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Some few passages which seem of that tendency, are indeed occasionally inserted. But they are such as every candid reader will judge to have been necessary. I have ascribed no opinion unto any particular person, much less wrested the words of any, reflected on their persons, censured their abilities, taken advantages of presumed prejudices against them, represented their opinions in the deformed reflections of strained consequences, fancied intended notions which their words do not express, nor candidly interpreted give any countenance unto, or endeavoured the vain pleasure of seeming success in opposition unto them; which, with the like effects of weakness of mind and disorder of affections, are the animating principles of many late controversial writings. To declare and vindicate the truth unto the instruction and edification of such as love it in sincerity, to extricate their minds from those difficulties in this particular instance, which some endeavour to cast on all gospel mysteries, to direct the consciences of them that inquire after abiding peace with God, and to establish the minds of them that do believe, are the things I have aimed at. And an endeavour unto this end, considering all circumstances, that station which God hath been pleased graciously to give me in the church, hath made necessary unto me.
2. I have written nothing but what I believe to be true, and useful unto the promotion of gospel obedience. The reader may not here expect an extraction of other men’s notions, or a collection and improvement of their arguments, either by artificial reasonings, or ornament of style and language, but a naked inquiry into the nature of the things treated on, as revealed in the Scripture, and as evidencing themselves in their power and efficacy on the minds
of them that do believe. It is the practical direction of the consciences of men, in their application unto God by Jesus Christ, for deliverance from the curse due unto the apostate state, and peace with him, with the influence of the way thereof unto universal gospel obedience, that is alone to be designed in the handling of this doctrine. And therefore, unto him that would treat of it in a due manner, it is required that he weigh every thing he asserts in his own mind and experience, and not dare to propose that unto others which he doth not abide by himself, in the most intimate recesses of his mind, under his nearest approaches unto God, in his surprisals with dangers, in deep afflictions, in his preparations for death, and most humble contemplations of the infinite distance between God and him. Other notions and disputations about the doctrine of justification, not seasoned with these ingredients, however condited unto the palate of some by skill and language, are insipid and useless, immediately degenerating into an unprofitable strife of words.
3. I know that the doctrine here pleaded for, is charged by many with an unfriendly aspect towards the necessity of personal holiness, good works, and all gospel obedience in general; yea, utterly to take it
away. So it was at the first clear revelation of it by the apostle Paul, as he frequently declares. But it is sufficiently evinced by him to be the chief principle of, and motive unto, all that obedience which is accepted with God through Jesus Christ, as we shall manifest afterward. However, it is acknowledged that the objective grace of the gospel in the doctrine of it, is liable to abuse, where there is nothing of the subjective grace of it in the hearts of men; and the ways
of its influence into the life of God, are uncouth unto the reasonings of carnal minds. So, was it
charged by the Papists at the first reformation, and continueth yet so to be. Yet as it gave the first occasion unto the reformation itself, so was it that whereby the souls of men, being set at liberty from their bondage unto innumerable superstitious fears and observances, utterly inconsistent with true gospel obedience, and directed into the ways of peace with God through Jesus Christ, were made fruitful in real holiness, and to abound in all those blessed effects of the life of God which were never found among
their adversaries. The same charge was afterward renewed by the Socinians, and continueth still to be managed by them. But I suppose wise and impartial men will not lay much weight on their accusations, until they have manifested the efficacy of their contrary persuasion, by better effects and fruits than yet they have done. What sort of men they were who first coined that system of religion which they adhere unto, one who knew them well enough, and sufficiently inclined unto their Antitrinitarian opinions, declares in one of the queries that he proposed unto Soci in himself and his followers. If this, saith he, be
truth which you contend for, whence comes av i pass that it is declared only by persons, ' nulla pietatis commendatione, nullo laudato prioris vitæ exemplo commendatos; imo ut plerumque vide. mus, per vagabundos, et contentionum zeli carnalis plenos homines, alios ex castris, aulis, ganeis, prolatam esse. Scrupuli ab excellenti viro propositi, inter oper. Socin.' The fiercest charge of such men against any doctrines they oppose as inconsistent with the necessary motives unto godliness, are a recommendation of it unto the minds of considerative men. And there cannot be a more effectual engine plied for the ruin of religion, than for men to declaim against the doctrine of justification by faith alone,
and other truths concerning the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as those which overthrow the necessity of moral duties, good works, and gospel obedience, whilst under the conduct of the opinions which they embrace in opposition unto them, they give not the least evidence of the power of the truth, or grace of the gospel upon their own hearts, or in their lives. Whereas, therefore, the whole gospel is the truth which is after godliness, declaring and exhibiting that grace
of God which teacheth us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this world; we being fallen into those times wherein under great and fierce contests about notions, opinions, and prac- . tices in religion, there is a horrible decay in true gospel purity and holiness of life amongst the generality of men, I shall readily grant, that keeping a due regard unto the only standard of truth, a secondary trial of doctrines proposed and contended for, may and ought to be made by the ways, lives, walkings, and conversations of them by whom they are received and professed. And although it is acknowledged that the doctrine pleaded in the ensuing Discourse be liable to be abused, yea, turned into licen-tiousness by men of corrupt minds, through the prevalency of vicious habits in them (as it is the whole doctrine of the grace of God by Jesus Christ); and although the way and means of its efficacy and influence into universal obedience unto God in righteousness and true holiness, be not discernable without some beam of spiritual light, nor will give an experience of their power unto the minds of men utterly destitute of a principle of spiritual life; yet if it cannot preserve its station in the church by this rule, of its useful tendency unto the promotion of godliness, and its necessity thereunto, in all them by whom it
is really believed and received in its proper light and power, and that in the experience of former and present times, I shall be content that it be exploded.
4. Finding that not a few have esteemed it compliant with their interest, to publish exceptions against some few leaves, which in the handling of a subject of another nature I occasionally wrote many years ago on this subject, I am not without apprehensions, that either the same persons, or others of a like temper and principles, may attempt an opposition unto what is here expressly tendered thereonOn supposition of such an attempt, I shall in one word let the authors of it know, wherein alone I shall be concerned. For if they shall make it their business to cavil at expressions, to wrest my words, wiredraw inferences and conclusions from them not expressly owned by me, to revile my person, to catch at advantages in any occasional passages, or other unessential parts of the Discourse, labouring for an appearance of success and reputation to themselves thereby, without a due attendance unto Christian moderation, candour, and ingenuity, I shall take no more notice of what they say or write, than I would do of the greatest impertinences that can be reported in this world. The same I say concerning oppositions of the like nature unto any other writings of mine; a work which, as I hear, some are at present engaged in; I have somewhat else to do than to cast away any part of the small remainder of my life in that kind of controversial writings which good men bewail, and wise men deride. Whereas, therefore, the principal design of this Discourse, is to state the doctrine of justification from the Scripture, and to confirm it by the testimonies thereof, I shall not esteem it spoken against, unless our exposition of Scripture testimonies, and the application of them