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the mind—an arrangement of its internal conceptions. When we transfer our ideas to religion, they appear to attain as much certainty at least as satisfies us in the common affairs of life. We must at once abandon all reasoning, or admit the proofs of design in the works of nature; and design necessarily implies a designing agent. Thus the being of a God appears to rest on the firmest basis, though it may be impossible to determine, from the light of reason, what that being is. When we advance to revelation, the evidence of testimony is as clearly applicable to the supernatural facts of scripture, as to any other species of facts whatsoever; and we seem capable of knowing as much of God in his works and ways, as of any other subject. I concur with you entirely, that the phenomena of religion are perfectly on a level, in this respect, with any other phenomena; and cannot but think, that there is a very exact analogy subsisting betwixt grace and force, together with other principles, whose existence we are obliged to admit, though we know nothing of them but in their effects. We can never penetrate beyond effects; we can never contemplate causes in themselves, at least in our present dark and benighted condition: so that the sceptical tendency of metaphysical science ought to come in aid of our religious belief, by shewing that religion labours under no other difficulties than those which envelope all the fundamental principles of knowledge. The profoundest metaphysician
will, in my opinion, (cæteris paribus,) be always the humblest christian. Superficial minds will be apt to start at the obscurities of religion, and to conceive that every thing is plain which relates to the objects of science, and the affairs of common life. But the profound thinker will perceive the fallacy of this; and when he observes the utter impossibility of tracing the real relations of impressions and phenomena to the objects out of ourselves, together with the necessity of believing a First Cause, he will be ready to conclude that the Deity is, in a manner, the only reality, and the truths relating to him the most certain, as well as the most important. Common minds mistake the deep impression of the phenomena of worldly affairs, for clearness of evidence with respect to the objects themselves; than which nothing can be more distinct.
You perceive I can do nothing more, on this subject, than echo back your own sentiments, which are such as I have long maintained.
I wish it were in my power to throw some additional light on these intricate points, but I am utterly unable to do it. How far you can introduce any speculations of this sort into your philosophical works, with advantage, you are most competent to determine. It may, probably, have the good effect of admonishing sciolists that the pursuits of science, when conducted with a proper spirit, are not inimical to religious belief.
My health is, through unspeakable mercy, perfectly restored, excepting a good deal of the pain in my back. It will give me much pleasure to see you at Foulmire. Please to remember me affectionately to Mrs. Gregory.
I am, my dear friend, with ardent wishes for your temporal and eternal welfare, Your affectionate Friend and Brother,
My dear Friend,
Feb. 1, 1806. Accept my sincere thanks for your kind letter. Every assurance of respect from old friends, and especially from one whose friendship has been so long tried, and evinced on so many occasions, must afford much satisfaction to a person in any situation. Though Providence has produced a separation, which will probably be of long continuance (and, in one sense, final), nothing, I am certain, can efface from my mind those impressions of gratitude and esteem with which I shall ever look back on my connexions at Cambridge and its vicinity. With the deepest submission, I wish to bow to the mandate of that awful, yet, I trust, paternal power, which, when it pleases, confounds all human hopes, and lays us prostrate in the dust, It is for Him to dispose of his creatures as he pleases; and, if they be willing and obedient, to work out their happiness, though by methods the most painful and afflictive. His plans are infinitely extended, and his measures determined by views of that ultimate issue, that final result, which transcends our comprehension. It is with the sincerest gratitude I would acknowledge the goodness of God in restoring me. I am, as far as I can judge, as [remote) from any thing wild and irregular in the state of my mind as I ever was in my life; though I think, owing probably to the former increased excitation, I feel some abatement of vigour. My mind seems inert. During my affliction, I have not been entirely forsaken of God, nor left destitute of that calm trust in his providence which was requisite to support me: yet I have not been favoured with that intimate communion, and that delightful sense of his love, which I have enjoyed on former occasions. I have seldom been without a degree of composure, though I have had little consolation or joy. Such, with little variation, has been my mental state, very nearly from the time of my coming to the Fishponds; for I had not been here more than a fortnight, before I found myself perfectly recovered, though my pulse continued too high. It has long subsided, and exhibits, the doctor assures me, every indication of confirmed health.
With respect to my future prospects and plans, they are necessarily in a state of great uncertainty. I am fully convinced of the propriety of relinquishing my pastoral charge at Cambridge, which I shall do, in an official letter to the church, as soon as I leave Dr. Cox, which, I believe, will be at the expiration of the quarter from my coming. My return to Cambridgeshire was, I am convinced, extremely ill judged; nor had I the smallest intention of doing it, until I was acquainted with the generous interposition of my friends, to which it appeared to me that my declining to live among them would appear a most ungrateful return. I most earnestly request that they will do me the justice to believe, the intention I have named, of declining the pastoral charge, does not proceed from any such motive, but from the exigencies of my situation, and a sense of duty. I propose to lay aside preaching for at least a twelvemonth.
Please to remember me affectionately and respectfully to your cousin, and all inquiring friends, as if named.
I am, my dear Sir,
P. S. Please to present my best respects to Mrs. Hollick and your daughter.