Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

TRUTH, the great Object of all honest as well as rational Inquiries, had been long sought for in vain; when, the Search now becoine desperate, after the fruitless tvil of the best qualified Sages, and of the most improved times, She suddenly appeared in PERSON to put tirese benighted' Wanderers in their Way. I AM THE TRUTH, says the Saviour of the World. This was his Moral Nature; of more concern for us to know, than Isis Physical; and, on that account, explained more at large in his eternal Gospel. * This last book, therefore, being an attempt to explain the true NATURE AND GENIUS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION; I shall,

1. First of all, previously examine those sceptical Objections, which in the long absence of Truth, the World had begun to entertain of her very Being and existence; or at least of our capacity to discover, and get hold of hei. And these being removed,

2. I shal, in the second place, lay down, under what law's, and with what disposition of mind, I have ventured to use the aids of REASON to explain the TRUTHS OF REVELATION.

3. And, lastly, I shall atteinpt to remove the Preju. dices which may arise against any new discoveries in support of REVELATION, whịch' the method bere em

* See Sermón, concerning The Nature and Condition of Truth Serm. 1. Vol. IX. of this Edit.

ployed

ployed to analyse that capital truth of all, THE FAITH, may possibly enable us to make.

I. That ancient Remedy against Error, a Pyrrhonian, or, if you like it better, an Academic SCEPTICISM, only added one more disorder to the human Mind; but being the last of its misbegotten issue, it became as is usual, the favourite of its Parent.

Our blessed MASTER himself was the first to encounter its attacks, and the insolence of that School has kept the Church in breath ever since.

When Jesus was carried before Pilate as a Criminal of State, for calling himself King of the Jezers, be tried to shorten the intended process by pleading that his Kingdom was not of this world. But Pilate, alarmed at the names of king and kingdon, asked, Art thou a King then? The other replied, ---- For this cause came I into the World, that I should bear l'itness unto the TRUTH, Pilate saith unto him, WHAT IS TRUTH? And when he had said this, he went out again*. For when he found that the Kingdom claimed by the supposed Criininal, was a Kingdom merely Spiritual, or, in the Roman Governor's conceit, a Kingdom only in idea, he considered the clain as no proper subject of the civil tribunal. So far le acted well, and suitably to his public Character. But when he discovered his indifference to, or rather contempt of, Truth, when offered to be laid before him as a private Man, by one who, he knew, had the repute of exercising every superior Power proper to enforce it, he appears, to me, in a light much less excusable.

The negligent air of his insulting question will hardly admit of an Apology.—“ You tell me (says he) of " TRUTH, a word in the mouth of every Leader and

Follower of a SECT; who all agree (though in nothing

else) to give that name to their own Opinions. While “ Truth, if, indeed, we allow of its existence, still ".. wanders at large, and in disguise. Nor does the De“tection seem worth the Pains of the Search, since " those things which Nature intended for general use " she made plain and obvious, and within the reach of “all men." • John xviii. 38.

Sentiments

Sentiments like these bespoke the Ruler of an Asiatic Province, who had heard so much of Truth in the Schools of Philosophy; and had heard of it to so little purpose. This corrupť Governor, therefore, finding a Jewish Sage talk of bearing Witness to the Truth, (the affected office of the Grecian Sophists), was ready to conclude that Jesus was one of their mimic Followers. For it was now become fashionable amongst the learned Rabbins to inlist themselves into one or other of those celebrated Schools. Thus the famous Philo was an outrageous PLATONIST: And Jesus calling himself a King, together with the known Parity and Severity of his Morals, probably inade Pilate consider him as one of the Stoical wise men, who alone was free, and happy, and a King

" Liber, honoratus, pulcher, Rex denique Regum.”

Now, as on the one hand, the Character of the Greek Philosophy, which was of an abstract nature, and sequestered from civil business, made Pilate conclude, that these Claiins of Jesus had nothing in them dangerous or alarıning; so, on the other hand, its endless disputes and quarrels about TRUTH, and which of the Sects had her in keeping, made Alen of the World, and especially those in public Stations, whose practice declined tlie test of any moral Systein whatsoever, willing to be persuaded, and ready to conclude, that this boasted Truth, which

pretended to be the sole Directress of human conduct, was indeed no better than a shifting and fantastic Vision.

This, I presume, was the light in which Pilate considered the SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD.

Had he suspected Jesus of being the Founder of a public and a popular Religion, which aimed to be erected on the ruins of the established Worship, the jealousies of the Roman Court, since the loss of public liberty, had, doubtless, made this servile Minister of Power very attentive, and even officious, to suppress it in its birth.

But if the ill usage of Truth by the Philosophers could so disgust the Politician of old, as to indispose hitn to an acquaintance of this iipportance, what must we think will be her reception amongst modern Statesmen, whose views are neither more pure nor more geneFous; and whose penetration, perhaps, does not go much

? 4

beyond beyond the busy men of Antiquity; when they see her so freely handled by those, amongst us, who call themselves her Ministers, and profess to consecrate her to the Service of Religion ? Amongst such, I mean of the active no less than of the idle part of the fashionable World, Pilate's şcornful question is become proverbial, when they would insinuate, that Truth, like Virtue, is nothing but a

name.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

What is this Truth, say they, of which the world has heard so much, and has received so little satisfaction? But above all, what is that GOSPEL TRUTH, the pretended Guide of life, which its Ministers are wont so much to discredit in their very attempts to recommend ? For while ohjections to Religion lie level to the capacities of the Vulgar, the solution of them requires the utmost stretch of parts and learning in the Teacher to excogitate, and equal application and attention in the Learner to comprehend. From which (say they) we are naturally led to conclude, that the Gospel doctrines are no Truths, or at least, Truths of no general concern; since they are neither uniformly held by those who are employed to teach them, nor subject to the examination of such as are cnjoined to receive them.

Something like this, I apprehend, may be the way of thinking and talking too, amongst those who have more decently discarded all care and concern about the Things of Religion.

And as our acquired passions and appetites have concurred with the constitutional weakness of our nature to forin these conclusions against Truth, and especially against that best part of it, RELIGIOUS Truth, Charity secns to call upon us to detect and lay open the general causes which have given birth to Men's prejudices against it,

I. And first with regard to Truth in general;-of the various bindrances to its discovery, and of Men's backwardness to acquiesce in it, when luckily found.

The first and surest Means of acquiring the good we seck, is our love and affection for the object. This quickens our industry, and sharpens our attention. On this account the LOVE OF TRUTH hath always been recommended by the Masters of Wisdom as the best means

of

of succeeding in the pursuit of it. Hardly any one suspects that he wants this Love: yet there are few whom their contidence does not deceive. We mistake the love of our Opinions for the love of Truth; because we suppose our own Opinions, truc : Yet, for the most part, we received them upon trust; and consequently, they are much more likely to be false ; So that our affections being now misplaced, they are a greater hindrance in the pursuit of TRUTH, than if we had no affections at all concerning it.

How then shall we know when we have this love? for still it, is necessary we should have it, if we would search after Truth to any good purpose. It is difficult to describe what every man inust feel for himself; and yet it . iş as dangerous to trust our own feelings, when the Object is so easily mistaken. However, when we set out in pursuit of TRUTH as of a Stranger; and not in search of Arguments to support our Acquaintance with preconceived Opinions : When we possess ourselves in a perfect indifference for every thing but known and well-attested Truth; regardless of the place from whence it, comes, or of that to which it seems to be going : Wbea the Mind, I say, is in this State, no one, I think, can : fairly suspect the reality of its attachment.

1. But our APPETITES rarely suffer us to observe this strict and rigid conduct. We seek the gratification of, our humour even in the Laws which should correct it. Hence so many various Systems OF MORALITY to suit ; every man's bent of Mind and frame of Constitution). The Indolent, the Active, the Sanguine, the Flegmatic, and the Saturnine, have all their correspondent Theories. And from thenceforth, the concern of each is not the trial, but the support of his Opinions; which can be no otherwise provided for than by keeping the arguments in favour of them always in view, and by contriving to have those of a less benign aspect overlooked or forgotten.

2. PREJUDICES mislead the Enquirer no less than his passions. He venerates the notions he received froin his Forefathers : He rests in thein on the authority of those whose judgment he esteems; or, at least, wishes well to them for the sake of the honours or profits he sees attached to the profession of them. Nay, he can persuade him

self

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »