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THE Serm n, originally published under this title, was composed on a very particular occasion, and in too great haste for the difficulty and importance of the subject. The author's mind likewise was agitated at the time by the circumstances in which he was placed: yet, amidst these disadvantages, it was judged expedient to print it verbatim, except as some notes were added.
When therefore the occasion, which required the publication, was passed, and the second edition, which had been called for in a few days, was disposed of, he dropped all thoughts of reprinting it; thinking it too much adapted to special circumstances, to answer the permanent purposes of a calm, deliberate, matured, and impartial treatise on the deep and mysteri. ous subject.
He finds, however, that the Sermon is frequently enquired for; and this has made him apprehensive, lest the circumstance of its being out of print should be considered as a dereliction of his principles. He has therefore at length determined to publish another edition: but in doing this, while he adheres strictly to the arrangement and sentiments of the original Sermon; he considers himself at liberty to omit some things occasional, to revise the style, and to make several additions and alterations, in order to render it something more adequate to the ends proposed by the publication.
The reader will perceive, that the principal difference betwixt the statement here given of the doctrines in question, and that of many modern Calvinists, relates to redemption by the death of Christ, as being of infinite cufficiency, and therefore in some respects the common benefit of mankind. This view of the subject makes not the least difference, in respect of the entire freeness of salvation by the sovereign purpose and grace of God, made known in the effectual calling of his chosen remnant: while it gives the preacher an immense advantage in fulfilling the ministry of reconciliation, and yields the awakened sinner the greatest encouragement in applying to Christ for salvation. On this ground we may say to any human being, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be « saved:” but on the other plan, no one can know, previously to conversion, whether he has any more right to rely on the merits and mediations of Christ, than fallen angels have.
The Author earnestly desires the candid enquirer after truth, and all who dare to think for themselves, to examine the passages quoted from Scripture in this Sermon, and to observe accurately whether they do not fully establish his statement? Then let them weigh all the other testimonies of holy writ with the same design: and finally let them consider what immense pains and ingenuity it requires, to explain a variety of texts in consistency with the other scheme; with what confidence and plausibility opponents urge them against our doctrine; and yet how naturally they coincide with the view here given. To the author they give no trouble; they express his sentiments, and in similar circumstances he should use the same language. The statement, here given, is by no means new or peculiar. He has proved that the compilers of our liturgy held the same sentiments. Many of his brethren at present coincide with him. The most eminent Calvinist divines in North America, who have lived during the present century, view the subject in the same light; and abundance of testimonies of this kind, from every quarter, might easily be adduced: but let the word of God decide.
The Author is not anxious about the class of professed chris. tians, among whom his brethren may rank him. No one of them is either right or wrong in every thing; and that which in one situation is disgraceful, in another is deemed honourable. But it appears to him of great consequence to shew, that these doctrines, though generally despised, dreaded, or abhor. red, are scriptural, rational, holy, consolatory, and consistent with every other part of christianity; and that the objections commonly urged against them, originate in misapprehension of their nature and tendency; and may generally be traced back to unscriptural views or scandalous abuses of them.
In some few places however, the terms Calvinist and Calvinism, Arminian and Arminianism, are retained; not as invidious distinctions, but for convenience, and to prevent circumlocution. It is a great mistake to suppose, that self-righteous pride is peculiar to Arminians, or Antinomian laxity to Calvinists. Pride and dislike to the holy law of God are congenial to our fallen nature: so that every man is radically of himself both self-righteous and antinomian. No creed, as such, will cure either of these distempers; but regeneration renders us convalescent. Yet even true christians frequently hold-and contend for doctrines, which very inadequately influence their own hearts and lives; nay, they often maintain errors, without being proportionably injured by them. Hence inany Calvinists are prone to pride and self-preference; and many Arminians peculiarly humble, modest, and unassuming. But the christian temper, wherever found, is vastly more valuable, than the most exact notions without the mind which was in Christ Jesus.” On the other hand, the Arminian is not at all secured from Antinomianism, nor the Calvinist exposed to it, by their several tenets: seeing both of them are Antinomian just as far as they are unsanctified, and no farther: “ because the carnal mind is “ enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God s neither indeed can it be.” Perhaps speculating Antinomians abound most among professed Calvinists; but Antinomians, whose sentiments influence their practice, are innumerable among Arminians. Does the reader doubt this? Let him ask any of those multitudes, who trample on God's commandments, what they think of predestination and election, and he will speedily be convinced, that it is undeniably true: for all these, in various ways take occasion, from the inercy of God, to encourage themselves in impenitent wickedness. It would therefore be unspeakably better, for all parties to examine these subjects, with impartiality, meekness, and brotherly love; than reciprocally to censure, despise, and condemn one another.
May 2, 1798.
JOHN vi. 37-40.
All that the Father giveth me, shall come unto me:
and him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sceth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
The holy Scriptures, being the Word of God, arę doubtless perfectly consistent. Moses and Samuel, David and Isaiah, Paul and James, being merely the penmen of the Holy Spirit, must perfectly harmonize in the truths which they inculcate. Precepts, threatenings, warnings, judgments, counsels, exhortations, invitations, promises, privileges, histories, examples, types, and parables, in divers methods coincide in for.