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PRE F A C E.
T has been observed that in controverfies about
timents, have claimed the authority and countenance of scripture for their respective notions. Some on this account have been disposed to fix the charge of inconfiftency upon the facred 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, confeffions of faith, &c. have been multiplied in great abundance, and are in general thought better calculated to guard against herefy, than that book which is appealed to by all heretics. The church of Rome has defervedly been held up to public ridicule, for her pretenfions to infallibility, and for keeping the people in ignorance, by prohibiting the reading of the fcriptures: 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 fcripture wholly kept from our eyes, and fuffering our understanding, judgment, and confcience to be limited by articles, church-authority, &c.? Do not these limitations tend to fhut us up in as grofs darknefs, 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 laft, after many refearches, he had found it out, and holding out a New-teftament, faid 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 faid, you may read the book, but A 2
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its true meaning is prohibited? But what has been the confequence of introducing this method of preventing herefies and fchifms? plainly this (not to fay any thing about extirpation, &c) many have, as it were infenfibly, been led, to make tradition, and church-authority their faith; and have become the dupes of fuperftition, while they have profeffed to be guided by the word of God! Yet fince all fpirits must be tried by the fcriptures-fince all true churchauthority must be founded there-and fince if any man speak not according to the form of found words recorded there, it is because there is no light in him, where can Chriftians appeal but to the fcriptures? The e they are well affured, are able to make them wife unto falvation, through faith in Chrift Jefus. All fcripture is given by infpiration of God, and is pro fitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for inAtruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. The writer of the following pages might tell his reader of his connections with thofe who are reputed orthodox; but as one juftly obferves, "Orthodoxy (like almost all martial terms of controvertifts) is a very vague, equivocal word.-In its original and true import, it fignifies a right belief: but, (fuch 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 thefe Eflays, let it ftand 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 Jefus."-He prefents them to the reader's serious attention fubmiflively and impartially to be tried by the heavenly oracles, in their moft fimple and obvious meaning, comparing fpiritual things with fpiritual things; affuring him, that he wishes them to have no other influence, than what they may have borrowed from thence.-His grand defign is to recommend the difallowed Gofpel as the ONE THING NEEDFUL; as that alone which
can give peace at the laft, and land a finner fafe and happy on the eternal fhore. The glorious gospel, in its primitive fimplicity, freeness and glory, ftands oppofed, on the one hand, to felf-righteoufnefs and felf-dependance in all its forms; and, on the other, to carnal-confidence, worldly-mindedness, and selfindulgence for while it makes ample provifion for the most wretched circumftances, a finner can be in, by laying a fufficient foundation for his hope in the Redeemer's finifhed work; it exhibits the most powerful incentives to true godliness, and makes the keeping of Chrift's commands effential 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 felf-dependance and felf-indulgence) will be much difgufted with what they find in the following pages: and the writer frankly acknowledges that he has not defigned, in a fingle line, to please either of them; but on the contrary has endeavoured to fet forth his fentiments in fuch a light, as to ftand in direct oppolition to their notions of christianity.The doctrines oppofed are mostly stated in the very words of fome who have written in favor of them, but without particularizing with the author's name; the reafon of which is, that perfons or particular parties are not attacked, but errors, let them be found with what perfons or parties fo ever. The fame method has been occafionally obferved, in regard to those who have maintained the doctrines herein ftated; and when the reader is referred to an author's name, it is not with the leaft defign, either to reft the fentiment upon his credit, or screen the writer from cenfure, under covert of another's reputation for though he highly esteems their writings, who have been valiant for the truth, yet if ten thoufand writers, in the highest reputation for orthodoxy, could be produced in confirmation of what is here faid, unless they were prefaced with, Thus faith the Lord, they will
only stand as fo many infignificant cyphers, in the efteem of those who have an ear to hear what the
Spirit faith unto the churches. On the other hand, if the reafoning of thefe Effays be found to accord with the word of truth, it will be a very finall circumftance with difcerning Chriftians, though the wife, the learned, or the feemingly 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 Chriftians fear, though their faith and practice provoke the contempt of nations? Would any ftrange thing happen to them if it should be fo? nay verily, for fo perfecuted they the prophets and apostles, which have gone before them.The writer has nothing to fay in favor of the manner in which this work is executed. He makes no pretenfion to accuracy of language, or refinement of ftyle; but is conscious of many deficiencies in each of these refpects. All he aims at is to convey his meaning, in the moft fimple and intelligible manner If he has made known what he intended, by what he has declared; the fummit 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 fouls of the difciples; the author's labors will be richly rewarded: but if, after comparing what is written with the Bible, that infallible ftandard of truth, any fhould be difpofed to condemn it as heretical; he has no higher court to appeal to. He is perfuaded, in his own mind, that the remarks are grounded upon the evidence of Mofes and the Prophets, Chrift and his Apoftles; but is very willing to allow, what indeed every man has an equal right to, the right of private judgment: and can fay no more than Ifpak as to wife men, JUDGE YE what I fay, and Let EVERY MAN be fully perfuaded in his OWN mind.