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Ancient Britons, with some Introductory Sketches
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Archaiology of Wales.
OF FORMING A RIGHT JUDGMENT, .
I. THES. V. 21. Prove all things: hold, fast that which is
That the deliberation of human judgment has little or nothing to do in the affairs of religion, has been asserted by many professors of Christianity: whilst others, on the conțrary, have maintained, that every thing must submit to the criterion of man's understanding;, and that no doctrine is to be received, no precept acknowledged as binding, till its truth has been approved, and its fitness ascertained, by the light of reason. But he who embraces the Christian religion, as it has been taught by Christ himself and his apostles, cannot fully subscribe to either of these maxims.
If we admit the former, and renounce the natural direction of our reason, we can never arrive at a state of certainty and stability in
our own minds. Our devotion must degenerate into fanaticism or superstition: we shall be compelled to wander in the dark, and worship we know not what. If the latter obtain our assent, it will dispose us to the rejection of every mystery which we cannot comprehend, and suggest perpetual debates against the authority of a divine revelation.
It follows, that the deliberation of human judgment, or the light of reason, must have its due place, and its proper exercise, in the affairs of religion ; for by this alone we shall be qualified to comply with the
apostle's precept, in proving all things. But it must also have its just limitations, by certain fixed and unalterable principles; otherwise we shall never know where to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord; we shall want à power to ascertain, and hold fast that which is good.
We may, then, consider St. Paul, in this passage, as instructing the church, how to form a right judgment, such as is recommended by our Lord, when he says— Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. And this determination of the mind is to be acquired, by
allowing reason its lawful exercise, and keeping it within its proper sphere.
The very idea of judgment implies a discrimination, and decision of the mind, agreeably to some definite rules, and certain principles. The term, indeed, is often misapplied. Men are generally disposed to dignify their own vague and accidental fancies, their mere surmises, in matters of religion, by the title of private judgment. But it is not every notion, adopted at random, that has a claim to this appellation. Principles must be felt, facts must be compared, and circumstances weighed, before a legitimate opinion can be formed ; and he that is incapable of this can never be the real possessor of a private judgment. He may insist upon
the right of thinking and judging for himself; but if he does this, he must be content to abide by the consequence of his own decisions. If he judges foolishly and absurdly in his worldly affairs, he may plead a right to use his own discretion in that which concerns himself, but he cannot at the same time merit the character of a wise and prudent man; for the thoughtless, the wavering, the capricious, whose no
tions of the same things are variously determined, by the successive changes of their own passions, or the shifting impulse of external objects, can never be deemed men of judgment, even in civil society.
So, in religious matters, a man may allow his thoughts to wander in one devious track to-day, and in another to-morrow, as shall seem best to himself; and who can restrain him? But the guesses and surmises' of such a man cannot deserve the name of judgment, because his mind is not under the direction of any certain and steady principles.
The question, then, is not whether a man has a physical power, or a natural right, to indulge his private notions, but whether those notions constitute a legitimate judgment consistent with his profession, and in conformity with the character which he assumes. And in the business of religion, the determi nation of this point is a thing of no light importance : for though the irregular bias of thought, while confined to the breast, must necessarily elude the cognizance of human laws, it is not, therefore, morally lawful; 'nor will it escape the notice of that Being, who is the great searcher of the heart. And as