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were necessary for the succeeding one, were not then “ discovered, or, at least, not fully."
I must ask the unmasker a short question or two; as, first,
XLVI. Are not all the doctrines, necessary for our
time, contained in his system?
XLVII. Can all the doctrines, necessary for our
time, be proposed in the express words of the scripture ?
When he has answered these two plain questions, (and an answer to them I shall expect,) the world will then see, what he designs by “ doctrines necessary for our “ Saviour's time, and doctrines necessary for succeeding “ times ;” whether he means any thing else by it, but the setting up his system, as the exact standard of the gospel, and the true and unalterable measure of christianity, in which " it has climbed to its height."
Let not good and sincere christians be deceived, nor perplexed, by this maker of another christianity, than what the infallible Spirit of God has left us in the scriptures. It is evident from thence, that whoever takes Jesus the Messiah for his King, with a resolution to live by his laws, and does sincerely repent, as often as he transgresses any of them, is his subject; all such are christians. What they are to know, or believe more concerning him and his kingdom, when they are his subjects, he has left upon record in the great and sacred code and constitutions of his kingdom ; I mean in the holy scriptures. All that is contained therein, as coming from the God of truth, they are to receive as truth, and embrace as such. But since it is impossible explicitly to believe any proposition of the christian doctrine, but what we understand, or in any other sense, than we understand it to have been delivered in; an explicit belief is, or can be required in no man, of more than what he understands of that doctrine. And thus,
whatsoever upon fair endeavours he understands to be contained in that doctrine, is necessary to him to be believed: nor can he continue a subject of Christ upon other terms.
What he is persuaded is the meaning of Christ his King in any expression he finds in the sacred code; that, by his allegiance, he is bound to submit his mind to receive for true, or else he denies the authority of Christ, and refuses to believe him ; nor can be excused, by calling any one on earth master. And hence it is evidently impossible for a christian to understand any text, in one sense, and believe it in another, by whom. soever dictated.
All that is contained in the inspired writings, is all of divine authority, must all be allowed for such, and received for divine and infallible truth, by every subject of Christ's kingdom, i. e. every christian. How comes then the unmasker to distinguish these dictates of the Holy Spirit, into necessary and not necessary truths ?. I desire him to produce his commission, whereby he hath the power given him to tell, which of the divine truths, contained in the holy scripture, are of necessity to be believed, and which not. Who made him a judge or divider between them ? Who gave him this power over the oracles of God, to set up one and debase another, at his pleasure ? Some, as he thinks fit, are the choicest truths : and what, I beseech him, are the other? Who made him a chooser, where nobody can pick and choose ? Every proposition there, as far as any christian can understand it, is indispensably necessary to be believed: and farther than he does understand it, it is impossible for him to believe it. The laws of Christ's kingdom do not require impossibilities ; for they are all reasonable, and good.
Some of the truths delivered in the holy writ are very plain: it is impossible, I think, to mistake their meaning; and those certainly are all necessary to be explicitly believed. Others have more difficulty in them, and are not easy to be understood. Is the unmasker appointed Christ's vicegerent here, or the Holy Ghost's interpreter, with authority to pronounce which of these
are necessary to be believed, and in what sense, and which not? The obscurity, that is to be found in several passages of the scripture, the difficulties that cover and perplex the meaning of several texts, demand of every christian study, diligence, and attention, in reading and hearing the scriptures ; in comparing and examining them; and receiving what light he can from all manner of helps, to understand these books, wherein are contained the words of life. This the unmasker, and
every one, is to do for himself; and thereby find out what is necessary for him to believe. But I do not know that the unmasker is to understand and interpret for me, more than I for him. If he has such a power, I desire him to produce it. Until then, I can acknowledge no other infallible, but that guide, which he directs me to himself, here in these words: “ according to our Sa“ viour's promise, the Holy Ghost was to be sent in a “ special manner to enlighten men's minds, and to dis
cover to them the great mysteries of christianity.' For whether by men, he here means those on whom the Holy Ghost was so eminently poured out, Acts ii. or whether he means by these words, that special assistance of the Holy Ghost, whereby particular men, to the end of the world, are to be led into the truth, by opening their understandings, that they may understand the scriptures, (for he always loves to speak doubtfully and indefinitely,) I know no other infallible guide, but the Spirit of God in the scriptures. Nor has God left it in my choice to take any man for such. If he had, I should think the unmasker the unlikeliest to be he, and the last man in the world to be chosen for that guide: and herein I appeal to any sober christian, who hath read what the unmasker has, with so little truth and decency, (for it is not always men's fault if they have not sense,) writ upon this question, whether he would not be of the same mind :
But yet, as very an unmasker as he is, he will be extremely apt to call you names, nay, to declare you no christian; and boldly affirm, you have no christianity, if you will not swallow it just as it is of his cooking You must take it just as he has been pleased to dose it
no more, nor no less, than what is in his system. He hath put himself into the throne of Christ, and pretends to tell you which are, and which are not the indispensable laws of his kingdom : which parts of his divine revelation you must necessarily know, understand, and believe, and in what sense; and which you need not trouble your head about, but may pass by, as not necessary to be believed. He will tell you, that some of his necessary articles are mysteries, and yet (as he does, p. 115, of his “ Thoughts concerning the causes of
atheism”) that they are easy to be understood by any man, when explained to him. In answer to that I demanded of him, “ Who was to explain them? The “ papists, I told him, would explain some of them one “ way, and the reformed another; the remonstrants “ and anti-remonstrants give them different senses ; “ and probably the trinitarians and unitarians will pro“ fess, that they understand not each other's explica“ tions.” But to this, in his reply, he has not vouchsafed to give me any answer; which yet I expect, and I will tell him why ; because, as there are different explainers, there will be different fundamentals. And therefore unless he can show his authority to be the sole explainer of fundamentals, he will in vain make such a pother about his fundamentals. Another explainer, of as good authority as he, will set up others against them. And what then shall we be the better for all this stir and noise of fundamentals ? All the effect of it will be just the same it has been these thousand years and upwards; schisms, separations, contentions, animosities, quarrels, blood and butchery, and all that train of mischiefs, which have so long harassed and defamed christianity, and are so contrary to the doctrines, spirit, and end of the gospel; and which must still continue as long as any such unmasker shall take upon him to be the dispenser and dictator to others of fundamentals; and peremptorily to define which parts of divine revelation are necessary to be believed, and which christians may with safety dispense with, and not believe.
To conclude, what was sufficient to make a man a christian in our Saviour's time, is sufficient still, viz. the
taking him for our King and Lord, ordained so by God. What was necessary to be believed by all christians in our Saviour's time, as an indispensable duty, which they owed to their lord and master, was the believing all divine revelation, as far as every one could understand it: and just so it is still, neither more nor less. This being so, the unmasker may make what use he pleases of his notion, " that christianity was erected by degrees,” it will no way (in that sense, in which it is true) turn to the advantage of his select, fundamental, necessary doctrines.
The next chapter has nothing in it but his great bugbear, whereby he hopes to fright people from reading my book, by crying out Socinianism, Socinianism ! Whereas I challenge him again, to show one word of socinianism in it. But, however, it is worth while to write a book to prove me a socinian. Truly, I did not think myself so considerable, that the world need be troubled about me, whether I were a follower of Socinus, Arminius, Calvin, or any other leader of a sect among christians. A christian I am sure I am, because I believe “ Jesus to be the Messiah," the King and Saviour promised and sent by God: and, as a subject of his kingdom, I take the rule of my faith and life from his will, declared and left upon record in the inspired writings of the apostles and evangelists in the New Testament; which I endeavoured to the utmost of my power, as is my duty, to understand in their true sense and meaning. To lead me into their true meaning, I know (as I have above declared) no infallible guide, but the same Holy Spirit, from whom these writings at
If the unmasker knows any other infallible interpreter of scripture, I desire him to direct me to him: until then, I shall think it according to my master's rule, not to be called, nor to call any man on earth, Master. No man, I think, has a right to prescribe to me my faith, or magisterially to impose his interpretations or opinions on me: nor is it material to any one what mine are any farther than they carry their own evidence with them. If this, which I think makes me of no sect, entitles me to the name of a papist, or a