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lieves his Book to be, than as a demand upon all others, to receive and acknowledge it as such. Yet, since a love of truth, and a desire for its prevalence, should make us anxious to throw no obstacle, of any kind, in the way of its acceptance, I have thought it better to dismiss my original title, and to leave the sentiments, on the important subjects discussed, with nothing which even a single reader might construe into a presumptuous prejudication of their claims, to the free examination, and candid judgment, of my fellow-christians.
I have endeavoured to make my appeal exclusively to the Holy Scriptures. In doing this, however, I have not, on all occasions, merely quoted them. I have reasoned upon them. But my reasonings, I trust it will be found, are all directed to one or other of two ends ; to the elucidation and establishment of
: their true meaning, or to the deduction from them of those conclusions to which they legitimately lead. No judicious reader will put these discussions aside, under the disparaging designation of human reasonings; those reasonings which justly merit this title
error, it is
being such only as, instead of resting their decisions simply upon the sacred word, lead the mind away
from it, and would found divine truth on the authority of human wisdom. I think I can say, with a clear conscience, that I have not written a sentence of the following Treatises, under the influence of any other principle, than either a sincere conviction of truth, or an earnest desire to find it. If any one shall convict me of
wish to have my mind kept open to the conviction :—for nothing should be so dear to us as truth,—and we should welcome, as an angel of light, whosoever brings it; there being no one thing, for which we ought to be more truly grateful, than the displacing from our minds of what is wrong, and the introduction of what is right in its room.
“ If any one were required, without premeditation," says the eloquent author of the Natural History of Enthusiasm,“ to give a reply to the question, What “is the most prominent circumstance in the present “ state of the Christian Church-he would, if suffi“ciently informed on the subject, almost certainly
answer— The honour done to the Scriptures.'”.
Among other indications of this favourable characteristic of the present age, he subsequently mentions, “the prevalence of an improved method of
exposition, attended by an increasing disposition to “ bow to the Bible, as the only arbiter in matters of
religion :”—and in another place, in still stronger terms, he says,—“Happily, in the age in which we live, “ if there be not, on all hands, a perfect simplicity of “ deference to the Bible, there is a nearer approach “to it than has perhaps ever existed defusedly through " the church since the days of the Apostles: and “happily also, there are strong indications of an in
creasing deference to the only standard of truth and “morals.—This, by eminence, is the bright omen of “ the times.”—Every true friend of the Bible must hail
omen of the times” with pleasure, and rejoice in anticipating its future results. The multitude of controversies at this moment afloat in the Christian community may seem, indeed, at first view, to afford no very inviting or promising exemplification of these results. But the introduction of a principle in itself good, may, for a season, by the operation of other con
comitant causes, be productive of consequences such as cannot but be owned pernicious, while ultimately, by the settled sobriety and steadiness of its application, it may work out the most salutary effects. I cannot but cherish the assurance, that, however lamentable the temporary evils resulting from controversial discussion, it will ultimately, by the very excitement of thought and of inquiry, be the means of leading, in many minds, to clearer and more accurate conceptions on various points of divine truth. I would not be considered as having reference to any one disputed point in particular, but in general to the strange, and, in some parts of it, distressing medley of controversy at present existing, when I observe, that even the novelty of the principle may, to a certain extent, naturally account for such temporary evils. Minds that
may have long been held in the fetters of human authority, or have reposed their easy faith on the “ velvet cushions” of systems and confessions, are very apt, when roused and emancipated, to use their newly found liberty with too little discretion ; to adopt views hastily; to spring rapidly from one thing to another ;
to be flighty and volatile ; as if they had a kind of satisfaction in showing off their conscious freedom. Such minds, moreover, are in danger of getting selfsufficient, and “ wise in their own conceits :" and of this attribute of mind it is the proverbial characteristic, to be hasty of decision, and impatient of inquiry,
“ Fling at your head conviction in the lump,
-But the principle of appealing, on all questions of religious truth, directly to the divine Standard, is, in its own nature, self-evidently good ; and, let it but be universally adopted, and, under the influence of a growing knowledge, the result of more extensive and mature investigation, a knowledge that humbles as it advances ; let it be soberly and steadily applied, in equal freedom from the volatile caprice of novelty and from the intimidating restraints of prejudice; it cannot then fail to be eminently advantageous, both in eliciting truth, and in promoting Christian union. The principles of free trade are admitted to be in themselves good, though, on their first introduction by any country,