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PREFACE.

THE Writer of these pages is aware, that the fubject of them is by no means popular, even among those who are esteemed, the difciples of Christ. Befides the particular prejudices of various perfons in favour of their own practice, the fubject, by a kind of general confent, has of late years been confidered as little connected with practical religion. Whether this has arisen from most parties being confcious that their own modes of worship are little conducive to godliness, and that they cannot be defended from the Scriptures, he prefumes not to determine.

The religion of Jefus, in its doctrines, precepts and inftitutions, is one connected whole; in proportion as one part is overlooked, the force of all will be weakened. He who feels, as every Chriftian muft, his proneness to let flip the moft important truths of the word of God, will be thankful that the Lord has graciously employed various means to preserve in our minds the remembrance of them. He has revealed his will in the most engaging and affecting manner, and has also inftituted various ordinances of worship, all which reprefent, and are memorials of the doctrines of his word.

If, in reading the hiftory of the life of a great man, we had at the same time an opportunity of feeing his actions delineated in the most correct and the finest paintings, it would make a far deeper impreffion on our minds than the mere narrative.

Things to the mind before unknown,
And ent'ring by the ear alone,
Draw lefs attention and surprise,
Than had they enter'd by the eyes

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The ordinances of Chrift are juft fo many fenfible images of the doctrines he taught. When these are obferved as he delivered them, they greatly tend to impress us with juft views of the truth, and where they are in any measure corrupted, they naturally lead us into error and misapprehenfion. Error and mifapprehenfion in fentiment, must always produce error in practice; for it is certain from the word of God, that holiness fprings from the knowledge and belief of the truth.

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The great end aimed at in thefe pages, is to promote love and union amongst Christians, and confequently the fuccefs of the gofpel in the world. The author is convinced, that both thefe are intimately connected with the fubject of the book.

True, genuine, and fincere union, is abfolutely impracticable while profeffors neglect to enquire,

*Segnius irritant animos demiffa per aures,
Quam quæ funt oculis fubjecta fidelibus.

to understand, and to practise the directions of the word of God refpecting focial worship, and confequently their attempts to diffufe the knowledge of Christ will be feeble, inconfiftent, and ineffectual.

He will be happy to receive correction wherein he has erred, for although he is perfuaded that he treads on fure ground respecting the general principles which he has adopted, he is yet fenfible that he may, in fome refpects, have committed mistakes in the application of them; and if fo, he knows that the error must have bad confequences on his mind.

This book is not intended as a standard for the order of any church of Christ. Should it be adopted as fuch, the views of the writer would be thereby completely defeated. His defign is to excite his brethren in Chrift to study the Scriptures on this and every other fubject, and to appeal only to the law and to the teftimony. In fo far as it produces this effect, his object will be gained. He cordially adopts the language of Mr Ainsworth:

If any places (viz. of God's word) be alleged amiss or impertinent, or things gathered otherwife than the text will afford, (as through my igno rance or unheedinefs, no doubt, many may be ;) I humbly ask pardon for the fame, both of God and his people; and do defire the reader not to rely upon my judgment in any thing, but as himfelf, by the wifdom of God's Spirit, fhall fee agreeable unto truth. For, if any shall build up

on my words, without fure ground from the law of the Lord, he fhall firft offend God, who hath given his Scriptures by divine inspiration, 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. to teach and perfuade all truth, to reprove and correct all error; to inftruct in righteoufness, and make men perfect unto every good work he fhall injure me alfo, who have written these things to be tried and examined by Christ's law, not to be accepted for a law; and he fhall injure his own foul, by relying upon the word of frail man, whofe breath is in his noftrils, which cannot establish the heart, nor affure the confcience in any thing. Let, therefore, the grafs wither, and the flower fade, for it is the word of our God that fhall ftand for ever!" Ifa. xl. 8. *

The Author hopes that criticisms or remarks, however juft, on the manner or ftyle in which he has written, will not be confidered as reafons for neglecting what is here laid before the Public.

He now commends this attempt to place the truth before the minds of Chriftians, to that powerful influence which can produce attention, banish prejudice, and work effectually and practically against all oppofition!

EDINBURGH, June 4. 1805.

*Preface to Ainsworth's Treatife on the Communion of Saints, p. lxxviii. See his two Treatifes re-published at Edinburgh, 1789.

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