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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1846, BY CHARLES G. FINNEY, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Ohio.
1. THE truths of the blessed gospel have been hidden under a false Philosophy. Of this I have been long convinced. Nearly all the practical doctrines of Christianity have been embarrassed and perverted by assuming as true the dogma of a Necessitated Will. This has been a leaven of error that, as we shall sec, has "leavened nearly the whole lump" of gospel truth. In the present work I have in brief attempted to prove, and have every where assumed the freedom of the Will.
2. My principal design in publishing on Systematic Theology at the present time is, to furnish my pupils with a class or text book, where many points and questions are discussed of great practical importance, but which have not, to my knowledge, been discussed in any system of theological instruction extant. I have also hoped to benefit other studious and pious minds.
3. I have written for those who are willing to take the trouble of thinking and of forming opinions of their own on theological questions. It has been no part of my aim to spare my pupils or any one else the trouble of intense thought. Had I desired to do so, the subjects discussed would have rendered such an attempt abortive.
4. There are many questions of great practical importance, and questions in which multitudes are taking a deep interest at present, that can not be intelligently settled without insti
tuting fundamental inquiries involving the discussion of those questions that lie at the foundation of morality and religion.
5. I am too well acquainted with the prejudices of the great mass of professing Christians, and with their unwillingness to be at the pains of studying elementary truths and of judging for themselves, to expect that this book will soon find favor with the majority of them. Still I am aware that a spirit of inquiry into the fundamental and elementary truths of religion and of all science, is abroad, and is waking up more and more in the Church. There is a deep and growing demand for explanation in regard to the subjects discussed in this work. Especially is this true of ministers and of leading laymen and women. This book is a humble attempt to meet this demand. My object has been to simplify and explain. The book has no literary merit and claims none.
6. I fear that the book will not be understood even by some who are willing to read and are desirous of understanding it. The reasons are,
(1.) The book is highly metaphysical. This, however, is owing to the nature of the subject. The subject is, mind in its relations to moral law. Hence, the discussion, to be any thing to the purpose, must be metaphysical. To avoid metaphysics in such a discussion were to waive my subject, and to write about something else.
(2.) There is a good deal of repetition in the work. This I judged to be indispensable to perspicuity. Perhaps the reader will not agree with me in this, and may think he should have understood me just as well if I had repeated less. But my experience upon this subject after having taught these truths for years has ripened the conviction that there is no other way of being understood upon such a subject.
(3.) I fear that with all my painstaking the book will not be understood even by many who desire to understand it, on account of my inability to simplify and explain so profound a subject. With this thought I have been much oppressed.
(4.) Notwithstanding the repetition alluded to, I fear it is
condensed too much to be understood by some. The book to be understood must be studied and not merely read.
7. This volume is much more difficult to understand than any of the remaining volumes will be. I have begun with the second volume, as this was to be on subjects so distinct from what will appear in the first volume that this volume might as well appear first, and because it seemed especially called for just now, to meet a demand of the Church and of my classes.
8. Most of the subjects of dispute among Christians at the present day are founded in misconceptions upon the subjects discussed in this volume. If I have succeeded in settling the questions which I have discussed, we shall see that in future volumes most of the subjects of disagreement among Christians at the present day can be satisfactorily adjusted with comparative ease.
9. What I have said on the "Foundation of Moral Obligation" is the key to the whole subject. Whoever masters and understands that can readily understand all the rest. But he who will not possess himself of my meaning upon this subject will not, can not understand the rest.
10. Let no one despair in commencing the book, nor stumble at the definitions, thinking that he can never understand so abstruse a subject. Remember that what follows is an expansion and an explanation by way of application of what you find so condensed in the first pages of the book. My brother, sister, friend—read, study, think, and read again. You were made to think. It will do you good to think; to develop your powers by study. God designed that religion should require thought, intense thought, and should thoroughly develop our powers of thought. The Bible itself is written in a style so condensed as to require much intense study. Many know nothing of the Bible or of religion because they will not think and study. I do not pretend to so explain theology as to dispense with the labor of thinking. I have no ability and no wish to do so.
11. I suppose that faults will be discovered in the book by
12. But I hope if any of my brethren think to convince
Oberlin, July 15, 1846.