« PreviousContinue »
matter in question, viz. That all those he has set down are articles of faith necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, he grows warm at my omission of them. This I cannot complain of as unnatural: the spirit of creed-making always rising from an heat of zeal for our own opinions, and warm endeavours, by all ways possible, to decry and bear down those who differ in a tittle
What then could I expect more gentle and candid, than what Mr. Edwards has subjoined in these words? “ And therefore it is no wonder that our au“ thor, being sensible of this,” (viz. That the points he has named were essential and integral parts of the gospel,) “ would not vouchsafe to give us an abstract of those
inspired writings [the epistles]; but passes them by só with some contempt.” Sir, when your angry
fit is over, and the abatement of your passion has given way to the return of your sincerity, I shall beg you to read this passage in page 154 of this vol. “ These holy writ“ ers (viz. the pen-men of the scriptures) INSPIRED “ from above, writ nothing but truth, and, in most
places, very weighty truths to us now, for the ex5 pounding, clearing, and confirming of the christian “ doctrine; and establishing those in it who had em« braced it.” And again, p. 156,
And again, p. 156, “ The other parts “ of DIVINE REVELATION are objects of faith, and are
so to be received. They are truths, of which none 66 that is once known to be such, i. e. revealed, may or
ought to be disbelieved.” And if this does not satisfy you, that I have as high a veneration for the epistles, as you or any one can have, I require you to publish to the world those passages, which show my contempt of them. In the mean time, I shall desire my reader to examine what I have writ concerning the epistles, which is all contained between p. 151 and 158 of this vol. and then to judge whether I have made bold with the epistles in what I have said of them, or this gentleman made bold with truth in what he has writ of me. Human frailty will not, I see, easily quit its hold; what it loses in one part, it will be ready to regain in another; and not be hindered from taking reprisals, even on the most privileged sort of men. Mr. Edwards, who is intrenched
in orthodoxy, and so is as safe in matters of faith almost as infallibility itself, is yet as apt to err as others in matters of fact.
But he has not yet done with me about the epistles : all his fine draught of my slighting that part of the scripture will be lost, unless the strokes complete it into socinianism. In his following words you have the conclusion of the whole matter. His words are these : “ And more especially, if I may conjecture,” (by all means, sir, conjecturing is your proper talent : you have hitherto done nothing else; and I will say that for you, you have a lucky hand at it :) “ he doth this (i. e. pass " by the epistles with contempt) because he knew that " there are so many and frequent, and those so illustri
ous and eminent attestations to the doctrine of the “ ever to be adored Trinity, in these epistles.” Truly, sir, if you will permit me to know what I know, as well as you do allow yourself to conjecture what you please, you are out for this once; the reason why I went not through the epistles, as I did the gospels and the acts, was that very reason I printed, and that will be found so sufficient a one to all considerate readers, that I believe, they will think you need not strain your conjectures for another. And, if you think it to be so easy to distinguish fundamentals from non-fundamentals in the epistles, I desire you to try your skill again, in giving the world a perfect collection of propositions out of the epistles, that contain all that is required, and no more than what is absolutely required to be believed by all christians, without which faith they cannot be of Christ's church. For I tell you, notwithstanding the show you have made, you have not yet done it, nor will you affirm that you have.
His next page, p. 112, is made up of the same, which he calls, not uncharitable conjectures. I expound, he says, “ John xiv. 9, &c. after the antitrinitarian mode:" and I make “ Christ and Adam to be sons of God, in “ the same sense, and by their birth, as the racovians
generally do." I know not but it may be true, that the antitrinitarians and racoviaris understand those places as I do: but it is more than I know, that they
I took not my sense of those texts from those writers, but from the scripture itself, giving light to its own meaning, by one place compared with another : what in this way appears to me its true meaning, I shall not decline, because I am told that it is so understood by the racovians, whom I never yet read; nor embrace the contrary, though the “ generality of divines” I more converse with should declare for it. If the sense, wherein I understand those texts, be a mistake, I shall be beholden to you, if you will set me right. But they are not popular authorities, or frightful names, whereby I judge of truth or falsehood. You will now, no doubt, applaud your conjectures; the point is gained, and I am openly a socinian, since I will not disown, that I think the Son of God was a phrase, that among the jews, in our Saviour's time, was used for the Messiah, though the socinians understand it in the same sense ; and therefore I must certainly be of their persuasion in every thing else. I admire the acuteness, force, and fairness of your reasoning, and so I leave you to triumph in your conjectures. Only I must desire you to take notice, that that ornament of our church, and every way eminent prelate, the late archbishop of Canterbury, understood that phrase in the same sense that I do, without being a socinian. You may read what he says concerning Nathanael, in his first " Sermon of Sincerity,” published this year: his words are these, p. 4, “ And
being satisfied that he [our Saviour) was the Messiah, “ he presently owned him for such, calling him the “ Sox of God, and the King of Israel.”
Though this gentleman knows my thoughts as perfectly as if he had for several years past lain in my bosom, yet he is mightily at a loss about my person : as if it at all concerned the truth contained in my book, what hand it came from. However, the gentleman is mightily perplexed about the author. Why, sir, what if it were writ by a scribbler of Bartholomew-fair drolls, with all that flourish of declamatory rhetoric, and all that smartness of wit and jest about captain Tom, unitarians, units, and cyphers, &c. which are to be found between pages 115 and 123 of a book that came out
during the merry time of rope dancing, and puppet plays ? What is truth, would, I hope, nevertheless be truth in it, however oddly spruced up by such an author: though perhaps, it is likely some would be apt to say, such merriment became not the gravity of my subject, and that I writ not in the style of a graduate in divinity. I confess (as Mr. Edwards rightly says) my fault lies on the other side, in a want of“ vivacity and elevation:” and I cannot wonder, that one of his character and palate, should find out and complain of my flatness, which has so over-charged my book with plain and direct texts of scripture, in a matter capable of no other proofs. But yet I must acknowledge his excess of civility to me; he shows me more kindness than I could expect or wish, since he prefers what I say to him myself to what is offered to him from the word of God; and makes me this compliment, that I begin to mend, about the close, i. e. when I leave off quoting of scripture: and the dull work was done, of “going through “ the history of the Evangelists and Acts,” which he computes, p. 105, to take up three quarters of my
book. Does not all this deserve, at least, that I should, in return, take some care of his credit ? Which I know not how better to do, than by entreating him, that when he takes next in hand such a subject as this, wherein the salvation of souls is concerned, he would treat it a little more seriously, and with a little more candour; lest men should find in his writings, another cause of atheism, which in this treatise, he has not thought fit to mention. “ Ostentation of wit ” in general he has made
cause of atheism,” p. 28. But the world will tell him, that frothy light discourses concerning the serious matters of religion; and ostentation of trifling and misbecoming wit in those who come as ambassadors from God, under the title of successors of the apostles, in the great commission of the gospel ; are none of the least causes of atheism.
Some men have so peculiar a way of arguing, that one may see it influences them in the repeating another man's reasoning, and seldom fails to make it their own. In the next paragraph I find these words: “what makes
“ him contend for one single article, with the exclusion
of all the rest ? He pretends it is this, that all men
ought to understand their religion.". This, I confess, is a reasoning I did not think of; nor could it hardly, I fear, have been used but by one who had first took up his opinion from the recommendation of fashion or interest, and then sought topics to make it good. Perhaps the deference due to your character, excused you from the trouble of quoting the page, where Į pretend, as you say; and it is so little like my way of reasoning, that I shall not look for it in a book where I remember nothing of it, and where, without your die rection, I fear the reader will scarce find it. Though I have not “ that vivacity of thought, that elevation of " mind," which Mr. Edwards demands, yet common sense would have kept me from contending that there is but one article, because all men ought to understand their religion. Numbers of propositions may be harder to be remembered, but it is the abstruseness of the notions, or obscurity, inconsistency, or doubtfulness of the terms or expressions that makes them hard to be understood; and one single proposition may more perplex the understanding than twenty others. But where did you find “I contended for one single article, so as to exclude “ all the rest ?" You might have remembered that I say, p. 1, 17, That the article of the one only true God, was also necessary to be believed. This might have satisfied you, that I did not so contend for one article of faith, as to be at defiance with more than one. However, you insist on the word one with great vigour, from p. 108 to 121. And you did well, you had else lost all the force of that killing stroke reserved for the close, in that sharp jest of unitarians, and a clench or two more of great moment.
Having found, by a careful perusal of the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles, that the religion they proposed, consisted in that short, plain, easy and intelligible summary which I set down, p. 157, in these words : ** Believing Jesus to be the Saviour promised, and tak“ ing him, now raised from the dead, and constituted “ the Lord and Judge of men, to be their King and