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difficulties and uneasiness on my mind increasing, as I became more studied in divinity, and as I improved in experience; this brought me to closer diligence and care to search the scriptures, and more impartially to examine and weigh the arguments of my grandfather, and such other anthors as I could get on his side of the question. By which means, after long searching, pondering, viewing, and reviewing, I gained satisfaction, became fully settled in the opinion I now maintain, as in the discourse here offered to public view; and dared to proceed no further in a practice and administration inconsistent therewith : Which brought me into peculiar circa mstances, laying me under an inevitable necessity publicly to declare and maintain the opinion I was thus established in; as also to do it from the press, and to do it at this time without delay.
It is far from a pleasing circumstance of this publication, that it is against what my honoured grandfather strenuously maintained, both from the polpit and press. I can truly say, on account of this and some other considerations, it is what I engage in with the greatest reluctance that ever I undertook any public service in my life. But the state of things with me is so ordered, by the sovereign disposal of the great Governor of the world, that my doing this appeared to me very necessary and altogether unavoidable. I am conscious, not only is the interest of religion concerned in this affair, but my own reputation, future usefulness, and my very subsistence, all seem to depend on my freely opening and defending myself, as to my principles, and agreeable conduct in my pastoral charge; and on my doing it from the press: In which way alone am I able to state and justify my opinion, to any purpose before the country, (which is full of noise, misrepresentations, and many censures concerning this affair,) or even before my own people, as all would be fully sensible, if they knew the exact state of the case. I have been brought to this necessity in divine providence, by such a situation of affairs and coincidence of circumstances and events, as I choose at present to be silent about; and which it is not needful, nor perhaps expedient, for me to publish to the world.
One thing among others that caused me to go about this business with so much backwardness, was the fear of a bad improvement, some ill-minded people might be ready, at this day, to make of the doctrine here defended; particularly that wild enthusiastical sort of people, who bave of late gone into unjustifiable separations, even renouncing the ministers and churches of the land in general, under pretence of setting up a pure church. It is well known, that I have heretofore publicly remonstrated, both from the pulpit and press, against very many of the notions and practices of this kind of people: and shall be very sorry if what I now offer to the public, should be any occasion of their encouraging or strengthening themselves in those notions and practices. To prevent which, I would now take occasion to declare, I am still of the same mind concerning them that I have formerly manifested. I have the same opinion concerning the religion and inward exporiences chiefly in vogue among them, as I had when I wrote my Treatise on Religious Affections, and when I wrote my Observations and Reflections on Mr. Brainerd's Life. I have no better opinion of their notion of a pure church by means of a spirit of discerning, their censorious outcries against the standing ministers and churches in general, their lay-ordinations, their lay-preachings, and public-exhortings, and administering sacraments; their assuming, self-confident, contentious, uncharitable separating spirit; their going about the country, as sent by the Lord, to make proselytes ; with their many other extravagant and wicked ways. My holding the doctrine that is desended in this discourse, is no argument of any change of my opinion concerning them; for when I wrote those two books before mentioned, I was of the same mind concerning the qualifications of communicants at the Lord's table that I am of now.
However, it is not unlikely, that some will still exclaim against my principles, as being of the same pernicious tendency with those of the separatists. To such I can only by a solemn protestation aver the sincerity of my aims, and the great care I have exercised to avoid whatsoever is erroneous, or might be in any respect mischievous. But as to my success in these my upright aims and endeavours, I must leave it to every reader to judge for himself, after he has carefully perused, and impartially considered the following discourse: which, considering die nature and importance of the subject, I hope all serious readers will accompany with their earnest prayers to the Father of Lights, for his gracious direction and influence. And to Him be glory in the churches by Christ Jesus.
BY HIS AMERICAN FRIENDS.
Though the doctrine here maintained by our dear and reverend brother, was brought over hither by the pious and judicious fathers of this country from the Puritans in England, and held by them and their successors in our churches above threescore years without dissension ; yet some good and learned men have since gone into another way of thinking in this matter. And as the WORD OF GOD is our only rule of judging, and this only can bind the conscience in religion, it must needs concern every man to search the scriptures, that he may come to as satisfying a knowledge as may be, whether he has a right to the Lord's supper, and whether it be his immediate duty to partake of it, or admit of others. And for all that we had hitherto read on this subject, it seemed to us, there wanted further searchings and discoveries.
And though we have not all had opportunity to read the composure following; yet we apprehend the reverend author singularly qualified to manage this important argument, from his great acqnaintance with the scriptures, and diligent application to the study of them, with a special aim to find the mind of Christ and settle his judgment in this particular; both to get more light himself, and communicate the same to others. And we have this peculiar motive to excite attention to what he writes, that he is so far from arguing from the prejudice or influence of education, that being brought up in the contrary way of thinking, and more inclined thereto from a special veneration of his reverend grandfather; yet on carefully searching the sacred volumes, he was obliged to yield to those convictions they produced iu bim, and change his judgment.
The following Treatise contains the substance of those convictions, or the particular reasons of this alteration. And if those who are now in his former way of thinking, would with due seriousness, humility, calmness, diligence, and impartiality, search the Scriptures, apd consider his arguments derived from them, looking up to GOD through Christ, and subjecting their minds entirely to him, they may either see and yield to the same convictions, and find cause to change their judgments also, or will at least continue their fraternal affection to the worthy author, and others in the same sentiments with him.
We heartily pray that the reverend author and his flock may for a long time be happy together; that their cordial love and tenderness to each other may continue and operate in mutual and all lawful condescensions and forbearances under different sentiments in these particulars ; that every one may be open to light, and guard against all prejudice, precipitance, and passion; that they may be very watchful against the devices of Satan to disunite or disaffect them; that they may study the things that make for peace and edification. And the GOD of light, love and peace, will continue with them.
A NARRATIVE of the transactions to which the following Treatise refers, may be read in the account of the Author's Life, which was printed originally at Boston, New England, in 1765, and lately reprinted at Glasgow.* The works of the Author are now very well known in this country. The world, it is apprehended, owe no small obligation to Dr.John ÉRSKINE, one of the ministers of this city, who first introduced them to their acquaintance.
There are very few persons attentive to the subjects on which PRESIDENT EDWARDS has written who will not acknowledge, that he has cast much light upon them. And nothing will prevent Christians from considering the present Treatise as one of the most able and interesting parts of his works, but prejudice and indifference about the subject of it. His own opinion of it may be seen in his preface. It will there appear, if persons should even be inattentive to its internal evidence, that it called forth the complete extent of his abilities, and was the fruit of dependence on the Father of Lights for instruction and preservation from error.
The whole of his works are now reprinted in Britain, excepting only his Defence of this Treatise, against the Objections of Mr. Solomon Williams. If the present performance, which is exceedingly scarce, meets with encouragement, the publisher intends to print it also.
EDINBURGH, May 15, 1790.
* See vol. I, of this Edition,