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as if the Apostle had been sitting in judgment, to decide between Calvin and Arminius.

Here perhaps it will be objected, that as the Christian dispensation was designed for all men, there is an inconsistency in supposing, that minute inquiries into the transactions of antiquity should be necessary, in order to comprehend it. However useful such researches may be in the study of the Old Testament, yet to suppose that the New Testament, which prescribes not laws and regulations for a single nation, but dictates equally to all mankind, to suppose that such a work should require a knowledge of what happened eighteen hundred years ago, and in another quarter of the globe, before it can be understood, may appear incompatible with the design of the Deity, in making it the vehicle of his will. Now the object of the Deity is not to be determined by any preconceived opinions, on our part, concerning what he ought, or ought not, to have done. What he ought to have done, can be discovered by no other means, than by inquiring what he has done. And, if we find by experience, that the understanding of the New, as well as of the Old Testament, requires extensive knowledge, we must argue accordingly. Instead of the gratuitous supposition, that things ought to have been otherwise, we must conclude that things ought to be, as we find they really are; instead of complaining about difficulties, we must endeavour to surmount them, by obtaining the knowledge,

which God has given us the means of obtaining, and which, from its very necessity, we may conclude, it is our duty to obtain.

It may be further objected, that the situation of inspired writers is different from that of common writers. This is certainly true; it is true, both in respect to the writers themselves, and in respect to the confidence, which we may repose in them. We may be previously assured, when a writer is inspired, that every proposition, which be advances, is in strict conformity with the truth. But we must understand an inspired writer, as well as a common writer; or we shall not know what his propositions are. And the very circumstance, that his propositions must be true, should make us the more anxious to investigate their meaning. But how shall we investigate their meaning, unless we inter. pret the words by the rules, which we apply to other writings? Shall we imitate the Church of Rome, and rejecting the aid of human learning, resolve the interpretation of Scripture into the decrees of a Council, on the presumption, that it interprets under the influence of the Spirit, and therefore that its interpretations are infallible? Or shall we imitate the modern Enthusiast, who likewise rejects the aid of human learning, who likewise aspires to the influence of the Spirit, and, acting on the same principles as the Church of Rome, determines with equal ease, and with equal confidence in his own decisions? Or shall we follow the example of our

Reformers, who, when they had rejected Tradition as a guide to the meaning of Scripture, supplied the place of that tradition by reason and learning?

It is true, that if we interpret the Scriptures by the aid of reason and learning, we must resign all pretensions to that infallibility, which is claimed by those, who aspire to the influence of the Spirit; whether that influence is supposed to display itself in the assurances of an individual, or in the decrees of a general council. But, on the other hand, there are advantages, which compensate for every defect. The man, who interprets Scripture by the aid of reason and learning, without being elated by the supposition of a supernatural interference on his account, will apply, no less modestly than industriously, the means which Providence has placed within his reach. While he uses his honest endeavours to discover the truth, he will pray to God for a blessing on those endeavours: he will pray for that ordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit, without which all our endeavours must be fruitless; but he will not expect that extraordinary assistance, which was granted of old, and for higher purposes. He may vary indeed from the interpretations of others, and sometimes perhaps from those which he himself had adopted at an earlier period, when his knowledge of the subject was more confined. If the final results of his interpretation should be such, as in points of doctrine to

agree with the deductions, which he had learnt as articles of faith, he will rejoice at the coincidence, and be thankful, that his labours are thus rewarded. But he will feel no enmity to those, whose deductions are different; he is too well acquainted with the numerous requisites of a good interpreter, to expect that they should be often united ; and knowing, that interpreters, differently qualified, and interpreting on different principles, can never agree in their results, he will have charity for those, whose opinions are different from his own. He will believe indeed, like other men, that his own opinions are right, and consequently, that what op• poses them is wrong. But the principle, on which he argues, that his opinions are right, is very dif. ferent from the principle, on which either a general council, or an individual enthusiast, would rest as a basis of the truth. He will not pretend, that he cannot err; he will not pretend, even that the Church, of which he is a member, cannot err. And, though in point of fact, he believes that it does not err, yet, as he admits the possibility, he feels no enmity to those, who contend, that it does err. Though he believes, that he himself has rightly interpreted the Bible, and thereon founds his conviction, that his own Articles of Faith are legitimate deductions from the Bible, he is no less desirous of granting to others, than of obtaining for himself, the privilege of acting from private conviction. The freedom, with which he maintains, that the doc

trines of his own Church are in unison with Scripture, the same freedom he allows to those, who claim that unison for themselves. He believes indeed, and he asserts, that his own is the true re. ligion. Yet he thinks it right, that other men should also have the liberty of believing and asserting that theirs is the true religion. And he submits with humility to that Almighty Being, who alone cannot err, to determine, whether he, or they, be really in possession of what each possesses in his own belief.

Such is the interpreter, who explains the Bible by the aid of reason and learning. Let us now consider the interpreter, who aspires to the possession of higher means. When a general Council, assembled by the Church of Rome, deliberates on points of faith, the Holy Spirit is supposed to guide them in their inquiries, and to exempt their decisions from even the possibility of a mistake. Here then lies the grand distinction between the interpretative principle of the Church of Rome, and the interpretative principle of the Church of England. Church of England, like all other Christian communities without exception, asserts, that its doctrines are in strict conformity with Scripture. But in so doing, it merely asserts the fact, that it does not err from the truth; whereas the Church of Rome, beside the fact of not erring from the truth, claims also the opinion, that it cannot err from the truth. Now this claim of opinion, in addition to the claim of fact, makes a difference of infinitely

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