Page images
PDF
EPUB

equally a stranger to them both: I know not the face of either of them: and having hitherto never had any communication with Mr. Bold, I shall begin with him, as I did with Mr. Edwards in print; and here publicly return him this following acknowledgment, for what he has printed in this controversy.

To Mr. BOLD.

SIR, THOUGH I do not think I ought to return thanks to any one, for being of my opinion, any more than to fall out with him, for differing from me; yet I cannot but own to all the world, the esteem, that I think is due to you, for that proof you have given, of a mind and temper becoming a true minister of the gospel ; in appearing as you have done, in the defence of a pointy a great point of christianity, which it is evident you could have no other temptation to declare for, but the love of truth. It has fared with you herein no better than with me. For Mr. Edwards not being able to answer your arguments, he has found out already, that you are a mercenary, defending a cause against your persuasion for hire; and that you “ are sailing to Racovia

by a side-wind :" such inconsistencies can one (whose business it is to rail for a cause he cannot defend) put together to make a noise with : and he tells you plainly, what you must expect, if you write any more on this argument, viz. to be pronounced a downright apostate and renegado.

As soon as I saw your sermon and animadversions, I wondered what scarecrow Mr. Edwards would set up wherewith he might hope to deter men of more caution than sense, from reading of them ; since socinianism, from which you were known to be as remote as he, I concluded would not do. The unknown author of the “ Reasonableness of Christianity,” he might make a socinian, mahometan, atheist, or what sort of raw-head and bloody-bones he pleased. But I imagined he had had more sense than to venture any such aspersions, on

a man whom, though I have not yet the happiness personally to know; yet, I know, hath justly a great and settled reputation amongst worthy men: and I thought that that coat, which you had worn with so much reputation, might have preserved you from the bespatterings of Mr. Edwards's dunghill. But what is to be expected from a warrior that hath no other ammunition, and yet ascribes to himself victory from hence, and, with this artillery, imagines he carries all before him ? And so Skimmington rides in triumph, driving all before him, by the ordures that he bestows on those that come in his way. And, were not christianity concerned in the case, a man would scarce excuse to himself the ridiculousness of entering into the list with such a combatant. I do not, therefore, wonder that this mighty boaster, having no other way to answer the books of his opponents, but by popular calumnies, is fain to have recourse to his only refuge, and lay out his natural talent in vilifying and slandering the author. But I see, by what you have already writ, how much you are above that; and as you take not up your opinions from fashion or interest, so you quit them not, to avoid the malicious reports of those that do: out of which number, they can hardly be left, who (unprovoked) mix, with the management of their cause, injuries and ill-language, to those they differ from. This, at least, I am sure, zeal or love for truth can never permit falsehood to be used in the defence of it.

Your mind, I see, prepared for truth, by resignation of itself, not to the traditions of men, but the doctrine of the gospel, has made you more readily entertain, and more easily enter into the meaning of my book, than most I have heard speak of it. And since you seem to me to comprehend what I have laid together, with the same disposition of mind, and in the same sense that I received it from the holy scriptures, I shall, as a mark of my respect to you, give you a particular accoun of it.

The beginning of the year in which it was published the controversy that made so much noise and heat amongst some of the dissenters, coming one day acci

dentally into my mind, drew me, by degrees, into a stricter and more thorough inquiry into the question about justification. The scripture was direct and plain, that it was faith that justified: The next question then, was, What faith that was that justified; what it was which, if a man believed, it should be imputed to him for righteousness ? To find out this, I thought the right way was, to search the scriptures ; and thereupon betook myself seriously to the reading of the New Testament, only to that purpose. What that produced, you and the world have seen.

The first view I had of it seemed mightily to satisfy my mind, in the reasonableness and plainness of this doctrine; but yet the general silence I had in my little reading met with, concerning any such thing, awed me with the apprehension of singularity ; until going on in the gospel-history, the whole tenour of it made it so clear and visible, that I more wondered that every body did not see and embrace it; than that I should assent to what was so plainly laid down, and so frequently incul. cated in holy writ, though systems of divinity said nothing of it. That which added to my satisfaction was, that it led me into a discovery of the marvellous and divine wisdom of our Saviour's conduct, in all the circumstances of his promulgating this doctrine; as well as of the necessity that such a law-giver should be sent from God, for the reforming the morality of the world ; two points, that, I must confess, I had not found so fully and advantageously explained in the books of divinity I had met with, as the history of the gospel seemed to me, upon an attentive perusal, to give occasion and matter for. But the necessity and wisdom of our Saviour's opening the doctrine (which he came to publish) as he did in parables and figurative ways of speaking, carries such a thread of evidence through the whole history of the evangelists, as, I think, is impossible to be resisted; and makes it a demonstration, that the sacred historians did not write by concert, as advocates for a bad cause, or to give colour and credit to an imposture they would usher into the world : since they, every one of them, in some place or other, omit some passages of our Saviour's

not say.

life, or circumstance of his actions; which show the wisdom and wariness of his conduct; and which, even those of the evangelists who have recorded, do barely and transiently mention, without laying any stress on them, or making the least remark of what consequence they are, to give us our Saviour's true character, and to prove the truth of their history. These are evidences of truth and sincerity, which result alone from the nature of things, and cannot be produced by any art or contrivance.

How much I was pleased with the growing discovery, every day, whilst I was employed in this search, I need

The wonderful harmony, that the farther I went disclosed itself, tending to the same points, in all the parts of the sacred history of the gospel, was of no small weight with me and another person, who every day, from the beginning to the end of my search, saw the progress of it, and knew, at my first setting out, that I was ignorant whither it would lead me; and therefore, every day asked me, What more the scripture had taught me? So far was I from the thoughts of socinianism, or an intention to write for that, or any other party, or to publish any thing at all. But, when I had gone through the whole, and saw what a plain, simple, reasonable thing christianity was, suited to all conditions and capacities; and in the morality of it now, with divine authority, established into a legible law, so far surpassing all that philosophy and human reason had attained to, or could possibly make effectual to all degrees of mankind; I was flattered to think it might be of some use in the world; especially to those, 'who thought either that there was no need of revelation at all, or that the revelation of our Saviour required the belief of such articles for salvation, which the settled notions, and their way of reasoning in some, and want of understanding in others, made impossible to them. Upon these two topics the objections seemed to turn, which were with most assurance made by deists, against christianity; but against christianity misunderstood. It seemed to me, that there needed no more to show them the weakness of their exceptions, but to lay plainly before them the

doctrine of our Saviour and his apostles, as delivered in the scriptures, and not as taught by the several sects of christians.

This tempted me to publish it, not thinking it deserved an opposition from any minister of the gospel ; and least of all, from any one in the communion of the church of England. But so it is, that Mr. Edwards's zeal for he knows not what (for he does not yet know his own creed, nor what is required to make him a christian) could not brook so plain, simple, and intelligible a religion; but yet, not knowing what to say against it, and the evidence it has from the word of God, he thought fit to let the book alone, and fall upon the author. What great matter he has done in it, I need not tell you, who have seen and showed the weakness of his wranglings. You have here, Sir, the true history of the birth of my " Reasonableness of Christianity, as delivered in the

Scriptures,” and my design in publishing it, &c. What it contains, and how much it tends to peace and union among christians, if they would receive christianity as it is, you have discovered. I am,

SIR,

Your most humble servant,

A. B.

My readers will pardon me, that, in my preface to them, I make this particular address to Mr. Bold. He hath thought it worth his while to defend my book. How well he has done it, I am too much a party to say. I think it so sufficient to Mr. Edwards, that I needed not to have troubled myself any farther about him, on the account of any argument that remained in his book to be answered. But a great part of the world judging of the contests about truth, as they do of popular elections, that the side carries it where the greatest noise is; it was necessary they should be undeceived, and be let see, that sometimes such writers may be let alone, not because they cannot, but because they deserve not to be answered.

« PreviousContinue »