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so is it with all public and national systems. As these have been fashioned by human contrivance, they are not, for very obvious reafons, over-fond of too narrow a scrutiny on the single footing of divine revelation ; lest, 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 composed 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 muft abundantly testify, but as an assertor of that right, which every reasonable creature is invested with, to search, think, and judge for himself. He therefore has endeavoured to lay some points, which he cannot but esteem of the utmost consequence, before the world, that others may exercise their privilege as the Author hath done his.
As for the abuse which any subject herein treated
be liable to-What is not abused ? What in nature, providence, or revelation, has not been abused and perverted to some vile purpose or other? The very GOSPEL OF PEACE hath been abused, to fanctify fraud, violence, oppression, and persecution to justify massacres, tortures, inurders, even to men's roasting alive their fellow-creatures, and thinking they did God service ! insomuch
that, were we to judge of the great Head of our holy religion, by the abuse 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 lafciviousness. (See Jude iv.) But what does all this prove ? Nothing but the ignorance, perverseness, cruelty, and wickedness of human nature; and that corruptio optimi fit peffima : but it does not prove, that the God of heaven, who foresaw and foreknew such abuses, should not have revealed His mind and will to mortals; nor that any part of that revelation should be concealed, suppressed, 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 scriptures 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
responhbility, 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 sex, with all its horrid con“ sequences, both to the public and indivi
duals, than a SYSTEM of human contrivance, where neither obligation nor responfibility are to be found, either of men to
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 sides is faithfully collected, and laid
without any reserve or disguise, in this book — let every READER look upon himself as impannelled on the jury - let him impartially hearken to the cause—and a true verdict give according to the evidence.
P R E F A C E
Otwithstanding the disadvantages under
which this work has laboured, a second edition has long been called for, and now makes its appearance, in as expeditious a manner as the necessary delay of printing would permit.
The author would therefore fain hope, that the book has made its way by dint of that intrinsic truth which it contains the importance of the subjects treated the important ends proposed and that conforinity to the oracles of God, which it professedly makes the bahs of its contents.
A work which militates againft 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 shewn to performances of authors who write on the popular side of a question. -This was fully experienced at the Refor
PREFACE to the Second Edition. xix mation—when Luther, and others, published against the ridiculous fopperies and gross villainies of Popery, they had volumes written against them, in which they were represented in every odious light imaginable.-They
« heretics-antichrists--factors for the “ devil”-and, in short, all that was bad ;but the abuse of their adversaries had one good effect-it proved how much at a loss these were for fair argument, grounded on scripture-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 abuse serve any better purpose in controversy, than to create a very strong presumption, that those who give it have now thing better on their fide, and therefore are
and that those who receive it are, therefore, in the right.
With regard to the article of abuse of an author, if it be of the personal 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 .deferves.
Another expedient, which some critics have used to depreciate a work, is, to separate some given subject from the rest, destroy its connection with the main argument, and then, by selecting, in like manner, detached sentences or paragraphs, make these appear to their readers in a light not only different
in the wrong,