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parties may with the greatest justice be concluded. Do but consider the matter impartially. How are those of a different party affected by the mention of our being saved by faith, of the necessity of divine grace, of election, regeneration, and the like? Are not their fears as quickly alarmed ? Are they not apt to exclaim, “ rank calvinism,” it is much if they do not add, “fanatical and puritanical nonsense ?” And is it not evident, that in this manner, the censures and reproaches of both are levelled in a great measure against the word of God itself, whose language, it is manifest, that neither party will admit in all things to be safe and unexceptionable? It is worth while to observe the different ways of quoting adopted by different sides. Each always abounds most in the favourite texts of the party ;
but when the introduction of a passage, that has been often strenuously urged by an adversary, seems unavoidable, what pains do they not take to mend it? With what circumspect attention do they intersperse such clauses, and make such additions, as may prevent its being understood in any other sense, , than the sect approves? Is it possible in a more glaring manner, to show their disapprobation of the language of the spirit ; and that it is their opinion, that on some points even the Holy Ghost hath expressed himself incautiously, an oversight, which, it would seem, they think it incumbent on them, when occasion offers, to correct? I know no way to avoid all those evil consequences of the spirit of schism and rage of dogmatism, that have so long and so universally prevailed in the church, but by having recourse directly to the fountain, before our minds have been tainted by any party whatever. This, and nothing but this, will ever bring our judgments into the right train, and lead us to determine concerning the doubtful and jarring opinions and expressions of men by the infallible word of God, and not of the infallible word of God, by the doubtful and jarring opinions and expressions of men.
The last great advantage I propose to mention as resulting from this method, is the preparation it gives for the understanding, both of the general controversy concerning the truth of christianity, and in like manner of all the particular disputes that have arisen in the church. This I shall illustrate in the next lecture.
Subject continued.... The knowledge of the Scriptures the most essential part
of the Study.... How far the Study of Controversy demands our attention. In my last discourse, I began with giving some hints to aid the young inquirer into religion, in forming a kind of system of christian morality, and concluded with pointing out the advantages which would redound to him, from his being frequently employed in the exercises on the scripture which we have recommended, that is, in making abstracts, first of the scriptural history, secondly of the doctrines, and thirdly of the moral precepts. Of these advantages, I particularly mentioned and illustrated on the last occasion, three. The first was, that it is one of the most effectual methods, I can conceive, of bringing the student to an intimate acquaintance with his Bible. The second was, that it suggests to him an excellent method of employing his time usefully in almost any situation wherein he can be placed. Every other method or plan of study presupposeth so many things, so much leisure, so many conveniences, and so great a variety of books, that admitting it were ever so profitable, it can scarcely ever be put in execution; whereas on the contrary, if the young divine, however situated, be not in a condition for executing this, we may say justly, that in ninety nine cases out of a hundred, he has hiinself to blame.
The third advantage I mentioned was, that his style in religious matters, in what regards the great truths of revelation, would by this method be formed entirely on the style of holy writ, the great and only source of our information on this head, a style which in general terms is admitted by all parties of christians to be un. exceptionable, a style which no sect dares directly to accuse, and yet with which no true sectary is altogether satisfied. Nor will this advantage appear inconsiderable to those, who see what it is to be confined and hampered in the trammels of a faction, and who are duly sensible of the jealousy and malignity of spirit, that have been consequent on the many discordant Babel dialects, which have been introduced into the christian world by our numerous and antichristian divisions.
The fourth and last great advantage, which in concluding I just mentioned, and now intend to illustrate, is, the preparation which by this method the student will acquire, for the understanding both of the general controversy concerning the truth of christianity, and also of the particular disputes that have arisen in the church. As to the general controversy concerning the truth of revelation, the objections of the adversaries, as was observed formerly, are mostly of two kinds. They are either intrinsic, and are levelled against the contents of scripture, the doctrine it teaches, the morals it inculcates, or the probability of the history it records; or extrinsic, and are levelled against the outward evidences which are produced in its defence, the miracles performed, and the prophecies fulfilled. Now as to the former species of attack, it is manifest we are utterly unfit for judging of the question concerning the quality of the contents of revelation, till we have previously studied what the contents
If we go to work the other way, which I call preposterous, we are entirely at the mercy of the antagonist for the most essential part, the very foundation of his argument, to wit, the reality of the facts and allegations, on which all his reasonings are built. If we take things for granted on his bare affirmation, which if he has a specious manner of writing we shall have a strong propensity to do, it is a thousand to one we shall become the dupes of the grossest misrepresentation. If we have the sense and caution to perceive that we ought to suspend our judgment, till we have impartially examined the allegations in point of fact, we shall at best be perplexed and puzzled, but can never be edified or improved by so premature a study. The only thing we then can do with propriety, is to betake ourselves to the study of scripture in some such method as that which has been proposed ; and before we have accomplished this, 'tis a thousand to one, that all our previous controversial reading, when we were nowise prepared to enter into the argument, will be quite forgotten, so that the least bad consequence of this perversion of the natural order is the loss of so much time and labour, and the necessity we are under of beginning the controversy a second time, if we would become masters of the question. Even in a dispute, which we may happen to hear in company, how little are we qualified to judge which of the parties hath reason on his side; if we are unacquainted with the subject of dispute ? We shall possibly be capable of deciding, which is the ablest disputant; but we could not devise a more fallacious rule, though in such circumstances none is more