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ETCONCLUDING DISCOURSEot a
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TO convince, is one thing; to prevail with men to act in conformity with that conviction, is another. The former is the general effect of sound argument addressed to competent understandings; the latter is ofttimes attended with a species of humiliation, to which the pride of man will not suffer him to submit.
It is never too soon to tread back our steps, when convinced that we are not travelling in the right path; because the difficulty of our return to it increases in proportion to our distance from it. But, alas! all men possess not firmness of mind to enable them to do justice to their reasoning faculty; choosing rather, out of compliment to the opinion of the world, which is rarely worth obtaining, to continue in error, than to take (as they conceive) shame to themselves, by acknowledging that they have been mistaken; which is, in fact, in other words, to say that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.
This remark is, perhaps, more frequently exemplified in religious, than in any other concerns in life; for, in proportion to the importance of the object in pursuit, is, generally speaking, the strength
of prejudice in favour of the plan adopted for the
ceed. I once remember having a long and inte
resting conversation with a parishioner, of whose
his better judgment. This case, it is to be feared,
# # **
Nevertheless, how desperate soever the case, the physician, while life remain, perseveres in his attempt to cure. Upon this principle, rather than upon any sanguine hope of success, I have thrown together the foregoing thoughts upon a subject, which to me appears of the utmost importance. My earnest wish in so doing has been, in the first instance, to discharge some part of my duty to wards those immediately committed to my care. In the second, to do some little good in a more general way, should God think me worthy to be, e an instrument of doing good in such a cause. It is not to be expected that what has been written, should make impression upon those who will not give themselves leave to think differently from what they may have been accustomed to think; for prejudice, generally speaking, turns its back upon reason: but I cannot help indulging a hope, that where it meets, with a candid and ingenuous mind, it will not fail of being attended with some effect. The only probable way to succeed in this case seems to be, by putting men upon proper use of their rational faculties, from a
conviction that ignorance is the prolific parent of
All men, it is certain, are not qualified to penetrate into the depths of science; nor is it necessary, for the general purposes of life, that all men should be either historians, metaphysicians, logicians, or critics. But all men are concerned to know what plan has been revealed for the promotion of their eternal welfare, and in what manner their conduct must correspond with it, to secure its effect. It is to be supposed, therefore, that an all-gracious God has furnished all men with an understanding competent to this purpose, provided it be properly em ployed. To that understanding the appeal is here made. For the cause we have in hand requires not that we should put out the eyes of men, in order to lead them blindfold in their Christian journey. On the contrary, we are desirous that they should see for themselves, and see clearly; upon the idea, that the more they see, the less prejudice they will entertain, and the more they will be satisfied with the direction of their appointed guides.
With this view the Bible is put into their hands, and they are required, after the example of the Bereans, to search and examine, whether what has been said upon the subject of the Church be agreeable to the tenor of the Apostolic writings. For that is the standard to which all opinions upon this subject must be ultimately referred.
From these writings, principally, we have collected what appears to us decisive evidence respecting the nature, design, and constitution, of
the Christian Church. Upon the authority of these writings, we have described the Church to be, not a creature of the imagination, or a society of human establishment, but a visible body of people called out of the world by God, and placed by Him under a particular form of government and discipline, calculated to promote the great object for which they are brought together. By direct evidence from the same fountain of knowledge, we have maintained, that the Head of the Church originally committed the care of it to his Apostles, investing them with power to manage the concerns of it; and that the Apostles did actually exercise that power, by appointing divers orders in the Church, and establishing the plan upon which it was in future to be conducted. In correspondence with this arrangement, we have represented the unity of the Church to consist in the conformity of its members to this Divine plan; whereby they become joined together in that brotherly communion and fellowship, necessary to the promotion of that "charity, which is the bond of perfectness," and the characteristic mark of the disciples of the blessed Jesus. It now remains that the reader examine this matter for himself. With his Bible in his hand, and prejudice laid aside, let the subject then be brought to an impartial hearing. And if he find, persuaded will be the case, that those parts of the sacred records, to which an appeal has been made in the foregoing discourses, will not, upon fair construction, admit a sense different from what has been annexed to them; if he would
as we are
* Col. iii. 14.