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We may not indulge our own Conceits in Matters of Revelation. Every Point advanced as Christian Doctrine, ought to be found in Scripture, and explained by Scriprure, strictly regarding the Principles there taught, and the established Sense of Phrases there uled. And it is the Delign of this Essay, setting aside all human Schemes, and my own Imagination, to give you the true Scheme of Christianity, collected immediately from that puré Fountain, carefully comparing one Part with another ; that your Faith, Hope, and Joy may stand, not upon the Wisdom of Miin, but upon the firm and immoveable Foun. dation of the Word of God.
I can truly say, I have taken great Care to go every where upon good and fure Grounds. I have not affected Novelty, nor inderted any one single Sentiinent, merely becaule new and plausible; but because I an perfuaded it is the true and real, or the most probable Sense, of Revelation.
And yet I think it my Duty to advise you, to read what I have writ with proper Caution ; fór after all the Care and Pains I have taken to lee and Thew the Truth, I dare not pretend to be free from all Mirtakes. The Apostles were inspired, and infallible Writers, but we are None of us either inspired, or infallible Interpreters. Nor is it necessary we should. In the Works of Creation, God has so clearly shewn his eternal Godhead, Wisdom, Goodness, and Power, that they, who do not fee and acknowledge them, are inexcusable ; and many able and ingenious Hands have been well and successfully employed in searching into, and explaining the various Appearances and Productions in the Natural World. But who ever pretended to penetrate into all the Receffes of Nature, or to give a perfect unerring Account of all her Appearances ? Even so, the Holy Scriptures do give us such a true, clear, and full Account of the Divine Dispensations, and of the Way to eternal life, that every one, who is willing to understand, may very clearly and certainly fee what is fufficient to guide hiin to Salvation. And it is the Duty of such as have Knowledge and Learning, to dig in those facred Mines; and to endeavour, as they are able, to bring into clearer Light the rich Treasures which may have been hidden through the Ignorance, Error, and Superstition of foregoing Ages. And several worthy and learned Pens have been bappily employed in this useful and necelláry Work. But who will presume to say, he has in every Instance brought forth the pure and precious Metal, without any Mixture of Dross? The Pretences of the Church of Rome to Infallibility, are proved by their own different Sects and Sentinents, and by many of their Tenets, which are either without any Ground in Scripture, or directly contrary to it, to be manifestly falle and arrogant. "Nor is the Perfe&tion of Knowledge, or Infallibility of sentiment, needful to our Salvation. For while we every one of us seriously endeavour to find the Truth, and to be governed by it, whatever the Quantity of Knowledge, or Certainty of Persuasion be, to which we attain, we do all that is in our Power, and all that God requires of us ; nor can we be deftitute of that Faith, which is necefiary to Salvation. So far as we truly follow the Scriptures, we are infallibly sure we are in the Right : And so far as we honestly and finierdiy endeavour to follow them, we are infallibly U 4
fure of God's acceptance. But none of us have dominion over the faith of our fellow-christians and servants; for must any one pretend to set up for mafter in Chrift's school. Christ alone is our Master and Lord; and we ought not, as indeed, juftly, we cannot, substitute any suppoled infallible guide in his place.
I only profess, to point at the light shining in revelation. It is to that light, and not to me, you are to turn your eyes. Indeed, I am persuaded, that in the principal parts and general scheme of the gospel, I am not mistaken. However, it is incumbent upon you, not implicitly to swallow every thing I advance; but to examine carefully, whether it be well grounded upon the word of God.
I have endeavoured to make every thing cary and intelligible. But he, who has been much in perusing the apoftolic writings, is best prepared to apprehend what is here advanced. And when a person has digested, and made familiar, the phrases and sentiments here explained, he will reap but little fruit, if he doth not immediately apply himself to reading the Acts and Epistles. To give a clear underftanding of them, in particular, is the design of what is here offered ; and there. fore the careful reading of them, should fucceed the perufal of this
. And if both were read alternately, first the one, and then the other, I am persuaded such an exercise would turn to good account. But a person little versed in the apoftolic writings, can be no competent judge of wliat I have done; and he, who doth not apply what he here learns, to his aslistance in ftudying them, will receive leis benefit from it.
Above all, we should remember; that a vain wordly, sensual mind is in no condition to see, or relish the truth as it is in Jesus: por can any explications force' knowledge upon those that are not willing to understand. The love of truth, purity of mind, and patient application, are necessary on your part; and I am persuaded wil render the principal things plain, and give you the pleasure of seeing the truth clearly in several points, hitherto reckoned very dark and abitruse.
You will not, inderd, be able to form a compicat judgment upon some of the criticisins. Yet you should not therefore forbear to read them; because you will meet with several ureful obfervations; which lie within the reach of such as are not acquainted with the learned languages.
li ihould never be forgot, that to fpend one's time even in commenting and speculating upon the Sacred Writings, if we do not imbibe the principles ihey teachi, lay thein to heart, and reduce them to praco tice, amounts to no more, than diverting one's felf with any comun amusement. St. Paul was ravilhed with the charms of the gospei; he felt its power and efficacy upon bis own heart; it railed hiin, in the brightest views of glory, honour and intortality, far above ail carthly things. Anul we then understand the gospel to purpose, when in the fame manner it works upon every spring of action with
It is your honour and happiness, that you have always been a peaceable people. You icorn to pradilc the unchristian methods of
fome, who, to support a favourite sentiment, foment heats, animofi. ties, and divisions, and discourage men of probity and learning. You allow your ministers to read the Bible, and to speak what they find there. You profess universal charity and good-will to all your brethren in Christ, and to all mankind. These are noble principles; and I hope you will never relinquish them. Give your Catholicism its proper worth, by improving in sound knowledge ; and guard it with resolution. Reject all flavish, narrow principles with disdain. Neither list yourselves, nor be prest into the service of any fect or party whatsoever. Be only Christians; and follow only God and truth.
You know, your congregation stands upon no other ground, but that Catholic one, which the apostle, in his epistle to the Romans, afferts, and demonstrates, to be the only, and the sufficient foundation of a right to a place in the church and kingdom of God, Faith in Jesus Christ. You may rest fully satisfied that you are a true church, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, whereof Christ Jesus is the chief corner stone. And you have, therefore, the best reason in the world for adhering steadily to the cause you have espoused, the cause of Christian Liberty, which at once fettles your profession upon an infallible bottom, rejects all human impositions, and at the same time comprehends, and cordially receives, all who are of the faith of the Son of God,
I hope I need not warn you against Popery, that monstrous and most audacious corruption of the purest and brightest ditpensation of Religion. Romish agents are busy amongit us, deluding, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, the weak and ignorant, who do not fee the fallhood of their affertions, presuinptuoully backed with the ter'tor of eternal damnation. This astonishing apostacy is 'plainly foretold, 2 Thef. ii. 1-12. 1 Tim, iv. 1.-5. also in the prophet Daniel, and at large in the Revelation. And this idolatrous church, the mother of harlots, we know, hall be “ consumed by the spirit of the mouth of the Lord, and destroyed by the brightness of his coming." And his 'voice to us, in the mean time, is, “ Come out of her, iny people, that ye be not partakers of her fins, and that ye receive not of her plagues,"
But you are not without danger from another quarter. Some, and not a few in our land, with unnatural eagerners and pleasure, fet themselves openly to disparage and disprove the Christian Revelation. But where thall we find eternal life, but in that revelation ? Will it be said, that the light of nature discovers it? That light doth discover, indeed, to thole that attend to it, a future world : But doth it dila cover immortality, or eternal life? By no means. Doth it Ihew how we shall reach immortality? It may be faid, in the practice of virtue. But who can say, he hath performed a virtue, that, in the estimate of his own reafon, will entitie him to it? Who can pretend to have so be
as to deserve any one blessing from God's hands? Is it not evident, that the best virtue, any man performs, needs the relief of grace and mercy? And where is that grace and mercy revealed, but
Rev. xviii. 4
in the gospel? The gospel alone discovers and insures immortality; or reveals the grace which expressly gives it, the ground upon which this grace Rands, the end for which it is given, and the means by which we may obtain it. And can the full persuasion and view of immortal honour and glory be esteemed a trifle ! A little light dust, to be blown away with every blaft of ignorant and prophane breath? The gospel is good news from Heaven; pardon and eternal life promised to a sinful world. And can any be fo infatuated as to with its heavenly light and hopes at once extinguished, and the darkness of Paganilin restored among the nations ? Doth not nature itself teach us to be thankful for superior blessings, and to turn our eyes to the brightest views and clearest prospects of happiness? If the Univerfal Father is pleased to beitow upon us singular favours, is it not molt unnatural and wicked to despise and reject them? Such is the glory and excellence, such the delightful prospects of the gospel, that, inAtead of cavilling and opposing, methinks the proper and only concern of every mind 1hould be to seek out evidence, and all possible means to establish its truth.
Value the Word of God as your richest treasure, and the only fund of true and perfect religious knowledge, comfort, and joy. Read it over diligently, and treature it up in your minds, as a rule of life ; then you will experience its power and excellency. Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together ; with readiness of mind embrace any opportunity of joining a society which worships God in spirit and truth, as part of his family, as the heirs of the grace of life, in hope of being joined in a litile time to the blessed society of the angels above
. Live in love and goodness to all men, and especially to one another. Be instant, and fervent in prayer ; make conscience of family and closet devotion. Keep your hearts and views above this world, daily lock, and prepare for, the coming of our Lord. And that
And that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve those things which are excellent ; that ye may be fincere and without offence till the day of Chrisi, being filled with the fruits of righteousnes, which are by Jesus Chrift, unto the glory and praise of Gods is the unfeigned wish of your faithful servant for the lake of Jesus,
ESSAY to explain the Gospel SCHÉMÉ, and the
Principal Words and Phrases the Apostles. have used
C H A P.
The Original and Nature of the Jewish Conflitution of Religion.
VOD, the Father of the universe, who has exercised his bound.
J less wisdom, power and goodness in producing various beings of different capacities; who created the earth, and appointed divers climates, soils and situations in it, hath from the beginning of the world introduced feveral schemes and dispensations, for promoting the virtue and happiness of his rational creatures, for curing their corruption, and preserving among them the knowledge and worship of himself, the true God, the possessor of all being, and the fountain
of all good (*).
(*) We do not know how God can exercise his perfe&tions towards his Creatures, when he has brought them into being, otherwise, than in placing