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Who can reconcile that foreknowledge of future and contingent events, which is an unquestionable attribute of the Almighty, , with that free will and free agency, which are no less unquestionable properties of man? Who, in fine, can account, on the principles of mere natural religion, for the introduction of natural and moral evil into the works of a benevolent Creator, whose infinite goodness must necessarily incline him to intend the happiness of all his
creatures 2 These
plus rien. Rousseau, v. viii. p. 32. Ensin plus je m'efforce de contempler son essence infinie, moins je la conçois; mais elle est, cela me suffit; moins je la conçois, plus je Padore. I have cited these fine passages from the eloquent Rousseau in his own language (for no translation can do justice to them) because no arguments are so convincing as those which are drawn from the concessions of sceptics themselves, which fall from them incidentally and undesignedly; and because the sentiments here quoted stand in direct contradiction to that writer's cavils in other places against the Christian mysteries. For if notwithstanding the difficulties which attend the contemplation of the Deity himself, he firmly believes his existence, on what ground can he make his Savoyard vicar doubt the truth of the Gospel on account of its mysteries —V. viii p. 93.
These considerations may serve to show, and it might be shown in various other cases, that it is vain to expect an exemption from difficulty and mystery in any religion whatever. The real truth is, that not only the religion of nature, but the philosophy of nature, the works of nature, the whole face of nature, are full of mystery; we live and move in the midst of mystery “. And if, to avoid this, we have recourse to atheism itself, even that will be found to be more encumbered with difficulties, and to require a greater degree of faith than all the religions in the world put together. - Let not then the mysteries of the Gospel ever be a rock of offence to you, or in - any * This, M.Voltaire himself acknowledges; and it is a complete answer to all the objections he has made in various parts of his works to the mysteries of Revelation. See Questions sur L'Encyclopedie. Art. Ame. “The whole intellectual world is full of truths incomprehensible, and yet incontestable. Such is the doctrine of the existence of God, and such are the mysteries admitted in Protestant communions.”—
Rousseau, v.ii. p. 15.
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any degree shake the constancy of your faith. They are inseparable from any religion that is suited to the nature, to the wants, and to the fallen state of such a creature as man. When once we are convinced that the Scriptures are the word of God, we are then bound to receive with implicitsubmission, on the sole authority of that word, those sublime truths, which are far beyond the reach of any finite understanding, but which it was natural and reasonable to expect in a revelation pertaining to that incomprehensible Being whose “greatness is unsearchable, and whose ways are past finding out.” Let us not, in short, “exercise ourselves too much and too curiously, in great matters, which are too high for us, but refrain our souls, and keep them low *." Laying aside all the superfluity of learning, and all the pride of human wisdom, let us hold fast the profession of our faith, without wavering, and without cavilling at what we cannot comprehend. Let us put ourselves without reserve, into the hands of our heavenly Guide, and submit with boundless confidence to his direction, who, as he died to save us, will certainly never mislead us. Since we know in whom we believe; since we know that the author of our religion is the Son of God, let us never forget that this gives him a right, a divine right, to the obedience of our understandings, as well as to the obedience of our will. Let us therefore resolutely beat down every bold imagination, every high thing that exalteth itself against the mysterious truths of the Gospel; bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, and receiving “with meekness the ingrafted
* Psalm, exxxi. 2, 3.
word, which is able to save our souls”.” Yet, however firmly we may believe all the great essential doctrines of the Gospel, this alone will not ensure our salvation, unless to our faith we add obedience to all the laws of Christ. This we are expressly told in the concluding verse of this chapter. After our Lord had prescribed to his - disciples disciples the form of words to be used in baptism, he adds, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” As this is the parting direction, the farewell injunction which Jesus left with his disciples just before he ascended into heaven, it shows what peculiar stress he laid upon it. It shows that by making it the conclusion, the winding-up as it were of his Gospel, he meant to express, in the strongest manner, the indispensable necessity of a holy life resulting from a vital faith. He meant to intimate to his own disciples, and to the ministers of his Gospel in every future age, that it was to be one principal object of their instructions and exhortations to inculcate all the virtues of a Christian life, and an unreserved obedience to all the precepts of their divine Master. And whoever neglects this branch of his duty, is guilty of manifesting a marked contempt of the very last command that fell from the lips of his departing Lord. - - - The
* James, i. 21.