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AN ESSAY ON SCEPTICISM.
However plausible in its pretensions to rational inquiry, prior to the adoption of any theological principle, infidelity is the natural subterfuge of a depraved heart, to escape the painful idea of man's moral obligation to his Maker, and the sad forebodings of a guilty conscience. It rejects the God of the Bible, to form a Deity after its own likeness, and adore the object of a perverted imagination.
When its boldest averments are examined, and deepest subtleties scrutinized-to what do they amount? The tenebrosity of midnight: they place us in thick darkness, wild conjecture, perpetual uncertainty on every point of importance unto us as men, and afford no light whatever, upon either the design of our being, or our future destination.
They work their transformation on the soul, 'Dismount her like the serpent at the fall, 'Dismount her from her native wing,.. and throw her down, To lick the dust, and crawl in such a thought.'
Although the Deist admits the existence of God, he deems it fanaticism to profess a knowledge of his will, and denies all devotional intercourse with his Maker, as an enthusiastic dream. According to his notions of the Almighty;-Jehovah is a Father, who has no com munion with his children; but leaves them in a desert land, without a guide to direct their steps, or one lesson of instruction respecting his own determination concerning them. He is a Governor, without the communica
tion of any statute or standard of moral observation ; but lets all ideas of right and wrong, rest upon human habits, caprice, or whatever man in himself may censure or approve. He is a Friend, who beholds a suffering race of intelligent beings, and gives no certain hope of deliverance from their sorrows,-if they toil till death, all remains conjecture for the future. God is a Master, who has never made known the proper rule of obedience to his servants, and therefore each one is left to the dictates of his own heart in his conduct, and while he has no remuneration to expect from labour, he may congratulate himself, that he has nothing to fear from negligence. With one breath, the Sceptic shuts up heaven; or renders its existence doubtful; and with the next, closes for ever the gates of hell.
Infidelity sinks the attribute of divine goodness into a mere connivance at human offences; and excludes the strong arm of justice from the throne of God, to render mercy the patroness of vice, and free the criminal from all ideas of personal restraint. As the professed admirer of intellect, it opens the door to every sensual indulgence; and under the pretence of imparting happiness to creatures, resists the claims of Jehovah, and denies the prerogatives of the Creator.
Like all other evils, it has its gradations; but it has never yet improved the morals of a single individual: if all infidels are not externally vicious, or unkind and wicked in their outward conduct, it is occasioned by peculiar circumstances of habit, connexion, natural constitution-and temper, and not by the beneficent influence of unblief,-because it is the very essence of scepticism, to loosen and invalidate every moral bond.
Will infidelity, or the disbelief of God's eternal law of rectitude and determination to punish sin, make the drunkard sober, the pilferer honest, or the as sassin humane and kind in his feelings? Impossible! it will cover the deed with the notion of impunity, and sanction transgression as by legal authority. Therefore,
to adopt the language of a strong reasoner on this, as well as every other subject that has occupied his pen ; -Under every possible aspect in which infidelity can be viewed, it extends the dominion of sensuality; it repeals and abrogates every law by which divine revelation has, under such awful sanctions, restrained the indulgence of the passions.
Eternal God! on what are thine enemies intent: what are those enterprizes of guilt and horror, that, for the safety of their performers, require to be enveloped in a darkness which the eye of heaven must not pierce! Miserable men! proud of being the offspring of chance, in love with universal disorder, whose happiness is involved in the belief of there biing no witness to their designs, and who are at ease only, because they suppose themselves inhabitants of a forsaken and fatherless world!
O then, let us take the Holy Scriptures for our direction in all things: they describe our character, conduct us to the origin of human woe, shew us a just God, and yet a Saviour. They unite the attributes of truth and mercy, in the restoration of fallen creatures to a state of bliss, and meet us with blessings perfectly adapted to our circumstances. They reveal a pardon for our guilt, communicate light in darkness, promise joy for sorrow, and lead us to the cross of Christ as the centré of truth, and the sole medium of access to God and glory. Yes! yes!
'Religion's all. Descending from the skies
To wretched man, sweet mercy, in her left 'Holds out this world, and in her right the next. 'Religion! the sole voucher man is man; 'Supporter sole of man above himself:
Ev'n in this night of frailty, change, and death, 'She gives the soul a soul that acts for God. 'Religion! Providence! an after-state!
Here is firm footing; here is solid rock; This can support us; all is sea besides 'Sinks under us; bestorms, and then devours."
REVIEWS OF THE LAST MONTH.
THE MONTHLY REVIEW notices, favourably, MONTGOMERY'S Songs of Sion. In some,' say the Reviewers, we think he has retained and illustrated the beauties of his models more completely than any of his predecessors, and we would instance his imitations of Psalms 46, 104, 107, and 131. KIRKE WHITE'S Remains, Vol. 3, are compared with his former, and called a still more bald and meagre collection of juvenile poems and religious epistles.'
THE BRITISH CRITIC reviews NORRIS's respectful Letter to the Earl of Liverpool, occasioned by his speech at the Thanet Bible Society Meeting, Oct. 17, 1821. And a Second Letter to the Earl, in reply to NORRIS, by the Rev. JAMES SCHOLEFIELD, A. M. The Bartlett's Buildings Society is the chorus of this ditty. Its sufficiency of itself to circulate Bibles, and the treason of the Clergy who presume to unite with any other-the danger of associating with Dissenters in the promulgation of the Scriptures, the folly of circulating different versions, and of sending the Bible abroad till every body is supplied at home-and a number of other worn-out complaints, are here again brought forward-complaints, for we will not call them arguments, which have already been a thousand times answered The Bartlett's Buildings Society may circulate Bibles, alone, and therefore the Bible Society is not needed. This is one plea, but we believe the Society must use note and comment. The junction with Dissenters is a foolish objection, for if the circulation of the Bible alone is thereby increased, where can be the evil? The printing of different versions, if to meet peculiar prejudices, can also be of no more consequence than the printing of the Psalms in our Prayer Book in lieu of those in the standard Version-the Society not having countenanced any with a heterodox character, and the foreign exportations, while many are in want
at home, may find a justification in the facilities often to be found in sending the Bible abroad, even where it cannot be circulated with so much acceptance at home. A spirit must first be excited, and then the book will be desired. This last objection is, however, the only feasible one, and will, we hope, not be forgotten by the Bible Society. Mr. Norris's Letter to the Earl of Liverpool is highly applauded, and, on the score of ingenuity, it certainly deserves praise, if Mr. N. has satisfactorily proved, that the distribution of the Scriptures by the Bible Society has a directly OPPOSITE effect to that of leading men to the approval of our excellent Liturgy.' We, however, consider this as a libel on the orthodoxy of the Church of England, and a virtual acknowledgment that its Liturgy and the Bible do not agree. What more could the worst foes of the Church say? Equally clever is Mr. Norris's assertion that the Society's having promoted Christianity in general throughout the world' is an assumption which, however specious in theory, will not stand the test of investigation. We should have thought the Bible the best means of circulating Christianity, especially when followed by Missionaries; if it is not we should be glad to know what is? The Bible and Prayer Book,' would Mr. N. and these Reviewers say; but as the Bible first circulated Christianity before the Prayer Book was in existence, and sent it hither before there was an English Church, unless the Bible have lost its virtue, it must still be capable, alone, of producing the like effects. There cannot be a greater reflection on the purity of the Church of England than that it is endangered by the Bible Society; and the British Critic will never uphold its dignity so long as it unblushingly asserts we still conscientiously believe the Bible Society to be an institution fraught with danger, not only to our own Church, but to the best interests of Christian truth and unity throughout the world!" Happily, however, all these efforts against that noble institution, the wonder of the world, and the glory of our land, are like those of the gates of hell against the Church of Christ--they shall not prevail-she still con