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fo is it with all public and national fyftems. As thefe have been fashioned by human contrivance, they are not, for very obvious reafons, over-fond of too narrow a fcrutiny on the fingle footing of divine revelation; left, as they are formed like the feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which were part of iron, and part of clay; so these being compofed of the heterogeneous mixture of divine wisdom and human contrivance, a too curious investigator should, like the STONE there mentioned-fall upon them, and break them to pieces.
The Author of the following sheets profeffes himself a Free-thinker; not in the usual sense of that word, as what he has written must abundantly teftify, but as an affertor of that right, which every reasonable creature is invested with, to fearch, think, and judge for himself. He therefore has endeavoured to lay fome points, which he cannot but efteem of the utmost confequence, before the world, that others may exercise their privilege as the Author hath done his.
As for the abufe which any fubject herein treated may be liable to-What is not abused? What in nature, providence, or revelation, has not been abused and perverted to fome vile purpose or other? The very GOSPEL OF PEACE hath been abused, to fanctify fraud, violence, oppreffion, and perfecution juftify maffacres, tortures, murders, even to men's roafting alive their fellow-creatures, and thinking they did GOD fervice! infomuch
that, were we to judge of the great HEAD of our holy religion, by the abufe which has been made of His authority, we should invert what He says, Luke ix. 56. and imagine, that He came not to SAVE men's lives, but to DESTROY them. Even the grace of our GOD has been, and is by many, turned into lafcivioufness. (See Jude iv.) But what does all this prove? Nothing but the ignorance, perverfenefs, cruelty, and wickedness of human nature; and that corruptio optimi fit peffima: but it does not prove, that the GoD of heaven, who forefaw and foreknew fuch abuses, fhould not have revealed His mind and will to mortals; nor that any part of that revelation fhould be concealed, fuppreffed, or hidden from the eyes of men, for fear of its being abused. For this may be taken as a certain rule, that no abuse of the fcriptures ever yet happened from a real understanding and knowledge of their contents, but from an ignorance, either in ourselves, or imposed on us by the design and artifice of others.
The grand question to be tried is, "whe"ther a SYSTEM, filled with obligation and
refponfibility, of men to women, and of "women to men, even unto death itself, " and this established by INFINITE WISDOM, " is not better calculated to prevent the ruin "of the female fex, with all its horrid confequences, both to the public and indivi"duals, than a SYSTEM of human contrivance, where neither obligation nor refponfibility are to be found, either of men to << women,
"women, or of women to men, in instances "of the most important concern to both, but "more especially to the weaker fex ?"
The whole of the evidence on both fides is faithfully collected, and laid open, without any referve or difguife, in this book-let every READER look upon himself as impannelled on the jury- let him impartially hearken to the caufe-and a true verdict give according to the evidence.
Otwithstanding the difadvantages under which this work has laboured, a fecond edition has long been called for, and now makes its appearance, in as expeditious a manner as the neceffary delay of printing would permit.
The author would therefore fain hope, that the book has made its way by dint of that intrinfic truth which it contains-the importance of the fubjects treated-the important ends propofed-and that conformity to the oracles of GOD, which it professedly makes the basis of its contents.
A work which militates against the received notions, long customs, and inveterate prejudices of mankind, can expect but little quarter from the world in general, and, of course, but little of that fort of candor, which is fhewn to performances of authors who write on the popular fide of a question. This was fully experienced at the Refor
mation-when Luther, and others, published against the ridiculous fopperies and grofs villainies of Popery, they had volumes written against them, in which they were represented in every odious light imaginable.-They were "heretics-antichrifts-factors for the "devil"-and, in fhort, all that was bad;but the abuse of their adverfaries had one good effect-it proved how much at a lofs thefe were for fair argument, grounded on fcripture-evidence, and how little able they were to meet their opponents with the weapons of a Spiritual warfare. (See 2 Cor. x. 4.) Seldom does abufe ferve any better purpose in controverfy, than to create a very strong prefumption, that thofe who give it have nothing better on their fide, and therefore are in the wrong, and that thofe who receive it are, therefore, in the right.
With regard to the article of abuse of an author, if it be of the perfonal kind, let him fet it down as so much gained; if it lights upon his book, let the book answer for itself, and if it cannot do this, let him fet down the abuse which it meets with, as what it deServes.
Another expedient, which some critics have used to depreciate a work, is, to feparate fome given fubject from the reft, destroy its connection with the main argument, and then, by felecting, in like manner, detached fentences or paragraphs, make these appear to their readers in a light not only different b 2