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IT is long since the writer of the following pages first felt a conviction of the importance of divine truth, and that every thing ought to be sacrificed to the discovery and promotion of it. For years he has felt the persuasion that unless a man can make up his mind to part with his ease, reputation, friends, worldly advantage, and even life itself, should the cause of truth call for such painful sacrifices, he is not fully qualified to act the part of a faithful minister of Jesus Christ. He has long been accustomed to encounter obloquy, the loss of valued friends, and many temporal disadvantages, for the sake of a good conscience; still he rejoices in having followed the convictions of his own mind: and is prepared to meet with firmness any reproach or inconvenience to which the publication of this work may subject him. He wishes his readers to be apprised that, if they adopt and profess the sentiments inculcated by him, they ought to prepare themselves patiently to endure reproach and painful treatment from reputed orthodox christians of the present day.
Those who cannot bear to be suspected of heretical pravity, who have not courage to meet the frowns, and bear the reproaches, of those assuming men who monopolize to themselves the title of orthodox and evangelical, had better at once lay aside the use of reason in matters of religion, that they may move on in sectarian trammels without any troublesome convictions; for if they once begin to bring every religious opinion to the scrutiny of reason, it is highly probable, they will soon become dissatisfied with some part of their creed, and be suspected by their brethren of heresy: yet they should remember that, so far as they sacrifice their rea son to the dogmas of a party, they degrade themselves in the scale of being, and act unworthy the character of sincere lovers of truth, of the followers of Jesus, who sacrificed his life in the cause of truth, in opposition to the reputed Orthodoxy of the men of his age. Far more honorable and advantageous will it be found to have truth with reproach, &c. than to slumber on in error, with ignoble ease, amidst the caresses of our religious friends and connexions.
THE DESIGN OF THE FOLLOWING WORK.
IN writing and publishing this work the following ends are proposed.
1. To attempt the removal of those dismal shades which were drawn over the all glorious character of the Father of mercies during the dark ages of superstition, so far as they remain to the present day: in particular that foul stain which the modern notion of atonement fixes upon it, by the supposition that he saves sinners, not of his pure goodness and mercy simply, but because he hath been bought off from the execution of his vengeance, by the expiatory sufferings of an innocent person, against whom all the fierceness of his wrath was directed, and who endured the whole weight of his displeasure.
2. To vindicate the justice of God from the calumnious charge of being a principle of revenge, or mere retaliation, a principle in which not the least degree of mercy or compassion is ever to be found.
3. To show that the gospel is not a plan of bargain, contract, sale and purchase, according to which God bestows every blessing, not of pure love and mercy, but in consideration of an equivalent which he received for it: and that, on the contrary, it is a system of pure grace, or divine favor, flowing from the infinite, and unmerited, love of the Almighty, who bestows salvation and everlasting life as free gifts, by esus Christ, without any consideration distinct
from his own mercy, but the penitence and submission of the offender.
4. To explode the absurd and dangerous notion, that sinners may become righteous without their own personal conformity, in heart and life, to the righteous will of God by the transfer and imputation of Christ's righteousness to them and to establish the important principle, in morality and religion, that no man can become righteous any further than he attains right dispositions and performs right actions.
5. To show that Christ is not the procuring cause of the favor and mercy of God to sinners; but the organ by which the divine truth and grace, mind and will are revealed, the medium through which salvation and everlasting life are communicated.
6. To contribute a mite towards a further reformation from the errors of popery, and the errors of protestants founded on popish principles, especially in reference to those false notions which are deemed by many essential doctrines of the gospel.
7. To roll away a stone of reproach from christianity; on which T. Paine, according to his own account, in his age of reason, having stumbled in his childhood fell into mere deism; and which has probably helped to lead many into infidelity.
Such are the objects kept in view throughout the following pages.
MANY objections will no doubt be made to this work. Some persons may object to the title, Anti-satisfactionist, and be ready to ask, was not what Christ did perfectly satisfactory to his God and Father? I answer yes, I mean not to convey the least intimation to the contrary; but I mean to insist that what he did was not satisfactory for the want of righteousness, and moral excellence, in others.' I have taken the word, Anti-satisfactionist, as the leading title because I could think of no other term that would at once so well express the leading character and design of the work.
Many persons will object to the work as being too controversial. To these I would say that neither Christ nor his Apostles shunned controversy when error was to be detected and exploded that had not the first christians exposed the errors of the pagan idolatry and superstition, its empire might have remained unshaken: that had not the reformers combated the errors of popery its abominations might have prevailed to the present day; the scriptures never have been published in the vernacular languages of Europe, nor that light have blessed the world which has been elicited in these latter times : that no religious truth can be mentioned, which has been recovered from the darkness of the middle ages, without the aid of controversy: and that, badly as controversy has too generally been conducted, we owe to it much of the religious improvement which the world has attained: hence I conclude that controversy is not in itself an evil, but a useful method of eliciting truth.
It may be thought by some that my work comes before the public with too much an air of defiance. On this point I have only to observe, that feeling a full conviction of the erroneousness of the notions I oppose, and of the truth and importance of the doctrines for which I contend, I wish to appear before the public with an open face, and with that fearless integrity, and unreserved disclosure of my 'sentiments, which become the unbiassed advocate for truth: and add that we seem to have arrived at a period when the doctrines we espouse require that, like the intrepid reformers from popery, we should boldly enter the strong holds of our opponents, fearlessly attack the corruptions of christian doctrine and expose their deformity to open view. I trust, however, though my attack upon a leading tenet of reputed Orthodoxy is open and direct, it is conducted with that gentleness and candor which become the gospel of Christ.