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The lessons taught the author, by this event, were extremely valuable. He not merely saw the utter impossibility of natural men, whether belonging to the class of Pharisees, or that of Sadducees, sympathizing with a Christian, in his pursuit after and maintenance of truth; and the unscriptural nature of church establishments; but his mind was opened, likewise, to the state and circumstances of the ordinary bodies of dissenters. He could not help observing, that they held the doctrines, and in many respects adhered to the practices, of the church, from the bosom of which he had just been ejected. The suspicion soon crossed his mind, that their situation, in a religious point of view, might, if enquired into, be found still farther to resemble that of the members of the Scottish establishment.
An examination of what they were, contributed to strengthen this suspicion ; or rather, converted it into certainty. He saw a few Dissenters, although amidst many disadvantages, and in a comparatively feeble and undecided manner, professing, clinging to, and acting under the influence of divine truth ; while the great majority
opposition, if opposition thou hadst given to him, would have been fair, and open, and affectionate; the result of personal conviction, and of an ardent desire to promote the interests of thy supposed erring brother. But, peace to thine ashes. Were all who wear thy garb like thee, it would go far to reconcile one to the clerical profession.
of them appeared to be completely ignorant of it; shewing, by the nature of their profession and practice, that they neither knew what they said, nor whereof they affirmed. This discovery, soon after his first condemnation,* determined the author to keep aloof from the bodies of Evangelical Dissenters, and to stand upon his own footing. It is due, however, to the bodies in question to state, that had he offered to join them, he would in all probability have been rejected. He was the stricken deer; and driven with ignominy from one herd, it was scarcely to have been looked for, that he should meet with a hearty reception from any other. Besides, his determined support of the doctrine of the assurance of faith, exhibited in his open and oft-expressed conviction, that no man destitute of the certain knowledge of God's love to himself personally could be a Christian, would have been no recommendation of him to persons, the great majority of whom were systematically religious sceptics.f But, as has been already observed, his early discovery of what the bodies commonly called Calvinistic Dissenters were, having
* The author was a second time condemned as a heretic in 1828. The sentence will be found among the Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, for that year. The ostensible ground of condemnation was, his work, entitled : “ Three questions proposed and answered, concerning the life forfeited by Adam, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal punishment.”
+ See page 248, of the first volume.
determined him to act an independent part, spared him the trouble of asking for admission among them, and them the pain of refusing his application.
Set free from the trammels of an establishment, and enabled to keep aloof from other entangling religious alliances, the author began to prosecute his investigations into the sacred volume, with fearlessness and success. Having resolved to profit by every hint which previous enquirers had given, and yet to be fet ed in his researches by the views of none, no system of religion of mere human origin now came amiss to him. The result of acting upon such principles was, that, instead of standing still, or rather pacing the same dull round, in his notions of Christianity, as almost all, if not all sects and classes of religionists are doing, * relations of divine truth, previously unknown to and unobserved by him, from time to time presented themselves to his notice; and his own theory, at first crude and undigested, gradually assumed form and consistency. Weak points having been strengthened, errors detected, and incongruities removed, at last the scheme stated and developed in the following pages took possession of his mind.
• In consequence of neglecting the apostolic warning, given, 1 Cor. iii. 3—7.
If any one thing more than another has contributed to the comparative perfection of the author's system,
has been his desire, his strong unquenchable desire, to let no party names or distinctions, and no secular motives, interfere with his researches. Many have professed to love truth, and to follow after her for her own sake, who, nevertheless, by undue concessions, or by throwing a veil over their sentiments, have contrived to bask in the sunshine of establishments, and sometimes even to enjoy their dignities.* But the resolution of the author all along has been, that let the consequences be what they might, truth should by him be sought for, embraced, and proclaimed. man, from every sect, therefore, where it was to be found, he has culled it. But to the word of God, especially, his attention has been directed, and by it the sentiments of all religious theorists have been tried. Understanding the grand feature of the Baconian system of philosophy to be, that nature is to be constantly searched and scrutinized; and that new principles are by the inductive process to be derived from her, regardless of the interference of these with inveterate maxims, or rashly concocted theories; the author conceived, that
* The names of Bishop Hoadley, Principal Campbell, of Aberdeen, and others, some of them perhaps living characters, will occur to the literary reader,
he could only make progress in his researches after divine truth, by dealing with the word of God, as Bacon, with a view to advancement in physical science, recommended his disciples to deal with nature. As a discovery in nature is, in the school of Bacon, held paramount to every mere principle, by whomsoever adopted, and however long established; so a discovery in God's word, the author resolved, should to his mind carry greater weight, than principles in theology resting on the authority, and established by the dicta, of names however celebrated. And this, because what external nature, with its store of facts, is to the true philosopher; the word of God, with its store of facts, is to the true theologian. The author having acted on these principles, it will be of no consequence to tell him, either that some views which he holds are novel, or that others have been held before him by persons whom the church has agreed to stigmatise as heretics. To shew him from scripture that they are untrue, will be more to the
rpose. No by-name attached to his sentiments, no personal abuse heaped on himself,—will have the slightest influence upon his mind.
his mind. A single proof ad. duced from God's word, shewing that either in whole or in part he is mistaken, will, in his estimation, outweigh volumes of direct charges, or indirect insinuations.