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been taught, in effect, that we must Serm. become brutes, and renounce our under. VI., ftandings, in order to be religious ; andr o that we must throw off humanity, all regard to the immutable differences of things, and the moral perfections of our maker, in order to serve him acceptably.
In like manner, tho' the exercise of free enquiry in matters of religion has been grossly and shamefully abused, we ought not, upon this account, to entertain the worse opinion of the principle itself, because it is, indeed, the chief glory of our nature, and the very end for which we were endued with reason. For if the great Creator had designed that we should submit implicitly to established opinions, without examining and judging for ourselves, reason must not only be impertinent and useless, but an absurdity and a contradi&tion ; since if we make any use of this faculty, and follow its most plain and natural directions, we can't suffer ourselves to be thus impored on. Again, freedom of thought, and
Serm. an honest impartial examination into VI. the nature and evidence of religious prino ciples, is absolutely essential to a rational
faith : For there can no more be true faith without evidence, than there can without ideas ; or in other words, men deserve no more to be commended for believing an intelligible proposition they know not why, than they do for believing what they know nothing at all of; from whence it follows, that this liberty of judging for themselves is one of the most facred and unalienable rights of mankind. To this we may add, that the exercise of it, in the utmost latitude of rational enquiry, without any corrupt prejudice to biass and mislead the understanding, any undue reverence of human authority, or attachment to party schemes, and indeed being influenced by nothing but plain reason and scripture, is the only way in which truth can revive ; whereas without it, men must necessarily continue in their errors and vices, and there will not be so much as a posibility of a reformation. "Ac
cordingly, in proportion as it has pre-Serm. vail’d, it has been of vast service to the VI. cause of Christianity, by representing its doctrines in a more confiftent view, and establishing its authority upon the strongest and most unexceptionable evidence. And withal 'tis a principle the most honourable that can be to our holy religion, describing it as recommending to men, with an openness and frankness peculiar to truth, the use and improvement of their rational faculties ; and not only inviting to, but encouraging the utmost freedom of debate ; because, it has a good foundation to support it, it can stand the test of sober and impartial reason, and receive no real injury by all the fkill and fophistry of its opposers. But what a disegreeable and unworthy notion does it give of Christianity, to represent it as raising its triumphs upon the ruins of our rational nature, and placing the substance of religion in enthusiasm and implicit faith; and, consequently, as setting itself upon a level with impostures and false religions, which will not bear the light, and therefore ala L 2
Serm. ways shelter themselves under the covert VI. of ignorance and darkness. - Since then this principle is the su
preme prerogative of our intelligent being, essential to all rational religion, and, in a peculiar manner, honourable and advantageous to the Christian ; let us, notwithstanding accidental abuses (to which the best things are liable) constantly affert and vindicate it. And let us be sure ever to remember, that tho' we are called to liberty, both these rules have the fame foundation in reafon, and are of equal authority in the Christian revelation, Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free; but use not your liberty for an occasion to the flesh.
· Of Mysteries.
DEUTER. xxix. 29.
Lord our God; but those things
a N the beginning of this chap-SERM. Teter, Moses exhorts the Israe- VII.
lites to be faithful to God, GRUE and constant in their obedience to his law, as the way to engage