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to you, and the consideration of which cannot but please and profit you.
If, by the blessing of God upon our common endeavours to lead and to be led into all truth, I shall be so happy as to bring you to entertain the same views of these things with myself, we shall rejoice together; and if, after all that I may be able to ad. vance, you should still think differently from me, I trust you will, at least, be disposed to think with more candour of some of your fellow-Christians, who love the Gospel, and are zealous for its honour, though you may think them mistaken in their conceptions concerning it. Let me entreat you,
therefore, my brethren, to give me a patient and candid hearing. Attend, in the spirit of meekness, to what I shall say from the earnestness of my heart; and exercise the reason which God has given you upon this occasion, which is the noblest on which it can be exercised, and for which you may, therefore, conclude that it was principally given you.
I. OF THE USE OF REASON IN MATTERS OF
Be not backward, or afraid, my brethren, to make use of your reason in matters of religion, or where the Scriptures are concerned. They both of them proceed from the same God and Father of us all, who is the giver of every good and every perfect gift. They cannot, therefore, be contrary to one another,
but must mutually illustrate and enforce one another. Besides, how can we distinguish one scheme of religion from another, so as to give the preference to that which is the most deserving of it, but by the help of our reason and understanding ? What would you yourselves say to a Mahometan, whom you would persuade to abandon the imposture of Mahomel, and embrace Christianity, but bid him use his reason; and judge, by the help of it, of the manifest difference between the two religions, and the great superiority of yours to his ? Does not God himself appeal to the reason of man, when he condescends to ask us, 66 whether his ways be not equal ?" Ezek. xviii. 29. Does not the apostle exhort us that “ in understanding we be men ?" i Cor. xiv. 20. Are we not expressly commanded to “prove all things, and then hold fast that which is good?” i Thess. v. 21. Also, when we are commanded to "search the Scriptures,' John v. 39. more must be meant than merely reading them, or receiving implicitly the interpretations of others. Searching must imply an earnest endeavour to find out for ourselves, and to understand, the truths contained in the Scriptures ; and what faculty can we employ for this purpose, but that which is commonly called reason, whereby we are capable of thinking, reflecting, comparing, and judging of things ?
Distrust, 6 Of the Use of Reason in Matters of Religion.
Distrust, therefore, all those who decry human reason, and who require you to abandon it, where, ever religion is concerned. When once they have gained this point with you, they can lead you whither they please, and impose upon you every absurdity which their sinister views may make it expedient for them that you should embrace. A Po. pish p. est would require nothing more than this,
male vou believe the doctrine of transubstantiation, and that a man is infallibie ; ui io para suade you to commit the most flagrant wickedness, as a means of doing God service. For the first of these articles they do not fail to urge the words of Scripture, which expressly say, concerning the bread that is used in the Lord's Supper, that it “is the body of Christ,” Matt. xxvi. 6. and there is no possibility of replying to them, but by appealing to reason, as the necessary and proper judge of the sense of Scripture. The Papist, therefore, a3 might well be expecter, is forward, on all occasions, to vilify human reason, and to require men to abandon it; but true Protestants will not part with it. . It is by the help of reason, in conjunction with the Scriptures, that we guard ourselves against the gross delusions of the Papists, who, after relinquishing reason, have been made to believe a lie; and by the diligent and continued use of the same power, let us endeavour to combat Of the Power of Man to do the Will of God. 7 every remaining error, and trace out and reform every corruption of Christianity, till we hold the pure truth as it is in Jesus, and obey it in the love thereof.
Do not think that, by recommending the use of reason, I am about to decry the Scriptures. My appeal shall be to both, upon every subject on which I address you ; and I think you cannot but see that the plainest and most obvious sense of the Scriptures is in favour of those doctrines which are most agreeable to reason. A good man will rejoice to see them thus go hand in hand, mutually illustrating and enforcing one another. II. OF THE POWER OF MAN TO DO THE WILL
OF GOD. One of the subjects with respect to which I earnestly wish that you would attend to the voice of reason and the Scriptures, and with respect to which, one mistake will be followed by many others, and mistakes of great consequence, is concerning the power of man to do the will of God. It is a favourite opivion with many teachers of religion, that men have naturally (or by that constitution and frame which God their maker hath given them) no power at all to do any thing that is good, not even to think a good thought, much less actually to obey any of the commands of God; so that, if men were left to themselves, they could do nothing but sin, and must be under a neces
sity sity of aggravating their condemnation, by every thought, word, and action of their lives. But, my brethren, how does this doctrine agree with the Scriptures, and particularly with the manner in which the Divine Being constantly expostulates with the sinful son's of men; as when he says to the Jews, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, why will ye die, O house of Israel !" Ezek. xxxiii. 11. “Wash ye, make you clean. Cease to do evil, learn to do well, &c. &c. &c." Isa. i. 16.
Is it not plain from this, that it depends upon men themselves, whether they will repent and turn to God, or not? And how can it depend upon themselves, if they have not naturally a sufficient power to do it? You cannot think that God would command, and expect obedience, when he had not given power to obey; and much less that he would urge men to provide for their own safety and happiness, when himself had put an effectual bar in the way of it.
Suppose that any man's children were shut up in a building that was on fire, while he himself was without, and had the key; and that, instead of opening the door to favour their escape, he should only call out to them to flee out of the place in order to avoid instant destruction; and that, as the necessary consequence of this, they should all perish in the flames before his eyes ; what would you think of such a father? You