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TO WHICH ARE ADDED,
MR. E. ELWALL,
TO US THERE IS ONE GOD, THE FATHER; AND ONE MEDIATOR, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS. I COR. VIII. 6.
I TIM. ll. 5.
SERIOUS AND CANDID
PROFESSORS OF CHRISTIANITY.
MY CHRISTIAN BRETHREN, PERMIT one who professes obedience to the same Lord, and faith in the precious promises of the fame gospel with yourselves, to address himself to you with all freedom and plainness of speech, on subjects relating to our common salvation. I need not tell you that the subjects are interesting. In reality nothing elseisinteresting, in comparison with them. For what is this world compared with the future! What is time compared with eternity! Believe me, my brethren, itis nothing but the deepest concern for the honour of a reli. gion which is the inost valuable inheritance of the human race, and which sets us above all the follies and vices, all the weakhesses and troubles of life, by giving us the most solid hope in death, that has induced me to folicit your attention. But I am confident that you will not think it ill-bestowed, because it is upon a subject that is near and dear to you, and the confideration of which cannot but please and profit you. If, by the blessing of God upon our common endeavours to lead and to be led into all truth, I shall be so happy as to bring you to entertain the same views of these things with myself, we shall rejoice together ; and if, after all that I may be able to advance, you should still think differently from me, I trust you will, at least, be disposed to think with more candour of some of your fellow-christians, who love the gospel, and are zealous for its honour, though you may think them mistaken in their conceptions concerning it. Let me intreat you therefore, my brethren, to give me a patient and candid hearing. Attend, in the spirit of meekness, to what I fall say from the earnestness of my heart; and exercise the reason which God has given you upon this occasion, which is the noblest on which it can be exercised, and for which you may, therefore, conclude, that it was principally given you.
I. OF THE USE OF REASON IN MATTERS OF
RELIGION. Be not backward, or afraid, my brethren, to make use of your reason in matters of religion, or where the scriptures are concerned. They both of them proceed from the same God and Father of us all, who is the giver of every good and every perfect gift.
They cannot, therefore, be contrary to one another, but must mutually illustrate and enforce one another. Besides, how can we distinguish one scheme of
religion from another, so as to give the preference to that which is the most deserving of it, but by the help of our reason and understanding? What would you yourselves say to a mahometan, whom you lvould persuade to abandon the imposture of Mahomet, and embrace christianity, but bid him use his reason, and judge, by the help of it, of the manifest difference between the two religions, and the great fuperiority of yours to his? Does not God himself appeal to the reason of man, when he condescends to ask us, Whether his ways be not equal? Ezek. xviii. 29. Does not the apostle exhort us that, in understanding we be, men? 1 Cor. xiv. 20. Are we not expressly commanded to prove all things, and then hold fast that which is good? 1 Thefl. v. 21. Also when we are commanded to search the scriptures, John v. 39. more must be meant than merely reading them, or receiving implicitly, the interpretations of others. Searching must imply an earnest endeavour to find out for ourselves, and to understand the truths contained in the scriptures; and what faculty can we employ for this purpose, but that which is commonly called reason, whereby we are capable of thinking, reflecting, comparing, and judging of things?
Distrust, therefore, all those who decry human reason, and who require you to abandon it, wherever religion is concerned. When once they have gained this point with you, they can lead you whither they please, and impofe upon you every absurdity which A 2