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As feveral Texts of Scripture come under Confideration, Criticisms upon the Original are frequently fubjoined. In order to clear up fome Difficulties, to rectify fome Miftranflations, or point out the many delicate and masterly Strokes, which occur in the BIBLE.-And glad fhould I be, extremely glad, if I might recommend and endear that invaluable Book. If, as the Divine REDEEMER rideth on in the Word of Truth, of Meeknefs, and Righteousness *, this Hand might scatter a Palm Branch, or this Performance might lie as a Floweret, to ftrew his Way †, and folemnize his Triumph.
In the Courfe of the Difputation, I dare not fuppofe, that I have discussed all the Arguments, which Sagacity may devife, or Sophistry urge. Perhaps, I have not removed all the Scruples, which may awaken Prejudice, or embarrass Integrity. This, however, I may venture to affirm, that I myself have met with no confiderable Objection, which is not either exprefly answered, or virtually refuted, in these Conferences.-And, though I should neither fatisfy nor filence the Gainfayer, I fhall think my Endeavours happily employed, if they may throw Light upon the dim Apprehenfion; establish the wavering Faith; or comfort the afflicted Confcience.
* Pfal. xlv. 4.
+ Alluding to Malt, xxi. 8.
If any fhould burlesque or ridicule these venerable Truths, and exalted Privileges, I fhall only fay with my Divine MASTER; O! that Thou hadft known, in this thy Day, the Things that belong to thy Peace! But now they are hid, it is evident from fuch a Procedure, they are hid from thine Eyes *-Should in the Spirit of Decency and Candor, either start new, or revive old Objections, I doubt not, but they will receive both a due Examination and a proper Reply. As thefe Doctrines enter into the very Effence of the Gospel, and conftitute the Glory of our Religion, they can never want a Succeffion of Advocates, fo long as the Sun and Moon endure.-For my own part, I must beg leave to retire from the Lifts, and lay down the Weapons of Controverfy. Virgil's Language is my Refolution;
Difcedam, explebo Numerum, reddarque
This Declaration is made, not from any the leaft Sufpicion, that my Tenets are indefenfible; but because I would apprize my Friends, and the Friends of our common Chriftianity, that the Field is clear and open for them to advance; that I refign to others the glorious
Combat; and shall content myself with wishing them
Success in the Name of the LORD. Because, it becomes a Perfon in my declining State, to be more peculiarly intent upon encountering a different Adverfary; who is fure to overcome, and never allows Quarter. Yet, by this Word of my Teftimony, and by the Blood of the LAMB, I hope to triumph even when I fall; and to be more than Conqueror, through JEHOVAH my Righteoufnefs.
Should any Thing be urged, forcible enough to overthrow my Arguments, or detect a Miftake in my Sentiments, the World may depend upon feeing a free and undiffembled Retractation. I shall look upon it as a Duty, which I owe to my Confcience, to my Readers, and to my GOD, publicly to acknowledge the Error. -It is one Thing to be filent; another to be obftinate. As I fhall inflexibly adhere to the firft; I would, with equal Steadiness, renounce the laft. Though I withdraw from the Strife of Pens and of Tongues, I fhall take care to preferve a Mind, ever acceffible to Truth, ever open to Conviction. A Mind, infinitely more concerned for the Purity and Profperity of the everlasting Gospel, than for the Prevalence of
*Rev. xii. 11,
my own Opinion, or the Credit of my own Performance.
As I have the Happiness of being a Member, and the Honour of being a Minifter, of the reformed eftablished Church; I cannot but reflect, with a peculiar Pleafure, that every Doctrine of Note, maintained in thefe Dialogues and Letters, is either implied in our Liturgy, afferted in our Articles, or taught in our Homilies.-It affords me likewife fome Degree of Satisfaction to obferve, that the most material of the Sentiments, have been adopted by Milton; are incorporated into his Paradife Loft; and add Dignity to the fublimeft Poem in the World. To have the highest human Authority, and the first Genius of the Nation on a Writer's Side, is no contemptible Support. This must furely give a Sanction, where-ever our religious Eftablishment is reverenced, or polite Literature is held in Repute. Yet even this Sanction, compared with the Oracle of Revelation, is only like a Range of Cyphers, connected with the initial Figure. Which, were they detached, would be infignificant; but, in fuch a Subordination, are confiderable.
Perhaps, it should be farther acknowledged, that I have not always confined myself to the Method of our Syftematic Writers, nor followed their Train of Thoughts with a fcrupulous Regularity.
gularity. I would conduct my Fellow-creature to the fupreme and eternal Good, CHRIST JESUS. I have chofen the Path, which feemed most agreeable and inviting, rather than moft beaten and frequented. If this leads, with equal Certainty, to the great and defirable End, I dare promife myself an eafy Excufe. However, that Method and Order, in the doctrinal Parts of the Plan, are not wholly neglected, the following Summary of Contents may fhew.