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erous affections. It may even come to be a habit of contempt, which is worse still. There is danger, lest in despising intemperate zeal, we should become lukewarm. There is danger in ridiculing extravagant excitement, that we may become careless.
lo the next place, we are liable in our circumstances to go too far in religion. This remark, it may be added in passing, is not more applicable to speculation, nor even so much, as to our practical views of piety.
Opinions in their progress gain an impulse that is liable, from the very nature of the case, to carry them too far.
This is a danger, that results from the very imperfection of our minds. We may not know the exact bounds that separate liberty from licentiousness, belief from scepticism; and we may incautiously overstep these bounds. And we are impelled to do so by the eagerness of research, by the pride of discovery, by the natural reaction of opinions in our own minds, by the weakness of the arguments that ar: brought against us, and by many other
Nor is the only danger which results immediately from the progress of opinion, that of going too far; another is, that we are liable to go too fast. Not that we are liable to make too rapid a progress in pure truth, but that we may take up principles in too quick a succession, and sketch out their results too hastily, and thus embrace much error. Truths that are new to the mind, need ti be slowly digested ; and every progress of opinion that is rapid, is, for that very reason, hazardous. The mind is not apt to be content with its acquisitions, but is ever making excursions into the regions of discovery. It pauses not long to contemplate what is true, but quickly passes to consider wbat
тау be true. And if it does not well and cautiously arrange and digest what it has acquired, it is prone to make inferences that are rash and alarming. It is thus that some minds, on the threshold of a better system, have started back from terrific but fancied co: sequences, from long but imaginary vistas of speculation, from cold but visionary regions of scepticism. Their speculations have outstripped their judgment; and breathless and amazed with their basty progress, they have turned back their steps from the threshold, have refused to examine the region before them, and proved nothing, in fine, but the infirmity of their own minds.
Finally, there is danger in the progress of thought of becoming unreasonably sceptical.
There is a feeling of insecurity necessarily attending the relinquishment of old opinions. It is not an easy thing to think much, and freely, without any bondage of fear, and yet to have the mind perfectly and substantially settled.
You will ask, perhaps, how the mind can be settled, when it is in a state of progress, and sometimes of doubt? I answer that we may be substantially settled on what is substantially and unquestionably true and important. And we may thus, and we have reason to be entirely easy and happy in the utmost freedom of inquiry.
The character of God, the office of our Saviour, the rules and the rewards of holy living, these things are certain. And it is not necessary to be disturbed and shaken, if we are in some doubt about the mode of God's existence, about the metaphy, sical nature of Jesus Christ, about the particular circumstances that are to attend our future state. Something it becomes our nature, our condition, our faith to receive on trust.
Now we are exposed to a needless feeling of insecurity and of hesitation, because we do not sufficiently distinguish between these two departments of opinion, the certain and the doubtful, the essential and the comparatively indifferent. We may rest with calm reliance on the great pillars of christianity, and as calmly permit ourselves to be uncertain about the intermediate spaces, and the surrounding scenery, and the exact features of the distant prospect. There is no need of doubting every thing, because we doubt some things. Nay, the very uncertainty about some points of speculation might well induce us to cling with more assurance and satisfaction to the firm pillars of our faith and hope.
The system of inquiry which we embrace, leads also to a set of opinions concerning the Bible, that are liable to produce a feeling of diffidence, not about its authority, but about its meaning. We are accustomed to think that its import has been greatly misunderstood. We enter it therefore to apply the rules of a rigid interpretation to it, and a part of the systematic and sure theology we had found in it vanishes away. When, also, the inquirer finds that not a few passages have a local and limited meaning, instead of that reference to spiritual religion, which be, in concurrence with common opinion, had attributed to them, he is apt to feel as if something of the charm was gone. And gone it surely is; and yet truth has come in its stead ; and a juster way of thinking may well compensate for some gratifica. tion of the fancy or of the feelings.
These causes of diffidence and anxiety about our faith, are increased in some minds, by the weak notion, that there is more merit in believing too much than in believing too little. They, who lean on an ancient and prevalent faith, say to the more liberal inquirer, we believe as much as you do and more too ; we are therefore at least as safe as you are, and perhaps more so ; we have all the interest in the divine favour, from believing,
that you have, and withal something of superrogation, as if the safety of any were in proportion to the amount of their belief, to the length of their creed-as if merit were to be measured by credulity-as if the favour of God was to be secured by paying homage to the judgment of men, or reverence for him to be expressed by the fear of inquiring into his own will. If an easy confidence, a quiet assurance of being right, were the test of truth, it were better at once to go back to the bondage of other days; it were better to join ourselves at once to the company of the most ignorant and the most bigotted.
On the whole, I trust that the remarks wbich have now been offered, will show that our faults as a class of christians, are ow
a ing, not to our principles, but to our circumstances. It ought to be remembered, by us for our caution, and by others for their charity, that these circumstances are a very severe trial of the character.
The moral dealings of God with the world, and the conduct of bis commissioned messengers, have always recognized the danger attending this trial. Light has been opened upon the world as man was able to bear it. Witness the successive dispensations, which have been appointed for his instruction. It may well be doubted whether the mind of Abraham, with all his piety, could have borne at once the full light of christianity, true and pure as it is. And when at last it actually appeared and rose slowly upon the world, you know that it cost the most conscientious and pious Jews a severe trial to receive it. And had it not been supported by miracles, how would they have exclaimed against it, in terms like those which we hear at the present day; bow would they have exclaimed against it, as rash, licentious, and impious! And yet christianity was the truth; and no more the truth for being established by miracles, though it was the more manifested to be such.
It is on this principle of which we are speaking-viz. that the progress of opinion is a hazardous trial of the character--that our Saviour adapted bis instructions to his disciples. "I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now.' It was not enough that any thing was true, for him to determine that it would be useful. There was needed a preparation of mind for it. Thus too the apostles treated their converts. And I know not but it was on the same principle, that the church was allowed to degenerate, to fall from its simplicity and purity, into gross superstitions and a splendid ceremonial, to meet the wants of crude and uncultivated minds; to stay the deluge of ignorance and barbarism, to preserve christianity itself from destruction. The Goth and Vandal would not have bowed before New Series-vol. V.
the authority of simple and spiritual principles. What knew they of principles? They wanted something in a more tangible form. It was needful, that they should have lordly Pontiffs and Bishops, and august rites, and the strong restraints of supersti. tious terror. Different minds, in short, need different religions; and it is a consolatory reflection, that most minds are as liberal as they can bear to be; it is unfortunate that some are more so. But surely the imperfection of man does not invalidate the truth of God. Surely the abuse of a system is no good reason for rejecting it. Indeed what system under heaven has not been abused? And what candid and observing christian, of whatever sect, does not see, and admit, and deplore some abuses of his system? The advocate of christianity itself can do no less.
Let it be repeated, that the progress of opinion is a severe trial of the character. It is very credible that it has done injury to some minds. And it is no argument against it, to admit that it has. There may be martyrs to the progress of truth as there were to its early struggles.
Who does not see at this moment, all over Europe, in the progress of political principles, a striking illustration of what I am saying. We believe that the cause of political reform is a good cause, but we believe that it is carrying many too far. We ebullitions, and extravagances and extremes, and signs of specula. tive licentiousness, which we do not approve; but still we do, and none the less, approve the main cause.
Why should we suppose that there is any less danger attending the progress of religious principles ? Or why should we, any more, argue against these principles, from their perversion ? Excesses in religious liberty are surely quite as much to be expected, and actually have been as great, as excesses in civil liberty.
Let us, then, christian brethren, be on our guard. The great trial is now passing--and it is passing before the face of the world, and in the sight of heaven ;-to see whether man can be liberal and good ; free in inquiry, and yet strict in conscience; unpre. judiced, and yet under the influence of salutary restraint; wheth. er he can be indulgent in charity, and yet severe in principle ; rational without cold abstraction, and cheerful without burtful levity; wiser than the men of former days, and at the same time, more humble; to see, whether religion, that bas so long lived in the fears of men, can live in their love and veneration;
-whether religion that has so long dwelt in rites and forms, can dwell at last in the spirit; whether, in fine, religion, that in former times has gone away to caves and hermitages to make its abode, or has scarcely departed from the temple of its wor. ship, can come, at last, and dwell in the midst of society.
I repeat it; the trial is passing before the face of the world, in the sight of heaven. There have been instances, in which I am compelled to believe the result of the experiment has been, at least, of a doubtful character. What it shall be on the shores of this new world, this new theatre of human improvement, is given to us, in solemn charge, to determine. If society is enough advanced to bear the experiment, it shall come to a glorious completion : if not, then the weakness and wickedness of man, must, till other centuries, restrain the liberty of the soul, and the light of heaven.
TRANSLATION OF WETSTEIN'S NOTE UPON MAT. IV. 24.
The controversy concerning dæmons may be reduced to two questions ; of which one relates to Medicine, the other to Gram
The first is, What persons received the appellation of demoniacs or lunatics ? the latter, What were the grounds and reasons of this appellation ?
By demoniacs and lunatics are intended, in my opinion, per. sons labouring under some bodily disease or incapacity. It is, I am sensible, the opinion of some writers, that these persons were under the direct and immediate agency of the devil, who, by possessing this or that part of the body, hindered its proper functions, whilst the part thus incapacitated remained sound and un. injured; that it was the mere power of satan, that prevented a man's seeing, or hearing, or speaking ; the organs of these facul. ties being free from disease or defect. This opinion I reject for the following reasons.
1. Demoniacs are expressly called blind, deaf, and dumb, in Mat. sii. 22. Mark ix. 25. Luke xi. 14: nor can any good reason be assigned, why we should not regard them as really blind, deaf, or dumb; i. e. persons, whose organs of sight, speech, or hearing were diseased or imperfect. So too in the description of other demoniacs in Mat. viii. 17. and the parallel passages, no one can fail to remark the manifest symptoms of insanity or of epilepsy.
II. In Mat. xv. 28. xvii. 16. Luke is. 42. viii. 2. demoniacs are said to have been healed by Jesus ; an expression which implies that the persons, thus healed or cured, were previously afflicted with some real disease. In Mark v. 15. Like viii. 35. a demoniac, after his cure, is said to have a sound mind; from which it is correctly inferred that he had been previously afflicted with insanity, which is a disease.
III. Demoniacs are mentioned in connexion with diseased per.