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(i) scandalous Sins, and Errors wilfully and obstinately persisted in, such as were inconsistent with the great Fundamentals of Religion, contain'd in the Creed call'd the Apostles, the guilty were excommunicated, that is, they were strut out of that Society^ whose Laws they would not be prevailed with to obey • which ishighly reasonable, and practised by all Combinations and Societies of Men. But this Punishment, tho' accounted very great, did not deprive those who were under it of any ot their Goods, or of their Estates, but left them in Possession of all their civil Rights. For by the Laws of Christ, no Man's (2) Title to his Possessions is in the least impaired for his not being a Christian. To proceed.
There are more Notes upon those Texts than on any other, which are by some thought to teach, that Almighty God did from all Eternity, without any Respect to the good or evil Actions of Men, decree, that a certain determinate Number of Persons should be necessarily and everJastingly happy in his Presence and Kingdom, but that the much neater Number of Men and Women should be necessarily and for ever miserable. This Opinion has produced dreadful Consequences •, for some (tho' for the Reason hereafter mentioned, not many) have been driven to the utmost Destair; others have been made secure and presumptuous thereby, and others have offered it as a Reason for their settling in Jrreli
(1) Such Sins as are condemned by the Law of Reason and Nature, being destructive to humane Society, and to those who commit them, such as the holy Scriptures call the Works and Lusts of the Flesti, and cf the Devil, deserve not only the Punishment of Excommunication, but to have such other Punishments inflicted by the Magistrate, as may effectually discourage and deter all from living in them. For these Sins not only draw down the Judgments of God upon the guilty, but provoke him to fend fore Judgments, as the Sword, the Pestilence, or the Famine, on the Places and Kingdoms where they are suffered to go unpunished. Those therefore who are assisting to the Magistrate by Information or otherwise, in bringing such Sinners to condign Punishment, ought to be esteemed as publick Benefactors, and their Services - merit the Approbation and Applause of all wife and good Men. And peradventure a greater Act of Charity, taking the Word in the largest Sense, cannot be done to the Persons and Families of Drunkards, and other leud and disorderly Persons, than to make them feel the Inconveniencies and Smart of their Vices in this present World; for this may rouse and awaken their Consciences, and bring them to Consideration, and so to true Repentance, and an inward as well as an outward Refor? marion.
'\i) See Dr. C/*£j*»'s Sermon on 7th. 18. C.
rim and Prosaneness. Nor are all the nice Distinctions whicl
have been invented and lent Abroad, sufficient to put a Stoj
to these dismal Efe&s. For my Part, I should rather chuj
to say, / da not understand this or the other difficult Place d
Scripture, than to put such a Sense upon any Text, as con
tradicts all the natural Notions which God has impressei
concerning himself upon our Minds, and is contrary to *
slain and exprest Scriptures as any in the whole Bible. I d
not fay this as thinking there are any such Scriptures, bu
only on Supposition that there were. For I hope what i
said, in the Notes is sufficient to satisfie any unprejudice
Person, and yet not one Quarter of what has been said, c
may be said on this Argument, is touched upon. Thol
who go into this Notion, are generally so happy in thei
own Opinion, as to believe themselves, whatever becomes <
the rest of Mankind, to be of the Number of the Elect, i
they express it, otherwise it would be impossible for thei
to fit taste under it. And I believe I may without offendin
any one observe, That there is hardly a good-natured Man c
this Opinion, who does not wish, that all his Fellow-Cres
tures were as capable of being for ever happy, as he himse!
is; nay, who would not make them so, if it were in hi
Power to do it. If this Supposition be true, how is it pol
fible for any one to entertain such Thoughts of God, as thi
Opinion ascribes to him, whose Goodnesi, whose Merc)
whose Compassions are infinite, as well as all his other Attr,
butes? Or can we reasonably suppose, that the Metho
designed and. contrived by an All-wise and Almighty Beinj
for the Recovery of fallen Man, is of left Force, and of a smallt
Extent, than the Dcstruilion brought upon Man by the Dt
ceit and Malice of the Devil, the great Enemy .of Souls
Would not such a Supposition be highly injurious to th
Mediatory Office of Christ, the great Restorer of fallen Man
As it is exprefly said, that he tasted Death for every Mai
so it must be acknowledged, that the Virtue and Value c
his Sacrifice is sufficient for the Salvation of all Men. It is
fad Truth, that many, very many, will mist of Salvation; bu
the Reason hereof is, not because God has excluded an
by an absolute and unconditional Decree, but because the
. mistily and obstinately refuse to accept of Salvation, on thoi
reasonable and necessary Conditions it is proposed to then
upon. The Decree of God is, that it shall be well with th
Rightmu, but it shall not be well with the Wicfad. And h
gffef offers all sufficient Grace to enable them to forsake all known and wilful Sin, to become new Creatures, and practise universal Holinefi and Goodness.
Seme who have early imbibed these Notions, and whose Minds are bound and fetter'd with them, may possibly be wUIij]g to be set free from them. Such 1 would advise not to amuse and perplex themselves about the (i) Trescience or Ptreknowledge of God; for this is a Subject far, very far out of their Reach, and what learned Men cannot agree about among themselves.
I have often thought, that the filling the Mind with such Subjects, hath proceeded from a Temptation of the Devil, who finding that he cannot so far prevail as to have all Tmmghts about Religion laid aside, hath, by this Artifice, turn'd that Zeal, which should have been employed in governing Out Passions, in mortifying our Lusts, and in the Deflrvflion of Sin in our Souls, and in recovering the Divine Imageafter which we were created in Righteousness and true Holiness, to such fruitless Speculations as these, about which, when we have spent many Days and Years, we shall be as far from the Knowledge of them, as we were when we begun. If the Devil can dejlroy a Soul, it is all one to him whether he does it by Carelesness and Negligence, or by Immorality and Prosanenessj or by imploying it only in the Form of Religion, or in Diffuses about it. Religion aims at nothing less than the making us such regenerate and holy Persons as God can love and delight inj it aims to make us good our selves, and teaches us to do all the good we can to others, in our respective Stations, Relations, and Circumstances. And if the Devil can by any of his Wiles and Devices, divert and keep us from seriously endeavouring to resemble and imitate God, becoming Hie unto him in the Temper and Disposition or our Minds, he obtains his End. , It is not expected, that a Work of this Nature will be alike acceptable to all. Some may think that I might have saved
(i) Those who have an Inclination, and are capable of considering and examining what has been written on this difficult Subject by some Wio think out of the common Road, may consult Dr. Henry Mores Divine Dialogues, Dialogue the first, Sect. 20. Also Mr. Peter Pohett\ Oeccnomy of Universal Providence for the Salvation of all Mec, which in the French is the 6th and last Vol. t>f theDivifl; Oeccr.omy, an J Partgef the 4th.Vol. in English.
my self all this Pains; others* that there are too few Refe rences ^ some, that there are too many. Some may fay, tha they cannot discern the Relation between some of the Refe rences, and the Verses under which they are placed. T( these and such like Objections, I shall only answer, That i any of these References have a Mark set before them, I d< not look upon my self to be answerable for them; fb these having been put in the Margin of the Bible by eminen and learned Met?, I should probably have incurr'd Censu r< if I had omitted them. Besides, a second or third Review maj discover their Relation to the Text, which was not so obviou At first Sight. This has often happened to me in compiling this Work. To assist the Reader herein, I have for the raof Part put some of the emphatical Words in a different Character And though it should be supposed, that some of the Text: might as well have been omitted, yet if these stood before ir the Margin of the Bible, this Work will notwithstanding save them the Trouble of turning to them; and they will be able at first Sight to judge what is, and what is not for their Purpose, which will, I am perswaded, be thought no inconsiderable Advantage by those who frequently turn to the References. The new References are those for which I am in some Measure accountable, because here I have used my own Judgment.
The Index at the End of the Second Volume will, in a good Degree, answer the Use of a Common-Place-Book to the holy Scripture?, there being among the References many Doctrinal and practical Texts cited from the Old Testament, as well as from the New. To make this the more useful, 1 have sometimes referr'd to Passages in the OldTcflament, which are not among the References, setting down in the Index the Chapter and Verse. If the Number of Sheets these Volumes consist of, would have allowed it, the Index might have been larger. But this Want may without much Difficulty be supplied; for those who desire a more com}icat Index may interleave this, and in their Reading add such other Particulars as they think fit, which will make it more useful to them, than one entirely finish'd by another Hand would be.
How far this Work may be of Use to my Reverend Brethren the Clergy, whether it may assist them in recollecting such Motives to prevail with their Hearers to practise the Duties which the Gospel enjoins, as the Holy Spirit makes Use of in theS:riptures, which consequently are the most perswasiva
Motives; Motives} or whether it may in any other Respect be serviceable, I leave to be determined by them. But I am not without some Hope of its being of Service to thole who are string themselves for Holy Orders, or have been but lately ordained.
1 readily acknowledge, that my own manifold Defctts might justly have discouraged me from this Undertaking; and that a Performance of this kind by some abler Hand would have appeared with greater Advantage :, but having been long of Opinion, that such a Work would be of Ule to the World, and having in vain tried to engage some in it, whom I believed to be better qualified, 1 was at last prevailed with to set about it my self.
One Request I have to make to those who mall think sit to read this Work, That they would signisie to me what Mistakes they slial) discover therein-, whether they were committed by me, or occasioned by my Distance from the Press. It is not unlikely, notwithstanding the Care 1 have taken, but that in transcribing so many Figures, some Errors may be committed. Any such friendly Notice shall be thankfully acknowledged by me. But if any sliall think it worth their Time and Pains to appear publickly against this Performance, all the Use I sliall make thereof shall be to correct what upon further Examination I sliall find my self to have been mistaken in, if there sliall happen to be a future Impression, without giving them any Interruption about Matters wherein they may differ from me.
I will add no more, but my Desire to such as by using this Work shall find themselves improved in Divine Knowledge, which is by far the (i) most valuable Knowledge, That when
(O We are not only puzzled by Things without us, but we are Strangers to our own Make and Frame; for tho' we are convinced that we consist of Soul and Body, yet no Man hitherto has sufficiently describ'd the Union of these two, or has been able to explain, how Thought should move Matter, or how Matter should aft upon Thought: Nay, the most minute Things in Nature, if duly considered, carry with them the greatest Wonder, and perplex us as much as Things of greater Bulk and Shew. And yet we who know little of the smallest Matters, talk of nothing less than New Theories of the World, and vast Fields of Knowledge, busying ourselves in natural Enquiries, and flattering our selves with wonderful Discoveries, and mighty Improvements that have been made in humane Learning, a great Part of which is purely imaginary: and at the lame Time neglecting the only true, and solid, and