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TO THE PUBLIC.
THE numerous and valuable writings of Dr. Owen, have long ago, secured his praise in all the churches, as a first-rate writer upon theological subjects. Any recommendation, therefore, of the present work, seems unnecessary. As the Treatise, however, now offered to the public, has long been locked up in a dead language, it may not be improper to say, what will be granted by all competent judges, that the author discovers an uncommon acquaintance with his subject; that he has clearly explained the nature of Divine Justice, and demonstrated it to be, not merely an arbitrary thing, depending upon the sovereign pleasure of the Supreme Lawgiver, but essential to the divine nature. In doing this, he has overthrown the arguments of the Socinians and others against the atonement of Christ, and proved, that a complete satisfaction to the law and justice of God was necessary, in order that sinners might be pardoned, justified, sanctified, and eternally saved, consistently with the honour of all the divine perfections.
Whoever makes himself master of the doctor's reasoning in the following treatise, will be able to answer all the objections and cavils of the enemies of the truth therein contended for. It is therefore, earnestly recommended to the attention, and careful perusal of all, who wish to obtain right ideas of God,
the nature and extent of the divine law, the horrid nature and demerit of sin, &c. but especially to the attention of young divines. The translation upon the whole, is faithful. If it have any fault, it is perhaps its being too literal.
That it may meet with that reception which it justly merits from the public, and which the importance of the subject demands, is the earnest prayer of the servants in the gospel of Christ,
S. STAFFORD, D. D.
PREFACE TO THE READER.
As perhaps, learned reader, you will think it strange, that I, who have such abundance of various and laborious employment of another kind, should think of publishing such a work as this; it may not be improper to lay before you a summary account of the reasons that induced me to this undertaking: and I do it the rather, that this little production may escape free from the injurious suspicions, which the manners of the times are but too apt to affix to works of this kind. It is now four months and upwards, since in the usual course of duty in defending certain theological theses in our university, it fell to my lot, to discourse and dispute on the vindicatory justice of God, and the necessity of its exercise, on the supposition of the existence of sin. Although these observations were directed to the best of my abilities immediately against the Socinians, yet, it being understood that many very respectable theologians entertained sentiments on this subject very different from mine, and although the warmest opposers of what we then maintained were obliged to acknowledge that our arguments are quite decisive against the adversaries, yet there were not wanting some who not altogether agreeing with us, employed themselves in strictures upon our opinion, and accused it of error, while others continued wavering, and in the diversity of opinions, knew not on which to fix. Much controversy ensuing in consequence of this, I agreed with some learned men to enter, both in writings and conversation upon an orderly and deliberate
investigation of the subject. And after the scruples of several had been removed by a more full consideration of our opinion (to effect which, the following considerations chiefly contributed, viz. that they clearly saw this doctrine conduced to the establishment of the necessity of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, a precious truth which these worthy and good men, partakers of the grace and gift of righteousness through means of the blood of Christ, not only warmly favoured, but dearly venerated as the most honourable treasure of the church, the seed of a blessed immortality, and the darling jewel of our religion), I was greatly encouraged in the conferences with these gentlemen to take a deeper view of the subject, and to examine it more closely for the future benefit of mankind.
Besides several of those who had before examined, and were acquainted with our sentiments, or to whom, in consequence of our short discourse in the university on the subject, they began to be more acceptable; and these too considerable both for their number and rank, ceased not to urge me to a more close consideration and accurate review of the controversy. For in that public dissertation, it being confined, according to the general custom of such exercises in universities, within the narrow limits of an hour, I could only slightly touch on the nature of . vindicatory justice; whereas the rules and limits of such exercises would not permit me to enter on the chief point, the great hinge of the controversy, viz. concerning the necessary exercise of that justice: this is the difficulty that requires the abilities of the most judicious and acute to investigate and solve. In this situation of matters, not only a more full view of the whole state of the controversy, but likewise of the weight of those arguments on which the truth of that