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BODY OF DIVINITY:
ARE EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED.
SUBSTANCE OF SEVERAL LECTURES
THE ASSEMBLY'S LARGER CATECHISM.
BY THOMAS RIDGLEY, D. D.
WITH NOTES, ORIGINAL AND SELECTED,
BY JAMES P. WILSON, D. D.
IN POUR VOLUMES,
FIRST AMERICAN, FROM THE THIRD EUROPEAN EDITION.
"ID AT AND TOR WILLIAM. W. WOODWARD, CORNER OF CHESNUT AND SOUTA .
District of Pennsylvania, to wit:
BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the seventeenth day of May, in Seal.
the thirty-eighth year of the Independence of the United States of America, A. D. 1813, William W. Woodward, of the said District, hath deposited in this office the title of a Book, the right whereof he
claims as proprietor, in the words following, to wit: “A Body os Divinity: wherein the doctrines of the christian religion, are ex“plained and defended. Being the substance of several lectures on the Assem“ bly's larger catechism. By Thomas Bidgley, D.D. With notes, original and “ selected, by James P. Wilson, D. D. In four volumes. First American, from " the third European Edition.”
In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, intitled, “ An Act for the encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies of Maps, Charts and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such Copies during the times therein mentioned.”-And also to the Act, entitled “ An Act supplementary to An Act, entitled “ An act for the encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such Copies during the times therein mentioned,” and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints."
D. CALDWELL, Clerk of the
District of Pennsylvania.
TO THE READER.
In this first American edition the original text remains unaltered, the notes which Dr. Ridgley had subjoined to his work are retained, and for the sake of distinction, printed in Italics. The other notes have been added by Dr. Wilson ; and in every instance wherein they have been selected by him from others, they are accompanied by marks of quotation, and the name of the author or book from whence they were taken.
HE influence which the different sentiments of men, in
matters of religion, have, for the most part, on their temper and behaviour towards one another, affords very little ground to expect that any attempt to explain or defend the most important doctrines of Christianity, should not be treated with dislike aid opposition by some, how much soever it may afford matter of conviction to others. This consideration would have put a stop to my pen, and thereby saved me a great deal of fatigue, in preparing and publishing the following sheets, had it not been over-balanced by what I cannot, at present, think any other than a sense of duty, in compliance with the call of providence. I heartily wish there were no occasion to vindicate some of the great doctrines of the gospel, which were more generally received in the last age, than at present, from misrepresentation, as though the method in which they had been explained led to licentiousness, and the doctrines themselves, especially those of election, particular redemption, efficacious grace, and some others, that depend upon them, were inconsistent with the moral perfections of the divine nature : these are now traduced by many, as though they were new and strange doctrines, not founded on scripture, nor to be maintained by any just methods of reasoning deduced from it, or as if the duties of practical religion could not be inculcated consistently therewith. If this insinuation were true, our preaching would be vain, our hope also vain, and we should be found false witnesses for God, and have no solid ground whereon to set our feet, which would be a most tremendous thought. And, if this be not sufficient to justify my present undertaking, I have nothing to allege of equal weight.
I must confess, that when I took the first step, in order to the setting this design on foot, by consenting that proposals
should be printed, about two years since, I reckoned it little other than an expedient to disengage myself from any farther thoughts, and my friends from any expectation of it, which I could not well do, but by having a proof of the backwardness of persons to encourage, by subscription, a work which would be so very expensive to the undertakers; but, the design being countenanced, beyond what I could have imagined, and numbers subscribed for, with more expedition than is usual, I was laid under an obligation immediately to prepare my notes for the press, and set forward the work, which, through the divine goodness, has been thus far carried on; and I cannot but take occasion to express my grateful acknowledgment of the respect that has been shewed me, by those who have encouraged this undertaking. If it may answer their expectation, and subserve their spiritual advantage, I shall count my labour well employed, and humbly offer the glory thereof, as a tribute due to God, whose interest is the only thing that demands all our time, strength, and utmost abilities. If I may but have a testimony from him that I have spoken nothing concerning him that is a dishonour to his name, unbecoming his perfections, or that has a tendency to lead his people out of the right way to the glorifying and enjoying of him, my end is fully answered. Whatever weakness I have discovered, arising from mine inequality to the greatness of the subjects insisted on, I hope to obtain forgiveness thereof from God, whose cause I have endeavoured to maintain ; and, to be excused by men, as I may truly say, I have not offered, either to him or them, what cost me nothing. I have, as far as I am able, adapted my method of reasoning to the capacities of those who are unacquainted with several abstruse and uncommon words and phrases, which have been often used by some who have treated on these subjects, which have a tendency rather to perplex, than improve the minds of men: terms of art, as they are sometimes called, or hard words, used by metaphysicians and schoolmen, have done little service to the cause of Christ.
If I have explained any doctrine, or given the sense of any scripture in a way somewhat different from what is commonly received, I have never done it out of the least affectation of singularity, nor taken pleasure in going out of the beaten path, having as great a regard to the footsteps of the flock, as is consistent with that liberty of thinking and reasoning, which we are allowed to use, who conclude nothing to be an infallible rule of faith, but the inspired writings.
As to what I have advanced concerning the eternal generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost, I have thought myself obliged to recede from some common modes of explication, which have been used, both by ancient and modern
writers, in insisting on these mysterious doctrines, which, probably, will appear, if duly weighed, not to have done any great service to the cause, which, with convincing evidence, they have maintained; since it is obvious that this is the principal thing that has given occasion to some modern Arians to fill the margins of their books with quotations, taken out of the writings of others, whom they have either, without ground, pretended to have been on their side of the question, or charged with plucking down with one hand, what they have built up with the other.
Whether my method of explaining these doctrines be reckoned just, or no, I cannot but persuade myself, that if what I have said, concerning the subordination of these divine persons, be considered in any other view, than as an explication of the Sonship of Christ, and the procession of the Holy Ghost, it will not be reckoned a deviating from the common faith of those who have defended the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity; and, if it be an error to maintain that these divine persons, as well as the Father, are independent, as to their personality, as well as their essence, or to assert that the manner of their having the divine essence, as some express it, is independent, as well as the essence itself, then what I have delivered, on that subject, is to no purpose, which, when I am convinced of, I shall readily acknowledge my mistake, and count it an happiness to be undeceived.
As to what respects the decrees of God, and more particularly those that relate to angels and men, and his providence, as conversant about sinful actions, and the origin of moral evil, I have endeavoured to account for them in such a way, as, I trust, does not in the least, infer God to be the author of sin; nor have I, in any instance, represented God as punishing sin, or determining to do it, out of his mere sovereignty, as though he designed to render his creatures miserable, without considering them as contracting guilt, and thereby procuring this to themselves. And, when I have been led to insist on the freeness of divine grace, and the covenant of grace, as made with Christ, and, in him, with the elect, and maintained the absoluteness and independency hereof on the will of man to render it effectual to salvation, I have, notwithstanding, said as much as is necessary concerning the conditionality of our claim to the blessings thereof, and the inseparable connexion that there is between practical religion and salvation, which fences against the charge that is often brought against this doctrine, as though it led to licentiousness. This I could not omit to mention, that the reader might not entertain groundless prejudices against some of the doctrines insisted on, before he duly weighs the method in which they are handled, or considers whether my