I Cannot find, upon the most impartial Retrospection of the Argument, any Reason to alter my Sentiments concerning it; and as it is a Matter of the greatest Importance, ’tis hoped that those who maintain the Doctrines of Election, &c. will afford it all the Weight and Consideration it deserves. But, if there be any among them, who will hear no Reason or Argument whatever, and are sure, only because they are sure, I Have little or no Hopes to prevail with them, to give me a fair Hearing, or to think candidly and impartially about it. But as there are among them, some, who no doubt will allow the Possibility of their being in an Error; to all such I address my self, and beseech them, as much as possible to lay aside Prejudice and Partiality; wisely considering, that many of their Fore-fathers maintained some erroneous Doctrines, with as much Zeal, and Integrity, as they their Descendants now do the Doctrines of Election, &c. and yet saw Occasion to renounce them afterwards.
There is Reason to fear, the just Liberty I have taken with the Doctrines of Election, &c. may, by some, be deem’d Blasphemy against God himself; but I am far from intending any such thing. These Doctrines (I think) on the contrary, are in them selves nothing better than blasphemous, tho’ the Intentions of some who maintain them, be ever so devout and sincere: And if an Impeachment of Doctrines, which, instead of preserving God’s Moral Character, robs him of all that is dear and valuable, or that can render him lovely and adorable to Man, be accounted Blasphemy, the Ignorance and Bigotry of those, who judge after that Manner, ought much to be lamented. It is a melancholy Truth, that where Prejudice, in favour of false Principles, has had early and frequent Access to the Mind, it too often shuts the Ear against Reason and Truth; and ’tis very hard to persuade such People to enter at all, and much less impartially, into the Merits of an Argument advanced against them; nor indeed is the Liberty of Thought on Religious Subjects, duly inculcated in Religious Assemblies: For, the Teachers of Christianity, tho’ they are seldom averse to give us the Compliment of a just Liberty of thinking for ourselves, are but too apt to set the Terrors of the Lord in array against Unbelievers; tho’ perhaps their Dissent may sometimes be only the innocent Effect, of the best Examination they are able to make. And if there be any thing worthy of Notice, in what I have advanced, I hereby intreat all, into whose Hands this Treatise may come, not to be terrified, by any such popular Arts, from making a thorough Examination for themselves; on the other hand, I am altogether as willing to set right, in whatever I may have erred, or been mistaken.
’Tis well known, the 17th Article of our own National Church, greatly favours the Doctrines of Election and Reprobation; and it is also generally believed, that the Better Part of our Clergy entirely disapprove these Doctrines, and would very readily assist in expunging them out of their Creed; which would render their Consciences much easier, than now they are, or can be, under a Subscription in a Sense so very qualified and remote from the natural Intent and Meaning of the Article....