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When a new work makes its appearance, it is considered as due to the public, to state the reasons for undertaking it, and the object designed to be accomplished by it. In doing this, in the present instance, it seems only necessary to repeat, with some amplification, what has already been stated in the prospectus of the publication. The need of some such periodical work in this part of the country, has been felt, and frequently spoken of for several years, by many, who embrace those views of the doctrines and duties of the Gospel, which, for the sake of distinction, have been denominated Hopkinsian, and which only, as they believe, are. consistent with the Scriptures and with each other. The monthly and weekly publications of the day, in New-England, are filled, almost exclusively, with religious intelligence. There are but a few, which freely admit pieces, designed to explain the truths, and inculcate the duties of Christianity; and, it is believed, not one, which will admit at all, an explanation and vindication of several points, in the system of doctrines and duties, which Hopkinsians believe to be the only consistent, rational and defensible Calvinism.From this state of things in the religious community, several evils arise, which it is the object of the present publication, so far as those who bold the pen of the ready writer, shall furnish the means, and the humble abilities of the editor extend, to obviate.
One evil is, that those who embrace the system in question, are misrepresented, and consequently, made to bear much reproach; while they have no means of explaining their views to the public, or of exonerating themselves from the charge of inconsistency, absurdity, and even blasphemy, so often brought against them. When it is said and pubtished, and repeated, that they teach, that God is the criminal author of sin ; that He made the bigger part of mankind!
for damnation; that hell is paved with the skulls of infants ; that the elect will be saved, do what they will; that God requires of men, what they are unable to do; and that, in order to be saved, we must prefer misery to happiness, or be indifferent to both; it seems a hard case, that they should be excluded from all means of making known, either what they do believe, or why they believe it. It seems no more than common justice, that they should be heard in their own defence.
Another evil of still greater magnitude, is, that those, whose hearts approve of the scriptural system of truth and duty, are deprived, in a measure, of that spiritual nourishment, which is necessary to their growth in knowledge and grace. Much interesting news, some good advice, and a little instruction, is, now and then placed before them: but where shall they look for those clear explanations, discrimi. nating distinctions, lucid expositions, free discussions and conclusive reasonings, which are requisite to enlighten their minds, enlarge their views, try their hearts, and purify and warm their affections ? Where will they find that sincere milk of the word, which distilled from those religious magazines, which were first published in this country, and in which Edwards, and Hopkins, and Strong, and Spring, and Emmons wrote ?
But the greatest evil of all, remains to be mentioned. It is the decline of vital piety and practical godliness, ever consequent upon the propagation of erroneous doctrines, or the suppression of such as are scriptural and sound. Ás truth is ever after godliness ;' so errour never fails to increase unto more ungodliness.' It is through the truth, that men are sanctified. The progress of irreligion and licentiousness, generally keeps pace with the progress of laxness in sentiment, and concealment of the discriminating and humbling truths of the Gospel. Men may hold the truth in unrighteousness,' and so be worse than their creed; but they cannot be expected to hold errour in righteousness, and to be much better than their creed. Men never feel bound to do, what they are not convinced is right, or to refrain from doing, what they are not convinced is wrong. While they believe, that Jesus Christ is less than God, they cannot feel bound to worship Him : while they believe, that they are unable to keep the Divine Law, they cannot feel bound perfectly to obey it: while they believe, that holiness consists in well regulated self-love, they cannot feel bound to exercise disinterested benevolence : while thạy believe, that they ought to go to Christ for a new heart, they cannot feel bound to go in the exercise of faith and love: and while they believe, that unconditional submission to the Divine will, is not required in the word of God, they cannot feel bound to deny themselves and accept the punishment of their iniquities. And what reason is there to expect, that men will feel and act, as they do not think themselves under the least obligation to feel and act? It is believed, that the spurious religious affections, counterfeit virtues, false hopes, and lax morals of the present day, are to be attributed, in no small degree, to the want of a plain, clear, and full exhibition of scriptural truth, from the pulpit and the press. While much is done (and too much cannot be done) to propagate the Gospel abroad; by far too little is done, to disseminate correct views of the Gospel, and advance pure and undefiled religion at home.
To remove, or, at least, to diminish the evils above-mentioned, is the design of this publication. To accomplish this design, reliance is placed upon the communication of original matter from Correspondents, and upon interesting and instructive extracts from other similar works, and from the writings of able and pious Divines. It is not considered as material, that the matter which fills the pages of this work, should be all original; provided it be good, and new to most of our readers. In the religious Magazines, which have been published in this country for thirty years past, there are to be found, interspersed, excellent pieces, which have been seen by very few, who would now read a periodical work, and which may be quite as useful when reprinted, as when first published. Of these, the Editor will, .occasionally, avail himself.
It is proposed to give, perhaps in each number, a short Sermon; to insert essays on doctrinal and practical subjects; to expound difficult and important passages of Scripture; to admit a free, though somewhat limited, discussion of controverted points in Divinity; to review religious publications; to answer questions, solve cases of conscience, and exemplify experimental and practical religion, by sketches of the lives of persons distinguished for piety and usefulness. For the gratification of such readers, as may not have access to other sources of information, an Abstract of Religious Intelligence is proposed, and the usual Notices of Ordinations, Anniversaries of Charitable Societies, and new Publications.
So far as Discussion shall be admitted, in this work, it is obvious, that the Editor will not be responsible for the sentiments on either side; as the design of discussion is, to place the arguments, on both sides of a question, before the reader, that he may judge for himself. The work is committed to the candour of the Christian public, and to the gracious disposal of the Divine Author and Finisher of our faith.