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to forget solid morality, as well as to spurn meekness and love ?
The follies of one age differ from those of another in names only. Let those boast of the intelligence of the nineteenth century, who think it furnishes no parallels to the infatuations of the third. It is often anxiously askedWhat hinders the progress of the Gospel in a country like our own, and in an age of liberty and knowledge? It might be quite enough to reply, that the hinderance is drawn from the form of impertinent and childish discord which has been thrown over it by some of its most devoted adherents. If then our Christianity does not triumph as it ought, we will not vex at the infidelity of Longinus ; but mourn the superstition of Dionysius.
THE RELIGION OF THE BIBLE NOT FANATICAL.
(THE OLD TESTAMENT.)
The mind seeks refreshment in contemplating Truth, after conversing long with the follies and crimes that mark as well the religious as the civil history of nations. A tranquil delight, a delight enhanced by contrast, is felt when we return to set foot upon that solid ground of reason and purity which the Scriptures open before us. How melancholy soever, or revolting may be the spectacle of human affairs, a happier prospect is within view.-In the religion of the Bible there is certaintythere is unsullied goodness—there is divinity, Let the inferences be what they may-and we should take care they are sound, which we feel compelled to draw from the general course of events, it remains always true that the
RELIGION OF THE BIBLE NOT FANATICAL. 375
writings of the prophets and apostles present a system of belief, an order of sentiments, and a rule of morals such as are altogether consistent with the highest conceptions we can form of the Divine attributes. The Bible is God's revelation: none doubt it who retain the integrity of the moral faculty, who command the powers of reason, and who are informed of what has been in every age the actual condition of human nature. The Scriptures are from Heaven. Yet we will not now assume this truth, but narrowly examine (on a single and peculiar line of argument) the proof of it.
Let it then be premised that it is not by avoiding occasions of danger, but by efficiently providing against them, that the Scriptures lead man through the difficult paths of the spiritual world. The most critical positions which the human mind can occupy are freely entered upon by the writers of the Bible ;-all hazards are run, and a clear triumphant course is pursued through all. If an affirmation such as this be deemed loose or declamatory, and more easily advanced than substantiated, let strict attention be given to the historic facts and documents whence a conclusion should be drawn : in entering upon this ground no favour is implored, no rigour of scrutiny is deprecated. We ask for what we may demand-a verdict according to the evidence.
On all questions relating to the alleged practical influence of opinions, the rational inquiry plainly is — Not what seems the tendency of single elements of the system ;-but in what manner are its various elements balanced and harmonized ? Who does not know that Effects are, in every case, whether physical or intellectual, as the combined causes which concur to produce them? If at any time certain ingredients of religious truth have been drawn apart, and grossly abused, to the injury of the parties themselves, and to the scandal of others, the fault is not in the inspired Book. The sacred writers require nothing short of a submission to that complete and duly-adjusted system of motives which they promulgate ; and it would have been a virtual dereliction of their authority to have made provision against the misuse of those single principles which can produce no mischief so long as they are held in combination.
Boldness — the boldness of simplicity is the style of the Bible from first to last. Nowhere does it exhibit that sort of circumspection which distinguishes the purblind and uncertain discretion of man. Man, if cautious at all, is overcautious, and must be so, because he knows little of the remote relations of things, and almost nothing of their future consequences. Although one event only shall actually occur,
in a given case, five or ten that are possible must be provided for. But the Divine Omniscience saves itself all such wasted anxieties, and takes a direct course to its proposed end; an end it had foreseen from the beginning. A difference of the very same sort distinguishes human and divine operations whenever brought into comparison.— The former abound with provisions and precautions against possible accidents; but in the latter, provision is made only against actual and foreseen evils ; and therefore when examined on principles of human science, often seem-shall we say-unsafe and incomplete.
To take the separate ingredients of religion as they may be gathered from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, one might find in them, apart, every incitement of those perverted sentiments, which, in fact, through the course of ages, have borrowed a pretext from the Bible. No conceivable method of conveying complex principles could afford security against such a misuse of the heavenly boon. If men will sever that which God has joined, nothing remains but that they should receive into their bosoms the fruit of their temerity. The inspired writers, as may be proved in the most convincing manner, were themselves no fanatics; nor will their readers ever become such, while they admit that complement of motives which the theology of the Scriptures includes.