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that it is utterly inconsistent with his justice, and therefore certainly contradictory to fact, to suppose that any of his arbitrary determinations are in any sense compulsory on us as voluntary and accountable agents. Another system is chiefly occupied in celebrating God's wisdom, his knowledge of the past, the present, and the future. But we should recollect, that there are other attributes of the Deity besides bis wisdom, that ought 10 be considered. We should not, therefore, ascribe to him any thing, merely because it seems to be implied in his omniscience, if, at the same time it seems to be incompatible with any of his other attributes : for its seeming incompatibility with any one of his other attributes is an argument as strong against its being ascribed to him, as its seeming implication in bis oinniscience is in favour of its being ascribed to him. Again, another system is chiefly employed in vindicating divine justice; as if it were not equally important to have reference to bis benevolence and mercy. The fact is, we must not, from our partiality to any one of the divine attributes, single that out, and accommodate every other to it. Power, wisdom, justice, benevolence and mercy, unite and harmonize in the divine charactér; they are not to be considered as if they were distinct and independent, but as united together in one, and modifying one another in their operations. We must pay equal respect to each and all of them. We must not ascribe any thing to God, because it appears to be required by one, if it be not also consistent with all his attributes : for the perfection of any one is not found singly in itself, but in its harmony with the whole.
A third danger to be apprehended is, that after having formed or adopted our system, we shall insensibly slide into the idea, that it is entirely and demonstratively true; whereas from its very nature it is and must be more or less hypothetical. Our systems are framed, as we have observed, by bringing together and combining the single and separate principles and doctrines, which we have previously learned. But how continually are we reminded, by the narrowness and obscurity of our views, that we know but in part, and prophesy but in part! After hav. ing arrived at as full and accurate a knowledge, as we possibly can, of the divine character and administration, we are often forced to exclain—"Lo, these are a part of his ways, but how little a portion is seen of him !" This defectiveness in our knowledge is not, bowever, allowed to appear in our systems of theology. From their very nature and design, they must be made to seein complete in themselves. Whatever we want, therefore, in knowledge, we are obliged to supply by hypothesis.
Moreover, we do not form a system merely to embody and condense the knowledge we have already acquired, but also for the purpose of accounting for, and explaining away any difficulties, and apparent contradictions, that may exist and embarrass the subject. Theology, or divinity, by which we mean that knowledge which relates to the character of God, and his moral government of the world, is a science involving many difficulties. Whether we consider the works of God, his providence or his word, we find many things, which scarcely appear consistent with his true character. We, therefore, seek for some principles to account for such apparent contradictions ; and the principles, which any one adopts for this purpose, constitute his system. Now the very design, for which these principles are sought, shows that part of them at least must be hypothetical; for if we could explain every thing in providence without taking any thing on hypothesis, then these apparent contradictions would not exist, and we should have no occasion to form a system for the purpose of explaining them. Yet, notwithstanding the fact ihat every system of divinity is, in part at least, by pothetical ; after the systein is once formed, this circumstance is soon forgotten. That part which is so, is copfounded with that which is certainly true. This is strikingly exemplified in the case of those systems, which have been long in existence, and to whicb antiquity has affixed the seal of authority. In them, those parts which were taken for granted, and inserted without any sufficient proofs of their being true, are now regarded with as much reverence and respect, as those for which undeniable evidence can be produced. The Calvinist, for example, feels as much respect for the doctrine of Christ's two natures, as he does for the doctrine of Christ's Messiahship ;-though the former is only an hypothesis invented probably to reconcile the other doctrines of calvinism, while the latter is the fundamental doctrine of christianity, and is supported and corroborated by every part of revelation. The consequence is, that whereever he finds any thing in reason or revelation clearly contradictory to the supposition of two natures in one person--he does bot, as he ought to do, make his bypothesis yield at once to the genuine doctrine, but be opposes the one to the other, and endeavours to modify, and limit the doctrine, so as to hold his hypothesis.-But we shall be told, thal if we give up the hypothesis of the two natures, the whole system of calvinism must fall to the ground. So much the worse for that system. It is to be remembered, how- .. ever, that we have nothing to do with the difficulties and embarrassments of Mr. Calvin, or any of his disciples. It is enough for us to reconcile those difficulties and apparent con
tradictions, that arise among the established and acknowledged truths of our religion. If an hypothesis is contradicted by any clear and plain doctrine, either of reason or revelation, we must discard it; and if, in consequence of tbat, the whole system falls, let it fall.
We have now mentioned three causes of error, to which those, who either frame or adopt a system in theology, are liable.
In forming or adopting a system, therefore, we should be on our guard. We should embrace no one, already formed, till we thoroughly understand it and have diligently and faithfully compared it with the word of God. Thousands of thousands have been imposed upon through their negligence of this precaution. We should adopt no system merely because it is an old one, or a new one, a long one, or a short one, nor yet because it numbers among its supporters great names. We should examine it for ourselves; we should find out what it really contains; its meaning, its spirit, its tendency; and having subjected it to this severe examination, if we are satisfied with every thing it includes and implies, then we may adopt it, but not before.
In adopting it, we should also as much as possible, free ourselves from all our prejudices and prepossessions. We endeavour to do this in respect to every other subject; why should we not do it in respect to religion ? Neither should we go about to patch up a system, which shall agree in part at least with that in which we have been educated. We sbould seek for truth, simple truth ; and we should be happy to gain it, whereever it may be found; even though we may receive it from an enemy, and even though it may run directly counter to our previous sentiments, and our natural dispositions.
And after we have formed our system we should be careful lest we place too much reliance on it. It is still the work of man. Much of error may mingle in it, and it may be founded on false and deceptive principles. We should therefore always hold our minds open to conviction, that we may reject it altogether, or any part of it, as soon as we may have reason to believe it to be untenable. No temptation whatever should induce us to continue our support to what we think unworthy of it--wresting scripture, colouring facts, and sophisticating reason, to give credit to unauthorized speculations. If we have hitherto been in an error, we should have the magnanimity to own it. And if we have hitherto given our names and our hearts to a system, which we find not deserving of eitber, we should have the honesty to renounce it.
THE PRESENT STATE OF RELIGIOUS PARTIES IN ENGLAND.
The following account of the present state of religious parties in England, has beeu sent us for publication by a respected friend, extracted from a sermon of the Rev. Mr. Belsbam of London. It will be found to have been written with great candour, and is no doubt accurate in its statements, as it is juteresting.
“The two great classes of religious professors in this country are those who adhere to the discipline and worship of the established church, and those wbo secede from it ; or in other word, CHURCHMEN and DISSENTERS.
“The frequenters and supporters of the established worship are, together, far more numerous than any class of nonconformists separately considered, but perhaps inferior to the whole collectively. And in the judgment of many impartial persons this disparity is continually augmenting.
“The ESTABLISHED CHORCH is at this time divided into two great parties.
“ The First and by far the most powerful party consists of those who adhere to the church upon the ground of political expedience; because they think, and perhaps justly, that an esiablishment of religion is of great importance to the security of government and of good morals, and are persuaded that the existing establishment is best adapted to the British constitution, and ought to be supported, unless very grave and important reasons can be assigned to show the necessity of a change.
“ A SECOND, and a very numerous, respectable, and increasing body of members of the established church, are those who are commonly called evangelical, who seriously believe the doctrines of the articles, and who publicly prosess and teach them. They are generally pious in their conversation, and exemplary in their morals; and are very zealous, active, and liberal, in propagating what they conceive to be the doctrines of be gospel and those of the established church. These greatly prefer the discipline of the church and its modes of worship to those of any class of nonconformists, and cultivate a popular strain of preaching, which commonly fills the churches, wherever they are settled. One would naturally suppose that this description of churchmen must be in high estimation with the ruling powers, and with those who profess the warmest zeal for the prosperity of the church. But the fact is otherwise: and the reason is this. The evangelical churchmen, though they are true and ardent friends to the order and discipline of the church, jastly lay a still greater stress upon purity of faith and seriousness of spirit ; and these qualities they love and honour wherever they are found, whether among churchmen or
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dissenters. They are therefore ready to join cordially with nonconformists in every scheme the object of which is to promote what they believe to be the truth and spirit of their common christianity, whether within or without the pale of the establishment, and whether immediately conducive or not to its separate interest. This highly meritorious and truly christian liberality is exceedingly offensive to those who prize the interest of the church as paramount to all other considerations ; and for this reason the evangelical clergy and laity of the esta. blished religion are held in greater aversion by what are called the high church party, than even the most obnoxious of the nonconforming sects.
"I shall now give a brief and cursory view of the present state of the NONCONFORMIST CHURCHES.
“PRESBYTERIANISM has for many years been lost in Eng. land : and though here and there the name of Assemblies, and even of Presbyteries, may be retained, the authority of these bodies is totally gone. The general assembly of the church of Scotland, which is essentially presbyterian, and which originally acknowledged and held communion with the Presbyterians of England, has within these few years abandoned them altogether, and probibited their ministers from officiating in the esta. blished churches in that part of the United Kingdom, to wbich they formerly obtained easy access. There are, however, still many congregations which choose to retain the name of pres. , byterian. They are chiefly such as indulge a greater latitude of thinking upon religious subjects than their Independent brethren; and who do not wholly adopt the mode of independent discipline The INDEPENDENTS generally adhere to Calvivistic principles, and to their original plan of church government: but upon the latter they appear to lay less stress than in former times; and if their brethren agree with them in doctrine and in spirit, they make considerable allowance for a difference of judgment and practice in things now allowed to be indifferent.
“A third denomination of christians are the BAPTISTS, or those christians who defer the baptism of the descendants of baptized persons till they come to years of discretion.
“ The Baptists are distinguished into general and particular. The General Baptists are of the Arminian persuasion. They believe in free-will and general redemption. They maintain that Christ died for all men ; and that all may be saved if they will; that the offer of salvation is made to all mankind, and that none are excluded from final happiness by an absolute and irreversible decree.