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THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE
IN WHICH IS SHOWN THE OCCASION AND DESIGN OF THE WORK.
Reverend and very Learned Sirs, Brethren and Fellow-Labourers in Christ Jesus, our common Lord, most dearly Beloved,
IN my apprehension it was never better with the
Christian people, than when sincerely attentive to believe the gospel, to live in a holy manner, and to banish far the quirks of curious questions, they delighted themselves in the pure love of God and Christ, and in the certain expectation of eternal life. So the first generation of believers had learned Christianity from the Apostles, and they being taught in simple, and unadorned style, but moved with the incredible sanctity of the messengers sent them by God, inflamed with zeal, persuaded by miracles, and effectually convinced of the truth by the inward illumination of the Divine Spirit, and fleeing for refuge to Jesus Christ the Son of God, as the only author of salvation, gave up themselves to be led A
and ruled at his pleasure: as ignorant of subtle disputes, as studious of piety. Then it was that the Christian faith exerted all its influence in the minds of men, and animated them rather bravely to suffer death for Christ, than to engage with acrimony in contentions concerning the more obscure points of religion. And hence it is, that I have often thought with myself, perhaps those men were the most happy, who knowing nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and living soberly, righteously, and godly, according to the prescription of the gospel, did not so much as hear by report concerning the contentions of Divines. And I reckon it not the smallest part of our calamity, or at least the most painful of our office, that we who preside in matters of Christianity, are often constrained to bestow tedious labour in resolving the difficulties of thorny controversies. So is the age; all places resound with debates: that very temple not excepted, which the Lord hath consecrated to peace and concord. And truly, it can scarce be otherwise, in the profound repose which we in these times enjoy, whatever be its kind; in so great a diversity. of genius and disposition; in so great an ambition after sublimer science; and finally, in so great an itch after innovations. Be ye willing or unwilling, in battle you must engage; O that it were always that good fight of faith, which Paul recommended to Timothy! However, if we are not permitted to shun the conflict, the prudence of the just demands, that they, who in the defence of orthodoxy show themselves the rigid guardians of truth, should remember studiously to avoid these things which are
not lawful for the ministers of peace. And hence it is, that they especially, to whom is committed the preaching of the gospel, should endeavour clearly to discern the truths revealed by God: that they may explain them in clear and proper words, and such as are drawn from the fountain of holy scripture: that they seriously rejoice in the harmony of minds, and promote it as much as possible in a consistency with truth: that in differences they with a judicious lenity approve their equity and modesty to God and to men: that they think humbly concerning themselves, and highly of their brethren, not affe&ting the fame of more exquisite wisdom, but justly esteeming the gifts of God in those who are their neighbours: that they calumniate no man's word, or by cavilling, impute opinions to any, to which he professes himself averse: finally, that they reckon it unworthy of the gravity of a Divine, to strive in an idle and an odious manner concerning the niceties of words, when there is little, and almost no difference about the thing itself.
If our controversies in the Netherlands, if yours in Britain, brethren, had been treated with such dispositions, and in such a way and method, it would have been far better, as well for the public tranquillity, as for truth itself, and evangelical piety. But we suffer every one his own punishment, permited at present to pass by our disputations in silence, with the most penetrating sense of which we are grieved, you yourselves, brethren, would not allow me to be without a part in yours, which perhaps, are agitated with too much warmth, under the hostile. standards of Antinomians and Neonomians, though
both disallow the names. For some of yourselves, the books on both sides being sent me, requested my judgment, inconsiderable as it is. To the discovery of which I did not proceed but very slowly, and with reluctant steps. For first, in the knowledge of the cause, which was involved in many subtleties and quirks, I had the greatest difficulties to surmount; so much the greater, that I have scarce a tolerable knowledge of your language. In the next place, not a little labour was to be spent in this, that what I seemed somehow at least to know in a matter of the greatest intricacy, I should explain in a methodical and perspicuous manner, which I understood to be chiefly necessary. In fine, knowing to measure myself by my own standard, I could not be ignorant, that I was not at all endowed with such wisdom and authority, as to be accounted a proper judge in so great a controversy. Nevertheless, since the matter was very much at heart, as being of the utmost importance, I used all diligence to reach that on which the dispute turned, and having found, what had also been observed by JOHN HOORNBEEK, a man of the utmost integrity, and a Divine of a cultivated judgment, that it is often seen the difference is less in the thing itself, than in the manner of speaking, and the method of teaching, I went on with the greater courage: hoping it might happen, that the impediments of ambiguity being removed, some controversies might be decided by the mere elucidation of the subject itself, and both contending parties confess that they had understood the same thing, but in a different manner of expression. Besides, I was the less afraid of incurring the