« ElőzőTovább »
innumerable. Indiscriminating minds have supposed that every thing which has a relation to Religion, is of equal moment; and this supposition, in conjunction with the earnestness with which a speculative disposition is accustomed to enforce its peculiar tenets, has introduced the utmost confusion into theological subjects. The crude and vague conceptions of men have been mistaken for important realities : Subordinates have taken place of principals, until points of mere speculation have gained complete ascendancy over the most interesting truths: Forms and ceremonies of human invention have frequently been placed upon a level with moral duties; and, in some cases, have been permitted to supersede the practice of them.
But to every subject worthy of human investigation, various degrees of importance must necessarily be attached. Its essential properties, or whatever is necessary to its being what it is, must be known, or the subject will remain unknown. The utility of the subject is the next object demanding examination; or the application to be made of it in the production of some kind, or degree of Ġood: without we have this object in view, our pursuits are but frivolous occupations and amusements. Certain collateral circumstances, and legitimate inferences, may also possess various degrees of importance, though of an inferior nature. Conjectural dogmata are not unfrequently added, which, as they have a dubious aspect, cannot promise equal validity in their application; whatever power they may possess over the minds of the proposers. Such gradations exist, resembling the circumferal ringlets in agitated waters, which become weaker and weaker the farther they are remote from the central point.
In the religion of Jesus, the above gradations are strongly marked. To know the immediate object of this Revelation, must be of infinite moment. An accurate knowledge of many circumstances concerning the peculiar methods of its accomplishment, or the extent of its efficacy, cannot be of equal importance; although it may be very desirable; för we may rest assured, that new manifestations of the wisdom and beneficence of the Deity, will accompany every discovery.
The object of all human plans and projects is the production or communication of some Good. The more disinterested, and the greater the benefit to be conferred upon others, the more conspicuously will the character of Benevolence appear. The manifestations of Wisdom
will be correspondent to the obvious adaptation of the means to the end proposed. According to the extent of the benefits to be diffused, shall we proportionate our estimation both of Beneficence and Wisdom; and the more will the character of the Projector be exalted in our conceptions.
The Christian religion is proposed to us as a revelation from heaven. Its professed object is to bless mankind. It is announced to us as the final dispensation; and it must be complete in all its parts, and for all its purposes.
. As the Christian religion is, in the estimation of all its professors, the last, or final revelation from God, and a completion of the divine plan for the Good of mankind; and for which that communicated to the Jews was preparatory, we are authorized to expect something great-stupendously great. We may expect that this Dispensation will be enstamped with characteristic marks of peculiar excellence, in its object, mode of establishment, and extent of beneficial effects.
Our design, in the present Disquisition, is to examine it under these three distinct characters. We shall therefore inquire,
I. What are the peculiar blessings presented to us by Christianity.
II. In what manner, or through what medium, are these blessings conveyed.
III. How great will be their extent.
Under the first head, the principles we shall advance will meet with the concurrence of all christians. If by a Revelation we are to understand truths made known to us, they must be intelligible to all. Whatever is obscure, cannot be clearly revealed; and if there be any points concerning which men of upright dispositions and sound understandings, entertain different opinions, they may contain latent truths, and they will demand serious investigation, but they cannot be of primary importance. Concerning these the most inquisitive may err; and it is also possible, that the most superficial may be the most confident.
Under the two last articles in our division, some of the sentiments of the writer, will not correspond with those adopted by many of the pious and learned. But should the truth of his principles not be rendered sufficiently evident, they will be rejected with reluctance; and those who reject, will lament that their own views of this last Dispensation are neither so honourable to God, nor consoling to man.
In the prosecution of our inquiries, we have endeavoured to adhere to the following rules, to direct us in more dubious cases; and we propose them to the inquisitive reader, as the touchstone by which to try the tenets proposed by the author, and also his own.
1. A belief in the infinite Goodness of God, is most consistent with the truest principles of reason. Goodness is an excellence which constitutes the excellence of knowledge, wisdom, and power. It is the most worthy source of all divine operations. It has been proclaimed by the Deity, and displayed in the Revelation of himself to the Jews. Upon the attribute of infinite Benevolence is founded the injunction of our divine Master, “Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” For we love that alone which we understand to be excellent in itself, and productive of Good ; and supreme love pre-supposes supreme excellence in the object. Those sentiments, therefore, which we profess to derive from the New Dispensation, and are most consonant with the infinite benignity of God, must in themselves be the most eligible; and whereever scripture phraseology, which every one admits to be greatly diversified, seems to be at