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INTRODUCTION.

The exposition of Scripture here presented to the public, is intended to display to Churchmen, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Independents peculiarly so called, Methodists, the Society of Friends, Unitarians, and other communities, the true character, in its great outlines, of religious society. A minute examination of any of the doctrines peculiarly held by any sect as conducive to salvation, has been altogether omitted. Allusion only is made to any peculiarities of what is intended for saving doctrine. It cannot be questioned, that an exposure of such of the ascertained doctrines of any of the above sects as are in contradiction to truth, together with the refutation of the arguments of practical and historical infidelity, in addition to the subjoined discourse, would show much more fully the evils of departure from the divine law of church-membership, and supply new motives for its rigorous observance. I beg to submit to those who have leisure and

talents for such works, whether a manual on each of the controversies of the church, on points of doctrine, with several of the forementioned dissentients from her Creed, and with the members of the Church of Rome, is not a desideratum in Theological literature.

It appears very possible to determine the questions in volumes of a moderate compass, which would not make larger demands on the attention of ordinary readers than they might conveniently satisfy. These controversies, like several others, lie so dispersed through many separate authors, that it cannot be expected they should be known by the mass of the religious community, nor, if commonly read, would the generality of readers be able, probably, to balance the opposing arguments, and form legitimate con. clusions. So much has been written on all sides, that little can be required but arrangement and condensation.

This is with me no hastily conceived suggestion. Having for several years observed, with the most poignant regret, the numerous and increasing dissensions of the people of this country on religious matters ;-being fully persuaded that much of the difficulties and discontents of the times arises from the differences connected with that subject, which, of all in the world, is the one, when really understood, most assuasive of all envious and hostile feeling ; and that genuine Christianity is to a most alarming extent

lost in that division of the house against itself, which threatens, unless timely checked by Divine Providence, well nigh to extinguish the pure light of evangelical truth in the land ;-knowing too that the contentions among the professors of religion take their origin from the abuse of private judgment on the one hand, and of church authority on the other; and being deeply sensible that much which is advanced against the church of this realm by the most able and successful advocates of nonconformity, and doubtless regarded by them as unanswerable truth, is either downright falsehood or absolute irrationality; and that multitudes in the middle and lowest ranks of · life more particularly, of moderate or not any education, are seduced and imposed upon by the specious arguments of these leading authorities ;I have long desired that some of the members of that church would step forth with so complete and convincing a refutation of the distinguishing tenets of every class of separatists from the Establishment, as should leave our opponents no escape from its force; but, by acknowledging their errors, throwing themselves into the arms of the church, which is willing to receive them, and thus cooperating to exhibit to the world below, and what is of far sublimer consideration, to the world above, a kingdom not only united by the acts of legislation, but by the bonds of christian fellowship. Though many excellent works have been published,

yet it has never been my fortune to meet with one that realized my conceptions of comprehensiveness of argument and simplicity of design; and being of opinion that the time is arrived when every effort ought to be made in support of truth without delay, and only lamenting that a treatise of a more voluminous nature has not already been edited by other and abler hands, I have thought it my duty, under my present convictions, to execute at least a small portion of the task with such ability as my circumstances permit.

The objections of even Protestant separatists are notoriously of such a multifarious character as appears to defy that classification which may give to each its proper weight and position in the general argument. They are a chaotic mass, into which I have despaired of infusing the lucidity of order and the exactness of proportion. I have however adopted a plan, I hope, of sufficient perspicuity. It may be necessary only to observe, in order to its comprehension, that after certain preliminaries, I commence with the exposure of those arguments for immediate inspiration, which are most captivating to the unlearned, and spread even in other classes their pernicious influence; that I afterwards address myself to those writers who claim no mode of spiritual illumination superior to that by which we hope we are ourselves guided; and that I bring all my own arguments to bear on this one point-separation -a unity of purpose, the want of which in other

productions has in my opinion mainly contributed to perpetuate that confusion and obscurity in which the subject appears to be involved in the mind of nonconformity, and to which it owes so much of its lamentable prevalence. It is hoped that the system of independency is demonstrated to be utterly unfounded in truth.

I am not blind to the imperfections of the Church to which I belong, nor averse to her improvement. I venture to believe that I do not differ from a vast majority of her truest sons, in my opinion that her creeds and forms and discipline may, with somewhat of plausibility, appear to some minds too open to parliamentary influence. Neither do I shrink from the confession that her Prayer-book is not a work of absolute perfection. I am not unconscious of dissension among her ministers_nor am I insensible of evil in her discipline. I believe that alterations might be effected in various departments of the church_not merely some to accommodate scrupulous consciences, but others to advance the cause of truth; and I frankly avow my wish that such reforms were attempted. I think christian kindness and prudence prompt the accommodation, that improvements should be made in whatever is improveable ; that the compilers of our Prayer-book themselves admitted and acted upon the principle, and that the rulers of our Establishment are fully competent to the execution of the task. But in the absence, and

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