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CONCERNING THE STATE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN

CHURCH OF IRELAND:

OCCASIONED BY THE SERMONS OF WILLIAM BRUCE, D. D. SENIOR
MINISTER OF THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION

OF BELFAST.

BY GEORGE MILLER, D.D. M.R.I.A.
AND HON, ASSOC. OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE

TOTAL

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OBSERVATIONS

ON THE

DOCTRINES OF CHRISTIANITY.

THE volume of sermons recently published by doctor Bruce appears to require some attentive consideration, as the object of the writer is to vindicate and to recommend the opinions generally denominated arian, and consequently to discredit those, which have been by most christians esteemed to be fundamental doctrines of the religion of Christ. The subject has indeed been repeatedly discussed, and answers have been frequently given to the arguments of those, who maintained the opinions advocated in these sermons; but when erroneous opinions are again brought forward, though without any novelty either of reasoning or research, it becomes necessary that their refutation should be again adduced on the contrary side, lest any

persons should imagine, that their weakness had never been exhibited. Such repeated discussion

may indeed be advantageous to the cause of truth, as it gives occasion to various minds to contemplate it in various circumstances; and it may perhaps appear that, in the progressive improvement of the human intellect, the genuine doctrines of our faith, heretofore involved in obscurity by the subtilties of scholastic disputation, may now be vindicated with a simplicity more congenial to the spirit of true religion, and more fitted to produce a religious conviction.

The sermons of doctor Bruce seem indeed to have been composed and published, as an appeal against those members of the presbyterian church of Ireland, who adhere to the doctrines of the confession of Westminster, and thereby conform to the original standard of the entire body. It may therefore be thought, that the discussion is one, with which a member of the established church has no proper concern. Various considerations have however determined the writer of this treatise to interpose his observations. Doctor Bruce has stated in his dedication, that “ dissenters enlighten and check the establishment.” As his view there. fore has not been limited to the instruction of his presbyterian brethren, so it may be prudent for members of the established church to discuss the opinions of a writer, who thus pro

fesses to illuminate their minds, and to restrain their abuses. Much also of the doctrines, which doctor Bruce represents as unscriptural, is held by the established church in common with those, against whom he principally argues ; and one of our creeds, though * not acknowledged by his immediate adversaries, has become the subject of his most severe reprehension. When our tenets have been thus brought into question, though but incidentally in another controversy, it becomes our duty to give a reason of our faith, and to show that the opinions proposed to be substituted for it, are unscriptural and unsound. The established church too may be regarded as especially qualified to mediate in this controversy of our presbyterian brethren, since it occupies a mid. dle station of religious opinion between the two contending parties. It does not, with the one party, maintain the doctrine of arbitrary election and reprobation, distinctly and rigorously asserted in the confession of Westminster; neither, with the other, does it deny the divine nature of the Redeemer of mankind, and regard him only as a ministering spirit, though of the highest order. Moderating its views of the counsels of God in the salvation of mankind,

B 2

* It should however be remarked, that the doctrines of the athanasian creed are distinctly maintained in the confession of Westminster; in regard to the Trinity in ch. 2, sect. S, and in regard to the Incarnation in ch. 8, sect. 2.

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