« EdellinenJatka »
was the fruit of dependence on the Father of Lights for instruction and preservation from error.
The whole of his works are now re-printed in Britain, excepting only his Defence of this Treatise, against the Objections of Mr. Solomon Williams. If the present performance, which is exceedingly scarce, meets with encouragement, the Publisher intends to print it alloa
EDINBURG!, May 15, 1790.
AUTHOR'S PREFAC E.
Y appearing in this public manner on that side of the queition, which is defended in the following sheets, will probably be surprising to many; as it is well known, that Mr. STODDARD), so great and eminent a divine, and my venerable predeces. for in the pastoral office over the church in Northampton, as well as my own grandfather, publicly and strenuously appeared in opposition to the doctrine here maintained.
However, I hope, it will not be taken amiss, that I think as I do, merely because I herein differ from him, though so much my superior, and one whose name and memory I am under distinguishing obligations, on every account, to treat with great respect and honour. Especially may I justly expect, that it will not be charged on me as a crime, that I do not think in every thing just as he did, since none more than he himself asserted this scriptural and Protestant maxim, that we ought to call no man on earth Master, or make the authority of the greatest and holiest of mere men the ground of our belief of any doctrine in religion. Certainiy we are not obliged to think any man infallible, who himself utterly disclaims infallibility. Very justly Mr. Stoddard observes in his Appeal to the Learned, p.97
“ All Protestants agree, that there is no infal“ libility at Rome; and I know no body else pre“ tends to any, since the Apostles days.” And he insists, in his preface to his fermon on the fame subject, That it argues no want of a due respect in us to our forefathers, for us to examine their opinions. Some of his words in that preface contain a good apology for me, and are worthy to be repeated on this occasion. They are as follows:
“ It may possibly be a fault (says Mr. Stoddard) “ to depart from the ways of our fathers : But it
may also be a virtue, and an eminent act of obe“ dience, to depart from them in forne things. Men « are wont to make a great rioise, that we are bring“ing in innovations, and depart from the old way: “ But it is beyond me, to find out wherein the ini. « quity does lie. We may fee caufe to alter fome
practices of our fathers, without despising of them, « without priding ourselves in our wisdom, with
out apoftacy, without abusing the advantages God “ has given us, without a spirit of compliance with
corrupt men, without inclinations to supersti“tion, without making disturbance in the church ss of God: And there is no reason, that it should “ be turned as a reproach upon us. Surely it is “ commendable for us to examine the practices of our « fathers; we have no fufficient reason to take prac“ tices upon trust from them. Let them have as « high a character as belongs to them; yet we may « not look upon their principles as oracles. Na« THAN himself missed it in his conjecture about “ building the house of God. He that believes pria“ciples because they affirm them, makes idols of " them. And it would be no humility, but baseness " of fpirit, for us to judge ourselves incapable to " examine the principles that have been handed 66 down to us. If we be by any means fit to open " the mysteries of the gospel, we are capable to judge
of these matters: And it would ill become us, so “ to indulge ourselves in ease, as to neglect the exami“ nation of received principles. If the practices of # our fathers in any particulars were mistaken, it is " fit they should be rejected; if they be not, they “ will bear examination. If we be forbidden to ex“ amine their practice, that will cut off all hopes « of reformation."
Thus, in these very seasonable and apposite sayings, Mr. STODDARD, though dead, get speaketh: And here (to apply them to my own cafe) he tells me, that I am not at all blameable, for not taking bis principles on trust; that notwithstanding the high character justly belonging to hiin, I ought not to look on his principles as oracles, as though he could not miss it, as well as NATHAN himfelf in his conjecture about building the house of God; nay, surely that I am even to be commended, for examining his practice, and judging for myself; that it would ill become me, to do otherwife; that this would be no manifestation of humility, but rather shew a baseness of spirit ; that if I be not capable to judge for myself in these matters, I am by no means fit to open the mysteries of the gospel; that if I should believe his principles, because he advanced them, I should be guilty of making him an idol.-Also he tells his and
flock, with all others, that it ill becomes them, so to indulge their ease, as to neglect examining of received principles and practices ; and that it is fit, mistakes in any particulars be rejected : That if in fome things I differ in my judgment from him, it would be very unrea. fonable, on this account to make a great noise, as though I were bringing in innovations, and departing from the old way that I may fee cause to alter some practices of my grandfather and predecessor, without despising him, without priding myself in my wisdom, without apostacy, without despising the advantages God has given me, without inclination to superstition, and without making disturbance in the church of God; in short, that it is beyond him, to find out wherein the iniquity of my so doing lies; and that there is no rena fon why it should be turned as a reproach upon me, Thus, I think, he sufficiently vindicates my conduct in the present case, and warns all with whom I am concerned, not to be at all displeased with me, or to find the least fault with me, merely because I examine for myself, have a judgment of my own, and am for practising in some particulars different from him, how positive foever he was that his judgment and practice were right. It is reasonably hoped and expected, that they who have a great regard to his judgment, will impartially regard his judgment, and hearken to his admonition in these things.
I can seriously declare, that an affectation of making a fhew as if I were something wiser than that excellent person, is exceeding distant from me, and very far from having the least influence in my appearing to oppose, in this way of the press, an opinion which he so earnestly maintained and promoted. Sure I am I have not affected to vary from his judgment, nor in the least been governed by a spirit of contradiction, neither indulged a cavilling humour, in remarking on any of his arguments or expressions.
I have formerly been of his opinion, which I imbibed from his books, even from my childhood,