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In publishing to the world the following Reflections on Paganism, Mohammedism, Judaism and Christianity, the Author is conscious of no motives of which he needs to be ashamed. His observations on the first three, are not likely to be found in collision with the sentiments of his Readers. On the Doctrines of Christianity, he cannot hope that his sentiments will be found in unison with those of all his Readers, how limited soever their number may be. He confesses that the great aim of his performance is, to contribute the little that he can to advance the interests of Evangelical Piety. Believing the Doctrines of the Trinity, of Original Sin, Justification by Faith through Grace, Regeneration and Sanctification by the Influence of the Holy Spirit, to be Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity, he cannot but think them worth contending for; but even in that contention, he hopes he has employed no arts unworthy of the sacred cause. He willingly gives many excellent persons credit for genuine piety, to whose language on some controverted subjects he cannot subscribe, and believes their intentions to be sounder and better than their definitions.
In the controversy between Calvinists and Arminians, he has avoided taking any other part, than that of correcting the misrepresentations of both, and endeavouring to bring both parties to a more conciliating disposition towards each other, without any dereliction of principle. An humble and pious man, who adopts even the wrong side (for there must be a right and a wrong in some degree) is a much better Christian, than he who holds the truth, with an acrimonious temper, and a disposition fierce for debate.
On the subject of Church Government, he has endeavoured to state impartially, and as fully as his limits would allow him, the arguments brought by the advocates of Episcopacy, of Presbyterianism, and of Independency, without taking any part in that controversy. On these disputed points, as well as on the controversy about the Divine Decrees, it is inconsistent with his present purpose, to declare his own particular sentiments. Should any persons infer from his neutrality in this performance, that he is entirely indifferent to such subjects, or that he has formed no opinion on them, they would do him great injustice.
The Author has long thought, that a disposition to divide and to break the Church into almost innumerable little societies, in a state of mutual repulsion from each other, the lamentable characteristic of our times, is the bane of all true religion. The corruption of our nature has converted the Gospel of peace and love, into an occasion of everlasting dispute and hostility. The observation of a celebrated Free-thinker, "That we have just religion enough to make us hate one another heartily, and plague one another devoutly," though it cannot effect, in the smallest degree, the religion of the Gospel, is only a just description of the narrow views, and of the sour tempers of many sectaries, who shelter these dispositions under the Christian name.
In our times, every man that can cavil at any doctrine, or any part of the discipline of the Church of God, or who can hatch a new conceit in religion, is sure to find some followers. If they are numerous, the popularity of his tenets is considered as a sufficient proof of their truth. If the converts are few, their very paucity is considered as a demonstration that they have entered by the strait gate, and are walking in the narrow way. They are the true Church and all other men are on the road to destruction. There are some religionists in this country, whose party altogether only amounts to a few hundreds, who believe themselves to be the only Church of God in the world!! They will not even bend their knees to pray to God, with any who are not members of their society. What sort of hearts those men must have, who look upon their own little society as the whole fruit of the Redeemer's travail and pain, it is not for the author to inquire. Were his views of the Church of God as contracted as theirs, his comfort and happiness would be insulated indeed.—The state of men's tempers has often much greater influence in forming their religious connexions, than religious principle; and when their hearts are as contracted as their tempers are sour, it is no wonder that their Christian world is bounded by the same narrow limits.