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TRUE RELIGION DELINEATED;
AS DISTINGUISHED FROM FORMALITY ON THE ONE HAND, AND
EXTHUSIASM ON THE OTHER,
SET IN A SCRIPTURAL AND RATIONAL LIGHT.
IN TWO DISCOURSES :
IN WHICH SOME OF THE PRINCIPAL ERRORS, BOTH OF THE
EXPLAINED AND PROVED.
The whole adapted to the weakest capacities, and designed for the establishment, comfort, and quickening
of the people of God.
BY JOSEPH BELLAMY, D.D.
Late of Bethlem, Connecticut.
WITH A PREFACE BY THE REV. MR. EDWARDS.
isciah xxx. 21. " And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, Tlus is the way, walk ye
in it, when ye turn to the right band, and when ye turn to the left." Matthew vii. 13, 14. “ Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way,
that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat : Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
The being of God is reckoned the first, greatest, and most fundamental of all things that are the objects of knowledge or belief; and, next to that, must be reckoned the nature of that religion which God requires of us, and must be found in us, in order to our enjoying the benefits of his favour: or rather, this may be esteemed of like importance with the other ; for it in like manner concerns us to know how we may honour and please God, and be accepted of him, as it concerns us to know that he has a being. This is a point of infinite consequence to every single person ; each one having to do with God as his supreme judge, who will fix his eternal state according as he finds him to be with or without true religion. And this is also a point that vastly concerns the public interests of the Church of God.
It is very apparent, that the want of a thorough distinction in this matter, through the defect either of sufficient discernment or care, has been the chief thing that has obscured, obstructed, and brought to a stand, all remarkable revivals of religion which have been since the beginning of the reformation ; the very chief reason why the most hopeful and promising beginnings have never come to any more than beginnings ; being nipped in the bud, and soon followed with a great increase of stupidity, corrupt principles, a profane and atheistical spirit, and the triumph of the open enemies of religion. And from bence, and from what has been so evident, from time to time, in these latter ages of the church, and from the small acquaintance I have with the history of preceding times, I cannot but think, that if the events which have appeared from age to age, should be carefully examined and considered, it would appear that it has been thus in all ages of the Christian Church from the beginning.
They, therefore, who bring any addition of light to this great subject, The nature of true religion, and its distinction from all counterfeits, should be accepted as doing the greatest possible service to the Church of God. And attempts to this end ought not to be despised and discouraged, under a notion that it is but vanity and arrogance in such as are lately sprung up in an obscure part of the world, to pretend to add any thing on this subject, to the informations we have long since received from their fathers, who have lived in former times, in New-ENGLAND, and more noted countries. We cannot suppose that the Church of God is already possessed of all that light, in things of this nature, that ever God intends to give it; nor that all Satan's lurking-places have already been found out. And must we let that grand adversary alone in his devices, to ensnare and ruin the souls of men, and confound the interest of religion amongst us, without attempting to know any thing further of his wiles than others have told us, though we see every day the most fatal effects of his hitherto unobserved snares, for fear we shall be guilty of vanity or want of modesty, in attempting to discern any thing that was not fully observed by our betters in former times; and that whatever peculiar opportunities God gives us, by special dispensations of his providence, to see some things that were overlooked by them?
The remarkable things that have come to pass in late times respecting the state of religion, I think, will give every wise observer great reason to determine that the counterfeits of the grace of God's spirit are many more than have been generally taken notice of heretofore; and that, therefore, we stand in great need of having the certain and distinguishing nature and marks of genuine religion more clearly and distinctly set forth than has been usual ; so that the difference between that and every thing that is spurious may be more plainly and surely discerned, and safely determined.
As inquiries of this nature are very important and necessary in theinselves, so they are what the present state of religion in New-ENGLAND, and other parts of the British dominions, do in a peculiar manner render necessary at this season; and also do give peculiar opportunity for discoveries beyond what has been for a long time. Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light, has shown himself in many of his artifices more plainly than ordinary; and given us opportunity to see more clearly and exactly the difference between his operations, and the saving operations and fruits of the spirit of Christ; and we should be much to blame, if we did not improve such an advantage.
The author of the ensuing treatise has not been negligent of these opportunities. He has not been an unwary or undiscerning observer of events that have occurred these ten years past. From the intimate acquaintance with bim, which I have been favoured with for many years, I have abundant reason to be satisfied that what has governed him in this publication, is no vanity of mind, no affection to appear in the world as an autbor, nor any desire of applause; but a hearty concern for the glory of GOD, and the kingdom and interest of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ; and that as to the main things he here insists on, as belonging to the distinguishing nature and essence of true religion, he declares them not only as being satisfied of them, from a careful consideration of important facts, (which he has had great opportunity to observe,) and very clear experience in his own soul; but the most diligent search of the holy scriptures, and strict examination of the nature of things ; and that his determinations concerning the nature of genuine religion, here exhibited to the world, have not been settled and published by him without long consideration, and maturely weighing all objections which could be thought of, taking all opportunities to hear what could be said by all sorts of persons against the principles here laid down, from time to time conversing freely and friendly with gentlemen in the Arminian scheme, having also had much acquaintance, and frequently and long conversation with many of the people called Separatists, their preachers, and others.
And I cannot but express my sincere wishes, that what is here written by this reverend and pious author may be taken notice of, read without prejudice, and thoroughly considered : As I verily believe, from my own perusal, it will be found a discourse wherein the proper essence and distinguishing nature of saving religion is deduced from the first principles of the oracles of God in a manner tending to a great increase of light in this infinitely important subject--discovering truth,