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cient confutation of all the arguments, authorities, and scriptural testimonies, with which we support our sentiments; is no evidence of a candid liberal mind, or of a sincere desire to know the truth. And let it be observed, that though some professors have been proved enthusiasts, and others detected to be hypocrites, this doth not prove that we are all enthusiasts and hypocrites. Such rash judgments are most hurtful to those who pass them.
For myself, I here publicly profess, that I will, to the end of my days, acknowledge it as the greatest obligation that any person can confer on me, if, in the spirit of meekness, he will point out to me any error or enthusiastical delusion into which I have fallen, and by sufficient arguments convince me of it, I trust, that my earnest desire to discover “ the truth as it is in Jesus,” has not abated in its influence, and that I still retain the same disinterested resolution to embrace it and adhere to it, with which I set out. Still am I solicitously fearful of being betrayed by a warmth of spirit, and by the deceitfulness of my heart, into erroneous opinions. But clamour and reproach, objections and arguments, brought against sentiments I detest, or consequences I cannot see to be fairly deducible from our doctrines; or such reasonings as set one divine attribute at variance with another, make one part of the Bible contradict another, or exalt the human understanding upon the tribunal, and arraign and condemn revealed mysteries at her presumptuous bar ;-will have no weight at all with me, or with any who ever knew the grace of God in truth.
And now, beloved reader, let me conclude with leaving it upon thy conscience to search for the truth of the gospel in the study of God's word, accompanied by prayer, as thou would search for hid treasure. I give thee this counsel, expecting to meet thee at the day of judgment, that our meeting may be with joy, and not with grief: may the Lord incline thee to follow it with that solemn season full in view ! Time how short ! eternity how long ! life how precarious and vanishing ! death how certain ! the pursuits and employments of this present life how vain, unsatisfying, trifling, and vexatious! God's favour and eternal life how unspeakably precious! His wrath, the never-quenched fire, the never-dying worm, how dreadful ! Oh! trifle not away the span of life, in heaping up riches which shortly must be left for ever, and which profit not in the day of wrath ; in such pleasures and amusements as will issue in eternal torments, or in seeking that glory which shall be swallowed up in everlasting infamy. Agree with me but in this,—that it is good to redeem precious time, to labour for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life, and to attend principally to the one thing needful ; take but thy measure of truth as well as duty from the word of God; be willing to be taught of God; meditate on his word day and night ; let it be “ the light of thy feet, and the lantern of thy paths ;” and in studying it, “ lean not to thy own understanding,” trust not implicitly to expositors and commentators, but ask wisdom and teaching of God. Be not a Felix, saying to thy serious apprehensions about thy soul, “Go thy way at this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee;" lest death and judgment come before that season :-and be not an Agrippa, almost persuaded to be a Christian ; but seek to be altogether such as the primitive Christians were. I say, agree but with me in these reasonable requests, and we shall at length agree in all things ;-in many, in this world ;-in all, when we hear the Son of God address us in these rejoicing words,-" Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” May the Lord vouchsafe unto the writer, and to every reader of this Narrative, “ that wisdom which is from above;" that teaching of his Holy Spirit, which guides into the ways of peace; that faith which justifies and works love ; that peace of God which passeth understanding; and that measure of sanctifying and strengthening grace, which may enable each of us to be “ steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, as knowing that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”
The importance of the subject treated of, and the rank which it holds in the word of God, among the doctrines and duties of Christianity; the backwardness of mankind to attend to it, in proportion to that importance; and an apprehension that it is not insisted on, either from the pulpit or the press, so frequently and strenuously in our times, as it was in the days of the apostles; form, collectively, the reasons which induced me to this publication. Much ignorance, and various hurtful and perplexing mistakes and difficulties, about repentance, may be observed, both amongst professors of serious godliness and others; I therefore thought, that it might not be unseasonable or unprofitable, to publish a discourse upon the subject.
My first intention was only to send to the press the substance of a sermon which I had repeatedly preached; but the same reasons influenced me, upon mature consideration, to complete the design, as far as I was capable; though the size and price are both by that means increased.
Some passages may be judged to bear hard upon certain popular sentiments, and current species of religion. I have indeed very plainly spoken my mind respecting several things, which I am convinced are detrimental to the cause of pure religion; and I hope I have not transgressed the rules of meekness and candour. Even wise and good men, in their zeal for one part of divine truth, may drop unguarded expressions, which bear an interpretation injurious to another part of equal importance; and thus, undesignedly, by their reputation give sanction to error. This our artful and watchful enemy will be sure to observe, and make his advantage of, in opposing true religion; by which some may be deceived, others hardened, and religion itself exposed to contempt and reproach.
It behoves then other friends of religion, who are witnesses of such perversions, to oppose and obviate them; nor must the reputation of some, or the censure of others, among their fellow-servants, be regarded, when the glory of God, the interests of religion, and the salvation of souls are at stake. Were some pious men, now in glory, to return on earth, and witness the abuse that has been made of certain indiscreet expressions which they employed, they would be the first to approve every endeavour to counteract their fatal tendency. With all plainness and freedom I would plead the cause of truth and holiness; but would give no needless offence to any man. May that God, whom I would “serve with my spirit, in the gospel of his Son,” powerfully succeed this feeble attempt to promote his glory in the salvation of souls.
Olney, 2nd February, 1785.