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an humble reliance on the veracity and the mercy of God, “ working by love," by fineere and cheerful obedience, from heartfelt gratitude and reverence to God, and active good will to man, is an essential condition of final acceptance.
And while the occasional obscurity of the scriptures does not prevent them from guiding the humble and illiterate Christian in his way to heaven, we perceive that it
serve many important purposes in moral discipline ; it excites the curiosity, and fixes the attention of the learned and inquisitive, while it furnishes an object of enquiry, that if rightly used, will,
at once, exercise their understandings, and improve : their hearts--to many who may, perhaps, by their happy situation, and their intellectual characters, be almost exempted from other material difficulties in their probation, it forms a trial of their candour, humility, and serious desire to trace the Divine will.
That it also affords occasions for disputes and contention, for heresy and schism, for heat and violence, surely is not inconsistent with the general tenor of God's moral government, in which every thing, as it is valuable when rightly employed, is capable of being proportionably perverted and abused: nor should it be forgotten, that this very obscurity of fcripture affords the strongest reason for that mutual forbearance and good will, amidít diversities of. opinion, which crowns the
Christian character, and forms the very bond of peace, and of all virtues. Surely beings, such as we are, ignorant and fallible, should never forget, that the more grounds there are for doubt and contrariety of opinion, the more obviously it is our duty to “ receive those that are weak in the faith, but not to “ doubtful disputations,” and to cultivate that charity, without which he who liveth is dead before God.
The warmth and earnestness of St. Paul's epistles not
imputable to enthusiasm.
FROM what has been hitherto adduced, it seems fufficiently evident that the obscurity, fo much complained of in the epistles of St. Paul, arises in a great degree from the language which the apostle was led to use, as most natural to himself, and the generality of those whom he addressed, and best adapted to the sacred subjects which employed his penfrom the nature of epistolary compofition abounding with allusions, which, though clear to those for whom they are immediately intended, are obscure to readers of a distant country, and an age long subfequent; and from the incompetence of the
human faculties to comprehend, fully and distinctly, the whole extent, and the exalted and mysterious objects of the Christian scheme.
It has been shewn that these various circumstances, far from proving the apostle a wild and visionary fanatic, tend to confirm the authenticity of his works, and the truth of his claims to a divine inspiration. But in addition to these circumstances, the obfcurity of these epistles undoubtedly arises, in a great degree, from the warmth of the apostles' mind—from the rapidity of his thoughts-from his neglecting to point out exactly the connection and method of his discourses, and to ascertain the distinct object of every part.
Does it however necessarily follow that we must impute this warmth, this rapidity, this apparent neglect of regular method, to the violence and incoherence of enthusiasm ? Surely to assert this would be to take the whole question for granted.-Warmth and zeal are indeed natural consequences of fanaticism ; but they are not decisive proofs of it, except they arise to a degree for which no other adequate cause can be assigned, or except their effects are absurd and extravagant, inconsistent with reason, and therefore unworthy of God.
In order then to decide this question, we must consider what causes may have produced this warmth in
the apostle, under the circumstances in which he was placed, without supplying any just grounds for questioning his claim to a divine authority,
Now, in considering the probable causes of such warmth it is evident, that if St. Paul was really directed by inspiration to preach the gospel, he could not but feel the great dignity and importance of the facred subjects which he treated of. Christianity in every view of it was calculated to rouse the warmest feelings of devout joy and gratitude, reverence and felf-abasement, in every pious mind. The unparalleled virtue and benignity of its author, his supernatural wisdom and power, his cruel sufferings and death, hïs divine and mysterious nature, his ascension and exaltation, the fupremely important character he bore, and the final effects of his interposition as Redeemer and judge of the world-all these united formed such an objectas no human mind could contemplate with coolness and indifference, when convinced of its reality, as we suppose the apostle to have been, by direct and irresist. able proofs.
Christianity was not less calculated by its doctrines to rouse similar feelings ; it decided all those questions, and folved all those doubts, which perplex and depress the foul of man, when looking forward to futurity ; it assured him that he should not remain in the darkness of the grave, but should rise with a new and incorruptible body to eternal existence; that he
should, in the very next stage of his being, be judged by Christ Jesus, and receive according to his use of the means of improvement afforded him in this present life. That though bound to perform the whole law of righteousness, his weakness and his guilt were not without a remedy; that if he prayed for strength and assistance, God would bestow it; and if he repented, his judge would pardon ; for he had died to redeem him,
But the Christian was not called on merely to yield to this interesting and awful system of doctrines an inactive affent-his profession required a total change of principles and conduct, a total renunciation of the crimes, as well as the prejudices and errors of his former life ; he was called on to forsake the multiplied pollutions of idolatry, and worship the one true God ; to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this life, looking for his reward to another world, where eternal happiness or misery would await him, according to the sentence of that Jesus, the certainty of whose existence was frequently proved (efpecially to St. Paul) by plain and uncontrouled miracles exhibited to his senses, and even wrought upon himself.
ه ا ة
With such an impression of the gospel as this, was it natural, I might almost say was it possible, for the apostle to receive Christianity, and to dedicate his life to preaching it, and yet regard it with coldness,