תמונות בעמוד

being encumbered with an obscure and difficult circumlocution. And the thus distinguishing persons of different opinions in religious matters may not imply, nor infer, any more than that there is a difference, and that the difference is such as we find we have often occasion to take notice of, and make mention of. That which we have frequent occasion to speak of (whatever it be that gives the occasion), this wants a name: and it is 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 signify 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 embarrassed.

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 absurd and pernicious opinions of the former sort. And therefore the making use of different names in this case cannot reasonably be objected against, or condemned, as a thing which must come from so 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 to 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 cases which are parallel, where the cause is not at all blameworthy.

Nevertheless, at first, I had thoughts of carefully avoiding the use of the appellation Arminian in this treatise. But I

found I should be put to great difficulty by it ; and that my discourse would be so encumbered with an oftenrepeated circumlocution, instead 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 stigmatise persons of any sort with a name of reproach, or at all to make them appear more odious. If, when I had occasion to speak of those divines who are commonly called by this name, I had, instead of styling them Arminians, called them these men, as Dr. Whitby does Calvinistic divines; it probably would not have been taken any better, or thought to shew a better temper or more good manners. I have done as I would be done by in this matter. However, the term Calvinistic 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 : though I utterly disclaim a dependence 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, lest 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 maintained. 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; though he agrees, for the most part, with Arminians in his notion of the freedom of the will. And, on the other hand, though I suppose this notion to be a leading article in the Arminian scheme, that which, if pursued in its consequences, will truly infer, or naturally lead to all the rest; yet I do not 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 do not 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 Essay 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 respects, yet that particular Arminian doctrine which he maintained 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 character; 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 the 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

« הקודםהמשך »