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but sublimely harmonious scheme, which nothing but infinite power, wisdom, and goodness united, could have planned, or can complete.
Lest, however, it should be thought by any, that these investigations have been carried too far, we shall produce some respectable opinions and authorities in favour of a thorough and unbiassed search into the true meaning of scripture.
The great champion of the Protestant cause says, " the Bible only is the religion of Protestants. I am fully assured that God does not, and therefore that man ought not, to require any more of than this,- to believe the scripture to be God's word, to endeavour to find the true sense of it, and to live according to it.” Chillingworth’s Works, p. 271, 272, answer to ch. vi. sect. 56, Protestants not Heretics.
Dr. Bentley observęs, “ that upon freedom of thinking and judging, Christianity itself depended, at its first propagation: the Reformation was grounded upon it, and is maintained and supported upon the fame bottom.” Remarks on Collins's Disc. p. 15.
Dr. Robert Lowth, afterwards Bishop of Oxford, and then of London, remarks, “ that the only means by which religious knowledge can be advanced is, freedom of enquiry.“ An opinion is not, therefore, false, because it contradicts received notions; but, whether true or false, let it be submitted to a fair examination ; truth must in the end be a gainer by it, and appear with the greater evidence.” Visitation
Sermon, preached at Durham, 27th July, 1758; 2d edit. 1767, p. 20, 23.
Mr. Mason says, " the opinions that we early receive, which way soever we came by them, must be re-examined, and brought to the touchstone of found sense, solid reason, and plain scripture. If they will not bear this sort of scrutiny, they must be discarded, as not genuine principles of truth, but only counterfeits of it." Treatise on Self-Knowledge, Part I. ch. ix. p. 50, 14th edit.
But why need we recur to merely human opinions, when Christ and his Apostles, acting under a divine commission, have enjoined their hearers and disciples to examine the scriptures, in order to judge of their own instructions, and of their pretensions to the high authority which they claimed. Our Lord says to the Jews his adversaries, “ search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they bear witness of me;" John v. 39. The Bereans are commended for searching the scriptures, to examine whether those things were so, as the Apostle Paul had testified them to be ; Acts xvii. 11.
Paul commands the Thessalonians, “ to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good;” 1 Thess. v. 21. The beloved Apostle of Jesus, also, writes, “ believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God; because many false prophets (or pretenders to a divine commission) are gone out into the world;" 1 John
See Internal and Presumpt. Evid. of Christianity, Part. IV. ch. x.
Now upon the principles of reason, of Christianity, and of Protestantism, these examinations must be made by each individual for himself. The result of any impartial investigation cannot be known till the search is completed. It is often different from what the examiner himself previously supposed it would have been. Yet to make the enquiry with attention and fidelity, is the duty of those who have time and opportunity to make it. To the benevolent Author of the Gospel each person must be accountable for the honesty and fairness of his researches ; and at his bar must he answer for his behaviour to those who form different conclusions from what he himself does.
A Metapbor, denoting the effects of Indignation