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I HAVE found among my papers a Manuscript of the late Rev. Mr. Fletcher, entitled, " A Dialogue between a Minister, and one of his Parishioners, on Man's fallen and lost Estate." It consists of three parts, which are completed and have been transcribed, in a fair and legible character in his own hand-writing. It was intended, it seems, to be followed by four more, of which I know and can learn nothing. Indeed, I cannot now recollect how I became possessed of these: But suppose, that they had been put into my hands by himself, or into the hands of some friend who transmitted them to me to look over. For I find on the title-page the following request and declaration, written also with his own hand, and in different parts of the work sundry of my corrections and alterations, evidently made long ago:
Any lover of Truth who will have patience to read these sheets, is desired to write on the white side his observations, and to mark, if he thinks it worth his while,
"1. Bad or weak arguments.
"2. Bad English, tedious turns, vain repetitions. "3. What is useless to the subject, or too prolix. "4. Conclusive arguments forgotten.
"N. B. Besides these three parts, there are four more on the same subject.
"The IVth Part contains an Answer to the pleas of the self-righteous moralist and formalist.
"The Vth, An Appeal to his conscience and experience.
"The VIth, The testimony of the church for the doctrine.
"The VIIth, Some objections answered, with some directions and encouragements given.
"The grand objection that the author hath to the whole, is the length, μεγα βιβλιον, μεγα κακον ; * For want of skill and judgment, he knew not how to lop off luxuriant branches properly, and requests the help of Jesus's friends, if they judge that by dint of amputations and emendations, this work might become worth reading."
I would observe further, that this dialogue was manifestly composed by Mr. Fletcher, before he wrote or published his "Appeal to Matter of Fact and Common Sense," on the same subject: And that it is probable, after he had conceived the design of that larger work, he laid aside the intention of publishing this. Although many of the arguments and sentiments, and even some of the expressions here used, are very similar to some in the Appeal; yet as the subject appears here in a new form, and as no one sentence of it, I believe, is entirely the same, it appears to me, that it will both please and profit the readers, to whom the memory of that man of God is very dear, and every thing that dropped from his pen acceptable. I wish I could also furnish the remaining four parts.
A great book, is a great evil,
ONE OF HIS PARISHIONERS.
Containing an Account of the Doctrine to be examined.
PARISHIONER.Though I have hitherto avoided conversing with you on religious subjects, I hear you in the church, and am well acquainted with the doctrines you chiefly inforce. They always appeared to me so singular, (to use no harsher expression,) that I could not help being greatly prejudiced against you; but having at length reason to hope, from the exemplariness of your life, that you mean well, and are open to conviction, I come to lay my objectious before you, with the freedom of a well-wisher to your ministry, and the simplicity of an enquirer after truth.
Minister. The motive of your visit makes it doubly agreeable. One of my greatest pleasures is to converse with such of my parishioners as are willing to expos tulate, or advise with me about spiritual things: But, alas! most of them, through strong prejudice or false shame, refuse me this satisfaction and delight.
Par. I never could prevail with myself to wait upon you before last Sunday; as you was then reading the xxvth chapter of the Acts, I was struck with the 16th verse, where Festus says, 'that it was not the custom of the Romans, [who were but Heathens,] to condemn any man, before he had had his accusers face to face, with liberty to answer for himself, concerning the crime laid against him.' And I concluded that I came short of Heathen honesty, in condemning you as an enthusiastic preacher, before I had given you an opportunity of answering for yourself.
Min.-You see that all scripture is profitable for reproof, or for instruction: May we in all cases apply it with as much candour as you have done in this!—If you please, then, propose your objections; the more frank and open you are, the more I shall account you an advocate of truth, and a friend to me.
Par. Your request agrees with my design; and I shall, without apology, tell you what gives me offence in your doctrine.-And to begin with what you often begin with yourself, let me ask: Do you not go much too far when you speak of man's depravity and danger?
You say that we are all in a fallen, lost, undone state by nature, that our understanding is blind in spiritual things, our reason impaired, our will perverse, our conscience defiled, our memory weakened, our imagination extravagant, our affections disordered, our members instruments of iniquity, and our life altogether sinful. You suppose that till a change pass upon us we remain dead in sin, under the curse of God's broken law, and exposed every moment to eternal destruction of body and soul.-You represent us as so amazingly helpless, that we can no more, without the power of divine grace, recover ourselves out of this deplorable state, than we can raise the dead :-And, in short, you declare, that unless we are duly sensible of these melancholy truths, we neither can truly repent, nor unfeignedly embrace the gospel. Is not this a truc account of your doctrine?
Min.-It is I readily assent to it.
Par.-Believe me, the oddity, harshness, and uncharitableness of these tenets disgust the generality of your hearers, as well as myself. We live in an age when people have too much sense to imbibe such dismal notions, and too much wisdom to be frightened into godliness. Let me advise, let me intreat you to give over preaching damnation at this rate. Do but condescend to be more fashionable, and your character will be less offensive.
Min.—I thank you for your advice of becoming fashionable. I will follow it, as soon as I am convinced that a preacher is to discard truth, and take fashion for his guide: But till then, whether you will hear, or whether you will forbear, I must not shun to declare to you the whole counsel of God.' (Ezek. ii. 7; Acts xx. 27.) And if some parts of it do not suit your taste, consider, that, as the best medicines may be very unpalatable, so the most necessary doctrines may be extremely unpleasant. You value your physician, for consulting your health rather than your taste; blame not me then for what you approve in him, and remember that our Lord himself, though filled with the meekness of wisdom,' could not avoid offending' many of his disciples;' for St. John says, that when they heard him, they murmured and went back,' with the usual complaint, This is a hard saying: Who can bear it?" (John vi. 60.)
Par.-If our Lord's doctrine was disagreeable to the Jews, it was true and salutary: But yours is generally supposed to be false and pernicious.
Min.-If the doctrine of our fallen state, as you have just now represented it, is not true, and conducive to spiritual health, I advise you myself to reject it, though it were preached by an angel from heaven. But, should its truth and importance be asserted by the joint testimony of Scripture, Reason, Experience, and our own Church, I hope that you will receive it, as a good though unpalatable medicine.
Par.-Reason and Experience will convince a candid Deist, and the declarations of our Church, sup