« ForrigeFortsett »
ing. Instances of the application of this remark will be exhibited in various parts of the following work.
“ The first ques
The spirit in which our investigations should be conducted, may be well expressed in the language of one of the authors whose sentiments are about to be examined. tion for us, as professed Christians," says he, " is a question of fact. Let us endeavour to forget it altogether as a question of polemic theology; for if we regard it in this light, it becomes mingled with so many of the passions and interests of our nature, that we shall soon find ourselves involved in endless and inextricable mazes. We must separate the exercise of the understanding from the tendencies of feeling and imagination, and be prepared to follow the light of scriptural testimony, to whatever conclusions it may lead us. We must train our minds to the hardihood of abstract thinking; and inquire--not, what will be the consequences of the admission, or what other principles will be involved in it-or what shall we think on other collateral subjects; but to one point alone direct our attention, WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURE?"-Another writer of the same school observes, that “the application of Lord Bacon's philosophy to the study of external nature, was a happy epoch in the history of physical science.
It is not long since this application has been extended to the study of moral and intellectual phenomena. All that we contend for is, that our subject should have the benefit of the same application; and we count it hard, while, in every other department of inquiry, a respect for truth is found sufficient to repress the appetite for systembuilding; that theology, the loftiest and most inaccessible of all the sciences, should still remain infected with a spirit so exploded, and so unphilosophical.”—“The philosopher should separate the exercises of the understanding from the tendencies of the fancy or of the heart. He should be prepared to follow the light of evidence, though it may lead him to conclusions the most painful and melancholy. He should train his mind to all the hardihood of abstract and unfeeling intelligence. He should give up every thing to the supremacy of argument, and be able to renounce, without a sigh, all the tenderest prepossessions of infancy, the moment that truth demands of him the sacrifice.”
As it will be seen in the perusal of the following pages, the principle of investigation which the author has adopted is that which, in theory at least, is universally approved, and which cannot be expressed in language more appropriate than that used by a writer whose sentiments are congenial with those of the authors just quoted.—“ Judge,” says he, “ of the meaning of every passage of Scripture in connexion and consistency with what precedes and follows it.”—From this rule the author has not
consciously deviated, unless in such as do not, in his opinion, admit of its application.
Finally, the author particularly wishes it to be understood, that he does not, in the following work, come forward in the capacity of a controversialist, but in that of a sincere inquirer into the Scripture evidence for opinions that have been long cherished and defended by many of the wise and good in different ages of Christianity. Of controversy he entertains an opinion similar to that of a celebrated divine of the present day, who says, “ Controversy is, indeed, unfavourable to piety, and to every Christian feeling: it is too commonly the food of malevolence, rancour, and obstinacy; but the examination and comparison of the different parts of Scripture, and the attention to the revealed counsels of God which religious inquiry induces, are favourable to the growth of vital religion.”