« PreviousContinue »
where we are misrepresented, or misunderstood; and what we do, or do not maintain.
The author, of these Remarks, having, for above thirty-two years, been diligently employed in preparing and publishing works on religious subjects, grounded upon those very principles, which his Lordship has undertaken to refute; could not consider · The Refuta• tion' in any other light, than as tending to sweep away at once the labours of his whole life, by discrediting, or rendering doubtful and uncertain, the grand doctrines, which he has maintained, and endeavoured to improve to practical purposes. This consideration must account for his assuming so arduous and perilous a service, as the present; and may serve to excuse, what might otherwise be deemed presumptuous,
It could not be supposed, that · The Refutation' would be left unanswered by the whole body, whose principles it assails: and, as the author of these Remarks is one of the senior writers of that body; it was not unnatural for him to think, that hoary hairs might be attended with some abatement of that eagerness of spirit, which is unfavourable to the discussion of such subjects, and making remarks on statements, in which there are many things suited to discompose the mind; not to speak of higher sources of meekness, and self-government, which either are or ought to be found in “an old disciple.” In fact he hoped, that God would enable him to defend what, he doubts not, is Christian truth, in a Christian spirit; and without violating the precepts of our holy religion. How far he has succeeded more impartial judges must determine.
Many perhaps may deem it indecorous in him, to stand forth in answering the publication, not only of his superior in the church, but his own Diocesan. As, however, the main substance of · The Refutation,' was first delivered by his Lordship in charges to his own clergy; it must be supposed that he had them especially in view, as far as the evangelical clergy are concerned. All the information, concerning our body, on which he proceeded, must be derived either from our publications, or from report; (as he has not much opportunity of hearing our sermons;) and the author is, as far as he knows, the senior writer of this company, in his Lordship’s diocese. He therefore felt himself peculiarly called upon “ to give “ a reason of the hope that is in him;" and either to retract, or defend, the doctrines maintained in his nume. rous publications. He trusts, however, he has not forgotten, that his remarks are made on his superior and his diocesan; that he has in numerous places spoken as an apologist, where in other circumstances he would have taken a higher ground; and that he has uniformly paid as much respectful deference to the author of The Refutation,' as he could consistently with faithfulness to divine truth, “even to the word of the truth of the gospel.”
It is with unaffected humility, that the author confesses, he has not executed his undertaking, in a manner worthy of so good a cause. It was necessary, that the answer should not be very long delayed: his other engagements are numerous: he has indeed laboured indefatigably; yet as many years almost, as months could be allowed him, would have been necessary to an adequate publication on such multifarious, such difficult, and such infinitely important subjects; even if he had possessed adequate learning and talents. Indeed could he have reserved the whole copy, till the work had been finished, before he gave it to the printer, many inac. curacies, and still more repetitions, might have been prevented; which the memory of an old man could not otherwise exclude. His distance from the printer also has occasioned many little inaccuracies, and some of more importance, which will be noticed, in the Errata; and to which he trusts that the goodness of the reader will specially attend. His distance also from publick libraries, and the scantiness of his own stock of books, have been a considerable impediment to him.He has, however, no doubt of the gracious acceptance, which his feeble attempt will meet with, from his Lord and Master: and he trusts, that the same gracious Lord will incline the hearts of his brethren, whose cause he has attempted to advocate, to give it a favourable
reception, notwithstanding its imperfections; and to unite in prayer with him, that it may be crowned with great and lasting usefulness.
Before he concludes, he would state a few particulars, by keeping which in mind, the reader will be better enabled to understand the argument of some chapters.
In the first chapter his chief object is to prove, that original sin is a total, not a partial, defect, derived from fallen Adam, of all that is spiritually good, or good in the sight of God; though not of all which is naturally good in respect of men: that man is indeed a free agent, in the fullest sense, being under no necessity, or external restraint, or compulsion, whatever: but that the evil dispositions and inclinations of the heart, induce a slavery into the will, rendering it incapable of choosing, what the heart cannot love, even what is good in the sight of God, till liberated from this bondage by the special grace of God in Christ. In outward things man chooses most freely; in evil things he chooses most freely; and in things spiritually good nothing hinders him from doing the same, but a total want of love to them. The special preventing grace of the Holy Spirit, or regeneration, must therefore first produce this love, these desires, this willingness; before there can be any thing to co-operate with his further gracious infuences; according to the doctrine of our ninth and tenth articles. - O God, our Refuge and Strength, who art the * Author of all godliness.'-_ Almighty and everlasting
God, who makest us both to will and do those things · which are good.**
In the second chapter it is his object to prove, that baptism is only the sacramental sign and seal of regeneration; (as circumcision was under the Old Testament;) and not regeneration itself, nor inseparably connected with it: that adults, sincerely professing repentance and faith, are already regenerate; and in baptism receive the sign and " seal of the righteousness of faith, which they “ had yet being unbaptized:” that the event, as to each baptized infant, must determine, whether it was or was
• Col. 23 'after Trinity. Confirmation Service.
not regenerated in baptism: that baptism is not universally and indispensably necessary to salvation; but that regeneration is: and that ungodly and wicked persons, who have been baptized, need regeneration: even as all wicked Israelites needed the circumcision of the heart, and the Jews in our Lord's days needed regeneration.
In the third chapter, it is the author's object to show, that justification before God is wholly of unmerited mercy, in Christ and his righteousness and atonement, and by faith in him alone: that repentance, though always accompanying salvation, has no share in our jus. tification; that good works follow after justification and are the only scriptural evidence of a living and justifying faith, and are for various purposes indispensably necessary, and highly useful; but in no degree conducive to our justification, or to our continuance in a justified state.
The argument in the fourth chapter assumes such various forms that a brief and clear abstract of it cannot easily be stated. In general the author attempts to show, that the doctrines on these subjects, commonly called Calvinistick, are both scriptural, and contained in our articles: but this does not go to provę, that every tenet of Calvin is scriptural,
In the fifth chapter on the quotations from the ancient fathers, the author's principal object is to show, that in very many of the passages adduced, the opposition is not so much to the tenets of Calvinism, as tọ the grand doctrines of our common Christianity; and, except Augustine, almost all, either directly or indi. rectly, introduce Pelagianism, These, therefore, by attempting to prove too much, prove nothing at all.