This work was first published at London, at the time when the controversy between the Presbyterians and ancient Independents ran very high, and every intelligent and unprejudiced reader will see, that the Holy Scriptures have been carefully perused, accurately compared, wisely collected, and judiciously explained, in order to evince that the Presbyterian government has the only lawful claim to a divine right, and is the only form appointed by Christ in his Church. It is, therefore, to be wished, that all his people would endeavor, in the strength of Divine grace, to observe the laws of his house, and to walk in all his ordinances and commandments blameless.
Considerable pains have been taken to make this edition more easily understood by common readers than the former, and yet several difficult and hard words have passed unnoticed. The Latin quotations from the Fathers have been omitted, because they contain nothing materially different from what is in the body of the work, and modern Independents pay little regard to any human authorities but their own. It was proposed to have added a few extracts from Messrs. Rutherford and Gillespie, but upon looking into their works nothing of consequence was observed, that tended to cast any new light upon the subject. It is hoped, however, that the Appendix is filled up with extracts from other authors upon subjects of considerable importance, and very necessary for these times, concerning the scriptural qualifications and duties of church members; the divine right of the gospel ministry; the people’s divine right to choose their own pastors; with an abstract of Dr. Owen’s arguments in favor of the divine right of the ruling elder: and as there are many serious Christians who have not a capacity to take up and retain a long chain of reasoning, a summary of the whole Treatise is given by way of question and answer as a conclusion.
The Editor is not to be understood as approving of, or vindicating every single sentiment, or mode of expression, used in this Treatise: at the same time, next to the Holy Scriptures, he recommends it as one of the best defences of presbytery which he has seen.
That it may be blessed of God for informing the ignorant, settling the wavering, and establishing the believers of the present Truth, is the earnest desire of,
Your humble servant in the Gospel,
Paisley, 28th February, 1799.
To the pious and judicious reader.