then to prove it against those who deny it. And in the next place, we have to ascertain what are the doctrines which they really contain, and to defend them against those who give them a different interpretation. In the former consists our Christianity : in the latter our Protestantism according to our established Church. In the one we have to contend with Infidels of all descriptions: and in the other with Roman Catholics and Dissenters of all denominations. This is our Christian liberty, which will only be a blessing to us as we use it with firmness, with prudence, and with moderation. We may claim beyond contradiction, upon Apostolic authority, (says a recent commentator) the right for “all Christians, in all ages, before they receive any religious doctrine, to examine whether it be consonant

any doubt upon


to right reason and the Word of God.' “ What a glorious freedom of thought (exclaims another able writer) do the Apostles recommend! And how contemptible in their account is a blind and implicit faith! May all Christians use this liberty of judging for themselves in matters of religion, and allow it to one another and to all mankind ?."

It is upon this ground that we and other Protestants justify our separation from the Church of Rome, which absolutely denies this right of private judgment. And in like manner Dissenters vindicate their secession from

Nor do we presume to dispute their claim so to do. So sacred and inalienable are the rights of conscience! So entirely are we bound to obey their dictates ourselves; and to respect their influence upon other men ! The Romanists not being able to get rid of the text, which is a remarkably clear and strong

endeavour to evade its force by saying that it applies only to the Clergy, or rather to the superiors of their Church, in whom, according to them, resides that infallibility to which




Macknight upon

the text.
Benson, as quoted by Macknight.


all its members are bound implicitly to submit'. But this position is manifestly untenable. Had the injunction been found in an Epistle addressed to an individual, such as Timothy or Titus, who were themselves commissioned to teach the Gospel, there might have been some pretence for such an argument. But it was addressed to the Thessalonians at large, without any restriction to any particular descriptions of persons, and what it authorized them to do it is quite impossible to dený to any other body of Christians whatever.

The right then it must be admitted) is one of the most absolute and general nature. But it is obviously one which demands great prudence and discretion in its exercise. We have all many natural rights, which we consent to abandon for the advantages of living in society ?. And even of those which we retain, there are several which we seldom exert ourselves ; preferring to trust to the


The Apostle doth not here bid the guides of the Church try all things, and the people hold fast that which they delivered to them; but gives an injunction common to all Christians, &c.-WHITBY.

? Blackstone's Commentaries, vol. i. 125.

judgment of others who have more skill and knowledge in particular subjects than we have or can have. Thus we confide the care of our health to physicians, and others who have made diseases and their remedies the study of their lives. And the defence of our property and other interests to the members of the legal profession! And so of many other things, in which we might if we pleased rely entirely upon our own judgment, but which we voluntarily and wisely prefer to commit to the management of others. And though I do not mean to contend that the case is exactly parallel with regard to religion ; yet perhaps it makes a nearer approach to it than would at first sight appear. For as a prudent man would not willingly be so completely ignorant of either law or physic as not to know how to conduct himself with regard to his property, or his health, upon ordinary occasions ; yet in great and difficult emergencies would naturally have recourse to those who were more skilled in such matters than himself: so it is with respect to religion : there is much in it which every man should study for himself,

See Hey's Lectures, vol. ii. p. 32 and 98.

and to a certain extent form his own judgment upon it: but there is much also in it which he may reasonably think that they who devote their whole lives to its investigation are more accurately acquainted with than he is likely to be. But different men will prudently exercise this right in different degrees, according to the ability which by nature or education they possess for the subject. There are few, perhaps, who are not competent to perceive the truth of the moral precepts of the Gospel : though even of these there are some whose beauty and propriety it requires some reasoning fully to appreciate ; and others which demand some judgment to discriminate whether they should be obeyed in their letter or their spirit. But with respect to the evidences of Christianity, they obviously cannot be properly examined without a considerable share of learning and much ability in its application. But this is a work of great extent, not to be accomplished without much time, labour, and research. They therefore who, like Dr. Paley and others, have abridged the larger works of their predecessors upon this subject, given them a popular form, and exhibited their most material points in a clear

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