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has to obviate. In such a case, doubt and belief are obviously shewn to have no necessary relation to the clearness of evidence.
What is the language of the Scriptures? “If any man will do " the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it “ be of God." . That subjection of the understanding to Divine teaching, which is involved in the “ obedience of faith,” is indispensable to the attainment of that degree of knowledge and persuasion which the sufficient evidence by which the truth is accompanied, is adapted to afford ; while it is the only means of putting the believer in possession of that peculiar kind of evidence, which results from the ascertained correspondence of the truths of Christianity to his own character and his moral wants. He who is the Author of Revelation, knows what degree of evidence is sufficient to leave the unbeliever without excuse; nor is it to be imagined, that a degree indefinitely higher would suffice to overcome that native repugnance to the facts of Christianity, and to the practical consequences resulting from them, in which determined doubt originates. Those who believe not Moses and the Prophets, would not cease to doubt, were one to arise from the dead.
The duty to believe, then, is not regulated by the degree of evidence; it partakes of the nature of obedience; a disposition of mind for which there is as much scope at the lowest degree of knowledge or probability, as at the bighest attainable point of assured persuasion ; for it is as much our duty to obey upon the slightest, as upon the highest degree of probability. The proper scope for the moral exercise of the understanding, lies between the two points. The probation of men, as accountable beings, consists, in part, in their being left to decide and act upon a degree of evidence sufficient, yet short of overpowering;
and their manner of treating this subject,' to use the words of Bishop Butler, shews what is in their heart, and is an exercise of it.'
We call it then a false candour, chargeable on gross mis. conception of the nature of religious obligation, which leads a man to regard an unbeliever as simply mistaken in his opinions, The innocence of error in matters of religion, under circumstances which present sufficient means of arriving at truth, is a potion which obtains no countenance from the dictates of inspired truth. The charity which “ hopeth all things,” can hardly, perhaps, run into excess; but it takes a direction as irrational as it is unwarranted, when, instead of regulating our Conduct towards the individual, and stimulating our exertions for bis welfare, it leads us indolently to speculate on possibilities at variance with the existing fact of his ayowed character, and • Vol. IX. N.S.
to suppose that his rejection of the only means of salvation, may have a virtuous cause, and a safe issue.
It is evident, that on most of the points which distinguislı the Christian from the infidel, Bishop Watson's opinions were not decided. He quotes with high satisfaction, the following declaration of Dr. Harwood:
* After expending a great deal of time in discussing, I am neither in Athanasian, Arian, or a Socinian, but die fully confirmed in the great doctrine of the New Testament, a resurrection, and a future state of eternal blessedness to all sincere penitents and good Christians.'
In a similar strain, is the extract he gives from the learned Peter Daniel Huett.
« « If any man ask me what I am, since I will be neither academic, * nor sceptic, nor eclectic, nor of any other sect; I answer that I “ am of my own opinion, that is to say free, neither submitting my “ mind to any authority, nor approving of any thing but what seems “ to me to come nearest the truth ; and if any should, either ironi“cally or flatteringly, call us Idoxyropovas ; that is, men who stick only “ to their own sentiments, we shall never go about to hinder it.”'
Taking Bishop Watson's implied approbation of such declarations as these, in connexion with his conduct towards the Duke of Grafton, and Mr. Gibbon, there is just cause to entertain the fear, that to whatsoever the difference of sentiment between the advocate for Christianity and his opponent might amount, the foundation of that difference, as regards his Lordship's belief, was not laid any deeper than the understanding. It should seem, that even in his own conscious judgement, the ground upon which he believed in the truth of Christianity, was not very dissimilar from that upon which be supposed the inbeliever rejected it, and that he considered sincere persuasion as possessing, in either case, in relation to the character, the same moral value; nay, the reasonableness of doubt might in his view, exceed the reasonableness of belief, in cases where doubt was the result of more enlarged investigation and more liberal inquiry. Faith, as a moral act of obedience to the Divine authority of Revelation, had as little to do, apparently, with his Lordship’s convictions in favour of religion, as with the infidel's reasonings against it. The authenticity of Christianity rests upon buman testimony; the substance of the Christian doctrine, upon Divine testimony. Human testimony is a species of eviđence cognizable by the reason ; Divine testiinony requires the exercise of that modification of belief, which the Scriptures deDominate faith: the former Dr. Watson received as fully deci. sive of the historic facts of Christianity; the latter appears not to have furuished any part of the basis of his creed." The difference, then, between him and Mr. Gibbon, consisted not so much in his believing what the other did not believe; as in his adınitting one species of evidence in favour of religion, while Mr. Gibbon rejected both the one and the other—the attestation of its facts, and the authority of its doctrines.
• That Jesus Christ lived, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven,' (writes the Bishop to a gentleman who addressed him on the subject of the evidences of Christianity,) are facts established by better historical testimony than that Alexander fought Darius, conquered Persia, and passed into India. But on the resurrection of Christ all our hopes as men, and our obligations as Chris. tians, are founded. And if we have as great or greater reason to believe that fact, than we have to believe almost any fact recorded in history, we shall act irrationally, and, in a matter of such hig! concern, foolishly and culpably, if we withhold our assent to it; and if we do assent to it, our duty is obvious.' Compare this with the preceding paragraph in the same letter.
As to the mysteries of the Christian religion, it is neither your conćern nor mine to explain them; for if they are mysteries, they can. not be explained. But our time may be more properly employed in enquiring whether there are so many mysteries in Christianity' as the Deists say there are. Many doctrines have been imposed on the Christian world as doctrines of the Gospel, which have no foundation whatever in Scripture. Instead of defending these doctrines, it is the duty of a real disciple of Jesus Christ to reprobate them as gangrenous excrescences, corruptiog the fair form of genuine Christianity'
What the doctrines are to which the Bishop alludes, it is not difficult to surmise; but we have no wish to do violence to that reserve which is inaintained throughout the volume, as to the specific character of his religious sentiments. We know, indeed, that in common with the majority of the Episcopal Bench, orthodox and heterodox, he had a horror of Calvinism, and he was one of those who ardently desired a revision of the Liturgy. 'I am not,' he affirms, however, 'an Unitarian ;' by which term we conceive that his Lordship understood something below Arian, and that the disavowal, therefore, does not express a decided belief in the proper Deity of Christ : all that appears is, that the pre-existence of Christ' he held to be the doctrine of the New Testament, and that he regarded him as sustaining the character of a Saviour.
The fact is,' says his Lordship, that I was early in life accustomed to mathematical discussion, and the certainty attending it; and not meeting with that certainty in the science of metaphysics, of natural or revealed religion, I have an habitual tendency to an hesitation of judgment, rather than to a peremptory decision on many points. But I pray God to pardon this my wavering in less essential points, since it proceeds not from any immoral propensity, and is attended by a firm belief of a resurrection and a future state of retribution, as described in the Gospels.'
Notwithstanding the inference which might be fairly drawn from this meagre confession of faith, that these were the only points on which he had found certainty attainable, we have reason'tó hope that bis belief did not terminate here. In a subsequent letter to the Duke of Grafton,' who thought hiinself dying,' there occurs perhaps the fullest exposition of his sentiments, and it is the more striking, in some respects, as being addressed to a Socinian, although it is very far from being satisfactory.
• Why should we be disturbed by gloomy apprehensions of death, since he who made us can and will, even in death, preserve us? Unless we cease to love him, (which neither you nor I can, I trust, ever do,) he will not cease to love us : the human race, in falling front their first estate, did not fall from the love of God. . Are we not assured, that God so loved the world' (even in its fallen state that world which some, even good men, represent as a mass of corruption viti.' ated to the very core, and doomed before its existence, to everlasting, not merely perdition, but punishment,) that he gave his only • begotten Son, who every one who believeth in him may not perish • but have everlasting life? John iii. 16.'
It is unnecessary to pursue the subject further. Bishop Watson was, we think few will deny, a liberal man, and a candid man; a man of upright intentions and of unaffected sincerity. His liberality was, however, in part the effect of indecision of sentiment, while his candour was grounded on false reasoning, and, we must be allowed to add, ignorance of religion. His own ingenuous representation of himself, conveys the idea of a map "always learning, and never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth;" who, at the very time he was a teacher of others, had need to be himself confirmed in the first principles of the oracles of God; for not even at the close of life had be got beyond what the Apostle, in reproving the Hebrews, ranks umong those very initial truths,
initial truths, “ the resurrection of the dead.": Thus are the things of God hidden from the wise and prudent! Ilow can they believe who receive honour one of another, aspiring to be called Rabbi, before they have entered the school of Christ? A Professor of Chemistry is to transmigrate into a Regius. Professor of Divinity: and nothing should seein to be easier than the process. At the period of his appointment to the theological chair, Dr. W. knew, by his own confession, as much of divinity as could reasonably be expected
from a man whose course of studies had been directed to, and
whose time bad been fully occupied in other pursuits ! But now, theology,' as he says, ' demanded his care'; and in precisely the same spirit, and with the same confidence of success,
in which he had successively engaged in the study of the Greek and Roman classics, hadé sought for fame in mathematical know• ledge', and, during seven years, had immersed himself in the pursuit of cheinical discovery, he entered upon the study of theology, to qualify himself for the office to which the unanimous voice of the University had raised him. Ių this new pursuit, however, he soon feit himself strangely baffled: that persevering attention which had enabled him to penetrate the arcana of science, and to conduct the most abstruse process of mathematical reasoning, here seemed to be of no avail. At the very threshold of the Temple he stood repelled and bewildered, as if unable to discover the entrance. The first measure he adopted, was, indeed, a wise one. He knew that if there was such a thing as theological science, it must rest upon the certainty of fact, that facts must form the principles of the science, and that these facts were to be sought for only in the Holy Scriptures. In discarding, therefore, all the speculations of uninspired human wisdom, he acted the part of a philosopher: these he knew, had no pretensions to certainty, and could be of no use to him, as materials, in arranging a system of theology that should deserve the pame of science. But when he
proceeded to investigate the Bible for himself, it was inevitable for him to perceive, that an order of facts are there alluded to, relative to the moral condition of man and the state of the heart, which had no existence in his own consciousness, and the appropriate evidence of which was derivable from no other source. To a man who had too much good sense and honesty to get rid of a plain text by a false gloss, or an improved reading, there are several declarations of the kind we allude to, which must have tended very much to repress the confidence with which he set out on the inquiry. What, for instance, could be more embarrassing to a mind not conscious of having undergone the spiritual change they describe, nor dissatisfied with its own righteousness, than to read, that “ Christ came not to call the “ righteous, but sinners to repentance;" that "the whole need “ not the physician;" that “except a man be born again, be “ cannot see the kingdom of heaven;" that “ the natural man " perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither
can be know them :" positions which evidently intimate, that a peculiar state of heart is absolutely indispensable as a pre-requisite to the right understanding of the Gospel. The doctrine of religious conversion would be, to such a man, far more upintelligible and mysterious, than the Incarnation, or than Predestination itself; the more so, as the appropriate evidence of its truth consists, in part, in its accordance with experience. With this species of internal testimony, which, in the affairs of life, is held to be a legitimate source of evidence, a solid basis of certainty, our Professor bad little or no ac