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THE Author of this Treatise has assiduously endeavoured to explain and enforce those doctrines, the belief of which is essential to the salvation of the soul. His earnest desire has been to exhibit a full and a free gospel ; but not more full, not more free, than he is authorised to do from the Word of God. He has studied to express himself so as to be understood by the young, and the comparatively illiterate ; being specially desirous that the work may be useful to the most numerous portion of society-the million-the working classes; most part of whom have little leisure time for reading, and therefore require to have knowledge conveyed to them in a condensed form. One special object contemplated, has been to vindicate God's moral character. Men hate God because they do not know his true character—that he is indeed, and in truth, a God of love and benevolence towards a lost world of mankind; and that he does all that can be done for their salvation, without destroying man's free agency, and thereby his responsibility. God declares repeatedly in his word, that he desires the salvation of all men, and he cannot be otherwise than sincere in his declarations. These sentiments the author conscientiously vindicates as Bible doctrines, and as those which alone make the different parts of the Holy Scriptures harmonise together.
The reason why any person does not love God, is because he does not know him. No one can be saved unless he truly and sincerely loves God ; and no one can ever love him aright, unless he sees and believes that God is an object worthy of the highest love ; and when he does so, then he cannot but love the object of his admiration, become reconciled to God, blessed and saved. Hence the unspeakable importance of instructing the children of men in those truths, which will induce them to love God.
In section 1st, pages 1st and 2nd of Treatise, from the passages quoted, it is seen that God is infinite in power and wisdom, and also in justice and goodness ; therefore we ought at once firmly to resolve not to admit into our mind for a moment the slightest thought derogatory to His character, which is infinitely perfect. If we read or hear anything that appears to convey the smallest slur on God's character, we ought instantly to say: No, it cannot be. From tbe perfect attributes which God possesses, He cannot but always do every thing that is right, and nothing that is wrong. Although alĩ the men and devils in the universe were to assert anything derogatory to God's moral character, we should indignantly reject it as a vile calumny. This sort of spirit is what every person ought to cherish. If any one had a worthy friend whose character was aspersed, would he not stand up in vindication of his friend ? would he not say that there must be some mistake-some misunderstanding, for he was quite sure that his friend was incapable of doing any thing that was wrong, at least intentionally? If he did not do so, he is unworthy of the name of friend. How much more ready ought we to be to vindicate God's moral character.
The author repudiates all party spirit,- follows no man implicitly ; but holds by the Bible, as the only infallible touchstone of truth. His object is to teach Bible doctrines, without regard to party, or sect, or standards of churches. Hence he reasonably requests that any one who passes judgment on any part of this Treatise, will do so from the Bible, and from no human standard. Wherein he may have erred, he solicits correction, in the spirit of fairness and candour ; and shall be most grateful to any one who may suggest useful amendments.
Although the section on “The Evidences of the Truth of Christianity” is put last, it will not appear altogether misplaced, if it be remembered, that the consideration of the Doctrines generally precedes the evidences. Indeed, since the gospel brings with it its own most convincing evidence, its suitableness to man's need,—it is almost essential that the Doctrines have this precedence given them.
That a book of this kind is needed seems evident, because much ignorance of the Christian religion exists, as appears from the following statement by the Rev. Dr. Brown of Edinburgh :—'It is scarcely credible, except to those who have carefully considered the subject, how defective in any thing approaching even to clear, connected, satisfactory views of the system of truth contained in the Scriptures, are many who have had what is called a Christian education, who, for a course of years, have been in the habit of, after a fashion, reading the Bible, pretty regularly hearing the gospel preached, and making a profession of the faith of Christ. “For the time they might have been teachers of others, but they really do need some one to teach them what be the first principles of the oracles of God." Their views of who Jesus Christ is, what he has done for our salvation, what made his mediation necessary, how a sinner may obtain a saving interest in him and his salvation, are indistinct and confused,—totally unfit for laying a foundation for confidence in him or subjection to him— not unfrequently dangerously deficient and even directly erroneous. Now is it not evident, that to such persons the gospel cannot serve the purposes for which it is designed ? To them its dispensation is necessarily vain. From the confidence which such persons sometimes seem to feel in their reception of the gospel, one would be · ready to conclude that they really suppose that the possession of a Bible, the hearing of the gospel, the profession of Christianity, are to operate somewhat in the way of a magical charm. But whatever they may think, the truth is far otherwise. The principles of the gospel must be distinctly apprehended in order to their becoming the subject of rational belief, and it is by these being believed that they are “mighty through God” for all their purposes. These principles are few in number, and in a high degree simple and perspicuous. Babes in years and in intellect may understand them, but they must be understood, or the grace of God, in presenting them to our minds, will be received in vain.' (Plain Discourses on Important Subjects, by John Brown, D.D. pp. 79, 80.)
Before a person can believe anything he must know it. Hence the immense importance of getting a knowledge of the Christian religion, in order to believe in it. It has been asked, 'Can a man be condemned for his unbelief, when it is conscientious ? The reply is, 'In a thousand cases in every-day life a man's conscientiousness saves him neither from the fruits of false ideas, nor of improper conduct. If, when afflicted with a painful malady, you either despise or reject the only known remedy, your conscientiousness will not ward off the consequences !'
To be ignorant regarding Christianity, is to be exposed to most imminent danger. Therefore, get knowledge.
The Author's earnest prayer is, that this attempt to do good, may, by God's blessing, be successful.
London, March 1854.