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right and sincere piety of ancient and apostolic Christianity, and to the constant practice of that sacred peace, which the dying Jesus both bequeathed to, and purchased for his people; and I have the pleasing hope, that those who come from under my instructions, not only the natives of Holland, but those of your kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, of whom there is not a few here, who will bring the same spirit and temper to the churches to be committed to their charge, shall, under your Majesty's government, remarkably enlarge the kingdom of Christ.
Accept therefore, Royal Sir, with your wonted goodness accept this pledge and token of a heart sincerely devoted to your Majesty; and vouchsafe a place among your friends to him, who, next to the Great and Blessed God, would not choose to belong to any other. But, at the same time, accept the most ardent prayers sent from the bottom of my heart. May that God, at whose footstool you daily fall down as a suppliant, may that God, who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, make you always happy at home, successful abroad, ever august, the guardian of justice, the maintainer of liberty, the defender of religion, the author of concord, the consolation of the oppressed, the umpire of the whole Christian world, and, at last, crown your Majesty his own vicegerent, with the glory of his everlasting kingdom.
To the very reverend, learned, and celebrated Professors of Divinity in the Universities of the United Provinces of Holland; Pastors of the Reformed Churches, and zealous Defenders of the Faith once delivered to the Saints.
THE present age furnishes such a number of books, that the world is almost weary of them, and the church certainly groans under their weight: as this never flourished more than when, in the pure simplicity of faith and love, and without any fondness for disputations, it regarded the doctrine of our Lord alone, and drew the pure and undefiled truth from those writings only, which could "make David wiser than all his teachers, and the man of God perfect, thoroughly instructed to every good work." It is, indeed, very difficult to write any thing now-a-days which can please. For so great For so great is every where the fruitfulness of learning, or the vain imagination of science; so obstinate the attachment to once received hypotheses, so fixed the study of particular parts, and so malevolent the judgment passed on other people's works (which even sometimes affects the minds of good men against their wills) that whoever thinks by his writings to satisfy your delicate minds, or those who are engaged in a more general search after knowledge, seems to attribute too much to his own capacity, and to be ignorant of the disposition of the times. But I am conscious of the slenderness of my own abilities: and it is impossible for a person not to know the world, who is at all conversant with it. It therefore seems proper to assign some reasons for my appearing in public again; and to shew the design of the work I now offer to the churches.
And to whom, reverend and learned Sirs, should I render these reasons rather than to you, who are competent judges of VOL. I.
what I write; and by whom, next to God and my own conscience, I long to have my studies approved. In the first place, then, I sincerely declare, that it is not an incurable itch of writing, a raging thirst after vain glory, an envious disposition of mind, a detestable desire of widening the wounds already made in the churches, the odious pleasure of blackening another's character, by giving a wrong turn to what is really right; nor lastly, the infamous desire to make, encrease, or continue strifes which have occasioned my writing at this time. Besides my own declaration to the contrary, the whole work itself, though but slightly attended to, will acquit me of acting on such motives.
To see the minds of the godly disturbed by the inconsiderate assertions of some, and their uncommon interpretations of the Scriptures; or the suspicions of others (not at all times dictated by charity, whatever share prudence may have in the case,) gave me indeed the greatest concern. And forasmuch as the doctrine of the covenant of grace, by which the manner of the reconciliation of sinners to God is shewn, and the manifold dispensation of that covenant, have been the unhappy object of controversy in the Netherlands, so that whatever points are now disputed upon (if we except the new method of interpreting the prophecies, and the opinions of the modern philosophy, which are imprudently introduced into the present system of divinity, may, and ought to be referred to this,) I have thought this subject in the first place deserving my notice. But I have treated it in such a manner, as is agreeable to the truths hitherto received in the churches; and without that levity or severity, which is not consistent with the law of love. On which account I have not confined myself to bare disputations, which are generally unprofitable; and if it were not that they were seasoned with a degree of acrimony, would be destitute of every kind of elegance.
I have chosen to enter on this subject from its very beginning, and have endeavoured, as far as I could, to explain it methodically and clearly, enlightening the obscurer passages of scripture, carefully examining the phrases used by the Holy Ghost, and referring the whole to the practice of faith and godliness, to the glory of God in Christ, that my exposition might be the more useful and entertaining. And as nothing was more profitable and delightful to myself, so nothing could more evidently and fully convince the minds of others, than a clear and sober demonstration of the truth to the conscience; which, by pleasing advances, beginning with plain and acknowledged truths, and connecting them together gradually leads to the more
abstruse points, and forces an assent to them not less strongly than to those we are obliged to agree to at the first view; and at the same time by its efficacy, presents some before unknown truths to the inmost soul, fixing it with a degree of astonishment on the contemplation of the admirable perfections of God.
I have found it absolutely necessary to oppose different cpinions; either those of the public adversaries of the reformed churches, amongst whom I reckon first the Socinians, and the Remonstrants, who, by their daring comments have defiled the doctrine of God's covenants; or those of some of our brethren, who have taken it into their heads to form new hypotheses, and thereby almost root out all true divinity. I persuade myself, it is not in the power of malice to deny that I have acted with candour and modesty: I have stated the controversy justly, not attributing to any one, any opinion which he ought not to allow to be his own; and have made use of such arguments as had before satisfied my own conscience; as if these were not of themselves convincing, I could not think that any force would be added to them by great warmth: Especially, I thought that the opinions of our brethren were to be treated with candour. And I have never sought after any inaccurate word, harsh phrase, or crude expression, in order to criticize on them; esteeming it much better, to point out how far all the orthodox agree, and how the more improper ways of expression may be softened; remarking only on those sentiments, which are really different: and these, I dare affirm, will be found to be fewer and of less moment, than they are generally thought to be, provided we examine them without prejudice. Yet, I cannot pass over in silence some uncouth expressions, foreign interpretations, or contradictory theses: and sometimes I note the danger attending some of them; but without any malevolence to their authors. For I confess, I am of their opinion, who believe that the doctrine of the covenant has long since been delivered to the churches on too good a foundation, to stand in need of new hypotheses; in which I cannot find that solidity or usefulness, as is necessary to establish their divinity.
The observation of the threefold covenant of grace; the first, under the promise, in which grace and liberty prevailed, without the yoke, or the burden of an accusing law; the fecond. under the law, when the Old Testament took place, subjecting the faithful to the dominion of angels, and the fear of death all their lives; and last of all, to the curse, not allowing to the fathers true and permanent blessings; the third, under the