« EdellinenJatka »
of the Christian religion, because nothing else can so thoroughly eject and remove from the minds and lives of men those two most foul curses, slavery and superstition, I might seem to have been moved by a regard to the highest benefits of this life, rather than by a zeal for religion. But since God hath opened to every man the way to eternal salvation only through his own belief, and since he requires that he who would be saved should stand upon his own faith, I resolved, in matters of religion, to rest on the faith or judgment of no man; but having drawn my belief from divine revelation alone, nothing being neglected which depended on my own industry, I determined to search out and settle each point of my religious belief, by the most careful perusal and meditation of the Scriptures of God themselves.
In stating what has been profitable to myself, I have a respect to such as may come after me, whom I would invite to walk in the same path. In my youth I applied myself assiduously to the study of each Testament in its own tongue, at the same time going diligently through some shorter systems of divines; and after their example, I used myself to class under certain heads such passages of Scripture as I might extract, with a view to future examination. I was now prepared with more confidence to read larger theological works, and to examine the arguments touching certain disputed points of faith. But, to say the truth with frankness and with candor, I was often
grieved to find the arguments of an opponent either evaded by wretched shifts, or attempted to be answered by specious rather than by solid arguments; by an ostentatious display of sophisms, or by a resort to the empty quibbles of the grammarians; while that which was obstinately proclaimed as truth appeared to be defended rather with a love for contention, than by power of argument, either by a wresting of the Scriptures, or by hasty conclusions from mistaken inferences. Hence truth was often bitterly opposed as error or heresy; while errors and heresies were regarded as truths, and valued more from custom or from party spirit than the authority of the Scriptures.
Since, then, to such guides as these, neither my creed nor my hopes of salvation could safely be committed, and it was yet needful that I should possess some methodical tractate or disquisition on the Christian doctrine which might confirm my faith and assist my memory, nothing seemed safer or more advisable than the compilation of some original treatise, drawn with care and study from the Word of God alone, and executed with all faithfulness, seeing that motive for self-deceit in this matter I could have none. This plan having persevered in for some years most diligently, I found the strong-holds of the Reformed religion were fortified with ample strength against the Papists, though in many other respects insufficiently provided with bulwarks or defenders. I then
readily saw that the doctrines even of religion were of fered, not to indolent credulity, but to constant diligence and an unwearied searching out of the truth; and that there remained yet much more than I had thought, which required to be rigidly tried by the rule of Scripture, and more accurately reformed. And thus I have been enabled to discern and distinguish in sacred things between such as were matters of belief, and such as were only matters of opinion. It was a great comfort to me, that by God's assistance I had acquired such a firm support to my faith, yea, such a treasure as would no longer leave me in doubt, if required to give a reason for the hope that is in me.
If I open such a treasure to all; if, as I call God to witness, it is with brotherly love to the whole human race that I desire to spread this (beyond which I have nothing better or more precious) as widely and as freely as I can, my hope is, that it be received in the same kind spirit, and not with an uncandid and hostile feeling, even though it will be seen that I have brought many points into light which are opposed to certain received opinions.
To such as hate not the truth do I appeal; and I conjure them not to cry out that the Church is troubled by that liberty of searching and discoursing, which is granted to the Schools, and which to no believers ought to be denied; since we are commanded to "prove all things,"
and since, being daily improved by the light of truth, the Church is hence illumined and built up, rather than disturbed. Of a truth I see not how the Church can, or ought to be, more troubled by a seeking after the truth, than were the Gentiles by the first preaching of the Gospel. Of my own authority I enforce nothing,—I impose nothing. Nay, indeed, I exhort all, and it is my earnest advice, that, as to opinions which may not seem fully established, they suspend their judgment till the testimony of the Scriptures shall prevail, and persuade their reason into belief and assent.
I seek not concealment; to the learned I desire to address myself; or if the learned are not always the fittest persons to be umpires and judges in these matters, I would speak with much greater confidence to those of ripe understanding and firm hearts, to men who are "mighty in the Scriptures," rather than to the ignorant. And whereas the greater part of such as have treated these subjects have been used to fill almost all their pages with their own thoughts, thrusting into the margin a bare reference to such chapters and verses as seemed to confirm them; I have chosen, on the contrary, to fill my pages, even to redundance, with words of divine authority, and have occupied the smallest possible space with my own reflections, even though springing from the Scriptural context itself.
Lastly, it shall appear to all, from the weight and pow
er of the reasonings, be they new or old, which I shall be found to have advanced, — yea, rather from the authority of those Scriptures themselves, to which they make so frequent appeal, of how deep concernment it is to the Christian religion, that liberty be granted, not only of openly winnowing and sifting every doctrine, but also of thinking and writing concerning it according to every man's conviction; for without this liberty, religion is naught, yea, the Gospel is naught; all is force, by which it is disgraceful and base that Christianity should be upheld. We are still under the yoke, not, indeed, as of old, of the divine law, but, what is most wretched, under human bondage, or, I should rather say, under the rod of a savage tyrant. But from men of soberness and candor, I look not to find a conduct so palpably unworthy as, after the manner of certain men who have neither reason nor justice on their side, the branding with the invidious and undeserved name of heretic or heresy whatsoever shall depart from the notions commonly received, without an examination into the Scripture testimony. With such rash zealots it is enough to apply to any one this mark of infamy, in order to silence him by a word, and that without trouble; for they think him ended at a blow, against whom they can fling this reproach. To these men I answer, that, in the age of the Apostles, while the writings of the Evangelists were not, whenever the term heresy was used as a reproach, that alone was considered