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262

Prefatory note.

Owen is an instance that attention to the outward order of the sanctuary, and zeal for the general rights of those who worship in it, are not incompatible with the cultivation of personal holiness and spirituality. In the year 1681, when he had published a tract in defence of the Nonconformists, and his laborious “Inquiry into Evangelical Churches,” the following treatise, so rich in the spiritual experience of a renewed heart, was given to the world. During a season of indisposition so great that he had been led to anticipate the close of his earthly labours, he had composed some meditations for his own use; on his recovery he preached the substance of them to his congregation; and they were afterwards published in the shape of this treatise. There is scarcely one of the more important works of Owen, but some authority might be quoted as signifying a preference for it as the best of his productions; this treatise, however, would perhaps command the greatest number of suffrages in its favour. It evinces the same sharp discrimination of human motives and character, but to elevate believers above earthly objects and console them amid present trials seem to be its prevailing design; and it contains some passages which, in solemn tenderness and beauty, are not surpassed in all the writings of our author, who is here not so much a Boanerges set for the defence of the gospel, as a Barnabas intent on the consolation of the saints.

“The following treatise of Dr Owen,” says Dr Chalmers, “holds a distinguished rank among the voluminous writings of this celebrated author; and it is characterized by a forcible application of truth to the conscience, by a depth of experimental feeling, an accuracy of spiritual discernment into the intricacies and operations of the human mind, and a skill in exploring the secrecies of the heart, and the varieties of affection, and the ever-shifting phases of character, which render this admirable treatise not less a test than a valuable guide to the honest inquirer, in his scrutiny into the real state of his heart and affections.”

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