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This surely is too probable a conjecture to be contemplated without serious apprehension by any one, who will observe impartially, and consider attentively, the peculiar signs of these eventful times.
in speculation, experience testifies what wild work has been made by persons undertaking it on those pretences. For it is well known, the doctrines of religion may be grossly misunderstood, and perverted to very mischievous purposes, as well through ignorance, indiscretion, or mis-applied zeal, as by design. If we do not think a common artificer well qualified for his business, without having served a regular apprenticeship; surely this, which is a more dangerous edge-tool than the saw or the chisel, requires an early preparation to handle it skilfully. As one of the most valuable liberties of mankind is that of forming into societies, and enjoying the benefit of regulations made for public order and convenience, whoever endeavours to propagate opinions tending to disunite or disturb the society, to weaken the authority of those regulations, or hinder the good effects of them, is an infringer of that liberty, and consequently a proper object for the restraint of the law."*
* Tucker's Light of Nature pursued, p. 416, 420, of the Abridgment.
It was proposed in the commencement of this
work, to examine the other doctrines, which the pretended evangelists have grafted on the word of God; as well as that which respects grace and regeneration. But this article is extended to so great and unexpected a length, that it may be advisable perhaps to proceed no further. Indeed, after the publication of the Bishop of Lincoln's Refutation of Calvinism, and Mr. Mant's Bampton Lectures, it might seem needless, if not presumptuous, to attempt any new defence of those doctrines, which we affirm to be delivered in the gospel and asserted by our church. But in extenuation of such apparent temerity, it may be proper to state, that the materials of this treatise were collected before the former excellent work appeared; and that the copy was ready for the press, when the "Appeal to the Gospel" was presented to the public. The first thought that occurred, and in this case possibly the best, was the propriety of relinquishing a design, the main object of which had been attained by such superior abilities and learning. But sub
sequent reflection led to a different determination. For although we pretend not to proceed pari passu in vindicating the divine doctrines of our blessed Master, and only Saviour, Jesus Christ; yet it appeared probable that a more familiar exposition of so grave a matter, however inferior in dignity and value, might not be altogether unserviceable to the common cause. venturing therefore to publish this cursory review of Methodism, after the comprehensive and accurate examinations of the subject which have preceded it, we have been chiefly influenced by these considerations, viz. That a light, and even a superficial tract will often find its way, where a more deep and weighty disquisition is less readily admitted; and that when the principles of truth itself are perverted, then it is allowable, if it ever be, to" write the same thing, to add, line upon line, and precept upon precept." If the subject be trite, and the remarks anticipated; and, if in pursuing the same end with the Bampton Lecturer, we have occasionally trod in the same path; we presume to hope that a concurrence of sentiment, purely accidental, may add some force to the argument, and some credit to the opinion it supports.
The bold assumptions of Calvinistic Methodism have indeed been sufficiently repelled, and its high claims to a divine original, have been utterly disproved. But the adversary with whom we are contending never remits his vigilance
or activity; though defeated, he is not subdued; he returns to the charge with the same weapons which have been repeatedly blunted and foiled. It is necessary, therefore, to oppose the same means of defence which have been so frequently resorted to before.
To make an effectual stand, we must put on the whole armour of God: but still, in vain shall we resist him, with the" breast plate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God;" those arms of truth of which he bears the counterfeit; unless the imposture be exposed to those, who are most liable to be deceived by the specious semblance. His success is favoured by darkness and delusion.
Fallere et effugere est triumphus.
We must, therefore, unravel all his windings, unfold his intricacies, and discover his evasions.
The detailed, and numerous extracts from Methodistical authors may possibly be very tiresome to the reader; but if these particulars had not been specified, we might have been charged, as another opposer of their opinions has been, "of dealing in generalities, and of reproaching all its teachers with one sweeping censure, as illiterate, and self-appointed."* We might have been accused of imputing sentiments to them, which their advocates disclaimed.
Styles's Letter to a Barrister, p. 91.
It may be some apology for the loose manner in which these strictures have been composed, to observe, that they were written under the disadvantage of continual interruptions, and at short intervals; and that the time bestowed upon them has been literally snatched from pressing, and necessary engagements, which would scarcely allow either abstraction of mind, or arrangement of thought.