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their knowledge and holiness. And none who sustain the office of the ministry have any right to impose their own opinions upon their hearers by virtue of their sacred office. The Pope and all his hierarchy are usurpers, whose pretensions to supreme power and infallibility in the church are to be treated with disdain, as vile impositions. The people are their own proper judges of religious truth and error, and of ecclesiastical power. Christian churches have a right to form their own creeds and exercise their own discipline, independently of any superior ecclesiastical power on earth. As God has appointed none to judge and dictate for them in these serious concerns, so they are under indispensable obligations to exercise their own private judgment.

4. God has forbidden men to take their religious sentiments from others upon trust. His direction to his ancient people was to appeal to the law, and not to the teachers of it, in order to distinguish truth from error. 6 To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” And Christ forbade his followers to call any man Father. He charged his disciples to “ take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." We are commanded to prove, that is, examine all things; and to hold fast that which is good; and to buy the truth and sell it not. The apostle charges christians not to be carried about with divers and strange doctrines. John tells believers, “ If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine,” meaning the true gospel, “receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed." And Paul tells the Galatians to reject any false doctrines, though brought to them by men or angels. Such divine prohibitions against receiving false teachers and false doctrines necessarily imply that it is the duty of every man to judge for himself in matters of religion, and to adopt no religious sentiment without examination and satisfactory evidence of its being a real truth. God knows that the preachers of the gospel, as well as others, are liable to err in their religious opinions; and therefore forbids their hearers to place an implicit faith in what they deliver as divine truth. And since God has forbidden them to place an implicit faith in the opinions of those whom he has appointed to instruct them, he lays them under an imperious necessity to judge for themselves in forming their religious sentiments. Besides,

5. Every man must feel the effects of his own religious opinions, and consequently ought to exercise his own judgment in forming them. This is a matter of too much consequence to put out of his own hands. Religion itself depends upon just views of the cardinal doctrines of the gospel. “Religious affec

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tions must be exercised in the view of religious objects; and the nature of religious affections is always similar to the objects upon which they terminate. If men have false opinions of God, of Christ and of themselves, their religious affections, if they have any, will be correspondent to their false sentiments. Men's religious exercises of heart are always agreeable to their views of the nature and character of the Supreme Being, whom they love and adore. Hence says the prophet Micah, “ All people will walk every one in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever." The religious sentiments of the heathen govern their religious affections. The religious sentiments of the Mohammedans govern their religious affections. The religious sentiments of the Jews govern their religious affections. The religious sentiments of deists, govern their religious affections. The religious sentiments of those who call themselves Christians, govern their religious affections. And the religious sentiments of each sect or denomination of Christians, govern their religious affections. True religious sentiments, therefore, are essential to true religion. Men cannot have true religion, without having the true knowledge of God and of the essential doctrines of the gospel. Accordingly, every man's religion will be affected by the religious sentiments which he cordially embraces. It is therefore of as much importance to form our own religious sentiments, and to form them according to truth, as to have true religion; and it is of as much importance to have true religion, as it is to secure the salvation of our souls. If we suffer others to form our religious sentiments for us, yet God will not suffer us to escape the effects of our folly and guilt. We must feel the effects of our own principles, as well as of our own practice. We must give an account of our faith, as well as of our conduct. Not only our temporal, but our eternal interests are concerned in forining our religious sentiments. Let us remember that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, who has told us, “ Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up."

IMPROVEMENT.

1. If it be the duty of men to exercise their private judgment in the manner that has been mentioned, then they may always know what they ought to believe and practice. If they collect all the evidence in their power, and judge according to it, they will certainly know what it is they ought to believe and to do. If they exercise their right in seeking for evidence, and exercise their right in judging according to it, they will form a judg. ment which they have a right to follow; and which neither God nor their own conscience will condemn. The Bereans could know their duty with respect to believing the doctrines which Paul preached. They could hear him attentively and impartially; and after they had heard him they could search the scriptures attentively and impartially; and after they had done these things, they could form their judgment according to the evidence they had discovered, which was the best evidence they could obtain. And to judge according to the best evidence they could get, was doing their duty in the case, both in the sight of God, and in the sight of their own conscience. This is a proper mode of judging what it is right to believe, and equally a proper mode of judging what it is right to do. We are all very apt to complain that we know not what to believe, nor what to do; but our complaint is always groundless. God never places mankind in a situation in which they cannot know and do their duty. If it were possible to place them in such a situation, they would not for the time be moral agents, nor proper subjects of moral government. But we have not been, nor can we be placed in such a situation. It never was true, when we complained

that we could not know our duty, that we could not know it. There never was any insurmountable difficulty in knowing our duty but what arose from our unwillingness to know it. Our unwillingness to know it, might have arisen from our unwillingness to seek for information; or our unwillingness to seek to those for information who we knew were able to inform us; or our unwillingness to examine the subject of doubt; or our unwillingness to do our duty, though we knew it. All that God requires of us is, to search for the best evidence as to what our duty is, and then to act according to that evidence. Though God does not require a heathen to search the scriptures to know his duty, yet he is morally obliged to consult his reason and conscience to learn his duty, and to act agreeably to the dictates of these intellectual powers, which he knows he ought to obey. There is no man in this world, who is in his right mind, that cannot know what he ought to believe, and what he ought to do, in any given instance. It is absurd for christians, who have the Bible in their hands, to plead in excuse for believing and doing wrong, that they could not know what to believe, or what to do; for they always may have evidence which makes it their duty to believe or not to believe, and to act or not to act.

2. If men ought to exercise their right of private judgment in the manner which has been mentioned, then they may not only know that they have acted right in forming their religious sentiments, but know that they have formed them according to truth. Many imagine, because men may err in forming their religious sentiments, that they never can know whether they have formed them right in any case whatever. But they have no right to draw this consequence from human fallibility; for though men may judge wrong in some cases, yet they may judge right in some cases. When they judge wrong, they cannot know that they judge right; but when they do judge right, they may know that they judge right. Though they may sometimes think that they judge right when they judge wrong; yet when they do judge right, they may not only think that they judge right, but know that they judge right. It is easy to see why they so often think that they judge right when they judge wrong, in forming their religious sentiments. They may judge under the undue influence of tradition, or education, or the opinion of others, which directly tends to lead them insensibly into error. But if they would exercise their own private judgment in forming their religious sentiments, they would generally judge right; and of course might know that they had judged right. Men are naturally unwilling to take the trouble of examining religious subjects, and of using the proper means of discovering the truth, by properly exercising their right of private judgment. Not one in ten among the learned, and not one in fifty among the unlearned, properly exercise their private judgment in forming their religious sentiments. People are taught at this day that it is in vain for them to exercise their right of private judgment in matters of religion. One celebrated divine * asserts in a sermon he has published, that no christian can certainly know that the gospel itself is of divine inspiration ; and another ingenious divine † has stated that he himself does not certainly know that any one of his religious sentiments is certainly true. But is not this a false, groundless and dangerous opinion ? and did it not spring from the neglect of exercising private judgment? The Bereans acted a wiser part. They exercised their private judgment, and examined and determined for themselves whether the doctrines they heard Paul preach were really true. They judged right, and no doubt they knew that they judged right. Paul first formed a wrong opinion of Christ, and verily thought it was a true opinion; but after he had formed another and true opinion of Christ, he knew that his present opinion was right, and his former opinion was wrong. The right of private judgment in matters of religion would be of no service, if, by the proper exercise of it, we could not discover the real truth respecting religious subjects, and know that we discover it.

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* President Dwight.

+ Noah Worcester.

ment which they have a right to follow; and which neither God nor their own conscience will condemn. The Bereans could know their duty with respect to believing the doctrines which Paul preached. They could hear him attentively and impartially; and after they had heard him they could search the scriptures attentively and impartially; and after they had done these things, they could form their judgment according to the evidence they had discovered, which was the best evidence they could obtain. And to judge according to the best evidence they could get, was doing their duty in the case, both in the sight of God, and in the sight of their own conscience. This is a proper mode of judging what it is right to believe, and equally a proper mode of judging what it is right to do. We are all very apt to complain that we know not what to believe, nor what to do; but our complaint is always groundless. God. never places mankind in a situation in which they cannot know and do their duty. If it were possible to place them in such a situation, they would not for the time be moral agents, nor proper subjects of moral government. But we have not been, nor can we be placed in such a situation. It never was true, when we complained that we could not know our duty, that we could not know it. There never was any insurmountable difficulty in knowing our duty but what arose from our unwillingness to know it. Our unwillingness to know it, might have arisen from our unwillingness to seek for information; or our unwillingness to seek to those for information who we knew were able to inform us; or our unwillingness to examine the subject of doubt; or our unwillingness to do our duty, though we knew it. All that God requires of us is, to search for the best evidence as to what our duty is, and then to act according to that evidence. Though God does not require a heathen to search the scriptures to know his duty, yet he is morally obliged to consult his reason and conscience to learn his duty, and to act agreeably to the dictates of these intellectual powers, which he knows he ought to obey. There is no man in this world, who is in his right mind, that cannot know what he ought to believe, and what he ought to do, in any given instance. It is absurd for christians, who have the Bible in their hands, to plead in excuse for believing and doing wrong, that they could not know what to believe, or what to do; for they always may have evidence which makes it their duty to believe or not to believe, and to act or not to act.

2. If men ought to exercise their right of private judgment in the manner which has been mentioned, then they may not only know that they have acted right in forming their religious sentiments, but know that they have formed them according to

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