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On the Duty of Ministers in dealing with the Unconvert.
TO THE FIRST EDITION.
WHEN the following pages were written, (1781,) the author had no intention of publishing them. He had formerly entertained different sentiments. For some few years, however, he had begun to doubt whether all his principles on these subjects were scriptural. These doubts arose chiefly from thinking on some passages of scripture; particularly, the late ter part of the second Psalm, where kings who set themselves against the Lord, and against his Anointed, are positively commanded to' kiss the Son: also, the preaching of John the Baptist, Christ, and his apostles; who, he found, did not hesitate to address unconverted sinners; and that, in the most pointed manner : saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. And it appeared, to him, there must be a most unwarrantable force put upon these passages, to make them mean any other repentance and faith than such as are connected with salvation.
Reading the lives and labours of such men as Elliot, Brain. erd, and several others, who preached Christ with so much sliccess to the American Indians, had an effect upon him. Their work, like that of the apostles, seemed to be plain be. fore them. They appeared, to him, in their addresses to those poor, benighted heathens, to have none of those difficulties with which he felt himself encumbered. These things led him to the throne of grace, to implore instruction and
resolution. He saw that he wanted both; the one to know the mind of Christ, and the other to avow it.
He was, for some time, however, deterred from disclosing his doubts. During nearly four years, they occupied his mind; and not without increasing. Being once in company with a minister whom he greatly respected, it was thrown out, as a matter of inquiry, Whether we had generally entertained just notions concernitig unbelief. It was conmon to speak of unbelief as a calling in question the truth of our own personal religion; whereas he remarked, “ It was the calling in question the truth of what God had said.”
This remark appeared to carry in it its own evidence.
From this time, his thoughts upon the subject began to enlarge. He preached upon it more than once. From hence, he was led to think on its opposite, faith, and to consider it as a persuasion of the truth of what God has said; and, of course, to suspect his former views concerning its not being the duty of unconverted sinners.
He was aware, that the generality of Christians with whom he was acquainted, viewed the belief of the gospel as something presupposed in faith, rather than as being of the essence of it; and considered the contrary as the opinion of Mr. Sandeman, which they were agreed in rejecting, as favour. able to a dead, or inoperative kind of faith. He thought, however, that what they meant by a belief of the gospel was nothing more than a general assent to the doctrines of revelation, unaccompanied with love to them, or a dependance on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. He had no doubt but that such a notion of the subject ought to be rejected : and, if this be the notion of Mr. Sandeman, (which, by the way, he does not know, having never read any of his works,) he has no scruple in saying, it is far from any thing which he intends to advance. *
Since the first edition of this Piece made its appearance, the author has seen Mr. Sandeman's writings, and those of Mr. A. M‘Lean, who, on this subject, seems to agree with Mr. Sandeman. Justice requires him to say, that these writers do not appear to plead for a kind of faith which is not followed with love, or by a dependance on Christ alone for salvą. tion; but their idea of faith itself goes to exclude every thing cordial from it. Though he accords with them, in considering the belief of