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(1) fcandalous Sins, and Errors wilfully and obftinately perfifted in, fuch as were inconfiftent with the great Fundamentals of Religion, contain'd in the Creed call'd the Apostles, the guilty were excommunicated, that is, they were fhut out of that Society, whofe Laws they would not be prevailed with to obey; which is highly reafonable, and practifed by all Combinations and Societies of Men. But this Punishment, tho' accounted very great, did not deprive those who were under it of any of their Goods, or of their Eftates, but left them in Poffeffion of all their civil Rights. For by the Laws of Christ, no Man's (2) Title to his Poffeffions is in the leaft impaired for his not being a Christian. To proceed.
There are more Notes upon thofe Texts than on any other, which are by fome thought to teach, that Almighty God did from all Eternity, without any Respect to the good or evil Actions of Men, decree, that a certain determinate Number of Perfons fhould be neceffarily and everlaftingly happy in his Prefence and Kingdom, but that the much greater Number of Men and Women fhould be neceffarily and for ever miferable. This Opinion has produced dreadful Confequences; for fome (tho' for the Reafon hereafter mentioned, not many) have been driven to the utmost Despair; others have been made fecure and prefumptuous thereby, and others have offered it as a Reafon for their fettling in Irreli
(1) Such Sins as are condemned by the Law of Reason and Nature, being deftru&tive to humane Society, and to thofe who commit them, fuch as the holy Scriptures call the Works and Lufts of the Flesh, and of the Devil, deferve not only the Punishment of Excommunication, but to have fuch other Punishments inflicted by the Magiftrate, as may effectually difcourage and deter all from living in them. For thefe Sins not only draw down the Judgments of God upon the guilty, but provoke him to fend fore Judgments, as the Sword, the Peftilence, or the Famine, on the Places and Kingdoms where they are fuffered to go unpunished. Those therefore who are affifting to the Magiftrate by Information or otherwife, in bringing fuch Sinners to condign Punishment, ought to be efteemed as publick Benefactors, and their Services merit the Approbation and Applaufe of all wife and good Men. And peradventure a greater A&t of Charity, taking the Word in the largest Senfe, cannot be done to the Perfons and Families of Drunkards, and other leud and diforderly Perfons, than to make them feel the Inconveniencies and Smart of their Vices in this prefent World; for this may rouse and awaken their Confciences, and bring them to Confideration, and fo to true Repentance, and an inward as well as an outward Refor mation.
(:) See Dr. Claggett's Sermon on Joh. 18. 6.
gion and Profanenefs. Nor are all the nice Diftinctions which have been invented and fent Abroad, fufficient to put a Stop to these dismal Effects. For my Part, I fhould rather chuf to fay, I do not understand this or the other difficult Place of Scripture, than to put fuch a Senfe upon any Text, as contradicts all the natural Notions which God has impreffed concerning himself upon our Minds, and is contrary to a plain and expreß Scriptures as any in the whole Bible. I do not fay this as thinking there are any fuch Scriptures, but only on Suppofition that there were. For I hope what is faid in the Notes is fufficient to fatisfie any unprejudiced Perfon, and yet not one Quarter of what has been faid, or may be faid on this Argument, is touched upon. Thofe who go into this Notion, are generally fo happy in their own Opinion, as to believe themfelves, whatever becomes of the rest of Mankind, to be of the Number of the Elct, as they exprefs it, otherwife it would be impoffible for them to fit eafie under it. And I believe I may without offending any one obferve, That there is hardly a good-natured Man of this Opinion, who does not wish, that all his Fellow-Creatures were as capable of being for ever happy, as he himself is; nay, who would not make them fo, if it were in his Power to do it. If this Suppofition be true, how is it poffible for any one to entertain fuch Thoughts of God, as this Opinion afcribes to him, whofe Goodneß, whofe Mercy, whole Compaffions are infinite, as well as all his other Attributes? Or can we reasonably fuppofe, that the Method defigned and contrived by an All-wife and Almighty Being, for the Recovery of fallen Man, is of leß Force, and of a smaller Extent, than the Destruction brought upon Man by the Deceit and Malice of the Devil, the great Enemy of Souls? Would not fuch a Suppofition be highly injurious to the Mediatory Office of Christ, the great Reftorer of fallen Man? As it is exprefly faid, that he tafted Death for every Man, fo it must be acknowledged, that the Virtue and Value of his Sacrifice is fufficient for the Salvation of all Mcn. It is a fad Truth, that many, very many, will miß of Salvation; but the Reafon hereof is, not because God has excluded any by an abfolute and unconditional Decree, but because they wilfully and obftinately refufe to accept of Salvation, on thofe reafonable and neceffary Conditions it is propofed to them upon. The Decree of God is, that it fhall be well with the Righteous, but it fhall not be well with the Wicked. And he
offers all fufficient Grace to enable them to forfake all known and wilful Sin, to become new Creatures, and practise universal Holine and Goodness.
Some who have early imbibed thefe Notions, and whofe Minds are bound and fetter'd with them, may poffibly be willing to be fet free from them. Such I would advife not
to amufe and perplex themfelves about the (1) Frefcience 0 or Foreknowledge of God; for this is a Subject far, very far out of their Reach, and what learned Men cannot agree is about among themselves.
I have often thought, that the filling the Mind with such Subjects, hath proceeded from a Temptation of the Devil, who finding that he cannot fo far prevail as to have all Thoughts about Religion laid afide, hath, by this Artifice, turn'd that Zeal, which fhould have been employ'd in governing 25 our Paffions, in mortifying our Lufts, and in the Destruction of Sin en in our Souls, and in recovering the Divine Image, after which we were created in Righteousness and true Holiness, to fuch of fruitlefs Speculations as thefe, about which, when we have efpent many Days and Years, we fhall be as far from the Know
ledge of them, as we were when we begun. If the Devil his can deftroy a Soul, it is all one to him whether he does it by Carelefnefs and Negligence, or by Immorality and Profaneness, his or by imploying it only in the Form of Religion, or in Difputes about it. Religion aims at nothing leis than the making us fuch regenerate and holy Perfons as God can love and delight in; it aims to make us good our felves, and teaches us to do all the good we can to others, in our re fpective Stations, Relations, and Circumstances. And if the Devil De can by any of his Wiles and Devices, divert and keep us from sferioully endeavouring to resemble and imitate God, becoming like unto him in the Temper and Difpofition of our Minds, he obtains his End.
It is not expected, that a Work of this Nature will be alike of acceptable to all. Some may think that I might have faved
(1) Those who have an Inclination, and are capable of confidering Die and examining what has been written on this difficult Subject by fome who think out of the common Road, may confult Dr. Henry More's DiVine Dialogues, Dialogue the first, Sect. 20. Alfo Mr. Peter Poirett's Oeconomy of Univerfal Providence for the Salvation of all Men, which in the French is the 6th and laft Vol. of the Divin: Oeconomy, and r5 Partyof the 4th Vol. in English.
my felf all this Pains; others, that there are too few Refe rences; fome, that there are too many. Some may say, that they cannot difcern the Relation between fome of the Refe rences, and the Verfes under which they are placed. T thefe and fuch like Objections, I fhall only anfwer, That i any of these References have a Mark fet before them, I d not look upon my felf to be anfwerable for them; for these having been put in the Margin of the Bible by eminen and learned Men, I fhould probably have incurr'd Cenfur if I had omitted them. Befides, a fecond or third Review may discover their Relation to the Text, which was not fo obviou at first Sight. This has often happened to me in compiling this Work. To affift the Reader herein, I have for the mof Part put fome of the emphatical Words in a different Character And though it should be fuppofed, that fome of the Text might as well have been omitted, yet if these stood before in the Margin of the Bible, this Work will notwithstanding fave them the Trouble of turning to them; and they will be able at first Sight to judge what is, and what is not for their Purpofe, which will, I am perfwaded, be thought no incon fiderable Advantage by thofe who frequently turn to the Re ferences. The new References are thofe for which I am in fome Meafure accountable, because here I have used my own Judg.
The Index at the End of the Second Volume will, in a good Degree, anfwer the Ufe of a Common-Place-Book to the holy Scriptures, there being among the References many Doctrinal and practical Texts cited from the Old Teftament, as well as from the New. To make this the more ufeful, I have fometimes referr'd to Paffages in the Old Teftament, which are not among the References, letting down in the Index the Chapter and Verfe. If the Number of Sheets thefe Volumes confift of, would have allowed it, the Index might have been larger. But this Want may without much Difficulty be fupplied; for those who defire a more compleat Index may interleave this, and in their Reading add fuch other Particulars as they think fit, which will make it more ufeful to them, than one entirely finifl'd by another Hand would be.
How far this Work may be of Ufe to my Reverend Brethren the Clergy, whether it may affift them in recollecting fuch Motives to prevail with their Hearers to practife the Duties which the Gospel enjoins, as the Holy Spirit makes Ufe of in the Scriptures, which confequently are the moft perfwafive
Motives; or whether it may in any other Refpect be serviceable, I leave to be determined by them. But I am not without fome Hope of its being of Service to those who are fitting themselves for Holy Orders, or have been but lately ordained.
Ireadily acknowledge, that my own manifold Defects might jafly have difcouraged me from this Undertaking; and that a Performance of this kind by fome abler Hand would have appeared with greater Advantage; but having been long of Opinion, that fuch a Work would be of Ufe to the World, and having in vain tried to engage fome in it, whom I believed to be better qualified, I was at laft prevailed with to set about it my felf.
One Requeft I have to make to those who fhall think fit to read this Work, That they would fignifie to me what Miftakes they fhall discover therein; whether they were committed by me, or occafioned by my Diftance from the Prefs. It is not unlikely, notwithstanding the Care I have taken, but that in tranfcribing fo many Figures, fome Errors may be committed. Any fuch friendly Notice fhall be thankfully acknowledged by me. But if any fhall think it worth their Time and Pains to appear publickly against this Performance, all the Ufe I fhall make thereof fhall be to correct what upon further Examination I fhall find my felf to have been miftaken in, if there fhall happen to be a future Impreffion, without giving them any Interruption about Matters wherein they may differ from me.
I will add no more, but my Defire to fuch as by ufing this Work fhall find themselves improved in Divine Knowledge, which is by far the (1) most valuable Knowledge, That when
(1) We are not only puzzled by Things without us, but we are Strangers to our own Make and Frame; for tho' we are convinced that we confift of Soul and Body, yet no Man hitherto has fufficiently defcrib'd the Union of these two, or has been able to explain, how Thought fhould move Matter, or how Matter should act upon Thought: Nay, the moft minute Things in Nature, if duly confidered, carry with them the greatest Wonder, and perplex us as much as Things of greater Bulk and Shew. And yet we who know little of the smallest Matters, talk of nothing lefs than New Theories of the World, and vaft Fields of Knowledge, bufying our felves in natural Enquiries, and flattering our felves with wonderful Difcoveries, and mighty Improvements that have been made in humane Learning, a great Part of which is purely imagihary and at the fame Time neglecting the only true, and folid, and