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but remain as a bruised reed, and smoking flax: yet all its numerous and powerful enemies shall never be able utterly to break or extinguish it. In the midst of weakness, poverty, and disgrace, it will continue to be supported by the sacred aid of heaven, till the grand revolution shall take place, when the bruised reed shall become an iron rod, and the smoking flax a flaming fire. Then the cause, hitherto just not crushed, shall flourish and prevail effectually, and all its enemies be confounded with everlasting shame and contempt.
As the writer never had the honour to be a reverend gentleman, he has no title to urge on his neighbours his notion of the gospel, under pretence of his being vested with any commission, or bearing any message from heaven.—As he never had any pretensions to priesthood, it would be absurd in him to move them, by declaring how much he would offer, suffer, or intercede for their benefit.-As he stands perfectly on a level with them all as to the kingdom of heaven, he has no title to dictate to them, or assume any airs of authority over them; nor does it become him to quarrel with them for neglecting his creed: yea, he is well satisfied, that they run no risk by despising any thing that comes from him, provided they reverence their Maker to whom alone they are accountable. On the other hand, they cannot reasonably grudge him the liberty of expressing himself with the utmost confidence in behalf of his own creed.- Again, as he is persuaded, 'tis not his business to consult the interest of religion, otherwise than by maintaining the truth of the gospel against all who corrupt it, and committing the success wholly to heaven, he has no reason to be greatly disconcerted at any opposition to his notion of that truth: all his readers, then, are very welcome for him disgusting. Wherever Christ's disciples, united only by his word, meet together to remember his death, as their only recommendation to the Divine favour, there the power of his kingdom is manisest to them that believe; and wherever he shall at last descend from heaven, there all his redeemed will be gathered together, and there the majesty and power of his kingdom will be visible to all. Let the sacrifice of Christ be divested of all the foreign considerations that have been added, in order to remove the disgust of men, and it will be found, that to talk of living by that alone, will prove as disagreeable to the religious world now as of old, and to provoke even many of the most serious to turn away, with something like the old complaint in their mouth, This is an hard saying, who can hear it! Yea, we are assured, that, with this same complaint in their mouth, many of those expressly called his disciples, went back, and, what is still more striking, walked no more with him. The forementioned memorable saying, likewise sets before us, in a very striking view, what a sovereign contempt Christ had for the applause of the world, and how careful he was to inspire his disciples with the same contempt, even while showing his concern for their welfare in the tenderest minner.
to take their own choice, and treat it as they shall find occasion. Those who incline to reject it have this to encourage them, that the great majority of those who have the first repute either for orthodoxy, godliness, or good sense, will always be ready to keep them in countenance in so doing. And as for the cause to which the writer professes himself a retainer; he can assure them that it is already as advantageously situate in the world as becomes it, so stands in no need of any of them.
Yet if one heartily approves his avowed notion, he must be desirous to see others persuaded the same way with himself; and this desire will naturally lead him, as occasion offers, to lay open the ground and reason of his persuasion. This the writer has done. Yet he is sensible it is impossible to satisfy many, who, in the face of the clearest evidence, will always resume the old complaint, How long dost thou make us to doubt ?—tell us plainly. He is likewise sensible, it belongs only to God so to mould and dispose the minds of men, as to make them see things in their proper point of light, and accordingly understand them as they really are.— The approach of death commonly proves an effectual mean to rouse the attention of men to their real condition.-A gospel suited to the taste of the public, is apparently most advantageous in every stage of a man's life but the last—Then, nothing but the disallowed gospel can support his heart.- This would readily appear, if we could collect the suffrages of the dying. -All who admit the disallowed gospel, find the last stage of life in some sort made present to them; so they find themselves under a necessity of admitting it as the only shield from despair. The great use of the gospel is, to serve as the cure of death, and the fear that precedes it-Those who have not been much pressed with the fear of death and its consequences, can see very little in the gospel worthy of their attention, however much they may flourish, and make fine speeches about it.
This preface may properly enough be concluded with a summary view of the scope of the letters, in the words of a motto, somewhere observed in a church.
-Errantia lumina fallunt,
Which may be Englished thus,
" Each wand'ring light bewilder'd men betrays;
The cross alone salvation sure displays."
What farther the writer has to say on occasion of this edition, may be seen in the Appendix.
THERON AND ASPASIO.
The uncommon, and, therefore, the more amiable zeal shown for the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, in your two volumes of Méditations, fc. and in your sermon, entitled, The cross of Christ the Christian's glory, afforded no small satisfaction to such as professed a hearty attachment to those doctrines, and filled them with the warmest prepossession in favour of any thing that should drop from your pen. It gave them pleasure to see the grand article of the Christian religion, which, you now well say, seems to be little understood, and less regarded, if not much mistaken, and almost forgotten,” so warmly, and with such a winning address, maintained, in a book, which on account of its various ornaments, readily insinuated itself into the hands of
many who seldom think the more important truly worthy of their attention.
It behooved to please all who worship, as their God and Saviour, him who wrought that righteousness, to see you, in all your excursions through nature, making every thing that is beautiful, every thing that is grand in the creation, to serve as foils to the glory of his divine person, and to the importance of that service he has done for men. How different is your strain of reasoning here, from that of most of our religious philosophers? While they awaken our admiration at the number, magnitudes, and distances of the stars, and call up our attention to the wise and beneficial order of the universe, they employ all their eloquence to persuade us, that the grandest view of the divine Majesty, that the brightest display of his perfection, is to be found there. They would
regulate our devotion, and animate our hopes, according to the character of him which they are pleased to read us from thence. And all this, with a supercilious neglect of, and, as it were, in a contemptuous contrast to that discovery of the divine perfections which was shown to men when God was made manifest in the flesh.
Though these gentlemen will look down upon you with an air of scornful pity on this account; yet you are sufficiently kept in countenance, by the unanimous voice of that order of intelligent beings, in comparison of whom the greatest philosophers must be considered as children and fools. The angels, those attendants on the throne of the Most High, who were witnesses to the bringing of the creation into order; who saw his glory through the whole, and shouted for joy when it received the finishing touch; who, when the Saviour appeared, had the experience of several thousand years; and who had always been employed in messages about the concerns of men; they, surely, must be allowed to have the most intimate acquaintance with the works of God, and the quickest discernment of his glory therein: yet, in their song of praise, upon the appearance of him who was born to die for men, while they point to him as yet a babe lying in a manger, they plainly signify, that they now beheld more of the glory of God, than they had hitherto seen in all his works beside. Upon good authority, then, may you consider the greatest distances as contracting into a span, and the greatest magnitudes as shrinking into atoms, in comparison of the condescension that appears here. Though your sentiments here may seem to sink in the eyes of a few below; yet they receive the stamp of the true sublime, yea, I dare venture to say, of the only sublime in the eyes of the innumerable company above.
But it is not my purpose, to point out the many beautiful passages, and instances of the true sublime, that are to be found throughout your Meditations. I have said enough to show, with what a favourable bias I entered upon the reading of Theron and Aspasio. And I had no sooner opened the book, than my appetite was whetted, by hearing, that the GRAND ARTICLE of THE IMPÚTED RIGHTEOUSNESS was to make the principal figure. And here I cannot forbear noticing, how pertinently you adduce the sense of a passage from Witfius, * with great propriety setting forth
* The passage referred to in Witfius, may not improperly be considered as a paraphrase or illustration of the designation which Luther, in his spirited manner, gave to that same doctrine, when he called it, Articulus stantis aut cadentis ecclesiæ.
the strong influence that the doctrine of justification, according as it is well or ill stated, has upon the whole structure of the Christian religion. You will not, then, think it strange, if, while I read forward, my attention was chiefly awake to observe, if this doctrine was justly stated, according to its primitive simplicity, in opposition to the various ways, wherein it has been artfully corrupted, and accommodated to the pride and lusts of men. And I may add, that such was my confidence in you, that I was disposed to allow you as ample freedom in writing, as the Roman dictator had in commanding, with this sole provision, that the grand article should suffer no detriment. Considering the excellency of this article, and that the least foreign mixture, like the dead fly in the precious ointment, deprives us of its genuine favour and benefit, we cannot be too cautious of its purity. The apostle of the Gentiles, writing to those of whom he had borne record, that the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them; to those whom he had espoused to one husband, that he might present them as a chaste virgin to Christ; yet addresses them in this manner. I am jealous over you with the jealousy of God. -I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.* And I am apt to think, that, had you considered, with a more jealous eye, the writings of some popular preachers which you have read, the occasion of my present address to you might have been prevented. For I am willing to believe, that
you have got your first taste of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity from higher and purer sources than these.
But not to detain you, so much were my fondest hopes gratified, in reading many of the dialogues, by finding the grand article so clearly and warmly supported, that, though I met with scattered hints that somewhat alarmed my jealousy, yet, like one averse to believe what gives him pain, I was willing to overlook these, and to presume, that they did not enter into your leading design, till the sixteenth dialogue completed my disappointment. Then I was obliged to say, Alas! how is the fine gold become dim! Has our favourite author then at last so far lost sight of the imputed righteousness, as to mix another with it! Has he so embarrassed, or rather shut up our access to the divine righteousness, as to
@thorntos TNS eis tov Xpisov, singleness towards Christ. These words, as they stand in connection, must, I think, denote that simplicity, or singleness of affection towards the one husband, which is inconsistent with every the least unchaste desire toward any other.