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to read one of their books, though they should publish a thousand volumes ;--if, continuing to write against them, I had fixed upon them (as “unavoidable” conse. quences) absurd tenets, which have no more necessary connexion with their principles than the doctrine of general redemption has with Calvinian reprobation ; if I had done this, I say, controversy would have wounded my conscience or my reasor: ; and without adding any thing to my light it would have immovably fixed me in ,my prejudices, and perhaps branded me before the world for an Arminian bigot. But, as matters are, I hope I may make the following acknowledgment with out betraying the impertinence of proud boasting.
Although I have often been sorry that controversy should take up so much of the time, which I might with much satisfaetion to myself have employed in devotional exercises :-And although I have lamented, and do still lament my low attainments in the meekness of wisdom,' which should constantly guide the pen of every controversial writer ; yet I rejoice that I have been enabled to persist in my resolution either to wipe off, or to share the reproach of those who have hazarded their reputation in defence of pure and undefiled religion. And, if I am not mistaken, my repeated attempts have been attended with these happy effects. In viadicating the moral doctrines of grace, I hope, that, as a man, I have learned to think more closely, and to investigate truth more ardently than I did before. There are rational powers in the dullest souls, which lie hid as sparks in a Aipt. Controversial opposition and exertion, like the stroke of the steel, have made me accidentally find out some of these latent sparks of reason, for which I should never have thanked my Maker, if I had never discovered them, I have fre, quently been thankful to find that my horse could travel in bad roads better than I expected; nor do I think that it is a piece of Pharisaism to say, I am thankful to find that my mind can travel with more ease than I thought she could, through theological roads revdered almost impassable hy heaps of doctrinal rubbish,
brought from all parts of Christendom, and by briars of contention which have kept growing for above a thousand years.--To return : As a divine, I see more clearly the gaps and stiles, at which mistaken good men have turned out of the narrow way of truth, to the right hand and to the left. As a Protestant, I hope I have much more esteem for the scriptures in general, and in particular for those practical parts of them which the Ca nists had insensibly taught me to overlook or despise. And this increasing esteem is, I trust, accom-, panied with a deeper conviction of the truth of Chris-' tianity, and with a greater readiness to defend the gogpel against Jufidels, Pharisees, and Autinomians. As a Preacher, I hope I can do more justice to a text, by reconciling it with seemingly contrary scriptures. As an Anti-calvinist, I have learned to do the Calvinists justice in granting, that there is an election of distinguishing grace for God's peculiar people, and a particular redemption for all believers who are faithful unto death :-And by that means, as a controvertist, I can more easily excuse pious Calvinists, who, through prejudice, mistake that scriptural election for their Antipomian election ; and who consider that particular redemption as the only redemption mentioned in the scriptures. Nay, I can without scruple allow Mr. Hill, that his doctrines of finished salvation and irresistible grace, are true with respect to all those who die in their infancy. As one who is called an Arminian, I have found out some flaws in Arminianism, and evidenced my impartiality in pointing them out, as well as the flaws of Calvinism. (See the Preface.) As a witness for the truth of the gospel, I hope I have learned to bear reproach from all sorts of people with more undaunted courage. And I humbly trust, that, were I called to seal with my blood the truth of the doctrines of grace and justice against the Pharisees and the Antinomians, I could (divine grace supporting me to the last) do it more rationally, aud of consequence with greater steadiness.-Again, as a follower of Christ, I hope I have learned to disregard my
'dearest friends for 'my heavenly Prophet: Or, to speak the language of our Lord, I hope I have learned to
forsake father, mother, and brothers, for Christ's sake and the gospel's.'—As a disputant, I have learned that solid arguments and plain scriptures make no more impression upon bigotry, than the charmer's voice does upon the deaf adder; and by that mean, I hope, 'I depend less upon the powers of reason, the letter of the scripture, and the candour of professors, than I formerly did.-As a believer, I have been brought to see and feel that the power of the Spirit of Truth, which teaches men to be of one heart and of one mind, and makes them think and speak the same, is at a very low ebb in the religious world; and that the prayer which I ought continually to offer is, O Lord, baptize Christians with the Spirit of Truth and the fire of love. Thy' kingdom come! Bring thy church out of the wilderness of errorand sin, into the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.'-As a member of the Church of England, I have learned to be pleased with our holy Mother for giving us floods of pure morality to wash away the few remaining Calvinian freckles still perceptible upon her face.-As a Christian, I hope I hare learned in some degree to exercise that charity, which teaches us boldly to oppose a dangerous error, without ceasing to houour and love its abettors, so far as they resemble our Lord; and teaches us to use an irony with St. Paul and Jesus Christ, not as an enemy uses a dagger, but as a surgeon uses a lancet or a caustic: And lastly, as a writer, I have learned to feel the truth of Solomon's observation,
Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh; let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man,' and the sum of the Anti-solifidian truth, which I endeavour to vindicate.
I do not say that I have learned any of these lessons as I should have done; but I hope I have learned so much of them as to say, that in these respects my con
troversial toil has not been altogther in vain in the Lord. And now, Reader, let me entreat thee to pray, that if I am spared to rindicate more fully wbat appears to us the scriptural doctrine of grace, I may be so helped by the Father of lights and the God of love, as to speak the pure truth in perfect love, and never more drop a needlessly-severe expression. Some such have escaped me before I was aware. In endeavouring to render my style nervous, I have sometimes inadvertently rendered it provoking. Instead of saying that the doctrines of grace, (so called,) represented God as “ absolutely graceless" towards myriads of reprobated culprits ;" I would now say, that, upon the principles of my opponents, God appears “ devoid of grace" towards those whom he has absolutely “reprobated" from all eternity. The thought is the same, I grant ; but the expressions are less grating and more decent. This propriety of language I labour after, as well as after more meekness of wisdom. The Lord help me aud ny antagonists to keep our garments clean !' Controvertists ought to be clothed with an ardent flaming love for truth, and a candid humble regard for their neighbours. May no root of prejudice stain that flaming love ! no malice rend our seamless garments ! -And, if they are ever ' rolled in blooil,' may it be only in the blood of our common enemies, destructive error, and the man of sin!