Page images
PDF
EPUB

have frequent Occasion to speak of (whatever it be, that gives the Occasion) this wants a Name : and 'tis always a Defect in Language, in such Cases, to be obliged to make use of a Description, instead of a Name. Thus we have often Occasion to speak of those who are the Descendants of the ancient Inhabitants of France, who were Subjects or Heads of the Government of that Land, and spake the Language peculiar to it ; in Distinction from the Descendants of the Inhabitants of Spain, who belonged to that Community, and spake the Language of that Country. And therefore we find the great Need of distinct Names to fignify these different Sorts of People, and the great Convenience of those distinguishing Words, French, and Spaniards ; by which the Signification of our Minds is quick and easy, and our Speech is delivered from the Burden of a continual Reiteration of diffuse Descriptions, with which it must otherwise be embarrass'd.

That the Difference of the Opinions of those, who in their general Scheme of Divinity agree with these two noted Men, Calvin, and Arminius, is a Thing there is often Occasion to speak of, is what the Practice of the latter itself confesses ; who are often, in their Discourses and Writings, taking Notice of the supposed abfurd and pernicious Opinions of the former Sort. And therefore the making Use of different Names in this Cafe can't reasonably be objected against, or condemned, as a Thing which must come from

[ocr errors]

lo bad a Cause as they assign. It is easy to be accounted for, without supposing it to arise from any other Source, than the Exigence and natural Tendency of the State of Things; considering the Faculty and Disposition God has given Mankind, to express Things which they have frequent Occasion to mention by certain distinguishing Names. It is an Effect that is similar to what we see arise, in innumerable Cascs which are parallel, where the Cause is not at all blame-worthy.

Nevertheless, at first I had Thoughts of carefully avoiding the Use of the Appellation, Arminian, in this Treatise. But I soon found I should be put to great Difficulty by it; and that my Discourse would be so incumber'd with an often repeated Circumlocution, in: stead of a Name, which would express the Thing intended, as well and better, that I altered my Purpose. And therefore I must ask the Excuse of such as are apt to be offended with Things of this Nature, that I have so freely used the Term Arminian, in the following Discourse. I profess it to be without any Design to stigmatize Persons of any Sort with a Name of Reproach, or at all to make them appear more odious. If when I had Occafion to speak of those Divines who are commonly called by this Name, I had, instead of styling them Ärminian, called them these Men, as Dr. Whitby does Calvinistic Divines; it probably would not have been taken any better, or thought to thew a better Temper, or more good Manners. I have done as I would be

done

A4

done by, in this Matter. However the Term Calvinist is in these Days, among most, a Term of greater Reproach than the Term Arminian; yet I should not take it at all amiss, to be called a Calvinist, for Distinction's Sake: tho' I utterly disclaim a Dependance on Calvin, or believing the Doctrines which I hold, because he believed and taught them; and cannot justly be charged with believing in every Thing just as he taught.

But left I should really be an Occasion of Injury to some Persons, I would here give Notice, that though I generally speak of that Doctrine, concerning Free-will and moral Agency, which I oppose, as an Arminian Doctrine ; yet I would not be understood, as asserting that every Divine or Author whom I have Occasion to mention as maintaining that Doctrine, was properly an Arminian, or one of that Sort which is commonly called by that Name. Some of them went far beyond the Arminians : And I would by no Means charge Arminians in general with all the corrupt Doctrine, which these maintain'd. Thus, for Instance, it would be very injurious, if I should rank Arminian Divines in general, with such Authors as Mr. Chubb. I doubt not, many of them have some of his Doctrines in Abhorrence; tho' he agrees, for the most Part, with Arminians, in his Notion of the Freedom of the Will. And on the other Hand, tho I suppose this Notion to be a leading Article in the Arminian Scheme, that which, if purfued in its Consequences, will truly in

fer,

fer, or naturally lead to all the rest; yet I don't charge all that have held this Doctrine, with being Arminians. For whatever may be the Consequences of the Doctrine really, yet some that hold this Doctrine, may not own nor see these Consequences; and it would be unjust, in many Instances, to charge every Author with believing and maintaining all the real Consequences of his avowed Doctrines. And I desire it may be particularly noted, that though I have Occasion in the following Discourse, often to mention the Author of the Book entitled, An Essay on the Freedom of the Will, in God and the Creature, as holding that Notion of Freedom of Will, which I oppose ; yet I don't mean to call him an Arminian: however in that Doctrine he agrees with Arminians, and departs from the current and general Opinion of Calvinists. If the Author of that Eflay be the same as it is commonly ascribed to, he doubtless was not one that ought to bear that Name. But however good a Divine he was in many Refpects, yet that particular Arminian Doctrine which he maintain'd, is never the better for being held by such an One, nor is there less Need of opposing it on that Account; but rather is there the more Need of it; as it will be likely to have the more pernicious Influence, for being taught by a Divine of his Name and Charace. ter ; supposing the Doctrine to be wrong, and in itself to be of an ill Tendency.

I have Nothing further to say by Way of Preface ; but only to bespeak thé Reader's Candour, and calm Attention to what I have written. The Subject is of such Importance, as to demand Attention, and the most thorough Consideration. Of all kinds of Knowledge that we can ever obtain, the Knowledge of God, and the Knowledge of ourselves, are the most important. As Religion is the great Business, for which we are created, and on which our Happiness depends; and as Religion consists in an Intercourse between ourselves and our Maker ; and so has its Foundation in God's Nature and our's, and in the Relation that God and we stand in to each other ; therefore a true Knowledge of both must be needful in Order to true Religion. But the Knowledge of ourselves consists chiefly in right Apprehensions concerning those two chief Faculties of our Nature, the Understanding and Will. Both are very important : yet the Science of the latter must be confess'd to be of greatest Moment ; in as much as all Virtue and Religion have their Seat more immediately in the Will, consisting more efpecially in right Acts and Habits of this Faculty. And the grand Question about the Freedom of the Will, is the main Point that belongs to the Science of the Will. Therefore I say, the Importance of this Subject greatly demands the Attention of Christians, and especially of Divines. But as to my Manner of handling the Subject, I will be far from presuming to say, that it is such as demands the

Attention

« PreviousContinue »