Page images

În the next place, pray tell me, Why would it be follý in you, to comply with what I require of you? Would it not be useful to me, to be set right in this matter? If so, Why is it folly in you to set me right? Consider me, if you please, as one of your parishioners, who (after you have resolved which catalogue of fundamentals to give him, either that in your “ Thoughts of the Causes of “ Atheism," or this other here, in your “ Socinianism “ unmasked;" for they are not both the same, nor either of them perfect) asked you, “ Are these all fundamental “ articles necessary to be believed to make a man à “ christian; and are there no more but these?" Would you answer him, that it was folly in you to comply with him, in what he desired? Is it of no moment to know, what is required of men to be believed; without a belief of which, they are not christians, nor can be saved ? And is it folly in a minister of the gospel, to inform one committed to his instruction, in so material a point as this, which distinguishes believers from unbelievers ? Is it folly in one, whose business it is to bring men to be christians, and to salvation, to resolve a question, by which they may know, whether they are christians or no; and, without a resolution of which, they cannot certainly know their condition, and the state they are in? Is it besides your commission and business, and therefore a folly, to extend your care of souls so far as this, to those who are committed to your charge ?

Sir, I have a title to demand this of you, as if I were your parishioner: you have forced yourself upon me for a teacher, in this very point, as if you wanted a parishioner to instruct: and therefore I demand it of you, and shall insist upon it, till you either do it, or confess you cannot. Nor shall it excuse you, to say

it is capriciously required. For this is no otherwise capricious, than all questions are capricious to a man, that cannot answer them; and such an one, I think, this is to you. For, if you could answer it, nobody can doubt, but that you would, and that with confidence: for nobody will suspect it is the want of that makes you so reserved. This is, indeed, a frequent way of answering questions, by men, that cannot otherwise

cover the absurdities of their opinions, and their insolence of expecting to be believed upon their bare words, by saying they are capriciously asked, and deserve no other answer.

But how far soever capriciousness (when proved, for saying is not enough) may excuse from answering a material question, yet your own words here will clear this from this being a capricious question in me. For that those texts of scripture which you have set down, do not, upon your own grounds, contain all the fundamental doctrines of religion, all that is necessary to be believed to make a man a christian ; what you say a little lower, in this very page, as well as in other places, does demonstrate. Your words are, “ I think I have sufficiently

proved, that there are other doctrines besides that “ [Jesus is the Messiah] which are required to be believe “ ed to make a man a christian; Why did the apostles “ write these doctrines? Was it not, that those they writ “ to, might give their assent to them?” This argument, for the necessity of believing the texts you cite from their being set down in the “ New Testament,” you urged thus, p. 9, " Is this set down to no purpose in these “ inspired epistles ? Is it not requisite that we should « know it and believe ?” And again, p. 29, “they are in “ our bibles to that very purpose, to be believed." If then it be necessary to know and believe those texts of scripture you have collected, because the apostles writ them, and they were not "set down to no purpose : and “ they are set down in our bibles on purpose to be be“ lieved :" I have reason to demand of you other texts, besides those you have enumerated, as containing points necessary to be believed ; because there are other texts which the apostles writ, and were not "set down to no

purpose, and are in our bibles, on purpose to be be“ lieved," as well as those which you have cited.

Another reason of doubting, and consequently of demanding, whether those propositions you have set down for fundamental doctrines, be every one of them necessary to be believed, and all that are necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, I have from your next argument; which, joined to the former, stands thus, p. 22:

" Why did the apostles write these doctrines ? 'Was it “ not that those they writ to, might give their assent to “ them ? Nay, did they not require assent to them? “ Yes verily; for this is to be proved from the nature " of the things contained in these doctrines, which are “ such as had immediate respect to the occasion, au

thor, way, means and issue, of their redemptioni and “ salvation.” If therefore all “ things which have an “ immediate respect to the occasion, author, way, “ means and issue of men's redemption and salvation," are those and those only, which are necessary to be believed to make a man a christian ; may a man not justly doubt, whether those propositions, which the unmasker has set down, contain all those things, and whether there be not other things contained in other texts of scripture, or in some of those cited by him, but otherwise understood, that have as immediate a "respect to the occa

sion, author, way, means and issue, of men's redemp“ tion and salvation," as those he has set down ? and therefore I have reason to demand a completer list. For at best, to tell us of “ all things that have an im* mediate respect to the occasion, author, way, means « and issue, of men's redemption and salvation," is but a general description of fundamentals, with which some may think some articles agree, and others, others : and the terms, “ immediate respect," may give ground enough for difference about them, to those who agree that the rest of your description is right. My demand therefore is not a general description of fundamentals, büt, for the reasons above mentioned, the particular articles themselves, which are necessary to be believed to make a man à christian.

It is not my business at present, to examine the validity of these arguments of his, to prove all the propositions to be necessary to be believed, which he has here, in his '“ Socinianism unmasked," set down as such. The use I make of them now, is to show the reason they afford me to doubt, that those propositions, which he has given us, for doctrines nécessary to be believed, are either not all such, of more than all, by his own rule: and therefore, I must desire him to give us a completer

creed, that we may know, what in his sense, is necessary, and enough to make a man a christian.

Nor will it be sufficient, in this case, to do what he tells us he has done, in these words, p. 21, “I have “ briefly set before the reader those evangelical truths, " those christian principles, which belong to the very “ essence of christianity;" and “I have reduced “ most of them to certain propositions, which is a thing " the vindicator called for," p. 16. With submission, I think he mistakes the vindicator. What I called for, was, not that, “ most of them should be reduced to cer“ tain propositions,” but that all of them should : and the reason of my demanding that was plain, viz. that then, having the unmasker's creed in clear and distinct propositions, I might be able to examine whether it was what God in the scriptures indispensably required of every man to make him a christian, that so I might thereby correct the errours or defects of what I at present apprehend the scripture taught me in the case.

The unmasker endeavours to excuse himself from answering my question by another exception against it, p. 24, in these words : “ Surely none, but this upstart “ racovian, will have the confidence to deny, that these “ articles of faith are such as are necessary to constitute

a christian, as to the intellectual and doctrinal part of

christianity; such as must, IN SOME MEASURE, be “ known and assented to by him. Not that a man is

supposed, every moment, actually to exert his assent " and belief; for none of the moral virtues, none of the “ evangelical graces, are exerted thus always. Where6 fore that question," in p. 168,“ though he says he " 'asks it" (seriously)" might have been spared,” “Whe

ther 'every one of these fundamentals is required to “ be believed to make a man a christian, and such as, " without the actual belief thereof, he cannot be saved ?'” “Here is seriousness pretended where there is none; « for the design is only to cavil, and (if he can) to ex* pose my assertion. But he is not able to do it ; for € all his critical demands are answered in these few

words, viz. That the intellectual (as well as moral " endowments) are never supposed to be always in act:

“ they are exerted upon occasion, not all of them at a

time. And therefore he mistakes, if he thinks, or “ rather as he objects without thinking, that these doc“ trines, if they be fundamental and necessary, must be

always actually believed. No man, besides himself, “ ever started such a thing."

This terrible long combat has the unmasker managed with his own shadow, to confound the seriousness of my question ; and, as he says himself, is come off, not only safe and sound, but triumphant. But for all that, sir, may not a man's question be serious, though he should chance to express it ill? I think you and I were not best to set up for critics in language, and nicety of expression, for fear we should set the world a laughing. Yet for this once, I shall take the liberty to defend mine here. For I demand in what expression of mine, I said or supposed, that a man should, every moment, actually exert his assent to any proposition required to be believed? Cannot a man say, that the unmasker cannot be admitted to any preferment in the church of England, without an actual assent to, or subscribing of the thirty-nine articles; unless it be supposed, that he must every moment, from the time he first read, assented to, and subscribed those articles, until he received institution and induction, “ actually exert his assent" to every one of them, and repeat his subscription? In the same sense it is literally true, that a man cannot be admitted into the church of Christ, or into heaven, without actually believing all the articles necessary to make a man a christian, without supposing that he must “ actually

exert that assent every moment," from the time that he first gave it, until the moment that he is admitted into heaven. He may eat, drink, make bargains, study Euclid, and think of other things between; nay, sometimes sleep, and neither think of those articles, nor any thing else; and yet it be true, that he shall not be admitted into the church, or heaven, without an actual assent to them: that condition of an actual assent, he has performed, and until he recall that assent, by actual unbelief, it stands good: and though a lunacy, or lethargy, should seize on him presently after, and he

« PreviousContinue »