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are convinced that the Bible itself is also of divine origin, I have devoted a fifth Essay to an argument in proof of that point.
When we have satisfied ourselves of the divine origin both of Christianity itself and of the Christian Scriptures, we are in possession of a clear ground for the examination and reception of the declarations of Holy Writ respecting those various doctrines which may be described as forming the essential frame-work of our holy religion. These relate to the Supreme Being and his natural and moral attributes to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, who constitute the mysterious union of the godhead—to the spiritual adversary-to the constitution, character, condition, responsibilities, and prospects, of man—to the Lord Jesus, in his character and office of Messiah—and lastly, to our redemption, through the blood and righteousness of Christ, and through the influence and operation of the Holy Spirit.
These doctrines form the respective subjects of six distinct Essays. In discussing them, I have studiously endeavoured to avoid all assumption of a wisdom “above that which is written.” My only object has been to adduce the declarations of Scripture on each particular doctrine, in such a manner, and in such an order, as might be best calculated to leave on the mind of the reader a clear and satisfactory impression.
Although the six Essays now alluded to are, in the main, purely doctrinal, it has been far indeed from my intention to insist on a religion of mere notions. Persuaded as I am of the vast importance of a right creed, I am, nevertheless, well aware that the whole scheme of Christianity is directed to practical ends; and that, as far as we are concerned, it is utterly unavailing, unless those ends are accomplished, In treating, therefore, of the several doctrines of our religion, it has often been my endeavour to show in what manner they are calculated to affect our hearts and to influe our practice; and, above all, I have desired to promote, in the reader of these doctrinal disquisitions, a real love for our God and Saviour-in whom centre all the wisdom and knowledge, all the righteousness and strength, all the joy and hope, of the true Christian.*
* The tenth Essay, which relates to the divinity of our Lord Jesus
The twelfth Essay, however, which consists of two parts, more particularly explains the practical operation of Christianity, through the medium of faith and obediencethose principles of action in the human mind, without the exertion of which it is impossible for us to secure either our present regeneration or our future and eternal bliss.
Lastly, in the Conclusion, I have laid before the reader a rapid, general, summary of the whole argument of the volume, and I have ventured to add the word of exhortation—that none may rest satisfied with viewing the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of men, at a distance, and through the medium of cold, unprofitable, speculation; but that all may really come to him as to their all-sufficient Redeemer, and thus experience for themselves that the Gospel of Christ is THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION !
Now, as the several successive parts of my subject are thus closely connected-as, indeed, a completely fair estimate of any one of these Essays cannot be formed without a survey of them all—venture to prefer to my readers a very earnest request, that they would so far do me justice, as to bestow an attentive perusal on the whole of the work, and on each Essay in its order.
Throughout the present volume, I have endeavoured to avoid the discussion of any of those points in religion, which can with any reason be regarded as peculiar or sectarian. I have considered it to be, on the present occasion, my sole duty to arrange and unfold the testimonies borne in Scripture to those primary religious principles which the generality of the Christian world unite, not merely in believing to be true, but in regarding as of essential importance to their present and everlasting welfare.
I must also beg leave to remark, that, as there is nothing which can be deemed sectarian in the subjects here brought forward, so I have not, in this volume, been writing as the representative of any particular class or denomination of Christians ; but only explaining, as a member (I
Christ, contains, in a concentrated form, the substance of a work, in which, as many of my friends are aware, I have been more or less engaged for several years.. Believing that the Essay in question is quite as likely to be useful as its more elaborate and diffuse original, I have now no view of publishing any thing farther on this great subject, except a volume, already in part composed, of Critical Dissertations.
trust) of the CHURCH OF CHRIST, the result of my own investigations, and the course of my own deliberate religious convictions. Although I am much indebted to several of my friends, who have kindly examined and corrected this work, no one is responsible for any part of its contents, except myself.
I am aware that, in not a few respects, the execution of my design in these Essays may justly be considered defective. But, amidst numerous avocations of a different nature, I have pursued the object with nearly as much assiduity as circumstances would allow; and I am no lon. ger satisfied in withholding from others the result of my labors. Should those labors be, in any degree, blessed, to the farther diffusion among men of pure, evangelical, truth, I shall have abundant cause of satisfaction and thanks fulness.
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