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Holding the mystery of the faith hi a pure conscience.
'THHESE words contain one of those .direo -*' tions which St. Paul gave to Timothy, when, lie left him to govern the church at Ephesus that he should observe this injunction himself, and also require it of those, whom he admitted into the ministry of the church, "that they "should hold the mystery of the faith in a pure "conscience."
What the Apostle here calls the mystery of faith, he afterwards, in the end of this same chapter, calls "the mystery of godliness;" and what he means by this mystery, he explains in the words immediately following:—" God was "manifested in the flesh, justified-in the spirit, "seen of angels, preached unto the gentiles, r 4 "believed.
*' believed on in the world, received up into ''' glory." This mystery, then, was the incarnation of the Son of God, who took human nature upon him, and suffered death to redeem mankind: an instance of love and condescension so amazing, as could not have entered into the strongest imagination to conceive, or the most sanguine heart to expect: and yet, because it was a mystery, it has been foolishly rejected by many, and the most wonderful mercy in God has met with no better return than the basest ingratitude in man; and every term of reproach, which the rage of infidelity could suggest, has been liberally bestowed on those who have dared to stand forth as its champions and defenders.
Now the complaints raised against us, for insisting upon the belief of the mysteries of the christian religion, are chiefly founded upon this: it is pretended, that we thereby exclude the use of reason in matters of religion, and require a blind and" implicit obedience: nay, indeed, some have roundly asserted, that these mysteries were all human invention and subtile priestcraft, to ensnare the consciences and understanding of men.
This is indeed a heavy and interesting charge: and had it been as true as it is heavy;- we, who are the stewards of these mysteries, should thea have justly deserved that obloquy and ignominious treatment, which some have so liberally bestowed upon us. Or, had we alone the custody of these mysteries, and others, had not free aceess to examine the, nature and evidence of them; or had they been, like-«ome of the oracles of old, enveloped in impenetrable darkness; they would then have had room to expatiate against us, and some colour of ground for their complaints. But where is the foundation for this malignant charge, which the patrons of infidelity are so eager to fasten upon us? Are not the scriptures in their hands as well as in ours, and do we demand their assent to any thing that is not revealed in them? Nay, we are so far from encroaching upon the province of reason, that we glory in being its warmest advocates. We desire nothing more earnestly, than that men would examine into and search the scriptures and the nature of their evidence: and we doubt not but upon a fair scrutiny they would find, that these mysteries^ proposed to them as objects of their faith, would appear to them, as well as the moral duties therein contained, to be not the words and invention of men, but, as they are in truth, the word of God. '' For For we are certain, that whatsoever is offered to mankind as a divine revelation, ought to carryalong with it sufficient evidence of the divine authority; and men are not only at liberty to use their reason,, brit it is their duty to inquire into the nature of the evidence, and the truth of the doctrines contained in it. And if the evidence appear to be such; as cannot be ascribed to any power but that of God, and the doctrines contain nothing unworthy of God* or contrary to reason, they are equally bound to acknowledge such' to be a divine revelation.
Let us apply this, then, to the Gospel revelation.
The external evidence is supported by undeniable facts: for the miracles wrought by our Saviour and his apostles were, both by friends and enemies, confessed to be such, as no man could do, except God were with him; and fairer credentials could surely neither be expected nor desired. By a word speaking, to open the eyes of the blind, to unloose tho tongue of the dumb, and to raise the dead to life, were such evident marks of the divine power, as were abundantly sufficient to solve all