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and before Pilate. Or it may be done by observing mildly, that religion deserves another sort of treatment, or a more thorough consideration, than such a time, or such circumstances, admit. However, as it is absolutely necessary that we take care, by diligent reading and study, to be always prepared, to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us; so there may be occasions when it will highly become us to do it. And then we must take care to do it in the spirit which the apostle requires, with meekness and fear:* meekness towards those who give occasions for entering into the defence of our religion; and with fear, not of them, but of God; with that reverential fear, which the nature of religion requires, and which is so far from being inconsistent with, that will inspire proper courage towards men, Now, this reverential fear will lead us to insist strongly upon the infinite greatness of God's scheme of government, both in extent and duration, together with the wise connexion of its parts, and the impossibility of accounting fully for the several parts, without seeing the whole plan of Providence to which they relate; which is beyond the utmost stretch of our understanding. And to all this must be added, the necessary deficiency of human language, when things divine are the subject of it. These observations are a proper full answer to many objections, and very material with regard to all.
But your standing business, and which requires constant attention, is with the body of the people; to revive in them the spirit of religion, which is so much declining. And it may seem, that whatever reason there be for caution as to entering into any argumentative defence of religion in common conversation, yet that it is necessary to do this from the pulpit, in order to guard the people against being corrupted, however, in some places. But then surely it should be done in a manner as little contro
* 1 Pet. iii. 15.
versial as possible. For though such as are capable of seeing the force of objections, are capable also of seeing the force of the answers which are given to them, yet the truth is, the people will not competently attend to either. But it is easy to see which they will attend to most. And to hear religion treated of, as what many deny, and which has much said against it as well as for it; this cannot but have a tendency to give them ill impressions at any time; and seems particularly improper for all persons at a time of devotion; even for such as are arrived at the most settled state of piety :-I say, at a time of devotion, when we are assembled to yield ourselves up to the full influence of the Divine Presence, and to call forth into actual exercise every pious affection of heart. For it is to be repeated, that the heart and course of affections may be disturbed, when there is no alteration of judgment. Now, the evidence of religion may be laid before men without any air of controversy. The proof of the being of God, from final causes, or the design and wisdom which appears in every part of nature, together with the law of virtue written upon our hearts ;*
* The law of virtue written upon our hearts.]—The author of the Inquiry, mentioned above, informs us, in his Postscript, that "the certain consequence of referring mankind to a law of nature, or virtue, written upon their hearts, is their having recourse to their own sense of things on all occasions; which being, in a great majority, no better than family superstition, party prejudice, or self-interested artifice, (perhaps a compound of all,) will be too apt to over-rule the plain precepts of the gospel." And he declares, he has "no better opinion of the clearness, certainty, uniformity, universality, &c. of this law, than" he has "of the importance of external religion." What then must we say to St Paul, who not only asserts in the strongest terms, the reality of such a law, but speaks of its obligation as extending to all mankind? blaming some among the Gentiles as without excuse, for not adverting to and obeying it; and commending others for doing by nature (in contradistinction to revelation) the things contained in the law, thus showing the work of the law written in their hearts. If, because "natural religion is liable to be mistaken, it is high time to have done with it in the pulpit; how comes it that the same apostle refers the Philippians to the study of this religion, to whatsoever things are true, honest, just, lovely, and of good report? And yet, without such a study, our knowledge of the
the proof of Christianity from miracles, and the accomplishment of prophecies; and the confirmation which the natural and civil history of the world give to the Scripture account of things: these evidences of religion might properly be insisted on, in a way to affect and influence the heart, though there were no professed unbelievers in the world; and therefore may be insisted on, without taking much notice that there are such. And even their particular objections may be obviated without a formal
moral law must always remain imperfect; for a complete system of morality is certainly no where to be found either in the Old or New Testament.* When a Christian minister is enforcing the duties or doctrines of revealed religion, he may perhaps do well to "tell his people he has no other proof of the original, truth, obligations, present benefits, and future rewards of religion, to lay before them, than what is contained in the Scriptures." But what if his purpose be to inculcate some moral virtue? Will it not be useful here, besides observing that the practice of that virtue is enjoined by a divine command, to recommend it still further to his hearers, by showing that it approves itself to our inward sense and perception, and accords with the native sentiments and suggestions of our minds? Metaphysicians may say what they will of our feelings of this sort being all illusive, liable to be perverted by education and habit, and judged of by men's own sense of things: they, whose understandings are yet unspoiled by philosophy and vain deceit, will be little disposed to listen to such assertions. Nor are there wanting arguments, which prove, and, as should seem, to the satisfaction of every reasonable inquirer, that the great and leading principles of moral duties have in all ages been the same; that such virtues as benevolence, justice, compassion, gratitude, accidental obstacles removed, and when the precise meaning of the words has been once explained, are instinctively known and approved by all men; and that our approbation of these is as much a part of our nature implanted in us by God, and as little liable to caprice and fashion, as the sense of seeing, given us also by him, which all bodies appear to us in an erect, and not an inverted position.t-Mr Locke's authority has been generally looked up to as decisive on such questions; and his sentiments have been embraced implicitly, and without examination That great and good man, however, is not to be charged with the pernicious consequences which others have drawn from his opinions: conseqnences which have been carried to such a length, as to destroy all moral difference of human actions; making virtue and vice altogether arbitrary calling evil good, and good evil; putting darkness for light, and light for darkness; putting bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
* See the second of Dr Balguy's Charges.
mention of them. Besides, as to religion in general, it is a practical thing, and no otherwise a matter of speculation, than common prudence in the management of our worldly affairs is so. And if one were endeavoring to bring a plain man to be more careful with regard to this last, it would be thought a strange method of doing it, to perplex him with stating formally the several objections which men of gaiety or speculation have made against prudence, and the advantages which they pleasantly tell us folly has over it; though one could answer those objections ever so fully.
Nor does the want of religion, in the generality of the common people, appear owing to a speculative disbelief, or denial of it, but chiefly to thoughtlessness, and the common temptations of life. Your chief business, therefore, is to endeavor to beget a practical sense of it upon their hearts, as what they acknowledge their belief of, and profess they ought to conform themselves to. And that is to be done, by keeping up, as well as we are able, the form and face of religion with decency and reverence, and in such a degree as to bring the thoughts of religion often to their minds;* and then en
* By keeping up the form and face of religion-in such a degree, as to bring the thoughts of religion often to their minds.] To this it is said by our Inquirer, that “the clergy of the church of England have no way of keeping up the form and face of religion any oftener, or in any other degree, than is directed by the prescribed order of the church." As if the whole duty of a parish priest consisted in reading prayers and a sermon on Sundays, and performing the occasional offices appointed in the Liturgy! One would think the writer who made this objection had never read more of the Charge than the four pages he has particularly selected for the subject of his animadversions. Had he looked farther, he would have found other methods recommended to the clergy, of introducing a sense of religion into the minds of their parishioners which occur much oftener than the times allotted for the public services of the church: such as family prayers; acknowledging the divine bounty at our meals; personal applications from ministers of parishes to individuals under their care, on particular occasions and circumstances: as at the time of confirmation, at first receiving the holy communion, on recovery from sickness, and the like; none of which are prescribed in our established ritual, any more than those others so ludicrously mentioned by this writer,
deavoring to make this form more and more subservient to promote the reality and power of it. The form of religion may indeed be, where there is little of the thing itself; but the thing itself cannot be preserved amongst mankind without the form. And this form frequently occurring in sorne instance or other of it, will be a frequent admonition† to bad men to repent, and to good men to grow better; and also be the means of their doing so.
"bowing to the east, turning the face to that quarter in repeating the creeds, dipping the finger in water, and there with crossing the child's forehead in baptism."
* The thing itself cannot be preserved amongst mankind without the form.]-The Quakers reject all forms, even the two of Christ's own institution will it be said, that "these men have no religion preserved among them?" It will neither be said nor insinuated. The Quakers, though they have not the form, are careful to keep up the face of religion; as appears, not only from the custom of assembling themselves for the purposes of public worship on the Lord's day, but from their silent meetings on other days of the week. And that they are equally sensible of the importance of maintaining the influence of religion on their minds, is manifest from the practice of what they call inward prayer, in conformity to the direction of Scripture to pray continually: "Which," saith Robert Barclay, "cannot be understood of outward prayer, because it were impossible that men should be always upon their knees, expressing the words of prayer; which would hinder them from the exercise of those duties no less *positively commanded." Apology for the Quakers, Prop. xi. Of Worship.
This form frequently occurring in some instances or other of it, will be a frequent admonition, &c.]-Here it has been objected, that "the number, variety, and frequent occurrence of forms in religion, are too apt to be considered by the generality as commutations for their vices, as something substituted in lieu of repentance, and as loads and encumbrances upon true Christian edification." This way of arguing against the use of a thing from the abuse of it, instead of arguing from the nature of the thing itself, is the master sophism that pervades the whole performance we are here examining. What reasonable man ever denied, that the pomp of outward worship has been sometimes mistaken for inward piety? that positive institutions, when rested in as ends, instead of being applied as means, are hurtful to the interests of true religion? Not Bishop Butler certainly, who blames the observances of the Papists on this account, some of them as being" in themselves wrong and superstitious;" and others, as being "made subservient to the purposes of superstition," and for this reason "abolished by our reformers." In the mean while, it