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nothing can be absolutely necessary to be believed, but what, by this new law of faith, God of his good pleasure hath made to be so. And this, it is plain, by the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, to all that believed not already in him, was only the believing the only true God, and Jesus to be the Messiah, whom he hath sent. The performance of this puts a man within the corenant, and is that, which God will impute to him for righteousness. All the other acts of assent to other truths, taught by our Saviour, and his apostles, are not what make a man a christian ; but are necessary acts of obedience to be performed by one, who is a christian ; and therefore, being a christian, ought to live by the laws of Christ's kingdom.
Nor are we without some glimpse of light, why it hath pleased God of his grace, that the believing Jesus to be the Messiah should be that faith which he would impute to men for righteousness. It is evident from scripture, that our Saviour despised the shame and endured the cross for the joy set before him ; which joy, it is also plain, was a kingdom. But, in this kingdom, which his Father had appointed to him, he could have none but voluntary subjects; such as leaving the kingdom of darkness, and of the prince of this world, with all the pleasures, pomps, and vanities thereof would put themselves under his dominion, and translate themselves into his kingdom ; which they did, by believing and owning him to be the Messiah their King, and thereby taking him to rule over them. For the faith for which God justifieth, is not an empty speculation, but a faith joined with repentance, and working by love. And for this, which was, in effect, to return to God himself, and to their natural allegiance due to him, and to advance as much as lay in them, the glory of the kingdom, which he had promised his Son; God was pleased to declare, he would accept them, receive them to grace, and blot out all their former transgressions.
This is evidently the covenant of grace, as delivered in the scriptures : and if this be not, I desire any one to tell me what it is, and what are the terms of it. It is a law of faith, whereby God has promised to forgive all
our sins, upon our repentance and believing something ; and to impute that faith to us for righteousness. Now I ask, what it is by the law of faith, we are required to believe? For until that be known, the law of faith is not distinctly known; nor the terms of the covenant upon which the all-merciful God graciously offers us salvation. And, if any one will say, this is not known, nay, is not easily and certainly to be known under the gospel, I desire him to tell me, what the greatest enemies of christianity can say worse against it? For a way proposed to salvation, that does not certainly lead thither, or is proposed, so as not to be known, are very little different as to their consequence; and mankind would be left to wander in darkness and uncertainty, with the one as well as the other.
I do not write this for controversy's sake; for had I minded victory, I would not have given the unmasker this new matter of exception. I know whatever is said, he must be bawling for his fashionable and profitable orthodoxy, and cry out against this too, which I have here added, as socinianism; and cast that name upon all that differs from what is held by those he would recommend his zeal to in writing. I call it bawling, for whether what he has said be reasoning, I shall refer to those of his own brotherhood, if he be of any brotherhood, and there be any that will join with him in his set of fundamentals, when his creed is made.
Had I minded nothing but how to deal with him, I had tied him up short to his list of fundamentals, without affording him topics of declaiming, against what I have here said. But I have enlarged on this point, for the sake of such readers, who, with the love of truth, read books of this kind, and endeavour to inform themselves in the things of their everlasting concernment: it being of greater consideration with me to give any light and satisfaction to one single person, who is really concerned to understand, and be convinced of the religion he professes, than what a thousand fashionable, or titular professors of any sort of orthodoxy shall say, or think of me, for not doing as they do; i. é. for not saying after others, without understanding
what is said, or upon what grounds, or caring to understand it.
Let us now consider his argument, to prove the ar, ticles he has given us to be fundamentals, In his
Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” p. 119, he argues from 1 Tim. iii, 16, where he “ Chris“ tianity is called a mystery ; that all things in chris,
tianity are not plain, and exactly level to every com. “ mon apprehension; and that every thing in christi“ anity is not clear, and intelligible and comprehensible
by the weakest noddle.” Let us take this for proved as much as he pleases; and then let us see the force of this subtile disputant's argument, for the necessity there is, that every christian man should believe those, which he has given us for fundamental articles, out of the epistles. The reason of that obligation, and the necessity of every man's and woman's believing in them, he has laid in this, that they are to be found in the epistles, or in the bible. This argument for them we have, over and over again, in his “ Socinianism unmasked," as here, p. 9, thus : “ Are they set down to no purpose, “ in these inspired epistles ? Why did the apostles write “ these doctrines, was it not, that those they writ to, might give their assent to them ? "
They in our bibles, for that very purpose, to be believ, ed," p. 25. Now I ask, Can any one more directly invalidate all he says here, for the necessity of believing his articles ? Can any one more apparently write booty, than by saying, that “ these his doctrines, these his “ fundamental articles” (which are, after his fashion, set down between the 8th and 20th pages of this his first chapter) are of necessity to be believed by every one, before he can be a christian, because they are in the epistles and in the bible ; and yet affirm, that in christianity, i. e. in the epistles and in the bible, there are mysteries, there are things “not plain, not clear, not “ intelligible to common apprehensions? ”
If his articles, some of which contain mysteries, are necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, because they are in the bible; then, according to this rule, it is ne cessary for many men to believe what is not intelligible
to them; what their noddles cannot apprehend, (as the unmasker is pleased to turn the supposition of vulgar people's understanding the fundamentals of their religion into ridicule,) i. e. it is necessary for many men to do, what is impossible for them to do, before they can be christians. But if there be several things in the bible, and in the epistles, that are not necessary for men to believe, to make them christians : then all the unmasker's arguments, upon their being in the epistles, are no proofs, that all his articles are necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, because they are set down in the epistles; much less, because he thinks they may be drawn, according to his system, out of what is set down in the epistles. Let him, therefore, either confess these and the like questions, “ Why did the apostles write 66 these?
Was it not, that those they write to, might “ give their assent to them? Why should not every one “ of these evangelical truths be believed and embraced ? They are in our bibles, for that very purpose;
” and the like; to be impertinent and ridiculous. Let him cease to propose them with so much ostentation, for they can serve only to mislead unwary readers : or let him unsay what he has said, of things “not plain to “ common apprehensions, not clear and intelligible.” Let him recant what he has said of mysteries in christianity. For I ask with him, p. 8, “ where can we be “ informed, but in the sacred and inspired writings ? ** It is ridiculous to urge, that any thing is necessary to be explicitly believed, to make a man a christian, because it is writ in the epistles, and in the bible; unless he confess that there is no mystery, nothing not plain, or unintelligible to vulgar understandings, in the epis. tles, or in the bible.
This is so evident, that the unmasker himself, who, p. 119, of his “ Thoughts concerning the Causes of
Atheism," thought it ridiculous to suppose, that the vulgar should understand christianity, is here of another mind : and, p. 30, says of his evangelical doctrines and articles, necessary to be assented to, that they are intelligible and plain ; there is no “ambiguity and doubt* fulness in them; they shine with their own light, and
to an unprejudiced eye are plain, evident, and illus“ trious."
To draw the unmasker out of the clouds, and prevent his hiding himself in the doubtfulness of his expressions, I shall desire him to say directly, whether the articles, which are necessary to be believed, to make a man a christian, and particularly those he has set down for such, are all plain and intelligible, and such as may be understood and comprehended (I will not say in the unmasker's ridiculous way, by the weakest noddles, but) by every illiterate country man and woman, capable of church-communion ?
If he says, Yes; then all mysteries are excluded out of his articles necessary to be believed to make a man a christian. For that which can be comprehended by every day-labourer, every poor spinster, that is a member of the church, cannot be a mystery. And, if what such illiterate people cannot understand be required to be believed, to make them christians, the greatest part of mankind are shut out from being christians.
But the unmasker has provided an answer, in these words, p. 31, “ There is ” says he, "a difficulty in the “ doctrine of the trinity, and several truths of the gos
pel, as to the exact manner of the things themselves, “ which we shall never be able to comprehend, at least “ on this side of heaven : but there is no difficulty as “ to the reality and certainty of them, because we “ know they are revealed to us by God in the holy * scriptures.'
Which answer of " difficulty in the manner,” and “ no difficulty in the reality,” having the appearance of a distinction, looks like learning ; but when it comes to be applied to the case in hand, will scarce afford us
The question is about a proposition to be believed, which must first necessarily be understood. For a man cannot possibly give his assent to any affirmation or negation, unless he understand the terms as they are joined in that proposition, and has a conception of the thing affirmed or denied, and also a conception of the thing; concerning which it is affirmed or denied, as they are