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insomuch that one need not scruple to affirm, that the certain knowledge of this single point, What was the precise view of the Apostle in writing any Epistle ; would be a better clue to the understanding of that Epistle, than many volumes of Commentators. At this distance of time, the only way of coming, with any tolerable degree of certainty, at such a clue, is, from an accurate observation of the force and bearing of the several arguments made use of in any Epistle, to ascertain, so far as we may be able, the Apostle's main design in writing it.—To do this for the Epistle to the Romans, is the immediate object of the following Synopsis; with the further hope and view, however, of contributing, by that means, to a right interpretation of the Epistle itself, and of the three important doctrines before mentioned.
How far, and in what respects, the statement here given of the Apostle's argument,
differs from the representations of former Commentators, it does not appear necessary to specify. Thus much, however, the Author thinks it proper to say, that if in any one of his predecessors, he could have found such a precise statement of the Apostle's subject, as would have comprehended the joint effect of the several arguments in the first eleven chapters ; he certainly would never have thought of troubling the Public with the following sheets. He will add further, (which, to the intelligent Reader, will discriminate his system from the most noted of those that have gone before,) that if the following Synopsis of the Apostle's argument, and the interpretation to which it leads, should be established; the results, as to the three doctrines above mentioned, will be as follows :
1. JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH will appear to be intended by St. Paul of our BAPTISMAL JUSTIFICATION; or of the remission of sins,
and admission to God's favour, which are granted to the convert at his baptism; and which are on all hands agreed to be BY FAITH ONLY, without any regard whatever to any preceding merit, or demerit, of WORKS.
2. THE doctrine of ORIGINAL SIN will be established, not only as to the “fault and corruption" of our nature; but also as to the state of guilt and condemnation into which all mankind were brought by the offence of Adam.
3. PREDESTINATION will appear to be ; not, as Calvin's system makes it, a decree, most revolting to our conceptions of the Divine attributes, selecting a few to certainty of salvation, and consigning the great majority to certainty of damnation; without any regard to any foreseen merits or demerits of the elect, or of the reprobate; but, that most signally gracious purpose of God's unspeakable mercy, by which, in the counsels of eternity, he decreed to gather together in one all things in Christ; and to admit the Gentiles, together with the Jews, to be heirs, through faith, of the hope of everlasting glory.
WHERE the matter is of such high and contested nature, it is peculiarly fitting, that the Author should submit himself, with all deference, to the judgment of the learned. If, in the general opinion of competent and impartial judges, he shall be deemed to have contributed somewhat toward a genuine interpretation of the doctrines of Holy Scripture, and by that means to the gradual extermination of error; he will have abundant cause to rejoice in his labours; and to give praise and glory to the Father of lights, from whom alone cometh every good and every perfect gift.
It being manifestly impossible to judge of the correspondence of the Synopsis with the real argument of the Apostle, without an immediate comparison of the two; the Reader is requested to go through the Synopsis, with the Epistle (if possible in the Greek) in his hand.
With respect to the three Sermons, it may not be improper to advertise the Reader, that
THE FIRST was preached at Thirsk, at the Visitation of the Right Worshipful CHARLES BAILLIE HAMILTON, A.M. Archdeacon of Cleveland, in June, 1815, and published the same year; and that it is now reprinted with some improvement of argument, but no change whatever in doctrine :
THE SECOND was preached at Malton, at the Visitation of the Most Reverend the Lord