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to examine it in all its bearings; and if he findi that he cannot, either from the stores of his own mind, or the recorded researches of others, bring together all the materials requisite to obviate the objections alleged, he should neither be disappointed with his failure, nor presume for a monient to insinuate a suspicion against what he does not fully understand. The sword which the arm of a child cannot raise, may be wielded with ease by the hand of a man. It is not the heaviness of the weapon, but the weakness of the agent that creates the difficulty. Nor is it from a conviction of his own individual ignorance alone that an inquirer should sometimes withdraw from the consideration of Scripture difficulties. If the subject be in its own nature beyond his sight and understanding ; if it relate solely to things eternal and infinite, whilst he himself is but finite and temporal; or if it be such as to take in not only the present but other worlds, and other ranks of created being's in its operations; then let him not only acquiesce in his want of power to perceive and defend its propriety, but let him studiously abstain from every attempt to investigate the secret purposes of the Almighty; and let him give at least an hesitating assent to every pretended explanation of what, by the terms of the supposition, is allowed to be in some degree incomprehensible. In no cases have the folly and danger of a violation of this law of modesty been more prominently set forth, than in the endless controversies upon the origin of evil, the scheme of redemption, and election through grace.
In every one of these doctrines, there is evidently something which we are not fully acquainted with. Up to the point to which our faculties and observations reach, we can, as we think, satisfactorily justify the ways of God to man. But as soon as the matters in question begin to be connected with other portions of the universe, or to have a probable influence upon the condition of Angelic natures; as soon as they touch upon the extent to which the several properties of the Deity operate upon and regulate each other, or the mode in which his infinite attributes of foreknowledge and justice and wisdom are compounded together; as soon as they reach this point, we are inevitably lost in the boundless nature of subjects which, with our present capacities, we could not perhaps, under any circumstances, have been made to comprehend. In all questions like these, silence and submission are the things required, and we must be content with a partial estimate and view. We have only to ascertain the authority and meaning of the divine teacher who utters such things, and then acquiesce in his statements, as the statements of one speaking faithfully what he has either seen or heard from Heaven. Thus it is, that in all the common affairs of life and government, we universally act and advise. If the general assertions of a teacher be found, upon all those subjects with which we are acquainted, to be true, and his opinions to be uniformly justified by those reasons which he has advanced and we can understand; we are bound also to give credit, proportionate to his authority, to all his assertions upon subjects we are not made acquainted with, and all his reasonings which from our ignorance we are unable to estimate. If the acts of a government when its motives are open to our inspection, are always found to be right, and if its motives, so far as we can perceive, are always laid open to our inspection when it is prudent to do so, we are bound to believe well of it also even when its motives are withheld. Such is the measure with which, in righteousness, we should judge both of human dispensations and divine. We should neither presume to explain everything, nor murmur where we cannot.
The rules which I have thus ventured to lay down for the elucidation of the difficulties of Scripture have at least the recommendation of being readily remembered, and easily understood. Yet few and simple as they are, and essential as they would appear to be, it is melancholy to remark how seldom theologians have kept them steadily in view, and how uniformly the objections of unbelievers are founded upon a violation of their leading principles. Why is it thus? Why do not only those who oppose the truth, but even those who in sincerity defend it, thus frequently deviate from the path which might have guided them to the light of revelation’s day? Much of course is due to a natural weakness of capacity in some; much to pride, and the presumption of talent in others; and still more perhaps to a corruption of heart and life. But much also, I am inclined to think, is due to the want of an early instruction in religious things. Sound learning is not the only thing requisite to make a sound believer. There must also be a sound application of the learning we possess, and that application is neither the same, nor equally easy in every subject. In law, in medicine, and in history ; in moral, in experimental, and in demonstrative sciences, there must be a modification of the general principles of reasoning adapted to the nature of each. That modification forces itself upon the most unwilling enquirer when he commences the study of any secular profession; and were religion a subject which men in general were compelled to consider with as much seriousness, and for as long a time as the business of their callings in the world, there would be far less danger in leaving it to their own unassisted good sense to vary the rules of inter
pretation according to the exigencies of each theological case. But there is such a prevalent indisposition to the study of heavenly things; and so many temptations to seduce men from the path of duty and of faith, after they have once entered into active life; and so many employments to prevent their time from being devoted to the examination of the grounds of their religion, that the bias which education has given to the mind is perhaps more strongly and permanently felt in religion, than in any other pursuit. Above all things, therefore, it is requisite that the method of properly investigating religious truth should be early and carefully instilled into the student's mind : for if that essential part of culture be neglected in youth, great indeed is the fear of its never afterwards being acquired at all. If the mode of examining the difficulties of any common work or science be taught, but we are never taught the difference to be observed in transferring our rules of judgement from the objects of sight to those of faith, the result is obvious. We shall go forth confounding theology with philosophy, and expecting the application of the same means to produce the same success, and certainty in both ; and then being disappointed, we shall disbelieve. Such, I apprehend, has been the primary origin of infidelity in many a learned and scientific mind. It is in vain to say, that their learning and science