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I. OLD ERRORS YIELDING TO SCEPTICISM OR CHRISTIANITY. —II. NEW ERRORS INSIGNIFICANT.-III. MINUTE SECTS AND DIFFERENCES.–IV. SUPERFICIAL TURN OF MIND.—V. SYSTEMS DISCARDED ; YET THE SCRIPTURES LITTLE STUDIED.—VI. UNSCRIPTURAL EXPERIENCE AND COMFORT. – VII. UNSCRIPTURAL VIEW OF THE DIVINE LAW.—VIII. UNSCRIPTURAL VIEW OF THE GOSPEL.—IX. UNSCRIPTURAL VIEW OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.— X. STUDY OF THE WHOLE SCRIPTURE.-XI. CLEAR AND FULL PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL. — XII. AVOIDING NOVELTY, AND UNITING WITH ALL GOOD MEN.—XIII. THE SPIRIT OF LIGHT AND LOVE POURED OUT FROM ON HIGH.
I. AN inevitable change is coming over the world. New powers are brought into existence. Whatever is old and established is of itself already worn out, and will have little strength to contend with the recent and hostile energies which it must speedily encounter. Old opinions are already beginning to give way, not in this or that country alone, but all over the world. Even the Hindoos and the Chinese have their infidels and their radicals. The sceptical writings of the French have already been translated into many languages, and if a new revolution were to break out in the heart of Europe, there would be less difficulty in spreading its principles far and wide, than there was when the French made some attempts to gain proselytes to their politics and philosophy, in distant nations. Polytheism, which once overspread the whole earth except the land of Judea, is much curtailed in its extent, notwithstanding its revival in Popery; and the ignorance upon which it is founded, is every day lessened. Pantheism may keep its footing for a time in Germany or Persia, and may even gain a number of votaries who are forsaking Polytheism; but it, too, must yield to the current of modern discovery, and to the attacks of that ceaseless inquiry, which will wear away all systems which are not founded upon the basis of truth. The scepticism of Hume is as applicable to the philosophy of Kant as to the philosophy of Locke; and the term of phenomenism characterizes the transcendental idealism of the Germans, as well as the systems founded upon sensible ideas amongst the English. It is in vain that Kant and others have attempted to prove the existence of a Deity, of an external world, or of the soul itself. Ex nihilo nihil; from ideas nothing but ideas can proceed. Nothing can have any resemblance to a thought but a thought. Amongst the Sufis more become infidels than remain confirmed pantheists. They imbibe enough of the mystical doctrine heartily to despise all positive religion, but not enough to furnish them with any fixed principles or consistent belief. Every improvement that takes place, every discovery in art and nature, has a tendency to disturb ancient opinions, which were founded upon previous ignorance or error, and which have no other support than the darkness and credulity of the mind. Thus, all things are favourable for the spread of infidelity, and, if so, for Christianity also, for infidelity has no substance or vitality in itself, and Christianity is the only system which can be established on its ruins. Thus, whatever is gained for knowledge is gained for Christianity. Whatever accelerates or facilitates the intercourse of mankind, is preparing new and easier openings for the diffusion of the Gospel. Christianity must gain by every event, and be ultimately established by every change. II. There are only four great errors in religion. The first is the religion of the senses and the imagination, or Polytheism and Popery. The second is the religion of sense, imagination, and reason, combined; or Pantheism, with Mysticism; or Pantheism Christianized. The third is the contracting revelation to our narrow faculties, or rational Christianity; and the fourth error is the rejecting Christianity altogether as contrary to our natural understanding, or Infidelity. The last error is swallowing up the three first; but of all these errors it has least subsistence in itself, and is continually wasting itself away. All other errors are insignificant when compared with these. Other heresies are but the peculiarities of individuals, which have only a partial extent, and a limited duration. These errors, on the contrary, belong to the human mind, reappear in every age and country, and though they have enrolled in their support very distinguished names in literature and science, are less indebted to any individual aid than to those permanent weaknesses and propensities of man's darkened understanding, which originally produced them. All the minor sects owe their birth to persons of very inferior talents, and at the same time do not take equally deep hold of the mind itself. They may create a temporary interest and a local alarm. They are lamentable on account of the injury they may inflict upon individuals, but they are of no more consequence in retarding the progress of Christianity, than the loss of one or two out-posts would be in deciding the fate of a campaign. Many of these heresies are but the errors of a few wrong-headed
individuals, and are chiefly brought into notice by the vehement outcry that is raised against them. III. These heresies are frequently exaggerated, not only in their importance and magnitude, but also in their numbers. Lists of these are handed about by the Papists, as irrefragable proofs of the evils produced by the indiscriminate reading of the Scriptures, and by making the Bible the sole authority in religious controversy. But these heresies have no more connection with the Scriptures than Popery itself has. They have altogether their rise from the folly, the narrow-mindedness, and the party spirit of men; and the study of the Scriptures, instead of being the occasion of these disputes, is their only cure. The list of heresies, filled as it is with barbarous denominations and unintelligible distinctions, has indeed a formidable aspect. Each of the sects is unimportant in itself, but they make up in numbers for the want of weight. Yet when examined, these numbers appear of less consequence. Many of these sects have no existence but on paper, they are merely various names for the same denomination, and others are founded entirely upon misconception. Others of these sects are the offspring of the reveries of some deranged persons, of good natural talents, it may be, and of pious character, but who have mistaken the deep impressions of religion upon