Preface to the First Edition

J. HE prevalence of truth and righteousness is, doubtless, an object of great importance ; nor is the former any less necessary to the latter, than both are to the interests of mankind. If controversy is of any use, it is because it tends to bring truth to light. It too often unhappily falls out, however, that the parties themselves are not the first who are convinced by each other's reasonings : but, on the contrary, are as far, and perhaps farther, asunder, when they leave off, than when they began : this is not very difficult to be accounted for, though it is much to be lamented. Perhaps there are very few controversies, wherein there is not room for mutual concessions. The backwardness so generally discovered to this by writers, and the determination that too commonly appears on both sides to maintain, at all events, their own principles, have given much disgust to many readers, and made them almost ready to despair of edification by reading controversy.

But, though it must be granted, that such conduct affords a just ground of disgust towards a writer, yet there is not the same reason for being disgusted with controversial writing. Whatever be the prejudices of the parties, and their rigid adherence to their own opinions; if a controversy is carried on with any good degree of judgment, truth is likely to come out between them ; and what avails it on whose side it is found, if it is but found ? The obstinacy of the writers is a sin ; but it is a sin that belongs to themselves: the reader may get good, notwithstanding this, sufficient to repay him for all his trouble. >

For my own part, I never imagined myself infallible. I all along thought that, though, at the time, I could see no mistakes in the piece I had written; (if I had, I should certainly have corrected them ;) yet, no doubt, other people, who would look at it with different eyes from mine, would discern some; and I trust it has been my desire to lie open to instruction from every quarter. It would be the shame and folly of any man, especially of one of my years, to act otherwise.

I will not pretend to be free from that spirit which easily besets a person engaged in controversy: but thus much I can say, I have endeavoured to read each of my opponents with a view to conviction ; and it becomes me to acknowledge, that I have not been altogether disappointed. There are some passages, which, if I had the piece to write over again, I should expunge, and others which I should alter: I should endeavour, in some places, to be more explicit, and, in others, more upon my guard against every appearance of unkind reflection.* There are also some lesser matters, which I shall acknowledge in their place. Justice requires me to say thus much : but, as to the main sentiment endeavoured to be established, notwithstanding what has been written, I must say, it appears to me unshaken. If, in my judgment, that had been overthrown, the attention of the reader should not have been called upon by the present reply.

In the publications of both my opponents! I see different degrees of merit; and for each of their persons and charac

• In a second edition of the publication to which Mr. F. refers, these alterations were made; from which corrected edition, the piece, as it appears in the present volume, is printed. Ed.

f Both your opponents—but why not reply to Dr. Withers?' Because his letter appears, to me, to contain nothing like an answer to that against which it is written. The utmost I can gather, that looks any thing like evidence, may be summed up in a very small compass. " There can be no duty," it is said, " without a voluntary compact If a compact with God cannot be found on holy record—if it be evident that man is destitute of the powers essential to the existence of such a compact, it cannot be his duty to believe." (pp. 21. 26.) It might have been added, with equal propriety,—nor to do any thing else -vluch is enjoined him. But, I would ask, to whom are we unprofitable servants, as ters I feel a most sincere regard. I, doubtless, think them both beside the truth; and, I suppose, they may think the

doing n6 more than our Duty > To men, with whom we make compacts, or to God ? If Dr. W.'s reasoning be just, it is not the duty of children to be subject to their parents.

Again: Men are not all bound to have an equal " number of ideas, to believe without evidence, examination, or beyond their natural capacities." (pp. 40. 59- 73—76.) This is very true ; neither is there any thing in the treatise which Dr. W. has opposed, that asserts the contrary.

I had said, If men are not obliged to approve of what God reveals, they may be right in disapproving it. Much is said to expose this to ridicule. It is said to be " either an identical proposition, or such an arbitrary combination of Words as, it seems, will prove any thing." (pp. 85, 86.) It is not the first, unless a negative and a positive idea are necessarily the same. Christ declared, saying, He that it not loith me is against me This is as much an identical proposition as that in question, and might be treated in the same manner. If there is any mistake in the argument, it must lie in my ta' mg it for granted, upon Christ's testimony just quoted, that, though there is an evident difference between a negative and a positive idea, yet, in this case, the difference is not such as to admit a possibility of a medium. Every one knows there are cases in which a medium between ideas of that description may have place ; as between my ** not watching my neighbour's house, and breaking it open." In that case, it is not my duty to do either: but, unless such a medium could be affirmed between not approving and disapproving of what God reveals, the argument still retains its force, and the syllogistical parade must appear to be only a play of words.

Dr. W. had given us reason to expect something very considerable against the distinction of natural and moral inability ; but what does it all amount to? Why, ability or inability is not, strictly speaking, predicable of the will, but of the man. (pp. 89, 90.) I have looked over what I have written on that subject, and cannot find that I have any where predicated inability of the will, but of the man, through the perversion of Ms will. Be that, however, as it may, Dr. W.'s reasoning is of no force. An idle servant is enjoined a piece of labour : he replies, I canriot do it: he is told his inability lies in his will: he turns metaphysician, and gravely assures his master that inability is not predicable of the will, but of the man; and, therefore, insists upon it that he is blameless!

If Dr. W. means no more than this, that when the terms ability and inability are applied to the volitions of the mind they are not used in a HteralyhuX. in ajigiirative sense, I do not know any person that will dispute what he says. At the same time, it ought to be observed, that these terms are applied to what depends upon the volitions of the mind, VOL. I. Y

same of me. I desire to feel every degree of candour towards all that differ from me, which a person ought to feel towards

though it be in a figurative sense; and that, both in scripture and in common life. It is as common to say of a person of a very covetous temper, that he is incapable of a generous action, as it is to say of a person who has lost the use of his faculties, he is incapable of acting at all. And thus the scriptures apply the terms. It is as expressly said of Joseph's brethren, that they could not speak peaceably to him, as it is said of Zacharias, that he was dumb, and could not speak to the people when he came out of the temple.

The ideas, in these cases, are really and essentially distinct; and so long as they continue to be expressed, both in scripture and in common conversation, by the same word ; if we would understand what we speak or write, a distinction concerning the nature of inability, amounting to what is usually meant by natural and moral, becomes absolutely necessary.

Dr. W. instead of overthrowing this sentiment, has, undesignedly, confirmed it; for though he can excuse a want of love to God ,- yet, if any thing is directed against himself, the case is altered. Our Lord, speaking of the Pharisee), and their blasphemous reproaches against him, says, "How can ye, being evil, speak good things?" Now, according to the theory of this writer, such an inability must sufficiently excuse them. But if a Pharisee speak evil of Aim, he is grievously provoked. Who these Pharisees are, and what they have said of Dr. W. I know not. I only ask, Is it not a pity but his philanthropy could excuse those who repfoach him, as well as those who dishonour God ?

Philanthropy* is, doubtless, an amiable temper of mind, when regulated by rules of righteousness ; but there is a sort of love which the language of inspiration deems hatred. If I were, merely as a member of civil society, to visit a number of convicts under arighteous sentence of death ; and if, instead of persuading them of the goodness of the laws which they had violated, of the great evil of their conduct, and of the equity of their punishment, and conjuring them to justify their country, and sue for mercy ;—if, I say, instead of this, I should go about to palliate their crimes, and assure them, that the governor by whose laws they were condemned was the author of all their misfortunes; that, though I believed some of them, at least, must certainly suffer, yet, I must acknowledge, I could see no justice in the affair, there being no proportion between the punishment and the crime; I might call myself the friend of mankind, and give what flattering titles I pleased to what I had been doing : but impartial spectators would deem me an enemy to truth and righteousness, an enemy to my country, yea, an enemy to the very persons whose cavise I espoused.

• Alluding to the title of his book.

those whom he believes to be mistaken ; and this, I think, should go to such a length as to entertain the most sincere

But with the principles of Dr. W. I hare no concern. There is reason to hope they are too undisguised to gain credit with serious minds* I am under no obligation to refute them ; none, however, at present. Before the sentiments of any writer are entitled to a refutation, it is requisite that he pay some regard, at least, to sobriety and truth.

Whether Dr. W. can acquit himself of -wilful and known falsehood, 1 cannot tell; but this 1 know, he has, in very many instances, imputed sentiments to me of which 1 never thought, and sentences which never proceeded from my pen. The former might be imputed to mistake .- and if there had been only an instance or two of the latter, charity might have overlooked them ; but the number of gross misrepresentations is such as admits of no such construction.

Not to mention his exclamations of " punishment without guilt"—of " unmerited damnation," (pp. 6, 7.) (which seem to be his own sentiments rather than mine ; as he believes, if I understand him, that men and devils will be eternally punished for that of which God is the author .-) (pp. 176. with 50. 55.) not to mention these, I say, what could he think of himself, in taking such freedoms as the following ? " You draw I know not what conclusions concerning faith. As though a generation of vipers had been perfectly holy, if the fulness of time had not given Jesus to his people." (pp. 177, 178.)—" What combinations of deformity and weakness occur in many pious attempts to spiritualize, As Tou Phrase It, the works of nature." (p. 63.)—" To assert it to be the Duty of all to believe that they are of the fold of the heavenly shepherd is an impious absurdity." (p. 95. Note.)—"When you inform us, that it is the duty of every man to believe that He is of the remnant of salvation, you certainly are mistaken." (p. 151.)—" Tremendous deformity of thought! To Feiiish If We Do Believe A Lie, To Be Damned Ip We Bo Not Believe It !!!" (p. 153.)—" God cannot, you say, love any but his chosen, nor can omnipotence itself make any but his chosen love him." (p. 97.)—" You say, that omnipotence itself cannot make a man choose and delight in God." (p. 81.)

1 should be glad to be informed in what pages, and in what lines, the above passages are to be found, and what authority Dr. W. had for these imputations.

In the last instance, it is true, he has referred us to the page; and there are some of the words, but nothing of the meaning to be found in page 181 of my treatise* What is there said is, that "Omnipotence itgood will towards their persons, and to put the most favourable construction that can in justice be put upon their supposed mistakes. But, after all, I believe truth to be important; and, so long as I consider the belief of it to be every person's duty, according to his natural capacities and opportunities to understand it, I cannot subscribe to the innocence of errour. God is the governor of the mind, as well as of the actions. He governs the former by rule, as well as the latter; and all deviations from that rule must arise either from its not being sufficiently level to our capacities, or from inattention, prejudice, or some other criminal cause. the pamphlet on which Mr. B. has animadverted, it was my study to avoid wounding the character, or misrepresenting the sentiments of any one, whether dead or living; yet, if any thing therein be capable of such a construction, it becomes me to explain or retract it. Accordingly, I freely acknowledge, that the passage alluded to in the preface, {p. vii.) if applied to the body of those from whom I differ, is too severe. I am happy to say, I consider neither Mr. B. on the one hand, nor Philanthropos, on the other,* (whatever be the tendency of their principles, if pursued in their consequences,) as deserving that censure. I did not mean it indiscriminately of all whose sentiments I opposed; and I suppose the world, by this time, docs not want evidence that it is true of some of them.

* The references to Mr. Fuller's Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation, &c. are made to the First Edition. In the Second Edition, (from which this is printed,) several passages were Altered, and some omitted: it is therefurc impossible, generally, to refer the reader to the proper pages ia this volume- ED.

I am far from wishing, in any case, to impute blame to another, farther than I am willing, on a similar supposition, to take it to myself. I am liable to err, as well as others : but then I apprehend, so far as I do err, that it is owing to a want of diligence or impartiality, or to some such cause; which God forbid that I should ever vindicate, by pronouncing it innocent !

If I am in errour in the sentiments here defended, it will be the part of candour in my opponents to allow that I sincerely believe what I write; but it would be a spurious kind of candour to acquit me of all blame in the affair. If I have erred, either God has not sufficiently revealed the thing in question, so as to make it level with my capacity ; or else, I have not searched after truth with that earnestness and impartiality which I ought.

self cannot make The Flesh choose and delight in God j" and what is there meant by the term Jlesh, is sufficiently plain from page 182.

It is possible, this gentleman may exclaim, and multiply words, and pretend to infer the above passages from what I have advanced. I do not believe that any one of them can be fairly inferred from any thing I ha.ve written. But, suppose he thinks they can ; in order to acquit himself of falsehood, it is not enough, that, in his opinion, they may be in; ferred from what I have said ; they must be proved, the chief of them, to be Mi Words, and, all of them, Mt Sestixents ; and the places where they are to be found, particularly specified. Any thing short of this will amount to an acknowledgment of the charge, and will require no farther notice in a way of reply.