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SYSTEMATIC Divinity is confidered and treated, by many, with flight and contempt. And if a book be written in this form, and published under the title of a Syftem or Body of Divinity, this is a fufficient reason, with them, to neglect it, as not worthy their attention. But can this be supported by any good reason? Is not a Syftem of Divinity as proper and important, as a Syftem of Jurifprudence, Phyfic, or Natural Philosophy?
If the Bible be a revelation from heaven, it contains a Syftem of confiftent important Doctrines ; which are fo connected, and implied in each other, that one cannot be fo well understood, if detached from all the reft, and confidered by itself; and fome must be firft known, before others can be feen in a proper and true light. When all these are stated, and explained, according to Scripture, and in their true order, connection and dependence, a System of Doctrines is formed. This every person must do, in some measure and degree, who understands the Bible. And he who would affift others in doing this, and fet the Doctrines of Christianity in a clear light, and to the best advantage to be understood, will, of course, form a Syftem of Truths. And fo far as he falls fhort of this, or deviates from it, he must be defective and confused.
Ir the following Syftem do indeed contain the chief and most important doctrines of christianity; and they be, in any good measure, explained and vindicated,
vindicated, showing their confiftence and connection with each other, the reader, it is hoped, will get fome advantage by it. If it fhould be thought by any, that it contains great errors and inconfiftencies, it is to be wished, for their fake, and for the fake of truth, that they would not confidently rest in their conclufion, or drop the fubject, till they are able to fix on a Syftem of Truths more confiftent, and which can be better fupported by the fcripture, and are more agreeable to found reafon.
It is prefumed, the author will not be fufpected of going through the labour of compofing the following work, with a view of rendering himself popular, and obtaining the general applaufe; or that he has fought to "please men." The most that can be reasonably expected, is, that it may ferve to confirm the friends of truth in the doctrines contained in the fcripture; and enlighten fome of those who have been in the dark refpecting fome truths, and have been inconfiftent with themfelves in the doctrines they have efpoufed: And that it may affift the honeft inquirers to fee what are the leading and most important doctrines of divine revelation; particularly those who are candidates for the evangelical ministry.
It is not pretended that every doctrine of chriftianity is exprefsly mentioned in this System; but that the most important and effential truths are brought into view: And of these some are treated more concisely; and others are more particularly examined and vindicated, as was judged most convenient and
ufeful. Nor was it thought neceffary, or expedient, to mention all the objections which have been made to the doctrines here advanced, as they are sufficiently obviated, by establishing the truth, from fcripture and reafon; and as this would have enlarged the work to an undefirable length: Those only are mentioned, by an answer to which, the truth is more explained and established.
THE fame sentiments are brought into view, and repeated, in a number of inftances; which could not well be avoided, in fuch a work: And it is hoped, that fuch repetitions will not be inconvenient or tedious to the reader.
To the most correct and elegant style, the author makes no pretenfion; as this is not his talent. If the words and expreffions be not ambiguous, but are fuited to convey the ideas, designed to be communicated to the mind of the reader, with ease and clearness, the chief and most important end of language is answered: And it is hoped, that they who are, with proper attention and concern, inquiring after the truth, will exercise fo much candour, as not to be offended, or flight it, though it be not expreffed in words and a style, more agreeable to their nice and critical tafte; and they may obferve a number of inaccuracies.
THIS work has been undertaken and profecuted, under a conviction, that a performance of this kind is much wanted; and, if well executed, would be very useful, and greatly ferve the cause of truth and religion. It is to be wifhed there were a more able hand,
hand, disposed to execute it: But as none appeared to do it, the author has done his best. Yet he doubts not that there are many defects; and is not confident that he has made no mistakes in lefs important points; while he has not the leaft doubt that the chief and leading doctrines here advanced are contained in the Bible, and are important and everlafting truths: And that all thofe fentiments, and fchemes of doctrine and religion, which are wholly inconfiftent with these, and contrary to them, are not confiftent with the Bible, or with one another; and, if followed in their just consequences, will lead to universal scepticism, and, which is the fame indeed, to the horrible darkness of atheism itself.
THE truth is great, and has omnipotence to fupport it; and therefore will prevail: And all erroneous doctrines, and falfe religion, will be utterly abolifhed. And there is no reafon to doubt, that light will fo increase in the church, and men will be raifed up, who will make fuch advances in opening the fcripture, and in the knowledge of divine truth ; that what is now done and written, will be fo far fuperfeded, as to appear imperfect and inconfiderable, compared with that fuperiour light, with which the church will then be bleffed. Nevertheless, if publishing that to which we have now attained, may be a mean of making such advances, and a proper and necessary step to it, the labour and expense of doing it, will be abundantly compensated.
Newport, Auguft 20, 1792.
John Brooks, Hancock
Col. Jonathan Cram, Hampton Falls
David Chandler, Amherst
Nathaniel French, Sandown
Moles Fish, Hanover
Jofeph Goffe, A. B. Bedford
Jofeph Hufe, Candidate, Methuen
Deac. Elisha Hutchinfon, Amherst
Deac. William Sterret, Francestown
Ebenezer Stone, Westmoreland
Bezaleel Woodward, Efq. Hanover
Rev. Noah Worcester, Thornton
Rev. Jofeph Woodman, Sandbornton
Moles Adams, Beverly
Rev. D. Avery, Wrentham, 2 sets
Rev. Eben. Bradford, Rowley, z fets
Jabez Brown, M. D. Wilmington