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que ; with a natural prevailing relish, approbation, and love of righteousness, truth, and goodness, and of whatever tends to the public welfare ; with a prevailing natural disposition to dislike, to resent and condemn what is selfish, unjust and immoral; and a native bent in mankind to mutual benevolence, tender compassion, &c. those who have had such objections against the doctrine of Original Sin, thrown in their way, and desire to see them particularly considered, I ask leave to refer them to a Treatise on the Nature of true Virtue, lying by me prepared for the press, which may ere long be exhibited to public view,
On the whole, I observe, There are some other things, Besides arguments, in Dr. Taylor's book, which are calculate ed to influence the minds, and bias, the judgments of some sorts of readers. Here, not to insist on the taking profession he makes, in many places, of sincerity, humility, meekness, modesty, charity, &c. in his searching after truth ; and freely proposing his thoughts, with the reasons of them, to others ;* nor on his magisterial assurance, appearing on many occasions, and the high contempt he sometimes expresses of the opinions and arguments of very excellent divines and fathers: in the church of God, who have thought differently from him :f Both of which things, it is not unlikely, may have a degree of influence on some of his readers. (However, that they may have only their just influence, these things might properly be compared together, and set in contrast, one with the other.).... I say, not to dwell on these matters, I would take some notice of another thing, observable in the writings of Dr. Taylor, and many of the late opposers of the more peculiar doctrines of Christianity, tending (especially with juvenile and unwary readers (not a little to abate the force, and
* See his Preface, and p. 6, 237, 265, 267, 175, S. 159, 151, 159, 161, 183, 188, 77, S.
+ Page 110, 1255
prevent the due effect, of the clearest scripture evidences, in favor of those important doctrines; and particularly to make void the arguments taken from the writings of the Apostle Paul, in which those doctrines are more plainly and fully revealed, than in any other part of the Bible. What I mean, is this : These gentlemen express a high opinion of this apostle, and that very justly, for his eminent genius, his admirable sagacity, strong powers of reasoning, acquired learning, &c. They speak of him as a writer....of masterly address, of extensive reach, and deep design, every where in his epistles, almost in every word he says. This looks exceeding apecious : It carries a plausible appearance of Christian zeal, and attachment to the Holy Scriptures, in such a testimony of high veneration for that great apostle, who was not only the principal instrument of propagating Christianity, but with his own hand wrote so considerable a part of the New Testament. And I am far from determining, with respect at least to some of these writers, that they are not sincere in their declarations, or that all is mere artifice, only to make way for the reception of their own peculiar sentiments. However, it tends greatly to subserve such a purpose ; as much as if it were designedly contrived, with the utmost subtlety, for that end. Hereby their incautious readers are prepared the more easily to be drawn into a belief, that they, and others in their way
of thinking, have not rightly understood many of those things in this apostle's writings, which before seemed very plain to them; and they are also prepared, by a prepossession in favor of these new writers, to entertain a favorable thought of the interpretations put by them upon the words and phrases of this apostle ; and to admit in many passages a meaning which before lay entirely out of sight; quite foreign to all that in the view of a common reader seems to be their obvious sense ; and most remote from the expositions agreed in, by those which used to be esteemed the greatest divines, and best commentators. For they must know, that this apostle, being a man of no vulgar understanding, it is nothing strange if his meaning lies very deep; and no wonder then, if the superficial discerning and observation of vulgar Christians, or indeed
of the herd of common divines, such as the Westminster Assembly, &c. falls vastly short of the apostle's reach, and fre. quently does not enter into the true spirit and design of Paul's epistles. They must understand, that the first reformers, and preachers and expositors in general, both before and since the reformation, for fifteen or sixteen hundred years pást, were too unlearned and shortsighted, to be capable of penetrating into the sense, or fit to undertake the making comments on the writings of so great a man as this apostle ; or else had dwelt in a cave of bigotry and superstition, too gloomy to allow them to use their own understandings with freedom, in reading the scripture. But at the same time, it must be understood, that there is risen up, now at length in this happy age of light and liberty, a set of men, of a more free and generous turn of mind, a more inquisitive genius, and better disa cernment. By such insinuations they seek adyantage to their cause ; and thus the most unreasonable and extravagant in terpretations of scripture are palliated and recommended : So that, if the simple reader is not very much on his guard, if he does not clearly see with his own eyes, or has too much indolence, or too little leisure, thoroughly to examine for himself (as few, alas, are willing to be at the pains of acquainting themselves thoroughly with the apostle's 'writings, and of comparing one part of them with another, so as to be fully able to judge of these gentleman's glosses and pretences) in this case, he is in danger of being imposed on with delusive appearances ; as he is prepared by this fair pretext of exalting the sagacity of the apostle, and by a parade of learning, criticism, exact version, penetration into the new scope, and discerning of wonderful connexions, together with the airs these writers asşume of dictatorial peremptoriness, and contempt of old opinions and old expositions ; I say, such an one is by these things prepared to swallow strange doctrine, as trusting to the superior abilities of these modern interpreters.
But I humbly conceive, their interpretations, particularly of the Apostle Paul's writings, though in some things ingenious, yet in many things concerning these great articles of religion, are extremely absurd, and demonstrably disagreea.
ble, in the highest degree, to his real design, to the language he commonly uses, and to the doctrines currently taught in his epistles. Their criticisms, when examined, appear far more subtle, than solid; and it seems as if nothing can possibly be strong enough, nothing perspicuous enough, in any composure whatever, to stand before such liberties as these writers indulge : The plainest and most nervous discourse is analyzed and criticised, till it dissolves into nothing, or till it becomes a thing of little significance : The holy scripture is subtilized into a mere mist; or made to evaporate into a thin cloud, that easily puts on any shape, and is moved in
di. rection, with a puff of wind, just as the manager pleases. It is not in the nature and power of language, to afford sufficient defence against such an art, so abused; as, I imagine, a due consideration of some things I have had occasion in the
preceding discourse to observe, may abundantly convince us.
But this, with the rest of what I have offered on this subject of Original Sin, must be left to every candid reader to judge of, for himself; and the success of the whole must now be left with God, who knows what is agreeable to his own mind, and is able to make his own truths prevail ; however mysterious they may seem to the poor, partial, narrow, and extremely imperfect views of mortals, while looking through a cloudy and delusory medium ; and however disagreeable they may be to the innumerable prejudices of men's hearts : And who has promised, that the gospel of Christ, such as is really his, shall finally be victorious ; and has assured us, that the word which goeth out of his mouth, shall not return to him void, but shall accomplish that which he pleaseth, and shall pros. per in the thing whereto he sends it. Let God arise, and plead his own cause, and glorify his own great name. AMEN
ISAIAH THOMAS, Jun.
Has now in PRESS, and will be published and ready for sale in a
few weeks, THE COMPLETE WORKS of the Rev. JONATHAN EDWARDS, Minister of the Gospel in Northampton, Massachusetts, and afterwards President of the College in Newjersey.... In Eight Volumes, Octavo.
To the FIRST AMERICAN EDITION.
THE Editor, in offering to the religious public, the Works of President EDWARDS, in what may, perhaps for this country, without impropriety, be called a standard edition, has gratified his personal attachment to this excellent man. He has sought also the advancement of the great doctrines of the cross, particularly among the younger clergy, and the excitement of their zeal by a persuasive example. Here they will have truth, accompanied not with evidence only, but with demonstration. Here they will learn that conclusive arguing is as applicable to morals as to mathematics. Here they will see sophistry stript of Its disguises, and systems of learned error frittered to nothing. Here they will have before them an example of research, the force of which they will not be able to resist. Modern times scarce furnish a more imitable character.
President EDWARDS began his career of virtuous exertion at an early period of life, and pursued it with a zeal and steadiness which could not but be successful. He had an object worthy of his pursuit, and he never lost sight of it. If much is to be ascribed to his talents, no less is to be attributed to his industry. And his industry is particularly imitable as it sprung from the best motives. Founded in the supreme love of God, and an ardent desire to do as much good as possible, it could not be conversant with trifles or degenerate into pastime. These writings are in part the fruit of it. They are f.aught with instruction, and are entitled to a diligent and repeated perusal. The honorary declaration made in the