« AnteriorContinuar »
ment, and, what is of far higher importance, much Christian temper and love, frequently exhausted in confuting exploded errors, and in exposing to unmerited obloquy those who are supposed to maintain them. In the same manner new opinions are suffered to circulate without notice or control, and the fluctuations and variableness of error are often not known or condemned, before they have ceased to exist. This inconvenience will in some degree be obviated, by presenting, as it were, a syllabus of popular opinions in religion, as they are maintained by writers now living, or very recently deceased. Let it not be an occasion of complaint, if, while the reasonings of these writers are reserved, their conclusions are exhibited in general propositions drawn up by themselves, and in their own words, and if, in separate and succeeding discourses, their several doctrines are brought into immediate collision with each other. In discourses which consist principally of a series of quotations, extracted from writers of very different qualifications, even correct composition is a matter of difficulty, and the ornaments of a graceful and flowing style are all but unattainable. These are deficiencies which will be easily excused, if there can be exhibited such a correct view of the spirits that are in the world, that not only may the spirit of Error be distinguished from the spirit of Truth, but the form and bearing of religious opinions in the present day may be known and ascertained. It will contribute much to our own edification, much to conciliation and success in controversy, much to the prevention of error and needless division, to know accurately what doctrines are now cherished in the world, what are the principal objects of vigilance and exertion, and what are the truths for which we should most constantly and most earnestly contend.
May it not therefore be to the offence of any, may it be for the edification of all, to exhibit the errors of the day, divested of their deleterious power, and counteracted by that scriptural knowledge, which, applied with an honest mind to the purpose, which it was intended to effect, is beyond all modern inspiration, all tradition, all philosophy, the proof of our Christian doctrine, and our best security from that proneness to error, from which in no human endeavour or pursuit can we hope to be exempted. The extravagancies of false doctrine which will hereafter be unfolded to the view, will, it is hoped, be so far from contaminating the young and inexperienced, that they will be deterred from embracing error, when they see its distortions and deformities. At the same time may they be inspired with a love of truth, when they behold her beauty of form and symmetry of proportion. May they also be persuaded to call no man their father upon earth, to resolve with all their faculties to seek and to know the only God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, and to acknowledge the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures in all things which concern their salvation. May the God of truth and love, whose servants we all are, and to whom we shall all render the account, so direct and assist us by the influence of his Holy Spirit, that in exposing damnable heresies, and in contending for the common salvation, we may speak nothing through contention and vain glory, nothing which militates against the truth. In discountenancing vain traditions, and in teaching others to avoid those who cause divisions amongst us, may be enable us to recommend the unity, order, decency, and all things which contribute to edification in the Church. In condemning those whose religious practice is destitute of the power of godliness, may be guide us to rebuke vice with all boldness, and at the same time to instruct with meekness those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. Under his holy influence may we all - adorn the Gos“ pel of God our Saviour in all things,” and knowing that we are all “ members one of “ another,” may we so speak the truth in love, that we may in all things “ grow up “ into him who is the Head, even Christ, “ in whom the whole body fitly joined to“gether and compacted by that which “ every joint supplieth, according to the