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E S SAYS
Intended to establish the Doctrine of
By JOHN WITHERSPOON, D. D.
To which are added by the Publishers,
ARCANA of CHURCH POLICY,
A SERIOUS APOLOGY; which have
L O N D o
n„ CJf H E sol/owing Teatises were originally 'published at different times, and some of
?/W. them on particular occasions; but the attentive reader will easily perceive one leading design running through the whole: The author hath long been of opinion, that the great decay of religion in all parts of this kingdom, is chiefly owing to a departure from the truth as it is in Jesus, from those doctrines which chiefly constitute the substance of the gospel. It may perhaps be justly imputed to other general causes in part, and in some measure to less universal causes in particular places; but as all moral action must arise from principle, otherwise it ought not to be called by that name, the immediate and most powerful cause of degeneracy in practice, must always be a corruption in principle.
I am sensible that many will be ready to cry out on this occasion, " Such notions arise from "narrowness of mind, and uncharitable fen"timents" I answer, that it is surprising to think how easily the fashionable cr cant phrases of the age, will pass among superficial thinkers and readers, without the least attention either to their meani** or to the evidence on which they are s0fnA(d.
A Z ai Thus
Thus at present, if a man shall write or speak against certain principles, and stile them pernicious, it will be thought a sufficient vindication of them to make a beaten common-place encomium on liberty of conscience and freedom of inquiry. Blessed be God, this great and sacred privilege is we'll secured to us in this nation: But pray, is it net mineas well as yours? And is it not the very exercise of this liberty, for every man to endeavour to support those principles which appear to him to be founded on Reason and Scripture, as well as to attack without scruple every thing which he believes to be contrary to either.
Let it also be observed, that if freedom of inquiry be a blessing at all, it can be so for no other reason than the excellence and salutary influence cf real truth, when it can be discovered. If truth and error are equally safey nothing can be mere foolish than for a man to waste his time in endeavouring to distinguish the one from the other. What a view does it give us of the weakness of human nature, that the fame persons so frequently hold inconsistent principles? How many will fay the strongest things in favour of an impartial search after truth, and with the very same breath tell you, " It is of "no consequence at all, either for time or "eternity, whether you hold one opinion or "another."
These reflections are only designed to procure a candid unprejudiced hearing to what is offered in the following pages, in defence of what appears to me the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, which are now. so greatly neglected-, or so openly despised. Iam encouraged to this republication by. the great demand there has been for some of the pieces,particularly The Essay on Justification.
Imust observe here, that I have received several letters on this subject, desiring that the phrase imputed righteousness might be changed, as liable to great exceptions; a request which I would readily have complied with, if it could be made appear to be either unfcriptural or dangerous. But as I apprehend it is fully warranted by Rom. iv. 6. and many other passages ; so I do not fee what can be understood by it, different from or more dangerous than forgiveness of fin and acceptance with God, not for cur own but for Christ'.? fake. As the cafe stands, therefore, it is to , be feared, that a studied endeavour to avoid the expression would do more harm on the one hand than it could do service on the other.
In the Treatise on Regeneration, now first published, the fame general design is purjued, but in a way more directly praftical: and indeed I am fully convinced, tha\ it M not onb °f much greater moment to ^ , experimental