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To the TRUE PROTESTANTS In Great Britain and Ireland.
Containing fome remarks upon the diftinguishing character of true Proteftants, and upon the contrary difpofition.True Proteftants are chosen judges of the Doctrines advanced in this book.-A Sketch of the Author's Plan.Obfervations upon the manner in which it is executed. -General directions to the Reader.—True Proteftants are encouraged to protest against religious abfurdities, and unfcriptural impofitions: The Author enters a double protest against the ANTINOMIAN and PHARISAIC gofpels of the day-and continues to express his love and efteem for the good men, who, thro' the force of preju dice, efpouse and defend those partial gospels.
BRETHREN AND FATHERS,
E know how hard the Romanifts fought for their errors at the time of the reformation. They pleaded, that antiquity, fynods, councils, Fathers, canons, tradition, and the church were on their fide: And they fo obfcured the truth by urging feripturemetaphors, and by quoting unguarded paffages from the writings of the Fathers, that thoufands of fimple fouls knew not which of the contending parties had the Truth on its fide. The great question debated in thofe days was, whether the host, that is, the bread confecrated by the priest in the Lords fupper, was to be worshipped as the identical body of our Lord. The Romanists produced Chrift's own words, Take and eat, THIS is MY body:-THIS is My blood; drink of it
Except you eat my flesh and drink My blood, ye have no life in you. The Reformers answered that, thofe ex preffions being figurative, it was abfurd to take them in a literal fenfe; and they proved their affertion by appeals to reafon, and to the fcriptures, where the confecrated bread is plainly called bread. The Romanists replied, that in matters of faith we must fet aside reason: And fome of them actually decried it as the greatest enemy to faith; while others continued to produce crude quotations from all the injudicious, inconfiftent, over-doing Fathers. The Reformers feeing that, at this rate, there would be no end of the controverfy, protefied three things in general: (1) That right reafon has an important place in matters of faith: (2) That all matters of faith may, and must be decided by fcripture understood reasonably, and confiftently with the context: And (3) That antiquity and Fathers, traditions and councils, canons and the church, lofe their authority, when they depart from fober reason and plain fcripture. Thefe three general protefts are the very ground of our religion, when it is contradiftinguished from popery. They who stand to them deferve, in my humble opinion, the title of true Proteftants; They are at least the only perfons, to whom this epiftle is inscribed.
If the preceding account is juft, true Proteftants are all candid; chriftian candor being nothing but a readinefs to hear right Reason and plain Scripture. Sincerely defirous to prove all things, to hold fast that. which is good, and to approve things which are excellent, Proteftants are then never afraid to bring their creed to a reasonable and fcriptural test. Aud, confcious that the mines of natural and revealed religion are not yet: exhaufted, they think with the apostle, that if any man fuppofes, he has learned all that he fhould know, he is vainly puffed up in his fleshly mind, and knows nothing, yet as he ought to know.
Hence it is, that of all the tempers which true Proteftants abhor, none feems to them more detestable: than that of those gnofticks-thofe pretenders to fuperior illumination, who under the common pretence
of orthodoxy or infallibility, fhut their eyes against the light, think plain fcripture beneath their notice, enter their protest against reason, steel their breafts against conviction, and are so rooted in blind obftinacy, that they had rather hug Error in an old fantastic dress, than embrace the naked Truth, newly emerging from under the streams of prejudice:-impetuous ftreams thefe, which the dragon cafts out of his mouth, that he may cause the celeftial virgin to be carried away by the food, Rev. xii. 15. Alas! how many profeffors are there, who like St. Stephen's opponents, judges, and executioners, are neither able to refift, nor willing to admit the truth; who make their defence by flopping their ears, and crying out, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we; who thruft the fuppofed heretic out of their fanhedrim; who from the prefs, the pul pit, or the dictator's chair, fend vollies of hard infinuations or foft affertions, in hope that they will pafs for folid arguments; and who, when they have no more ftones or fnow-balls to throw at the fuppofed Philiftine, prudently avoid drawing the word of the Spirit, retire behind the walls of their fancy'd orthodoxy, raise a rampart of flanderous contempt against the truth that befieges them, and obftinately refufe either candidly to give up, or manfully to contend for, the unfcriptural tenets which they will impose upon others as pure gofpel.
Whether fome of my opponents, good men as they are, have not inclined a little to the error of those fons of prejudice, I leave the candid reader to decide. They have neither answered, nor yielded to the argument of my Checks. They are fhut up in their own city. Strong and high are thy walls, O myftical Jericho thy battlements reach unto the clouds; but truth, the fpiritual ark of God, is stronger, and shall prevail. The bearing of it patiently around thy ramparts, and the blowing of rams horns in the name of the Lord, will yet shake the very foundation of thy towers. O that I had the honour of fuccessfully mixing my feeble voice with the blafts of the champions
who encompass the devoted city! O that the irresistible fhout, Reafon and Scripture. -Chrift and the Truth, was univerfal! If this were the cafe, how foon would Jericho and Babylon-antinomianifm, and pharifaifm, fall together!
Those two antichristian fortreffes are equally attacked in the following pages; and to you, true protestants, I fubmit the infpection of the attack. Direct me where I am wrong, affist me where I am right, nor retufe to support my feebleness by your ardent prayers; for, next to the captain of our falvation, I look to you for help and comfort.
My opponents and I equally pretend to proteftantifm, and who fhall judge between us? Shall it be the men of the world? No: for St. Paul fays, I speak to your hame Is it fo, that there is not a WISE MAN among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge among his brethren ?-There are wife men in our deipifed camp, able to judge between us; and ye are the men, honoured brethren; for ye are all willing to hear reafon, and ready to weigh fcripture: Therefore, on my part, I. fincerely chute you as judges of the prefent difpute.
And that you may not look upon this office as unworthy of your acceptance, permit me to tell you, that: our controverfy is one of the most important which was ever fet on foot. To convince you of it, I need only remind you, that the GRAND enquiry, What fball I do to be faved? is entirely fufpended on this GREATER question, Have I any thing TO DO, to be etcrnally faved? A question this, which admits of three anfwers: (1) That of the mere Solifidian, who says, if we are elect, we have nothing to do in order to eternal falvation, unless it be to believe that Chrift has. done all for us, and then to fing finished Jaivation: and if we are not elect, whether we do nothing, little, or much, eternal ruin is our inevitable portion.- (2) That of the mere Moralift, who is as great a stranger to the doctrine of free-grace, as to that of free-wrath ; and tells you, that there is no free, initial falvation for us; and that we must work ourselves into a state
of initial falvation by dint of care, diligence, and faithfulness. And (3) that of their reconciler whom I confider as a rational bible-christian, and who afferts: (1) That Christ has done the part of a facrificing priest and teaching prophet upon earth, and does ftill that of an interceding and royal prieft in heaven, whence he fends his holy Spirit to act as an enlightener, fanctifier, comforter, and helper in our hearts:(2) That the free gift of initial falvation, and of one or more talents of faving grace, is come upon all thro' the God-man Chrift, who is the Saviour of all men, efpecially of them that believe: And (3) that our freewill affifted by that faving grace imparted to us in the free gift, is enabled to work with God in a fubordirate manner: So that we may freely [without neceffity] do the part of penitent, obedient, and perfevering believers, according to the gofpel-difpenfation we are under.
This is the plan of this work, in which I equally fight pro aris et focis, for faith and works, for gratuitous mercy and impartial justice; reconciling all along Christ our Saviour with Chrift our Judge, heated Auguftin with heated Pelagius, free-grace with freewill, divine goodness with human obedience, the faithfulness of God's promifes with the veracity of his threatnings, firft with fecond caufes, the original merits of Chrift with the derived worthiness of his members, and God's foreknowledge with our freeagency.
The plan, I think, is generous; standing at the utmost distance from the extremes of bigots: It is deep and extenfive; taking in the most interesting subjects, about which profeffors generally divide, fuch as the origin of evil, liberty and neceffity, the law of Mofes and the gofpel of Chrift, general and particular redemption, the apoftacy and perfeverance of the faints, the election and reprobation maintained by St. Paul, &c.—I entirely reft the caufe upon proteftant-ground, that is, upon Reafon and Scripture. Nevertheless, to fhow our antagonists that we are not afraid to meet