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to fend my Lectures into the world under the fanction of your Lordship's patronage; affured, at the fame time, that an attempt, which has for its object to rescue from misrepresentation some important articles of our holy Faith, and to vindicate the great body of the national Clergy from much unmerited aspersion, cannot be so properly inscribed as to one, whose high dignity is accompanied with corresponding exertions for promoting the welfare of our pure and apoftolical Church, and, therein, of genuine Christianity.
Your Lordship's much obliged
and very dutiful Servant,
HAVING in the following Inquiry ventured on a subject, in itself perhaps of an invidious character, I am anxious to avoid all unneceffary occafion of offence; and would therefore bespeak the candour of my readers on two or three particular points.
An enemy to controverfy, as fuch, and efpecially an enemy to the bitterness of controverfy, it has been my earnest desire to abstain from all intemperance of manner and of language. Firmly perfuaded of the truth of thofe doctrines, which I have been defending, I have endeavoured to plead for them with firmness, but without afperity. If I have been occafionally betrayed into an oppofite conduct, and induced to employ expreffions, unworthy of my Chriftian profeffion, I beg that fuch language may be looked upon as never uttered; or at leaft may be regarded with indulgence, as the effect of human weakness, and not of a deliberate intention to offend.
In order to ascertain the sentiments of those, whofe allegations I have undertaken to examine, I have principally had recourfe to the
writings of the Founders of Methodism, and of the most eminent among thofe Minifters of the Establishment, who, like the profeffed Methodists, have been diftinguished (I think unduly) by the appellation of Evangelical or Gofpel Preachers. From the writings of thefe authors, to which have been added, as neceffary to the fame purpofe, fome of the works of Auguftin and of Calvin, my quotations are neither few nor fcanty. In making them, I trust it will appear that I have acted honestly; and that I am not answerable for the guilt of mifrepresenting or perverting the fentiments of others, for the benefit of my own caufe. At the fame time, it may be proper to add, that, as there are probably comprised under the general descriptions of our accufers, many individuals, who do not subscribe to the opinions which their brethren have avowed, I request that my remarks may not be understood to apply to any man, farther than as he efpouses the fentiments of thofe, whose works are particularly noticed.
As to my filence concerning a late publication by a learned Prelate, and the observations to which it has given occafion, it appears respectful to ftate, that the materials of the following Lectures were collected, and indeed the Lectures themselves were nearly completed in their prefent form, before the "Re
futation of Calvinifm" was announced. For the composition of my Difcourfes I had availed myself of a feafon of comparative leisure, which more numerous and preffing parochial engagements have fince prevented from recurring fo that, had it been my wish, it would hardly have been in my power, to devote due attention to the examination of any fresh publications. The truth however is, that it was not my wish to be indebted to fo recent a production; efpecially to one, which, from the exalted station and well-known character of the Author, might be expected to be received into general circulation. Although by earlier works, therefore, I have endeavoured to profit, without fcruple or reserve, (of which I hope that this general acknowledgment will be deemed fufficient, if at any time I have omitted to specify my obligation,) I determined to deny myself the fatisfaction, for the present, of reading the “ Refutation," that I might at once avoid both the temptation, and the fufpicion, of being indebted to it.
Perhaps it may be thought, that I fhould have acted a more prudent part, if I had declined my own attempt, on the appearance of the Bishop of Lincoln's work. Had I been apprised of his Lordship's undertaking at an earlier period, it is most probable that I should never have engaged in mine: or, when I first
became acquainted with that undertaking, had not my Discourses been defigned for a fpecific purpose, and my intention of being a candidate for that particular appointment been declared, the work would then probably have been relinquished. After all, notwithstanding the publication alluded to, if I do not magnify the importance of the Inquiry, in which I have been occupied, I am willing to think that it may not be altogether useless. The course of my subject has led me to notice fome particulars, which can hardly have entered into a "Refutation of Calvinifm:" and even with respect to those, which are common to both inquiries, the more fuperficial examination of the Predeftinarian fyftem, to which my limits and my abilities have confined me, may (by the bleffing of God) be not unprofitable to those, who have not opportunity for studying his Lordship's more elaborate production.
I have only to add, that being defirous of comprising the whole of my observations in the body of the work, instead of throwing any part of them into notes, I found that most of the following Discourses had run to a greater length than was adapted to the pulpit, and therefore shortened them in the delivery.