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HE Gentlemen who have taken Care of this Wurk,
being convinced that a full Account and Vindica
tion of Confessions of Faith was very neceffary at this time and a proper Subject of a PREFACE to a Collection of this Nature; And being perswaded, that the following ESSAY, composed by a private Hand at their Desire, may be very serviceable for this End, and of use to give the World juster Notions of CREEDS and ARTICLES OF FAITH, and to vindicate them from the many Calumnies wherewith they are so injuriously loaded : They have presumed to prefix it to this Volume; and hope it will be acceptable to the Publick, and favourably received by all who are finçere Members of the Church of SCOTLAND.
T a Time when Creeds and Confeffions of Faith are fo
generally decried, and not only exposed to Contempt as useless Inventions, without any force and Efficacy to promote the Interests of Truth and Religion, but are loaded, by many Writers of distin
guilhed Wit and Learning, with the most fatal and dangerous Consequences; and represented as one of the most plentiful Sources of these angry Debates and fierce Contentions, which have for so many Ages distracted the Christian Church :
We thought it might be of fome Ufe, and a suitable enough Proface to a new Edition of the Confessions of Faith, &c. embraced by this Church, to give a short Account of the End and Design of Compofures of this Nature, and of the chief Purposes which the Christian Churches intended to promote, in framing and publishing their several Confessions; and 'tis hoped these will be found to be so considerable for their Number and Value, as to convince the impartial Reader, that there is no Occasion for treating them with Disdain or Neglect, and that we are justly to be excus'd who retain a Veneration and Esteem of them, as Works both founded on Reason, and supported by many advantageous Confequences.
And since Creeds in general are not only of late Years undervalued, as mean and useless; but exclaimed against as unjust, arbitrary and inconsistent in their Frame and Tendency with the Liberty of Mankind, and the noble Freedom of the Christian Faith; we shall endeavour to vindicate the present Practice of the Church of Scotland, and the Use which she, at least, makes of her Confeffion ; wipe off the Aspersions which have been thrown on her by Writers, who (how justly foever valued on many Accounts, yet) appear not fo throughly acquainted with our Conftitution, or perhaps not altogether impartial in their Sentiments of it. . And, Laftly, We shall answer fome of the inost plausible Objections, which have been made against the using Confessions as à Means of preserving the Christian Doctrine from impure Mix tures, and of preventing the Breaking in of Heresies and Disor: der into the Church. After all which it will be easier to determine, if they ought to be accounted arbitrary Impositions, and destructive Engines of fpiritual Tyranny, and the Luít of Power over the Consciences of Men; or if they be not rather very consistent with all the Privileges and Freedoms of a Man or a Christian.
The several Purposes which the Churches designed to promote by their Confessians, may be distinguilhed into there Three Heads. 1. Some of them were of a very general and extensive Design, having a Regard not only to the whole Body of Chriftians, bue
to all Men, even their Enemies, who had any Knowledge of them. II. Other Uses of these Coufeffions peculiarly respected the Ministers of the Gospel, who were obliged to declare their Afsent to the Doctrines contain'd in them. III. Confessions of Faith were also designed for Purposes of a more extensive Nature than the second, and yet not fo general as the firft Class, namely, such as respected the whole Body of the People as well as the Ministers; but were particularly calculated for the Members of that Church to which the Confeffion belonged, and had à fpecial Regard to them more than to the whole world, or to other Christians who were Members of other Churches. In examining a little these Things, we hall have Occafion to consider all that is proper to be observed in a Work of this Nature.