« VorigeDoorgaan »
very frame and composure of them, carry the marks of their Divine Original.
However, for the benefit of such as will not be at the pains to search and study the Scriptures ; such as, by reason of their age, are not capable of reading them with judgment; and such as, through some prejudice or evil disposition of mind, may be apt to misapply them; it hath been thought proper to draw up several abstracts or summaries of Christian Doctrine, which being, as the several authors of them assure us, exactly agreeable to Scripture, are designed to give us a general notion of what we shall find more particularly and fully set down in those books; by which means we may be enabled to read them with more ease and greater profit.
The design is certainly very fit and good, were it but as fairly and justly executed: but the great misfortune is, that these very books, which were intended to lead us more easily and certainly into the knowledge of Scripture, are most of them so framed as to represent the religion there delivered to us in a false light; and, by giving a wrong turn to our minds at first, to render our endeavours to inform ourselves afterwards, by our own reading, ineffectual.
The chief occasion of which abuse is, the many differences and divisions that have happened among Christians, both with regard to their faith, and to their rules and measures of serving God; which differences, as they plainly rose at first from a greater deference that was paid, either to the traditions or writings of men, than to the word of God; so they have been kept up ever since, by a greater care that hath been taken by the several sects to instruct their children in those things which distinguish them from one another, than to teach them the common doctrines and duties of their most holy profession. From whence it follows, that the books composed by them for that purpose, must needs give a very different, and the greatest part of them, for that reason, a very false account of the Christian Religion.
But besides the many errors which are made part of the standing doctrine of some particular Church or society of Christians, several other mistakes must be supposed to occur in the various writings and discourses of private men, even of the same Church, who take upon them to explain the common faith, every man in his own language and method.
Now for the better removing any false opinions we may have received from those different accounts which are given us of Scripture by other men, as well as preventing any wrong judgments we might be disposed to make of the word of God when we read it ourselves, I have often thought that it would be a work of great use to collect out of the writings of the Old and New Testament all the doctrines and precepts therein dispersed; to lay them together in such an order and method, as to give the Christian reader a full and distinct view of his whole faith and duty at once; and by keeping all along the language of Scripture, to leave no room for misrepresentation.
This is what I have endeavoured to do in the following treatise, as being fully satisfied of the truth of what a great writer observes", That we cannot speak of the things of God better than in the words of GOD.
1 Chillingworth, p. 152.
It is not to be expected, that the general draught here given of Scripture Religion, should have that influence upon persons nourished up in the words of unsound doctrine, as to make them lay by all the false opinions and improper language which they have long been used to; but since it contains nothing else but the pure Word of God, there is reason to hope, that men of all persuasions will be easily prevailed upon to look into it without fear of being misled; and that if any of them should from hence be enabled to discover their mistakes, the authority of what is said will dispose them to yield more willingly to their convictions.
But whatever effect this method may have with such as are already fixed in error, those that have not yet taken a wrong bent, will, in all likelihood, find it of some advantage to them, in their earliest inquiries in the Christian Religion, to take a general view of the whole, in the most simple manner in which it was firsi delivered to the Saints. For when they see all the passages of Scripture together, which refer to the same subject, they will be in less danger of falling into any of those mistakes which are manifestly founded upon single texts considered apart by themselves: and when they have once truly learned to speak the language of Scripture, they will be better enabled to judge of the force of all other expressions, and to discern how far they agree with that unerring standard, the Word of God.
It was for their sakes, chiefly, that I undertook to draw up this summary account of the doctrine contained in the Sacred Writings: which, at this time more especially, I was encouraged to do, upon a presumption that it might be some way serviceable to those glorious designs, which are now with
great zeal and success carrying on for the better educating Christian youth in the principles of their most holy religion, and for propagating a true knowledge of the Gospel among those that have not yet received the glad tidings of salvation through CHRIST: which designs I am not only particularly obliged, but with the whole weight of my judgment and inclination led to promote to the utmost of my power.
It were likewise farther to be wished, that the professed enemies of Revealed Religion would take some such way as this, of considering it all at once, in the full extent and simplicity of it, before they conclude any part of it to be either false or absurd. For by so doing they would soon find, that all the objections they make to Divine Revelation are levelled only against some particular opinions, falsely vented by private men as the Word of God; and that no one Christian doctrine can be disproved, while the authority of the Scriptures is preserved; which hath not yet suffered any thing by all their attempts.
After this short account of the reasons that induced me to enter upon the following work, I have these few things to acquaint my reader with, concerning the method observed in the performance of it.
The language (as I have said before), is all taken out of Scripture; there being no more of my own mixed with it, than just what was necessary for connection: and this is every where distinguished by a different character, excepting only some small variations in the person, tense, or the like; such position, which the Scripture had delivered in some other form.
All the texts made use of are (as it appears upon the first view) disposed under general heads. But for the better avoiding too great a number of subdivisions, and at the same time to preserve the clearness aimed at by them, instead of new titles, I have made several breaks under each head, which seemed to me to answer the same end an easier way. I have endeavoured likewise so to range the particular texts under crery division, as they might follow one another in the inost natural order they were capable of, without making a continued discourse; which, considering that this is a collection of principles and laws, would have carried less weight and solemnity with i
As I have taken all the care I could to leave out no texts relating to any of my heads, which might be supposed to add any force or light to those I have retained, so have I avoided as much as conveniently I could, the repetition of the same texts. But because several of them may be thought to belong as properly to one head as another; for this reason
I have repeated some without any variation; but, commonly, where the same text comes over again, it is placed in a different view; what was delivered absolutely as a matter of faith or duty in one place, being brought in as a proof or reason of something else in another.
Under some heads I have put several texts, which seem to be only equivalent expressions of the same thing; but some of them, upon examination, will be found to be more distinct, and some more emphatical than others, or at least the variety itself