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LEADING AND MOST IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES
NATURAL AND REVEALED
DIGESTED IN SUCH ORDER AS TO PRESENT TO THE PIOUS AND REFLECTING
MIND, A BASIS FOR THE SUPERSTRUCTURE OF THE ENTIRE
SYSTEM OF THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL.
BY THE REV. SAMUEL STANHOPE SMITH, D.D. L.L.D.
LATE PRESIDENT OF THE COLLEGE OF NEW-JERSEY.
Printed and Published by Deare & Myer.
District of New-Jersey, ss.
BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the twenty-fourth day of August, in the fortieth year of the Independence of the United States of America, Deare & Myer, of the said district, have deposited in this office, the title of a book, the right whereof they claim as proprietors, in the words following, to wit: "A Comprehensive View of the leading and most important principles of Na"tural and Revealed Religion, digested in such order as to present to the pious "and reflecting mind, a basis for the superstructure of the entire system of the "doctrines of the Gospel. By the Rev Samuel Stanhope Smith, D.B. L.L.D. "late President of the College of New-Jersey."
In conformity to an act of the Congress of the United States, 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 times therein mentioned;" and also to the act, entitled, "An act supplementary to the 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 times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving and etching, historical and other prints."
Tappan Pred, Ass
No doubt can exist in the mind of a judicious christian, but that the Sacred Scriptures comprise the most complete development of the entire system of our holy religion. But the extent and variety of information which they embrace, the loose and narrative style in which a great portion of them is written, and the picturesque and poetic imagery in which others are clothed, have presented ap occasion both to ingenious and to feeble minded men, to build upon them a multitude of contending opinions, each supported by detached expressious collected from these divine oracles, or by interpretations, either plausible or forced, imposed upon their language. Divines, in order to correct or restrain this ambiguous diversity of sentiment, have endeavoured to reduce the whole of the doctrines of the sacred writings to certain definite principles, arranged in scientific order, so as mutually to illustrate and support one another. This would have been a scheme sufficiently rational, if system writers had confined their object to digesting the diffusive and expanded phraseology of the scriptures into a few simple and connected propositions, intended to present the substance of the whole to the mind, under one view. But their design has become so mingled with the discordant theories of different writers, that their extended discussions on each topic, have often destroyed the simplicity of the gospel, and led their readers, as well as disposed the writers themselves, to substitute human reason for the word of God. Instead of presenting a brief analysis of the doctrines contained in the Bible, they have too frequently attempted to make their respective explanations of the system of divine truth an entire library of theological science :-It has occurred to the author that it would be desirable to students in that sphere of knowledge, to have its principal subjects distinctly pointed out, and clearly illustrated, in a short compass, in order to direct their future inquiries, and so to guard their future, addresses from the pulpit, from blending discordant opinions; that they should, in no point, err against the general system of evangelic truth. He further hoped that such a compendious view might usefully aid the private christian, in examining the sacred scriptures, and pursuing throughout the whole, the connected thread of christian doctrine.
These are the objects to which his attention has been chiefly directed in the following discourses designed to embrace a very compendious scheme of the leading
principles of Natural and Revealed Theology. This design very early occupied his mind, while pursuing his own studies under the superintendence of that eminent and learned divine, the late Rev. Dr. Witherspoon. At the request of a number of young men, in the year 1772, graduates of the college, at that time residing in the institution for the prosecution of their theological studies, of whom the author was one, the doctor was prevailed on to commence a course of lectures on this subject, which he continued once a week till the Autumn of 1773, when different objects of pursuit in life attracting the greater portion of the class, it was of course dissolved. The doctor had proceeded in his course, intermixing his lectures with much extempore illustration, as far as to the Covenant of Grace. The clear method which he pursued is, on many subjeets, particularly the Trinity and the Covenants in many of its outlines, adopted. The author acknowledges with pride, the assistance derived from notes, taken at that time from the mouth of the speaker, Of these lectures the most copious abridgement, which was, or probably could be made by any gentleman not acquainted with the art of stenography, has been published by the editor of Dr. Witherspoon's works, though with much imperfection, as was naturally to be expected. And, if the venerable man had lived, he would probably, have been little pleased in seeing this, and several other mutilated productions of his pen, accompanying his more perfect works. It is greatly to be lamented, that many circumstances, after the design was commenced, concurred to prevent its execution. The judicious reader who is best acquainted with Dr. Witherspoon's manner, will probably find little affinity in these discourses, with his writings; yet the author is not conscious that they contain opinions, on any principles of religion, materially varying from those which that great man was known to adopt. Any coincidences of sentiment in the subjects treated by us in common, may easily be traced, if any person have the curiosity, by comparing these discourses with that abridgment. Diversity in the manner of proposing them to the world, ought to be expected, even in a pupil who admires his master.
It is his earnest prayer that the following pages may contribute in any degree to elucidate the doctrines of the holy scriptures, not to the learned only, but to the humblest christian, for which, being freed, as much as possible, from all metaphysical discussion, he hopes they will be found to be usefully adapted.
* During his life a printer in New-Jersey was commencing an edition of his Mora}' Philosophy in its present imperfect state. He was arrested in its progress, by being threatened with a legal prosecution. This event, caused the doctor a year or : two before his death, to direct the burning of a very large number of his manuacripts by his late wife, he himself being blind. His Moral Philosophy, and Lectures on Criticism, would probably have shared the same fate if many copies of koth had not been preserved by his students. They were used merely as texts,