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The author, then, puts his work into the hands of his readers, satisfied that, in so far as the topics of which it treats are concerned, it contains a system of religion which, as a whole, is different from and superior to any that has yet been submitted to the public.
The superiority which he claims for his system mainly arises, as has been already stated, from the fact of his not having been deterred by any consideration, from doing justice to the creeds of different classes of religionists, whatever might be the popular odium in which they were held. He has fearlessly and unscrupulously selected from all of them, whenever it has appeared to him, that in their statements they were borne out by the inspired and infallible declarations of the Most High. With the Calvinists he contends, that God, of His sovereign good pleasure, chose in Christ, before the foundation of the world, a certain number of the human race, that they might be holy, and without blame before him in love : Eph. i. 4; Rom. viii. 29, 30; xi. 7:—with the Arminians, that Christ died for all; having been a propitiation, not for the sins of believers only, but also for the sins of the whole world : 1 John ii. 2; Heb. ii. 9 and with the Universalists, that Christ ultimately saves all; it having been the express purpose of his coming into the world, that the world
through him might be saved. John iï. 16, 17; Rom, viii. 20, 21; 1 Tim. ii. 4, 6; James i. 18. And yet, with popular religionists of all descriptions, the author agrees in maintaining, that the wicked shall be eternally punished. Mat. xxv. 46; 2 Thess. i. 9; Rev. xxi. 8. With all deserving the Christian name, he strenuously contends for the Supreme Deity of the Lord Jesus. In denying the possibility of God's character being known to mankind, except by positive revelation ; in denying that Adam, when he originally transgressed, forfeited spiritual and eternal life; and in some other respects, he will be found to coincide in his views with the Socinians. Perhaps, as a whole, his sentiments are most agreeable to what is denominated, the Supralapsarian Calvinistic theory. Nothing, he is well aware, will more annoy the natural mind, or prevent him from having the support of those who are commonly accounted liberals in religion, than the decision with which he has set himself in opposition to the doctrine of free will ;-his insisting on the scriptural distinction between soul and spirit ;—his denying that any, except the elect of God, either shall or can know the truth ;and, above all, the direct attack which he has made on scepticism by maintaining, with the Bereans or followers of Mr. John Barclay, that only those who have the absolute certainty of life everlasting belonging to themselves personally, believe the gospel, are partakers of the divine nature here, and shall enter into the kingdom of God hereafter. Rom. viii. 16; 2 Peter i. 1–4; 1 Johu v. 10, 11; Rev. xxi. 7, 8.
Can a theological Ishmael, like the author, expect either the countenance, or sympathy, of any class of mere sectarians ?
Satisfied, however, as the author is, that he presents to his readers in these pages a system of religion superior to any which has yet occupied their attention, he is far, very far indeed, from arrogating to himself the claim of having reached the ne plus ultra of divine discovery. On the contrary his conviction is, that he, and those who agree with him in sentiment, are yet in many respects only standing on the threshold of revelation. He is convinced, that he and they know nothing yet as they ought to know. 1 Cor. viii. 2. Taught from above a little more than those who have gone before him, the author sees, in the light of the superior views imparted to him, many errors into which his predecessors have fallen, and many imperfections with which they are chargeable: but he knows well, likewise, that in an after period of the church, believers will have just as much reason to be surprised at the narrowness and
indistinctness of many of the views discoverable in him, as he has to be at similar features observable in the systems of a preceding age. Unless, indeed, some one of those believers, better acquainted with the ordinary religious standard of the present day than his contemporaries, and consequently able to compare with it the views stated and developed in the following pages, shall perceive, that however limited these views may be in comparison with his own, they are nevertheless an advance, a considerable advance, on the current theology of the period.
“ Nature delights in progress,” says the Poet of Night, somewhere in his wonderful production; and the remark is no less applicable to Grace. Divine truth, it was never intended, should all at once be apprehended fully by the Christian mind. The sentiments disclosed in creeds and confessions, sermons and controversial writings, were evidently meant to be so many stepping stones, in the progress towards something ulterior. Used for this purpose, no enlightened believer can find fault with them : it is only when employed as means of damming up the waters of divine enquiry,— as impediments in the way of the onward march of the followers of the Lamb,—that human compositions on the subject of religion becoming positively noxious, the
author, and all who with him understand the subject, are obliged to lift up against them, the voice of solemn and indignant reprobation.
As to the author's expectations of drawing public attention to his work, they are exceedingly faint. Totally unknown in the literary circles ;—without any influence with reviewers, and, though he had it, indisposed to exert it ;—labouring, in the land of his birth, under a grievous imputation of heresy ;-holding sentiments with which neither the religious, nor the irreligious, can sympathize;—and, above all, obliged to charge a price for his book which must, for a time at least, keep it out of the hands of the inferior classes of society ;-he will not be surprised if, to use a common and expressive phrase, it fall still-born from the
press. And as such an event will not surprise, so neither will it annoy him. In spite of the risk he runs of having cast in his teeth, by those who are not acquainted with him, the fable of the fox and the sour grapes, he will speak out candidly and say, that these volumes are not intended for general perusal. He has no wish to forget the injunction of his divine master, not to cast pearls before swine. The persons, therefore, for whose sakes he writes, and whom by the system explained and advocated in the following pages he hopes to be instru