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AN APOLOGY FOR RATIONAL AND EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY.

44023

DISCOURSE

AT THE

DEDICATION OF A NEW CHURCH

ON

CHURCH GREEN, SUMMER STREET, BOSTON.

TO WHICH ARE ADDED

NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS.

BY SAMUEL COOPER THACHER,

BOSTON:

PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY T. B. WAIT & SONS.

1815.

PREFACE.

I owe to the Society, with which it is my happi. ness to be connected, some explanation of my delay in complying with their request. The following discourse was not originally designed, and does not now seem to me well adapted for the press. From the extent of the subject, the views which it offers are unavoidably very general. The necessity, also, of preserving, as far as might be, the distinction between a sermon and a dissertation, has occasioned a want of fullness in the reasoning and illustrations, which-though pardonable, perhaps, in what is intended only to be spoken-may not meet the same indulgence, when submitted to the inspection of a reader. I had concluded, for these and other obvious reasons, to decline to comply with the wishes of my friends. This determination, however, has been changed by the information I have recently received, that some parts of this discourse have been much misapprehended,

and misstated. It is now published, as it was originally delivered, except some verbal corrections, and a few unimportant additions.

I am sensible that it may appear presumptuous, to have undertaken to speak in the name of my brethren. The motive, which justified it, however, was well known to those to whom the discourse was addressed; and if it should chance to meet the eye of any others, they will of course perceive, that, though the plural form is used, nothing more than the sentiments of an individual are given. I have endeavoured, it is true, to represent accurately the opinions of that class of christians, with which I habitually think ; but it is proper distinctly to say, that no part of this discourse was communicated to any person before its delivery ; and that, therefore, the writer is alone responsible for the correctness of the statements : it contains.

In speaking of the principles advanced in this discourse, as the characteristicks of particular christians, it will not be supposed, that these christians claim to be the exclusive adherers to them. Nothing more is meant, than that these are some of the general maxims, which they agree in receiving, and which they adhere to, it may be, with something more of fidelity and consistency than others. So far from arrogating an exclusive

regard to them for any single body of christians, I take great pleasure in believing, that they are held substantially by a large proportion of the members of all Protestant communions, whether adopting the distinctive names of Lutherans, Calvinists,* Episcopalians, or Arminians. There is no general principle, indeed, taken in this discourse,

* I am permitted, I fear, to claim the authority of those christians, who are known by the name of High Calvinists, or by the kindred name of Hopkiosians, for but few of the principles, which I have advanced. Except in our own coun. try, however, the number, I believe, is small of those, who make the chief peculiarity of Calvin a fundamental article of faith. I subjoin a quotation on this point from the Rev. Robert Hall; who will, I presume, be universally admitted to be the most distinguished ornament of what is called the orthodox or evangelical party in Great Britain. In speaking of the evangelical clergy, he remarks: we cannot dismiss this part of the subject, without remarking their exemplary moderation on those intricate points, which unhappily divide the christian church; the questions, we mean, in relation to predestination and freewill, on which, equally remote from Pelagian heresy and Antinomian licentiousness, they freely tolerate and indulge a diversity of opinion, embracing Calvinists and Arminians with little distinction; provided the Calvinism of the former be practical and moderate, and the Arminianism of the latter be evangelical and devout. The greater part of them, we believe, lean to the doctrine of general redemption, and love to represent the gospel as bearing a friendly aspect towards the eternal happiness of all to whom it is addressed: but they are much less anxious to establish a polemical accuracy, than to win souls to Christ." Strictures on a work entitled Zeal without Innovation." p. 35. Lond. 1809.

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