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Free and Candid EXAMINATION.
OU defire, my dear Friend, to be fatisfied about the Article of Original Sin. As I am a Minister of the Gospel, it is my Duty to do all I can to fet you right in a Matter relating to the Principles of Religion; and therefore I will unfold to you the TRUTH, fo far as I am able, plainly, fincerely, and without Referve; in confidence that you, on your Part,
love the TRUTH, and are difpofed to a diligent and impartial Inquiry after it.
ABOVE all things, Truth fhould engage our most serious and upright Regards. We fhould efteem it the highest Point of Duty to be always open to the Evidence which discovers TRUTH; and always free and ready, fetting afide every Biafs of Prejudice and temporal Intereft, to embrace it, when discover'd. The TRUTH, as it cannot be wrong in it felf, cannot lead us to any thing that is wrong. The TRUTH is the Rule which God himfelf follows, and which his almighty Power will for ever vindicate. To this end our bleffed LORD was born, and for this Caufe he came into the World, that he might bear Witness to the TRUTH, John xviii. 37. The TRUTH is that glorious Sun, which directs and illuftrates all our Actions, rendring them pleafing to God, and comfortable to ourfelves; nor can we be Sinners, or wretched, but only juft fo far as we defpife or neglect
ALL TRUTH neceffary to Salvation is revealed in the Holy SCRIPTURES; and the SCRIPTURES, not the Opinions of Men, not of learned Men, no, not of good Men, no, not of many learned and good Men, are the Rule of our Faith. Men of Knowledge and Integrity may indeed be useful to us, as In
ftructors, to open the Senfe of God's Word : But it is the Word and Revelation of God alone upon which my Faith is to be founded. And as for human Wildom and Knowledge, Lought to value it, in religious Matters, just so much, and fo far only, as it ferves to unfold the Mind and Meaning of God in the Scriptures; in the interpreting of which, we ought not to admit any thing contradictory to the common Senfe and Understanding of Mankind. For the Scriptures can be no Rule to us, if the Understanding God hath given us is not a Rule in judging of their Senfe and Meaning. Nothing ought to pass for divine Revelation which is inconfiftent with any of the known Perfections of the divine Nature. Difficult Places are to be explained by thofe that are easy to be underflood. We must not allow ourfelves to feign any thing; but must attend to the true, stric and proper Senfe of every Place, without daring to add or diminish by our own Imaginations: and whatever we find is plainly added, or diminished, by human Interpretations or Schemes, we ought peremptorily to reject as dangerous Innovation. Laftly, we should not content ourselves with Scraps, and fingle Sentences, which in Sound may feem to mean one Thing, but really have, taken with what goes before, and what follows after, a quite different Signification. This is a very fallacious Way of proving Things from Scripture; B 2 and,
and, for my own Part, I cannot fatisfy myfelf in grounding Articles of Faith upon it.
My Method (you must judge whether it be right) in fearching the Scripture is, to take the whole before me; to find out all the Places where any Point of Faith is fpoken of, or feems to be fpoken of; to ftudy: thofe Places over fingly and feparately, judging from what goes before and follows after, what is the true Scope and Meaning of every Text; and then I compare them all together, and from fuch a View of all that I can find in the Word of God, I form my Sentiments concerning the Point inquired after.
AND truly I cannot fee what any one can poffibly do more (excepting fervent Prayer to the Father of Lights,) to fettle his Faith and Confcience upon a true Scripture Bottom.
You want to be fatisfied about Original Sin: that is, you would know, How far we, the Pofterity of Adam, are involved in the Confequences of his firft Tranfgreffion.
COME then, my dear Friend, let me lead you by the Hand into the most fruitful and pleafant Garden of God, his holy Word. I have laid out a good deal of Study upon it, and, with fome Care, have obferved the feveral Plants which grow therein; and, with
a particular Eye to the Point before us, the Confequences of the first Tranfgreffion: Which I find are spoken of certainly and plainly but five times in the whole Bible; namely, twice in the Old, and thrice in the New Testament. Many other Places indeed are quoted by Divines, as relating to this Affair, but they are apparently doubtful; no Mention being made in them of Adam, or any Effects that his Sin hath upon us. However, the right way of proceeding is, to confider and examine first thofe Places where the Confequences and Effects of Adam's Sin are plainly and certainly spoken of; and then we shall be better able to judge of the doubtful and uncertain Places, to which we shall next turn our Thoughts.
I FIND no more than five Places in all the Bible where the Confequences of the first Sin are certainly fpoken of. The first is, Gen. ii. 17. The fecond is, Gen. iii. from the 7th verfe to the end of the Chapter. The third Place is, in Rom. v. 12, to the 20th verfe. The fourth Place is, in The fifth and laft Place is,
1 Cor. xv. 21, 22. 1 Tim. ii, 14.
THE Bible is open to every body, and if any Man can produce more than these five Places where the Confequences of the first Tranfgreffion are plainly and certainly spoken of, it will be eafy for every body to fee, and hall be very ready to own, I am mistaken.