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Whatever praise or blame the publication of the pieces here specified may be thought to deferve, the editor takes to himself. They would, probably, have perished in obscurity, if his exertions had not been used in bringing them to light. He has to lament that the lectures on Divinity, and a number of the sermons and speeches, as well as some of the essays and letters, are unfinished. For the lectures and fermons, however, he thinks that no apology will be thought necefsary; and for the rest he can only say, that the parts which are given appeared to him fo valuable, as to be worth preserving, though the whole could not be obtained. Sometimes they cast light on the transactions of congress, or on the history of the revolutionary war of our country : fometimes they serve to exhibit the peculiar character and genius of the author, or to make known fome circumstance of his life which will afford gratification to his friends : and fometimes they contain a few ponderous or fplendid thoughts, which, like fragments of golden ore, are precious, though they are found detached from the mine. It is hoped that not much will be observed, that even suspicion itself will impute merely to a desire of swelling the volumes ; and the Dr's manner is so striking in all, that no one acquainted with it will doubt that the whole hạs proceeded from his pen.
In the former edition the following note was prefixed to the lectures on Moral Philosophy:
“ In justice to the memory of DR. WITHERSPOON, it ço ought to be stated that he did not intend these lectures for " the press, and that he once compelled a printer who, with. “out his knowledge, had undertaken to publish them, to de“ fist from the design, by threatening a prosecution as the “confequence of persisting in it. The Dr's lectures on “ morals, notwithstanding they assume the form of regular % discourses, were in fact, viewed by himself as little more " than a syllabus or compend, on which he might enlarge " before a class at the times of recitation ; and not intending :« that they should go further, or be otherwise considered, “ he took freely and without acknowledgment from writers “ of character, such ideas, and perhaps expressions, as he * found suited to his purpose. But though these causes ( would not permit the Dr. himself to give to the public “ these sketches of moral philofophy, it is believed that they 'u ought not to operate so powerfully on those into whose “hands his papers have fallen since his death. Many of his “ pupils whose eminence in literature and distinction in fo« ciety give weight to their opinions, have thought that “ these lcctures, with all their imperfections, contain one of * the best and molt perspicuous exhibitions of the radical “ principles of the frience on which they treat that has ever “ been made, and they have very importunately demanded " their publication in this edition of his works : Nor is it “ conceived that a compliance with this demand, after the " explanation here given can do any injury to the Dr's repu« tation. And to the writer of this note it does not feem a “ fufficient reason that a very valuable work fhould be con“signed to oblivion, because it is in some measure incom“ plete, or because it is partly a selection from authors to 66 whom a diftinct reference cannot now be made."
It may be remarked that the lectures on Eloquence and Divinity, though equally compendious with thofe on Moral Philosophy, do not seem to need any acknowledgment in regard io the liberty taken of borrowing from other authors. They are in a remarkable degree original. It may, perhaps, be proper to state, what is known to hundreds, that the lectures on Eloquence were written exactly as they now appear before Blair's lectures on the same subject were ever in print. DR. WITHERSPOON has been heard to declare explicitly, that no communication whatever took place between him and DR. BLAIR, relative to the topics which they have both discussed; and the correspondence which appears in their leading ideas, he used to remark, was a striking proof of the laiting effect produced by imbibing the same principles and iludying under the fame masters in early life.
The editor has only to Itate farther, that he most sincerely regrets that no more of the manuscript sermons of Dr. WiTHERSPOON can be obtained. Of many excellent discourses which lie has been heard to deliver, not a trace can now be found. They were probably committed to the flames through miltake, with a large collection of his papers which he ordered to be burned a little before his death.
THE following Treatises were originally published at different times, and some of them on particular occasions ; but the attentive reader will easily perceive one leading design running through the whole. The author hath long been of opinion, that the great decay of religion in all parts of this kingdom, is chiefly owing to a departure from the truth as it is in JESUS, from those doctrines which chiefly constitute the substance of the gospel. It may perhaps be justly imputed to other general causes in part, and in some measure to less universal causes in particular places; but as all moral action must arise from principle, otherwise it ought not to be called by that name, the immediate and most powerful cause of degeneracy in practice, must always be a corruption in principle.
I am sensible that many will be ready to cry out on this occasion, " Such notions arise from narrowness of mind and uncharitable 66 sentiments.” I answer, that it is surprising to think how easily the fashionable or cant phrases of the age, will pass among superficial thinkers and readers, without the least atteniion either to their meaning, or to the evidence on which they are founded.
Thus at present, if a man shall write or speak against certain principles, and stile them pernicious, it will be thought a suficient vindication of them to make a beaten common-place encomium on liberty of conscience and freedom of enquiry. Blessed be God, this great and sacred privilege is well secured to us in this nation: But pray, is it not mine as well as yours? And is it not the very exercise of this liberty for every man to endeavor to support those principles which appear to him to be founded on Reason and Scripture, as well as to attack, without scruple, every thing which he believes to be contrary to either.
Let it also be observed, that if freedom of inquiry be a blessing at all, it can be so for no other reason than the excellence and salutary influence of real truth, when it can be discovered. If truth and error are equally safe, nothing can be more foolish than for a man to waste his time in endeavoring to distinguish the one from the other. What a view does it give us of the weakness of human nature, that the same persons so frequently hold inconsistent principles? How many will say the strongest things in favor of an impartial search after truth, and with the very sanie breath tell you, “ It is of no consequence at all, either for time or eternity, whe. $ther you hold one opinion or another,”.
These reflections are only designed to procure a candid unpree judiced hearing to what is offered in the following pages, in den fence of what appears to me the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, which are now so greatly neglected, or so openly despised. I am encouraged to this republication by the great demand there has been for some of the pieces, particularly The Essay on Justification.
I must observe here, that I have received several letters on this subject, desiring that the phrase imputed righteousness might be changed, as liable to great exceptions; a request which I would readily have complied with, if it could be made appear to be either unscriptural or dangerous. But as I apprehend it is fully warranted by Rom, iv. 6. and many other passages ; so I do not see what can be understood by it, different from, 07 more dangerous than, forgiveness of fin and acceptance with God, not for our own but for CHRIST's fake. As the case stands, therefore it is to be feared, that a studied endeavor to avoid the expression would do more härm on the one hand than it could do service on the other.
In the Treatise on Regeneration, now first published, the same general design is pursued, but in a way more directly practical; and indeed I um fully convinced, that it is not only of much greater moment to make experimental than fpeculative Christians, but that to explain and enforce the doctrines of the gospel is a better way to produce an unshaken persuasion of their truth, than to collect and refute the cavils of adversaries, which, though they are often trifling, are notwithstanding innumerable. I hope this will excuse the introducing several passages of Scripture in the last mentioned Treatife, and applying them on what appears to me to be their obvious meaning, without taking the least notice of the unwearied pains frequently taken by wire drawing critics io interpret them in a contrary sense.
CON T E N T S.
Page A FUNERAL DISCOURSE By the Rev. Dr. JOHN RODGERS, of New-York. 9
AN ESSAY ON JUSTIFICATION, To which is prefixed a letter to the Rev. James Hervey. 43
TREATISE ON REGENERATION, INTRODUCTION.
CH A P. I.
Some general observations on the metaphor used by the
apostle John, Except a man be born again; and the fame or similar expressions to be found in other parts of the
word of God Şect. 1.–From this expression, Except a man be born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, we may learn the greatness of that change which must pass upon every child of Adam, before he can become an heir of
life Sect. II.-This expression, Exccpt a man be born again,
and other similar expreflions, imply that the change
here intended is not merely partial, but universal SECT. III.-From these words, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, and other similar expreffions in the holy Scriptures, we may infer that the change here intended is not merely external and im
perfect, but inward, essential and complete. Secr. IV.-From this metaphor, except a man be born a
gain, he cannot see the kingdom of God, and other paraldel expressions in the holy Scriptures, we may learn that the change here intended is supernatural,