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which whilft it consists with all the passages of scripture and the experiments of believers, is evidently consistent with itself, and all other species of human knowledge, must be reckoned a good fyftem, till we find a better, of the philosophy of revealed truth.
Every hypothesis in either of these branches of philofophy, ought ever to be expofed to ftriat and repeated scrutiny: for we are finite beings, new discoveries may arise which shall diffipate a long received hypothesis, like as a breath, the winged feeds of dandelion. I conceive true critics of every class to be a set of men, " whose business it is to pick holes in the fabric of knowledge wherever it is weak and faulty, and when these places are properly repaired, the whole building becomes more firm and folid than it was formerly.” The hypotheses of philosophers 'respecting the works of God, are treated with free: dom, they rise, they are fully examined, they occasionally sink : thus also no hypothesis for explaining the scriptures can be rationally secluded from free investigation.
In church history relations are not unfrequent of the rise, progress, and fall of an hypothefis in religion, notwithstanding the absurd endeavours of men, prompted by carnal policy or other motives to establish and perpetuate uniformity of faith, that is, when stripped of disguise, uniformity of hypothefis. The attempt to establish, perpetuate,
and render an hypothesis permanent, whether by a pontiff
, a general council, or a national govern, ment seems to me at best, the offspring of blind zeal and presumption, actually inimical to free discussion, and probably to the progress of reli. gious truth. Certainly every intelligent and senfible protestant must admit, that as every sect of christians is more or less erroneous, to establish a system by civil authority, is virtually to set up an Antichrift.
I grant that national encouragement given to creeds has cherished something approaching to religious truth in the world :—That such further. ance has sometimes had its utility, though at other times it has been an occasional injury to the cause of truth :-And that such collateral aslift. ances have been not only admitted and permitted, but approved by our Maker. Kings were in his wise providence to be nursing fathers, and
queens nursing mothers to his Ifrael. Ifaiah 49, 23. But this is a distinct thing from the establishment of a system, before censured, and which, I think, the scriptures no where authorize.
As the bee gathers honey from all flowers, so we are warranted to gain knowledge from any writers we can read with safety. But, perhaps, some of my brethren have sat so much at the feet of papiks, that they begin to kiss, a toe : what I am going to say will not be relished by such. I say, that, in my judgment it is a question of christian prudence, and that as such it may be lawfully debated whether it is good, all things considered, that civil governments should continue to provide for the support of christian worship, according to the sentiments adopted by the majority.
I think it cannot be disputed, whether it is law. ful for a civil government to provide for the expences of the popular worship of a country, for " the majority have a right to adopt what mode of worship they please," the question is, its expea diency. It will be alledged on the one hand that fuch support provides a more regular ministry throughout a whole country, than would be the result of independent focieties; and that in fact such support contributes to render religion popular.-And it will be urged on the other hand, that the late discovery, and general use of the art of printing, renders it difpenfible by superseding all Its benefits : that it tendeth to carnalize the chrif. tian societies, chiefly, as throwing a bait to infidels in respect of a sacred office, and as being the grand source of fyftematic persecution : and that the example of the progress of religion, under the denominations of quakers, baptists and methodists, in the present century, without national provision, establishes irrefragable evidence that christianity needs no more than civil prote&tion of the rights of liuman beings, for making its way in the world. But although it may be debated, whether, all
things considered, it is best for civil governments to provide for the accommodation of the popular worship; yet, surely, it does not need debate to discover that the popular creed of a country ought to be open to revision. Surely a liberal and generous mind will not hold it disputable whether it is right, or even politic, for civil governments to sanction creeds by measures respecting dissenters, which violate the natural unalienable rights of mankind. May the great Author of Christianity, hasten the time when consciences shall be unfettered, and pious enquiry in religious matters be protected and encouraged all over the globe!
The writer of this Essay being at an early age attached to religion, and addicted to study, he wished to harmonize the points he had received. The acknowledged difficulties attending opposing systems soon remarked : and after much thought on the subject, he was led to conceive that improved and determinate notions of Power, human Preference, and the kinds of human Inclinations, would obviate inconsistencies, and throw light on the philosophic debate between the reformed churches. At several seasons he committed his thoughts on these themes to writing, and some years since, printed the disquisitions on power and on human preference, which are now published with improvement. The writer did not rest here, but has sketched delineations of his ideas of scripture doctrines and experience, as affected by these disquisitions; which compose the two following volumes, now submitted to the serious consideration of the Reader.
I. A Disquisition on Power. Sect. 1.-Of a determinate Notion of Power. Sect. 2.- Operation, Influence, and Efficiency. Sect. 3.-Of Causes and Effects. Sect. 4.- Of Necessily. Sect. 5.- Of Things related to Power, and other
objects, which have been confounded
with Power. Sect. 6.-Objections and Replies.
II. A Disquisition on Human Prefer-
as a Species.