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5

Preface.

Having added a brief account of the design, order, and method of the ensuing discourse in an appendix at the close of it, I shall not here detain the reader with the proposal of them; yet some few things remain which I judge it necessary to mind him of. Be he who he will, I am sure we shall not differ about the weight of the argument in hand; for whether it be the truth we contend for or otherwise, yet it will not be denied but that the determination of it, and the settling of the minds of men about it, are of the highest concernment unto them. But whereas so much hath been written of late by others on this subject, any farther debate of it may seem either needless or unseasonable. Something, therefore, may be spoken to evidence that the reader is not imposed on by that which may absolutely fall under either of these characters. Had the end in and by these discourses been effectually accomplished, it had been altogether useless to renew an endeavour unto the same purpose; but whereas an opposition unto the Scripture, and the grounds whereon we believe it to be a divine revelation, is still openly continued amongst us, a continuation of the defence of the one and the other cannot reasonably be judged either needless or unseasonable. Besides, most of the discourses published of late on this subject have had their peculiar designs, wherein that here tendered is not expressly engaged: for some of them do principally aim to prove that we have sufficient grounds to believe the Scripture, without any recourse unto or reliance upon the authoritative proposal of the church of Rome; which they have sufficiently evinced, beyond any possibility of rational contradiction from their adversaries. Others have pleaded and vindicated those rational considerations whereby our assent unto the divine original of it is fortified and confirmed, against the exceptions and objections of such whose love of sin and resolutions to live therein tempt them to seek for shelter in an atheistical contempt of the authority of God, evidencing itself therein. But as neither of these are utterly neglected in the ensuing discourse, so the peculiar design of it is of another nature; for the inquiries managed therein, — namely, What is the obligation upon us to believe the Scripture to be the word of God? What are the causes and what is the nature of that faith whereby we do so? What it rests on and is resolved into, so as to become a divine and acceptable duty? — do respect the consciences of men immediately, and the way whereby they may come to rest and assurance in believing. Whereas, therefore, it is evident that ‘many are often shaken in their minds with those atheistical objections against the divine original and authority of the Scripture which they frequently meet withal, [and] that many know not how to extricate themselves from the ensnaring questions that they are often attacked withal about them, — not for want of a due assent unto them, but of a right understanding what is the true and formal reason of that assent, what is the firm basis and foundation that it rests upon, what answer they may directly and peremptorily give unto that inquiry, Wherefore do you believe the Scripture to be the word of God? — I have endeavoured to give them those directions herein, that, upon a due examination, 6they will find compliant with the Scripture itself, right reason, and their own experience. I am not, therefore, altogether without hopes that this small discourse may have its use, and be given out in its proper season. Moreover, I think it necessary to acquaint the reader that, as I have allowed all the arguments pleaded by others to prove the divine authority of the Scripture their proper place and force, so where I differ in the explication of any thing belonging unto this subject from the conceptions of other men, I have candidly examined such opinions, and the arguments wherewith they are confirmed, without straining the words, cavilling at the expressions, or reflections on the persons of any of the authors of them. And whereas I have myself been otherwise dealt withal by many, and know not how soon I may be so again, I do hereby free the persons of such humours and inclinations from all fear of any reply from me, or the least notice of what they shall be pleased to write or say. Such kind of writings are of the same consideration with me as those multiplied false reports which some have raised concerning me; the most of them so ridiculous and foolish, so alien from my principles, practices, and course of life, as I cannot but wonder how any persons pretending to gravity and sobriety are not sensible how their credulity and inclinations are abused in the hearing and reception of them. The occasion of this discourse is that which, in the last place, I shall acquaint the reader withal. About three years since I published a book about the dispensation and operations of the Spirit of God. That book was one part only of what I designed on that subject. The consideration of the work of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of illumination, of supplication, of consolation, and as the immediate author of all spiritual offices and gifts, extraordinary and ordinary, is designed unto the second part of it. Hereof this ensuing discourse is concerning one part of his work as a Spirit of illumination; which, upon the earnest requests of some acquainted with the nature and substance of it, I have suffered to come out by itself, that it might be of the more common use and more easily obtained.

May 11, 1677.

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