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THOUGH the following work, as a Syftem of Divinity, has the appearance of being new, yet certainly it proposes no new foundation: for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jefus Chrift:-If we fpeak not according to this word (Chrift) it is because there is no light in us; but if we are led by this light, Jefus Christ, the fame yesterday, to-day and for ever, much darkness is difcovered in our most approved modern fyftems; and it will appear that our master-builders, if any may be called fuch befide the Prophets and Apoftles, have, in a great measure, builded afide from the foundation, and muft therefore fuffer lofs.
It is certain that the work not framed according to the true and only foundation, though the ftudy and labour of ages will not profit men ; and the torch of divine revelation cannot be too foon applied to the vaft pile which fhall fet it all on flame; and though the hand or inftrument to do this must expect to be treated by many as a vile incendiary, yet he will deferve well of the world of mankind; for let the hay, wood and ftubble be consumed, and the light of the divine foundation, and the gold, filver and precious
ftones, builded thereon, will break forth as the lightning, and fhine through the earth.
Many Systems of Divinity, though called Chriftian, bear no character of truth-they do not refpect the foundation in one effential point of view. With these we have no concern-they are not objects of our attention-God will judge them and their authors, and blot their name and remembrance from the city of God: But there are others which do, in fome effential view, regard the glorious foundation; and though greatly faulty, in not observing its full meafure, yet deserve our most serious attention-we are affured they will not wholly fail, though tried by fire; and their authors will be faved in the day of the Lord.
Among thefe, the works founded on the bafis pure benevolence, and unfolding in what are called the Doctrines of Grace, have the preference.A line of truth has been drawn from this divine doctrine, with the demonstration of the fpirit, for which, in the American world, we have been greatly indebted to the labours of Prefident Edwards and Doctor Hopkins. But the works of these divines, the latter efpecially*, being brought forward as whole fyftems, too apparently mistake one character of the divine principle for the whole body of light; confequently the propofed foundation, not being fufficiently broad to support the whole fabrick, a great part of it falls into a pile ;
Prefident Edwards did not offer his works as a system, but by many they have been confidered as fuch, and expressly as having the doctrine of benevolence for their foundation.
and, under examination, the mind becomes oppreffed, and is overwhelmed with the detail of principles and arguments, which clufter every where like the ftars; whereas the true fyftem can afford but one principle and one argument.— Divine benevolence is all important; it can never be too much contemplated or admired-it may be confidered, in the divine fyftem, what the natural light is in the fyftem of nature; but as much as natural light is the glory of the world, any attempt to found the fyftem of nature upon its light, inftead of the combined ftrength of all its elements, would be weak and fruitlefs. These works contain great and precious treasures, and fhould be confidered as excellent tracts of divinity, rather than Lystems.
But this is not the greatest evil attending the error of mistaking a character of the divine principle, for the principle itself; for as benevolence, which is apparently offered as the foundation of these works, is understood to be a moral character, of a mere moral nature, the attempt to found the divine fyftem upon it, has given the whole too much the aspect of a mere moral fyftem-this is an evil of great magnitude. I am, indeed, fenfible that fome divines, who have taken this ground, have also acknowledged, that the divine fyftem is fomething more than moral, and have attempted to fhew it. Mr. Edwards fuppofes that Chrift acted in the world under two or three diftinct laws. Thefe attempts have all been complicated and afide from the general argument, which appears every where of a moral nature, and have therefore made little or no impreffion.
This has long been obferved with great grief by many lovers of Jefus Chrift's righteoufnefs; and the influence of this miftake in diverting the mind from the infinitely glorious fubject of Jefus Chrift and him crucified, to me e moral principles, and the merit or demerit of creature exercises, has been very apparent and alarming. It is not conceived, however, that our theory will oppofe and fupprefs the fpirit and genius of thefe works; on the contrary it will efpouse and support their defign and end, by laying open to view a broader foundation. And if, in this fyftem, lefs attention is paid to the fubject, which, for more than two centuries, under the feveral heads commonly called the Five Points, has chiefly employed the ableft divines; it is not because the fubject is thought to be of finall moment, but for the reafon, that it has been fo generally and fully inveftigated. Being folicitous to honor those works, in vindication of thefe much difputed articles of grace, I repeat it, that they do refpect the true and only foundation, Chrift the 1 ord, in their apparent defign and end; and if we but touch the hem of his garment we fhall receive virtue, and fhall be faved; and fo far our works have glory and praife."
There are many things which relate to the gofpel, and which, indispensably, must be brought forward in connexion with it, which, however, are not the gofpel itfef: Such are the articles referred to bove, and fuch is the chriftian morality.- Jefus Chrift was brought before the Jewish court, and Roman governor, and accufed of many things, to which, as tranfient matters, he made no reply; but
to one accufation he replied, and confeffed the charge; and, upon which, he fuffered upon the crofs; he laid down his own life, for he fuffered upon his own confeffion; which charge and confeffion was this, that he declared himself to be a king, and that, in a future day, upon the ancient throne of Judah and Ifrael, he should reign over and judge the world. And in his reply to this queftion, before Pontius Pilate-Art thou a king “then?" he said, To this end was I born, and for this caufe came I into the world, that I should bear witnefs unto the truth: this matter then of his coming kingdom is the truth, the gospel itfelf; hence our Lord called his doctrine, the word of the kingdom, and the gofpel of the kingdom.
Before the Jewish court, the high priest faid unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Chrift, the Son of God.The Jews understood by the name Chrift, &c. one who was to reign and judge upon the throne of David. To this he immediately answered, for it was his bufinefs in the world, to "bear witness "unto the truth:" Jefus faith unto him,-Thou haft faid; which was his manner of giving his af firmation, as we fhould fay, yes; and he added, "Hereafter" fhall ye fee the Son of Man filling on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven; in which manner, according to the prophets, it was expected that the king of Ifrael would take to himself his great power, and come and reign. -Upon this confeflion, the high priest rent his clothes, faying, He hath spoken blafphemy: what further need have we of witneffes? Behold, now ye