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To the right worshipful, his reverend, learned and worthy friends and brethren, the heads and governors of the colleges and halls in the University of Oxford.

Sirs,

The dedication of books to the names of men worthy and of esteem in their generation takes sanctuary in so catholic and ancient prescription, that to use any defensative about my walking in the same path cannot but forfeit the loss of somewhat more than the pains that would he spent therein. Now, although, in addresses of this kind, men usually avail themselves of the occasion to deliver their thoughts as to particulars in great variety, according as their concernments may he, yet the reasons which are generally pleaded as directions for the choice of them to whom, with their labours and writings, they so address themselves, are for the most part uniform, and in their various course transgress not the rules of certain heads from whence they flow. To express a gratitude for respects and favours received, by returning things in their kind eternal for those which are but temporal; to obtain countenance and approbation unto their endeavours, in their breaking forth into the world, from names of more esteem, or at least more known than their own; to advance in repute by a correspondency in judgment with men of such esteem, intimated thereby, — are the more ingenuous aims of men in the dedications of their writings. Though these, and sundry other pretences of the same kind, might justly be drawn into my plea for this address unto you, yet your peculiar designation and appointment, through the good hand of the providence of God, to the defence of the gospel, and your eminent furnishment with abilities from the same hand for the performance of that glorious duty, is that alone upon the account whereof I have satisfied myself, and hope that I may not dissatisfy others, as to this present application. What there is of my own peculiar concernment, wherein I am like to obtain a more favourable condescension in judgment, as to my present undertaking, from you than from other men, will in the close of my address crave leave to have mention made thereof. Brethren! the outward obligations that are upon you from the God of truth, with the advantages which he hath intrusted you withal for the defence of his truth, above the most of men in the world, are evident even to them that walk by the way, and turn little aside to the consideration of things of this nature, importance, and condition; and it is to me an evidence of no small encouragement that God will yet graciously employ you in the work and labour of his gospel, by his constant giving a miscarrying womb to all them who have attempted to defraud the nation and the churches of God therein of those helps and furtherances of piety and literature with whose management for their service you are at present intrusted. Of the jewels of silver and gold whereof, by the Lord’s appointment, the children of Israel, coming out from amongst them, spoiled the Egyptians, did they dedicate to the tabernacle in the wilderness, when the Lord “planted the 8heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth, and said unto Zion, Thou art my people.” Though some outward provisions and furnitures of literature, — now, through the good hand of God, made serviceable to you in your attendance upon the great work and employment committed to you, — were first deposited when thick darkness was over the land, yet that they may be made eminently subservient to the will of God in raising up again the tabernacle of David, that was fallen down, the experience of a few years, I no way doubt, will abundantly reveal and manifest. That in the vicissitude of all things, given them by the mysterious and dreadful wheels of providence, your good things also (as every thing else that is pleasant and desirable, or given of God unto the sons of men, hath done) have fallen into the possession and disposal of men, some enemies, others utterly useless and unfruitful to the Lord in their generations, cannot be denied; but what is there, in his ways or worship, in his works or word, that God hath not, at some season or other, delivered into the power of the men of the world; though they have abused and perverted them to their own destruction? Neither is there any other use of this consideration, but only to inform them of the obligation they lie under to a due and zealous improvement of them to whose trust and care the Lord commits any of his mercies, when he rescues them from the captivity under which they have been detained by ungodly men. This is now your lot and condition in reference to many who, for sundry generations, possessed those places and advantages of eminent service for the house of our God which you now enjoy. What may justly be the expectation of God from you, under this signal dispensation of his goodness; what is the hope, prayer, and expectation of very many that fear him, concerning you in this nation; what are the designs, desires, aims, and endeavours, of all sorts of them who bear ill-will at whatsoever is comely or praiseworthy amongst us, — you are not ignorant. Whatever consideration, at any time or season, may seem to have had an efficacy upon the minds and wills of men under the like sacrament and designment to the service of truth with yourselves, to incite and provoke them to a singularly industrious and faithful discharge of their duty, is eminently pressing upon you also; and you are made a spectacle to men and angels as to the acquitment of yourselves. The whole of your employment, I confess, — both in the general intendment of it, for the promoting and diffusing of light, knowledge, and truth, in every kind whatever, and in the more special design thereof, for the defence, furtherance, and propagation of the ancient, inviolable, unchangeable truth of the gospel of God, — is, in the days wherein we live, exposed to a contention with as much opposition, contempt, scorn, hatred, and reproach, as ever any such undertaking was, in any place in the world wherein men pretended to love light more than darkness.

It is a hellish darkness which the light of the sun cannot expel. There is no ignorance so full of pride, folly, and stubbornness, as that which maintains itself in the midst of plentiful means of light and knowledge. He that is in the dark when the light of the sun is as seven days, hath darkness in his eye; and how great is that darkness! Such is the ignorance you have to contend withal; stubborn, affected, prejudicate, beyond expression; maintaining its darkness at noonday; expressly refusing to attend to the reason of things, as being that alone, in the thoughts of those men (if they may be so called who are possessed with it), wherewith the world is disturbed. From those who, being under the power of this inthralment, do seem to repine at God that they are not beasts, and clamorously traduce the more noble part of that kind and offspring whereof themselves are, — which attempts do heighten and improve the difference between creatures of an intellectual race and them, to whom their perishing composition gives the utmost advancement, — whose eternal seeds and principles are laid by the hand of God in their respective beings, you will not, I am sure, think it much if you 9meet with oppositions. Those who are in any measure acquainted with the secret triumphing exaltations of wisdom and knowledge against folly and ignorance, with the principles and conditions wherewith they advance themselves in their gloryings, even then when the precedency of (that which is bestial in this world) force and violence outwardly bears them down with insultation and contempt, will rather envy than pity you in any contest that on this foot of account you can be engaged in. You are not the first that have fought with men after the manner of beasts, nor will be the last who shall need to pray to be delivered from absurd and unreasonable men, seeing “all men have not faith.”

Men of profane and atheistical spirits, who are ready to say, “Who is the Lord? What is the Almighty that we should fear him? or his truth that we should regard it?” whose generation is of late multiplied on the face of the earth, crying “A confederacy” with them who, professing better things, are yet filled with grievous indignation at the sacrifice that hath been made of their abominations before their eyes, by that reformation of this place wherein you have been instrumental, are a continual goad on the other side, and would quickly be a sword in your very bowels, were not “He that is higher than the highest” your dwelling-place and refuge in your generation. These are they upon whom God having poured contempt and stained their glory, they, instead of accepting of his dispensations, are filled with wrath, and labour to make others drink of the cup which hath been offered to themselves. With their reproaches, slightings, undervaluations, slanders, do your worth, diligence, integrity, labours, contend from one end of this earth to the other. He that “hath delivered doth deliver; and in him we trust that he will yet deliver.”

What other oppositions you do meet, or in your progress may meet withal, I shall not mention; but wait with patience on Him who gives men repentance and change of heart to the acknowledgment of the things that are of Him. This in the midst of all hath hitherto been a cause of great rejoicing, that God hath graciously kept off ravenous wolves from entering into your flocks, where are so many tender lambs, and hath not suffered “men to arise from amongst yourselves speaking perverse things, and drawing away disciples after them;” but as he hath given you to “obey from the heart that form of doctrine which hath been delivered unto you,” so he hath preserved that “faith” amongst you “which was once delivered unto the saints.”

Your peculiar designation to the service of the gospel and defence of the truth thereof, your abilities for that work, your abiding in it notwithstanding the opposition you meet withal, “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” are, as I said before, my encouragements in this address unto you, wherein I shall crave leave a little farther to communicate my thoughts unto you as to the matter in hand. Next to the Son of his love, who is the Truth, the greatest and most eminent gift that God hath bestowed on the sons of men, and communicated to them, is his truth revealed in his word, — the knowledge of him, his mind and will, according to the discovery which he hath made of himself from his own bosom, having magnified his word above all his name. The importance hereof as to the eternal concernments of the sons of men, either in ignorance refusing and resisting, or accepting and embracing of it, is that which is owned, and lies at the bottom and foundation of all that we any way engage ourselves into in this world, wherein we differ from them whose hope perisheth with them. Unto an inquiry after and entertainment of this divine and sacred depositum hath God designed the fruit and labour of that wherein we retain the resemblance of him; which, whilst we have our being, nothing can abolish. The mind of man and divine truth are the two most eminent excellencies wherewith the Lord hath adorned this lower part of his creation; which, when they correspond and are brought into conformity with each other, the mind being changed into the image of truth, 10there is glory added to glory, and the whole rendered exceeding glorious. By what suitableness and proportion in the things themselves (that is, between truth and the mind of man), as we are men, — by what almighty, secret, and irresistible power, as we are corrupted men, our minds being full of darkness and folly, — this is wrought, is not my business now to discuss. This is on all hands confessed, that, setting aside the consideration of the eternal issues of things, every mistake of divine truth, every opposition to it or rejection of it, or any part of it, is so far a chaining up of the mind under the power of darkness from a progress towards that perfection which it is capable of. It is truth alone that capacitates any soul to give glory to God, or to be truly useful to them who are partakers of flesh and blood with him; without being some way serviceable to which end, there is nothing short of the fullness of wrath that can be judged so miserable as the life of a man. Easily so much might be delivered on this account as to evince the dread of that judgment whereto some men, in the infallibly wise counsel of God, are doomed, even to the laying out of the labour and travail of their minds, to spend their days and strength in sore labour, in making opposition to this truth of God. Especially is the sadness of this consideration increased in reference to them who, upon any account whatever, do bear forth themselves, and are looked upon by others, as “guides of the blind,” as “lights to them which are in darkness,” as the “instructors of the foolish,” and “teachers of babes.” For a man to set himself, or to be set by others, in a way wherein are many turnings and cross paths, some of them leading and tending to places of innumerable troubles, and perhaps death and slaughter, undertaking to be a guide to direct them that travel towards the place of their intendments, where they would be, and where they shall meet with rest; for such an one, I say, to take hold of every one that passeth by, pretending himself to be exceeding skilful in all the windings and turnings of those ways and paths, and to stand there on purpose to give direction, if he shall, with all his skill and rhetoric, divert them out of the path wherein they have perhaps safely set out, and so guide them into those by-ways which will certainly lead them into snares and troubles, if not to death itself, — can he spend his time, labour, and strength, in an employment more to be abhorred? or can he design any thing more desperately mischievous to them whose good and welfare he is bound and promiseth to seek and promote? Is any man’s condition under heaven more to be lamented, or is any man’s employment more perilous, than such an one’s, who, being not only endowed with a mind and understanding capable of the truth and receiving impressions of the will of God, but also with distinguishing abilities and enlargements for the receiving of greater measures of truth than others, and for the more effectual improvement of what he doth so receive, shall labour night and day, dispending the richest treasure and furnishment of his soul for the rooting out, defacing, and destruction of the truth, for the turning men out of the way and paths that lead to rest and peace? I never think of the uncomfortable drudgery which men give up themselves unto, in laying the hay and stubble of their vain and false conceptions upon the foundation, and heaping up the fruit of their souls, to make the fire that consumes them the more fierce and severe, but it forces compassionate thoughts of that sad condition whereto mankind hath cast itself by its apostasy from God. And yet there is not any thing in the world that men more willingly, with more delight and greediness, consecrate the flower of their strength and abilities unto, than this of promoting the delusions of their own minds, in opposition to the truth and ways of God. It is a thing of obvious observation and daily experience, that if, by any means whatever, any one closeth with some new and by-opinion, off from the faith delivered to and received by the generality of the saints, be it a thing of never so small concernment in our walking with God in gospel obedience, and in love without dissimulation one towards another, yet instantly more weight is laid upon it, more pains laid out about 11it, and zeal dispended for its supportment and propagation, than about all other most necessary points of Christian religion. Have we not a deplorable cloud of examples of men contending about some circumstance or other in the administration of an ordinance, biting and devouring all that stand in their way, roving up and down to gain proselytes unto their persuasion, and in the meantime utterly ignorant or negligent of the great doctrines and commands of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which are, as in him, the head and life of souls? How many a man seems to have no manner of religion at all, but some one error! That is his God, his Christ, his worship; that he preaches, that he discourseth of, that he labours to propagate, until, by the righteous judgment of God, it comes to pass that such men in all other things wither and die away, all the sap and vigour of their spirits feeding that one monstrous excrescency, which they grow up daily into. Desire of emerging and being notable in the world, esteem and respect in the hearts and mouths of them whom peculiarly they draw after them, with the like unworthy aims of self-advancement, may, without evil surmising (when such attempts are, as in too many, accompanied with irregularity in conversation), be supposed to be advantages given into the hands of the envious man, to make use of them for the sowing of his tares in the field of the poor seduced world.

That this procedure is also furthered by the burdensomeness of sound doctrine unto the generality of men, who, having “itching ears,” as far as they care for these things, do spend their time in religion in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing, cannot be denied. Besides, to defend, improve, give and add new light unto, old truths (a work which hath so abundantly and excellently been laboured in by so many worthies of Christ, especially since the Reformation), in any eminent manner, so as to bring praise and repute unto the undertakers (which, whether men will confess or no, it is evident that too many are enslaved unto), is no easy task. And for the most part of what is done that way, you may say, “Quis leget hæc?” The world, says every one, is burdened with discourses of this nature. How many have we in our days who might have gone to the grave in silence among the residue of their brethren, and their names have remained for a season in the voisinage, where they might have done God the service required of them in their generation, would they have kept themselves in the form of wholesome words and sound doctrine, that have now delivered their names into the mouths of all men, by engaging into some singular opinions, though perhaps raked out of the ashes of Popery, Socinianism, or some such fruitful heap of error and false notions of the things of God!

I desire not to judge before the time; the day will manifest all things, and the hidden secrets of the hearts of men shall by it be laid open, when all the ways, causes, and occasions, of their deceiving and being deceived shall be brought to light, and every man according to his work shall have praise of God; — only, I say, as to the present state of things, this is evident (not to speak of those locusts from the bottomless pit that professedly oppose their strength to all that is of God, his name, word, worship, truth, will, and commands, razing the foundation of all hopes for eternity; nor of him and his associates who “exalteth himself above all that is called God,” being “full of names of blasphemy,” sealed up to destruction), very many amongst ourselves, of whom we hoped better things, do, some in greater, some in lesser matters, give up themselves to that unhappy labour we before mentioned, of opposing the truth of God, and exalting their own darkness in the room of his glorious light.

Ut jugulent homines, surgunt de nocte latrones:

Ut teipsum serves, non expergisceres?11    Hor. Ep., lib. i. 2.

Reverend brethren, if other men can rise early, go to bed late, and eat the bread of carefulness, spend their lives and strength to do their own work, and 12propagate their own conceptions, under a pretence of doing the work of God; if the envious man watcheth all night and waits all advantages to sow his tares, — how will you be able to lift up your heads with joy, and behold your Master’s face with boldness at his coming, if, having received such eminent abilities, endowments, and furnishments from him for his service, and the service of his sheep and lambs, as you have done, you gird not up the loins of your minds, and lay not out your strength to the uttermost for the weeding out of the field and vineyard of the Lord “every plant which our heavenly Father hath not planted,” and for feeding the flock of Christ with sincere milk and strong meat, according as they are able to bear? What you have received more than others is of free grace which is God’s way of dealing with them on whom he lays the most unconquerable and indispensable obligations unto service. Flesh and blood hath not revealed, unto you the truth of God which you do profess, but our Father which is in heaven. You do not upon any endeavour of your own differ from them who are given up to the sore judgment and ever-to-be-bewailed condition before mentioned. It hath not been from your own endeavours or watchfulness that you have been hitherto preserved under the hour of temptation, which is come to try the men that live upon the face of the earth. It is not of yourselves that you are not industriously disturbing your own souls and others with this or that intrenchment upon the doctrine of the gospel, and the free grace of God in Jesus Christ; which not a few pride themselves in, with the contempt of all otherwise minded. And doth not the present state of things require the full disbursing of all that you have freely received for the glory of Him from whom you have received it? You are not only persons who, as doctors and teachers in a university, have a large, distinct disciplinary knowledge of divinity, but also such as to whom “the Son of God is come, and hath given an understanding to know him that is true;” “into whose hearts God hath shined, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ;” and therefore may say, “ ‘What shall we render to the Lord?’ how shall we serve him in any way answerable to the grace we have received?” I speak not this, the Lord knows it, before whom I stand, with reflection on any, as though I judged them neglecters of the duty incumbent on them. “Every one of us must give account of himself to God.” The daily pains, labour, and travail, of many of you in the work of the gospel, the diligence and endeavours of others in promoting other useful literature, are known unto all. Only the consideration of my own present undertaking, joined with a sense of mine own insufficiency for this, or any other labour of this kind, and of your larger furnishment with abilities of all sorts, press me to this stirring up of your remembrance to contend for the faith, so much opposed and perverted. Not that I would press for the needless multiplying of books (whose plenty is the general customary complaint of all men versed in them), unless necessity call thereto. “Scribimus indocti, doctique.” But that serious thoughts may be continually dwelling in you to lay out yourselves to obviate the spreading of any error whatever, or for the destruction of any already propagated, by such ways and means as the providence of God and the circumstances of the matter itself shall call you out unto, is in the desire of my soul.

Something you will find in this kind attempted by the weakest of your number, in this ensuing treatise. The matter of it I know will have your approbation, and that because it hath His whom you serve. For the manner of handling it, it is humbly given up to his grace and mercy, and freely left to your Christian judgment. The general concernments of this business are so known to all that I shall by no means burden you with a repetition of them. The attempt made by Mr Goodwin against the truth here asserted was by all men judged so considerable (especially the truth opposed having a more practical influence into the walking of the saints with God than any other by him assaulted, and the defending 13of it giving more advantage unto an inquiry after the mind of God, as delivered in innumerable places of Scripture, than any of the rest opposed) as that a removal of his exceptions to our arguments, and an answer to his objections, were judged necessary by all. Other reasons manifesting this endeavour to be in order and in season, I have farther communicated in the entrance of the treatise itself. In my addresses to the work, I could by no means content myself with a mere discussing of what was produced by my adversary; for he having kept himself, for the most part, within the compass of the synodal writings of the Remonstrants, which are already most clearly and solidly answered (by one especially, renowned Amesius), to have tied myself unto a contest with him had been merely actum agere, without promoting the cause I had undertaken in the least. As I account it by no means an ingenuous proceeding for men to bear up their own names by standing upon the shoulders of others, to deport themselves authors when indeed they are but collectors and translators; so I am very remote from being so far in love with this way of handling controversies in divinity, as to think it necessary to multiply books of the same matter, without some considerable addition of light and strength to the cause whose protection and promotion are undertaken. On this consideration, besides incident discourses, which I hope, through the grace of Him that supplied seed to the sower, may be of use and have an increase amongst the saints of God, I have made it my aim (and what therein I have attained is, with all submission of mind and judgment, cast before the thoughts of men whose senses are exercised to discern good and evil) to place each argument insisted on upon its own proper basis and foundation; to resolve every reason and medium whereby I have proceeded into its own principles, discovering the fountain and well-head of all the streams that run in the field of this contest; as also to give some clearings and evidences to our conclusions from the several texts of Scripture discussed, by discovering the reason of them and intent of God in them. Some arguments there are, and sundry texts of Scripture, that are usually produced and urged in the defence of the cause under consideration that I have not insisted on, nor vindicated from the exceptions of the adversaries. Not that I judge them indefensible against their most cunning or most furious assaults, and so slighted what I could not hold, — for, indeed, I know not any one text of Scripture commonly used for this end, nor any argument by any sober man framed to the same purpose, that is not capable of an easy and fair vindication, — but merely because they fell not in regularly in the method I had proposed to myself, nor would so do, unless I had gone forth to the issue of my first intendment, and had handled the abode of believers with God at large from its principles and causes, as I had done that part of our doctrine which concerns the continuance of the love of God with and unto them; which the growth of the treatise under my hand would not give me leave to do. What hath been, or may yet farther be, done by others who have made or shall make it their business to draw the saw of this controversy to and fro with Mr Goodwin, I hope will give satisfaction, as in other things, so in the particulars by me omitted. As to what I have to speak, or at least think it convenient to speak, concerning him with whom in this discourse I have much to do, and the manner of my dealing with him, being a thing of personal concernment, not having any influencing aspect on the merits of the cause, I shall in not many words absolve you of your trouble in the consideration thereof. My adversary is a person whom his worth, pains, diligence, and opinions, and the contests wherein on their account he hath publicly engaged, have delivered from being the object of any ordinary thoughts or expressions. Nothing not great, not considerable, not some way eminent, is by any spoken of him, either consenting with him or dissenting from him. To interpose my judgment in the crowd, on the one side or the other, I know neither warrant nor sufficient cause; we all stand or fall to our own masters, and the fire 14will try all our works. This only I shall crave liberty to say, that whether from his own genius and acrimony of spirit, or from the provocations of others with whom he hath had to do, many of his polemical treatises have been sprinkled with satirical sarcasms, and contemptuous rebukes of the persons with whom he hath had to do; so that were I not relieved in my thoughts by the consideration of those exacerbations and exasperations of spirit which, upon other accounts besides bare difference of opinion in religious things, have fallen out in the days and seasons which have passed over us, all of them labouring to exert something of themselves on every undertaking of the persons brought under their power, I should have been utterly discouraged from any contest of this nature. Much, indeed, of his irregularity in this kind I cannot but ascribe to that prompt facility he hath in putting abroad every passion of his mind and all his conceptions, not only decently clothed, with language of a full and choice significancy, but also trimmed and adorned with all manner of signal improvements that may render it keen or pleasant, according to his intendment or desire. What the Latin lyric said of the Grecian poets may be applied to him:—

Monte decurrens velut amnis, imbres

Quem super notas aluêre ripas,

Fervet, immensusque ruit profundo

Pindarus ore.22    Hor. Od., lib. iv. 2.

And he is hereby plainly possessed of not a few advantages. It is true that when the proof of his opinion by argument, and the orderly pursuit of it, is incumbent on him (a course of all others wherein he soonest faileth), the medium he useth and insisteth on receiveth not the least contribution of real strength from any dress of words and expressions wherewith it is adorned and accompanied; yet it cannot be denied but that his allegorical amplifications, illustrations, and exaggerations of the things he would insinuate, take great impressions upon the minds of them who are in any measure entangled with the seeming probabilities which are painted over his arguments, by their sophistry and pretence of truth. The apostle, giving that caution to the Colossians, that they should take heed μή τις αὐτοὺς παραλογίζηται ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ, manifesteth the prevalency of false reasonings when in conjunction with rhetorical persuasion, Col. ii. 4. The great store also of words and expressions, which for all occasions he hath lying by him, are of no little use to him, when, being pressed with any arguments or testimonies of Scripture, and being not able to evade, he is forced to raise a cloud of them, wherewith after he hath a while darkened the wisdom and counsel of that wherewith he hath to do, he insensibly slips out of the cord wherewith he appeared to have been detained, and triumphs as in a perfect conquest, when only an unarticulate sound hath been given by his trumpet, but the charge of his adversaries not once received or repelled. But not anywhere doth he more industriously hoist up and spread the sails of his luxuriant eloquence than when he aims to render the opinion of his adversaries to be “monstrum horrendum, informe ingens, cui lumen ademptum,” — a dark, dismal, uncomfortable, fruitless, death-procuring doctrine, such as it is marvellous that ever any poor soul should embrace or choose for a companion or guide in its pilgrimage towards heaven. Rolling through this field, his expressions swell over all bounds and limits; metaphors, similitudes, parables, all help on the current, though the streams of it being shallow and wide, a little opposition easily turns it for the most part aside; a noise it makes, indeed, with a goodly show and appearance.

“― Agylleus

Herculeâ non mole minor, ―

Sed non ille rigor, patriumque in corpore robur.

Luxuriant artus, effusaque sanguine laxo

Membra natant.

[Stat. Theb., vi. 837–842, slightly altered.]

15This, as I said, prompts, I fear, the learned person of whom we speak to deal so harshly with some of them with whom he hath to do. And it is still feared that

Parata tollit cornua;

Qualis Lycambæ spretus infido gener,

Aut acer hostis Bupalo.33    Hor. Od., lib. v. 6.

It might, indeed, be the more excusable if evident provocation were always ready at hand to be charged with the blame of this procedure, if he said only,

An, si quis atro dente me petiverit

Inultus ut flebo puer.44    Ibid.

But for a man to warm himself by casting about his own pen until it be so filled with indignation and scorn as to blur every page and almost every line, is a course that will never promote the praise nor adorn the truth of God. For what remains concerning him, “Do illi ingenium, do eloquentiam et industriam; fidem et veritatem utinam coluisset.

The course and condition of my procedure with him, whether it be such as becometh Christian modesty and sobriety, with an allowance of those ingredients of zeal in contending for the truth which in such cases the Holy Ghost gives a command for, is referred to the judgment of all who are concerned, and account themselves so, in the things of God. As to any bitterness of expression, personal reflections, by application of satirical invectives, I know nothing by myself; and yet I dare not account that I am hereby justified. The calm and indifferent reader, not sensible of those commotions which the discovery of sophistical evasions, pressing of inconsequent consequences, bold assertions, etc., will sometimes raise in the most candid and ingenuous mind, may (and especially if he be an observer of failings in that kind) espy once and again some signs and appearances of such exasperations as ought to have been allayed with a spirit of meekness before the thoughts that stirred them up had been turned out of doors in the expressions observed. Although I am not conscious of the delivery of myself in any terms intimating a captivity under the power of such a snare for a moment, yet what shall to the Christian reader occur of such a seeming tendency I humbly refer it to his judgment, being content to suffer loss in any hay or stubble whatever that I may have laid upon the foundation of truth, which I am sure is firmly fixed by God himself in the business in hand.

For what farther concerns my manner of dealing in this argument, I have only a few things to mention, reverend brethren, and you will be discharged of the trouble of this prefatory address unto you. The matter in hand, I hope, you will find attended and pursued without either jocular or historical diversions, which are judged meet by some to retain the spirits and entice the minds of the readers, which are apt to faint and grow weary if always bent to the consideration of things weighty and serious. With you, who are continually exercised with severer thoughts and studies than the most of men can immix themselves withal, such a condescension to the vanity of men’s minds and lightness of their spirits I am sure can find no approbation. And as for them who make it their business to run through books of a polemical nature, in what subject soever, in pursuit of what is personal, ridiculous, invective, beating every chapter and section to find only what ought not to be there, and recoiling in their spirits upon the appearance of that which is serious and pressing to the cause in hand, I suppose you judge them not worthy to be attended to with such an imposition upon the time and diligence of those who sincerely seek the truth in love as the satisfying of their vain humour would require. It is, indeed, of sad consideration to see how some learned men (forgetting the loss of precious hours wherewith they punish their 16readers thereby), in discourses of this nature, do offend against their professed intendments, by perpetual diversions, in long personal harangues, delighting some for a moment, instructing none in the matter inquired into. Some parts of this treatise you may perhaps judge not so closely and scholastically argumentative as the regular laws of an accurate disputation would require. In the same judgment with you is the author, when yet he supposes himself not without just apology, and that such as renders his way of procedure not blameworthy; whereas, otherwise, he, should not think any excuse sufficient to expiate such an error. He is worthily blamed who had not rather choose to want a fault than an excuse. The truth is, neither would the matter treated of, nor the persons for whose sakes chiefly this labour was undertaken, admit of an accurate scholastical procedure in all parts of the treatise. The doctrine asserted and the error opposed are the concernment of the common people of Christianity. Arminianism is crept into the bodies of sundry congregations, and the weaker men are who entertain it, the more gross and carnal are their notions and conceptions in and about it. Pelagius himself was never so injurious to the grace of God as some amongst us. Now, the souls of [the] men whose good is sought in this work are no less precious in the sight of God, though they are unacquainted with philosophical terms and ways of arguing, than the souls of the most learned. Besides, that which we account our wisdom and learning may, if too rigorously attended, be our folly. When we think to sharpen the reason of the Scripture, we may straiten the efficacy of the spirit of it. It is oftentimes more effectual in its own liberty than when restrained to our methods of arguing, and the weapons of it keener in their own soft breathings than when sharpened in the forge of Aristotle. There is a way of persuasion and conviction in the Scriptures that is more divine and sublime than to be reduced to any rules of art that men can reach unto. God in his word instructs men, to make them “wise unto salvation.” Syllogisms are not, doubtless, the only way of making men wise with human wisdom, much less divine. Some testimonies, on this account, are left at their own liberty, improved only by explanation, that they might lose nothing of their own strength, seeing no other can be added to them. Where the corrupt philosophy, or sophistical arguings, or, indeed, regular syllogistical proceedings, of the adversaries, have rendered a more close, logical way of proceeding necessary, I hope your favourable judgments will not find cause to complain of the want thereof. Whatever is amiss, whatever is defective, whatever upon any account cometh short of desire or expectation, as I know none in the world more able to discern and find out than yourselves, so there are none from whom I can expect, and justly promise myself, a more easy and candid censure, a more free and general pardon, a more favourable acceptation of this endeavour for the service of the truth, than from you. Besides that personal amity and respect which God by his providence hath given me (one altogether unworthy of such an alloy of common perplexities in his pilgrimage) with you and amongst you, besides that readiness and ingenuous promptness of mind unto condescension and candid reception of labours in this kind which your own great worth and abilities furnish you withal, exempting you and lifting you above that pedantic severity and humour of censure which possesseth sciolists and men corrupted with a desire of emerging in the repute of others, you know full well in what straits, under what diversions, employments, business of sundry natures, incumbent on me from the relations wherein I stand in the university, and on sundry other accounts, this work hath been carried on. The truth is, no small portion of it owes its rise to journeys, and such like avocations from my ordinary course of studies and employments, with some spare hours, for the most part in time of absence from all books and assistances of that nature whatever. Not longer to be burdensome unto you with things of no greater concernment than what may have respect to one every way so unworthy as myself, 17what is of the seed which God graciously supplied, I am sure will find acceptance with you; and what is of its worthless author, or that I have added, I am fully content may be consumed by the fire that tries our works of what sort they are.

My daily prayer, honoured brethren, shall be on your behalf, that in the days wherein we see so many fall from the truth and oppose it on the one hand, a great indifference as to the things of God leading captive so many on the other, so few remaining made useful to God in their generations by a conjunction of zeal for the truth and ability unto its defence, and those for the most part so closely engaged in, and their hands so filled with, the work of public beseeching men to be reconciled to God in Christ, and building up of them who are called in their most holy faith, you may receive help from above, and encouragement to engage you by all means possible to spread abroad a savour of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to labour continually that the truths of God (for whose defence you are particularly appointed) may not be cast down, nor trampled on under the feet of men of corrupt minds, lying in wait to deceive, alluring and beguiling unstable souls with enticing words of human wisdom, or any glorious show and pretence whatever, turning them from the simplicity of the gospel and the truth as it is in Jesus; that you may not faint nor wax weary, notwithstanding all the opposition, contempt, scorn, you do or may meet withal, nor even be turned aside to corrupt dalliances with error and falsehood, as is the manner of some, who yet would be accounted sound in the faith; but keeping close to the form of wholesome words, and answering the mould of gospel doctrine, whereinto you have been cast, may shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, knowing that it is but yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Yea, come, Lord Jesus, come. So prays your unworthy fellow-labourer and brother in our dear Lord Jesus,

John Owen.


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