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T has been observed that in controversies about
religion most parties, however wide in their sentiments, have claimed the authority and countenance of scripture for their respective notions. Some on this account have been disposed to fix the charge of inconsistency upon the sacred records ; and others, for the fame reason, have thought it neceffary to have some certain rules to interpret fcripture by. Hence traditions, church-authority, creeds, confessions of faith, &c. have been multiplied in great abundance, and are in general thought better calculated to guard against heresy, than that book which is appealed to by all heretics. The church of Rome has deservedly been held up to public ridicule, for her pretensions to infallibility, and for keeping the people in ignorance, by prohibiting the reading of the scriptures : happy day that was therefore which began the dawn of Reformation. But does it not lead us back to ROME, to condemn free inquiry, from the -fear of innovation? What effential difference is there between having the scripture wholly kept from our eyes, and suffering our understanding, judge ment, and conscience to be limited by articles, church-authority, &c. ? Do not these limitations tend to shut us up in as gross darkness, as our ancestors were covered with, by receiving papal tradition in the room of divine revelation ? The preaching of Fulgentio at Venice, on Pilate's question What is truth is not foreign to our purpose. He told his hearers that at last, after many researches, he had found it out, and holding out a New-testament, said that it was in his hand; but he put it in his pocket, and coldly added, “The Book is prohibited.” What difference would there have been had he said, you may read the book, but
its true reaning is prohibited ? But what has been the consequence of introducing this method of preventing heresies and schisms ? plainly this (not to say any thing about extirpation, &c) many have, as it were insensibly, been led, to make tradition, and church-authority their faith; and have become the dupes of superstition, while they have professed to be guided by the word of God! Yet since all spirits must be tried by the fcriptures-fince all true churchauthority must be founded there and since if any man speak not according to the form of sound words recorded there, it is because there is no light in him, where can Christians appeal but to the fcriptures? The e they are well assured, are able to make thein wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for inAtruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfeet, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. The writer of the following pages might tell his reader of his connections with those who are reputed orthodox ; but as one juftly observes, “ Orthodoxy (like almost all martial terms of controvertists) is a very vague, equivocal word.-In its original and true import, it fignifies a right belief : but, (such is the fate of language!) in one latitude it means a belief of one thing, in another the belief of another thing, quite contrary, In these Eflays, let it stand for what Paul calls the belief of the truth, not the belief of the truth as it is in this creed, or in that, or in any other, but as it is in Jesus."-He presents them to the reader's ferious attention fubmiffively and impartially to be tried by the heavenly oracles, in their most simple and obvious meaning, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, assuring him, that he wishes them to have no other influence, than what they may have borrowed from thence.-His grand design is to recommend the disallowed Gospel as the ONE THING NEEDFUL; as that alone which
can give peace at the last, and land a finner safe and happy on the eternal fhore. The glorious gospel, in its primitive fimplicity, freeness and glory, stands opposed, on the one hand, to self-righteousness and felf-dependance in all its forms; and, on the other, to carnal-confidence, worldly-mindedness, and selfindulgence : for while it makes ample provision for the most wretched circumstances, a finner can be in, by laying a sufficient foundation for his hope in the Redeemer's finished work; it exhibits the most powerful incentives to true godliness, and makes the keeping of Christ's commands essential to the Chriftian character. On this account it is expected that the felf-righteous and the licentious (however ambiguously they hold those tenets, which lead them to self-dependance and self-indulgence) will be much difgusted with what they find in the following pages : and the writer frankly acknowledges that he has not designed, in a single line, to please either of them ; but on the contrary has endeavoured to set forth his fentiments in such a light, as to stand in direct opposition to their notions of christianity. The doctrines opposed are nrostly stated iiv the very words of fome who have written in favor of them, but without particularizing with the author's naine; the reason of which is, that persons or particular parties are not attacked, but errors, let then be found with what perfons or parties so ever. The same method has been occasionally observed, in regard to those who have maintained the doctrines herein stated; and when the reader is referred to an author's name, it is not with the least defign, either to rest the sentiment upon his credit, or screen the writer from censure, under covert of another's reputation : for though he highly esteems their writings, who have been valiant for the truth, yet if ten thousand writers, in the highest reputation for orthodoxy, could be produced in confirmation of what is here said, unless they were prefaced with, Thus faith the Lord, they will A3
only stand as so many insignificant cyphers, in the esteem of those who have an ear to hear what the spirit faith unto the churches. On the other hand, if the reasoning of these Effays be found to accord with the word of truth, it will be a very finall circumstance with discerning Christians, though the wise, the learned, or the leemingly religious should unite to reprobate the book, and load its author with reproach; for what are the highest founding names among men, to the name and authority of CHRIST? And what should Christians fear, though their faith and practice provoke the contempt of nations? Would any strange thing happen to them if it should be fo? nay verily, for so persecuted they the prophets and apostles, which have gone before them.The writer has nothing to say in favor of the manner in which this work is executed. He makes no pretension to accuracy of language, or refinement of style; but is conscious of many deficiencies in each of these respects. All he aims at is to convey his meaning, in the most simple and intelligible manner he can.
If he has made known what he intended, by what he has declared ; the summit of his attempt, as to manner, is obtained.--If it should please the great Prophet of the church, who alone can teach to profit, to make use of these hints, to convince any of the error of their way, or to confirm the souls of the disciples; the author's labors will be richly rewarded : but if, after comparing what is written with the Bible, that infallible standard of truth, any should be disposed to condemn it as heretical; he has no higher court to appeal to. He is persuaded, in his own mind, that the remarks are grounded upon the evidence of Moses and the Prophets, Christ and his Apostles ; but is very willing to allow, what indeed every man has an equal right to, the right of private judgment : and can say no more than I pak as to wise men, JUDGE YE what I say, and Let EVERY MAN be fully persuaded in his OWN mind.