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Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John viii. 32.
.. 1 Tim. iv. 8.
PERHAPS the Public may expe&t to be acquainted with the reasons which led to the publication of the following Discourses; especially as the Author belongs to a small and obscure body of Christians, whose
professed principles are but ill adapted to the refined taste, and boasted liberality of sentiment, of modern times. The Public may be assured that, to acquire celebrity as an Author, or to gain respectability for the body with which he is connected, did not induce the writer to usher these Discourses into the world. He is consci. ous that his talents forbid him to entertain any such hopes. He has often heard the illiberal insinuation, 6: That his religious connections seemed to be in their element only when wrangling in the field of controversy, while the interest of practical religion was overlooked.” He wishes to show that this charge is ill-founded. On account of the circumstances of the Church and the dispersed state of their congregations, the ministers have hitherto been almost in a state of itinerancy, and their time has been so much engrossed by their stated labours, as to put it out of their power to become Authors. It is true their writings have been mostly of that description; but when they consider themselves as set for the defence of the gospel, they have appeared in the field of controversy only when the truth which they professed to hold, was attacked. Controversy is not the collision of men's passions, though it must be confessed that too much of this often appears in pole. mical writers, but a cool and deliberate investigation of truth, discriminating it from error, and defending it
against the attacks of its adversaries. To do so is certainly laudable. But there is now no article of the Christian faith which is not violently attacked, which certainly calls upon its friends to appear in its defence. The charity of the present age is as friendly to error as to truth, and such as oppose and condemn the former, or attempt to point out its pernicious tendency, are accounted illiberal and bigotted. In the ensuing Discourses the Author has avoided controversy as much as possible, though he often found it necessary to obviate objections against what he considered as truth. He is, however, still aware that he will not be thought sufficiently liberal: but of this he makes no account. His object is not to please men but by commending the truth.
Though the present age boasts of having discarded bigotry and fanaticism, and though it makes the highest pretensions to enlightened reason, liberty, and free enquiry, yet it is undeniable, that violent attacks are made upon revealed truth, and that, though the form of godliness is pretty general, the power of it is sensibly declining. The progress of Deisin, of Unitarian, Ar. minian, and Baxterian errors is alarming; while the ani. mosities and schisms which prevail in the Church, indi, cate a growing deviation from truth, and a decline in the life of religion. At such a crisis the friends of truth ought not to relax their exertions, nor shrink from the danger. This consideration induced the Author to appear in this public manner. That the cause of truth and religion has been much more ably defénd. ed by many others, he readily admits, and confesses that he has profited by their labours. Nevertheless he hopes he shall not deserve censure, for exerting his inferior ability in supporting the same cause. Every soldier in the line is called to defend his country in the hour of danger, though he may be much inferior to many of his fellows, both in strength and discipline. Mean time he is not without fear lest the cause of truth should suffer from the feeble and imperfect manner in which he has treated it.
The truths which are stated and defended in these sheets he believes to be the doctrines of divine revela, tion, and of the last importance to the eternal interests of mankind: on the faith of them he ventures the sala vation of his own soul, and would seriously recommend them to the faith of others, though the manner in which they are discussed may not meet their approbation. They are the doctrines of the Reformed Church of Scotland, which the Author has pledged himself.to teach and defend, not because they contain the Creed of the Church, but because he believes them to be Scriptural. Nor has he as yet seen any reason to relinquish them. If, in any instance, however, his sentiments do not accord with the sacred Oracles, they are only his own personal mistakes, and do not attach to his religious connections.
He is aware that the method in which these subjects are treated, and the dress in which they appear, are not according to the rules of modern taste. He makes no pretensions to refinement, and embellishment; besides he rather suspects that elegant composition, and rhetorical flourishes, though they may move the passions, and gratify a refined taste, rather tend to obstruct than facilitate the improvement of the judgment, especially of such audiences as he is accustomed to address. If the sentiments can be readily collected, and if the lan. guage is not disgusting, he will neither solicic nor deprecate criticism. If any shall think he has had too much recourse to distinctions, he can only say that he has never done so but when it had a tendency to convey a more accurate knowledge of the truth. Inattention to this is the cause of those inaccurate and confus. ed conceptions of truth so very prevalent among the vulgar.
To some the inferences will perhaps appear, at least in some of the Discourses, too numerous, and too minute. It ought to be considered that truth is not re. vealed as a matter of mere abstract speculation. It has a special relation to the heart, the conscience, and the life of the Christian. The illumination of the mind is