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partial a manner as possible. Such things exist, or have existed in the world, whether we know them or not; and the reading of them in a proper spirit may induce us to cleave more closely to the law and to the testimony; forming our religious principles by their simple and obvious meaning, and avoiding, as a mariner would avoid rocks and quicksands, every perversion of them in support of a preconceived system.
Several publications of the kind have appeared amongst us, on whose merits we shall not take upon us to decide. Suffice it to say, that the present work, having been written on the other side the Atlantic, and by a person who has not only imformed herself of the general state of religion in the world, but has manifestly paid a particular attention to the religious controversies of her own country, may be supposed to include many things with which our writers, as well as readers, are but little acquainted. While, however, we have printed those parts of the work, and the account of almost all the denominations which are become extinct, as they were, we have in respect of the living ones, frequently availed ourselves of other sources of information, where it appeared capable of being done to advantage. The late missionary undertakings
have furnished some additional matter with respect to Paganism, and Mahometism.
Some parts of the accounts, given by the author, of the Eastern Pagan nations we have omitted, considering the authorities on which they are founded as suspicious. By a close attention to fact in those nations with which Europeans have lately been in the habits of the most familiar intercourse, we have been compelled to distrust much of the panegyric bestowed upon them by former writers, and to consider it as one of those indirect methods by which deistical historians, geographers, and travellers, have thought fit to assail the religion of Jesus.
Whatever corrections or additions are made, of
any consequence, they are enclosed' in brackets [ ] to distinguish them from the other. The articles Behemenists, and Friends or Quakers, have also been drawn up afresh, and should have been thus distinguished. The account of Nonconformists and Dissenters having been omitted in the early part of the work, will be found under that of Puritans.
ERRATA. Page. Col. Line.
91 1 11 for ask read asketh 140 2 23 for Penn read Barclay 146 1 1 for there read their 149 2 37 for verse read verses 157 2 29 for they belong read he or she belongs 140 1 5 for Pet. read Tit. 114 2 last for or read and 148 1 20 for whereas read when as 150 Note for Barclay's read Barclay 379 Note for Able Barruel read Abbe Barruel 380 Note for system displays read system displays itself
ESSAY ON TRUTH:
CONTAINING AN ENQUIRY INTO ITS NATURE AND IMPORTANCE ; WITH THE
CAUSES OF ERROR, AND THE REASONS OF ITS BEING PERMITTED.
The multifarious and discordant sentiments which divide mankind, afford a great temptation to scepticism, and many are carried away by it. The open enemies of the gospel take occasion from hence to justify their rejection of it: and many of its professed friends have written as if they thought, that to be decided amidst so many minds and opinions were almost presumptuous. The principal, if not the only use which they would make of these differences is, to induce a spirit of moderation and charity, and to declaim against bigotry.
To say nothing at present how these terms are perverted and hackneyed in a certain cause, let two things be seriously considered :- First, Whether this was the use made by the apostles of the discordant opinions which prevailed in their times, even amongst those who “acknowledged the divinity of our Saviour's mission ?" In differences amongst christians which did not affect the kingdom of God, nor destroy the work of God, it certainly was: such were those concerning meats, drinks, and days,* in which the utmost forbearance was inculcated. But it was otherwise in differences which affected the leading doctrines and precepts of chris
* Rom. xiv. 17, 20.
tianity. Forbearance in these cases would, in the account of the sacred writers, have been a crime.
Let us candidly enquire, christian reader, whether, notwithstanding the diversity of sentiments in the christian world, truth may not be clearly ascertained? Whether it be not of the utmost importance? Whe-ther the prevalence of error may not be accounted
for? And lastly, Whether the wisdom, as well as the justice of God, may not be seen in his permitting it?
WHAT IS TRUTH ? In attempting to answer this question, I desire to take nothing for granted, but that christianity is of God, and that the scriptures are a revelation of his will. If christianity be of God, and he have revealed his will in the holy scriptures, light is come into the world, though the dark minds of sinful creatures comprehend it not. It does not follow, because many wander in mazes of fruitless speculation, that there is not a way so plain that a way-faring man, or one who “ walketh in the truth," though a fool, shall not err. The numerous sects among the Greeks and Romans, and even among the Jews, at the time of our Saviour's appearing, did not prove that there was no certain knowledge to be obtained of what was truth. Our
Lord considered himself as speaking plainly, or he : would not have asked the jews as he did, “Why do
ye not understand my speech ?” The apostles and primitive believers saw their way plainly: and though we cannot pretend to the extraordinary inspiration which was possessed by many of them; yet if we humbly follow their light, depending on the ordinary teachings of God's holy Spirit, we shall see ours.
Truth, we may be certain, is the same thing as what in the scriptures is denominated “the gospel, common salvation,” “the common faith,'
„*o the faith once delivered to the saints,” “ the truth as it is in Jesus,” &c.; and what this is, may be clearly understood by the brief summaries of the gospel, and of