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deration, in order that he may discover whether he be a genuine son of the party.
For this purpose, he is apt to scrutinize every word and expression, though in itself the most harmless and inoffensive, with a kind of malicious severity, and, in consequence of this habit, acquires a suspicious censoriousness in his manner of judging, which in every doubtful case leans to the unfavourable side; a disposition the most opposite, both to the docile and to the charitable temper of christianity, that can be well conceived. Do not mistake me, as though I meant this charge against any one sect or party, or those of one particular persuasion. I am persuaded, on the contrary, that it may
with too great justice be charged on all. Nay, what is worse, though they are shy to speak it out, the style of scripture itself doth not altogether escape their animadversion and dislike, In the various disputes that have been introduced, as those on each side pretend, that the doctrine of holy writ is conformable to that of their party, each has recourse to it for arguments. Each picks out those expressions and passages which appear most favourable to its own dogmas, carefully avoiding those, which seem to lean to the side of the adversary, and are most commonly quoted by him. The consequence of this is, that the various texts of scripture are strangely disunited among themselves, ranged on different sides, and, as it were, mustered
the forces of the opposite combatants. One set of scriptural expressions and terms become the favourites of one party, and are, to say the least of it, carefully avoided by another; this latter has also in holy writ its darling terms
and phrases, which are no less shunned and disliked by the former. Thus all have more or less incurred the reproach which the prophet Malachi threw out against the priests of his day, “ that
they had corrupted the covenant, and were par“ tial in the law." Part, it would seem, pleased them, and part did not; they were careful to cull out those particulars which were suited to their taste, and not less careful to omit such as were unpalatable. And are not we chargeable with the like partiality in regard to God's word? Doth not one side look with a jealous eye on the very mention of good works, especially as that according to which we must finally be judged, according to which we must be either rewarded or punished? Doth not the necessity of obedience, though delivered in the very words of scripture, the insufficiency of faith when unfruitful and alone, the danger of apostacy, of making shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience, and the duty of perseverance, alarm them with the direful apprehensions of Arminianism, Pelagianism, Popery, the doctrine of merit, and what not? But do I accuse those of one side only? By no means. Under this sin all sects and parties may with the greatest justice be concluded. Do but consider the matter impartially. How are those of a different party affected by the mention of our being saved by faith, of the necessity of divine grace, of election, regeneration, and the like? Are not their fears as quickly alarmed? Are they not apt to exclaim, “rank “ Calvinism,” it is much if they do not add, "natical and Puritanical nonsense?" And is it not evident, that in this manner, the censures and
reproaches of both are levelled in a great measure against the word of God itself, whose language, it is manifest, that neither party will admit in all things to be safe and unexceptionable? It is worth while to observe the different ways of quoting adopted by different sides. Each always abounds most in the favourite texts of the party; but when the introduction of a passage, that has been often strenuously urged by an adversary, seems unavoidable, what pains do they not take to mend it? With what circumspect attention do they intersperse such clauses, and make such additions, as may prevent its being understood in any other sense, than the sect approves? Is it possible in a more glaring manner, to show their disapprobation of the language of the Spirit; and that it is their opinion, that on some points even the Holy Ghost hath expressed himself incautiously; an oversight, which, it would seem, they think it incumbent on them, when occasion offers, to correct? I know no way to avoid all those evil consequences of the spirit of schism and rage of dogmatism, that have so long and so universally prevailed in the church, but by having recourse directly to the fountain, before our minds have been tainted by any party whatever. This, and nothing but this, will ever bring our judgments into the right train, and lead us to determine concerning the doubtful and jarring opinions and expressions of men by the infallible word of God, and not of the infallible word of God, by the doubtful and jarring opinions and expressions of men.
The last great advantage I propose to mention as resulting from this method, is the preparation
it gives for the understanding, both of the general controversy concerning the truth of christianity, and in like manner of all the particular disputes that have arisen in the church. This I shall illustrate in the next lecture.
SUBJECT CONTINUED. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE
SCRIPTURES THE MOST ESSENTIAL PART OF THE STUDY HOW FAR THE STUDY OF CONTROVERSY DEMANDS OUR ATTENTION.
IN my last discourse, I began with giving some hints to aid the young inquirer into religion, in forming a kind of system of christian morality, and concluded with pointing out the advantages which would redound to him,
from his being frequently employed in the exercises on the scripture which we have recommended, that is, in making abstracts, first of the scriptural history, secondly of the doctrines, and thirdly of the moral precepts. Of these advantages, I particularly mentioned and illustrated on the last occasion, three. The first was, that it is one of the most effectual methods, I can conceive, of bringing the student to an intimate acquaintance with his Bible. The second was, that it suggests to him an excellent method of employing his time usefully in almost any situation wherein he can be placed. Every other method or plan of study presupposeth so many things, so much leisure, so many conveniences, and so great a variety of books, that admitting it were ever so pro• fitable, it can scarcely ever be put in execution; whereas on the contrary, if the young divine, how