[blocks in formation]

“olden times.” The days of John Owen and John Howe, in this respect, are gone by. He is constrained to think, that this deficiency, result from what cause it may, is most deeply to be regretted. It is truth, not words, that constitutes the food of the soul. If the orthodoxy of an individual, or of a body of Christians, be a mere orthodoxy of phraseology-if there be not found among the members of the body right ideas, and correct and luminous thinking, as well as right words--there can be no spiritual growth. They cannot rise to eminence in experimental and practical religion. It is a sentiment which deserves to be most seriously pondered upon by the church in the present day, that the real piety of an age, though it may doubtless fall considerably short, can never be in advance of the knowledge of that age. Imperfect conceptions of the great system of evangelical truth-obscure notions of any of its radical principlesma defective acquaintance with the connexions of its various parts, will render the piety of an age--not much less certainly and rapidly than positive error---deformed, or stunted and dwarfish. It will give existence to all kinds of monstrosities, or produce a race of religious pigmies. The generation that has passed away were men of extensive reading and deep reflection; but they were not men of vigorous action. We have become men of action, but it is to be feared we have partially ceased to be men of research and meditation. We do more, but we think less, and henow less than our forefathers; and there is consequent danger that the present vigour of action may decline, or that it may become necessary to seek to perpetuate--by the constant application of stimulants and excitement-those ex. ertions which ought to flow from steady, and enlightened, and holy principle, and which can be permanently calculated upon only when they spring from that source. It will be well for the church of the present day not to undervalue the extensive

[blocks in formation]

research and deep-toned thinking of former generations, but to connect with the knowledge of the past century the activity of the present to become more perfectly familiar with the principles which should keep the whole machinery in motion, lest we be thrown back again into that inactive and inglorious position from which we have scarcely as yet reason to exult that we have made our escape.

The author of this volume presents to his readers what he hopes will be found to be a correct and luminous exposition of those first principles in religion on which it professes to treat. He has endeavoured to avoid that vagueness of statement in which some writers, of great eminence and excellence, have unwisely and unfortunately permitted themselves to indulge to remove ambiguities-to give precision to the definition of terms—to explain the meaning of current, though often very ill understood phraseology, as well as occasionally to correct it;-and, though Calvinistic in his own views, he has tried every sentiment, supported in this volume, not by the statements of John Calvin, but by those of Jesus Christ and his apostles. He dares not venture to affirm, or even to hope, that he has escaped all sectional and denominational prejudices; but he can honestly say, that he is not conscious of having been influenced in his statements by any such prejudices. His sincere desire has been, or he is greatly selfdeceived, to elicit, exhibit, and establish the truth; and, whether the force of conviction has carried him along in precisely the same course with that in which the great Genevese Reformer moved, or compelled him occasionally to deviate from it, has been to him a point of very inconsiderable importance. To the law, and to the testimony, he has uniformly desired to bring his own mind, and the minds of his readers. If we think not “according to this word, it is because there is no light in us."

[blocks in formation]

The author begs to say, in conclusion, that the work is not especially, far less exclusively, designed for those who sustain the sacred office. He has not the presumption to set himself forth as the public instructor of a body of men comprising numerous individuals, at whose feet he should be glad to sit and learn. To his younger brethren in the ministry the book may, indeed, and he hopes will, afford some instruction; but the sentiments expressed in the former part of this preface will prepare the way for the declaration, that his leading object has been to awaken a greater spirit of reading and research among the members of the church at large, and to put into their hands a volume which might tend, with the blessing of God, to promote generally a more correct and familiar acquaintance with the great principles on which it treats than perhaps at present prevails.

To the kind and careful consideration of the members of the church, and to the blessing of its great and glorified Head, he commends the volume.


May, 1836.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Third, its alleged incompatability with free agency and accountability, 108

- Is not more incompatible than fore-knowledge, 108, 109—What is meant

by a free agent, 109, 110—The Arminian notion of free agency stated and
opposed, 111-114-Mr. Stewart's notion of the cause of volition contro-
verted, 115-118—The amount of freedom possessed by any intelligent being,
119, 120.


The preceding statements show that predestination does not overthrow free

agency, 121, 122—nor accountability, 123—The objection that God is said
to have decreed evil actions, considered, 124-In what sense the crucifixion
of Christ was decreed, 125, 126—Evil actions in general, 127—The agency of
God in the ordinary actions of men, 127—Why punishment follows a wrong
volition, 128-130. Fourth, its alleged incompatibility with exhortations to
perseverance, &c. 130—The amount of the objection, 130-Its validity test-
ed, 130, 131-Its fallacy exposed, 131-135.

« VorigeDoorgaan »