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men," Rom. i. 22. Whether by such men he means the philosophers
have been in all men in case the great Advocate and Mediator of mankind had not interposed to procure the gracious conjunction of the illuminating Spirit of God with it; yea, and as it will be, whensoever this Spirit of God shall be so far offended and provoked by a man as wholly to depart and desert it. So that this judiciary act of God, in "giving" men "over to a reprobate mind," imports nothing but the total withdrawing of all communion and converse by his Spirit with them, hereby leaving them in the hand, and under the inspection, of such a mind or understanding which is naturally, properly, and entirely their own. In which case the mind and understanding of a man suffers after some such manner as a quantity of good, wholesome, and spiritful wine would do, in case it should be bereft of all the subtile and spirituous parts of it by a chemical extraction made by fire; that which should remain after such a separation, would be but as water, without strength or taste.
Now the cause of this fire of displeasure kindled in the breast of God against the persons mentioned, burning so near to the bottom of hell, as we heard, our apostle recordeth, first in these words, "Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful," Rom. i. 21; afterwards in these, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge," &c., ver. 28, or, (as the original, I humbly conceive, would rather bear,)" as they did not make trial," i. e. put themselves to it, engage their abilities, "to have God in acknowledgment,"* i. e. so to discover him to the world, that he might be acknowledged in his sovereign greatness and transcendent excellences by men. From which passages laid together, it clearly appears, 1. That for men that "know God," or have means and opportunities of knowing him, not to "glorify him" like himself, and "as God," is a sin of a very high provocation, and which directly, and with a swift course, tends to an utter dissolution of all communion and friendly converse between God and men. 2. That for men of knowledge, parts, and abilities, to neglect the manifestation and making known of God, in and to the world, to the intent that he may be "acknowledged," reverenced, loved, delighted in by his creature, is a strain of the worst resentment with God of that unthankfulness, which he interprets a "non-glorifying him as God," or like himself.
* Καὶ καθὼς οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει, &c.
Knowing the terror of the Lord in the way of the premises, brethren honoured and beloved in the Lord, according to the measure of the light of the knowledge of himself which he hath been graciously pleased to shine in my heart, ἐδοκίμασα αὐτὸν ἔχειν ἐν ¿Lуvσ, I have in the ensuing discourse lifted up my heart and soul, and all that is within me, to the discovery and manifestation of him in the world, in the truth of his nature, attributes, counsels, decrees, ways, and dispensations; and that with a single eye, with clearness and simplicity of intention, to disencumber the minds, judgments, and consciences of men of such thoughts and apprehensions concerning him which are evil mediators between him and his creature, feeding and fomenting that distance and enmity between them, which have been occasioned by sinful and unworthy deportment on the creature's side. I confess that in some particulars managed and asserted in the discourse, I have been led (I trust by the Spirit of truth and of God) out of the way more generally occupied by those who of later times have travelled the same regions of inquiry with me. But deeply pondering what Augustin somewhere saith, that "as nothing can be found out more beneficial unto the world than somewhat further of God than is at present known, so nothing is attempted or sought after with more danger,"* I have steered my course in the subsequent debates with all tenderness and circumspection, arguing nothing, concluding nothing but either from the grammatical sense or best known signification of words and phrases in the Scripture, and this, for the most part, if not constantly, in conjunction both with the scope of places, the express consent and agreement of contexts, together with the analogy of the Scriptures themselves in other places, or else from the most unquestionable and universally received principles and maxims either in religion or sound reason, and more particularly from such notions concerning the nature of God, and his attributes and perfections, which I find generally subscribed with the names and pens of all that are called orthodox amongst us, and have written of such things. Nor have I any where receded from the more general sense of interpreters in the explication of any text or passage of Scripture, but only where either the express signification of words, or the vergency (or rather, indeed, urgency) of the context, or some repugnancy to the expressness of Scripture elsewhere, or else some pregnant inconsistency with some clear principle either of religion,
* Nihil periculosius quæritur, nihil fructuosius invenitur.
or sound reason, necessitated me unto it. Yea, I seldom upon any of these accounts leave the common road of interpreters, but I find that some or other, one or more, of the most intelligent of them have trodden the same path before me. And for the most part Chrysostom, among the ancient expositors, and Calvin himself among the modern, are my companions in the paths of my greatest solitariness. Concerning the main doctrine avouched in the discourse, wherein the redemption of mankind by Jesus Christ, no particular person or member hereof excepted, is held forth and asserted, I demonstrate by many testimonies from the best records of antiquity that this was the cecumenical sense of the Christian world in her primitive and purest times. Nor am I conscious to myself (I speak as in the presence of God) of any the least mistake, either in word or meaning, of any author or testimony cited by me throughout the whole discourse, nor yet of any omission in point of diligence or care for the prevention of all mistakes in either kind.
The discourse, such as it is, with all respects of honour and love, I present unto you; not requiring any thing from you by way countenance or approbation, otherwise than upon those equitable terms on which Augustus recommended his children unto the care and favour of the Senate, "Si meruerit."* Only as a friend and lover of the truth, name, and glory of God and Jesus Christ, and of the peace, joy, and salvation of the world, with you, I shall take leave to pour out my heart and soul in this request unto you, that either you will confirm, by setting to the royal signet of your approbation and authority, the great doctrine here maintained, if you judge it to be a truth; or else vouchsafe to deliver me, and many others, from the snare thereof, by taking away, with a hand of light and potency of demonstration, those weapons, whether texts of Scripture or grounds in reason, wherein you will find by the discourse itself that we put our trust. Your contestation upon these terms will be of a resentment with me more precious and accepted than your attestation, in case of your comport in judgment with me, though I shall ingenuously confess and profess that, for the truth's sake, even in this also I shall greatly rejoice. Notwithstanding, I judge it much more, of the two, richly conducing to the dear interest of my peace and safety, to be delivered from
Sueton. in vitâ Augusti.
my errors, than to receive countenance and approbation from men in what I hold or teach according to the truth.
If nothing which is here pleaded, whether from the Scriptures or otherwise, shall be able to overrule your judgments into an acknowledgment of truth in the main doctrine contended for, in which case you will, I trust, though not with respect to my request in that behalf, yet for the truth's sake, and for your own interest's sake, as well in the things of this world as of that which is to come, declare yourselves in some worthy and satisfactory answer to the particulars here propounded; I shall not need, I presume, to desire you, that in your answer you will not rise up in your might against the weaker, looser, or less considered passages or expressions, (of which kind you may very possibly meet with many more than enough,) but that you will rather bend the strength of your reply against the strength of what you shall oppose, at least if there be any thing herein worthy such a title. You well know that a field may be won, though many soldiers of the conquering side should fall or be wounded in the battle; and that a tree may flourish, and retain both its beauty and firmness of standing in the earth, though many of the smaller twigs or lesser branches should prove dry and sere, and so be easily broken off. So may a mountain remain unmoved, yea, and unmoveable, though many handfuls of the lighter and looser earth about the sides of it, should be taken up and scattered into the air like dust. In like manner, the main body of a discourse may stand entire in its solidity, weight, and strength, though many particular expressions, sayings, and reasonings therein, that are more circumferential, and remote from the centre, should be detected either of inconsiderateness, weakness, or untruth. Yea, in some cases, one argument or plea may be so triumphantly pregnant and commanding that, though many others of the same engagement should be defeated, yet the cause protected by it may, upon a very sober and justifiable account, laugh all opposition of contrary arguings to scorn. I acknowledge there are some expressions and passages in the ensuing discourse, as in Chap. i. p. 48, and elsewhere, which, upon the review, I myself apprehend obnoxious enough to exception, yea, and which, had my second thoughts been born in due time, should have been somewhat better secured. But I trust that ancient law of indulgence in such cases as mine (which very probably may be some of your