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Doctrines of Men with the pure Word of God to be blamed or commended? Is it not our Duty to fearch the Scriptures? It was the Sin of the Pharifees and Jewish Doctors that they made the Commandment of God of none Effect by their Traditions; and shall we incur the like Guilt by making the Love and Goodnefs of God of none Effect by our traditionary Doctrines? What other Way is there of contending for the Faith once delivered to the Saints, but by feeking for it in the Word of God? Do we not blame the Papists for their implicit Faith, for believing as the Church believeth? And how are we better than they, if we take up our religious Principles upon truft, and do not carefully adjuft them by the Standard of Divine Revelation? Perhaps thofe who have gone before us, who yet may be allowed to have been pious and virtuous Men, did not fee the Truth in this and fome other Cafes; and good Reasons may be given why they did not : But must not we therefore endeavour to understand it? Muft their Knowledge be the precife Measure of ours? or muft the Truth and Word of God be limited by any human Understanding whatsoever? What if they had known but one half of what they did know, muft we never have known more? What if they were under ftrong Prejudices of Education, and would not examine; What if they fo reverenced the Opinions of S 4 other
other good and learned Men, or imagined thefe Points to be of fo facred a Nature that they durft not examine? or what if they fancied them so much above all human Com-* prehenfion, that it was their Duty not to examine? or fo clear and certain, that there was no need to examine? or of such Weight and Importance, that it was impious to examine? Whatever their Foibles, or whatever their Fetters were, what is that to us? are we not bound to follow Chrift, and to call him alone Mafter?
CERTAINLY Religion lay for many Hundred of Years in a very deplorable State of Corruption; and it cannot be fuppofed, that it was reftored, nay it is certain that it was not reftored, to its Purity all at once. And fhould we not be very much afraid of retaining any Part of the old Error and Superftition which funk the Chriftian Religion below even Paganifin itself? Why fhould we fubject our Confciences to the Bugbears, the Tales and Fables invented by Priefts and Monks to the great Disparagement of the Gospel, and the Goodness of God, and that holy Faith and Joy which we ought to have in him? Is it not enough that our Confciences are fubject to the Law of God, but we must load them with heavy Burthens of human Fictions? Certainly nothing is more for the Honour of Religion, nothing is
more for your own Comfort, and chearful walking before God, than right Notions of his Difpenfations and therefore you should at least take in good Part any honeft Endeavours to enlighten your Mind with just Apprehenfions of them.
THUS I have, as well as I am able, gone through this useful and important Inquiry. May the Father of Lights illuminate our Understandings! I do not know that I have put a wrong Glofs upon any one Scripture (I am fure I never defigned to do fo :) nor am I in any Doubt or Uncertainty, at prefent, in my own Thoughts, about any thing I have advanced. But that is no Proof I am every where right, I make no Pretenfions to Infallibility.
THE WORD OF GOD is infallible; and that, not any thing I fay or judge, is the common Rule of Faith. And obferve, while we love the Truth, and honestly endeavour, as we are able, all our Days to understand what God hath revealed, whether the Knowledge we gain be more or less, we discharge the Duty of good Chriftians; nor can we be deftitute of that Faith which is neceffary to a righteous and holy Life, and the Acceptance of God. The Word of God is the Rule of Faith; and if I have pointed out the Light hining therein, it is well; you ought to turn your
your Eyes to THAT LIGHT. But as for me, I am a weak and imperfect Man, and may have faid feveral weak and imperfect Things; and therefore declare, If upon further Examination, or the kind Information of any Perfon of more Skill and Knowledge, I find myself in any Mistake, I shall be very glad to fee, and ready to own it. And if any one undertaketh to give you a better Account of Things, hear him willingly; but give him no Dominion over your Understanding or Confcience. Judge for yourfelf; weigh coolly and impartially what he advances. And if he convinceth you by Scripture Evidence, that I have taken any thing wrong, you are bound in Confcience and Duty to receive the Truth he discovers, and to reject my Error; but in the Spirit of Chriftian Love and Peace. And in fo doing you will approve yourself to God, and please every honeft Man; and among the reft,
Your Friend and Servant,
F in perufing this Book you have discovered any Truth you did not before undeftand, 'tis my earneft Requeft you would rather lay it up in your Heart, for your own Ufe, than make it the Subject of Contention and Strife, the Fewel of party Zeal, or the Occafion of defpifing or cenfuring thofe who do not yet fee it. And if And if you fhould enter into Difcourfe about it, let it be with all Moderation and Coolness on your Part; in the Spirit of Peace and mutual Forbearance. And therefore never converse upon this or any other Point with an angry Man; Paffion and Heat blind the Judgment: nor with a Bigot, who is determined for a Scheme, and refolved to open his Eyes to no further Evidence. And whenever Anger and Bigotry appear in a Converfation already begun, break it off: For you cannot proceed to any good Purpofe, and will be in danger of catching a Spirit which is quite contrary to the Gospel. HOLD THE TRUTH IN LOVE. Fear God and keep his Commandments; defpife earthly Things: reftrain and regulate your Paffions; be conftant in reading the Scriptures, fervent in Prayer to God, kind and compaffionate to all Men, punctual and chearful in every Duty, humble