THE usefulness of all divine Truth revealed in the holy Scriptures, with the great Importance of what particularly concerns those Fœderal Transactions which are the Subject of the ensuing Treatise, will not leave me without Apology for an Essay towards the Discovery of the mind of God in them.
As for that part of the Discourse (which is most controversal) concerning the Covenant of Circumcision, I have been the farther engaged in it, upon occasion of Mr. Whiston’s Treatises about Baptism, especially his last, entitled Infant Baptism plainly proved: For, observing the main Hinge of the Controversie about the right Subjects of, Baptism, to turn upon Gen. 17. I concluded the only way to clear this great Point, must be to make a diligent search after that Account, which the Scripture gives us of the Nature and Ends of the Covenant there recorded: And tho’ I have declined the handling these things in a Polemical way, and therefore have not undertaken to return a particular Answer to every thing that hath been asserted in Opposition to my Sentiments; Yet, I hope, the judicious Reader may observe such a Regard had to what hath been urged against those Principles which I proceed upon, as will excuse me from the Charge of crudely re-asserting those things that have been already answered or refuted, without giving any new Inforcement to them, or endeavouring to remove the Ground and Occasion of those Mistakes which I suppose in others.
To the holy Scriptures I refer my self for the Tryal of what is written, and do sincerely desire that nothing may pass for Truth, but upon their Testimony; And if I sometimes walk in an untroden Path, it is not from any Affectation of Novelty, but in pursuance of that Light which they afford me; And, possibly, seeing those things which at first may seem New, are for the most part deduced from a plain Record of Matters of Fact, they may, upon second Thoughts, gain an assent to their Truth sooner than Opinions arising from more nice Speculation.
That Notion (which is often supposed in this Discrourse) That the Old Covenant and the New do differ in substance, and not in the manner of their Administration only, doth indeed require a more large and particular handling, to free it from those Prejudices and Difficulties that have been cast upon it by many worthy Persons, who are otherwise minded; And accordingly I designed to have given a farther account of it in a Discourse of the Covenant made with Israel in the Wilderness, and the State of the Church under the Law. But when I had finished this, and provided some Materials also for what was to follow, I found my Labour for the clearing and asserting of that Point, happily prevented, by the coming forth of Dr. Owen’s 3d Vol. upon the Hebrews, where it is largely discoursed, and the Objections that seem to lie against it, fully answered (especially in the Exposition of the 8th Chapter) whither I now refer my Reader for Satisfaction about it, which he will there find answerable to what might be expected from so great and learned a Person.
That the Publication of this little Tract, hath been so long delayed, was partly occasioned by those Perplexities which the restless Plots of the Papists, and their bold Attempts to overwhelm us with the worst of Miseries, have caused, which I thought would scarsely give leisure for the Consideration of was might be offered in this kind; and partly by my own Aversion from any thing that looks like the moving of any Controversie with those that love the Lord Jesus, and sincerely espouse the Protestant Interest, tho’ differing in Principle and Practise from me in some controverted Point; there being nothing that my Soul more longs for on Earth, than to see an intire and hearty Union of all that fear God, and hold the Head, however differing in their Sentiments about some things of lesser Moment; and together with these things a sence of Insufficiency to perform my undertaking with that Advantage to Truth as is to be desired, had its share: Howbeit, after I had weighed all Circumstances, the Satisfaction I have, that no Man is by me provoked by any undecent Reflections, or any Occasion given to uncharitable and unchristian Contention; with the Hope that what is here offered, may inform some, and give others Occasion of more accurate Thoughts in a farther Disquisition of the Truths pointed at, prevailed with me at length to cast in this my Mite into the Publick Treasury.
This only I shall add, That in the whole, my Aim hath been to speak the Truth in Love; and to take my Notions from the Scriptures, not grafting any preconceived Opinions of my own upon them. Where the Evidence of Truth appears, let it not be refused, because offered in a mean Dress, and presented under the disadvantage of a rude and unpolished stile; But consider rather the reason of what is said; and, with the noble Bereans, search the Scriptures, to see whether these things be so or not; and the Lord give you understanding in all things.