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few of its advantages. Before proceeding, however, it is proper to say, that we are very far from supposing that a man must be an adept in the knowledge of Christianity, before he can believe it to the saving of his soul. We know its power and sovereignty to be such, that a single statement of its doctrines, or a single promise of its efficacy, may lead him at once to a state of salvation; while not a few of its essential principles may be as yet unknown to him. But what we have chiefly in view is, the education of the man who is already a believer, or the case of the man who is kept from believing, or embarrassed in his belief, by certain intellectual difficulties, which his inattention to the proper means must tend to strengthen and multiply; and, in reference to all such, we state the following things in commendation of the kind of reading already described :
1. It is congenial to our rational nature. We are reasoning beings, and irrepressibly prone to reason on all subjects that come before us, whether physical or metaphysical, material or mental. When a statement of good is propounded to us, on evidence which carries our assent, we subject it instantly to a process of reasoning, and turn it by anticipation into a source of immediate enjoyment. Where tidings of evil are propounded, we go to work in the same way, and speedily reason ourselves into the sorrows of which they furnish the materials. And when objects of interest are set before us, in which we have no immediate property for either good or evil, our curiosity is awakened : we display a love of speculation which is altogether gratuitous, and are actually reasoning on their nature and uses, ere ever we are
To this we are uniformly addicted, in all climes and countries, from the first opening of our infant faculties up to the extremity of old age.
Now this is not to be restrained, but encouraged; it is not the ease of our nature, but our nature itself acting according to the constitution which the Creator at first imparted to it, although the results of the activity are often such as sadly to indicate the moral calamity with which it is afflicted. But to systematize is to reason.
It is so to exercise our understandings on the objects of our previous knowledge, as to adjust and arrange them according to their several properties and affinities, that our view of them, individually and combined, may be rendered distinct and satisfactory.
This is an exercise of reason of which we are peculiarly fond, and which begins to be exemplified, without any training, at a very early period of our existence in this world. Present to a child a confused heap of pebbles and sea-shells, or other little objects of curiosity which exhibit sameness as well as diversity, and after making himself acquainted with their resemblances and discrepances in size, form, colour, and so on, he proceeds to arrange them accordingly, putting each of them in the place which is best fitted to give unity and harmony to the whole; and while he feels a peculiar satisfaction in the result of his labours, he is greatly annoyed by any accident which disturbs the classification, or throws them back into their
previous confusion. This process, which he seems to be taught by something similar to instinct, improves his view of the objects in question, and yields a delight in the contemplation of them which he could
not otherwise have experienced. Well, we have here the elements of system appearing prior to all training; and nothing can be a clearer proof, that the tendency to such exercises is ours as the gift of our wise Creator, to regulate our efforts, and facilitate our success in the acquisition and use of knowledge.
But religion stands pre-eminent among all the subjects of knowledge to which our reason has access. It is for the sake of it, and its felicities and adorations, that we are made to differ froin the beasts that perish, and created capable of thought and reflection. . Although its topics be numerous and somewhat diversified, they have all a striking generic resemblance, and must be subjected to skilful arrangement, in order to be seen to proper advantage. They are not like stars in different hemispheres, or independent luminaries, but one entire constellation, each of them emitting a light which tends to unfold its owu glory, while at the same time it illumines the others, and is illumined by the others; thus rendering an intimate acquaintance not with itself only, but with its position and relations, of very great importance to a right understanding of the scheme of truth, of which it forms a part. Religion, in fact, is a system of moral illumination; and, among all the subjects of methodical study to which man has ever applied his reason, we know not of any one where a knowledge of the affinities and relations of its parts is more imperiously called for, in order to an adequate conception of the whole. If man, then, be prone to system in his ordinary intellectual exercise, and if Christianity requires its aid more than many other subjects, the man who denies himself this auxiliary in the course of his Christian reading, or is virtually
taught to neglect it by the indiscretion of others, must be subjected to serious disadvantage. His reason must be resisted or contravened in one of its powerful natural tendencies; and it is clear that this resistance must necessarily tend to embarrass and disconcert, and of course to discourage the productive operations of reason in this most interesting department. It is not possible to conceive, that such contravention can do less than prevent the formation of those habits which alone can lead the logical being to a logical hold of religion in the eternal consistency of its truth, and the grandeur of its ultimate principles ; and thus give a sanction, which is indirect but real, to the too common prejudice, that, while the topics of every other subject which man is invited to study, can be gathered up into beautiful series, and opened progressively to the view in most instructive combination, religion forbids us to be reasoners, and demands to be considered in no other light than as a maze of sublime confusion. We
not that the mysteries of religion are to be explored by reason; for, just because they are revealed as mysteries, on evidence which proves them
true, it is reason's office to believe them on that ground alone. Nor do we favour the impious tenet, that reason, in her present moral bewilderment, or in any condition whatever, should be raised to the honour of being the test of the truth or untruth of revelation. But what we say is, that the evidence of revelation is proposed by God as a subject for reason's examination, not only with the view of producing assent, but for rendering that assent enlightened and steady after it is produced; and that the facts and doctrines of revelation thus become
matters of fixed belief, open up a region of most interesting realities, which reason is required religiously to traverse after her own manner, and in the exercise of her own skill, that, in this way, the truth revealed may have its proper and constitutional place in the soul of the man who receives it.
And we know, that where this exercise is neglected, or in proportion as it is neglected, where religious thinking is undisciplined, capricious, and desultory, flitting from topic to topic, or from book to book, without plan or rational arrangement, religious knowledge is ever found to be shallow and superficial. It may be genuine or pure, or connected with a heart which is exquisitely tender, or deeply devotional, so far as mere feeling is concerned it may suit a useless retirement, or prosper in the hot-bed of congenial companionship, where the mind is easy and tranquil—but it cannot stand the storms of error and unbelief, which never cease to agitate the exposures of human life.
If you keep it in seclusion, it may dream its way to heaven in unprofitable ignorance of the state of things around it, but the plan of Providence forbids you to keep it there: and if you place it on the arena of this wide world, where the war of ungodliness is incessantly prosecuted in all its forms of disciplined eagerness, its possessor will speedily find himself to be helpless as a babe.
It is this very defect in the mode of religious training, which causes many a beautiful morning in the history of the rising race to be followed by a dismal noon. Our youth are sent forth on promiscuous society, with some impressions in favour of religion, and a few incipient habits of piety, but with