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The gradual introduction of their many gross corruptions, both in doctrine and practice, is so extremely apparent to the historic student, that even a person of moderate penetration will need no other proof, either of their novelty, or of the baseness of their extraction. He will thus in the most effectual manner be convinced of the falseness of all other foundations, tradition, popes and councils, and that the Bible is that alone on which the religion of christians can rest immoveably. He will be apt to conclude in the words of the excellent Chillingworth (whose performance deserves a most serious perusal, not more because it is a clear detection of papistical sophistry, than because it is an admirable specimen of just and acute reasoning, he will be ready, I say, to conclude in the words of that author, “Whatsoever else they believe be"sides the Bible, and the plain, irrefragable, indu“ bitable, consequences of it, well may they hold it

as a matter of opinion, but as a matter of faith “ and religion neither can they, with coherence to “ their own grounds, believe it themselves, nor re" quire the belief of it of others, without most high * and most schismatical presumption. I, for my

part, after a long and (as I verily believe and

hope) impartial search of the true way to eternal happiness, do profess plainly, that I cannot find

any rest for the sole of my foot, but on this rock se only. I see plainly and with my own eyes, that “ there are popes against popes; councils against " councils; some fathers against others; the same " fathers against themselves; a consent of fathers of

one age against a consent of fathers of another age; " the church of one age against the church of ano




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"ther age. Traditive interpretations of scripture are "pretended, but there are none to be found. No “tradition, but only of scripture, can derive itself " from the fountain, but may be plainly proved, “either to have been broughtin, in such age

after “ Christ, or that in such an age it was not in. In

a word, there is no sufficient certainty, but of scripture only, for any considerate man to build

upon." Thus far that able advocate of protes« tantism. So just will the remark be found upon the trial, that those branches of knowledge, which we have advised the student to begin with, holy writ and sacred history, will, beyond his conception, tend to shorten the study of all religious controversies both general and particular. The reason is obvious. It will supply him with a fund in himself, whereby he can discover the solidity or futility of almost every argument that can be advanced.

On the contrary, when one who is quite unprovided in this respect, enters on controversy either general or particular, what is the consequence? It is, I may say, invariably, one or other of these two. He is either fixed entirely in his sentiments by the first author he reads, so that the clearest proofs from reason or scripture can never shake him afterwards; or he is always the dupe of the last writer he has happened to peruse. The first is commonly the case, when there is ever so little of a previous bias from education to the principles, and a favourable opinion of the character of the author, - The second holds more commonly when the bias from education, if any, is inconsiderable, and the authors on both sides ingenious and artful. Nor does this wavering in the student betray, as is com

monly imagined, a want of understanding. The want it betrays is of a very different nature. It is a want of such a stock of knowledge, as is necessary to qualify the mind for judging. Or to adopt an illustration from the body; it is not the badness of his eyes, but the want of light which is the cause of his mistaking. And the best eyes in the world will not distinguish colours in the dark. It must be owned further, that even this changeableness, when it arises from such a cause as we have mentioned, shows commonly a laudable candour of temper and openness to conviction. In both cases, however, the effect is a sufficient demonstration, that the study was premature. Mr. Pope, by his own acknowledgment, was an instance of the case last mentioned, as we learn from one of his letters to Dr. Atterbury. The prelate, it would appear, had been using his best endeavours with the poet to induce him to read some of the most celebrated authors on the popish controversy, in order to his conversion to the church of England. Mr. Pope, amongst other things, informed the bishop, that he had formerly, even when he was but fourteen years old, employed some time in reading the best writers on both sides the question, and that the consequence had always been, that he was protestant and papist alternately, according to the principles of the author, who had last engaged his attention. He adds very pertinently, “I am afraid most seek

ers are in the same case; and when they stop, s they are not so properly converted, as outwitted." Mr. Pope cannot, I think, be justly accused even by his enemies of a defect of understanding. In this particular, he was considerably above the or

dinary standard. But being, in all probability, at that early period, totally deficient in those materials, which could enable him to judge for himself in controversies about the sense of revelation, it was inevitable, that he should be swayed by turns by the different representations of the different champions. In other words, not having in himself those lights that were necessary, the knowledge of scripture and the knowledge of history, to enable him to see with his own eyes, he was forced to see with those of other people; and his impartiality itself led him to be influenced most by the nearest, by him who had made the last impression. So much for the advantages which will accrue to the student from a proper prosecution of the plan I have been recommending.

But, it may be said, suppose this knowledge of which you speak, is once attained, Must he proceed any further? and if he must, In what manner? In answer to these questions, I observe first, that when once the knowledge I mention is attained, he has accomplished by far the most essential part of the study of christian theology, he hath acquired that which is both in itself most valuable, and can best prepare him to enter with understanding into the other, and less essential parts of the study. Things however are rendered necessary to people in certain stations from certain accidental circumstances, which would otherwise be of little consequence in themselves. Of this sort are many things which the theologian must not altogether overlook. Some books deserve to be read on account of the useful instruction they contain; some again on account of the vogue they have obtained, and often merely

that we may be qualified to say with greater confidence, that they contain nothing of any value; some, because they inform us of what is done, others, because they inform us of what is thought. And as the qualities of different books and the

acquisitions we make by them are very different, so the motives that influence us are no less various : sometimes we read to obtain a supply of knowledge, oftener to obtain a supply of conversation, and not seldom to pass tolerably over a vacant hour, which we are at a loss how to spend. In determining the comparative merits of books, there can be no question, that those which convey useful knowledge and deserve a reading on their own account, are in a class greatly superior to those which afford only matter of conversation, and require a share of our attention on account of the esteem of others; and which is perhaps nearly coincident, those which instruct us in permanent truths, and the actual productions of eventful time, are of a higher order, than those which entertain us only with the vague opinions and unintelligible sophisms of men. Books of the third class, or pieces of mere amusement, I throw out of the question altogether. Now as to those of the second, if every man were unconnected with and independent on his fellows, such reading (farther at least than were necessary to give us some notion of the wanderings of the human mind,)it would perhaps be better to dispense with entirely. But as that is not the case, and as our own happiness in a great measure, and the very end of our being depend on our utility, it is necessary, that, in our studies, this should command a considerable share of our regard. It is not by

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