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those he had named; and amongst them (if he durst, or could name them) probably several that many a good christian, who died in the faith, and is now in heaven, never once thought of; and others, which many, of as good authority as he, would, from their different systems, certainly deny and contradict.
This, as great an absurdity as it is, cannot be otherwise, whilst men will take upon them to alter the terms of the gospel; and when it is evident, that our Saviour and his apostles received men into the church, and pronounced them believers, for taking him to be the Messiah, their King and deliverer, sent by God, have a boldness to say, “this is not enough.” But, when you would know of them, what then is enough, they cannot tell you : the reason whereof is visible, viz. because they being able to produce no other reason for their collection of fundamental articles, to prove them necessary to be believed, but because they are of divine authority, and contained in the holy scriptures; and are, as the unmasķer says, “ writ there on purpose to be believed ;* they know not where to stop, when they have once begun: those texts that they leave out, or from which they deduce none of their fundamentals, being of the same divine authority, and so upon that account equally fundamental with what they culled out, though not so well suited to their particular systems.
Hence come those endless and unreasonable contentions about fundamentals, whilst each censures the defect, redundancy, or falsehood of what others require, as necessary to be believed: and yet he himself gives not a catalogue of his own fundamentals, which he will say is sufficient and complete. Nor is it to be wondered; since, in this way, it is impossible to stop short of putting every proposition, divinely revealed, into the list of fundamentals; all of them being of divine, and so of equal authority; and, upon that account, equally necessary to be believed by every one that is a christian, though they are not all necessary to be believed, to make any one a christian. For the New Testament containing the laws of the Messiah's kingdom, in regard of all the actions, both of mind and body, of all his subjects;
every christian is bound, by his allegiance to him, to believe all that he says in it to be true; as well as to assent, that all he commands in it is just and good: and what negligence, perverseness, or guilt there is, in his mistaking in the one, or failing in his obedience to the other, that this righteous judge of all men, who cannot be deceived, will at the last day lay open, and reward accordingly.
It is no wonder, therefore, there have been such fierce contests, and such cruel havock made amongst christians about fundamentals; whilst every one would set up his system, upon pain of fire and faggot in this, and hellfire in the other world. Though, at the same time, whilst he is exercising the utmost barbarities against others, to prove himself a true christian, he professes himself so ignorant, that he cannot tell, or so uncharitable, that he will not tell, what articles are absolutely necessary and sufficient to make a man a christian. if there be any such fundamentals, as it is certain there are; it is as certain they must be very plain. Why then does every one urge and make a stir about fundamentals, and no body give a list of them ? but because (as I have said) upon the usual grounds, they cannot: for I will be bold to say, that every one who considers the matter, will see, that either only the article of his being the Messiah their King, which alone our Saviour and his apostles preached to the unconverted world, and received those that believed it into the church, is the only necessary article to be believed by an atheist, to make him a christian; or else, that all the truths contained in the New Testament, are necessary articles to be believed to make a man a christian: and that between these two, it is impossible any-where to stand; the reason whereof is plain. Because, either the believing Jesus to be the Messiah, i. e. the taking him to be our King, makes us subjects and denizens of his kingdom, that is, christians: or else an explicit knowledge of, and actual obedience to the laws of his kingdom, is what is required to make us subjects; which, I think, it was never said of any other kingdom, For a man must be a subject before he is bound to obey.
Let us suppose it will be said here, that an obedience to the laws of Christ's kingdom, is what is nécessary to make us subjects of it, without which we cannot be admitted into it, i. e. be christians : and, if so, this obédience must be universal ; I mean, it must be the same sort of obedience to all the laws of this kingdom : which, since no body says is in any one such as is wholly free from errour, or frailty, this obedience can only lie in a sincere disposition and purpose of mind, to obey every one of the laws of the Messiah, delivered in the New Testament, to the utmost of our power. Now, believing right being one part of that obedience, as well as acting right is the other part, the obedience of assent must be implicitly to all that is delivered there, that it is true. But for as much as the particular acts of an explicit assent cannot go any farther than his understanding, who is to assent; what he understands to be truth, delivered by our Saviour, or the apostles commissioned by him, and assisted by his Spirit, that he must necessarily believe: it becomes a fundamental article to him, and he cannot refuse his assent to it, without renouncing his allegiance. For he that denies any of the doctrines that Christ has delivered, to be true, denies him to be sent from God, and consequently to be the Messiah ; and so ceases to be a christian. From whence it is evident, that if any more be necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, than the believing Jesus to be the Messiah, and thereby taking him for our King, it cannot be any set bundle of fundamentals, culled out of the scripture, with an omission of the rest, according as best suits any one's fancy, system, or interest: but it must be an explicit belief of all those propositions, which he, according to the best of his understanding, really apprehends to be contained and meant in the scripture; and an implicit belief of all the rest, which he is ready to believe, as soon as it shall please God, upon his use of the means, to enlighten him, and make them clear to his understanding. So that in effect, almost every particular man in this sense has, or may have, a distinct catalogue of fundamentals, each whereof it is necessary for him explicitly to believe, now that
he is a christian ; whereof if he should disbelieve or deny any one, he would cast off his allegiance, disfranchise himself; and be no longer a subject of Christ's kingdom. But, in this sense, no body can tell what is fundamental to another, what is necessary for another man to believe. This catalogue of fundamentals, every one alone can make for himself: no body can fix it for him; no body can collect or prescribe it to another: but this is, according as God has dealt to every one the measure of light and faith ; and has opened each man's understanding, that he may understand the scriptures. Whoever has used what means he is capable of, for the informing of himself, with a readiness to believe and obey what shall be taught and prescribed by Jesus, his Lord and King, is a true and faithful subject of Christ's kingdom; and cannot be thought to fail in any thing necessary to salvation.
Supposing a man and his wife, barely by seeing the wonderful things that Moses did, should have been persuaded to put themselves under his government; or by reading his law, and liking it; or by any other motive, had been prevailed on sincerely to take him for their ruler and law-giver; and accordingly (renouncing their former idolatry and heathenish pollutions) in token thereof had, by baptism and circumcision, the initiating ceremonies, solemnly entered themselves into that communion, under the law of Moses ; had they not, thereby, been made denizens of the commonwealth of Israel, and invested with all the privileges and prerogatives of true children of Abraham, leaving to their posterity a right to their share in the promised land, though they had died before they had performed any other act of obedience to that law; nay, though they had not known whose son Moses was, nor how he had delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, nor whither he was leading them? I do not say, it is likely they should be so far ignorant. But, whether they were or no, it was enough that they took him for their prince and ruler, with a purpose to obey him, to submit themselves en tirely to his commands and conduct; and did nothing afterwards, whereby they disowned or rejected his au
thority over them. In that respect, none of his laws were greater or more necessary to be submitted to, one than another, though the matter of one might be of inuch greater consequence than of another. But a disobedience to any law of the least consequence, if it carry with it a disowning of the authority that made it, forfeits all, and cuts off such an offender from that commonwealth, and all the privileges of it.
This is the case, in respect of other matters of faith, to those who believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and take him to be their King, sent from God, and so are already christians. It is not the opinion, that any one may have of the weightiness of the matter, (if they are, without their own fault, ignorant that our Saviour hath revealed it,) that shall disfranchise them, and make them forfeit their interest in his kingdom : they may still be good subjects, though they do not believe a great many things, which creed-makers may think necessary to be believed. That which is required of them is a sincere endeavour to know his mind, declared in the gospel, and an explicit belief of all that they understand to be so. Not to believe what he has revealed, whether in a lighter, or more weighty matter, calls his veracity into question, destroys his mission, denies his authority, and is a flat disowning him to be the Messiah, and so overturns that fundamental and necessary article whereby a man is a christian. But this cannot be done by a man's ignorance or unwilful mistake of any of the truths published by our Saviour himself, or his authorized and inspired mi. nisters, in the New Testament. Whilst a man knows not that it was his will or meaning, his allegiance is safe, though he believe the contrary.
If this were not so, it is impossible that any one should be a christian. For in some things we are ignorant, and err all, not knowing the scriptures. For the holy inspired writings, being all of the same divine authority, must all equally in every article be fundamental, and necessary to be believed ; if that be a reason, that makes any one proposition in it necessary to be believed. But the law of faith, the covenant of the gospel, being a covenant of grace, and not of natural right, or debt;