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THE discourses contained in this volume are presenta ed to the publick by an association of gentlemen, belonging to the Second Congregational Society in Worcester, of which their Reverend Author is Pastor. Having solicited and obtained the manuscripts, to be disposed of at their discretion, some explanation of their views of the importance of the publication seems to be demanded by the occasion. At no period in the history of New-England, has there existed so active a spirit of inquiry on subjects of religion, as at the present time; a spirit, not confined, as formerly, to men of science and leisure, but pervading almost every grade and condition in society. The advantages of education, which have been so long enjoyed, in common, at our publick schools, by all classes of citizens; the increasing facilities for obtaining literary distinction in our Academies and our Colleges, and the perfect security guarantied by our laws, to the right of private judgment and of publick discussion, have produced an obvious change in the intellectual as well as the physical state of our country. There are now comparatively few individuals, capable of moral distinctions, who do not esteem it their duty as well as their privilege to examine the doctrines proposed for their belief, and to form opinions for themselves, in the all-important concerns of a future life. Doctrinal discourses from the pulpit are now seldom heard with satisfaction, or even with patience, if the preacher proposes to do more than to aid the inquiries of his hearers. They will hardly suffer him to prescribe a creed for their adoption, or to denounce them for the independent exercise of

DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, to wit :

District Clerk's Ofice. BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the sixth day of May, A. D. 1822, in the forty-sixth year of the Independence of the United States of America, AARON BANCROFT, D. D. of the said District, has deposited in this office the Title of a Book, the Right whereof he claims as Author, in the words following, to wit : “Sermons on those Doctrines of the Gospel, and on those Constituent Principles of the Church, which Christian Professors have made the Subject of Controversy. By Aaron BANCROFT, D. D. Pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Worcester."

In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entie tled “ An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies of Maps, Charts and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such Copies, during the times therein mentioned :" and also to an Act entitled " An Act supplementary to an Act, entitled An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies of Maps, Charts and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such Copies, during the rimes therein mentioned ; and extending the Benefits thereof to the Arts of Designing, Engraving, and Etching Historical and other Prints.

JNO. W. DAVIS, Clerk of the District of Massachusetts.

882 271350

INTRODUCTION,
BY THE PUBLISHING COMMITTEE.

THE discourses contained in this volume are presenta ed to the publick by an association of gentlemen, belonging to the Second Congregational Society in Worcester, of which their Reverend Author is Pastor. Having solicited and obtained the manuscripts, to be disposed of at their discretion, some explanation of their views of the importance of the publication seems to be demanded by the occasion. At no period in the history of New-England, has there existed so active a spirit of inquiry on subjects of religion, as at the present time; a spirit, not confined, as formerly, to men of science and leisure, but pervading almost every grade and condition in society. The advantages of education, which have been so long enjoyed, in common, at our publick schools, by all classes of citizens; the increasing facilities for obtaining literary distinction in our Academies and our Colleges, and the perfect security guarantied by our laws, to the right of private judgment and of publick discussion, have produced an obvious change in the intellectual as well as the physical state of our country. There are now comparatively few individuals, capable of moral distinctions, who do not esteem it their duty as well as their privilege to examine the doctrines proposed for their belief, and to form opinions for themselves, in the all-important concerns of a future life. Doctrinal discourses from the pulpit are now seldom heard with satisfaction, or even with patience, if the preacher proposes to do more than to aid the inquiries of his hearers. They will hardly suffer him to prescribe a creed for their adopţion, or to denounce them for the independent exercise of

their Christian liberty. Every man, indeed, who has much reputation to preserve, as a divine and a scholar, finds it necessary to be cautious in stating opinions to be adopted by others, which cannot be defended by the soundest expositions of scripture, and the fairest deductions of enlightened reason. In the prevalence of this disposition in the community to investigate the grounds of the principal systems of theology, the friends of Christianity have much cause for congratulation. It is an obvious principle of our nature, that the sentiments we profess can have no good practical effect, unless we have a rational and impressive conviction of their justness and their value; such a conviction as can result only from a careful and industrious research into the evidences upon which they are founded, and not from the confidence we repose in the intelligence and piety of any mere human being from whom we have received them. It is really inconceivable, that any one, who feels the importance of religious truth, who would wish to see it triumphant, and would witness, with joy, its purifying influence in the lives of men, should feel any reluctance to encourage that freedom of examination, that personal application to scripture in the full exercise of the strongest energies of mind, by which alone it is most likely to be obtained.

It is true, there have been but few sectarians among Protestants, who have not professed their willingness to yield to others those rights of conscience which they have claimed as sacred to themselves, and which they have exercised in their fullest extent. But, unfortunately, this concession has been but little more than profession. They have generally discarded from their fellowship all who have not subscribed to their views of the doctrines of the bible, charging them with insincerity, moral corruption, and enmity to the truth. With peculiar inconsistency, they have recognized the right of Christians to think and judge for themselves, and yet have insisted that a departure from established theories of human origin was ground sufficient

fo deny them the Christian name, exclude them from the ordinances of the gospel and the prospects of immortality. No one will pronounce this an exaggerated represents ation, who has not been a stranger to the theological controversies of this country. The sect denominated Orthodox, have boldly maintained, that Unitarians were not the disciples of Jesus Christ; that they had no reason to apply to themselves the promises of the gospel, and no encouragement to raise their hopes from earth to heaven. Not, however, because they were less blameless in their lives than their orthodox brethren; or because they have done less for the defence of Christianity against the attacks of infidels; or because they have contributed less to increase the general stock of human knowledge, and to the advancement of the world in civilization, in virtue, and happiness ; but because they have ventured to bring their reason and their learning to the study of the scriptures, and have attempted, in imitation of the first reformers, to separate the primitive faith from the inventions of men. The orthodox of New-England, in their turn, have been condemned by the Calvinists of the south; accused of substituting a new religion for that originally delivered to the saints. Is this the liberty of Protestants, for the enjoyment of which they separated from the Catholic Church? Was it for this, that the fathers of the Reformation, at the hazard of their lives, exposed the extravagant errours and shameless vices of the popish clergy? Was it only that one party among themselves might enslave the consciences of another, that they resisted the arrogant and impious pretensions of the Roman Hierarchy to the divine right of dictating to their deluded followers the articles of their faith? If so, then have they laboured to no purpose-then has the Reformation effected no desirable change in the condition of mankind. If individual Christians are not competent to ascertain the essential doctrines of Revelation; if an appeal must be made to any human tribunal, to know what must ba believed to inherit eternal life, that appeal ought cer

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