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To the Christian reader.
Reader, — Thou canst not be such a stranger in our Israel as that it should be necessary for me to acquaint thee with the first sowing and spreading of these tares in the field of the church, much less to declare what divisions and thoughts of heart, what open bitter contentions, to the loss of ecclesiastical peace, have been stirred up amongst us about them. Only some few things, relating to this my particular endeavour, I would willingly premonish thee of:—
First, Never were so many prodigious errors introduced into a church, with so high a hand and so little opposition, as these into ours, since the nation of Christians was known in the world. The chief cause I take to be that which Æneas Sylvius gave why more maintained the pope to be above the council than the council above the pope, — because popes gave archbishoprics, bishoprics, etc., but the councils sued “in forma pauperis,” and, therefore, could scarce get an advocate to plead their cause. The fates of our church having of late devolved the government thereof into the hands of men tainted with this poison, Arminianism became backed with the powerful arguments of praise and preferment, and quickly prevailed to beat poor naked Truth into a corner. It is high time, then, for all the lovers of the old way to oppose this innovation, prevailing by such unworthy means, before our breach grow great like the sea, and there be none to heal it.
My intention in this weak endeavour (which is but the undigested issue of a few broken hours, too many causes, in these furious malignant days, continually interrupting the course of my studies), is but to stir up such who, having more leisure and greater abilities, will not as yet move a finger to help [to] vindicate oppressed truth.
In the meantime, I hope this discovery may not be unuseful, especially to such who, wanting either will or abilities to peruse larger discourses, may yet be allured by their words, which are smoother than oil, to taste the poison of asps that is under their lips. Satan hath βάθη καὶ μεθοδείας, depths where to hide, and methods how to broach his lies; and never did any of his emissaries employ his received talents with more skill and diligence than our Arminians, labouring earnestly, in the first place, to instill some errors that are most plausible, intending chiefly an introduction of them that are more palpable, knowing that if those be for a time suppressed until these be well digested, they will follow of their own accord. Wherefore, I have endeavoured to lay open to the view of all some of their foundation-errors, not usually discussed, on which the whole inconsistent superstructure is erected, whereby it will appear how, under a most vain pretense of farthering piety, they have prevaricated against the very grounds of Christianity; wherein, —
First, I have not observed the same method in handling each particular controversy, but followed such several ways as seemed most convenient to clear the truth and discover their heresies.
Secondly, Some of their errors I have not touched at all, — as those concerning universal grace, justification, the final apostasy of true believers, — because they came not within the compass of my proposed method, as you may see chap. i., where you have the sum of the whole discourse.
9Thirdly, I have given some instances of their opposing the received doctrine of the church of England, contained in divers of the Thirty-nine Articles; which would it did not yield us just cause of farther complaint against the iniquity of those times whereinto we were lately fallen! Had a poor Puritan offended against half so many canons as they opposed articles, he had forfeited his livelihood, if not endangered his life. I would I could hear any other probable reason why divers prelates were so zealous for the discipline and so negligent of the doctrine of the church, but because the one was reformed by the word of God, the other remaining as we found it in the times of Popery.
Fourthly, I have not purposely undertaken to answer any of their arguments, referring that labour to a farther design, even a clearing of our doctrine of reprobation, and of the administration of God’s providence towards the reprobates, and over all their actions, from those calumnious aspersions they cast upon it; but concerning this, I fear the discouragements of these woeful days will leave me nothing but a desire that so necessary a work may find a more able pen.
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