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Gospel, when the godly began to be set at liberty from the do. minion of the angels, from the fear of temporary death, and the curse which an exact observance of the ceremonial law carried with it, and at length enjoyed true and lasting blessings, the circumcision of the heart, the law written there, the fuil and true remission of sins, the spirit of adoption, and such like things ; this observation, I say, does not seem to me worthy to be insisted on in so many academical lectures, so many sermons, and such a number of books, as have been published in the Latin and our own languages, as though the whole of theological learning consisted in these. For, in the following work I have shewn, that, however those doctrines are explained, they are horrible to be mentioned ; and are not to be defended without wresting the Scriptures.
But I esteem much more dangerous the opinions of some men, in other respects very learned, who deny that a covenant of works was made with Adam ; and will scarce allow that by the death, with which he was threatened in case hie sinned, a corporeal death is to be understood ; and deny that spiritual and heavenly blessings, such as we now obtain through Christ, were promised to Adam on condition of perfect obedience: and by a musty distinction, dividing the sufferings of Christ into painful and judiciary, affirm, that the latter only, or, as they sometimes soften the expression, chiefly were satisfactory; excluding by this means his sorrows in the garden, the sentence passed on him both by the Jewish council, and the Roman yovemor, the stripes with which his body was wounded, his being nailed to the cursed cross, and last of ail his death itself. On these subjects I have given my mind freely and candidly, as became “ a defender of the truth and an opposer of falsehood :" which laudable character was given of the emperor
Constantine the fourth, by the sixth Oecumenical Synod, which met at Constantinople; and which is what all of our order ought to endeavour to deserve.
I have also made semarks on some things of less moment, which did not seem to have a solid scriptural interpretation, cr are less accurately conceived of than they ought to be. Nor has my labour been without profit. Amphilochius is justly commended by Basilius, because he thought that " no word which was used concerning God, should be passed over without the most careful inquiry into its meaning." But I have done this without fancour or raillery: “not with a view of reproving the authors, but that the studious reader might be benefited by having their errors shewn him," as I remember Polibius somewhere expresses himscli. And I hope it will not
be taken ill by the learned and ingenious, to whom I grant the same liberty I myself take, if, (to use nearly the same words which Augustine uses, when he declares his dissent from Cyprian) whilst “ I cannot arrive at their degree of merit, acknowledge my writings inferior to many of theirs, love their ingenuity, am delighted with what they say, and admire their virtues; yet, I cannot in all things agree with them, but make use of the liberty, wherewith our Lord has called us." Espe. cially when they see, that I have willingly adopted their own ingenious inventions, what they have happily found out by searching into the original languages, have learnedly recovered from the reliques of hitherto unknown antiquity, have judiciOusly confirmed, or clearly explained ; and have highly recommended them to the reader.
They will also find that, wherever I think them right, however they may be censured by others, I have cordially defended them, and have wiped off the stamp of absurdity and novelty. And this I have done so frequently and solicitously, that, without doubt, some will say, I have done it too much. But I cannot yet allow myself to be sorry for having dealt so ingenuously by them. For how could any one have done otherwise, who is not attached to any faction, or is not a slave to his own or another's affections, but has dedicated himself to truth alone, and regards not what any particular person says, but what is said. He who loves the peace of Jerusalem, had rather see controversies lessened than encreased : and will with pleasure hear that several things are innocent, or even useful, which had sometimes been made the matter of controversy.
All good men indeed are justly offended with that wantonness of wit, which now-a-days, by dogmatical attacks, rashly aims to overturn wise opinions; and insolently offers a boid, and often ludicrous, interpretation of prophecy, ridiculously hawling into their assistance, what contains nothing but the doctrine of our common faith and holiness ; by which the public and our sacred functions are not a little abused: and it is not to be wondered at, if the warmer zeal of some has painted this wantonness as it deserves, or, perhaps, in too strong colours. But yet, a medium is to be regarded in all things : and I do not approve the pains of some, who, whilst they discourse on their differences, not only name some decades of our controversies, but centuries of them; and frequently with cruel eloquerce are very violent on some innocent subjects. Whether this method of disputing greatly conduces to the promoting of saving knowledge, or the edification of souls, I will not now say: but I am certain of this; the enemies of our church are
hereby greatly delighted, and secretly rejoice, that there are as many and as warm disputes amongst ourselves, as with them. And this, not very secretly neither : for they do not, nor will ever cease to cast this reproach upon us ; which, I grieve to say, is not so easily wiped away.
0! how much better would it be to use our outinost endeavours, to lessen, make up, and, if it could be, put an end to all controversy! Make this reverend and learned Sirs, your great concern. This all the godly who mourn for the breaches in Joseph ; this the churches who are committed to your care ; this Jesus himself, the king of truth and peace, require and expect from you ; in the most earnest manner they entreat it
“ If therefore there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels, and mercies : fulfil ye my joy, fulfil ye the joy of all saints, fulfil ye the joy of our Lord Jesus himself, that ye may be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." There have been already more than enough quarrels, slanders, and suspicions; more than enough of contentions amongst brethren, which, I engage for it, will afford no just cause of triumph ; more than enough intestine divisions, by which we destroy one another ; and more than enough of passion. Let the love of divisions, a thirst after pre-eminence, and schismatical names be hence-forward banished from 2mongst us. Let all litigious, satirical, and virulent writings be blotted out ;
as they only serve to revive the fires of hurtful questions.” But if we must write on those controversies, let us lay aside all evil dispositions, which are hinderances to us in our enquiries, and mislead our readers. Let us fight with arguments, not railings, bearing in our minds this saying of Aristophanes, “it is dishonourable, and by no means becoming poets, to rail at each other.” How much less does it become Christians to do so! The streams of divinity are pure: they rise only froin the fountain of sacred learning, and should be defiled with none of the impure waters of the ancient or modern philosophyLet us abstain from harsh and unusual expressions, and from crude and rash assertions ; from whence arise envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. The instruments of both covenants should be handled diligently by all, but with sacred fear and trembling. Let none please himself with his commentaries, because they contain something new and unkrown by our predecessors. Let him who thinks he has found out something preferable to the received opinion, offer it to the public with modesty, without vilifying the brethren ; not asserting or determining rashly, but submitting
his thoughts to the censure of the learned, and the judgment of the church ; not forcing them on the common people to the distraction of their minds ; nor hastily offering them to incautious youth, who are improper judges of such weighty matters. Nor let any reject, on account of its novelty, what is agreeable to the meaning of the words, to Scripture phrases, to the analogy of faith, or to the relation the text bears to others. Cajet?n, who is commended by our Chameir, has not badly expressed himself on this head : “ If a new sense of the text offers itself, though it be different from that of divines in general, let the reader judge of it for himself.” And in another place he says, “Let none refuse assenting to a new sense of sacred writ, because it differs from that given by the ancients; for God has not bound himself to the truth of their expositions of the scriptures." Let the depths of prophecy be also diligently searched into ; but reverently, without wresting the scriptures, without violating those bounds wherewith it has pleased God to keep them from human intuition ; least he who attempts to search into the majesty should be overwhelmed by the glory.
Let no one, of however great name, by his authority bind the free consciences of the faithful : but, as Clemens Romanus once said, “ Let the truth be taken from the scriptures themselves ;” by these alone it should stand or fall in religious affairs ; by these are all controversies to be settled. And it was by the sacred and undefiled gospels of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the ancient councils were influenced, nevertheless, let not any one inconsiderately on this pretence, withhold his assent to such forms of expression which are taken from the word of God, and are agreeable to the scriptures, are the bonds of church union, the marks of orthodoxy, the bars of heresy, and the limits of wanton wits ; as though they were the remains of the Babylonish tower, which obliged men to think and speak alike in religion.
Let no one chuse for himself a guide out of the modern dia vines ; all whose dictates he is determined to receive and defend as celestial oracles ; as one who is given as a new teacher and light of the world, as the ancients said of Basilius ; and in comparison of whom, all others appear as little children or dwarfs ; when he himself, perhaps, protests that he would not be thought the author of any thinnew, and made the head of a sect. On the other hand, let no one despise such a man, as if nothing true or good, nothing useful to the understanding of the scriptures couk: be learned from him : for God has not put it into the heart of any pious persons to search the scriptures night and day, without opening to them those treasures of his sacred wisdom.
Let us preach the good tidings of the gospel, let us congratulate the church on account of them; and make the best use of them ourselves we can. Let no one who has in general expressed the truth in eloquent language, be heinously censured on account of an improper word, or harsh expression which has slipped from his pen : “ Poison does not lie hid in syllables ; nor does truth consist in sound, but in the intention : nor godliness in the tinkling of brass, but in the meaning of the things signified.” Yet, let us all endeavour to express ourselves as accurately as possible ; and not take upon us to defend what has been imprudently said by our friends, or our. selves, least others blame us for it ; but as far as ingendousness, truth, charity, and all good men will allow of it, let us pass by, cancel or correct any mistakes ; which has been the practice of some great men, both among the ancients and moderns, to their very great credit. Let none of our brethren be stigmatized with the brand of heresy, on account of what is supposed to follow froin any of their expressions, when they themselves deny and detest the consequence. Solid learning, manners conforunable to Christian sanctity, a peaceable disposition, and a faithful discharge of our duty without noise and confusion, will procure favour much more than inconsiderate warm zeal, and the violent efforts of a passionate mind; which are designed for the most part, to heighten our own glory and seeming importance, though the cause of God be made the pretence for them.
Let some liberty also be given to learned men, in explaining texts of scripture, in the choice of arguments for the defence of the common truth, in the use of phrases and terms, and in resolving problematic questions, (for in this our state of darkness, it is not to be expected that all men should think and speak alike): but let this liberty be confined within the bounds of modesty, prudence and love ; lest it degenerate inio petulent licentiousness, and turn our Zion into a Babel.
These, reverend and learned Sirs, are my earnest wishes ; these my sentiments which I recommend to your prudence, faith, and piety; as I do yourselves and your pious labours, to the grace of vur Great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ; “ Who can make you perfect to every good work, to do his “ will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his
sight;" and, at last, “ when you happily have fought te good fight of faith, can bless you with an everlasting crown
This was long since, and is now, the most earnest wish of, Reverend and learned Sirs,
Your fellow-labourer, and
Servant in the Lord,
“ of glory."