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TO ALL THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST
AND TO ALL
WHC PROFESS THE CHRISTIAN FAITH THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
PEACE, AND THE RECOGNITION OF THE TRUTH,
AND ETERNAL SALVATION
IN GOD THE FATHER, AND IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
SINCE the commencement of the last century, when religion Degan to be restored from the corruptions of more than thirteen hundred years to something of its original purity, many treatises of theology have been published, conducted according to sounder principles, wherein the chief heads of Christian doctrine are set forth sometimes briefly, sometimes in a more enlarged and methodical order. I think myself obliged, therefore, to declare in the first instance why, if any works have already appeared as perfect as the nature of the subject will admit, I have not remained contented with them—or, if all my predecessors have treated it unsuccessfully, why their failure has not deterred me from attempting an undertaking of a similar kind.
If I were to say that I had devoted myself to the study of the Christian religion because nothing else can so effectually rescue the lives and minds of men from those two detestable VOL. IV.
curses, slavery and superstition,' I should seem to have acted rather from a regard to my highest earthly comforts, than from a religious motive.
KƏNDİRİLECİLAB KAHVE". Muhlac
But since it is only to the individual faith of each that the Deity has opened the way of eternal salvation, and as he requires that he who would be saved should have a personal belief of his own,2 I resolved not to repose on the faith or judgement of others in matters relating to God; but on the one hand, having taken the grounds of my faith from divine revelation alone, and on the other, having neglected nothing which depended on my own industry, I thought fit to scrutinize and ascertain for myself the several points of my religious belief, by the most careful perusal and meditation of the Holy Scriptures themselves
If therefore I mention what has proved beneficial in my own practice, it is in the hope that others, who have a similar wish of improving themselves, may be thereby invited to pursue the same method/I entered upon an assiduous course of study in my youth, beginning with the books of the Old and New Testament in their original languages, and going diligently through
1 'Our victory at once against two, the most prevailing usurpers over mankind, superstition and tyranny.' A Ready and easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth. Milton's Prose Works, II. p. 113.
When you laboured under more sorts of oppression than one, you betook yourselves to God for refuge, and he was graciously pleased to hear your most earnest prayer and desires. He has gloriously delivered you, the first of nations, from the two greatest mischiefs of this life, and most pernicious to virtue, tyranny and superstition.' Defence of the People of England. Prose Works, I. p. 212.
What but unbuild
His living temples, built by faith to stand,
Their own faith, not another's? Paradise Lost. XII. 526.
a few of the shorter systems of divines, in imitation of whom I was in the habit of classing under certain heads whatever passages of Scripture occurred for extraction, to be made use of hereafter as occasion might require. At length I resorted with increased confidence to some of the more copious theological treatises, and to the examination of the arguments advanced by the conflicting parties respecting certain disputed points of faith. But, to speak the truth with freedom as well as candour, I was concerned to discover in many instances adverse reasonings either evaded by wretched shifts, or attempted to be refuted, rather speciously than with solidity, by an affected display of formal sophisms, or by a constant recourse to the quibbles of the grammarians; while what was most pertinaciously espoused as the true doctrine, seemed often defended, with more vehemence than strength of argument, by misconstructions of Scripture, or by the hasty deduction of erroneous inferences. Owing to these causes, the truth was sometimes as strenuously opposed as if it had been an error or a heresy-while errors and heresies were substituted for the truth, and valued rather from deference to custom and the spirit of party than from the authority of Scrip
According to my judgement, therefore, neither my creed. aor my hope of salvation could be safely trusted to such guides; and yet it appeared highly requisite to possess some methodical tractate of Christian doctrine, or at least to attempt such a disquisition as might be useful in establishing my faith or assisting my memory. I deemed it therefore safest and most advisable to compile for myself, by my own labour and study, some original treatise which should be always at hand, derived solely from the word of God itself, and executed with
all possible fidelity, seeing that I could have no wish to practise any imposition on myself in such a matter.
After a diligent perseverance in this plan for several years, I perceived that the strong holds of the reformed religion were sufficiently fortified, as far as it was in danger from the Papists, but neglected in many other quarters; neither competently strengthened with works of defence, nor adequately provided with champions. It was also evident to me, that, in religion as in other things, the offers of God were all directed, not to an indolent credulity, but to constant diligence, and to an unwearied search after truth; and that more than I was aware of still remained, which required to be more rigidly examined by the rule of Scripture, and reformed after a more accurate model. I so far satisfied myself in the prosecution of this plan as at length to trust that I had discovered, with regard to religion, what was matter of belief, and what only matter of opinion. It was also a great solace to me to have compiled, by God's assistance, a precious aid for my faith,or rather to have laid up for myself a treasure which would be a provision for my future life, and would remove from my mind all grounds for hesitation, as often as it behoved me to render an account of the principles of my belief.
If I communicate the result of my inquiries to the world at arge; if, as God is my witness, it be with a friendly and be
2 Compare this appeal to God respecting the purity of his motives, with the solemn invocation at the beginning of Reformation in England.
And here withal I invoke the immortal Deity, revealer and judge of secrets, that wherever I have in this book plainly and roundly (though worthily and truly) laid open the faults and blemishes of fathers, martyrs, or christian emperors, or have otherwise inveighed against error and superstition with vehement expressions; I have done it neither out of malice, nor list to speak evil, nor any vain glory, but of mere necessity to vindicate the spotless truth from an ignominious bondage.' Prose Works, II. 372.