A SECOND VINDICATION OF THE REASONABLENESS OF CHRISTIANITY, &c.
PREFACE TO THE READER.
It hath pleased Mr. Edwards, in answer to the “Reasonableness of Christianity, &c.” and its “Vindication,” to turn one of the most weighty and important points that can come into question (even no less, than the very fundamentals of the christian religion), into a mere quarrel against the author: as every one, with Mr. Bold, may observe. In my reply to him, I have endeavoured, as much as his objections would allow me, to bring him to the subject-matter of my book, and the merits of the cause; though his peculiar way of writing controversy has made it necessary for me in following him step by step, to wipe off the dirt he has thrown on me, and clear myself from those falsehoods he has filled his book with. This I could not but do, in dealing with such an antagonist; that by the untruths I have proved upon him, the reader may judge of those other allegations of his, whereof the proof lying on his side, the bare denial is enough on mine, and, indeed, are wholly nothing to the truth or falsehood of what is contained in my “Reasonableness of Christianity, &c.” To which I shall desire the reader to add this farther consideration from his way of writing, not against my book, but against me, for writing it, that if he had had a real concern for truth and religion in this dispute, he would have treated it after another manner; and we should have had from him more argument, reasoning, and clearness, and less boasting declamation, and railing. It has been unavoidable for me to take notice of a great deal of this sort of stuff, in answering a writer, who has very little else to say in the controversy, and places his strength in things beside the question: but yet I have been so careful, to take all occasions to explain the doctrine of my book, that I hope the reader will not think his pains wholly lost labour, in persuing this reply; wherein he will find some farther, and, I hope, satisfying account, concerning the writings of the New Testament, and the Christian Religion contained in it.
Mr. Edwards’s ill language, which I thought personally to me (though I know not how I had provoked a man whom I had never had to do with), I am now satisfied, by his rude and scurrilous treating of Mr. Bold, is his way and strength in management of controversy; and therefore requires a little more consideration in this disputant, than otherwise it would deserve. Mr. Bold, with the calmness of a christian, the gravity of a divine, the clearness of a man of parts, and the civility of a well-bred man, made some “animadversions” on his “Socinianism unmasked;” which, with a sermon preached on the same subject with my “Reasonableness of Christianity,” he published: and how he has been used by Mr. Edwards, let the world judge.
I was extremely surprised with Mr. Bold’s book, at a time when there was so great an outcry against mine, on all hands. But, it seems, he is a man that does not take up things upon hearsay; nor is afraid to own truth, whatever clamour or calumny it may lie under. Mr. Edwards confidently tells the world, that Mr. Bold has been drawn in to espouse this cause, upon base and mean considerations. Whose picture of the two, such a description is most likely to give us, I shall leave to the reader to judge, from what he will find in their writings on this subject. For as to the persons themselves, I am 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.
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 point, 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 accidentally 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 inculcated 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 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 not say. 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,
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.
This farther I ought to acknowledge to Mr. Bold, and own to the world, that he hath entered into the true sense of my treatise, and his notions do so perfectly agree with mine, that I shall not be afraid, by thoughts and expressions very like his, in this my second vindication, to give Mr. Edwards (who is exceedingly quick-sighted, and positive in such matters) a handle to tell the world, that either I borrowed this my “vindication” from Mr. Bold, or writ his “animadversions” for him. The former of these I shall count no discredit, if Mr. Edwards think fit to charge me with it; and the latter, Mr. Bold’s character is answer enough to. Though the impartial reader, I doubt not, will find, that the same uniform truth considered by us, suggested the same thoughts to us both, without any other communication.
There is another author who in a civiler style hath made it necessary for me to vindicate my book from a reflection or two of his, wherein he seems to come short of that candour he professes. All that I shall say on this occasion here, is, that it is a wonder to me, that having published what I thought the scripture told me was the faith that made a christian, and desired, that if I was mistaken, any one that thought so, would have the goodness to inform me better; so many with their tongues, and some in print, should intemperately find fault with a poor man out of his way, who desires to be set right; and no one, who blames his faith, as coming short, will tell him what that faith is, which is required to make him a christian. But I hope, that amongst so many censurers, I shall at last find one, who knowing himself to be a christian upon other grounds than I am, will have so much christian charity, as to show me what more is absolutely necessary to be believed, by me, and every man, to make him a christian.
A SECOND VINDICATION OF THE REASONABLENESS OF CHRISTIANITY, &c.
A cause that stands in need of falsehoods to support it, and an adversary that will make use of them, deserve nothing but contempt; which I doubt not but every considerate reader thought answer enough to “Mr. Edwards’s Socinianism unmasked.” But, since, in his late “Socinian creed,” he says, “I would have answered him if I could,” that the interest of christianity may not suffer by my silence, nor the contemptibleness of his treatise afford him matter of triumph among those who lay any weight on such boasting, it is fit it should be shown what an arguer he is, and how well he deserves, for his performance, to be dubbed, by himself, “irrefragable.”
Those who, like Mr. Edwards, dare to publish inventions of their own, for matters of fact, deserve a name so abhorred, that it finds not room in civil conversation. This secures him from the proper answer, due to his imputations to me, in print, of matters of fact utterly false, which, without any reply of mine, fix upon him that name (which, without a profligate mind, a man cannot expose himself to) till he hath proved them. Till then, he must wear what he has put upon himself. This being a rule, which common justice hath prescribed to the private judgments of mankind, as well as to the public judicature of courts, that all allegations of facts, brought by contending parties, should be presumed to be false, till they are proved.
There are two ways of making a book unanswerable. The one is by the clearness, strength, and fairness of the argumentation. Men who know how to write thus, are above bragging what they have done, or boasting to the world that their adversaries are baffled. Another way to make a book unanswerable, is to lay a stress on matters of fact foreign to the question, as well as to truth; and to stuff it with scurrility and fiction. This hath been always so evident to common sense, that no man, who had any regard to truth, or ingenuity, ever thought matters of fact besides the argument, and stories made at pleasure, the way of managing controversies. Which showing only the want of sense and argument, could, if used on both sides, end in nothing but downright railing: and he must always have the better of the cause, who has lying and impudence on his side.
The unmasker, in the entrance of his book, sets a great distance between his and my way of writing. I am not sorry that mine differs so much as it does from his. If it were like his, I should think, like his, it wanted the author’s commendations. For, in his first paragraph, which is all laid out in his own testimony of his own book, he so earnestly bespeaks an opinion of mastery in politeness, order, coherence, pertinence, strength, seriousness, temper, and all the good qualities requisite in controversy, that I think, since he pleases himself so much with his own good opinion, one in pity ought not to go about to rob him of so considerable an admirer. I shall not, therefore, contest any of those excellencies he ascribes to himself, or faults he blames in me, in the management of the dispute between us, any farther than as particular passages of his book, as I come to examine them, shall suggest unavoidable remarks to me. I think the world does not so much concern itself about him, or me, that it need be told in that inventory, he has given of his own good parts, in his first paragraph, which of us two has the better hand at “flourishes, jesting, and common-places;” if I am, as he says, p. 2, troubled with “angry fits, and passionate ferments, which, though I strive to palliate, are easily discernible, &c.” and he be more laudably ingenuous in the openness of that temper, which he shows in every leaf; I shall leave to him the entire glory of boasting of it. Whatever we brag of our performances, they will be just as they are, however he may think to add to his, by his own encomium on them. The difference in style, order, coherence, good breeding, (for all those, amongst others, the unmasker mentions,) the reader will observe, whatever I say of them; and at best they are nothing to the question in hand. For though I am a “tool, pert, childish, starch’d, impertinent, incoherent, trifling, weak, passionate, &c.” commendations I meet with before I get to the 4th page, besides what follows, as “upstart racovian,” p. 24, “flourishing scribbler,” p. 41, “dissembler,” 106, “pedantic,” 107: I say, although I am all this, and what else he liberally bestows on me in the rest of his book, I may have truth on my side, and that in the present case serves my turn.
Having thus placed the laurels on his own head, and sung applause to his own performance, he, p. 4, enters, as he thinks, upon his business, which ought to be, as he confesses, p. 3, “to make good his former charges.” The first whereof he sets down in these words: That “I unwarrantably crowded all the necessary articles of faith into one, with a design of favouring socinianism.”
If it may be permitted to the subdued, to be so bold with one, who is already conqueror, I desire to know, where that proposition is laid down in these terms, as laid to my charge. Whether it be true, or false, shall, if he pleases, be hereafter examined: but it is not, at present, the matter in question. There are certain propositions, which he having affirmed, and I denied, are under debate between us: and that the dispute may not run into an endless ramble, by multiplying of new, before the points in contest are decided, those ought first to be brought to an issue.
To go on, therefore, in the order of his “Socinianism unmasked,” (for, p. 3, he has, out of the Mishna, taught me good breeding, “to answer the first, and so in order.”) The next thing he has against me is p. 5, which that the reader may understand the force of, I must inform him, that in p. 105 of his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” he said, that I “give this plausible conceit,” as he calls it, “over and over again, in these formal words,” viz. “That nothing is required to be believed by any christian man, but this, that Jesus is the Messiah.” This I denied. To make it good, “Socinianism unmasked,” p. 5, he thus argues. First, “It is observable, that this guilty man would be shifting off the indictment, by excepting against the formality of words, as if such were not to be found in his book; but when doth he do this? In the close of it, when this matter was exhausted, and he had nothing else to say,” Vind. p. 113, “then he bethinks himself of his salvo, &c.” Answ. As if a falsehood were ever the less a falsehood, because it was not opposed, or would grow into a truth, if it were not taken notice of, before the 38th page of the answer. I desire him to show me these “formal words over and over again,” in my “Reasonableness of christianity:” nor let him hope to evade, by saying, I would be “shifting, by excepting against the formality of the words.”
To say, that “I have, over and over again, those formal words,” in my book, is an assertion of a matter of fact; let him produce the words, and justify his allegation, or confess, that this is an untruth published to the world: and since he makes so bold with truth, in a matter visible to every body, let the world be judge, what credit is to be given to his allegations of matters of fact, in things foreign to what I have printed; and that are not capable of a negative proof. A sample whereof the reader has at the entrance, in his introduction, p. A. 4, and the three or four following pages. Where he affirms to the world, not only what I know to be false; but that every one must see, he could not know to be true. For he pretends to know and deliver my thoughts. And what the character is of one that confidently affirms what he does not know, nobody need be told.
But he adds, “I had before pleaded to the indictment, and thereby owned it to be true.” This is to make good his promise, p. 3, to keep at a distance from my “feeble strugglings.” Here this strong arguer must prove, that what is not answered or denied, in the very beginning of a reply, or before the 11th page, “is owned to be true.” In the mean time, ’till he does that, I shall desire such of my readers, as think the unmasker’s veracity worth examining, to see in my Vindication, from p. 174, &c. wherein is contained, what I have said about one article, whether I have owned what he charged me with, on that subject.
This proposition then remains upon him still to be proved, viz.
“That I have, over and over again, these formal words in my Reasonableness of christianity, viz. That nothing is required to be believed by any christian man, but this, That Jesus is the Messiah.”
He goes on, p. 5, “And indeed he could do no other, for it was the main work he set himself about, to find but one article of faith in all the chapters of the four evangelists, and the acts of the apostles;” this is to make good his promise, p. 3, “To clear his book from those sorry objections and cavils I had raised against it.” Several of my “sorry objections and cavils” were to represent to the reader, that a great part of what is said was nothing but suspicious and conjectures; and such he could not but then own them to be. But now he has rid himself of all his conjectures; and has raised them up into direct, positive affirmations, which, being said with confidence without proof, who can deny but he has cleared, thoroughly cleared, that part from my “sorry objections and cavils?” He says, “it was the main work I set myself about, to find but one article of faith.” This I must take the liberty to deny; and I desire him to prove it. A man may “set himself to find two,” or as many as there be, and yet find but one: or a man may “set himself to find but one,” and yet find two more. It is no argument, from what a man has found, to prove what was his main work to find, unless where his aim was only to find what there was, whether more or less. For a writer may find the reputation of a poor contemptible railer; nay of a downright impudent lyar; and yet nobody will think it was his main work to find that. Therefore, sir, if you will not find what it is like you did not seek, you must prove those many confident assertions you have published, which I shall give you in tale, whereof this is the second, viz.
“That the main business I set myself about, was to find but one article of faith.”
In the following part of this sentence, he quotes my own words with the pages where they are to be found: the first time, that, in either of his two books against me, he has vouchsafed to do so, concerning one article, wherewith he has made so much noise. My words in (p. 102 of) my “Reasonableness of Christianity” stand thus: “for that this is the sole doctrine pressed and required to be believed, in the whole tenour of our Saviour’s and his apostles preaching, we have showed, through the whole history of the Evangelists and Acts, and I challenge them to show, that there was any other doctrine upon their assent to which, or disbelief of it, men were pronounced believers, or unbelievers, and accordingly received into the church of Christ, as members of his body, as far as mere believing could make them so; or else kept out. This was the only gospel article of faith, which was preached to them.” Out of this passage, the unmasker sets down these words, “This is the sole doctrine pressed and required to be believed, in the whole tenour of our Saviour’s and his apostles preaching,” p. 129, “this was the only gospel article of faith, which was preached to them.”
I shall pass by all other observations, that this way of citing these words would suggest, and only remark, that, if he brought these words, to prove the immediately preceding assertion of his, viz. That “to find out but one article of faith was the main work I set myself about,” this argument, reduced into form, will stand thus:
He who says, that this is the sole doctrine pressed and required to be believed in the whole tenour of our Saviour’s and his apostles preaching, upon their assent to which, or disbelief of it, men were pronounced believers, or unbelievers, and accordingly received into the church of Christ, as members of his body, as far as mere believing could make them so, or else kept out; sets himself to find out but one article of faith, as his main work. But the vindicator did so: ergo,
If this were the use he would make of those words of mine cited, I must desire him to prove the major. But he talks so freely, and without book every-where, that I suppose he thought himself, by the privilege of a declaimer, exempt from being called strictly to an account, for what he loosely says, and from proving what he should be called to an account for. Rail lustily, is a good rule; something of it will stick, true or false, proved or not proved.
If he alleges these words of mine, to answer my demand, Vind. p. 175, where he found that “I contended for one single article of faith, with the exclusion and defiance of all the rest,” which he had charged me with; I say, it proves this as little as the former. For to say, “That I had showed through the whole history of the Evangelists, and the Acts, that this is the sole doctrine, or only gospel article pressed and required to be believed in the whole tenour of our Saviour and his apostles preaching; upon their assent to which, or disbelieving of it, men were pronounced believers or unbelievers, and accordingly received into the church of Christ, or kept out;” is the simple assertion of a positive matter of fact, and so carries in it no defiance, no, nor exclusion of any other doctrinal, or historical truth, contained in the scripture: and therefore it remains still on the unmasker to show, where it is I express any defiance of any other truth contained in the word of God; or where I exclude any one doctrine of the scriptures. So that if it be true, that “I contend for one article,” my contention may be without any defiance, or so much as exclusion, of any of the rest, notwithstanding any thing contained in these words. Nay, if it should happen that I am in a mistake, and that this was not the sole doctrine, which our Saviour and his apostles preached, and, upon their assent to which, men were admitted into the church: yet the unmasker’s accusation would be never the truer for that, unless it be necessary, that he that mistakes in one matter of fact, should be at defiance with all other truths; or, that he who erroneously says, that our Saviour and his apostles admitted men into the church, upon the believing him to be the Messiah, does thereby exclude all other truths published to the jews before, or to christian believers afterwards.
If these words be brought to prove that I contended “for one article,” barely “one article,” without any defiance or exclusion annexed to that contention; I say neither do they prove that, as is manifest from the words themselves, as well as from what I said elsewhere, concerning the article of one God. For here, I say, this is the only gospel article, &c. upon which men were pronounced believers; which plainly intimates some other article, known and believed in the world before, and without the preaching of the gospel.
To this the unmasker thinks he has provided a salvo, in these words, “Socinianism unmasked,” p. 6, “And when I told him of this one article, he knew well enough, that I did not exclude the article of the Deity, for that is a principle of natural religion.” If it be fit for an unmasker to perceive what is in debate, he would know, that the question is not, what he excluded, or excluded not, but what articles he charged me to have excluded.
Taking it therefore to be his meaning, (which it must be, if he meant any thing to the purpose), viz. That when he charged me so often and positively, for contesting for “one article,” viz. that “Jesus was the Messiah,” he did not intend to accuse me for excluding “the article of the Deity.” To prove that he did not so intend it, he tells me, that “I knew that he did not.”
Answ. How should I know it? He never told me so, either in his book, or otherwise. This I know, that he said, p. 115, that “I contended for one article, with the exclusion of all the rest.” If then the belief of the Deity be an article of faith, and be not the article of Jesus being the Messiah, it is one “of the rest;” and if “all the rest” were excluded, certainly that, being one of “all the rest,” must be excluded. How then he could say, “I knew that he excluded it not,” i. e. meant not that I excluded it, when he positively says, I did “exclude it,” I cannot tell, unless he thought that I knew him so well, that when he said one thing, I knew that he meant another, and that the quite contrary.
He now, it seems, acknowledges that I affirmed, that the belief of the Deity, as well as of Jesus being the Messiah, was required to make a man a believer. The believing in “one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,” is one article; and in “Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord,” is another article. These, therefore, being “two articles,” and both asserted by me, to be required to make a man a christian, let us see with what truth or ingenuity the unmasker could apply, besides that above mentioned, these following expressions to me, as he does without any exception: “Why then must there be one article and no more?” p. 115. “Going to make a religion for his myrmidons, he contracts all into one article, and will trouble them with no more,” p. 117. “Away with systems, away with creeds, let us have but one article, though it be with defiance to all the rest,” p. 118. “Thus we see, why he reduces all belief to that one article before rehearsed,” p. 120. And all this without any the least exception of the article of a Deity, as he now pretends. Nor could he, indeed, as is evident from his own words, p. 121, 122: “To conclude, this gentleman and his fellows are resolved to be unitarians; they are for one article of faith, as well as One person in the Godhead:—But, if these learned men were not prejudiced,—they would perceive, that, when the catholic faith is thus brought down to one single article, it will soon be reduced to none; the unit will dwindle into a cypher.” By which the reader may see that his intention was, to persuade the world, that I reduced all belief, the catholic faith, (they are in his own words,) “to one single article, and no more.” For if he had given but the least hint, that I allowed of Two, all the wit and strength of argument, contained in unitarians, unit and cypher, with which he winds up all, had been utterly lost, and dwindled into palpable nonsense.
To demonstrate that this was the sense he would be understood in, we are but to observe what he says again, p. 50 of his “Socinianism unmasked,” where he tells his readers, that “I and my friends have new-modelled the apostles creed; yea, indeed, have presented them with one article, instead of twelve.” And hence we may see, what sincerity there is, in the reason he brings, to prove that he did not exclude the “article of the Deity.” “For, says he, p. 6, that is a principle of natural religion.”
Answ. Ergo, he did not in positive words, without any exception, say, I reduced “all belief, the catholic faith, to one single article, and no more.” But to make good his promise, “not to resemble me in the little artifices of evading,” he wipes his mouth, and says at the bottom of this page, “But the reader sees his [the vindicator’s] shuffling.” Whilst the article of “One God” is a part of “all belief, a part of the catholic faith,” all which he affirmed I excluded, but the one article concerning the Messiah; every one will see where the shuffling is: and, if it be not clear enough from those words themselves, let those above quoted, out of p. 50, of his “Socinianism unmasked,” where he says, that “I have new modelled the apostles creed, and presented the world with one article instead of twelve,” be an interpretation of them. For, if the article of “one eternal God, maker of heaven and earth,” be one of the articles of the apostles creed, and the one article I presented them with, be not that, it is plain, he did, and would be understood to mean, that by my one article, I excluded that of the one eternal God, which branch soever of religion, either natural, or revealed, it belongs to.
I do not endeavour to “persuade the reader,” as he says, p. 6, “that he misunderstood me,” but yet every body will see that he misrepresented me. And I challenge him to say, that those expressions above quoted out of him, concerning “one article,” in the obvious sense of the words, as they stand in his accusation of me, were true.
This flies so directly in his face, that he labours mightily to get it off, and therefore adds these words, “My discourse did not treat (neither doth his book run that way) of principles of natural religion, but of the revealed, and particularly the christian: accordingly, this was it that I taxed him with, That, of all the principles and articles of christianity, he chose out but one, as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian.”
Answ. His book was of—atheism, which one may think should make his “discourse treat of natural religion.” But I pass by that, and bid him tell me where he taxed me, “That, of all the principles and articles of christianity, I chose out but one:” let him show, in all his discourse, but such a word, or any thing said, like “one article of christianity,” and I will grant that he meant particularly, but spoke generally; misled his reader, and left himself a subterfuge. But if there be no expression to be found in him, tending that way, all this is but the covering of one falsehood with another, which thereby only becomes the grosser. Though if he had in express words taxed me, That, of all the principles and articles of the christian religion, I chose out but one, that would not at all help him, till he farther declares, that the belief of one God is not an “article of the christian religion.” For, of “all the articles of the christian religion,” he says, “I chose but one;” which not being that of a Deity, his words plainly import, that that was left out amongst the rest, unless it be possible for a man to choose but one article of the christian religion, viz. That “Jesus is the Messiah;” and at the same time, to choose two articles of the christian religion, viz. That there is one eternal God, and that Jesus is the Messiah. If he had spoken clearly, and like a fair man, he should have said, That he taxed me with choosing but one article of revealed religion. This had been plain and direct to his purpose: but then he knew the falsehood of it would be too obvious: for, in the seven pages, wherein he taxes me so much with One article, christianity is several times named, though not once to the purpose he here pretends. But revelation is not so much as once mentioned in them, nor, as I remember, in any of the pages he bestows upon me.
To conclude, the several passages above quoted out of him, concerning one sole article, are all in general terms, without any the least limitation or restriction; and, as they stand in him, fit to persuade the reader, that I excluded all other articles whatsoever, but that one, of “Jesus the Messiah:” and if, in that sense, they are not true, they are so many falsehoods of his, repeated there, to mislead others into a wrong opinion of me. For, if he had a mind his readers should have been rightly informed, why was it not as easy once to explain himself, as so often to affirm it in general and unrestrained terms? This, all the boasted strength of the unmasker will not be able to get him out of. This very well becomes one, who so loudly charges me with shuffling. Having repeated the same thing over and over again, in as general terms as was possible, without any the least limitation, in the whole discourse, to have nothing else to plead when required to prove it, but that it was meant in a limited sense, in an unmasker, is not shuffling. For, by this way, he may have the convenience to say, and unsay, what he pleases; to vent what stuff he thinks for his turn; and, when he is called to account for it, reply, He meant no such thing. Should any one publish, that the unmasker had but “one article of faith, and no more,” viz. That the doctrines in fashion, and likely to procure preferment, are alone to be received; that all his belief was comprised in this “one single article:” and when such a talker was demanded to prove his assertion, should he say, he meant to except his belief of the apostles creed: would he not, notwithstanding such a plea, be thought a shuffling lyar? And, if the unmasker can no otherwise prove those universal propositions above cited, but by saying, he meant them with a tacit restriction, (for none is expressed,) they will still, and for ever remain to be accounted for, by his veracity.
What he says in the next paragraph, p. 7, of my “splitting one article into two,” is just of the same force, and with the same ingenuity. I had said, That the belief of one God was necessary; which is not denied: I had also said, “That the belief of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah, together with those concomitant articles of his resurrection, rule, and coming again to judge the world, was necessary, p. 151. And again, p. 157, That God had declared, whoever would believe Jesus to be the Saviour promised, and take him now raised from the dead, and constituted the Lord and Judge of all men, to be their King and Ruler, should be saved.” This made me say, “These, and those articles” (in words of the plural number) more than once; evidence enough to any but a caviller, that I “contend not for one single article, and no more.” And to mind him of it, I, in my Vindication, reprinted one of those places, where I had done so; and, that he might not, according to his manner, overlook what does not please him, the words, these are articles, were printed in great characters. Whereupon he makes this remark, p. 7, “And though since he has tried to split this one into two, p. 28, yet he labours in vain: for to believe Jesus to be the Messiah, amounts to the same with believing him to be King and Ruler; his being anointed, (i. e. being the Messiah,) including that in it: yet he has the vanity to add in great characters, these are articles; as if the putting them into these great letters, would make one article two.”
Ans. Though no letters will make one article two; yet that there is one God, and Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, shall come to judge the quick and the dead, are, in the apostles creed, set down as more than one article, and therefore may, very properly, be called these articles, without splitting one into two.
What, in my “Reasonableness of christianity,” I have said of one article, I shall always own; and in what sense I have said it, is easy to be understood; and with a man of the least candour, whose aim was truth, and not wrangling, it would not have occasioned one word of dispute. But as for this unmasker, who makes it his business, not to convince me of any mistakes in my opinion, but barely to misrepresent me; my business at present with him is, to show the world, that what he has captiously and scurrilously said of me, relating to one article, is false; and that he neither has, nor can prove one of those assertions concerning it, above cited out of him, in his own words. Nor let him pretend a meaning against his direct words: such a caviller as he, who would shelter himself under the pretence of a meaning, whereof there are no footsteps; whose disputes are only calumnies directed against the author, without examining the truth or falsehood of what I had published; is not to expect the allowances one would make to a fair and ingenuous adversary, who showed so much concern for truth, that he treated of it with a seriousness due to the weightiness of the matter, and used other arguments, besides obloquy, clamour and falsehoods, against what he thought errour. And therefore I again positively demand of him to prove these words of his to be true, or confess that he cannot; viz.
“That I contend for one article of faith, with the exclusion and defiance of all the rest.”
Two other instances of this sort of arguments, I gave in the 175th page of my Vindication, out of the 115th and 119th pages of his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism;” and I here demand of him again to show, since he has not thought fit hitherto to give any answer to it,
“Where I urge, that there must be nothing in christianity, that is not plain, and exactly levelled to all men’s mother-wit, and every common apprehension.”
Or, where he finds, in my “Reasonableness of christianity,” this other proposition:
“That the very manner of every thing in christianity, must be clear and intelligible; every thing must immediately be comprehended by the weakest noddle; or else it is no part of religion, especially of christianity.”
These things he must prove that I have said; I put it again upon him to show where I said them, or else to confess the forgery: for till he does one or the other, he shall be sure to have these, with a large catalogue of other falsehoods, laid before him.
Page 26, of his “Socinianism unmasked,” he endeavours to make good his saying, that “I set up one article, with defiance to all the rest,” in these words: “for what is excluding them wholly, but defying them? Wherefore, seeing he utterly excludes all the rest, by representing them as useless to the making a man a christian, which is the design of his whole undertaking, it is manifest that he defies them.”
Answ. This at least is manifest from hence, that the unmasker knows not, or cares not what he says. For whoever, but he, thought, that a bare exclusion, or passing by was defiance? If he understands so, I would advise him not to seek preferment. For exclusions will happen; and if every exclusion be defiance, a man had need be well assured of his own good temper, who shall not think his peace and charity in danger, amongst so many enemies that are at defiance with him. Defiance, if, with any propriety, it can be spoken of an article of faith, must signify a professed enmity to it. For, in its proper use, which is to persons, it signifies an open and declared enmity, raised to that height, that he, in whom it is, challenges the party defied to battle, that he may there wreak his hatred on his enemy, in his destruction. So that “my defiance of all the rest” remains still to be proved.
But, secondly, There is another thing manifest from these words of his, viz. that, notwithstanding his great brags in his first paragraph, his main skill lies in fancying what would be for his turn, and then confidently fathering it upon me. It never entered into my thoughts, nor, I think, into any body’s else, (I must always except the acute unmasker, who makes no difference between useful and necessary,) that all but the fundamental articles of the christian faith were useless to make a man a christian; though, if it be true, that the belief of the fundamentals alone (be they few, or many) is all that is necessary to his being made a christian, all that may any way persuade him to believe them, may certainly be useful towards the making him a christian: and therefore here again, I must propose to him, and leave it with him to be showed where it is.
“I have represented all the rest as useless to the making a man a christian?” And how it appears, that “this is the design of my whole undertaking?”
In his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” he says, page 115, “What makes him contend for one single article, with the exclusion of all the rest? He pretends it is this, that all men ought to understand their religion.” This reasoning I disowned, p. 174, of my Vindication, and intimated, that he should have quoted the page where I so pretended.
To this, p. 26, he tells me with great confidence, and in abundance of words, as we shall see by and by, that I had done so; as if repetition were a proof. He had done better to have quoted one place, where I so pretend. Indeed, p. 27, for want of something better, he quotes these words of mine out of p. 157, of the Reasonableness of christianity: “The all-merciful God seems herein to have consulted the poor of this world, and the bulk of mankind. These are articles that the labouring and illiterate man may comprehend.” I ask, whether it be possible for one to bring any thing more direct against himself? The thing he was to prove was, that “I contended for one single article, with the exclusion of all the rest, because I pretended, that all men ought to understand their religion:” i. e. the reason I gave, why there was to be “but one single article in religion, with the exclusion of all the rest,” was, because men ought to understand their religion. And the place he brings, to prove my contending upon that ground, “for one single article, with the exclusion of all the rest,” is a passage wherein I speak of more than one article, and say, “these articles.” Whether I said, “these articles,” properly or improperly, it matters not, in the present case (and that we have examined in another place) it is plain, I meant more than one article, when I said, “these articles;” and did not think, that the labouring and illiterate man could not understand them, if they were more than one: and therefore, I pretended not, that there must be but one, because by illiterate men more than one could not be understood. The rest of this paragraph is nothing but a repetition of the same assertion, without proof, which, with the unmasker, often passes for a way of proving, but with nobody else.
But, that I may keep that distance, which he boasts, there is betwixt his and my way of writing, I shall not say this without proof. One instance of his repetition, of which there is such plenty in his book, pray take here. His business, p. 26, is to prove, that “I pretended that I contended for one single article, with the exclusion of all the rest, because all men ought to understand their religion:” p. 174, of my Vindication, I denied that I had so pretended. To convince me that I had, thus he proceeds:
Unmasker. “He founds his conceit” of one article, “partly upon this, that a multitude of doctrines is obscure, and hard to be understood.”
Answer. You say it, and had said it before: but I ask you, as I did before, Where I did so?
Unm. “And therefore he trusses all up in one article, that the poor people and bulk of mankind may bear it.”
Answ. I desire again to know where I made that inference, and argued so, for “one article?”
Unm. “This is the scope of a great part of his book.”
Answ. This is saying again, show it once.
Unm. “But his memory does not keep pace with his invention, and thence he says, he remembers nothing of this in his book,” Vind. p. 174.
Answ. This is to say that it is in my book. You have said it more than once already; I demand of you to show me where.
Unm. “This worthy writer does not know his own reasoning, that he uses.”
Answ. I ask, Where does he use that reasoning?
Unm. “As particularly thus, that he troubles christian men with no more, but one article: because that is intelligible, and all people, high and low, may comprehend it.”
Answ. We have heard it affirmed by you, over and over again, but the question still is, “Where is that way of arguing to be found in my book?”
Unm. “For he has chosen out, as he thinks, a plain and easy article. Whereas the others, which are commonly propounded, are not generally agreed on, (he saith,) and are dubious and uncertain. But the believing that Jesus is the Messiah, has nothing of doubtfulness or obscurity in it.”
Answ. The word “For,” in the beginning of this sentence, makes it stand for one of your reasons; though it be but a repetition of the same thing in other words.
Unm. “This the reader will find to be the drift and design of several of his pages.”
Answ. This must signify “that I trouble men with no more but one article, because only one is intelligible,” and then it is but a repetition. If any thing else be meant by the word This, it is nothing to the purpose. For that I said, that all things necessary to be believed are plain in scripture, and easy to be understood, I never denied; and should be very sorry, and recant it, if I had.
Unm. “And the reason why I did not quote any single one of them, was, because he insists on it, so long together: and spins it out after his way, in p. 156 of his “Reasonableness of Christianity,” where he sets down the short, plain, easy, and intelligible summary (as he calls it) of religion,” couched in a single article: he immediately adds: “the all-merciful God seems herein to have consulted the poor of this world, and the bulk of mankind: these are articles” (whereas he had set down but one) “that the labouring and illiterate man may comprehend.”
Answ. If “my insisting on it so long together” was the cause why, in your thoughts of the causes of “atheism,” you did not quote any single passage; methinks here, in your “Socinianism unmasked,” where you knew it was expected of you, my “insisting on it,” as you say, “so long together,” might have afforded, at least, one quotation to your purpose.
Unm. “He assigns this, as a ground, why it was God’s pleasure, that there should be but one point of faith, because thereby religion may be understood the better; the generality of people may comprehend it.”
Answ. I hear you say it again, but want a proof still, and ask, “where I assign that ground?”
Unm. “This he represents as a great kindness done by God to man; whereas the variety of articles would be hard to be understood.”
Answ. Again the same cabbage; an affirmation, but no proof.
Unm. “This he enlarges upon, and flourishes it over, after his fashion: and yet desires to know, When he said so?” p. 175 Vind.
Answ. And if I did, let the world here take a sample of the unmasker’s ability, or truth, who spends above two whole pages, 26, 27, in repetitions of the same assertion, without the producing any but one place for proof; and that too against him, as I have shown. But he has not yet done with confounding me by dint of repetition; he goes on.
Unm. “Good sir, let me be permitted to acquaint you, that your memory is as defective as your judgment.”
Answ. I thank you for the regard you have had to it; for often repetition is a good help to a bad memory. In requital, I advise you to have some eye to your own memory and judgment too. For one, or both of them, seem a little to blame, in the reason you subjoin to the foregoing words, viz.
Unm. “For in the very Vindication, you attribute it to the goodness and condescension of the Almighty, that he requires nothing, as absolutely necessary to be believed, but what is suited to vulgar capacities, and the comprehension of illiterate men.”
Answ. I will, for the unmasker’s sake, put this argument of his into a syllogism. If the vindicator, in his vindication, attributes it to the goodness and condescension of the Almighty, that he requires nothing to be believed, but what is suited to vulgar capacities, and the comprehension of illiterate men; then he did, in his “Reasonableness of christianity,” pretend, that the reason, why he contended for One article, with the exclusion of all the rest, was because all men ought to understand their religion.
But the vindicator, in his vindication, attributes it to the goodness and condescension of Almighty God, that he requires nothing to be believed, but what is suited to vulgar capacities, and the comprehension of illiterate men.
“Ergo,” in his “Reasonableness of christianity,” he pretended, that the reason why he contended for one article, with the exclusion of all the rest, was, because all men ought to understand their religion.
This was the proposition to be proved, and which, as he confesses here, p. 26, I denied to remember to be in my “Reasonableness of christianity.” Who can but admire his logic!
But, besides the strength of judgment, which you have showed in this clear and cogent reasoning, Does not your memory too deserve its due applause? You tell me, in your “Socinianism unmasked,” that in p. 175 of my Vindication, I desired to know when I said so. To which desire of mine, you reply in these words before cited: “Good sir, let me be permitted to acquaint you, that your memory is as defective as your judgment; for, in the very Vindication, you attribute it to the goodness and condescension of the Almighty, that he requires nothing, as absolutely necessary to be believed, but what is suited to vulgar capacities, and the comprehension of illiterate men,” p. 30.
Sure the unmasker thinks himself at cross questions. I ask him, in the 29th page of my Vindication, When I said so? And he answers, that I had said so in the 30th page of my Vindication; i. e. when I writ the 29th page, I asked the question, When I had said, what he charged me with saying? And I am answered, I had said in the 30th page; which was not yet written: i. e. I asked the question to-day, When I had said so? And I am answered, I had said it to-morrow. As opposite and convincing an answer, to make good his charge, as if he had said, To-morrow I found a horse-shoe. But, perhaps this judicious disputant will ease himself of this difficulty, by looking again into the 175th page of my Vindication, out of which he cites these words for mine: “I desire to know, When I said so?” But my words in that place are, “I desire to know, Where I said so?” A mark of his exactness in quoting, when he vouchsafes to do it. For unmaskers, when they turn disputants, think it the best way to talk at large, and charge home in generals: but do not often find it convenient to quote pages, set down words, and come to particulars. But, if he had quoted my words right, his answer had been just as pertinent. For I ask him, Where, in my “Reasonableness of christianity,” I had said so? And he answers, I had said so in my Vindication. For where, in my question, refers to my “Reasonableness of christianity,” which the unmasker had seen, and charged with this saying; and could not refer to my Vindication, which he had not yet seen, nor to a passage in it, which was not then written. But this is nothing with an unmasker; therefore, what is yet worse, those words of mine, Vindication, p. 175, relate not to the passage he is here proving, I had said, but to another different from it; as different as it is to say, “That, because all men are to understand their religion, therefore there is to be but one article in it;” and to say, “that there must be nothing in christianity that is not plain, and exactly levelled to all men’s mother-wit:” both which he falsely charges on me; but it is only to the latter of them, that my words, “I desire to know, where I said so?” are applied.
Perhaps the well-meaning man sees no difference between these propositions, yet I shall take the liberty to ask him again, Where I said either of them, as if they were two? Although he should accuse me again, of “excepting against the formality of words,” and doing so foolish a thing, as to expect, that a disputing unmasker should account for his words, or any proposition he advances. It is his privilege to plead, he did not mean as his words import, and without any more ado he is assoiled; and he is the same unmasker he was before. But let us hear him out on the argument he was upon, for his repetitions on it are not yet done. His next words are,
Unm. “It is clear then, that you found your one article on this, that it is suited to the vulgar capacities: whereas the other articles mentioned by me, are obscure and ambiguous, and therefore surpass the comprehension of the illiterate.”
Answ. The latter part, indeed, is now the first time imputed to me; but all the rest is nothing but an unproved repetition, though ushered in with “it is clear then;” words that should have a proof going before them.
Unm. “But yet you pretend, that you have forgot that any such thing was said by you.”
Answ. I have indeed forgot, and notwithstanding all your pains, by so many repetitions, to beat it into my head, I fear I shall never remember it.
Unm. “Which shows that you are careless of your words, and that you forget what you write.”
Answ. So you told me before, and this repeating of it does no more convince me than that did.
Unm. “What shall we say to such an oblivious author?”
Answ. Show it him in his book, or else he will never be able to remember that it is there, nor any body else be able to find it.
Unm. “He takes no notice of what falls from his own pen.”
Answ. So you have told him more than once. Try him once with showing it him, amongst other things which fell from his own pen, and see what then he will say: that perhaps may refresh his memory.
Unm. “And therefore, within a page or two, he confutes himself, and gives himself the lye.”
Answ. It is a fault he deserves to be told of, over and over again. But he says, he shall not be able to find the two pages wherein he “gives himself the lye,” unless you set down their numbers, and the words in them, which confute, and which are confuted.
I beg my reader’s pardon, for laying before him so large a pattern of our unmasker’s new-fashioned stuff; his fine tissue of argumentation not easily to be matched, but by the same hand. But it lay all together in p. 26, 27, 28; and it was fit the reader should have this one instance of the excellencies he promises in his first paragraph, in opposition to my “impertinencies, incoherences, weak and feeble strugglings.” Other excellencies he there promised, upon the same ground, which I shall give my reader a taste of in fit places: not but that the whole is of a piece, and one cannot miss some of them in every page; but to transcribe them all, would be more than they are worth. If any one desires more plenty, I send him to his book itself. But saying a thousand times, not being proved once, it remains upon him still to show,
Where, in my “Reasonableness of christianity,” “I pretend that I contend for one single article, with the exclusion of all the rest, because all men ought to understand their religion.”
And in the next place, where it is that I say,
“That there must be nothing in christianity that is not plain and exactly level to all men’s mother-wit.”
Let us now return to his 8th page: for the bundling together, as was fit, all that he has said, in distant places, upon the subject of One article, has made me trespass a little, against the jewish character of a well bred man, recommended by him to me, out of the Mishna. Though I propose to myself to follow him, as near as I can, step by step as he proceeds.
In the 110th and 111th pages of his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” he gave us a list of his “fundamental articles:” upon which, I thus applied myself to him, Vind. p. 168, &c. “Give me leave now to ask you seriously, Whether these you have here set down under the title of “fundamental doctrines,” are such (when reduced to propositions) that every one of them is required to make a man a christian, and such as, without the actual belief thereof, he cannot be saved? If they are not so, every one of them, you may call them “fundamental doctrines,” as much as you please, they are not of those doctrines of faith I was speaking of; which are only such as are required to be actually believed, to make a man a christian.” And again, Vind. p. 169, I asked him, “Whether just these, neither more nor less,” were those necessary articles?
To which we have his answer, “Socinianism unmasked,” p. 8, &c. From p. 8 to 20, he has quoted near forty texts of scripture, of which he saith, p. 21, “Thus I have briefly set before the reader, those evangelical truths, those christian principles, which belong to the very essence of christianity: I have proved them to be such, and I have reduced most of them to certain propositions, which is a thing the vindicator called for.”
Answ. Yes: but that was not all the vindicator called for, and had reason to expect. For I asked, “Whether those the unmasker gave us, in his Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” were the fundamental articles, “without an actual belief whereof, a man could not be a christian; just all, neither more nor less?” This I had reason to demand from him, or from any one, who questions that part of my book; and I shall insist upon it, until he does it, or confesses he cannot. For having set down the articles, which the scripture, upon a diligent search, seemed to me to require as necessary, and only necessary; I shall not lose my time in examining what another says against those fundamentals, which I have gathered out of the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles, until he gives me a list of his fundamentals, which he will abide by; that so, by comparing them together, I may see which is the true catalogue of necessaries. For after so serious and diligent a search, which has given me light and satisfaction in this great point, I shall not quit it, and set myself on float again, at the demand of any one, who would have me be of his faith, without telling me what it is. Those fundamentals the scripture has so plainly given, and so evidently determined, that it would be the greatest folly imaginable, to part with this rule for asking; and give up myself blindly to the conduct of one, who either knows not, or will not tell me, what are the points necessary to be believed to make me a christian. He that shall find fault with my collection of fundamentals, only to unsettle me, and not give me a better of his own, I shall not think worth minding, until, like a fair man, he puts himself upon equal terms, and makes up the defects of mine, by a complete one of his own. For a deficiency, or errour, in one necessary, is as fatal, and as certainly excludes a man from being a christian, as in an hundred. When any one offers me a complete catalogue of his fundamentals, he does not unreasonably demand me to quit mine for nothing: I have then one, that being set by mine, I may compare them; and so be able to choose the true and perfect one, and relinquish the other.
He that does not do this, plainly declares, that, (without showing me the certain way to salvation) he expects, that I should depend on him with an implicit faith, whilst he reserves to himself the liberty to require of me to believe, what he shall think fit, as he sees occasion; and in effect says thus, “Distrust those fundamentals, which the preachings of Our Saviour and his apostles have showed to be all that is necessary to be believed to make a man a christian; and, though I cannot tell you, what are those other articles which are necessary and sufficient to make a man a christian, yet take me for your guide, and that is as good as if I made up, in a complete list, the defects of your fundamentals?” To which this is a sufficient answer, Si quid novisti rectiùs, imperti; si non, his utere mecum.”
The unmasker, of his own accord, p. 110 of his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” sets down several, which he calls “fundamental doctrines.” I ask him, whether those be all? For answer, he adds more to them in his “Socinianism unmasked:” but in a great pet refuses to tell me, whether this second list of fundamentals be complete: and, instead of answering so reasonable a demand, pays me with ill language, in these words, p. 22, subjoined to those last quoted, “If what I have said will not content him, I am sure I can do nothing that will; and therefore, if he should capriciously require any thing more, it would be as great folly in me to comply with it, as it is in him to move it.” If I did ask a question, which troubles you, be not so angry; you yourself were the occasion of it. I proposed my collection of fundamentals, which I had, with great care, sought; and thought I had found clear in the scripture; you tell me no, it is imperfect, and offer me one of your own. I ask, whether that be perfect? Thereupon you grow into choler, and tell me it is a foolish question. Why! then I think it was not very wise in you so forwardly to offer one, unless you had one ready, not liable to the same exception. Would you have me so foolish, to take a list of fundamentals from you, who have not yet one for yourself; nor are yet resolved with yourself, what doctrines are to be put in, or left out of it? Farther, pray tell me, if you had a settled collection of fundamentals, that you would stand to, why should I take them from you, upon your word, rather than from an anabaptist, or a quaker, or an arminian, or a socinian, or a lutheran, or a papist; who, I think, are not perfectly agreed with you, or one another in fundamentals? And yet, there is none amongst them, that I have not as much reason to believe, upon his bare word, as an unmasker, who, to my certain knowledge, will make bold with truth. If you set up for infallibility, you may have some claim to have your bare word taken, before any other but the pope. But yet, if you demand to be an unquestionable proposer, of what is absolutely necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, you must perform it a little better, than hitherto you have done. For it is not enough, sometimes to give us texts of scripture; sometimes propositions of your own framing, and sometimes texts of scripture, out of which they are to be framed; as p. 14, you say, “These and the like places afford us such fundamental and necessary doctrines as these:” and again, p. 16, after the naming several other texts of scripture, you add, “which places yield us such propositions as these;” and then in both places set down what you think fit to draw out of them. And p. 15, you have these words: “and here, likewise, it were easy to show, that adoption, justification, pardon of sins, &c. which are privileges and benefits bestowed upon us by the Messiah, are necessary matters of our belief.” By all which, as well as the whole frame, wherein you make show of giving us your fundamental articles, it is plain, that what you have given us there, is nothing less than a complete collection of fundamentals, even in your own opinion of it.
But, good sir, Why is it a foolish question in me? You have found fault with my summary for being short; the defect in my collection of necessary articles, has raised your zeal into so severe censures, and drawn upon me, from you, so heavy a condemnation, that, if half you have said of me be true, I am in a very ill case, for having so curtailed the fundamental doctrines of christianity. Is it folly, then, for me to ask from you a complete creed? If it be so dangerous (as certainly it is) to fail in any necessary article of faith, Why is it folly in me, to be instant with you, to give me them all? Or why is it folly in you, to grant so reasonable a demand? A short faith, defective in necessaries, is no more tolerable in you, than in me; nay, much more inexcusable, if it were for no other reason but this, that you rest in it yourself, and would impose it on others; and yet do not yourself know, or believe it to be complete. For if you do, why dare you not say so, and give it us all entire, in plain propositions; and not, as you have in a great measure done here, give only the texts of scripture, from whence, you say, necessary articles are to be drawn? Which is too great an uncertainty for doctrines absolutely necessary. For, possibly, all men do not understand those texts alike, and some may draw articles out of them quite different from your system; and so, though they agree in the same texts, may not agree in the same fundamentals; and till you have set down plainly and distinctly your articles, that you think contained in them, cannot tell whether you will allow them to be christians, or no. For you know, sir, several inferences are often drawn from the same text: and the different systems of dissenting (I was going to say christians, but that none must be so, but those who receive your collection of fundamentals, when you please to give it them) professors are all founded on the scripture.
Why, I beseech you, is mine a foolish question to ask, “What are the necessary articles of faith?” It is of no less consequence than, nor much different from the jailer’s question in the sixteenth of the Acts, “What shall I do to be saved?” And that was not, that ever I heard, counted by any one a foolish question. You grant, there are articles necessary to be believed for salvation: Would it not then be wisdom to know them? Nay, is it not our duty to know and believe them? If not, why do you, with so much outcry, reprehend me, for not knowing them? Why do you fill your books with such variety of invectives, as if you could never say enough, nor bad enough against me, for having left out some of them? And, if it be so dangerous, so criminal to miss any of them, Why is it a folly in me, to move you to give me a complete list?
If fundamentals are to be known, easy to be known, (as without doubt, they are,) then a catalogue may be given of them. But, if they are not, if it cannot certainly be determined, which are they; but the doubtful knowledge of them depends upon guesses; Why may not I be permitted to follow my guesses, as well as you yours? Or why, of all others, must you prescribe your guesses to me, when there are so many that are as ready to prescribe as you, and of as good authority? The pretence, indeed, and clamour is religion, and the saving of souls: but your business, it is plain, is nothing but to over-rule and prescribe, and be hearkened to as a dictator: and not to inform, teach, and instruct in the sure way to salvation. Why else do you so start and fling, when I desire to know of you, what is necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, when this is the only material thing in controversy between us; and my mistake in it has made you begin a quarrel with me, and let loose your pen against me in no ordinary way of reprehension?
Besides, in this way which you take, you will be in no better a case than I. For, another having as good a claim to have his guesses give the rule, as you yours; or to have his system received, as well as you yours; he will complain of you as well, and upon as good grounds, as you do of me; and (if he have but as much zeal for his orthodoxy, as you show for yours) in as civil, well-bred, and christian-like language.
In the next place, pray tell me, Why would it be folly 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 a 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 believed 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 believed:” 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 believed,” 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, author, way, means and issue, of their redemption 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 occasion, author, way, means and issue, of men’s redemption 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 immediate 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, but, for the reasons above mentioned, the particular articles themselves, which are necessary to be believed to make a man a 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 necessary to be believed, are either not all such, or 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 certain 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. Wherefore that question,” in p. 168, “though he says he asks it” (seriously) “might have been spared,” “Whether 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 expose 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 doctrines, 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 should never think of it again as long as he lived, yet it is literally true, he is not saved without an actual assent. You might therefore have spared your pains, in saying, “that none of the moral virtues, none of the evangelical graces, are exerted thus always,” until you had met with somebody who said thus. That I did so, I think, would have entered into no body’s thoughts but yours, it being evident from p. 156, of my book, that by actual, I meant explicit. You should rather have given a direct answer to my question, which I here again seriously ask you, viz. Whether
Those you called “fundamental doctrines,” in your “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” or those christian principles, which belong to the very essence of christianity,” so many as you have given us of them in your “Socinianism unmasked,” (for you may take which of your two creeds you please,) are just those, neither more or less, that are every one of them required to be believed to make a man a christian, and such as, without the actual, or (since that word displeases you) the explicit belief whereof, he cannot be saved?
When you have answered this question, we shall then see which of us two is nearest the right: but if you shall forbear railing, which, I fear, you take for arguing, against that summary of faith, which our Saviour and his apostles taught, and which only they proposed to their hearers to be believed, to make them christians, until you have found another perfect creed, of only necessary articles, that you dare own for such; you are like to have a large time of silence. Before I leave the passage above cited, I must desire the reader to take notice of what he says, concerning his list of fundamentals, viz. That “these his articles of faith,” necessary to constitute a christian, are such as must, in some measure, be known and assented to by him: a very wary expression concerning fundamentals! The question is about articles necessary to be explicitly believed to make a man a christian. These, in his list, the unmasker tells us, are “necessary to constitute a christian, and must, in some measure, be known and assented to.” I would now fain know of the reader, Whether he understands thereby, that the masker means, that these his necessary articles must be explicitly believed or not? If he means an explicit knowledge and belief, why does he puzzle his reader, by so improper a way of speaking? For what is as complete and perfect as it ought to be, cannot properly be said to be “in some measure.” If his, “in some measure,” falls short of explicitly knowing and believing his fundamentals, his necessary articles are such as a man may be a christian, without explicitly knowing and believing, i. e. are no fundamentals, no necessary articles at all. Thus men, uncertain what to say, betray themselves by their great caution.
Having pronounced it folly in himself to make up the defects of my short, and therefore so much blamed collection of fundamentals, by a full one of his own, though his attempt shows he would if he could; he goes on thus, p. 22, “From what I [the unmasker] have said, it is evident, that the vindicator is grossly mistaken, when he saith, ‘Whatever doctrines the apostles required to be believed to make a man a christian, are to be found in those places of scripture which he has quoted in his book.’ ” And a little lower, “I think I have sufficiently proved, that there are other doctrines besides that, which are required to be believed to make a man a christian.”
Answ. Whatever you have proved, or (as you never fail to do) boast you have proved, will signify nothing, until you have proved one of these propositions; and have shown either,
That what our Saviour and his apostles preached, and admitted men into the church for believing, is not all that is absolutely required to make a man a christian. Or, That the believing him to be the Messiah, was not the only article they insisted on, to those who acknowledged one God; and, upon the belief whereof they admitted converts into the church, in any one of those many places quoted by me out of the history of the New Testament.
I say, any one: for though it be evident, throughout the whole gospel, and the Acts, that this was the one doctrine of faith, which, in all their preachings everywhere, they principally drive at: yet, if it were not so, but that in other places they taught other things, that would not prove that those other things were articles of faith, absolutely necessarily required to be believed to make a man a christian, unless it had been so said. Because, if it appears that ever any one was admitted into the church, by our Saviour or his apostles, without having that article explicitly laid before him, and without his explicit assent to it, you must grant, that an explicit assent to that article is not necessary to make a man a christian: unless you will say, that our Saviour and his apostles admitted men into the church that were not qualified with such a faith as was absolutely necessary to make a man a christian; which is as much as to say, that they allowed and pronounced men to be christians, who were not christians. For he that wants what is necessary to make a man a christian, can no more be a christian, than he that wants what is necessary to make him a man, can be a man. For what is necessary to the being of any thing, is essential to its being; and any thing may be as well without its essence, as without any thing that is necessary to its being: and so a man be a man, without being a man; and a christian a christian, without being a christian; and an unmasker may prove this, without proving it. You may, therefore, set up, by your unquestionable authority, what articles you please, as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian: if our Saviour and his apostles admitted converts into the church, without preaching those your articles to them, or requiring an explicit assent to what they did not preach and explicitly lay down, I shall prefer their authority to yours, and think it was rather by them, than by you, that God promulgated the law of faith, and manifested what that faith was, upon which he would receive penitent converts.
And though, by his apostles, our Saviour taught a great many other truths, for the explaining this fundamental article of the law of faith, that Jesus is the Messiah; some whereof have a nearer, and some a more remote connexion with it, and so cannot be denied by any christian, who sees that connexion, or knows they are so taught: yet an explicit belief of any one of them, is no more necessarily required to make a man a christian, than an explicit belief of all those truths, which have a connexion with the being of a God, or are revealed by him, is necessarily required to make a man not to be an atheist: though none of them can be denied by any one who sees that connexion, or acknowledges that revelation, without his being an atheist. All these truths, taught us from God, either by reason or revelation, are of great use, to enlighten our minds, confirm our faith, stir up our affections, &c. And the more we see of them, the more we shall see, admire, and magnify the wisdom, goodness, mercy, and love of God, in the work of our redemption. This will oblige us to search and study the scripture, wherein it is contained and laid open to us.
All that we find in the revelation of the “New Testament,” being the declared will and mind of our Lord and Master, the Messiah, whom we have taken to be our king, we are bound to receive as right and truth, or else we are not his subjects, we do not believe him to be the Messiah, our King, but cast him off, and with the jews say, “We will not have this man reign over us.” But it is still what we find in the scripture, not in this or that system; what we, sincerely seeking to know the will of our Lord, discover to be his mind. Where it is spoken plainly, we cannot miss it; and it is evident he requires our assent: where there is obscurity, either in the expressions themselves, or by reason of the seeming contrariety of other passages, there a fair endeavour, as much as our circumstances will permit, secures us from a guilty disobedience of his will, or a sinful errour in faith, which way soever our inquiry resolves the doubt, or perhaps leaves it unresolved. If he had required more of us in those points, he would have declared his will plainer to us, and discovered the truth contained in those obscure, or seemingly contradictory places, as clearly, and as uniformly as he did that fundamental article, that we were to believe him to be the Messiah, our King.
As men, we have God for our King, and are under the law of reason: as christians, we have Jesus the Messiah for our King, and are under the law revealed by him in the gospel. And though every christian, both as a deist and a christian, be obliged to study both the law of nature and the revealed law, that in them he may know the will of God, and of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent; yet, in neither of these laws, is there to be found a select set of fundamentals, distinct from the rest, which are to make him a deist, or a christian. But he that believes one eternal, invisible God, his Lord and King, ceases thereby to be an atheist; and he that believes Jesus to be the Messiah, his king, ordained by God, thereby becomes a christian, is delivered from the power of darkness, and is translated into the kingdom of the Son of God; is actually within the covenant of grace, and has that faith, which shall be imputed to him for righteousness; and, if he continues in his allegiance to this his King, shall receive the reward, eternal life.
He that considers this, will not be so hot as the unmasker, to contend for a number of fundamental articles, all necessary, every one of them, to be explicitly believed by every one for salvation, without knowing them himself, or being able to enumerate them to another. Can there be any thing more absurd than to say, there are several fundamental articles, each of which every man must explicitly believe, upon pain of damnation, and yet not be able to say, which they be? The unmasker has set down no small number; but yet dares not say, these are all. On the contrary, he has plainly confessed there are more; but will not, i. e. cannot tell what they are, that remain behind; nay, has given a general description of his fundamental articles, by which it is not evident, but there may be ten times as many as 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 unmasker 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 necessary to make us subjects of it, without which we cannot be admitted into it, i. e. be christians: and, if so, this obedience 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 entirely to his commands and conduct; and did nothing afterwards, whereby they disowned or rejected his authority 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 much 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 ministers, 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; 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 covenant, 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. e. 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 articles 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 says “Christianity is called a mystery; that all things in christianity are not plain, and exactly level to every common apprehension; and that every thing in christianity 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?” p. 22. “They are in our bibles, for that very purpose, to be believed,” 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 necessary 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 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 epistles, 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 doubtfulness in them; they shine with their own light, and to an unprejudiced eye are plain, evident, and illustrious.”
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 gospel, 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 sense.
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 there put together. But let the proposition be what it will, there is no more to be understood than is expressed in the terms of that proposition. If it be a proposition concerning a matter of fact, it is enough to conceive, and believe the matter of fact. If it be a proposition concerning the manner of the fact, the manner of the fact must also be believed, as it is intelligibly expressed in that proposition; v. g. should this proposition νεϰροἰ ἐγείρονται be offered as an article of faith, to an illiterate countryman of England, he could not believe it: because, though a true proposition, yet it being proposed in words, whose meaning he understood not, he could not give any assent to it. Put it into English, he understands what is meant by the “dead shall rise.” For he can conceive, that the same man, who was dead and senseless, should be alive again; as well as he can, that the same man, who is now in a lethargy, should awake again; or the same man that is now out of his sight, and he knows not whether he be alive or dead, should return and be with him again; and so he is capable of believing it, though he conceives nothing of the manner, how a man revives, wakes or moves. But none of these manners of those actions being included in those propositions, the proposition concerning the matter of fact (if it imply no contradiction in it) may be believed; and so all that is required may be done, whatever difficulty may be, as to the exact manner, how it is brought about.
But where the proposition is about the manner, the belief too must be of the manner, v. g. the article is, “The dead shall be raised with spiritual bodies:” and then the belief must be as well of this manner of the fact, as of the fact itself. So that what is said here, by the unmasker, about the manner, signifies nothing at all in the case. What is understood to be expressed in each proposition, whether it be of the manner, or not of the manner, is (by its being a revelation from God) to be believed, as far as it is understood: but no more is required to be believed concerning any article, than is contained in that article.
What the unmasker, for the removing of difficulties, adds farther, in these words, “But there is no difficulty as to the reality and certainty of the truths of the gospel; because we know, they are revealed to us by God in the holy scripture;” is yet farther from signifying any thing to the purpose, than the former. The question is about understanding, and in what sense they are understood; not believing several propositions, or articles of faith, which are to be found in the scripture. To this the unmasker says, there can be “no difficulty at all as to their reality and certainty; because they are revealed by God.” Which amounts to no more but this, that there is no difficulty at all in the understanding and believing this proposition, “that whatever is revealed by God, is really and certainly true.” But is the understanding and believing this single proposition, the understanding and believing all the articles of faith necessary to be believed? Is this all the explicit faith a christian need have? If so, then a christian need explicitly believe no more, but this one proposition, viz. That all the propositions between the two covers of his bible, are certainly true. But I imagine the unmasker will not think the believing this one proposition, is a sufficient belief of all those fundamental articles, which he has given us, as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian. For, if that will serve the turn, I conclude he may make his set of fundamentals as large and express to his system as he pleases: calvinists, arminians, anabaptists, socinians, will all thus own the belief of them, viz. that all that God has revealed in the scripture, is really and certainly true.
But if believing this proposition, that all that is revealed by God in the scripture is true, be not all the faith which the unmasker requires, what he says about the reality and certainty of all truths revealed by God, removes nothing of the difficulty. A proposition of divine authority is found in the scripture: it is agreed presently between him and me, that it contains a real, certain truth: but the difficulty is, what is the truth it contains, to which he and I must assent; v. g. the profession of faith made by the eunuch, in these words, “Jesus Christ is the son of God,” upon which he was admitted into the church, as a christian, I believe, contains a “real and certain truth.” Is that enough? No, says the unmasker, p. 87, it “includes in it, that Christ was God;” and therefore it is not enough for me to believe; that these words contain a real certain truth: but I must believe, they contain this truth, that Jesus Christ is God; that the eunuch spoke them in that sense, and in that sense I must assent to them: whereas they appear to me to be spoken, and meant here, as well as in several other places of the “New Testament,” in this sense, viz. “That Jesus Christ is the Messiah,” and in that sense, in this place, I assent to them. The meaning then of these words, as spoken by the eunuch, is the difficulty: and I desire the unmasker, by the application of what he has said here, to remove that difficulty. For granting all revelation from God to be really and certainly true, (as certainly it is,) how does the believing that general truth remove any difficulty about the sense and interpretation of any particular proposition, found in any passage of the holy scriptures? Or is it possible for any man to understand it in one sense, and believe it in another; because it is a divine revelation, that has reality and certainty in it? Thus much, as to what the unmasker says of the fundamentals, he has given us, p. 30, viz. That “no true lover of God and truth need doubt of any of them: for there is no ambiguity and doubtfulness in them.” If the distinction he has used, “of difficulty as to the exact manner, and no difficulty as to the reality and certainty of gospeltruths,” will remove all ambiguity and doubtfulness from all those texts of scripture, from whence he and others deduce fundamental articles, so that they will be “plain and intelligible” to every man, in the sense he understands them; he has done great service to christianity.
But he seems to distrust that himself, in the following words: “They shine,” says he, “with their own light, and to an unprejudiced eye, are plain, evident, and illustrious; and they would always continue so, if some ill-minded men did not perplex and entangle them.” I see the matter would go very smooth, if the unmasker might be the sole, authentic interpreter of scripture. He is wisely of that judge’s mind, who was against hearing the counsel on the other side, because they always perplexed the cause.
But if those who differ from the unmasker, shall in their turns call him the “prejudiced and ill-minded man,” who perplexes these matters (as they may, with as much authority as he), we are but where we were; each must understand for himself, the best he can, until the unmasker be received, as the only unprejudiced man, to whose dictates every one, without examination, is with an implicit faith to submit.
Here again, p. 32, the unmasker puts upon me, what I never said: and therefore I must desire him to show, where it is, that I pretend,
That this “proposition,” that Jesus is the Messiah, “is more intelligible, than any of those he has named.”
In his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” p. 120, he argues, that this proposition [Jesus is the Messiah] has more difficulty in it, than the article of the holy Trinity. And his proofs are worthy of an unmasker. “For,” says he, “here is an Hebrew word first to be explained;” or, (as he has this strong argument again, “Socinianism unmasked,” p. 32.) “Here first the name Jesus, which is of Hebrew extraction, though since grecized, must be expounded.”
Answ. Jesus being a proper name, only denoting a certain person, needs not to be expounded, of what extraction soever it be. Is this proposition, Jonathan, was the son of Saul, king of Israel, any thing the harder, because the three proper names in it, Jonathan, Saul, and Israel, are of Hebrew extraction? And is it not as easy, and as “level to the understanding of the vulgar,” as this, Arthur was the son of Henry, king of England; though neither of these names be of Hebrew extraction? Or cannot any vulgar capacity understand this proposition, John Edwards writ a book, intitled, “Socinianism unmasked;” until the name of John, which is of Hebrew extraction, be explained to him? If this be so, parents were best beware, how hereafter they give their children scripture-names, if they cannot understand what they say to one another about them, until these names of Hebrew extraction are expounded to them; and every proposition, that is in writings and contracts, made concerning persons, that have names of Hebrew extraction, become thereby as hard to be understood, as the doctrine of the holy trinity.
His next argument is just of the same size. The word Messias must, he says, be explained too. Of what extraction soever it be, there needs no more explication of it, than what our English bible gives of it, where it is plain to any vulgar capacity, that it was used to denote that King and Deliverer, whom God had promised. So that this proposition, “Jesus is the Messiah,” has no more difficulty in it than this, Jesus is the promised King and Deliverer; or than this, Cyrus was king and deliverer of Persia; which, I think, requires not much depth of Hebrew to be understood. He that understood this proposition, and took Cyrus for his king, was a subject, and a member of his kingdom; and he that understands the other, and takes Jesus to be his king, is his subject, and a member of his kingdom. But if this be as hard as it is to some men, to understand the doctrine of the trinity, I fear many of the kings in the world have but few true subjects. To believe Jesus to be the Messiah, is (as he has been told, over and over again) to take him for our King and Ruler, promised, and sent by God. This is that which will make any one from a jew, or heathen, to be a christian. In this sense it is very intelligible to vulgar capacities. Those who so understand and believe it, are so far from “pronouncing these words as a spell,” (as the unmasker ridiculously suggests, p. 33,) that they thereby become christians.
But what if I tell the unmasker, that there is one Mr. Edwards, who (when he speaks his mind without considering how it will make for, or against him) in another place, thinks this proposition, “Jesus is the Messias,” very easy and intelligible? To convince him of it, I shall desire him to turn to the 74th page of his “Socinianism unmasked,” where he will find that Mr. Edwards, without any great search into Hebrew extractions, interprets “Jesus the Messiah,” to signify this, “That Jesus of Nazareth was that eminent and extraordinary person prophesied of long before, and that he was sent and commissioned by God:” which, I think, is no very hard proposition to be understood. But it is no strange thing, that that which was very easy to an unmasker in one place, should be terribly hard in another, where want of something better requires to have it so.
Another argument that he uses to prove the articles he has given us to be necessary to salvation, p. 22, is, because they are doctrines which contain things, that in their nature have an “immediate respect to the occasion, author, way, end, means, and issue of men’s redemption and salvation.” And here I desire him to prove,
That every one of his articles contains things so immediately relating to the “occasion, author, way, means, and issue of our redemption and salvation, that no-body can be saved, without understanding the texts from whence he draws them, in the very same sense that he does; and explicitly believing all these propositions that he has deduced, and all that he will deduce from scripture, when he shall please to complete his creed.”
Page 23, he says of his fundamentals, “Not without good reason, therefore, I called them essential and integral parts of our christian and evangelical faith: and why the Vindicator fleers at these terms, I know no reason, but that he cannot confute the application of them.”
Answ. One would think by the word, Therefore, which he uses here, that in the preceding paragraph, he had produced some reason to justify his ridiculous use of those terms, in his “Thoughts concerning atheism,” p. 111. But nothing therein will be found tending to it. Indeed, the foregoing paragraph begins with these words, “Thus I have briefly set before the reader those evangelical truths, those christian principles, which belong to the very essence of christianity.” Amongst these, there is the word Essence: but that from thence, or any thing else in that paragraph, the unmasked could, with good sense, or any sense at all, infer, as he does, “not without good reason, therefore I called them the essential and integral parts of our christian and evangelical faith;” requires an extraordinary sort of logic to make out. What, I beseech you, is your good reason too, here, upon which you infer, “Therefore,” &c.? For it is impossible for any one, but an unmasker, to find one word, justifying his use of the terms essential and integral. But it would be a great restraint to the running of the unmasker’s pen, if you should not allow him the free use of illative particles, where there are no premises to support them: and if you should not take affirmations without proof, for reasoning, you at once strike off above three quarters of his book; and he will often, for several pages together, have nothing to say. As for example, from p. 28 to p. 35.
But to show that I did not, without reason, say, his use of the terms essential and integral, in the place before quoted, was ridiculous; I must mind my reader, that, p. 109 of his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” he having said that “the epistolary writings are fraught with other fundamentals, besides that one which I mention;” and then having set them down, he closes his catalogue of them thus: “These are matters of faith contained in the epistles, and they are essential and integral parts of the gospel itself,” p. 111. Now what could be more ridiculous, than, where the question is about fundamental doctrines, which are essentials of the christian religion, without an assent to which a man cannot be a christian; and so he himself calls them, p. 21, of his “Socinianism unmasked;” that he should close the list he had made of fundamental doctrines, i. e. essential points of the christian religion, with telling his reader, “These are essential and integral parts of the gospel itself?” i. e. These, which I have given you for fundamental, for essential doctrines of the gospel, are the fundamental and not fundamental, essential and not essential, parts of the gospel mixed together. For integral parts, in all the writers I have met with, besides the unmasker, are contradistinguished to essential; and signify such parts as the thing can be without, but without them will not be so complete and entire as with them. Just such an acuteness, as our unmasker, would any one show, who taking upon him to set down the parts essential to a man, without the having of which he could not be a man, should name the soul, the head, the heart, lungs, stomach, liver, spleen, eyes, ears, tongue, arms, legs, hair, and nails; and, to make all sure, should conclude with these words; “These are parts contained” in a man, “and are essential and integral parts of a man himself;” i. e. they are parts, without some of which he cannot be a man; and others, which though they make the man entire, yet he may be a man without them; as a man ceases not to be a man, though he wants a nail, a finger, or an arm, which are integral parts of a man: “Risum teneatis!” If the unmasker can make any better sense of his “essential and integral parts of the gospel itself,” I will ask his pardon for my laughing: until then he must not be angry, if the reader and I laugh too. Besides, I must tell him, that those, which he has set down, are not the “integral parts of the christian faith,” any more than the head, the trunk, and the arms, hands, and thighs, are the integral parts of a man: for a man is not entire without the legs and feet too. They are some of the integral parts indeed; but cannot be called the integral parts, where any, that go to make up the whole man, are left out; nor those the integral, but some of the integral parts of the christian faith, out of which any of the doctrines, proposed in the “New Testament,” are omitted: for whatever is there proposed, is proposed to be believed, and so is a part of the christian faith.
Before I leave his catalogue of the “essential and integral parts” of the gospel, which he has given us, instead of one, containing the articles necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, I must take notice of what he says, whilst he is making it, p. 9: “Why then is there a treatise published, to tell the world, that the bare belief of a Messiah, is all that is required of a christian?” As if there were no difference between believing a Messiah, and believing Jesus to be the Messiah; no difference between “required of a christian,” and required to make a man a christian. As if you should say, renouncing his former idolatry, and being circumcised and baptized into Moses, was all that was required to make a man an israelite; therefore it was all that was required of an israelite. For these two falsehoods has he, in this one short sentence, thought fit slily to father upon me, the “humble imitator of the jesuits,” as he is pleased to call me. And, therefore, I msut desire him to show,
Where the “world is told, in the treatise that I published, That the bare belief of a Messiah is all that is required of a christian.”
The six next pages, i. e. from the twenty-eighth to the end of his second chapter, being taken up with nothing but pulpit oratory, out of its place; and without any reply, applied, or applicable to any thing I have said, in my Vindication; I shall pass by, until he shows any thing in them that is so.
In page 36, this giant in argument falls on me, and mauls me unmercifully, about the epistles. He begins thus: “The gentleman is not without his evasions, and he sees it is high time to make use of them. This puts him in some disorder. For, when he comes to speak of my mentioning his ill treatment of the epistles,—you may observe, that he begins to grow warmer than before. Now this meek man is nettled, and one may perceive he is sensible of the scandal that he hath given to good people, by his slighting the epistolary writings of the holy apostles; yet he is so cunning as to disguise his passion as well as he can.” Let all this impertinent and inconsistent stuff be so. I am angry and cannot disguise it, I am cunning and would disguise it, but yet, the quick-sighted unmasker has found me out, that I am nettled. What does all this notable prologue of “hictius doctius,” of a cunning man, and in effect “no cunning man, in disorder, warmed, nettled, in a passion,” tend to? but to show, that these following words of mine, p. 170, of my Vindication, viz. “I require you to publish to the world those passages which show my contempt of the epistles,” are so full of heat and disorder, that they need no other answer: “But what need I, good sir, do this, when you have done it yourself?” A reply I own, very soft; and whether I may not say, very silly, let the reader judge. The unmasker having accused me of contemning the epistles, my reply, in my Vindication, ibid. was thus: “Sir, when your angry fit is over, and the abatement of your passion has given way to the return of your sincerity, I shall beg you to read this passage in the 154th page of my book: These holy writers (viz. the penmen of the epistles) inspired from above, writ nothing but truth; and in most places very weighty truths to us now; for the expounding, clearing and confirming of the christian doctrine, and establishing those in it, who had embraced it.” And again, p. 156, “The other parts [i. e. besides the gospels and the Acts] of divine revelation are objects of faith, and are so to be received; they are truths, of which none that is once known to be such, i. e. revealed, may, or ought to be disbelieved. And if this does not satisfy you, that I have as high a veneration for the epistles as you, or any one can have, I require you to publish to the world those passages which show my contempt of them.” After such direct words of mine, expressing my veneration for that part of divine revelation, which is contained in the epistles, any one, but an unmasker, would blush to charge me with contempt of them; without alleging, when summoned to it, any word in my book to justify that charge.
If hardness of forehead were strength of brains, it were two to one of his side against any man I ever yet heard of. I require him to publish to the world, those passages, that show my contempt of the epistles; and he answers me, “He need not do it, for I have done it myself.” Whoever had common sense, would understand, that what I demanded was, that he should show the world where, amongst all I had published, there were any passages that expressed contempt of the epistles: for it was not expected he should quote passages of mine, that I had never published. And this acute unmasker (to this) says, I had published them myself. So that the reason why he cannot find them, is, because I had published them myself. But, says he, “I appeal to the reader, whether (after your tedious collection out of the four evangelists) your passing by the epistles, and neglecting wholly what the apostles say in them;” be not publishing to the “world your contempt of them?” I demand of him to publish to the world those passages, which show my contempt of the epistles: and he answers, “He need not, I have done it myself.” How does that appear? I have passed by the epistles, says he. My passing them by then, are passages published against the epistles? For “publishing of passages” is what you said, you “need not do,” and what “I had done.” So that the passages I have published containing a contempt of the epistles, are extant in my saying nothing of them? Surely this same passing by has done some very shrewd displeasure to our poor unmasker, that he so starts whenever it is but named, and cannot think it contains less than exclusion, defiance, and contempt. Here therefore the proposition remaining to be proved by you, is,
“That one cannot pass by any thing, without contempt of it.”
And when you have proved it, I shall then ask you, what will become of all those parts of scripture, all those chapters and verses, that you have passed by, in your collection of fundamental articles? Those that you have vouchsafed to set down, you tell us, “are in the bible, on purpose to be believed.” What must become of all the rest, which you have omitted? Are they there not to be believed? And must the reader understand your passing them by, to be a publishing to the world your contempt of them? If so, you have unmasked yourself: If not, but you may pass by some parts of scripture, nay, whole epistles, as you have those of St. James and St. Jude, without contempt; why may not I, without contempt, pass by others; but because you have a liberty to do what you will, and I must do but what you, in your good pleasure, will allow me? But if I ask you, whence you have this privilege above others; you will have nothing to say, except it be, according to your usual skill in divining, that you know my heart, and the thoughts that are in it, which you find not like yours, right orthodox, and good; but always evil and perverse, such as I dare not own? but hypocritically either say nothing of or declare against: but yet, with all my cunning, I cannot hide them from you; your all-knowing penetration always finds them out: you know them, or you guess at them, as is best for your turn, and that is as good: and then presently I am confounded. I doubt, whether the world has ever had any two-eyed man your equal, for penetration and a quick sight. The telling by the spectator’s looks, what card he guesses, is nothing to what you can do. You take the height of an author’s parts, by numbering the pages of his book; you can spy an heresy in him, by his saying not a syllable of it; distinguish him from the orthodox, by his understanding places of scripture, just as several of the orthodox do; you can repeat by heart whole leaves of what is in his mind to say, before he speaks a word of it; you can discover designs before they are hatched, and all the intrigues of carrying them on, by those who never thought of them. All this and more you can do, by the spirit of orthodoxy; or, which is as certain, by your own good spirit of invention informing you. Is not this to be an errant conjurer?
But to your reply. You say, “After my tedious collection out of the four evangelists, my passing by the epistles, and neglecting wholly what the apostles say,” &c. I wondered at first why you mentioned not the Acts here, as well as the four evangelists: for I have not, as you have in other places observed, been sparing of collections out of the Acts too. But there was, it seems, a necessity here for your omitting it: for that would have stood too near what followed, in these words; and “neglecting wholly what the apostles say.” For if it appeared to the reader, out of your own confession, that I allowed and built upon the divine authority of what the apostles say in the Acts, he could not so easily be misled into an opinion, that I contemned what they say in their epistles. But this is but a slight touch of your leger-de-main.
And now I ask the reader, what he will think of a minister of the gospel, who cannot bear the texts of scripture I have produced, nor my quotations out of the four evangelists? This, which in his “Thoughts of the causes of atheism,” p. 114, was want of “vivacity and elevation of mind,” want of “a vein of sense and reason, yea, and of elocution too;” is here, in his “Socinianism unmasked,” a “tedious collection out of the four evangelists.” Those places I have quoted lie heavy, it seems, upon his stomach, and are too many to be got off. But it was my business not to omit one of them, that the reader might have a full view of the whole tenour of the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, to the unconverted jews and gentiles; and might therein see, what faith they were converted to, and upon their assent to which, they were pronounced believers, and admitted into the christian church. But the unmasker complains, there are too many of them: he thinks the gospel, the good news of salvation, tedious from the mouth of our Saviour and his apostles: he is of opinion, that before the epistles were writ, and without believing precisely what he thinks fit to cull out of them, there could be no christians; and if we had nothing but the four evangelists, we could not be saved. And yet it is plain, that every single one of the four contains the gospel of Jesus Christ; and, at least, they altogether contain all that is necessary to salvation. If any one doubt of this, I refer him to Mr. Chillingworth for satisfaction, who hath abundantly proved it.
His following words (were he not the same unmasker all through) would be beyond parallel: “But let us hear why the vindicator did not attempt to collect any articles out of these writings; he assigns this as one reason: “The epistles being writ to those who were already believers, it could not be supposed that they were writ to them, to teach them fundamentals,” p. 167, Vindic. “Certainly no man would have conjectured, that he would have used such an evasion as this. I will say that for him, he goes beyond all surmises, he is above all conjectures, he hath a faculty which no creature on earth can ever fathom.” Thus far the unmasker, in his oratorical strain. In what follows, he comes to his closer reasoning, against what I have said. His words are, “do we not know, that the four gospels were writ to, and for believers, as well as unbelievers?” Answ. I grant it. Now let us see your inference; therefore what these holy historians recorded, that our Saviour and his apostles said and preached to unbelievers, was said and preached to believers. The discourse which our Saviour had with the woman of Samaria, and her townsmen, was addressed to believers; because St. John writ his gospel (wherein it is recorded as a part of our Saviour’s history) for believers, as well as unbelievers. St. Peter’s preaching to Cornelius, and St. Paul’s preaching at Antioch, at Thessalonica, at Corinth, &c. was not to unbelievers, for their conversion: because St. Luke dedicates his history of the Acts of the apostles to Theophilus, who was a christian, as the unmasker strenuously proves in this paragraph. Just as if he should say, that the discourses, which Cæsar records he had upon several occasions with the Gauls, were not addressed to the Gauls alone, but to the Romans also; because his commentaries were writ for the Romans, as well as others; or that the sayings of the ancient Greeks and Romans in Plutarch, were not spoken by them to their contemporaries only, because they are recorded by him for the benefit of posterity.
I perused the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles to the unconverted world, to see what they taught and required to be believed, to make men christians: and all these I set down, and leave the world to judge what they contained. The epistles, which were all written to those who had embraced the faith and were all christians already, I thought would not so distinctly show, what were those doctrines which were absolutely necessary to make men christians; they being not writ to convert unbelievers, but to build up those who were already believers, in their most holy faith. This is plainly expressed in the epistle to the Hebrews, chap. v. 11, &c. “Of whom (i. e. Christ) we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are all dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe: but strong meat belongeth to him that is full of age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised, to discern both good and bad. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, and of the doctrine of baptism, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Here the apostle shows, what was his design in writing this epistle, not to teach them the fundamental doctrines of the christian religion, but to lead them on to more perfection; that is, to greater degrees of knowledge, of the wise design, and wonderful contrivance, and carrying on of the gospel, and the evidence of it; which he makes out in this epistle, by showing its correspondence with the Old Testament, and particularly with the œconomy of the mosaical constitution. Here I might ask the unmasker, Whether those many things which St. Paul tells the Hebrews, he had to say of Christ, (hard to be uttered to them, because they were dull of hearing,) had not an “immediate respect to the occasion, author, way, means, or issue of their redemption and salvation?” And therefore, “whether they were such things, without the knowledge of which they could not be saved?” as the unmasker says of such things, p. 23. And the like I might ask him, concerning those things which the apostle tells the Corinthians, 1 epist. chap. iii. 2, that they “were not able to bear.” For much to the same purpose he speaks to the Corinthians, epist. 1. chap. iii. as in the above-cited places he did to the Hebrews: “That he, as a wise master-builder, had laid the foundation:” and that foundation he himself tells us, is, “Jesus the Messiah;” and that there is no other foundation to be laid. And that in this he laid the foundation of christianity at Corinth, St. Luke records, Acts xviii. 4, in these words, “Paul, at Corinth, reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath-day, and testified to the jews, that Jesus was the Messiah.” Upon which foundation, he tells them, there might be a superstructure. But that, what is built on the foundation, is not the foundation, I think I need not prove. He further tells them, that he had desired to build upon this foundation; but withal says, he had fed them until then “with milk, and not with meat; because they were babes, and had not been able to bear it, neither were they yet able.” And therefore this epistle, we see, is almost wholly spent in reproofs of their miscarriages, and in exhortations and instructions relating to practice; and very little said in it, for the explaining any part of the great mystery of salvation, contained in the gospel.
By these passages we may see (were it not evident to common sense itself, from the nature of things) that the design of these epistles was not to lay the foundations, or teach the principles of the christian religion; they being writ to those who received them, and were christians already. The same holds in all the other epistles; and therefore the epistles seemed not to me the properest parts of scripture to give us that foundation, distinct from all the superstructures built on it; because in the epistles, the latter was the thing proposed, rather than the former. For the main intention of the apostles, in writing their epistles, could not be to do what was done already; to lay down barely the foundations of christianity, to those who were christians already: but to build upon it some farther explication of it, which either their particular circumstances, or a general evidencing of the truth, wisdom, excellencies, and privileges, &c. of the gospel required. This was the reason that persuaded me to take the articles of faith, absolutely necessary to be received to make a man a christian, only from the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles to the unconverted world, as laid down in the historical part of the New Testament: and I thought it a good reason, it being past doubt, that they in their preachings proposed to the unconverted, all that was necessary to be believed, to make them christians; and also, that that faith, upon a profession whereof any one was admitted into the church, as a believer, had all that was necessary in it to make him a christian; because, if it wanted any thing necessary, he had necessarily not been admitted: unless we can suppose, that any one was admitted into the christian church by our Saviour and his apostles, who was not yet a christian; or pronounced a believer, who yet wanted something necessary to make him a believer, i. e. was a believer and not a believer, at the same time. But what those articles were which had been preached to those, to whom the epistles were writ, and upon the belief whereof they had been admitted into the christian church, and became as they are called “believers, saints, faithful, elect,” &c. could not be collected out of the epistles. This, though it were my reason, and must be a reason to every one, who would make this inquiry; and the unmasker quotes the place where I told him it was my reason; yet he, according to his nevererring illumination, flatly tells me, p. 38, that it was not; and adds, “Here then is want of sincerity,” &c. I must desire him, therefore, to prove what he says, p. 38, viz.
That, “by the same argument, that I would persuade, that the fundamentals are not to be sought for in the epistles, he can prove that they are not to be sought for in the gospels and in the Acts; because even these were writ to those that believed.”
And next I desire him to prove, what he also says in the same page, viz.
That “the epistles being writ to those that believed, was not an argument that I did make use of.”
He tells us, p. 38, that it is the argument whereby I would persuade: and in the very same page, a few lines lower, says, “That it is not the argument I did make use of.” Who, but an errant unmasker, would contradict himself so flatly in the same breath? And yet, upon that, he raises a complaint of my “want of sincerity.”
For “want of sincerity” in one of us, we need not go far for an instance. The next paragraph, p. 38—40, affords us a gross one of it: wherein the unmasker argues strongly, not against any thing I had said, but against an untruth of his own setting up. Towards the latter end of the paragraph, p. 40, he has these words: “It is manifest, that the apostles in their epistles; taught fundamentals: which is contrary to what this gentleman says, that such a thing could not be supposed.” And therefore the unmasker has taken a great deal of pains to show, that there are fundamental doctrines to be found in the epistles; as if I had denied it. And to lead the reader into an opinion that I had said so, he set down these words, “could not be supposed;” as if they were my words. And so they are, but not to that purpose. And therefore he did well not to quote the page, lest the reader, by barely turning to the place, should have a clear sight of falsehood, instead of that sincerity, which he would make the reader believe is wanting in me. My words, p. 153, of “The reasonableness of christianity,” are, nor can it be supposed, that the sending of such fundamentals was the reason of the apostles writing to any of them.” And a little lower: “The epistles therefore being all written to those that were already believers and christians, the occasion and end of writing them could not be, to instruct them in that which was necessary to make them christians.” The thing then, that I denied, was not, that there were any fundamentals in the epistles. For in the next page I have these express words; “I do not deny, but the great doctrines of the christian faith are dropt here and there, and scattered up and down in most of them.” And therefore he might have spared his endeavours, in the next paragraph, to prove, that there may be fundamentals found in the epistles, until he finds somebody that denies it. And here again, I must repeat my usual question, that with this sincere writer is so often necessary, viz.
Where it is that I say, “That it cannot be supposed, that there are fundamental articles in the epistles?”
If he hopes to shift it off by the word Taught, which seems fallaciously put in; as if he meant, that there were some fundamental articles taught, necessary to be believed to make them christians, in the epistles, which those whom they were writ to, knew not before: in this sense I do deny it: and then this will be the
proposition remaining upon him to prove, viz.
“That there are fundamental articles necessary to be believed to make a man a christian taught in the epistles, which those, whom they were writ to, knew not before.”
The former part of his next paragraph, p. 40, runs thus: “Hear another feigned ground of his omitting the epistles, viz. because the fundamental articles are here promiscuously, and without distinction, mixed with other truths,” p. 41. “But who sees not, that this is a mere elusion? For on the same account he might have forborn to search for fundamental articles in the gospels; for they do not lie there together, but are dispersed up and down. The doctrinal and historical parts are mixed with one another, but he pretends to sever them. Why then did he not make a separation between the doctrines in the epistles, and those other matters that are treated of there? He has nothing to reply to this, and therefore we must again look upon what he has suggested, as a cast of his shuffling faculty.”
The argument contained in these words is this: A man cannot well distinguish fundamental from non-fundamental doctrines in the epistles, where they are promiscuously mixed with non-fundamental doctrines: therefore he cannot well distinguish fundamental doctrines from others in the gospels, and the Acts, where they are mixed with matters of fact. As if he should say, one cannot well distinguish a bachelor of divinity from other divines, where several of them stand together promiscuously in the same habit; therefore one cannot distinguish a bachelor of divinity from a Billingsgate orator, where they stand together in their distinct habits: or that it is as easy to distinguish fine gold from that of a little lower alloy, where several pieces of each are mixed together; as it is to distinguish pieces of fine gold from pieces of silver, which they are mixed amongst.
But it seems, the unmasker thinks it as easy to distinguish between fundamental and not fundamental doctrines, in a writing of the same author, where they are promiscuously mixt together, as it is to distinguish between a fundamental doctrine of faith, and a relation of a matter of fact, where they are intermixedly reported in the same history. When he has proved this, the unmasker will have more reason to tax me with elusion, shuffling, and feigning, in the reason I gave for not collecting fundamentals out of the epistles. Until then, all that noise must stand amongst those ridiculous airs of triumph and victory which he so often gives himself, without the least advantage to his cause, or edification of his reader, though he should a thousand times say, “That I have nothing to reply.”
In the latter part of his paragraph, he says, “That necessary truths, fundamental principles, may be distinguished from those that are not such, in the epistolary writings, by the nature and importance of them, by their immediate respect to the author and the means of our salvation.” Answ. If this be so, I desire him to give me a definitive collection of fundamentals out of the Epistles, as I have given one out of the Gospels and the Acts. If he cannot do that, it is plain, he hath here given a distinguishing mark of fundamentals, by which he himself cannot distinguish them. But yet I am the shuffler.
The argument in the next paragraph, p. 41, is this:
“Necessary doctrines of faith, such as God absolutely demands to be believed for justification, may be distinguished from rules of holy living, with which they are mixed in the epistles: therefore doctrines of faith necessary, and not necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, may be distinguished, as they stand mixed in the epistles.” Which is as good sense as to say, lambs and kids may easily be distinguished in the same pen, where they are together, by their different natures: therefore the lambs I absolutely demand of you, as necessary to satisfy me, may be distinguished from others in the same pen, where they are mixed without any distinction. Doctrines of faith, and precepts of practice, are as distinguishable as doing and believing; and those as easily discernible one from another, as thinking and walking: but doctrinal propositions, all of them of divine revelation, are of the same authority, and of the same species, in respect of the necessity of believing them; and will be eternally undistinguishable into necessary, and not necessary to be believed, until there be some other way found to distinguish them, than that they are in a book, which is all of divine revelation. Though therefore doctrines of faith and rules of practice are very distinguishable in the epistles, yet it does not follow from thence, that fundamental and not fundamental doctrines, points necessary and not necessary to be believed to make men christians, are easily distinguishable in the epistles. Which, therefore, remains to be proved: and it remains incumbent upon him,
“To set down the marks, whereby the doctrines, delivered in the epistles, may easily and exactly be distinguished into fundamental, and not fundamental articles of faith.”
All the rest of that paragraph containing nothing against me, must be bound up with a great deal of the like stuff, which the unmasker has put into his book, to show the world he does not “imitate me in impertinencies, incoherences, and trifling excursions,” as he boasts in his first paragraph. Only I shall desire the reader to take the whole passage concerning this matter, as it stands in my “Reasonableness of christianity,” p. 154. “I do not deny but the great doctrines of the christian faith are dropt here and there, and scattered up and down in most of them. But it is not in the epistles we are to learn what are the fundamental articles of faith, where they are promiscuously, and without distinction, mixed with other truths and discourses, which were (though for edification indeed, yet) only occasional. We shall find and discern those great and necessary points best, in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, to those who were yet strangers and ignorant of the faith, to bring them in and convert them to it.” And then let him read these words, which the unmasker has quoted out of them: “It is not in the epistles that we are to learn what are the fundamental articles of faith; they were written for the resolving of doubts, and reforming of mistakes;” with his introduction of them in these words: “he commands the reader not to stir a jot further than the Acts.” If I should ask him where that command appears, he must have recourse to his old shift, that he did not mean as he said, or else stand convicted of a malicious untruth. An orator is not bound to speak strict truth, though a disputant be. But this unmasker’s writing against me will excuse him from being of the latter: and then why may not falsehoods pass for rhetorical flourishes, in one who has been used to popular haranguing; to which men are not generally so severe, as strictly to examine them, and expect that they should always be found to contain nothing but precise truth and strict reasoning? But yet I must not forget to put upon his score this other proposition of his, which he has, p. 42, and ask him to show,
“Where it is that I command my reader not to stir a jot farther than the Acts?”
In the next two paragraphs, p. 42—46, the unmasker is at his natural play, of declaiming without proving. It is pity the Mishna, out of which he takes his good breeding, as it told him, that “a well-bred and well-taught man answers to the first, in the first place,” had not given him this rule too, about order, viz. That proving should go before condemning; else all the fierce exaggerations ill language can heap up, are but empty scurrility. But it is no wonder that the jewish doctors should not provide rules for a christian divine, turned unmasker. For where a cause is to be maintained, and a book to be writ, and arguments are not at hand, yet something must be found to fill it; railing in such cases is much easier than reasoning, especially where a man’s parts lie that way.
The first of these paragraphs, p. 42, he begins thus: “But let us hear further what this vindicator saith to excuse his rejection of the doctrines contained in the epistles, and his putting us off with one article of faith.” And then he quotes these following words of mine: “What if the author designed his treatise, as the title shows, chiefly for those who were not yet thoroughly and firmly christians: purposing to work those, who either wholly disbelieved, or doubted of the truth of the christian religion?
Ans. This, as he has put it, is a downright falsehood. For the words he quotes were not used by me, “to excuse my rejection of the doctrines contained in the epistles,” or to prove there was but one article; but as a reason why I omitted the mention of satisfaction.
To demonstrate this, I shall set down the whole passage, as it is, p. 163, 164, of my Vindication, where it runs thus:
“But what will become of me that I have not mentioned satisfaction?”
“Possibly this reverend gentleman would have had charity enough for a known writer of the brotherhood, to have found it by an innuendo in those words above quoted, of laying down his life for another. But every thing is to be strained here the other way. For the author of the “Reasonableness of christianity, &c.” is of necessity to be represented as a socinian; or else his book may be read, and the truths in it, which Mr. Edwards likes not, be received; and people put upon examining. Thus one, as full of happy conjectures and suspicions as this gentleman, might be apt to argue. But what if the author designed his treatise, as the title shows, chiefly for those who were not yet thoroughly or firmly christians; proposing to work on those, who either wholly disbelieved, or doubted of the truth of the christian religion?”
To this he tells me, p. 43, that my “title says nothing for me,” i. e. shows not that I designed my book for those that disbelieved, or doubted of the christian religion.
Answ. I thought that a title that professed the reasonableness of any doctrine, showed it was intended for those that were not fully satisfied of the reasonableness of it; unless books are to be writ to convince those of any thing, who are convinced already. But possibly this may be the unmasker’s way: and if one should judge by his manner of treating this subject, with declamation instead of argument, one would think that he meant it for nobody but those who were of his mind already. I thought therefore, “the Reasonableness of Christianity, as delivered in the Scripture,” a proper title to signify whom it was chiefly meant for: and, I thank God, I can with satisfaction say, it has not wanted its effect upon some of them. But the unmasker proves for all that, that I could not design it chiefly for disbelievers or doubters of the christian religion. “For, says, he, p. 43, how those that wholly disregard and disbelieve the scriptures of the New Testament, as gentiles, jews, mahometans, and atheists do,” (I crave leave to put in theists, instead of atheists, for a reason presently to be mentioned) “are like to attend to the Reasonableness of Christianity, as delivered in the Scripture, is not to be conceived: and therefore we look upon this as all mere sham and sophistry.” Answ. Though the unmasker teaches good breeding out of the Mishna, yet I thought he had been a minister of the gospel, and had taught christianity out of the scripture. Why! good sir, would you teach jews and mahometans christianity out of the talmud and alcoran; because they are the books that at present they attend to, and believe? Or would you, laying by the authority of all books, preach religion to infidels, in your own name, and by your own authority, laying aside the scripture? “Is it not to be conceived,” no not by a christian divine, that the way to make unbelievers christians, is to show them the reasonableness of the religion contained in the scriptures? But it seems the unmasker has a peculiar way of preaching and propagating christianity without the scripture; as some men have a peculiar way of disputing without reason.
In the beginning of this paragraph, p. 43, the unmasker, that is always a fair interpreter of my meaning, and never fails to know it better than I do, tells me, That by those that wholly disbelieve, “I must mean atheists, turks, jews, and pagans; and by those that are not firmly christians, a few weak christians.” But did our unmasker never hear of unbelievers, under a denomination distinct from that of atheists, turks, jews, and pagans? Whilst the pulpit and the press have so often had up the name of theists or deists, has that name wholly escaped him? It was these I chiefly designed, and I believe, nobody of all that read my Vindication, but the unmasker, mistook me, if he did. But, there at least, p. 165, he might have found the name, as of a sort of unbelievers not unknown amongst us. But, whatever he thought, it was convenient, and a sort of prudence in him (when he would persuade others that I had not a design, which I say I had) to lessen as much as he could, and cover the need of any such design; and so make it, that I could not intend my book to work upon those that disbelieved, or did not firmly believe; by insinuating, there were few or none such amongst us. Hence he says, that by those that are not thoroughly and firmly christians, “I mean a few weak christians;” as well, as under those who wholly disbelieve, he left the theist out of my meaning. I am very glad to hear from the unmasker, that there are but few weak christians, few that have doubts about the truth of christianity amongst us. But if there be not a great number of deists, and that the preventing their increase be not worth every true christian’s care and endeavours, those who have been so loud against them, have been much to blame; and I wish to God there were no reason for their complaints. For these, therefore, I take the liberty to say, as I did before, that I chiefly designed my book; and shall not be ashamed of this sophistry, as you call it, if it can be sophistry to allege a matter of fact that I know; until you have arguments to convince me, that you know my intention in publishing it, better than I do myself. And I shall think it still no blameable prudence, however you exclaim against prudence, (as perhaps you have some reason,) that “I mentioned only those advantages, that all christians are agreed in; and that I observed that command of the apostle, Rom. xiv. 1, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations;” without being a socinian. I think I did not amiss, that I offered to the belief of those that stood off, that, and only that, which our Saviour and his apostles preached for the reducing the unconverted world. And would any one think, he in earnest went about to persuade men to be christians, who should use that as an argument to recommend the gospel, which he has observed men to lay hold on as an objection against it? To urge such points of controversy as necessary articles of faith, when we see our Saviour and the apostles urged them not as necessary to be believed to make men christians, is (by our own authority) to add prejudices to prejudices, and to block up our own way to those men, whom we would have access to and prevail upon.”
I have repeated this again out of the 164th page of my Vindication, where there is more to the same purpose; that the reader may see how fully the unmasker has answered it.
Because, I said “Would any one blame my prudence, if I mentioned only those advantages which all christians are agreed in?” the unmasker adds, p. 44, “socinian christians:” and then, as if the naming of that had gained him his point, he goes on victoriously thus: “He has bethought himself better, since he first published his notions, and (as the result of that) he now begins to resolve what he writ into prudence. I know whence he had this method, (and it is likely he has taken more than this from the same hands,) viz. from the missionary jesuits, that went to preach the gospel to the people of China. We are told, that they instructed them in some matters relating to our Saviour; they let them know that Jesus was the Messias, the person promised to be sent into the world: but they concealed his sufferings and death, and they would not let them know any thing of his passion and crucifixion. So our author (their humble imitator) undertakes to instruct the world in christianity, with an omission of its principal articles; and more especially that of the advantage we have by Christ’s death, which was the prime thing designed in his coming into the world. This he calls prudence: so that to hide from the people the main articles of the christian religion, to disguise the faith of the gospel, to betray christianity itself, is, according to this excellent writer, the cardinal virtue of prudence. May we be delivered then, say I, from a prudential racovian.” And there ends the rattling for this time; not to be outdone by any piece of clock-work in the town. When he is once set a going, he runs on like an alarum, always in the same strain of noisy, empty declamation, (wherein every thing is supposed, and nothing proved,) till his own weight has brought him to the ground: and then, being wound up with some new topic, takes another run, whether it makes for or against him, it matters not; he has laid about him with ill language, let it light where it will, and the vindicator is paid off.
That I may keep the due distance in our different ways of writing, I shall show the reader, that I say not this at random; but that the place affords me occasion to say so. He begins this paragraph with these words, p. 42, “Let us hear farther, what this vindicator says to excuse his rejection of the doctrines contained in the epistles.” This rejection of the doctrines contained in the epistles, was the not mentioning the satisfaction of Christ, amongst those advantages I showed that the world received by his coming. This appears by the words he here quotes, as my excuse for that omission. In which place I also produced some passages in my book, which sounded like it, some words of scripture, that are used to prove it; but this will not content him: I am for all that, a “betrayer of christianity, and contemner of the epistles.” Why? because I did not, out of them, make satisfaction. If you will have the truth of it, sir, there is not any such word in any one of the epistles, or other books of the New Testament, in my bible, as satisfying, or satisfaction made by our Saviour; and so I could not put it into my “Christianity as delivered in the Scripture.” If mine be not a true bible, I desire you to furnish me with one that is more orthodox; or, if the translators have “hid that main article of the christian religion,” they are the “betrayers of christianity, and contemners of the epistles,” who did not put it there; and not I who did not take a word from thence, which they did not put there. For truly I am not a maker of creeds; nor dare add either to the scripture, or to the fundamental articles of the christian religion.
But you will say, satisfaction, though not named in the epistles, yet may plainly be collected out of them. Answ. And so it may out of several places in my “Reasonableness of christianity,” some whereof, which I took out of the gospels, I mentioned in my vindication, p. 163, 164, and others of them, which I took out of the epistles, I shall point out to you now: as p. 41, I say, the design of our Saviour’s coming was to be offered up; and p. 84, I speak of the work of our redemption: words, which in the epistles, are taken to imply satisfaction. And therefore if that be enough, I see not, but I may be free from betraying christianity; but if it be necessary to name the word Satisfaction, and he that does not so is a betrayer of christianity, you will do well to consider, how you will acquit the holy apostles from that bold imputation; which if it be extended as far as it will go, will scarce come short of blasphemy: for I do not remember, that our Saviour has any-where named satisfaction, or implied it plainer in any words, than those I have quoted from him; and he, I hope, will escape the intemperance of your tongue.
You tell me, I had my “prudence from the missionary jesuits in China, who concealed our Saviour’s sufferings and death, because I undertake to instruct the world in christianity, with an omission of its principal articles.” And I pray, sir, from whom did you learn your prudence, when, taking upon you to teach the fundamental doctrines of christianity, in your “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” you left out several, that you have been pleased since to add in your “Socinianism unmasked?” Or, if I, as you say here, betray christianity by this omission of this principal article; what do you, who are a professed teacher of it, if you omit any principal article, which your prudence is so wary in, that you will not say you have given us all that are necessary to salvation, in that list you have last published? I pray, who acts best the jesuit, (whose humble imitator, you say, I am,) you or I? when, pretending to give a catalogue of fundamentals, you have not reduced them to direct propositions, but have left some of them indefinite, to be collected as every one pleases: and instead of telling us it is a perfect catalogue of fundamentals, plainly shuffle it off, and tell me, p. 22, “If that will not content me, you are sure you can do nothing that will: if I require more, it is folly in you to comply with me?” One part of what you here say, I own to you, savours not much of the skill of a jesuit. You confess your inability, and I believe it to be perfectly true: that if what you have done already (which is nothing at all) “will not content me,” you are sure “you can do nothing that will content me,” or any reasonable man that shall demand of you a complete catalogue of fundamentals. But you make it up pretty well, with a confidence becoming one of that order. For he must have rubbed his forehead hard, who in the same treatise, where he so severely condemns the imperfection of my list of fundamentals, confesses that he cannot give a complete catalogue of his own.
You publish to the world in this 44th, and the next page, that, “I hide from the people the main articles of the christian religion; I disguise the faith of the gospel, betray christianity itself, and imitate the jesuits that went to preach the gospel to the people of China, by my omission of its principal or main articles.”
Answ. I know not how I disguise the faith of the gospel, &c. in imitation of the jesuits in China; unless taking men off from the inventions of men, and recommending to them the reading and study of the holy scripture, to find what the gospel is, and requires, be “a disguising the faith of the gospel, a betraying of christianity, and imitating the jesuits.” Besides, sir, if one may ask you, In what school did you learn that prudent wariness and reserve, which so eminently appears, p. 24, of your “Socinianism unmasked,” in these words: “These articles” (meaning those which you had before enumerated as fundamental articles) “of faith, are such as must in some measure be known and assented to by a christian, such as must generally be received and embraced by him?” You will do well the next time, to set down, how far your fundamentals must be known, assented to, and received; to avoid the suspicion, that there is a little more of jesuitism in these expressions, “in some measure known and assented to, and generally received and embraced;” than what becomes a sincere protestant preacher of the gospel. For your speaking so doubtfully of knowing and assenting to those, which you give us for fundamental doctrines, which belong (as you say) to the very essence of christianity, will hardly escape being imputed to your want of knowledge, or want of sincerity. And indeed, the word “general,” is in familiar use with you, and stands you in good stead, when you would say something, you know not what; as I shall have occasion to remark to you, when I come to your 91st page.
Further, I do not remember where it was, that I mentioned or undertook to set down all the “principal or main articles of christianity.” To change the terms of the question, from articles necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, into principal or main articles, looks a little jesuitical. But to pass by that: the apostles, when they “went to preach the gospel to people,” as much strangers to it as the Chinese were, when the Europeans came first amongst them, “Did they hide from the people the main articles of the christian religion, disguise the faith of the gospel, and betray christianity itself?” If they did not, I am sure I have not: for I have not omitted any of the main articles, which they preached to the unbelieving world. Those I have set down, with so much care, not to omit any of them, that you blame me for it more than once, and call it tedious. However you are pleased to acquit or condemn the apostles in the case, by your supreme determination, I am very indifferent. If you think fit to condemn them for “disguising or betraying the christian religion,” because they said no more of satisfaction, than I have done, in their preaching at first, to their unbelieving auditors, jews or heathens, to make them, as I think, christians, (for that I am now speaking of,) I shall not be sorry to be found in their company, under what censure soever. If you are pleased graciously to take off this your censure from them, for this omission, I shall claim a share in the same indulgence.
But to come to what, perhaps, you will think yourself a little more concerned not to censure, and what the apostles did so long since; for you have given instances of being very apt to make bold with the dead: pray tell me, does the church of England admit people into the church of Christ at hap-hazard? Or without proposing and requiring a profession of all that is necessary to be believed to make a man a christian? If she does not, I desire you to turn to the baptism of those of riper years in our liturgy: where the priest, asking the convert particularly, whether he believes the apostles creed, which he repeats to him; upon his profession that he does, and that he desires to be baptized into that faith, without one word of any other articles, baptizes him; and then declares him a christian in these words: “We receive this person into the congregation of Christ’s flock, and sign him with the sign of the cross, in token that he shall not be ashamed—to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant.” In all this there is not one word of satisfaction, no more than in my book, nor so much neither. And here I ask you, Whether for this omission you will pronounce that the church of England disguises the faith of the gospel? However you think fit to treat me, yet methinks you should not let yourself loose so freely against our first reformers and the fathers of our church ever since, as to call them “Betrayers of christianity itself;” because they think not so much necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, as you are pleased to put down in your articles; but omit, as well as I, your “main article of satisfaction.”
Having thus notably harangued upon the occasion of my saying, “Would any one blame my prudence?” and thereby make me a “socinian, a jesuit, and a betrayer of christianity itself,” he has in that answered all that such a miscreant as I do, or can say; and so passes by all the reasons I gave for what I did; without any other notice or answer, but only denying a matter of fact, which I only can know, and he cannot, viz. my design in printing my “Reasonableness of christianity.”
In the next paragraph, p. 45, in answer to the words of St. Paul, Rom. xiv. 1, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations;” which I brought as a reason why I mentioned not satisfaction amongst the benefits received by the coming of our Saviour; because, as I tell him in my Vindication, p. 164, “my reasonableness of christianity,” as the title shows, “was designed chiefly for those who were not yet thoroughly or firmly christians.” He replies, and I desire him to prove it,
“That I pretend a design of my book, which was never so much as thought of, until I was solicited by my brethren to vindicate it.”
All the rest in this paragraph, being either nothing to this place of the Romans, or what I have answered elsewhere, needs no farther answer.
The next two paragraphs, p. 46—49, are meant for an answer to something I had said concerning the apostles creed, upon the occasion of his charging my book with socinianism. They begin thus:
This “author of the new christianity” [Answ. This new christianity is as old as the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, and a little older than the unmasker’s system] “wisely objects, that the apostles creed hath none of those articles which I mention,” p. 591, &c. Answ. If that author wisely objects, the unmasker would have done well to have replied wisely. But for a man wisely to reply, it is in the first place requisite that the objection be truly and fairly set down in its full force, and not represented short, and as will best serve the answerer’s turn to reply to. This is neither wise nor honest: and this first part of a wise reply the unmasker has failed in. This will appear from my words, and the occasion of them. The unmasker had accused my book of socinianism, for omitting some points, which he urged as necessary articles of faith. To which I answered, That he had done so only, “to give it an ill name, not because it was socinian; for he had no more reason to charge it with socinianism, for the omissions he mentions, than the apostles creed.” These are my words, which he should have either set down out of p. 67, which he quotes, or at least given the objection, as I put it, if he had meant to have cleared it by a fair answer. But he, instead thereof, contents himself that “I object that the apostles creed hath none of those articles and doctrines which the unmasker mentioned.” Answ. This at best is but a part of my objection, and not to the purpose which I there meant, without the rest joined to it; which it has pleased the unmasker, according to his laudable way, to conceal. My objection, therefore, stands thus:
That the same articles, for the omission whereof the unmasker charges my book with socinianism, being also omitted in the apostles creed, he has no more reason to charge my book with socinianism, for the omissions mentioned, than he hath to charge the apostles creed with socinianism.
To this objection of mine, let us now see how he answers, p. 47.
“Nor does any considerate man wonder at it,” [i. e. that the apostles creed had none of those articles and doctrines which he had mentioned,] “for the creed is a form of outward profession, which is chiefly to be made in the public assemblies, when prayers are put up in the church, and the holy scriptures are read: then this abridgment of faith is properly used, or when there is not time or opportunity to make any enlargement. But we are not to think it expressly contains in it all the necessary and weighty points, all the important doctrines of belief; it being only designed to be an abstract.”
Answ. Another indispensable requisite in a wise reply is, that it should be pertinent. Now what can there be more impertinent, than to confess the matter of fact upon which the objection is grounded; but instead of destroying the inference drawn from that matter of fact, only amuse the reader with wrong reasons, why that matter of fact was so?
No considerate man, he says, doth wonder, that the articles and doctrines he mentioned, are omitted in the apostles creed: because “that creed is a form of outward profession.” Answ. A profession! of what, I beseech you? Is it a form to be used for form’s sake? I thought it had been a profession of something, even of the christian faith: and if it be so, any considerate man may wonder necessary articles of the christian faith should be left out of it. For how it can be an outward profession of the christian faith, without containing the christian faith, I do not see; unless a man can outwardly profess the christian faith in words, that do not contain or express it, i. e. profess the christian faith, when he does not profess it. But he says, “It is a profession chiefly to be made use of in assemblies.” Answ. Do those solemn assemblies privilege it from containing the necessary articles of the christian religion? This proves not that it does not, or was not designed to contain all the articles necessary to be believed to make a man a christian; unless the unmasker can prove that a “form of outward profession” of the christian faith, that contains all such necessary articles, cannot be made use of, in the public assemblies. “In the public assemblies,” says he, “when prayers are put up by the church, and the holy scriptures are read, then this abridgment of faith is properly used; or when there is not generally time or opportunity to make an enlargement.” Answ. But that which contains not what is absolutely necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, can no-where be properly used as a form of outward profession of the christian faith, and least of all, in the solemn public assemblies. All the sense I can make of this is, that this abridgment of the christian faith, i. e. imperfect collection (as the unmasker will have it) of some of the fundamental articles of christianity in the apostles creed, which omits the greatest part of them, is made use of as a form of outward profession of but part of the christian faith in the public assemblies; when, by reason of reading of the scripture and prayers, there is not time or opportunity for a full and perfect profession of it.
It is strange the christian church should not find time nor opportunity, in sixteen hundred years, to make, in any of her public assemblies, a profession of so much of her faith, as is necessary to make a man a christian. But pray tell me, has the church any such full and complete form of faith, that hath in it all those propositions, you have given us for necessary articles, (not to say any thing of those which you have reserved to yourself, in your own breast, and will not communicate,) of which the apostles creed is only a scanty form, a brief imperfect abstract, used only to save time in the crowd of other pressing occasions, that are always in haste to be dispatched? If she has, the unmasker will do well to produce it. If the church has no such complete form, besides the apostles creed, any-where, of fundamental articles; he will do well to leave talking idly of this abstract, as he goes on to do in the following words:
“But,” says he, “we are not to think that it expressly contains in it all the necessary and weighty points, all the important doctrines of our belief; it being only designed to be an abstract.” Answ. Of what, I beseech you, is it an abstract? For here the unmasker stops short, and, as one that knows not well what to say, speaks not out what it is an abstract of; but provides himself a subterfuge in the generality of the preceding terms, of “necessary and weighty points, and important doctrines,” jumbled together; which can be there of no other use, but to cover his ignorance or sophistry. But the question being only about necessary points, to what purpose are weighty and important doctrines joined to them; unless he will say, that there is no difference between necessary and weighty points, fundamental and important doctrines; and if so, then the distinction of points into necessary and not necessary, will be foolish and impertinent; and all the doctrines contained in the bible, will be absolutely necessary to be explicitly believed by every man to make him a christian. But taking it for granted, that the distinction of truths contained in the gospel, into points absolutely necessary, and not absolutely necessary, to be believed to make a man a christian, is good; I desire the unmasker to tell us, what the apostles creed is an abstract of? He will, perhaps, answer, that he has told us already in this very page, where he says, it is an abridgment of faith: and he has said true in words, but saying those words by rote, after others, without understanding them, he has said so in a sense that is not true. For he supposes it an abridgment of faith, by containing only a few of the necessary articles of faith, and leaving out the far greater part of them; and so takes a part of a thing for an abridgment of it; whereas an abridgment or abstract of any thing, is the whole in little; and if it be of a science or doctrine, the abridgment consists in the essential or necessary parts of it contracted into a narrower compass than where it lies diffused in the ordinary way of delivery, amongst a great number of transitions, explanations, illustrations, proofs, reasonings, corollaries, &c. All which, though they make a part of the discourse, wherein that doctrine is delivered, are left out in the abridgment of it, wherein all the necessary parts of it are drawn together into a less room. But though an abridgment need to contain none but the essential and necessary parts, yet all those it ought to contain; or else it will not be an abridgment or abstract of that thing, but an abridgment only of a part of it. I think it could not be said to be an abridgment of the law contained in an act of parliament, wherein any of the things required by that act were omitted; which yet commonly may be reduced into a very narrow compass, when stripped of all the motives, ends, enacting forms, &c. expressed in the act itself. If this does not satisfy the unmasker what is properly an abridgment, I shall refer him to Mr. Chillingworth, who, I think, will be allowed to understand sense, and to speak it properly, at least as well as the unmasker. And what he says happens to be in the very same question, between Knot, the jesuit, and him, that is here between the unmasker and me: it is but putting the unmasker in the jesuit’s place, and myself (if it may be allowed me, without vanity) in Mr. Chillingworth, the protestant’s; and Mr. Chillingworth’s very words, chap. iv. § 65, will exactly serve for my answer: “You trifle affectedly, confounding the apostles belief of the whole religion of Christ, as it comprehends both what we are to do, and what we are to believe, with that part of it which contains not duties of obedience, but only the necessary articles of simple faith. Now, though the apostles belief be, in the former sense, a larger thing than that which we call the apostles creed: yet, in the latter sense of the word, the creed (I say) is a full comprehension of their belief, which you yourself have formerly confessed, though somewhat fearfully and inconsistently. And here again, unwillingness to speak the truth makes you speak that which is hardly sense, and call it an abridgment of some articles of faith. For I demand, those some articles which you speak of, which are they? Those that are out of the creed, or those that are in it? Those that are in it, it comprehends at large, and therefore it is not an abridgment of them. Those that are out of it, it comprehends not at all, and therefore it is not an abridgment of them. If you would call it now an abridgment of faith; this would be sense; and signify thus much, that all the necessary articles of the christian faith are comprized in it. For this is the proper duty of abridgments, to leave out nothing necessary.” So that in Mr. Chillingworth’s judgment of an abridgment, it is not sense to say, as you do, p. 47, That “we are not to think, that the apostles creed expressly contains in it all the necessary points of our belief, it being only designed to be an abstract, or an abridgment of faith:” but on the contrary, we must conclude, it contains in it all the necessary articles of faith, for that very reason; because it is an abridgment of faith, as the unmasker calls it. But whether this that Mr. Chillingworth has given us here, be the nature of an abridgment or no; this is certain, that the apostles creed cannot be a form of profession of the christian faith, if any part of the faith necessary to make a man a christian, be left out of it: and yet such a profession of faith would the unmasker have this abridgment of faith to be. For a little lower, in the 47th page, he says in express terms, That “if a man believe no more than is, in express terms, in the apostles creed, his faith will not be the faith of a christian.” Wherein he does great honour to the primitive church, and particularly to the church of England. The primitive church admitted converted heathens to baptism, upon the faith contained in the apostles creed: a bare profession of that faith, and no more, was required of them to be received into the church, and made members of Christ’s body. How little different the faith of the ancient church was, from the faith I have mentioned, may be seen in these words of Tertullian: “Regula fidei una omnino est, sola, immobilis, irreformabilis, credendi, scilicet, in unicum Deum omnipotentem, mundi conditorem, & filium ejus Jesum Christum, natum ex virgine, Maria, crucifixum sub Pontio Pilato, tertia die resuscitatum à mortuis, receptum in cœlis, sedentem nunc ad dextram Patris, venturum judicare vivos & mortuos, per carnis etiam resurrectionem. Hâc lege fidei manente, cætera jam disciplinæ & conversationis admittunt novitatem correctionis:” Tert. de virg. velan. in principio. This was the faith, that in Tertullian’s time sufficed to make a christian. And the church of England, as I have remarked already, only proposed the articles of the apostles creed to the convert to be baptized; and upon his professing a belief of them, asks, Whether he will be baptized in this faith; which (if we will believe the unmasker) “is not the faith of a christian.” However, the church, without any more ado, upon the profession of this faith, and no other, baptizes him into it. So that the ancient church, if the unmasker may be believed, baptized converts into that faith, which “is not the faith of a christian.” And the church of England, when she baptizes any one, makes him not a christian. For he that is baptized only into a faith, that “is not the faith of a christian,” I would fain know how he can thereby be made a christian? So that if the omissions, which he so much blames in my book, make me a socinian, I see not how the church of England will escape that censure; since those omissions are in that very confession of faith which she proposes, and upon a profession whereof, she baptizes those whom she designs to make christians. But it seems that the unmasker (who has made bold to unmask her too) reasons right, that the church of England is mistaken, and makes none but socinians christians; or (as he is pleased now to declare) no christians at all. Which, if true, the unmasker had best look to it, whether he himself be a christian, or no; for it is to be feared, he was baptized only into that faith, which he himself confesses “is not the faith of a christian.”
But he brings himself off, in these following words: “all matters of faith, in some manner, may be reduced to this brief platform of belief.” Answ. If that be enough to make him a true and an orthodox christian, he does not consider whom, in this way, he brings off with him; for I think he cannot deny, that all matters of faith, in some manner, may be reduced to that abstract of faith which I have given, as well as to that brief platform in the apostles creed. So that, for aught I see, by this rule, we are christians or not christians, orthodox or not orthodox, equally together.
But yet he says, in the next words; when he calls it an “abstract, or abbreviature, it is implied, that there are more truths to be known and assented to by a christian, in order to making him really so, than what we meet with here.” The quite contrary whereof (as has been shown) is implied, by its being called an abstract. But what is that to the purpose? It is not fit abstracts and abbreviatures should stand in an unmasker’s way. They are sounds men have used for what they pleased; and why may not the unmasker do so too, and use them in a sense, that may make the apostles creed be only a broken scrap of the christian faith? However, in great condescension, being willing to do the apostles creed what honour he could, he says, That “all matters of faith, in some manner, may be reduced to this brief platform of belief.” But yet, when it is set in competition with the creed, which he himself is making, (for it is not yet finished,) it is by no means to be allowed as sufficient to make a man a christian: “There are more truths to be known and assented to, in order to make a man really a christian.” Which, what they are, the church of England shall know, when this new reformer thinks fit; and then she may be able to propose to those who are not yet so, a collection of articles of belief, and baptize them a-new into a faith, which will really make them christians: but hitherto, if the unmasker may be credited, she has failed in it.
“Yet he craves leave to tell me,” in the following words, p. 48, “That the apostles creed hath more in it than I, or my brethren, will subscribe to.” Were it not the undoubted privilege of the unmasker to know me better than I do myself, (for he is always telling me something of myself, which I did not know,) I would, in my turn, crave leave to tell him, that this is the faith I was baptized into, no one title whereof I have renounced, that I know; and that I heretofore thought, that gave me title to be a christian. But the unmasker hath otherwise determined: and I know not now where to find a christian. For the belief of the apostles creed will not, it seems, make a man one: and what other belief will, it does not yet please the unmasker to tell us. But yet, as to the subscribing to the apostles creed, I must take leave to say, however the unmasker may be right in the faith, he is out in the morals of a christian; it being against the charity of one, that is really so, to pronounce, as he does, peremptorily in a thing that he cannot know; and to affirm positively what I know to be a downright falsehood. But what others will do, it is not my talent to determine; that belongs to the unmasker; though, as to all that are my brethren in the christian faith, I may answer for them too, that they will also with me, do that, without which, in that sense, they cannot be my brethren.
Page 49, The unmasker smartly convinces me of no small blunder, in these words: “But was it not judiciously said by this writer, that, “it is well for the compilers of the creed, that they lived not in my days?” P. 12, “I tell you, friend, it was impossible they should; for the learned Usher and Vossius, and others have proved, that that symbol was drawn up, not at once, but that some articles of it were adjoined many years after, far beyond the extent of any man’s life; and therefore the compilers of the creed could not live in my days, nor could I live in theirs.” Answ. But it seems that, had they lived all together, you could have lived in their days. “But,” says he, “I let this pass, as one of the blunders of our thoughtful and musing author.” Answ. And I tell you, friend, that unless it were to show your reading in Usher and Vossius, you had better have let this blunder of mine alone. Does not the unmasker here give a clear proof, that he is no changeling? Whatever argument he takes in hand, weighty or trivial, material or not material to the thing in question, he brings it to the same sort of sense and force. He would show me guilty of an absurdity, in saying, “It is well for the compilers of the creed, that they lived not in his days.” This he proves to be a blunder, because they all lived not in one another’s days; therefore it was an absurdity to suppose, they might all live in his days. As if there were any greater absurdity to bring the compilers, who lived, possibly, within a few centuries of one another, by a supposition, into one time; than it is to bring the unmasker, and any one of them who lived a thousand years distant one from another, by a supposition, to be contemporaries; for it is by reason of the compilers living at a distance one from another, that he proves it impossible for him to be their contemporary. As if it were not as impossible in fact, for him who was not born until above a thousand years after, to live in any of their days, as it is for any one of them to live in either of those compilers days, that died before him. The supposition of their living together, is as easy of one as the other, at what distance soever they lived, and how many soever there were of them. This being so, I think it had been better for the unmasker to have let alone the blunder, and showed (which was his business) that he does not accuse the compilers of the creed of being all over socinianized, as well as he does me, since they were as guilty as I, of the omission of those articles, (viz. “that Christ is the word of God: that Christ was God incarnate: the eternal and ineffable generation of the Son of God: that the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son, which expresses their unity;”) for the omission whereof, the unmasker laid socinianism to my charge. So that it remains still upon his score to show,
“Why these omissions in the apostles creed do not as well make that abstract, as my abridgment of faith, to be socinian?”
Page 57, The unmasker “desires the reader to observe, that this lank faith of mine is in a manner no other than the faith of a Turk.” And I desire the reader to observe, that this faith of mine was all that our Saviour and his apostles preached to the unbelieving world. And this our unmasker cannot deny, as I think, will appear to any one, who observes what he says, p. 76, 77, of his Socinianism unmasked. And that they preached nothing but “a faith, that was in a manner no other than the faith of a Turk,” I think none amongst christians, but this bold unmasker, will have the irreverance profanely to say.
He tells us, p. 54, that “the musselmen” (or, as he has, for the information of his reader, very pertinently proved, it should be writ, moslemim; without which, perhaps, we should not have known his skill in Arabic, or, in plain English, the mahometans) “believe that Christ is a good man, and not above the nature of a man, and sent of God to give instruction to the world: and my faith,” he says, “is of the very same scantling.” This I shall desire him to prove; or, which in other words he insinuates in this and the neighbouring pages, viz.
That that faith, which I have affirmed to be the faith, which is required to make a man a christian, is no other than what Turks believe, and is contained in the alcoran.
Or, as he expresses it himself, p. 55,
“That a Turk, according to me, is a christian; for I make the same faith serve them both.”
And particularly to show where it is I say,
That “Christ is not above the nature of a man,” or have made that a necessary article of the christian faith.
And next, where it is,
“That I speak as meanly of Christ’s suffering on the cross, and death, as if there were no such thing.”
For thus he says of me, p. 54, “I seem to have consulted the mahometan bible, which did say, Christ did not suffer on the cross, did not die. For I, and my allies, speak as meanly of these articles, as if there were no such thing.”
To show our unmasker’s veracity in this case, I shall trouble my reader with some passages out of my “Reasonableness of christianity,” p. 35: “When we consider, that he was to fill out the time foretold of his ministry, and after a life illustrious in miracles and good works, attended with humility, meekness, patience, and suffering, and every way conformable to the prophecies of him, should be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and, with all quiet and submission, be brought to the cross, though there were no guilt or fault found in him.” And, p. 42, “contrary to the design of his coming, which was to be offered up a lamb, blameless and void of offence.” And, p. 63, “laying down his life, both for jews and gentiles.” P. 96, “given up to contempt, torment, and death.” But, say what I will, when the unmasker thinks fit to have it so, it is speaking out of the mahometan bible, that “Christ did not suffer on the cross, did not die; or at least, is speaking as meanly of these articles, as if no such thing had been.”
His next slander is, p. 55, in these words: “this gentleman presents the world with a very ill notion of faith; for the very devils are capable of all that faith, which, he says, makes a christian.” It is not strange, that the unmasker should misrepresent the faith, which, I say, makes a christian; when it seems to be his whole design to misrepresent my meaning every-where. The frequency of his doing it, I have showed in abundance of instances, to which I shall add an eminent one here; which shows what a fair champion he is for truth and religion.
Page 104, of my “Reasonableness of christianity,” I give this account of the faith which makes a christian; that it is “men’s entering themselves in the kingdom of God; owning and professing themselves the subjects of Jesus, whom they believe to be the Messiah, and receive for their Lord and King: for that was to be baptized in his name.” This sense of believing Christ to be the Messiah, that is, to take him for our King and Lord, who is to be obeyed, I have expressed over and over again; as, p. 110, 111, my words are, “that as many of them as would believe Jesus the son of God (whom he sent into the world) to be the Messiah, the promised Deliverer, and would receive him for their king and ruler, should have all their past sins, disobedience, and rebellion, forgiven them. And if, for the future, they lived in sincere obedience to his law, to the utmost of their power, the sins of human frailty for the time to come, as well as those of their past lives, should for his son’s sake, because they gave themselves up to him to be his subjects, be forgiven them: and so their faith, which made them to be baptized into his name, (i. e. inroll themselves in the kingdom of Jesus, the Messiah, and profess themselves his subjects, and consequently live by the laws of his kingdom,) should be accounted to them for righteousness.” Which account of what is necessary, I close with these words: “this is the faith for which God of his free grace justifies sinful man.” And is this the faith of devils?
To the same purpose, p. 113, are these words: “the chief end of his coming was to be a king; and, as such, to be received by those who would be his subjects in the kingdom which he came to erect.” And again, p. 112, “only those who have believed Jesus to be the Messiah, and taken him for their king, with a sincere endeavour after righteousness in obeying his law, shall have their past sins not imputed to them.” And so again p. 113 and 120, and in several other places; of which I shall add but this one more, p. 120, “it is not enough to believe him to be the Messiah, unless we obey his laws, and take him to be our king to reign over us.” Can the devils thus believe him to be the Messiah? Yet this is that, which, by these and abundance of other places, I have showed to be the meaning of believing him to be the Messiah.
Besides, I have expressly distinguished the faith which makes a christian, from that which the devils have, by proving, that, to the believing Jesus to be the Messiah, must be joined repentance, or else it will not make them true christians: and what this repentance is, may be seen at large in p. 105, &c. some expressions whereof I shall here set down; as p. 105, “repentance does not consist in one single act of sorrow, (though that being first, and leading, gives denomination to the whole,) but in doing works meet for repentance; in a sincere obedience to the law of Christ, the remainder of our lives.” Again; to distinguish the faith of a christian from that of devils, I say expressly, out of St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, “that which availeth is faith, but faith working by love; and that faith, without works, i. e. the works of sincere obedience to the law and will of Christ, is not sufficient for our justification.” And, p. 117, “That to inherit eternal life, we must love the Lord our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind.” And p. 121, “Love Christ, in keeping his commandments.”
This, and a great deal more to this purpose, may be seen in my “Reasonableness of Christianity;” particularly, where I answer that objection, about the faith of devils, which I made in p. 102, &c. and therein at large show, wherein the faith of devils comes short of the justifying faith, which makes a christian. And yet the good, the sincere, the candid unmasker, with his becoming confidence, tells his readers here, p. 55, “That I present the world with a very ill notion of faith: for the very devils are capable of all that faith, which I say, makes a christian man.”
To prevent this calumny, I, in more places than one, distinguished between faith, in a strict sense, as it is a bare assent to any proposition, and that which is called evangelical faith, in a larger sense of the word; which comprehends under it something more than a bare simple assent; as, p. 26, “I mean, this is all that is required to be believed by those who acknowledge but one eternal, invisible God, the maker of heaven and earth: for that there is something more required to salvation, besides believing, we shall see hereafter.” P. 28, “All I say that was to be believed for justification. For that this was not all that was required to be done for justification, we shall see hereafter.” P. 51, “Obeying the law of the Messiah, their king, being no less required, than their believing that Jesus was the Messiah, the King and Deliverer, that was promised them.” P. 102, “As far as their believing could make them members of Christ’s body.” By these, and more, the like passages in my book, my meaning is so evident, that no-body, but an unmasker, would have said, that when I spoke of believing, as a bare speculative assent to any proposition, as true, I affirmed that was all that was required of a christian for justification: though that in the strict sense of the word, is all that is done in believing. And therefore, I say, As far as mere believing could make them members of Christ’s body; plainly signifying, as much as words can, that the faith, for which they were justified, included something more than a bare assent. This appears, not only from these words of mine, p. 104, “St. Paul often, in his epistles, puts faith for the whole duty of a christian:” but from my so often, and almost every-where, interpreting “believing him to be the Messiah, by taking him to be our King,” whereby is meant not a bare idle speculation, a bare notional persuasion of any truth whatsoever, floating in our brains; but an active principle of life, a faith working by love and obedience. “To make him to be our King,” carries with it a right disposition of the will to honour and obey him, joined to that assent wherewith believers embrace this fundamental truth, that Jesus was the person who was by God sent to be their King; he that was promised to be their Prince and Saviour.
But, for all this, the unmasker, p. 56, confidently tells his reader, that I say no such thing. His words are: “But besides this historical faith, (as it is generally called by divines,) which is giving credit to evangelical truths, is barely revealed, there must be something else added to make up the true substantial faith of a christian. With the assent of the understanding, must be joined the consent or approbation of the will. All those divine truths which the intellect assents to, must be allowed of by this elective power of the soul. True evangelical faith is a hearty acceptation of the Messias, as he is offered in the gospel. It is a sincere and impartial submission to all things required by the evangelical law, which is contained in the epistles, as well as the other writings. And to this practical assent and choice, there must be added, likewise, a firm trust and reliance in the blessed author of our salvation. But this late undertaker, who attempted to give us a more perfect account, than ever was before of christianity, as it is delivered in the scriptures, brings us no tidings of any such faith belonging to christianity, or discovered to us in the scriptures. Which gives us to understand, that he verily believes there is no such christian faith; for in some of his numerous pages, (especially p. 101, &c.) where he speaks so much of belief and faith, he might have taken occasion to insert one word about his complete faith of the gospel.”
Though the places above quoted, out of my “Reasonableness of Christianity,” and the whole tenour of the latter part of it, show the falsehood of what the unmasker here says; yet I will set down one passage more out of it; and then ask our unmasker, when he hath read them, Whether he hath the brow to say again, that “I bring no tidings of any such faith?” My words are, “Reasonableness of Christianity,” p. 129, “Faith in the promises of God, relying and acquiescing in his word and faithfulness, the Almighty takes well at our hands as a great mark of homage paid by us, poor frail creatures, to his goodness and truth, as well as to his power and wisdom; and accepts it as an acknowledgment of his peculiar providence and benignity to us. And, therefore, our Saviour tells us, John xii. 44, “He that believes on me, believes not on me, but on him that sent me.” The works “of nature show his wisdom and power: but it is his peculiar care of mankind, most eminently discovered in his promises to them, that shows his bounty and goodness; and consequently engages their hearts in love and affection to him. This oblation of an heart fixed with dependance and affection on him, is the most acceptable tribute we can pay him, the foundation of true devotion, and life of all religion. What a value he puts on this depending on his word, and resting satisfied on his promises, we have an example in Abraham; whose faith was counted to him for righteousness, as we have before remarked out of Rom. iv. And his relying firmly on the promise of God, without any doubt of its performance, gave him the name of the father of the faithful; and gained him so much favour with the Almighty, that he was called the friend of God, the highest and most glorious title that can be bestowed on a creature!”
The great out-cry he makes against me in his two next sections, p. 57—60, as if I intended to introduce ignorance and popery, is to be entertained rather as the noise of a petulant scold, saying the worst things she could think of, than as the arguing of a man of sense or sincerity. All this mighty accusation is grounded upon these falsehoods: That “I make it my great business to beat men off from divine truths; that I cry down all articles of the christian faith, but one; that I will not suffer men to look into christianity; that I blast the epistolary writings.” I shall add no more to what I have already said, about the epistles, but those few words out of my “Reasonableness of christianity,” page 154, “The epistles, resolving doubts, and reforming mistakes, are of great advantage to our knowledge and practice.” And, p. 155, 156, “An explicit belief of what God requires of those, who will enter into, and receive the benefits of the new covenant, is absolutely required. The other parts of divine revelation are objects of faith, and are so to be received. They are truths, whereof none, that is once known to be such, i. e. of divine revelation,] may, or ought to be disbelieved.”
And as for that other saying of his, “That I will not suffer men to look into christianity:” I desire to know where that christianity is locked up, which “I will not suffer men to look into.” My christianity, I confess, is contained in the written word of God; and that I am so far from hindering any one to look into, that I every-where appeal to it, and have quoted so much of it, that the unmasker complains of being overlaid with it, and tells me it is tedious. “All divine revelation, I say, p. 156, requires the obedience of faith; and that every one is to receive all the parts of it, with a docility and disposition prepared to embrace and assent to all truths coming from God; and submit his mind to whatever shall appear to him to bear that character.” I speak, in the same page, of men’s endeavouring to understand it, and of their interpreting one place by another. This, and the whole design of my book, shows that I think it every christian’s duty to read, search and study the holy scriptures: and make this their great business: and yet the good unmasker, in a fit of zeal, displays his throat, and cries out, p. 59, “Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth; judge whether this be not the way to introduce darkness and ignorance into Christendom; whether this be not blinding of men’s eyes,” &c. for this mighty pathos ends not there. And all things considered, I know not whether he had not reason, in his want of arguments, this way to pour out his concern. For neither the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, nor the apostles creed, nor any thing else, being with him the faith of a christian, i. e. sufficient to make a christian, but just his set of fundamental articles, (when he himself knows what they be;) in fine, nothing being christianity but just his system, it is time to cry out, Help, neighbours! hold fast, friends! Knowledge, religion, christianity is gone, if this be once permitted, that the people should read and understand the scripture for themselves, as God shall enlighten their understandings in the use of the means; and not be forced to depend upon me, and upon my choosing, and my interpretation, for the necessary points they are to believe to make them christians: if I, the great unmasker, have not the sole power to decree what is, or is not fundamental, and people be not bound to receive it for such, faith and the gospel are given up; darkness and barbarism will be brought in upon us by this writer’s contrivance. For “he is an underhand factor for that communion, which cries up ignorance for the mother of devotion and religion:” i. e. in plain English, for popery. For to this, and nothing else, tends all that sputter he makes in the section before mentioned.
I do not think there was ever a more thorough-paced declaimer, than our unmasker. He leaves out nothing that he thinks will make an affrighting noise in the ears of his orthodox hearers, though all the blame and censure he pours out upon others light only on himself. For let me ask this zealous upholder of light and knowledge: does he think it reasonable, that any one, who is not a christian, should be suffered to be undisturbed in his parish? Nay, does he think fit that any such should live free from the lash of the magistrate, or from the persecution of the ecclesiastical power? He seems to talk with another air, p. 65. In the next place I ask, Whether any one is a christian, who has not the faith of a christian? Thirdly, I ask, Whether he has the faith of a christian, who does not explicitly believe all the fundamental articles of christianity? And to conclude, I ask him, Whether all those that he has set down, are not fundamental necessary articles? When the unmasker has fairly answered these questions, it will be seen who is for popery, and the ignorance and tyranny that accompany it.
The unmasker is for making and imposing articles of faith; but he is for this power in himself. He likes not popery (which is nothing but the tyranny and imposing upon men’s understandings, faith and consciences) in the hands of the old gentleman at Rome: but it would, he thinks, do admirably well in his own hands. And who can blame him for it? Would not that be an excellent way to propagate light and knowledge, by tying up all men to a bundle of articles of his own culling? Or rather, to the authority of Christ and his apostles residing in him? For he does not, nor ever will, give us a full view of fundamentals of his christianity: but like the church of Rome, to secure our dependence, reserves to himself a power of declaring others, and defining what is matter of faith as he shall see occasion.
Now, therefore, veil your bonnets to the unmasker, all you that have a mind to be christians: break not your heads about the scriptures, to examine what they require of you: submit your faith implicitly to the unmasker; he will understand and find out the necessary points for you to believe. Take them, just so many as he thinks fit to deliver them to you; this is the way to be knowing christians. But be sure, ask not, Whether those he is pleased to deliver, be every one of them fundamental, and all the fundamental articles, necessary to be believed to make a man a christian? Such a capricious question spoils all, overturns christianity, which is intrusted to the unmasker’s sole keeping, to be dispensed out as he thinks fit. If you refuse an implicit faith to him, he will presently find you have it for the whore of Babylon; he will smell out popery in it immediately: for he has a very shrewd scent, and you will be discovered to be an underhand factor for the church of Rome.
But if the unmasker were such an enemy, as he pretends, to those factors, I wonder he should, in what he has said concerning the apostles creed, so exactly jump with Knot the jesuit. If any one doubt of this, I desire him to look into the fourth chapter of “Knot’s charity maintained,” and there he will see how well our unmasker and that jesuit agree in argument; nay, and expressions too. But yet I do not think him so far guilty, as to be employed as an underhand factor for popery. Every body will, I suppose, be ready to pronounce him so far an innocent, as to clear him from that. The cunning of this design goes not beyond the laying out of his preaching oratory, for the setting up his own system, and making that the sole christianity. To that end, he would be glad to have the power of interpreting scripture, of defining and declaring articles of faith, and imposing them. This, which makes the absolute power of the pope, he would not, I think, establish at Rome; but it is plain he would have it himself if he could get it, for the support of the christianity of his system. An implicit faith, if he might have the management of it, and the taking fundamentals upon trust from his authority, would be of excellent use. Such a power, in his hands, would spread truth and knowledge in the world, i. e. his own orthodoxy and set of opinions. But if a man differs, nay, questions any thing of that, whether it be absolutely necessary to make one a christian, it is immediately a contrivance to let in popery, and to bring “darkness and barbarism into the christian world.” But I must tell the innocent unmasker, whether he designs or no, that if his calling his system the only christianity, can bring the world to receive from him articles of faith of his own choosing, as fundamentals necessary to be believed by all men to make them christians, which Christ and his apostles did not propose to all men to make them christians; he does only set up popery in another guise, and lay the foundations of ignorance, darkness, and barbarism, in the christian world; for all the ignorance and blindness, that popery introduced, was only upon this foundation. And if he does not see this, (as there is reason to excuse his innocence,) it would be no hard matter to demonstrate it, if that were at present the question between us. But there are a great many other propositions to be proved by him, before we come to that new matter of debate.
But before I quit these paragraphs. I must go on with our unmasker’s account, and desire him to show where it is,
“That I make it my business to beat men off from taking notice of any divine truths?”
Next, where it is,
That “I cry down all articles of christian faith but one?”
Next, how it appears,
That “I will not suffer mankind to look into christianity?”
Again, where it is,
That “I labour industriously to keep people in ignorance;” or tell them, that “there is no necessity of knowing any other doctrines of the bible?”
These, and several others of the like strain, particularly concerning one article, and the epistles, (which are his common-places,) are to be found in his 59th and 60th pages. And all this out of a presumption, that his system is the only christianity; and that if men were not pressed and persuaded to receive that, just every article of it, upon pain of damnation, christianity would be lost: and not to do this, is to promote ignorance, and contemn the bible. But he fears where no fear is. If his orthodoxy be the truth, and conformable to the scriptures, the laying the foundation only where our Saviour and his Apostles have laid it, will not overturn it. And to show him, that it is so, I desire him again to consider what I said in my Vindication, p. 164, 165, which, because I do not remember he anywhere takes notice of, in his reply, I will here offer again to his consideration: “Convince but men of the mission of Jesus Christ; make them but see the truth, simplicity and reasonableness of what he himself hath taught, and required to be believed by his followers; and you need not doubt, but being once fully persuaded of his doctrine, and the advantages which, all christians agree, are received by him, such converts will not lay by the scriptures; but, by a constant reading and study of them, will get all the light they can from this divine revelation, and nourish themselves up in the words of faith and good doctrine, as St. Paul speaks to Timothy.”
If the reading and study of the scripture were more pressed than it is, and men were fairly sent to the bible to find their religion; and not the bible put into their hands, only to find the opinions of their peculiar sect or party; Christendom would have more christians, and those that are, would be more knowing, and more in the right, than they now are. That which hinders this, is that select bundle of doctrines, which it has pleased every sect to draw out of the scriptures, or their own inventions, with an omission (and, as our unmasker would say, a contempt) of all the rest. These choice truths (as the unmasker calls his) are to be the standing orthodoxy of that party, from which none of that church must recede, without the forfeiture of their christianity, and the loss of eternal life. But, whilst the people keep firm to these, they are in the church, and the way to salvation: which, in effect, what is it but to encourage ignorance, laziness, and neglect of the scriptures? For what need they be at the pains of constantly reading the bible, or perplex their heads with considering and weighing what is there delivered; when believing as the church believes, or saying, after, or not contradicting their domine, or teacher, serves the turn?
Further, I desire it may be considered, what name that mere mock-show, of recommending to men the study of the scripture, deserves; if, when they read it, they must understand it just as he (that would be, and they are too apt, contrary to the command of Christ, to call, their master) tells them. If they find any thing in the word of God, that leads them into opinions he does not allow; if any thing they meet with in holy writ, seems to them to thwart, or shake the received doctrines, the very proposing of their doubts renders them suspected. Reasoning about them, and not acquiescing in whatever is said to them, is interpreted want of due respect and deference to the authority of their spiritual guides; disrepute and censures follow: and if, in pursuance of their own light, they persist in what they think the scripture teaches them, they are turned out of the church, delivered to Satan, and no longer allowed to be christians. And is thus a sincere and rightly directed study of the scriptures, that men may understand and profit thereby, encouraged? This is the consequence of men’s assuming to themselves a power of declaring fundamentals, i. e. of setting up a christianity of their own making. For how else can they turn men of as unblameable lives as others of their members out of the church of Christ (for so they count their communion) for opinions, unless those opinions were concluded inconsistent with christianity? Thus systems, the invention of men, are turned into so many opposite gospels; and nothing is truth in each sect, but what suits with them. So that the scripture serves but, like a nose of wax, to be turned and bent, just as may fit the contrary orthodoxies of different societies. For it is these several systems, that to each party are the just standards of truth, and the meaning of the scripture is to be measured only by them. Whoever relinquishes any of those distinguishing points, immediately ceases to be a christian.
This is the way that the unmasker would have truth and religion preserved, light and knowledge propagated. But here too the different sects, giving equal authority to their own orthodoxies, will be quits with him. For as far as I can observe, the same genius seems to influence them all, even those who pretend most to freedom, the socinians themselves. For when it is observed, how positive and eager they are in their disputes; how forward to have their interpretations of scripture received for authentic, though to others, in several places, they seem very much strained; how impatient they are of contradiction; and with what disrespect and roughness they often treat their opposers: may it not be suspected, that this so visible a warmth in their present circumstances, and zeal for their orthodoxy, would (had they the power) work in them as it does in others? They in their turns would, I fear, be ready with their set of fundamentals; which they would be as forward to impose on others, as others have been to impose contrary fundamentals on them.
This is, and always will be, the unavoidable effect of intruding on our Saviour’s authority, and requiring more now, as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, than was at first required by our Saviour and his apostles. What else can be expected among christians, but their tearing, and being torn in pieces, by one another; whilst every sect assumes to itself a power of declaring fundamentals, and severally thus narrow christianity to their distinct systems? He that has a mind to see how fundamentals come to be framed and fashioned, and upon what motives and considerations they are often taken up, or laid down according to the humours, interests, or designs of the heads of parties, as if they were things depending on men’s pleasure and to be suited to their convenience; may find an example worth his notice, in the life of Mr. Baxter, part II. p. 197—205.
Whenever men take upon them to go beyond those fundamental articles of christianity, which are to be found in the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles, where will they stop? Whenever any set of men will require more, as necessary to be believed, to make men of their church, i. e. in their sense, christians, than what our Saviour and his apostles proposed to those whom they made christians, and admitted into the church of Christ; however they may pretend to recommend the scripture to their people, in effect, no more of it is recommended to them, than just comports with what the leaders of that sect have resolved christianity shall consist in.
It is no wonder, therefore, there is so much ignorance amongst christians, and so much vain outcry against it; whilst almost every distinct society of christians magisterially ascribes orthodoxy to a select set of fundamentals, distinct from those proposed in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles; which, in no one point, must be questioned by any of its communion. By this means their people are never sent to the holy scriptures, that true fountain of light, but hood-winked: a veil is cast over their eyes, and then they are bid to read their bible. They must make it all chime to their church’s fundamentals, or else they were better let it alone. For if they find any thing there against the received doctrines, though they hold it and express it in the very terms the Holy Ghost has delivered it in, that will not excuse them. Heresy will be their lot, and they shall be treated accordingly. And thus we see how, amongst other good effects, creed-making always has, and always will necessarily produce and propagate ignorance in the world, however each party blame others for it. And therefore I have often wondered to hear men of several churches so heartily exclaim against the implicit faith of the church of Rome; when the same implicit faith is as much practised and required in their own, though not so openly professed, and ingenuously owned there.
In the next section, the unmasker questions the sincerity of mine, and professes the greatness of his concern for the salvation of men’s souls. And tells me of my reflection on him, upon that account, in my Vindication, p. 165. Answ. I wish he would, for the right information of the reader, every-where set down, what he has any thing to say to, in my book, or my defence of it, and save me the labour of repeating it. My words in that place are, “Some men will not bear, that any one should speak of religion, but according to the model that they themselves have made of it. Nay, though he proposes it upon the very terms, and in the very words, which our Saviour and his apostles preached it in; yet he shall not escape censures and the severest insinuations. To deviate in the least, or to omit any thing contained in their articles, is heresy, under the most invidious names in fashion; and it is well if he escapes being a downright atheist. Whether this be the way for teachers to make themselves hearkened to, as men in earnest in religion, and really concerned for the salvation of men’s souls, I leave them to consider. What success it has had, towards persuading men of the truth of christianity, their own complaints of the prevalency of atheism, on the one hand, and the number of deists on the other, sufficiently show.”
I have set down this passage at large, both as a confirmation of what I said but just now: and also to show, that the reflection I there made needed some other answer, than a bare profession of his “regard to the salvation of men’s souls.” The assuming an undue authority to his own opinions, and using manifest untruths in the defence of them, I am sure is no mark, that the directing men right in the way to salvation is his chief aim. And I wish that the greater liberties of that sort, which he has again taken in his Socinianism unmasked, and which I have so often laid open, had not confirmed that reflection. I should have been glad, that any thing in my book had been fairly controverted and brought to the touch, whether it had or had not been confuted. The matter of it would have deserved a serious debate (if any had been necessary) in the words of sobriety, and the charitable temper of the gospel, as I desired in my preface: and that would not have misbecome the unmasker’s function. But it did not consist, it seems, with his design. Christian charity would not have allowed those ill-meant conjectures, and groundless censures, which were necessary to his purpose: and therefore he took a shorter course, than to confute my book, and thereby convince me and others. He makes it his business to rail at it and the author of it, that that might be taken for a confutation. For by what he has hitherto done, arguing seems not to be his talent. And thus far, who can but allow his wisdom? But whether it be that “wisdom that is from above; first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy, and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy;” I shall leave to other readers to judge.
His saying nothing to that other reflection, which his manner of expressing himself drew from me, would make one suspect, it savoured not altogether of the wisdom of the gospel; nor showed an over-great care of the salvation of souls. My words, Vindication, p. 173, are: “I know not how better to show my care of his credit, than by entreating him, that when he takes next in hand such a subject as this, wherein the salvation of souls is concerned, he would treat it a little more seriously, and with a little more candour, lest men should find in his writings another cause of atheism, which in this treatise he has not thought fit to mention. Ostentation of wit in general, he has made a cause of atheism, p. 28. But the world will tell him, that frothy light discourses, concerning the serious matters of religion, and ostentation of trifling misbecoming wit, in those who come as ambassadors from God, under the title of successors of the apostles, in the great commission of the gospel, are none of the least causes of atheism.” But this advice I am now satisfied (by his second part of the same strain) was very improper for him; and no more reasonable, than if one should advise a buffoon to talk gravely, who has nothing left to draw attention, if he should lay by his scurrility.
The remainder of this fourth chapter, p. 61—67, being spent in showing, why the socinians are for a few articles of faith, being a matter that I am not concerned in; I leave to that forward gentleman to examine, who examined Mr. Edwards’s exceptions against the “Reasonableness of Christianity;” and who, as the unmasker informs me, page 64, was chosen to vindicate my attempt, &c.
If the unmasker knows that he was so chosen, it is well. If I had known of such a choice, I should have desired that somebody should have been chosen to vindicate my attempt, who had understood it better. The unmasker and examiner are each of them so full of themselves, and their own systems, that I think they may be a fit match one for another; and so I leave these cocks of the game to try it out in an endless battle of wrangling (’till death them part) which of them has made the true and exact collection of fundamentals; and whose system of the two ought to be the prevailing orthodoxy, and be received for scripture. Only I warn the examiner to look to himself: for the unmasker has the whip hand of him, and gives him to understand, p. 65, that if he cannot do it himself by the strength of his lungs, the vehemency of his oratory, and endless attacks of his repetitions; the ecclesiastical power, and the civil magistrate’s lash, have, in store, demonstrative arguments to convince him that his [the unmasker’s] system is the only true christianity.
By the way, I must not forget to mind the unmasker here again, that he hath a very unlucky hand at guessing. For whereas he names Socinus, as one from whom I received my platform, and says that “Crellius gave me my cue;” it so falls out, that they are two authors of whom I never read a page. I say not this, as if I thought it a fault if I had; for I think I should have much better spent my time in them, than in the writings of our learned unmasker.
I was sure there was no offending the unmasker, without the guilt of atheism; only he here, p. 69, very mercifully lays it upon my book, and not upon my design. The “tendency of it to irreligion and atheism,” he has proved in an eloquent harangue, for he is such an orator he cannot stir a foot without a speech (made) as he bids us suppose, by the atheistical rabble. And who can deny, but he has chosen a fit employment for himself? Where could there be found a better speechmaker for the atheistical rabble? But let us hear him: for though he would give the atheistical rabble the credit of it, yet it is the unmasker speaks. And because it is a pity such a pattern of rhetoric and reason should be lost, I have, for my reader’s edification, set it all down verbatim.
“We are beholden to this worthy adventurer for ridding the world of so great an incumbrance, viz. that huge mass and unwieldy body of christianity, which took up so much room. Now we see that it was this bulk, and not that of mankind, which he had an eye to, when he so often mentioned this latter. This is a physician for our turn, indeed; we like this chymical operator, that doth not trouble us with a parcel of heavy drugs of no value, but contracts it all into a few spirits, nay doth his business with a single drop. We have been in bondage a long time to creeds and catechisms, systems and confessions; we have been plagued with a tedious bead-roll of articles, which our reverend divines have told us, we must make the matter of our faith. Yea, so it is, both conformists and nonconformists (though disagreeing in some other things) have agreed in this, to molest and crucify us. But this noble writer (we thank him) hath set us free, and eased us, by bringing down all the christian faith into one point. We have heard some men talk of epistolary composures of the New Testament, as if great matters were contained in them, as if the great mysteries of christianity (as they call them) were unfolded there: but we could never make any thing of them; and now we find that this writer is partly of our opinion. He tells us that these are letters sent upon occasion; but we are not to look for our religion (for now, for this gentleman’s sake, we begin to talk of religion) in these places. We believe it, and we believe that there is no religion but in those very chapters and verses, which he has set down in his treatise. What need we have any other part of the New Testament? That is bible enough, if not too much. Happy, thrice happy shall this author be perpetually esteemed by us; we will chronicle him as our friend and benefactor. It is not our way to saint people, otherwise we would certainly canonize this gentleman; and when our hand is in, his pair of booksellers, for their being so beneficial to the world in publishing so rich a treasure. It was a blessed day, when this hopeful birth saw the light; for hereby all the orthodox creed-makers and systematic men are ruined for ever. In brief, if we be for any christianity, it shall be this author’s: for that agrees with us singularly well, it being so short, all couched in four words, neither more nor less. It is a very fine compendium, and we are infinitely obliged to this great reformer for it. We are glad at heart, that christianity is brought so low by this worthy penman; for this is a good presage, that it will dwindle into nothing. What! but one article, and that so brief too! We like such a faith, and such a religion, because it is nearer to none.”
He hath no sooner done, but, as it deserved, he cries out, “Euge, sophos! and is not the reader,” quoth he, “satisfied that such language as this hath real truth in it? Does not he perceive, that the discarding all the articles but one, makes way for the casting off that too?” Answ. It is but supposing that the reader is a civil gentleman, and answers, Yes, to these two questions; and then it is demonstration, that by this speech he has irrefragably proved the tendency of my book to irreligion and atheism.
I remember Chillingworth somewhere puts up this request to his adversary Knot: “Sir, I beseech you, when you write again, do us the favour to write nothing but syllogisms. For I find it still an extreme trouble to find out the concealed propositions, which are to connect the parts of your enthymems. As now, for example, I profess to you I have done my best endeavour to find some glue, or solder, or cement, or thread, or any thing to tie the antecedent and this consequent together.” The unmasker agrees so much in a great part of his opinion with that jesuit, (as I have shown already,) and does so infinitely out-do him in spinning ropes of sand, and a coarse thread of inconsistencies, which runs quite through his book; that it is with great justice I put him here in the jesuit’s place, and address the same request to him.
His very next words give me a fresh reason to do it: for thus he argues, p. 72, “May we not expect, that those who deal thus with the creed, i. e. discard all the articles of it but one, will use the same method in reducing the ten commandments and the Lord’s prayer, abbreviate the former into one precept, and the latter into one petition?” Answ. If he will tell me where this creed he speaks of is, it will be much more easy to answer his demand. Whilst his creed, which he here speaks of, is yet no-where, it is ridiculous for him to ask questions about it. The ten commandments, and the Lord’s prayer, I know where to find in express words, set down by themselves, with peculiar marks of distinction. Which is the Lord’s prayer, we are plainly taught by this command of our Saviour, Luke xi. 2, “when ye pray, say, Our father,” &c. In the same manner and words, we are taught what we should believe, to make us his disciples, by his command to the apostles what they should preach, Matt. x. 7, “As ye go, preach, saying,” (What were they to say? Only this) “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Or, as St. Luke expresses it, chap. ix. 2, They were sent “to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick:” which, what it was, we have sufficiently explained. But this creed of the unmasker, which he talks of, where is it? Let him show it us distinctly set out from the rest of the scripture. If he knows where it is, let him produce it, or leave talking of it, until he can. It is not the apostles creed, that is evident; for that creed he has discarded from being the standard of christian faith, and has told the world in words at length, That “if a man believes no more than is in express terms in the apostles creed, his faith will not be the faith of a christian.” Nay, it is plain, that creed has, in the unmasker’s opinion, the same tendency to atheism and irreligion, that my summary has. For the apostles creed, reducing the forty, or, perhaps, the four hundred fundamental articles of his christian creed to twelve; and leaving out the greatest part of those necessary ones, which he has already, and will hereafter, in good time, give us; does as much dispose men to serve the decalogue, and the Lord’s prayer, just so, as my reducing those twelve to two. For so many, at least, he has granted to be in my summary, viz. the article of one God, maker of heaven and earth; and the other, of Jesus the Messiah; though he every-where calls them but one; which, whether it be to show, with what love and regard to truth he continues, and consequently began this controversy; or whether it be to beguile and startle unwary, or confirm prejudiced readers; I shall leave others to judge. It is evident, he thinks his cause would be mightily maimed, if he were forced to leave out the charge of one article; and he would not know what to do for wit or argument, if he should call them two: for then the whole weight and edge of his strong and sharp reasoning, in his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” p. 122, would be lost. There you have it in these words: “When the catholic faith is thus brought down to one single article, it will soon be reduced to none; the unit will dwindle into a cypher.” And here again, it makes the whole argument of his atheistical speech, which he winds up with these convincing words: “We are glad to hear, that christianity is brought so low by this worthy penman; for this is a good presage, that it will dwindle into nothing. What! one article, and that so brief too! We like such a faith, and such a religion, because it is so near none.” But I must tell this writer, of equal wit, sense, and modesty, that this religion, which he thus makes a dull farce of, and calls “near none,” is that very religion which our Saviour Jesus Christ and his apostles preached, for the conversion and salvation of mankind; no one article whereof, which they proposed as necessary to be received by unbelievers, to make them christians, is omitted. And I ask him, Whether it be his errand, as one of our Saviour’s ambassadors, to turn it thus into ridicule? For until he has shown, that they preached otherwise, and more than what the Spirit of truth has recorded of their preaching in their histories, which I have faithfully collected, and set down; all that he shall say, reflecting upon the plainness and simplicity of their doctrine, however directed against me, will by his atheistical rabble of all kinds, now they are so well entered and instructed in it by him, be all turned upon our Saviour and his apostles.
What tendency this, and all his other trifling, in so serious a cause as this is, has to the propagating of atheism and irreligion in this age, he were best to consider. This I am sure, the doctrine of but one article (if the author and finisher of our faith, and those he guided by his Spirit, had preached but one article) has no more tendency to atheism, than their doctrine of one God. But the unmasker every-where talks, as if the strength of our religion lay in the number of its articles; and would be presently routed, if it had been but a few; and therefore he has mustered up a pretty full band of them, and has a reserve of the Lord knows how many more, which shall be forth-coming upon occasion. But I shall desire to remind this learned divine, who is so afraid of what will become of his religion, if it should propose but one or a few articles, as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian; that the strength and security of our religion lies in the divine authority of those who first promulgated the terms of admittance into the church, and not in the multitude of articles, supposed by some necessary to be believed to make a man a christian: and I would have him remember, when he goes next to make use of this strong argument of “one dwindling into a cypher,” that one is as remote as a million from none. And if this be not so, I desire to know whether his way of arguing will not prove pagan polytheism to be more remote from atheism than christianity. He will do well to try the force of his speech in the mouth of an heathen, complaining of the tendency of christianity to atheism, by reducing his great number of gods to but one, which was so near none, and would, therefore, soon be reduced to none.
The unmasker seems to be upon the same topic, where he so pathetically complains of the socinians, p. 66, in these words; “It is enough to rob us of our God, by denying Christ to be so; but must they spoil us of all the other articles of christian faith but one?” Have a better heart, good sir, for I assure you nobody can rob you of your God, but by your own consent, nor spoil you of any of the articles of your faith. If you look for them, where God has placed them, in the holy scripture, and take them as he has framed and fashioned them there; there you will always find them safe and sound. But if they come out of an artificer’s shop, and be of human invention, I cannot answer for them: they may, for aught I know, be nothing but an idol of your own setting up, which may be pulled down, should you cry out ever so much, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”
He, who considers this argument of one and none, as managed by the unmasker, and observes his pathetical way of reasoning all through his book, must confess, that he has got the very philosopher’s stone in disputing. That which would be worthless lead in others, he turns into pure gold; his oratory changes its nature, and gives it the noble tincture: so that what, in plain reasoning, would be nonsense, let him but put it into a speech, or an exclamation, and there it becomes strong argument. Whether this be not so, I desire mode and figure may decide. And to those I shall desire he would reduce the proofs, which, p. 73, he says he has given of these following propositions, viz.
“That I have corrupted men’s minds.”
“That I have depraved the gospel.”
“That I have abused christianity.”
For all these three, p. 73, he affirms of me without proof and without honesty.
Whether it be from confusion of thought, or unfairness of design; either because he has not clear distinct notions of what he would say, or finds it not to his purpose to speak them clearly out, or both together; so it is, that the unmasker very seldom, but when he rails, delivers himself so that one can certainly tell what he would have.
The question is, What is absolutely necessary to be believed by every one to make him a christian? It has been clearly made out, from an exact survey of the history of our Saviour and his apostles, that the whole aim of all their preaching every-where was, to convince the unbelieving world of these two great truths; first, That there was one, eternal, invisible God, maker of heaven and earth: and next, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the promised King and Saviour: and that, upon men’s believing these two articles, they were baptized and admitted into the church, i. e. received as subjects of Christ’s kingdom, and pronounced believers. From whence it unavoidably follows, that these two are the only truths necessary to be believed to make a man a christian.
This matter of fact is so evident from the whole tenour of the four Gospels and the Acts; and presses so hard, that the unmasker, who contends for a great number of other points necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, thinks himself concerned to give some answer to it; but, in his usual way, full of uncertainty and confusion. To clear this matter, he lays down four particulars; the first is, p. 74, “That the believing Jesus to be the promised Messiah, was the first step to christianity.”
The second, p. 76, “That though this one proposition, (viz. of Jesus the Messiah) be mentioned alone in some places, yet there is reason to think, and be persuaded, that at the same time other matters of faith were proposed.”
The third, p. 76, “That though there are several parts and members of the christian faith, yet they do not all occur in any one place of scripture.”
The fourth, p. 78, “That christianity was erected by degrees.”
These particulars he tells us, p. 74, “he offers to clear an objection.” To see, therefore, whether they are pertinent or no, we must examine what the objection is, as he puts it. I think it might have been put in a few words: this I am sure, it ought to have been put very clear and distinct. But the unmasker has been pleased to give it us, p. 73, as followeth, “Because I designed these papers for the satisfying of the reader’s doubts, about any thing occurring, concerning the matter before us, and for the establishing of his wavering mind; I will here (before I pass to the second general head of my discourse) answer a query, or objection, which some, and not without some show of ground, may be apt to start: how comes it to pass, they will say, that this article of faith, viz. that Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ, is so often repeated in the New Testament? Why is this sometimes urged, without the mentioning of any other article of belief? Doth not this plainly show, that this is all that is required to be believed, as necessary to make a man a christian? May we not infer, from the frequent and sole repetition of this article in several places of the evangelists and the Acts, that there is no other point of faith of absolute necessity; but that this alone is sufficient to constitute a man a true member of Christ?”
By which he shows, that he is uncertain which way to put the objection, so as may be easiest to get rid of it: and therefore he has turned it several ways, and put several questions about it. As first,
“Why this article of faith,” viz. that Jesus is the Messiah, “is often so repeated in the New Testament?”
His next question is, “Why is this sometimes urged without the mentioning any other article of belief?” which supposes, that sometimes other articles of belief are mentioned with it.
The third question is, “May we not infer, from the frequent and sole repetition of this article, in several places of the evangelists and Acts?”
Which last question is in effect, Why is this so frequently and alone repeated in the evangelists and the Acts? i. e. in the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles to unbelievers. For of that he must give an account, if he will remove the difficulty. Which three, though put as one, yet are three as distinct questions, and demand a reason for three as distinct matters of fact, as these three are, viz. frequently proposed: sometimes proposed alone; and always proposed alone, in the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles: for so in truth it was all through the Gospels and the Acts, to the unconverted believers of one God alone.
These three questions being thus jumbled together in one objection, let us see how the four particulars, he mentions, will account for them.
The first of them is this: “That believing Jesus to be the promised Messias,” was, says he, “the first step to christianity.” Let it be so: What do you infer from thence? The next words show: “therefore this, rather than any other article, was propounded to be believed by all those, whom either our Saviour or his apostles invited to embrace christianity.” Let your premises be ever so true, and your deduction of this proposition be ever so regular from them, it is all lost labour. This conclusion is not the proposition you were to prove. Your questions were, “Why this article is so often proposed?” And in those frequent repetitions, “Why sometimes urged alone, and why always proposed alone, viz. to those whom either our Saviour or his apostles invited to embrace christianity?” And your answer is, Because the believing “Jesus to be the Messias, was the first step to christianity.” This therefore remains upon you to be proved,
“That, because the believing Jesus to be the Messias is the first step to christianity, therefore this article is frequently proposed in the New Testament, is sometimes proposed without the mentioning any other article, and always alone to unbelievers.”
And when you have proved this, I shall desire you to apply it to our present controversy.
His next answer to those questions is in these words, p. 76, “That though this one proposition, or article, be mentioned alone in some places, yet there is reason to think, and be persuaded, that at the same time other matters of faith were proposed.” From whence it lies upon him to make out this reasoning, viz.
“That because there is reason to think, and be persuaded, that at the same time that this one article was mentioned alone, (as it was sometimes,) other matters of faith were proposed: therefore this article was often proposed in the New Testament; sometimes proposed alone; and always proposed alone, in the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles to unbelievers.”
This I set down to show the force of his answer to his questions: supposing it to be true, not that I grant it to be true, that where “this one article is mentioned alone, we have reason to think, and be persuaded, that at the same time other matters of faith [i. e. articles of faith necessary to be believed to make a man a christian] were proposed:” and I doubt not but to show the contrary.
His third particular, in answer to the question proposed in his objection, stands thus, p. 76, “That though there are several parts and members of the christian faith, yet they do not all occur in any one place of the scripture;” which answer lays it upon him to prove,
That because “the several parts of the members of the christian faith do not all occur in any one place of scripture,” therefore this article, that Jesus was the “Messias, was often proposed in the New Testament, sometimes proposed alone, and always proposed alone,” in the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles, through the history of the evangelists and the Acts.
The fourth and last particular, which he tell us is the main answer to the objection, is in these words, page 78,
“That christianity was erected by degrees.”
Which requires him to make out his argument, viz.
“That because christianity was erected by degrees, therefore this article, that Jesus was the Messias, was often proposed in the New Testament, sometimes proposed alone, and always proposed alone in the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles to unbelievers, recorded in the history of the evangelists and Acts.”
For, as I said before, in these three questions he has put his objection; to which he tells us, this is the main answer.
Of these four particulars it is, that he says, p. 74, to “clear this objection, and to give a full and satisfactory answer to all doubts in this affair, I offer these ensuing particulars, which will lead the reader to the right understanding of the whole case.”
How well they have cleared the objection, may be seen by barely setting them down as answers to the questions, wherein he puts the objection.
This is all I have hitherto done; whereby is very visible, how well (supposing them true) they clear the objection: and how pertinently they are brought to answer those questions wherein his objection is contained. Perhaps it will be said, that neither these, nor any thing else, can be an apposite answer to those questions put so together. I answer, I am of the same mind. But if the unmasker through ignorance or shuffling, will talk thus confusedly, he must answer for it. He calls all his three questions, one objection, over and over again: and therefore, which of those questions it does or does not lie in, I shall not trouble myself to divine; since I think he himself cannot tell: for whichever he takes of them, it will involve him in equal difficulties. I now proceed to examine his particulars themselves, and the truth contained in them. The first, p. 74, stands thus:
1. “The believing of Jesus to be the promised Messias was the first step to christianity. It was that which made way for the embracing of all the other articles, a passage to all the rest.” Answ. If this be, as he would have it, only the leading article, amongst a great many others, equally necessary to be believed, to make a man a christian; this is a reason why it should be constantly preached in the first place: but this is no reason why this alone should be so often repeated, and the other necessary points not be once mentioned. For I desire to know what those other articles are that, in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, are repeated or urged besides this?
In the next place, if it be true, that this article, viz. that Jesus is the Messiah, was only the first in order amongst a great many articles, as necessary to be believed; how comes it to pass, that barely upon the proposal and believing of this, men were admitted into the church as believers? The history of the New Testament is full of instances of this, as Acts viii. 5, 12, 13. ix. and in other places.
Though it be true, what the unmasker says here, “That if they did not give credit to this in the first place, that Jesus of Nazareth was that eminent and extraordinary person prophesied of long before, and that he was sent and commissioned by God; there could be no hope that they would attend to any other proposals, relating to the christian religion;” yet what he subjoins, “that this is the true reason, why that article was constantly propounded to be believed by all that looked towards christianity, and why it is mentioned so often in the evangelical writings,” is not true. For, first, this supposes that there were other articles joined with it. This he should have first proved, and then given the reason for it; and not, as he does here, suppose what is in question, and then give a reason why it is so; and such a reason that is inconsistent with the matter of fact, that is every-where recorded in holy writ. For if the true reason why the preaching of this article, “that Jesus was the Messiah,” as it is recorded in the history of the New Testament, were only to make way for the other articles, one must needs think, that either our Saviour and his apostles (with reverence be it spoken) were very strange preachers; or, that the evangelists, and author of the Acts, were very strange historians. The first were to instruct the world in a new religion, consisting of a great number of articles, says the unmasker, necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, i. e. a great number of propositions, making a large system, every one whereof is so necessary for a man to understand and believe, that if any one be omitted, he cannot be of that religion. What now did our Saviour and his apostles do? Why, if the unmasker may be believed, they went up and down with danger of their lives, and preached to the world. What did they preach? Even this single proposition to make way for the rest, viz. “This is the eminent man sent from God,” to teach you other things: which amounts to no more but this, that Jesus was the person which was to teach them the true religion, but the true religion itself is not to be found in all their preaching; nay, scarce a word of it. Can there be any thing more ridiculous than this? And yet this was all they preached, if it be true, that this was all they meant by the preaching every-where, Jesus to be the Messiah, and if it were only an introduction, and a making way for the doctrines of the gospel. But it is plain, it was called the gospel itself. Let the unmasker, as a true successor of the apostles, go and preach the gospel, as the apostles did, to some part of the heathen world, where the name of Christ is not known: would not he himself, and every body think, he was very foolishly employed, if he should tell them nothing but this, that Jesus was the person promised and sent from God to reveal the true religion; but should teach them nothing of that true religion, but this preliminary article? Such the unmasker makes all the preaching, recorded in the New Testament, for the conversion of the unbelieving world. He makes the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles to be no more but this, that the great prophet promised to the world was come, and that Jesus was he: but what his doctrine was, that they were silent in, and taught not one article of it. But the unmasker misrepresents it: for as to his accusing the historians, the evangelists, and writers of the Acts of the apostles, for their shameful omission of the whole doctrine of the christian religion, to save his hypothesis, as he does under his next head, in these words: “that though this one proposition be mentioned alone in some places, yet there is reason to think, and be persuaded, that at the same time other matters of faith were proposed;” I shall show how bold he makes with those inspired historians, when I come to consider that particular.
How ridiculous, how senseless, this bold unmasker, and reformer of the history of the New Testament, makes the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, as it stands recorded of them by infallible writers, is visible. But taking it, as in truth it is there, we shall have a quite other view of it. Our Saviour preached everywhere the kingdom of God; and by his miracles declared himself to be the king of that kingdom. The apostles preached the same, and after his ascension, openly avowed him to be the Prince and Saviour promised: but preached not this as a bare speculative article of simple belief; but that men might receive him for their King, and become his subjects. When they told the world that he was the Christ, it was not as the unmasker will have it: believe this man to be a prophet, and then he will teach you his new religion; which when you have received and embraced all and every article thereof, which are a great number, you will then be christians, if you be not ignorant or incredulous of any of them. But it was, believe this man to be your King sent from God; take him for such, with a resolution to observe the laws he has given you; and you are his subjects, you are christians. For those that truly did so, made themselves his subjects; and to continue so, there was no more required, than a sincere endeavour to know his will in all things, and to obey it. Such a preaching as this, of Jesus to be the Messiah, the King and Deliverer, that God almighty had promised to mankind, and now had effectually sent, to be their Prince and Ruler, was not a simple preparation to the gospel: but, when received with the obedience of faith, was the very receiving of the gospel, and had all that was requisite to make men christians. And without it be so understood, nobody can clear the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles from that incredible imperfection, or their historians from that unpardonable negligence, and not doing either what they ought, or what they undertook, which our unmasker hath so impiously charged upon them; as will appear yet plainer, in what I have to say to the unmasker’s next particular. For, as to the remainder of this paragraph, it contains nothing but his censure and contempt of me, for not being of his mind, for not seeing as he sees, i. e. in effect not laying that blame which he does, either on the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, or on the inspired writings of their historians, to make them comply with his system, and the christianity he would make.
The unmasker’s second particular, p. 76, tells us, “That though this one proposition or article be mentioned alone in some places, yet there is reason to think and be persuaded, that at the same time other matters of faith were proposed. For it is confessed, by all intelligent and observing men, that the history of the scripture is concise; and that in relating matter of fact, many passages are omitted by the sacred penmen. Wherefore, though but this one article of belief (because it is a leading one, and makes way for the rest) be expressly mentioned in some of the gospels, yet we must not conclude thence, that no other matter of faith was required to be admitted of. For things are briefly set down in the evangelical records, and we must suppose many things which are not in direct terms related.”
Answ. The unmasker here keeps to his usual custom of speaking in doubtful terms. He says, that where this one article that Jesus is the Messiah, is alone recorded in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles; “We have reason to be persuaded, that at the same time other matters of faith were proposed.” If this be to his purpose, by matters of faith, must be meant fundamental articles of faith, absolutely necessary to be believed by every man to make him a christian. That such matters of faith are omitted, in the history of the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, by the sacred historians; this, he says, “we have reason to be persuaded of.”
Answ. They need be good reasons to persuade a rational man, that the evangelists, in their history of our Saviour and his apostles, (if they were but ordinarily fair and prudent men,) did, in an history published to instruct the world in a new religion, leave out the necessary and fundamental parts of that religion. But let them be considered as inspired writers, under the conduct of the infallible Spirit of God, putting them upon, and directing them in, the writing of this history of the gospel: and then it is impossible for any christian, but the unmasker, to think, that they made any such gross omissions, contrary to the design of their writing, without a demonstration to convince him of it. Now all the reason that our unmasker gives is this: “That it is confessed by all intelligent and observing men, that the history of the scripture is concise; and that in relating matters of fact, many passages are omitted by the sacred penmen.”
Answ. The unmasker might have spared the confession of intelligent and observing men, after so plain a declaration of St. John himself, chap. xx. 31, “Many other things did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.” And again, xxi. 25, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose the world could not contain the books that should be written.” There needs, therefore, no opinion of intelligent and observing men to convince us, that the history of the gospel is so far concise, that a great many matters of fact are omitted, and a great many less material circumstances, even of those that are set down. But will any intelligent or observing man, any one that bears the name of a christian, have the impudence to say, that the inspired writers, in the relation they give us of what Christ and his apostles preached to unbelievers to convert them to the faith, omitted the fundamental articles, which those preachers proposed to make men christians; and without a belief of which, they could not be christians?
The unmasker talks after his wonted fashion; i. e. seems to say something, which, when examined, proves nothing to his purpose. He tells us, “That in some places,” where the article of “Jesus the Messiah is mentioned alone, at the same time other matters of faith were proposed.” I ask, were these other matters of faith all the unmasker’s necessary articles? If not, what are those other matters of faith to the unmasker’s purpose? As for example, in St. Peter’s sermon, Acts ii. “Other matters of faith were proposed with the article of Jesus the Messiah.” But what does this make for his fundamental articles: were they all proposed with the article of Jesus the Messiah? If not, unbelievers were converted, and brought into the church, without the unmasker’s necessary articles. Three thousand were added to the church by this one sermon. I pass by, now, St. Luke’s not mentioning a syllable of the greatest part of the unmasker’s necessary articles; and shall consider only, how long that sermon may have been. It is plain from ver. 15, that it began not until about nine in the morning; and from ver. 41, that before night three thousand were converted and baptized. Now I ask the unmasker, Whether so small a number of hours, as Peter must necessarily employ in preaching to them, were sufficient to instruct such a mixed multitude so fully in all those articles, which he has proposed as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian; as that every one of those three thousand, that were that day baptized, did understand, and explicitly believe every one of those his articles, just in the sense of our unmasker’s system? Not to mention those remaining articles, which the unmasker will not be able, in twice as many months, to find and declare to us.
He says, “That in some places,” where the article of “Jesus the Messiah is mentioned alone, at the same time other matters of faith were proposed:” Let us take this to be so at present, yet this helps not the unmasker’s case. The fundamental articles, that were proposed by our Saviour and his apostles, necessary to be believed to make men christians, are not set down; but only this single one, of “Jesus the Messiah:” therefore, will any one dare to say they are omitted everywhere by the evangelists? Did the historians of the gospel make their relation so concise and short, that giving an account in so many places of the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, for the conversion of the unbelieving world, they did not in any one place, nor in all of them together, set down the necessary points of that faith, which their unbelieving hearers were converted to? If they did not, how can their histories be called the Gospels of Jesus Christ? Or how can they serve to the end for which they were written? Which was to publish to the world the doctrine of Jesus Christ, that men might be brought into his religion. Now I challenge the unmasker to show me, not out of any one place, but out of all the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles, recorded in the four Gospels, and in the Acts, all those propositions which he has reckoned up as fundamental articles of faith. If they are not to be found there, it is plain, that either they are not articles of faith, necessary to be believed to make a man a christian; or else, that those inspired writers have given us an account of the gospel, or christian religion, wherein the greatest part of the doctrines necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, are wholly omitted. Which in short is to say, that the christianity, which is recorded in the Gospels and the Acts, is not that christianity which is sufficient to make a man a christian. This (as absurd and impious as it is) is what our unmasker charges upon the conciseness (as he is pleased to call it) of the evangelical history. And this we must take upon his word, though these inspired writers tell us the direct contrary: for St. Luke, in his preface to his gospel, tells Theophilus, that having a perfect knowledge of all things, the design of his writing was to set them in order, that he might know the certainty of those things that were believed amongst christians. And his history of the Acts begins thus: “The former treatise [i. e. his gospel] have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” So that, how concise soever the unmasker will have his history to be, he professes it to contain all that Jesus taught. Which all must, in the narrowest sense that can be given it, contain at least all things necessary to make a man a christian. It would else be a very lame and imperfect history of all that Jesus taught, if the faith contained in it were not sufficient to make a man a christian. This indeed, as the unmasker hath been pleased to term it, would be a very lank faith, a very lank gospel.
St. John also says thus, of his history of the gospel, chap. xx. 30, 31, “Many other signs truly did Jesus, in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:” so far his history is, by his own confession, concise. “But these,” says he, “are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name.” As concise as it was, there was yet (if the apostle’s word may be taken for it against the unmasker’s) enough contained in his gospel, for the procuring of eternal life, to those who believed it. And, whether it was that one article that he here sets down, viz. That Jesus was the Messiah, or that set of articles which the unmasker gives us, I shall leave to this modern divine to resolve. And, if he thinks still, that all the articles he has set down in his roll, are necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, I must desire him to show them to me in St. John’s gospel, or else to convince the world, that St. John was mistaken, when he said, that he had written his gospel, that men might believe that “Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God; and that, believing, they might have life through his name.”
So that, granting the history of the scripture to be so concise, as the unmasker would have it, viz. that in some places the infallible writers, recording the discourses of our Saviour and his apostles, omitted all the other fundamental articles proposed by them to be believed to make men christians, but this one, that Jesus was the Messiah; yet this will not remove the objection that lies against his other fundamentals, which are not to be found in the histories of the four evangelists; nay, not to be found in any one of them. If every one of them contains the gospel of Jesus Christ, and consequently all things necessary to salvation, whether this will not be a new ground of accusation against me, and give the unmasker a right to charge me with laying by three of the gospels with contempt, as well as he did before charge me with a contempt of the epistles; must be left to his sovereign authority to determine.
Having showed that, allowing all he says here to be as he would have it, yet it clears not the objection that lies against his fundamentals; I shall now examine what truth there is in what he here pretends, viz. that though the one article, That Jesus is the Messiah, be mentioned “alone in some places, yet we have reason to be persuaded, from the conciseness of the” scripture history, that there were, at the same time, joined with it other necessary articles of faith, in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles.
It is to be observed, that the unmasker builds upon this false supposition, that in some places, other necessary articles of faith, joined with that of Jesus the Messiah, are by the evangelists mentioned to be proposed by our Saviour and his apostles, as necessary to be believed to make those they preached to christians. For his saying, that in some places, that “one necessary article is mentioned alone,” implies, that in other places it is not mentioned alone, but joined with other necessary articles. But when it will remain upon him to show,
“In what place, either of the Gospels or of the Acts, other articles of faith are joined with this, and proposed as necessary to be believed to make men christians.”
The unmasker, it is probable, will tell us, that the article of Christ’s resurrection is sometimes joined with this of the Messiah, as particularly in that first sermon of St. Peter, Acts ii. by which there were three thousand added to the church at one time. Answ. This sermon, well considered, will explain to us both the preaching of the apostles; what it was that they proposed to their unbelieving auditors, to make them christians; and also the manner of St. Luke’s recording their sermons. It is true, that here are delivered by St. Peter many other matters of faith, besides that of Jesus being the Messiah; for all that he said, being of divine authority, is matter of faith, and may not be disbelieved. The first part of his discourse is to prove to the Jews, that what they had observed of extraordinary at that time, amongst the disciples, who spake variety of tongues, did not proceed from wine, but from the Holy Ghost; and that this was the pouring out of the Spirit, prophesied of by the prophet Joel. This is all matter of faith, and is written, that it might be believed: but yet I think, that neither the unmasker, nor any body else will say, that this is such a necessary article of faith, that no man could, without an explicit belief of it, be a christian; though, being a declaration of the Holy Ghost by St. Peter, it is so much a matter of faith, that no-body to whom it is now proposed, can deny it, and be a christian. And thus all the scripture of the New Testament, given by divine inspiration, is matter of faith, and necessary to be believed by all christians, to whom it is proposed. But yet I do not think any one so unreasonable as to say, that every proposition in the New Testament is a fundamental article of faith, which is required explicitly to be believed to make a man a christian.
Here now is a matter of faith joined, in the same sermon, with this fundamental article, that “Jesus is the Messiah;” and reported by the sacred historian so at large, that it takes up a third part of St. Peter’s sermon, recorded by St. Luke: and yet it is such a matter of faith, as is not contained in the unmasker’s catalogue of necessary articles. I must ask him then, whether St. Luke were so concise an historian, that he would so at large set down a matter of faith, proposed by St. Peter, that was not necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, and wholly leave out the very mention of all the unmasker’s additional necessary articles, if indeed they were necessary to be believed to make men christians? I know not how any one could charge the historian with greater unfaithfulness, or greater folly. But this the unmasker sticks not at, to preserve to himself the power of appointing what shall, and what shall not, be necessary articles: and of making his system the christianity necessary, and only necessary to be received.
The next thing that St. Peter proceeds to, in this his sermon, is, to declare to the unbelieving jews that Jesus of Nazareth, who had done miracles amongst them, whom they had crucified, and put to death, and whom God had raised again from the dead, was the Messiah.
Here indeed our Saviour’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection, are mentioned: and if they were no-where else recorded, are matters of faith; which, with all the rest of the New Testament, ought to be believed by every christian, to whom it is thus proposed, as a part of divine revelation. But that these were not here proposed to the unbelieving jews, as the fundamental articles, which St. Peter principally aimed at, and endeavoured to convince them of, is evident from hence, that they are made use of, as arguments to persuade them of this fundamental truth, viz. that Jesus was the Messiah, whom they ought to take for their Lord and Ruler. For whatsoever is brought as an argument, to prove another truth, cannot be thought to be the principal thing aimed at, in that argumentation; though it may have so strong and immediate a connection with the conclusion, that you cannot deny it, without denying even what is inferred from it, and is therefore the fitter to be an argument to prove it. But that our Saviour’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection, were used here as arguments to persuade them into a belief of this fundamental article, that Jesus was the Messiah, and not as propositions of a new faith they were to receive, is evident from hence, that St. Peter preached here to those who knew the death and crucifixion of Jesus as well as he; and therefore these could not be proposed to them, as new articles of faith to be believed; but those matters of fact being what the jews knew already, were a good argument, joined with his resurrection, to convince them of that truth, which he endeavoured to give them a belief of. And therefore he rightly inferred, from these facts joined together, this conclusion, the believing whereof would make them christians: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, Lord and Christ.” To the making good this sole proposition, his whole discourse tended: this was the sole truth he laboured to convince them of; this the faith he endeavoured to bring them into; which as soon as they had received with repentance, they were by baptism admitted into the church, and three thousand at once were made christians.
Here St. Luke’s own confession, without that “of intelligent and observing men,” which the unmasker has recourse to, might have satisfied him again, “that in relating matters of fact, many passages were omitted by the sacred penmen.” For, says St. Luke here, ver. 40, “And with many other words,” which are not set down.
One would, at first sight, wonder why the unmasker neglects these demonstrative authorities of the holy penmen themselves, where they own their omissions, to tell us, that it is “confessed by all intelligent and observing men, that in relating matters of fact, many passages were omitted by the sacred penmen.” St. John, in what he says of his gospel, directly professes large omissions, and so does St. Luke here. But these omissions would not serve the unmasker’s turn; for they are directly against him, and what he would have: and therefore he had reason to pass them by. For St. John, in that passage above cited, chap. xx. 30, 31, tells us, that how much soever he had left out of his history, he had inserted that which was enough to be believed to eternal life: “but these are written, that ye might believe, and believing, ye might have life.” But this is not all he assures us of, viz. that he had recorded all that was necessary to be believed to eternal life; but he, in express words, tells us what is that all, that is necessary to be believed to eternal life: and for the proof of which proposition alone, he writ all the rest of his gospel, viz. that we might believe. What? even this: “That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” and that, believing this, we “might have life through his name.”
This may serve as a key to us, in reading the history of the New Testament; and show us why this article, that Jesus was the Messiah, is no-where omitted, though a great part of the arguments used to convince men of it, nay, very often the whole discourse, made to lead men into the belief of it, be intirely omitted. The Spirit of God directed them every-where to set down the article, which was absolutely necessary to be believed to make men christians; so that that could no ways be doubted of, nor mistaken: but the arguments and evidences, which were to lead men into this faith, would be sufficient, if they were once found anywhere, though scattered here and there, in those writings, whereof that infallible Spirit was the author. This preserved the decorum used in all histories, and avoided those continual, large, and unnecessary repetitions, which our critical unmasker might have called tedious, with juster reason than he does the repetition of this short proposition, that Jesus is the Messiah; which I set down no oftener in my book, than the Holy Ghost thought fit to insert it in the history of the New Testament, as concise as it is. But this, it seems to our nice unmasker, is “tedious, tedious and offensive.” And if a christian, and a successor of the apostles, cannot bear the being so often told, what it was that our Saviour and his apostles every-where preached to the believers of one God, though it be contained in one short proposition; what cause of exception and disgust would it have been to heathen readers, some whereof might, perhaps, have been as critical as the unmasker, if this sacred history had, in every page, been filled with the repeated discourses of the apostles, all of them everywhere to the same purpose, viz. to persuade men to believe, that Jesus was the Messiah? It was necessary, even by the laws of history, as often as their preaching anywhere was mentioned, to tell to what purpose they spoke; which being always to convince men of this one fundamental truth, it is no wonder we find it so often repeated. But the arguments and reasonings with which this one point is urged, are, as they ought to be, in most places, left out. A constant repetition of them had been superfluous, and consequently might justly have been blamed as “tedious.” But there is enough recorded abundantly to convince any rational man, any one not wilfully blind, that he is that promised Saviour. And, in this, we have a reason of the omissions in the history of the New Testament; which were no other than such as became prudent, as well as faithful writers. Much less did that conciseness (with which the unmasker would cover his bold censure of the Gospels and the Acts, and, as it seems, lay them by with contempt) make the holy writers omit any thing, in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, absolutely necessary to be known and believed to make men christians.
Conformable hereunto, we shall find St. Luke writes his history of the Acts of the Apostles. In the beginning of it, he sets down at large some of the discourses made to the unbelieving jews. But in most other places, unless it be where there was something particular in the circumstances of the matter, he contents himself to tell to what purpose they spoke: which was everywhere only this, that Jesus was the Messiah. Nay, St. Luke, in the first speech of St. Peter, Acts ii. which he thought fit to give us a great part of, yet owns the omission of several things that the apostle said. For, having expressed this fundamental doctrine, that Jesus was the Messiah, and recorded several of the arguments wherewith St. Peter urged it, for the conversion of the unbelieving jews, his auditors, he adds, ver. 40, “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Here he confesses, that he omitted a great deal which St. Peter had said to persuade them, To what? To that which, in other words, he had just said before, ver. 38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ,” i. e. Believe Jesus to be the Messiah, take him as such for your Lord and King, and reform your lives by a sincere resolution of obedience to his laws.
Thus we have an account of the omissions in the records of matters of fact in the New Testament. But will the unmasker say, That the preaching of those articles that he has given us, as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, was part of those matters of fact, which have been omitted in the history of the New Testament? Can any one think, that “the corruption and degeneracy of human nature, with the true original of it, (the defection of our first parents,) the propagation of sin and mortality, our restoration and reconciliation by Christ’s blood, the eminency and excellency of his priesthood, the efficacy of his death, the full satisfaction thereby made to divine justice, and his being made an all-sufficient sacrifice for sin, our justification by Christ’s righteousness, election, adoption,” &c. were all proposed, and that too, in the sense of our author’s system, by our Saviour and his apostles, as fundamental articles of faith, necessary to be explicitly believed by every man, to make him a christian, in all their discourses to unbelievers; and yet that the inspired penmen of those histories every-where left the mention of these fundamental articles wholly out? This would have been to have writ, not a concise, but an imperfect history of all that Jesus and his apostles taught.
What an account would it have been of the gospel, as it was first preached and propagated, if the greatest part of the necessary doctrines of it were wholly left out, and a man could not find, from one end to the other of this whole history, that religion which is necessary to be believed to make a man a christian? And yet this is that, which, under the notion of their being concise, the unmasker would persuade us to have been done by St. Luke and the other evangelists, in their histories. And it is no less than what he plainly says, in his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism,” p. 109, where, to aggravate my fault, in passing by the epistles, and to show the necessity of searching in them for fundamentals, he in words blames me; but in effect condemns the sacred history contained in the Gospels and the Acts. “It is most evident,” says he, “to any thinking man, that the author of the Reasonableness of christianity, purposely omits the epistolary writings of the apostles, because they are fraught with other fundamental doctrines, besides that one which he mentions. There we are instructed concerning these grand heads of christian divinity.” Here, i. e. in the epistles, says he, “there are discoveries concerning satisfaction,” &c. And, in the close of his list of grand heads, as he calls them, some whereof I have above set down out of him, he adds, “These are the matters of faith contained in the epistles.” By all which expressions he plainly signifies, that these, which he calls fundamental doctrines, are none of those we are instructed in, in the Gospels and the Acts; that they are not discovered nor contained in the historical writings of the evangelists: whereby he confesses, that either our Saviour and his apostles did not propose them in their preachings to their unbelieving hearers; or else, that the several faithful writers of their history, wilfully, i. e. unfaithfully, every-where omitted them in the account they have left us of those preachings; which could scarce possibly be done by them all, and every-where, without an actual combination amongst them, to smother the greatest and most material parts of our Saviour’s and his apostles discourses. For what else did they, if all that the unmasker has set down in his list be fundamental doctrines; every one of them absolutely necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, which our Saviour and his apostles every-where preached, to make men christians? but yet St. Luke, and the other evangelists, by a very guilty and unpardonable conciseness, every-where omitted them, and throughout their whole history, never once tell us, they were so much as proposed, much less, that they were those articles which the apostles laboured to establish and convince men of every-where, before they admitted them to baptism? Nay the far greatest part of them, the history they writ does not any-where so much as once mention? How, after such an imputation as this, the unmasker will clear himself from laying by the four Gospels and the Acts with contempt, let him look; if my not collecting fundamentals out of the epistles had that guilt in it. For I never denied all the fundamental doctrines to be there, but only said, that there they were not easy to be found out, and distinguished from doctrines not fundamental. Whereas our good unmasker charges the historical books of the New Testament with a total omission of the far greatest part of those fundamental doctrines of christianity, which he says, are absolutely necessary to be believed to make a man a christian.
To convince the reader what was absolutely required to be believed to make a man a christian, and thereby clear the holy writers from the unmasker’s slander, any one need but look a little farther into the history of the Acts, and observe St. Luke’s method in the writing of it. In the beginning (as we observed before), and in some few other places, he sets down at large the discourses made by the preachers of christianity, to their unbelieving auditors. But in the process of his history, he generally contents himself to relate, what it was their discourses drive at; what was the doctrine they endeavoured to convince their unbelieving hearers of, to make them believers. This we may observe, is never omitted. This is every-where set down. Thus, Acts v. 42, he tells us, that “daily in the temple, and in every house, the apostles ceased not to teach, and to preach Jesus the Messiah.” The particulars of their discourses he omits, and the arguments they used to induce men to believe, he omits; but never fails to inform us carefully, what it was the apostles taught and preached, and would have men believe. The account he gives us of St. Paul’s preaching at Thessalonica, is this: That “three sabbath-days he reasoned with the jews out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that the Messiah must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that Jesus was the Messiah; Acts xvii. 2, 3. At Corinth, that he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the jews and the Greeks, and testified that Jesus was the Messiah;” xviii. 4, 5. That “Apollos mightily convinced the jews, showing by the Scriptures, that Jesus was the Messiah;” xviii. 28.
By these, and the like places, we may be satisfied what it was, that the apostles taught and preached, even this one proposition, That Jesus was the Messiah: for this was the sole proposition they reasoned about; this alone they testified, and they showed out of the scriptures; and of this alone they endeavoured to convince the jews and the Greeks, that believed one God. So that it is plain from hence, that St. Luke omitted nothing, that the apostles taught and preached; none of those doctrines that it was necessary to convince unbelievers of, to make them christians; though he, in most places, omitted, as was fit, the passages of scripture which they alleged, and the arguments those inspired preachers used to persuade men to believe and embrace that doctrine.
Another convincing argument, to show that St. Luke omitted none of those fundamental doctrines, which the apostles any-where proposed as necessary to be believed, is from that different account he gives us of their preaching in other places, and to auditors otherwise disposed. Where the apostles had to do with idolatrous heathens, who were not yet come to the knowledge of the only true God, there, he tells us, they proposed also the article of the one invisible God, maker of heaven and earth: and this we find recorded in him out of their preaching to the Lystrians, Acts xiv. and to the Athenians, Acts xvii. In the latter of which St. Luke, to convince his reader, that he, out of conciseness, omits none of those fundamental articles, that were any-where proposed by the preachers of the gospel, as necessary to be believed to make men christians, sets down not only the article of Jesus the Messiah, but that also of the one invisible God, creator of all things; which, if any necessary one might, this of all other fundamental articles might, by an author that affected brevity, with the fairest excuse, have been omitted, as being implied in that other, of the Messiah ordained by God. Indeed in the story of what Paul and Barnabas said at Lystra, the article of the Messiah is not mentioned. Not that St. Luke omitted that fundamental article, where the apostles taught it: but, they having here begun their preaching with that of the one living God, they had not, as appears, time to proceed farther, and propose to them what yet remained to make them christians: all that they could do, at that time, was, to hinder the people from sacrificing to them. And, before we hear any more of their preaching, they were, by the instigation of the jews, fallen upon, and Paul stoned.
This, by the way, shows the unmasker’s mistake in his first particular, p. 74, where he says (as he does here again, in the second particular, which we are now examining) that “believing Jesus to be the Messiah is the first step to christianity; and therefore this, rather than any other, was propounded to be believed by all those, whom either our Saviour, or the apostles, invited to embrace christianity.” The contrary whereof appears here; where the article of one God is proposed in the first place, to those whose unbelief made such a proposal necessary. And therefore, if his reason (which he uses again here, p. 76) were good, viz. That the article of the Messiah is expressly mentioned alone, “because it is a leading article, and makes way for the rest,” this reason would rather conclude for the article of one God; and that alone should be expressly mentioned, instead of the other. Since, as he argues for the other, p. 74, “If they did not believe this, in the first place,” viz. that there was one God, “there could be no hopes that they would attend unto any other proposal, relating to the christian religion. The vanity and falsehood of which reasoning, viz. that “the article of Jesus the Messiah was every-where propounded, rather than any other, because it was the leading article,” we see in the history of St. Paul’s preaching to the Athenians. St. Luke mentions more than one article, where more than one was proposed by St. Paul; though the first of them was that leading article of one God, which if not received, “in the first place, there could be no hope they would attend to the rest.”
Something the unmasker would make of this argument, of a leading article, for want of a better, though he knows not what. In his first particular, p. 74, he makes use of it to show, why there was but that one article proposed by the first preachers of the gospel; and how well that succeeds with him, we have seen. For this is demonstration, that if there were but that one proposed by our Saviour and the apostles, there was but that one necessary to be believed to make men christians; unless he will impiously say, that our Saviour and the apostles went about preaching to no purpose: for if they proposed not all that was necessary to make men christians, it was in vain for them to preach, and others to hear; if when they heard and believed all that was proposed to them, they were not yet christians: for if any article was omitted in the proposal, which was necessary to make a man a christian, though they believed all that was proposed to them, they could not yet be christians; unless a man can, from an infidel, become a christian, without doing what was necessary to make him a christian.
Further, if his argument, of its being a leading article, proves, that that alone was proposed, it is a contradiction to give it as a reason, why it was set down alone by the historian, where it was not proposed alone by the preacher, but other necessary “matters of faith were proposed with it;” unless it can be true, that this article, of “Jesus is the Messiah,” was proposed alone by our Saviour and his apostles, because it was a leading article, and was mentioned alone in the history of what they preached, because it was a leading article, though it were not proposed alone, but jointly with other necessary matters of faith. For this is the use he makes here again, p. 76, of his leading article, under his second particular, viz. to show why the historians mentioned this necessary article of Jesus the Messiah alone, in places where the preachers of the gospel proposed it not alone, but with other necessary articles. But, in this latter case, it has no show of a reason at all. It may be granted as reasonable for the teachers of any religion not to go any farther, where they see the first article which they propose is rejected; where the leading truth, on which all the rest depends, is not received. But it can be no reason at all for an historian, who writes the history of these first preachers, to set down only the first and leading article, and omit all the rest, in instances where more were not only proposed, but believed and embraced, and upon that the hearers and believers admitted into the church. It is not for historians to put any distinction between leading, or not leading articles; but, if they will give a true and useful account of the religion, whose original they are writing, and of the converts made to it, they must tell, not one, but all those necessary articles, upon assent to which, converts were baptized into that religion, and admitted into the church. Whoever says otherwise, accuses them of falsifying the story, misleading the readers, and giving a wrong account of the religion which they pretend to teach the world, and to preserve and propagate to future ages. This (if it were so) no pretence of conciseness could excuse or palliate.
There is yet remaining one consideration, which were sufficient of itself to convince us, that it was the sole article of faith which was preached; and that if there had been other articles necessary to be known and believed by converts, they could not, upon any pretence of conciseness, be supposed to be omitted: and that is the commissions of those, that were sent to preach the gospel. Which since the sacred historians mention, they cannot be supposed to leave out any of the material and main heads of those commissions.
St. Luke records it, chap. iv. 43, that our Saviour says of himself, “I must go into the other towns to tell the good news of the kingdom; for (εἰς τ[Editor: illegible character]το) upon this errand am I sent.” This St. Mark calls simply preaching. This preaching, what it contained, St. Matthew tells us, chap. iv. 23, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of diseases among the people.” Here we have his commission, or end of his being sent, and the execution of it; both terminating in this, that he declared the good news, that the kingdom of the Messiah was come; and gave them to understand by the miracles he did, that he himself was he. Nor does St. Matthew seem to affect such conciseness, that he would have left it out, if the gospel had contained any other fundamental parts necessary to be believed to make men christians. For he here says, “All manner of sickness, and all manner of diseases,” when either of them might have been better left out, than any necessary article of the gospel, to make his history concise.
We see what our Saviour was sent for. In the next place, let us look into the commission he gave the apostles, when he sent them to preach the gospel. We have it in the tenth of St. Matthew, in these words: “Go not into the way of the gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely have ye received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip in your journey; neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves, (for the workman is worthy of his meat.) And into whatsoever city, or town, ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide until ye go thence. And when ye come into any house salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it; and if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words; when ye depart out of that house, or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha, in the day of judgment, than for that city. Behold I send you forth as sheep, in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought, how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour, what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father, which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child, and the children shall rise up against the parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men, for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another; for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel until the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple, that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore; for there is nothing covered, which shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house-tops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him, which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father, which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father, which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it. He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples”—
This is the commission our Saviour gave his apostles, when he sent them abroad to recover and save “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And will any of the unmasker’s intelligent and observing men say, that the history of the “scripture is so concise, that any passages,” any essential, any material, nay, any parts at all of the apostles commission, “are here omitted by the sacred penman?” This commission is set down so at full, and so particularly, that St. Matthew, who was one of them to whom it was given, seems not to have left out one word of all that our Saviour gave him in charge. And it is so large, even to every particular article of their instructions, that I doubt not, but my citing so much, “verbatim,” out of the sacred text, will here again be troublesome to the unmasker. But whether he will venture again to call it tedious, must be as nature or caution happen to have the better on it. Can any one, who reads this commission, unless he hath the brains, as well as the brow of an unmasker, allege, that the conciseness of the history of the scripture has concealed from us those fundamental doctrines, which our Saviour and his apostles preached; but the sacred historians thought fit by consent, for unconceivable reasons, to leave out in the narrative they give us of those preachings? This passage here, wholly confuteth that. They could preach nothing but what they were sent to preach: and that we see is contained in these few words, “preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils;” i. e. acquaint them, that the kingdom of the Messiah is come, and let them know, by the miracles that you do in my name, that I am that King and Deliverer they expect. If there were any other necessary articles that were to be believed, for the saving of the lost sheep they were sent to, can one think that St. Matthew, who sets down so minutely every circumstance of their commission, would have omitted the most important and material of it? He was an ear-witness, and one that was sent: and so (without supposing him inspired) could not be misled by the short account he might receive from others, who by their own, or others forgetfulness, might have dropped those other fundamental articles, that the apostles were ordered to preach.
The very like account St. Luke gives of our Saviour’s commission to the seventy, chap. x. 1—16, “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face, into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the Son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall return to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you; notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable, in that day, for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. He that heareth you, heareth me: and he that despiseth you, despiseth me: and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.”
Our Saviour’s commission here to the seventy, whom he sent to preach, is so exactly conformable to that which he had before given to the twelve apostles, that there needs but this one thing more to be observed, to convince any one that they were sent to convert their hearers to this sole belief, That the kingdom of the Messiah was come, and that Jesus was the Messiah: and that the historians of the New Testament are not so concise in their account of this matter, that they would have omitted any other necessary articles of belief, that had been given to the seventy in commission. That which I mean is, the kingdom of the Messiah is twice mentioned in it to be come, verse 9 and 11. If there were other articles given them by our Saviour, to propose to their hearers, St. Luke must be very fond of this one article, when, for conciseness sake, leaving out the other fundamental articles, that our Saviour gave them in charge to preach, he repeats this more than once.
The unmasker’s third particular, p. 76, begins thus: “This also must be thought of, that though there are several parts and members of the christian faith, yet they do not all occur in any one place of scripture.” Something is in it, (whether owing to his will or understanding, I shall not inquire,) that the unmasker always delivers himself in doubtful and ambiguous terms. It had been as easy for him to have said, “There are several articles of the christian faith necessary to be believed to make a man a christian,” as to say, (as he does here,) “There are several parts and members of the christian faith.” But as an evidence of the clearness of his notions, or the fairness of his arguing, he always rests in generals. There are, I grant, several parts and members of the christian faith, which do no more occur in any one place of scripture, than the whole New Testament can be said to occur in any one place of scripture. For every proposition, delivered in the New Testament for divine revelation, is “a part and member of the christian faith.” But it is not those “parts and members of the christian faith” we are speaking of; but only such “parts and members of the christian faith,” as are absolutely necessary to be believed by every man, before he can be a christian. And in that sense I deny his assertion to be true, viz. that they do not occur in any one place of the scripture: for they do all occur in that first sermon of St. Peter, Acts ii. 36, by which three thousand were at that time brought into the church, and that in these words: “therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, Lord and Christ. Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.” Here is the doctrine of Jesus the Messiah, the Lord, and of repentance, proposed to those, who already believe one God: which, I say, are all the parts of the christian faith necessary to be believed to make a man a christian. To suppose, as the unmasker does here, that more is required, is to beg, not to prove the question.
If he disputes this collection of mine out of that sermon of St. Peter, I will give him a more authentic collection of the necessary parts of the christian faith, from an author that he will not question. Let him look into Acts xx. 20, &c. and there he will find St. Paul saying thus to the elders of Ephesus, whom he was taking his last leave of, with an assurance that he should never see them again: “I have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you; but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.” If St. Paul knew what was necessary to make a christian, here it is: here he (if he knew how to do it, for it is plain from his words he designed to do it) has put it together. But there is a greater yet than St. Paul, who has brought all the parts of faith necessary to salvation into one place; I mean our Saviour himself, John xvii. 13, in these words: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
But the unmasker goes on: “Therefore, when, in some places, only one single part of the christian faith is made mention of, as necessary to be embraced in order to salvation, we must be careful not to take it alone, but to supply it from several other places, which make mention of other necessary and indispensable points of belief. I will give the reader a plain instance of this, Rom. x. 9, “if thou shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised him (i. e. the Lord Jesus) from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Here one article of faith, viz. the belief of Christ’s resurrection (because it is of so great importance in christianity) is only mentioned: but all the rest must be supposed, because they are mentioned in other places.”
Answ. One would wonder that any one conversant in holy writ, with ever so little attention, much more that an expounder of the scriptures, should so mistake the sense and style of the scripture. Believing Jesus to be the Messiah, with a lively faith, i. e. as I have showed, taking him to be our King, with a sincere submission to the laws of his kingdom, is all that is required to make a man a christian; for this includes repentance too. The believing him therefore to be the Messiah is very often, and with great reason, put both for faith and repentance too: which are sometimes set down singly, where one is put for both, as implying the other; and sometimes they are both mentioned; and then faith, as contradistinguished to repentance, is taken for a simple assent of the mind to this truth, that Jesus is the Messiah. Now this faith is variously expressed in scripture.
There are some particulars in the history of our Saviour, allowed to be so peculiarly appropriated to the Messiah, such incommunicable marks of him, that to believe them of Jesus of Nazareth, was in effect the same, as to believe him to be the Messiah, and so are put to express it. The principal of these is his resurrection from the dead; which being the great and demonstrative proof of his being the Messiah, it is not at all strange, that the believing his resurrection should be put for believing him to be the Messiah; since the declaring his resurrection, was declaring him to be the Messiah. For thus St. Paul argues, Acts xiii. 32, 33, “We declare unto you good tidings, or we preach the gospel to you [for so the word signifies], how that the promise, that was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again.” The force of which argument lies in this, that, if Jesus was raised from the dead, then he was certainly the Messiah: and thus the promise of the Messiah was fulfilled, in raising Jesus from the dead. The like argument St. Paul useth, 1 Cor. xv. 17, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, you are yet in your sins;” i. e. if Jesus be not risen from the dead, he is not the Messiah, your believing it is in vain, and you will receive no benefit by that faith. And so, likewise, from the same argument of his resurrection, he at Thessalonica proves him to be the Messiah, Acts xvii. 2, 3. “And Paul, as his manner was, went into the synagogue, and three sabbath-days reasoned with the jews out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that the Messiah must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is the Messiah.”
The necessary connection of these two, that if he rose from the dead, he was the Messiah; and if he rose not from the dead, he was not the Messiah; the chief priest and pharisees, that had prosecuted him to death, understood very well: who therefore “came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, whilst he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure unto the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, “He is risen from the dead:” “so the last errour shall be worse than the first.” The errour they here speak of, it is plain, was the opinion, that he was the Messiah. To stop that belief, which his miracles had procured him amongst the people, they had got him put to death; but if, after that, it should be believed, that he rose again from the dead, this demonstration, that he was the Messiah, would but establish what they had laboured to destroy by his death; since no one, who believed his resurrection, could doubt of his being the Messiah.
It is not at all therefore to be wondered, that his resurrection, his ascension, his rule and dominion, and his coming to judge the quick and the dead, which are characteristical marks of the Messiah, and belong peculiarly to him, should sometimes in scripture be put alone, as sufficient descriptions of the Messiah; and the believing them of him put for believing him to be the Messiah. Thus, Acts x. our Saviour, in Peter’s discourse to Cornelius, when he brought him the gospel, is described to be the Messiah, by his miracles, death, resurrection, dominion, and coming to judge the quick and the dead.
These, (which in my “Reasonableness of christianity,” I have upon this ground taken the liberty to call concomitant articles,) where they are set alone for the faith to which salvation is promised, plainly signify the believing Jesus to be the Messiah, that fundamental article, which has the promise of life; and so give no foundation at all for what the unmasker says, in these words: “Here one article of faith, viz. the belief of Christ’s resurrection (because it is of so great importance in christianity) is only mentioned; but all the rest must be supposed, because they are mentioned in other places.”
Answ. If all the rest be of absolute and indispensable necessity to be believed to make a man a christian, all the rest are, every one of them, of equal importance. For things of equal necessity, to any end, are of equal importance to that end. But here the truth forced its way unawares from the unmasker: Our Saviour’s resurrection, for the reason I have given, is truly of great importance in christianity; so great, that his being, or not being the Messiah, stands or falls with it: so that these two important articles are inseparable, and in effect make but one. For, since that time, believe one, and you believe both; deny one of them, and you can believe neither. If the unmasker can show me any one of the articles in his list, which is not of this great importance, mentioned alone, with a promise of salvation for believing it, I will grant him to have some colour for what he says here. But where is to be found in the scripture any such expression as this: if thou shalt believe with thy heart “the corruption and degeneracy of human nature,” thou shalt be saved? or the like. This place, therefore, out of the Romans, makes not for, but against his list of necessary articles. One of them, alone, he cannot show me any-where set down, with a supposition of the rest, as having salvation promised to it: though it be true, that that one, which alone is absolutely necessary to be superadded to the belief of one God, is, in divers places, differently expressed.
That which he subjoins, as a consequence of what he had said, is a farther proof of this: “And consequently, says he, if we would give an impartial account of our belief, we must consult those places: and they are not altogether, but dispersed here and there. Wherefore we must look them out, and acquaint ourselves with the several particulars, which make up our belief, and render it intire and consummate.”
Answ. Never was a man constanter to a loose way of talking. The question is only about articles necessary to be believed to make a man a christian: and here he talks of the “several particulars which make up our belief, and render it intire and consummate;” confounding, as he did before, essential and integral parts, which, it seems, he cannot distinguish. Our faith is true and saving, when it is such as God, by the new covenant, requires it to be: but it is not intire and consummate, until we explicitly believe all the truths contained in the word of God. For the whole revelation of truth in the scripture being the proper and intire object of faith, our faith cannot be intire and consummate, until it be adequate to its proper object, which is the whole divine revelation contained in the scripture: and so, to make our faith intire and consummate, we must not look out those places, which, he says, are not altogether. To talk of looking out, and culling of places, is nonsense, where the whole scripture alone can “make up our belief, and render it intire and consummate:” which no one, I think, can hope for, in this frail state of ignorance and errour. To make the unmasker speak sense and to the purpose here, we must understand him thus: “That if we will give an impartial account” of the articles, that are necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, “we must consult those places where they are; for they are not all together, but dispersed here and there; wherefore we must look them out,” and acquaint ourselves with the several particulars, which make up the fundamental articles of our belief, and will render a catalogue of them intire and consummate. If his supposition be true, I grant his method to be reasonable, and upon that I join issue with him. Let him thus “give an impartial account of our belief; let him acquaint us with the several particulars which make up a christian’s belief, and render it intire and consummate.” Until he has done this, let him not talk thus in the air of a method, that will not do: let him not reproach me, as he does, for not taking a course, by which he himself cannot do, what he reviles me for failing in. “But our hasty author,” says he, “took another course, and thereby deceived himself, and unhappily deceived others.” If it be so, I desire the unmasker to take the course he proposes, and thereby undeceive me and others; and “acquaint us with the several particulars which make up a christian’s belief, and render it intire and consummate;” for I am willing to be undeceived: but until he has done that, and shown us by the success of it, that his course is better, he cannot blame us for following that course we have done.
I come now to his fourth and last particular, p. 78, which, he says, is the main answer to the objection; and therefore I shall set it down in his own words, intire, as it stands together. “This,” says he, “must be born in our minds, that christianity was erected by degrees, according to that prediction and promise of our Saviour, that “the Spirit should teach them all things.” John xiv. 26. and that “he should guide them into all truth.” John xvi. 13. viz. “after his departure and ascension, when the Holy Ghost was to be sent in a special manner, to enlighten men’s minds, and to discover to them the great mysteries of christianity. This is to be noted by us, as that which gives great light in the present case. The discovery of the doctrines of the gospel was gradual. It was by certain steps that christianity climbed to its height. We are not to think then, that all the necessary doctrines of the christian religion were clearly published to the world in our Saviour’s time. Not but that all that were necessary for that time were published, but some which were necessary for the succeeding one, were not then discovered, or, at least, not fully. They had ordinarily no belief, before Christ’s death and resurrection, of those substantial articles, i. e. that he should die and rise again: but we read in the Acts, and in the epistles, that these were formal articles of faith afterwards, and are ever since necessary to complete the christian belief. So as to other great verities, the gospel increased by degrees, and was not perfect at once. Which furnishes us with a reason why most of the choicest and sublimest truths of christianity are to be met with in the epistles of the apostles, they being such doctrines as were not clearly discovered and opened in the Gospels and the Acts.” Thus far the unmasker.
I thought hitherto, that the covenant of grace in Christ Jesus had been but one, immutably the same: but our unmasker here makes two, or I know not how many. For I cannot tell how to conceive, that the conditions of any covenant should be changed, and the covenant remain the same; every change of conditions, in my apprehension, makes a new and another covenant. We are not to think, says the unmasker, “That all the necessary doctrines of the christian religion were clearly published to the world in our Saviour’s time; not but that all that were necessary for that time were published: but some, which were necessary for the succeeding one, were not then discovered, or, at least, not fully.” Answ. The unmasker, constant to himself, speaks here doubtfully, and cannot tell whether he should say, that the articles necessary to succeeding times, were discovered in our Saviour’s time, or no; and therefore, that he may provide himself a retreat, in the doubt he is in, he says, “They were not clearly published; they were not then discovered, or, at least, not fully.” But we must desire him to pull off his mask, and to that purpose,
1. I ask him how he can tell, that all the necessary doctrines were obscuredly published, or in part discovered? For an obscure publishing, a discovery in part, is opposed to, and intimated in, “not clearly published, not fully discovered.” And, if a clear and full discovery be all that he denies to them, I ask,
Which those fundamental articles are, “which were obscurely published,” but not fully discovered in our Saviour’s time?
And next I shall desire him to tell me,
Whether there are any articles necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, that were not discovered at all in our Saviour’s time: and which they are?
If he cannot show these distinctly, it is plain he talks at random about them; but has no clear and distinct conception of those that were published, or not published, clearly or obscurely discovered in our Saviour’s time. It was necessary for him to say something for those his pretended necessary articles, which are not to be found any-where proposed in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, to their yet unbelieving auditors; and therefore, he says, “We are not to think all the necessary doctrines of the christian religion were clearly published to the world in our Saviour’s time.” But he barely says it, without giving any reason, why “we are not to think so.” It is enough that it is necessary to his hypothesis. He says, “we are not to think so,” and we are presently bound not to think so. Else, from another man, that did not usurp an authority over our thoughts, it would have required some reason to make them think, that something more was required to make a man a christian after, than in our Saviour’s time. For, as I take it, it is not a very probable, much less a self-evident proposition, to be received without proof, that there was something necessary for that time to make a man a christian, and something more, that was necessary to make a christian in the succeeding time.
However, since this great master says, “we ought to think so,” let us in obedience think so as well as we can; until he vouchsafes to give us some reason to think, that there was more required to be believed to make a man a christian, in the succeeding time, than in our Saviour’s. This, instead of removing, does but increase the difficulty: for if more were necessary to be believed to make a man a christian after our Saviour’s time, than was during his life; how comes it, that no more was proposed by the apostles, in their preaching to unbelievers, for the making them christians, after our Saviour’s death, than there was before; even this one article, “that he was the Messiah?” For I desire the unmasker to show me any of those articles mentioned in his list, (except the resurrection and ascension of our Saviour, which were intervening matters of fact, evidencing him to be the Messiah,) that were proposed by the apostles, after our Saviour’s time, to their unbelieving hearers, to make them christians. This one doctrine, “That Jesus was the Messiah,” was that which was proposed in our Saviour’s time to be believed, as necessary to make a man a christian: the same doctrine was, likewise, what was proposed afterwards, in the preaching of the apostles to unbelievers, to make them christians.
I grant this was more clearly proposed after, than in our Saviour’s time: but in both of them it was all that was proposed to the believers of one God, to make them christians. Let him show, that there were any other proposed in, or after our Saviour’s time, to be believed to make unbelievers christians. If he means, by “necessary articles published to the world,” the other doctrines contained in the epistles; I grant, they are all of them necessary articles, to be believed by every christian, as far as he understands them. But I deny, that they were proposed to those they were writ to, as necessary to make them christians, for this demonstrative reason; because they were christians already. For example, Many doctrines proving, and explaining, and giving a farther light into the gospel, are published in the epistles to the Corinthians and Thessalonians. These are all of divine authority, and none of them may be disbelieved by any one who is a christian; but yet what was proposed or published to both the Corinthians and Thessalonians, to make them christians was only this doctrine, “That Jesus was the Messiah:” as may be seen, Acts xvii. xviii. This, then, was the doctrine necessary to make men christians, in our Saviour’s time; and this the only doctrine necessary to make unbelievers christians, after our Saviour’s time. The only difference was, that it was more clearly proposed after, than before his ascension: the reason whereof has been sufficiently explained. But any other doctrine but this, proposed clearly or obscurely, in or after our Saviour’s time, as necessary to be believed to make unbelievers christians, that remains yet to be shown.
When the unmasker speaks of the doctrines that were necessary for the succeeding time after our Saviour, he is in doubt, whether he should say they were, or were not discovered, in our Saviour’s time; and how far they were then discovered: and therefore he says, “Some of them were not then discovered, or at least, not fully.” We must here excuse the doubtfulness of his talking, concerning the discovery of his other necessary articles. For how could he say, they were discovered, or not discovered, clearly or obscurely, fully or not fully; when he does not yet know them all, nor can tell us, what those necessary articles are? If he does know them, let him give us a list of them, and then we shall see easily, whether they were at all published or discovered in our Saviour’s time. If there are some of them that were not at all discovered in our Saviour’s time, let him speak it out, and leave shifting: and if some of those that were “not necessary for our Saviour’s time, but for the succeeding one only,” were yet discovered in our Saviour’s time, why were they not necessary to be believed in that time? But the truth is, he knows not what these doctrines, necessary for succeeding times, are: and therefore can say nothing positively about their discovery. And for those that he has set down, as soon as he shall name any one of them to be of the number of those, “not necessary for our Saviour’s time, but necessary for the succeeding one,” it will presently appear, either that it was discovered in our Saviour’s time; and then it was as necessary for his time as the succeeding; or else, that it was not discovered in his time, nor to several converts after his time, before they were made christians; and therefore it was no more necessary to be believed to make a man a christian in the succeeding, than it was in our Saviour’s time. However, general positions and distinctions without a foundation serve for show, and to beguile unwary and inattentive readers.
2. Having thus minded him, that the question is about articles of faith, necessary to be explicitly and distinctly believed to make a man a christian; I then, in the next place, demand of him to tell me,
Whether or no all the articles, necessary now to be distinctly and explicitly believed, to make any man a christian, were distinctly and explicitly published or discovered in our Saviour’s time?
And then I shall desire to know of him,
A reason why they were not.
Those that he instances in, of Christ’s death and resurrection, will not help him one jot; for they are not new doctrines revealed, new mysteries discovered; but matters of fact, which happen to our Saviour in their due time, to complete in him the character and predictions of the Messiah, and demonstrate him to be the Deliverer promised. These are recorded of him by the Spirit of God in holy writ, but are no more necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, than any other part of divine revelation, but as far as they have an immediate connexion with his being the Messiah, and cannot be denied without denying him to be the Messiah; and therefore this article of his resurrection, (which supposes his death,) and such other propositions as are convertible with his being the Messiah, are, as they very well may be, put for his being the Messiah; and, as I have showed, proposed to be believed in the place of it.
All that is revealed in scripture has a consequential necessity of being believed by all those, to whom it is proposed; because it is of divine authority, one part as much as another. And, in this sense, all the divine truths in the inspired writings are fundamental, and necessary to be believed. But then this will destroy our unmasker’s select number of fundamental articles; and “the choicest and sublimest truths of christianity,” which, he tells us, “are to be met with in the Epistles,” will not be more necessary to be believed than any, which he may think the commonest or meanest truths in any of the Epistles or the Gospels. Whatsoever part of divine revelation, whether revealed before, or in, or after our Saviour’s time; whether it contains (according to the distinction of our unmasker’s nice palate) choice or common, sublime or not sublime truths, is necessary to be believed by every one to whom it is proposed, as far as he understands what is proposed. But God, by Jesus Christ, has entered into a covenant of grace with mankind; a covenant of faith; instead of that of works, wherein some truths are absolutely necessary to be explicitly believed by them to make men christians; and therefore those truths are necessary to be known and consequently necessary to be proposed to them to make men christians. This is peculiar to them to make men christians. For all men, as men, are under a necessary obligation to believe what God proposes to them to be believed; but there being certain distinguishing truths, which belong to the covenant of the gospel, which if men know not, they cannot be christians; and they being, some of them, such as cannot be known without being proposed; those, and those only, are the necessary doctrines of christianity I speak of; without a knowledge of, and assent to which, no man can be a christian.
To come therefore to a clear decision of this controversy, I desire the unmasker to tell me,
What those doctrines are, which are absolutely necessary to be proposed to every man to make him a christian?
1. Whether they are all the truths of divine revelation contained in the Bible?
For I grant his argument, (which in another place he uses for some of them, and truly belongs to them all,) viz. that they were revealed and written there, on purpose to be believed, and that it is indispensably necessary for christians to believe them.
2. Or, whether it be only that one article, of Jesus being the Messiah, which the history of our Saviour and his apostles preaching has, with such a peculiar distinction, every-where proposed?
3. Or, whether the doctrines necessary to be proposed to every one to make him a christian, be any set of truths between the two?
And if he says this latter, then I must ask him,
What they are? that we may see, why those, rather than any other, contained in the New Testament, are necessary to be proposed to every man to make him a christian; and, if they are not every one proposed to him, and assented to by him, he cannot be a christian.
The unmasker makes a great noise, and hopes to give his unwary, though well-meaning readers, odd thoughts, and strong impressions against my book, by declaiming against my lank faith, and my narrowing of christianity to one article; which, as he says, is the next way to reduce it to none. But when it is considered, it will be found, that it is he that narrows christianity. The unmasker, as if he were arbiter and dispenser of the oracles of God, takes upon him to single out some texts of scripture; and, where the words of scripture will not serve his turn, to impose on us his interpretations and deductions, as necessary articles of faith; which is, in effect, to make them of equal authority with the unquestionable word of God. And thus, partly in the words of scripture, and partly in words of his own, he makes a set of fundamentals, with an exclusion of all the other truths delivered by the Spirit of God, in the Bible; though all the rest be of the same divine authority and original, and ought therefore all equally, as far as they are understood by every christian, to be believed. I tell him, and I desire him to take notice of it, God has no-where given him an authority thus to garble the inspired writings of the holy scriptures. Every part of it is his word, and ought, every part of it, to be believed by every christian man, according as God shall enable him to understand it. It ought not to be narrowed to the cut of the unmasker’s peculiar system; it is a presumption of the highest nature, for him thus to pretend, according to his own fancy, to establish a set of fundamental articles. This is to diminish the authority of the word of God, to set up his own; and create a reverence to his system, from which the several parts of divine revelation are to receive their weight, dignity, and authority. Those passages of holy writ which suit with that, are fundamental, choice, sublime, and necessary: the rest of the scripture (as of no great moment) is not fundamental, is not necessary to be believed, may be neglected, or must be tortured, to comply with an analogy of faith of his own making. But though he pretends to a certain set of fundamentals, yet to show the vanity and impudence of that pretence, he cannot tell us what they are; and therefore in vain contends for a creed he knows not, and is yet no-where. He neither does, and which is more, I tell him, he never can, give us a collection of his fundamentals gathered upon his principles, out of the scripture, with the rejection of all the rest, as not fundamental. He does not observe the difference there is between what is necessary to be believed by every man to make him a christian, and what is required to be believed by every christian. The first of these is what, by the covenant of the gospel, is necessary to be known, and consequently to be proposed to every man, to make him a christian: the latter is no less than the whole revelation of God, all the divine truths contained in holy scripture: which every christian man is under a necessity to believe, so far as it shall please God, upon his serious and constant endeavours, to enlighten his mind to understand them.
The preaching of our Saviour, and his apostles, has sufficiently taught us what is necessary to be proposed to every man, to make him a christian. He that believes him to be the promised Messiah, takes Jesus for his King, and repenting of his former sins, sincerely resolves to live, for the future, in obedience to his laws, is a subject of his kingdom, is a christian. If he be not, I desire the unmasker to tell me, what more is requisite to make him so. Until he does that, I rest satisfied, that this is all that was at first, and is still, necessary to make a man a christian.
This, though it be contained in a few words, and those not hard to be understood; though it be in one voluntary act of the mind, relinquishing all irregular courses, and submitting itself to the rule of him, whom God hath sent to be our King, and promised to be our Saviour; yet it having relation to the race of mankind, from the first man Adam to the end of the world; it being a contrivance, wherein God has displayed so much of his wisdom and goodness to the corrupt and lost sons of men; and it being a design, to which the Almighty had a peculiar regard in the whole constitution and œconomy of the jews, as well as in the prophecies and history of the Old Testament; this was a foundation capable of large superstructures: 1. In explaining the occasion, necessity, use, and end of his coming. 2. Next in proving him to be the person promised, by a correspondence of his birth, life, sufferings, death, and resurrection, to all those prophecies and types of him, which had given the expectation of such a Deliverer; and to those descriptions of him, whereby he might be known, when he did come. 3. In the discovery of the sort, constitution, extent, and management of his kingdom. 4. In showing from what we are delivered by him, and how that deliverance is wrought out, and what are the consequences of it.
These, and a great many more the like, afford great numbers of truths delivered both in the historical, epistolary, and prophetical writings of the New Testament, wherein the mysteries of the gospel, hidden from former ages, were discovered; and that more fully, I grant, after the pouring out of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles. But could nobody take Christ for their promised King, and resolve to obey him, unless he understood all the truths that concerned his kingdom, or, as I may say, mysteries of state of it? The truth of the contrary is manifest, out of the plain and uniform preaching of the apostles, after they had received the Holy Ghost, that was to guide them into all truth. Nay, after the writing of those epistles, wherein were contained the unmasker’s sublimest truths; they every-where proposed to unbelievers Jesus the Messiah, to be their King, ordained of God; and to this joined repentance: and this alone they preached for the conversion of their unbelieving hearers. As soon as any one assented to this he was pronounced a believer; and these inspired rulers of the church, these infallible preachers of the gospel, admitted into Christ’s kingdom by baptism. And this after, long “after our Saviour’s ascension, when (as our unmasker expresses it) the Holy Ghost was to be sent in an especial manner to enlighten men’s minds, and to discover to them the great mysteries of christianity,” even as long as the apostles lived: and what others were to do, who afterwards were to preach the gospel, St. Paul tells us, 1 Cor. iii. 11, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, even Jesus the Messiah.” Though upon this foundation men might build variously things that would, or would not hold the touch, yet however as long as they kept firm to this foundation, they should be saved, as appears in the following verses.
And indeed, if all the doctrines of the gospel, which are contained in the writings of the apostles and evangelists, were necessary to be understood, and explicitly believed in the true sense of those that delivered them, to make a man a christian; I doubt, whether ever any one, even to this day, was a true christian; though I believe the unmasker will not deny, but that, ere this, christianity (as he expresses it) “is by certain steps climbed to its height.”
But for this the unmasker has found a convenient and wise remedy. It is but for him to have the power to declare, which of the doctrines delivered in holy writ are, and which are not necessary to be believed, with an additional power to add others of his own, that he cannot find there; and the business is done. For unless this be allowed him, his system cannot stand; unless his interpretations be received for authentic revelation, we cannot have all the doctrines necessary for our time; in truth, we cannot be christians. For to this only what he says, concerning the “gradual discovery of the doctrines of the gospel,” tends. “We are not to think,” says he, “that all the necessary doctrines of the christian religion were clearly published to the world in our Saviour’s time: not but that all that were necessary for that time were published; but some that 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,
Are not all the doctrines, necessary for our time, contained in his system?
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 whomsoever 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 Saviour’s promise, the Holy Ghost was to be sent in a special manner to enlighten men’s minds, and to discover 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 profess, that they understand not each other’s explications.” But to this, in his reply, he has not vouch-safed 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 first came. 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 socinian, because the unmasker thinks these the worst and most invidious he can give me: and labours to fix them on me for no other reason, but because I will not take him for my master on earth, and his system for my gospel: I shall leave him to recommend himself to the world by this skill, who, no doubt, will have reason to thank him for the rareness and subtilty of his discovery. For I think, I am the first man that ever was found to be at the same time a socinian, and a factor for Rome. But what is too hard for such an unmasker? I must be what he thinks fit; when he pleases, a papist; and when he pleases, a socinian; and when he pleases, a mahometan: and probably, when he has considered a little better, an atheist; for I hardly escaped it when he writ last. My book, he says, had a tendency to it; and if he can but go on, as he has done hitherto, from surmises to certainties, by that time he writes next, his discovery will be advanced, and he will certainly find me an atheist. Only one thing I dare assure him of, that he shall never find, that I treat the things of God or religion so, as if I made only a trade or a jest of them. But let us now see, how at present he proves me a socinian.
His first argument is, my not answering for my leaving out Matt. xxviii. 19, and John i. 1, page 82, of his Socinianism unmasked. This he takes to be a confession, that I am a socinian. I hope he means fairly, and that if it be so on my side, it must be taken for a standing rule between us, that where any thing is not answered, it must be taken for granted. And upon that score I must desire him to remember some passages of my Vindication, which I have already, and others, which I shall mind him of hereafter, which he passed over in silence, and had nothing to say to: which therefore, by his own rule, I shall desire the reader to observe, that he has granted.
This being premised, I must tell the unmasker, that I perceive he reads my book with the same understanding that he writes his own. If he had done otherwise, he might have seen, that I had given him a reason for my omission of those two, and other “plain and obvious passages, and famous testimonies in the evangelists,” as he calls them; where I say, p. 166, “That if I have left out none of those passages or testimonies, which contain what our Saviour and his apostles preached and required assent to, to make men believers, I shall think my omissions (let them be what they will) no faults in the present case. Whatever doctrines Mr. Edwards would have to be believed, to make a man a christian, he will be sure to find them in those preachings, and famous testimonies, of our Saviour and his apostles, I have quoted. And if they are not there, he may rest satisfied, that they were not proposed, by our Saviour and his apostles, as necessary to be believed to make men Christ’s disciples.” From which words, any one, but an unmasker, could have understood my answer to be, that all that was necessary to be believed to make men christians, might be found in what our Saviour and his apostles proposed to unbelievers for their conversion: but the two passages above mentioned, as well as a great many others in the evangelists, being none of those, I had no reason to take notice of them. But the unmasker having, out of his good pleasure, put it once upon me, as he does in his “Thoughts of the causes of atheism,” p. 107, that I was an “epitomiser of the evangelical writings,” though every one may see I make not that my business; yet it is no matter for that, I must be always accountable to that fancy of his. But when he has proved,
That this is not as just a reasoning for my omitting them, as several other obvious passages and famous testimonies in the evangelists, which I there mention, for whose omission he does not blame me;
I will undertake to give him another reason, which I know not whether he were not better let alone.
The next proof of my being a socinian, is, that I take the Son of God to be an expression used to signify the Messiah. Slichtingius and Socinus understood it so; and therefore I am, the unmasker says, a socinian. Just as good an argument, as that I believe Jesus to be a prophet, and so do the mahometans; therefore I am a mahometan: or thus, the unmasker holds, that the apostles creed does not contain all things necessary to salvation; and so says Knot the jesuit; therefore the unmasker is a papist. Let me turn the tables, and by the same argument I am orthodox again. For two orthodox, pious, and very eminent prelates of our church, whom, when I follow authorities, I shall prefer to Slichtingius and Socinus, understand it as I do; and therefore I am orthodox. Nay, it so falls out, that if it were of force either way, the argument would weigh most on this side; since I am not wholly a stranger to the writings of those two orthodox bishops; but I never read a page in either of those socinians. The never sufficiently admired and valued archbishop Tillotson’s words, which I quoted, the unmasker says, “do not necessarily import any such thing.” I know no words that necessarily import any thing to a caviller. But he was known to have such clear thoughts, and so clear a style, so far from having any thing doubtful or fallacious in what he said, that I shall only set down his words as they are in his sermon of sincerity, p. 2, to show his meaning: “Nathanael,” says he, “being satisfied, that he [our Saviour] was the Messiah, he presently owned him for such, calling him the Son of God, and the King of Israel.”
The words of the other eminent prelate, the bishop of Ely, whom our church is still happy in, are these: “To be the Son of God, and to be Christ, being but different expressions of the same thing:” witness p. 14. And p. 10, “It is the very same thing to believe that Jesus is the Christ,” and to believe, “that Jesus is the Son of God, express it how you please.” “This alone is the faith which can regenerate a man, and put a divine Spirit into him, that it makes him a conqueror over the world, as Jesus was.” Of this the unmasker says, that this reverend author, “speaking only in a general way, represents these two as the same thing,” viz. that Jesus is the Christ, and that Jesus is the Son of God, because these expressions are applied to the same person, and because they are both comprehended in one general name, viz. Jesus. Answ. The question is, Whether these two expressions, “the Son of God,” and “the Messiah,” in the learned bishop’s opinion, signify the same thing? If his opinion had been asked in the point, I know not how he could have declared it more clearly. For he says, they are “Expressions of the same thing;” and that it is the very same thing to believe, “that Jesus is the Messiah,” and to believe, “that he is the Son of God;” which cannot be so, if Messiah and Son of God have different significations: for then they will make two distinct propositions in different senses, which it can be no more the same thing to believe, than it is the same thing to believe that Mr. Edwards is a notable preacher, and a notable railer; or than it is to believe one truth, and all truths. For by the same reason, that it is the same thing to believe two distinct truths, it will be the same thing to believe two thousand distinct truths, and consequently all truths. The unmasker, that he might seem to say something, says, that “the reverend author represents these as the same thing.” Answ. The unmasker never fails, like Midas, to turn every thing he touches into his own metal. The learned bishop says, very directly and plainly, that “to be the Son of God, and to be the Messiah, are expressions of the same thing:” and the unmasker says, he “represents these expressions as one thing:” for it is of expressions that both the bishop and he speak. Now, expressions can be one thing, but one of these two ways: either in sound, and so these two expressions are not one; or in signification, and so they are. And then the unmasker says, but in other words, what the bishop had said before, viz. That these two, “to be the Son of God, and to be the Messiah, are expressions of the same thing.” Only the unmasker has put in the word represents, to amuse his reader, as if he had said something; and so indeed he does, after his fashion, i. e. obscurely and fallaciously; which, when it comes to be examined, is but the same thing under show of a difference; or else, if it has a different meaning, it is demonstratively false. But so it be obscure enough to deceive a willing reader, who will not be at the pains to examine what he says, it serves his turn.
But yet, as if he had said something of weight, he gives reasons for putting “represents these two expressions as one thing,” instead of saying “these two are but different expressions of the same thing.”
The first of his reasons is, Because the reverend author is here “speaking only in a general way.” Answ. What does the unmasker mean by a general way? The learned bishop speaks of two particular expressions applied to our Saviour. But was his discourse ever so general how could that alter the plain signification of his words, viz. that those two are but “different expressions of the same thing?”
Secondly, “Because these expressions are applied to the same person.” Answ. A very demonstrative reason, is it not? that therefore they cannot be different expressions of the same thing.
Thirdly, “And because they are both comprehended in one general name, viz. Jesus.” Answ. It requires some skill to put so many falsehoods in so few words; for neither both nor either of these expressions are comprehended in the name Jesus; and that Jesus, the name of a particular person, should be a general name, is a discovery reserved to be found out by this new logician. However, general, is a learned word, which when a man of learning has used twice, as a reason of the same thing, he is covered with generals. He need not trouble himself any farther about sense; he may safely talk what stuff he pleases without the least suspicion of his reader.
Having thus strongly proved just nothing, he proceeds and tells us, p. 91, “Yet it does not follow thence, but that if we will speak strictly and closely, we must be forced to confess, they are of different significations.” By which words (if his words have any signification) he plainly allows, that the bishop meant as he says, that these two are but “different expressions of the same thing;” but withal tells him, that, if he will “speak closely and strictly,” he must say, “they are of different significations.” My concernment in the case being only that in the passage alleged, the reverend author said, that the Son of God, and the Messiah, were “different expressions of the same thing.” I have no more to demand after these words of the unmasker; he has in them granted all I would have: and I shall not meddle with his “speaking closely and strictly,” but shall leave it to the decisive authority of this superlative critic to determine whether this learned bishop, or any one living, besides himself, can understand the phrases of the New Testament, and “speak strictly and closely” concerning them. Perhaps, his being yet alive, may preserve this eminent prelate from the malicious drivelling of this unmasker’s pen, which has bespattered the ashes of two of the same order, who were no mean ornaments of the English church; and if they had been now alive, nobody will doubt but the unmasker would have treated them after another fashion.
But let me ask the unmasker, whether if either of these pious prelates, whose words I have above quoted, did understand that phrase of the Son of God to stand for the Messiah, (which they might do without holding any one socinian tenet;) he will dare to pronounce him a socinian? This is so ridiculous an inference, that I could not but laugh at it. But withal tell him, Vindic. p. 172, “That if the sense wherein I understand those texts, be a mistake, I shall be beholden to him to set me right: but they are not popular authorities, or frightful names, whereby I judge of truth or falsehood.” To which I subjoin these words: “You will now, no doubt, applaud your conjectures; the point is gained, and I am openly a socinian; since I will not disown, that I think the Son of God was a phrase, that, among the jews, in our Saviour’s time, was used for the Messiah, though the socinians understood it in the same sense. And therefore I must certainly be of their persuasion in every thing else. I admire the acuteness, force, and fairness of your reasoning; and so I leave you to triumph in your conjectures.” Nor has he failed my expectation: “for here, p. 91, of his Socinianism unmasked, he upon this erects his comb, and crows most mightily. We may,” says he, “from hence, as well as other reasons, pronounce him the same with those gentlemen, (i. e. as he is pleased to call them, my good patrons and friends, the racovians;) which you may perceive he is very apprehensive of, and thinks that this will be reckoned a good evidence of his being, what he denied himself to be before.” “The point is gained, saith he, and I am openly a socinian.” “He never uttered truer words in his life, and they are the confutation of all his pretences to the contrary. This truth, which unwarily dropped from his pen, confirms what I have laid to his charge.” Now you have sung your song of triumph, it is fit you should gain your victory, by showing,
How my understanding the Son of God to be a phrase used amongst the jews, in our Saviour’s time, to signify the Messiah, proves me to be a socinian?
Or, if you think you have proved it already, I desire you to put your proof into a syllogism: for I confess myself so dull, as not to see any such conclusion deducible from my understanding that phrase as I do, even when you have proved that I am mistaken in it.
The places, which in the New Testament show that the Son of God stands for the Messiah, are so many and so clear, that I imagine nobody that ever considered and compared them together, could doubt of their meaning, unless he were an unmasker. Several of them I have collected and set down in my “Reasonableness of christianity,” p. 17, 18, 19, 21, 28, 52.
First, John the Baptist, John i. 20, when the jews sent to know who he was, confessed he himself was not the Messiah. But of Jesus he says, ver. 34, after having several ways, in the foregoing verses, declared him to be the Messiah: “And I saw and bare record, that this is the Son of God.” And again, chap. iii. 26—36, he declaring Jesus to be, and himself not to be the Messiah, he does it in these synonymous terms, of the Messiah, and the Son of God; as appears by comparing ver. 28, 35, 36.
Nathanael owns him to be the Messiah, in these words, John i. 50, “Thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel:” which our Saviour, in the next verse, calls believing; a term, all through the history of our Saviour, used for owning Jesus to be the Messiah. And for confirming that faith of his, that he was the Messiah, our Saviour further adds, that he should see greater things, i. e. should see him do greater miracles, to evidence that he was the Messiah.
Luke iv. 41, “And devils also came out of many, crying, Thou art the Messiah, the Son of God; and he, rebuking them, suffered them not to speak.” And so again, St. Mark tells us, chap. iii. 11, 12, “That unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he strictly charged them, that they should not make him known.” In both these places, which relate to different times, and different occasions, the devils declare Jesus to be the Son of God. It is certain, whatever they meant by it, they used a phrase of a known signification in that country: and what may we reasonably thing they designed to make known to the people by it? Can we imagine these unclean spirits were promoters of the gospel, and had a mind to acknowledge and publish to the people the deity of our Saviour, which the unmasker would have to be the signification of the Son of God? Who can entertain such a thought? No, they were no friends to our Saviour: and therefore desired to spread a belief of him, that he was the Messiah, that so he might, by the envy of the scribes and pharisees, be disturbed in his ministry, and be cut off before he had completed it. And therefore we see, our Saviour in both places forbids them to make him known; as he did his disciples themselves, for the same reason. For when St. Peter, Matt. xvi. 16, had owned Jesus to be the Messiah, in these words: “Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God;” it follows, ver. 20, “Then charged he his disciples, that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Messiah;” just as he had forbid the devils to make him known, i. e. to be the Messiah. Besides, these words here of St. Peter, can be taken in no other sense, but barely to signify, that Jesus was the Messiah, to make them a proper answer to our Saviour’s question. His first question here to his disciples, ver. 13, is, “Whom do men say, that I, the Son of man,” am? The question is not, Of what original do you think the Messiah, when he comes, will be? For then this question would have been as it is, Matt. xxii. 42, “What think ye of the Messiah, whose Son is he?” if he had inquired about the common opinion, concerning the nature and descent of the Messiah. But this question is concerning himself: Whom, of all the extraordinary persons known to the jews, or mentioned in their sacred writing, the people thought him to be? That this was the meaning of his question, is evident from the answer the apostles gave to it, and his further demand, ver. 14, 15, “They said, Some say thou art John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? The people take me, some for one of the prophets or extraordinary messengers from God, and some for another: but which of them do you take me to be? Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In all which discourse, it is evident there was not the least inquiry made by our Saviour concerning the person, nature, or qualifications of the Messiah; but whether the people or his apostles thought him, i. e. Jesus of Nazareth, to be the Messiah. To which St. Peter gave him a direct and plain answer in the foregoing words, declaring their belief of him to be the Messiah: which is all that, with any manner of congruity, could be made the sense of St. Peter’s answer. This alone of itself were enough to justify my interpretation of St. Peter’s words, without the authority of St. Mark, and St. Luke, both whose words confirm it. For St. Mark, chap. viii. 29, renders it, “Thou art the Messiah; and St. Luke, chap. ix. 20, The Messiah of God.” To the like question, “Who art thou?” John the Baptist gives a like answer, John i. 19, 20, “I am not the Christ.” By which answer, as well as by the foregoing verses, it is plain, nothing was understood to be meant by that question, but, Which of the extraordinary persons, promised to, or expected by, the jews art thou?
John xi. 27, the phrase of the Son of God is made use of by Martha; and that it was used by her to signify the Messiah, and nothing else, is evident out of the context. Martha tells our Saviour, that if he had been there before her brother died, he, by that divine power which he had manifested in so many miracles which he had done, could have saved his life; and that now, if our Saviour would ask it of God, he might obtain the restoration of his life. Jesus tells her, he shall rise again: which words, Martha taking to mean, at the general resurrection, at the last day; Jesus thereupon takes occasion to intimate to her, that he was the Messiah, by telling her, that he was “the resurrection and the life;” i. e. that the life, which mankind should receive at the general resurrection, was by and through him. This was a description of the Messiah, it being a received opinion among the jews, that when the Messiah came, the just should rise, and live with him for ever. And having made this declaration of himself to be the Messiah, he asks Martha, “Believest thou this?” What? Not whose son the Messiah should be; but whether he himself was the Messiah, by whom believers should have eternal life at the last day. And to this she gives this direct and apposite answer: “Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” The question was only, Whether she was persuaded, that those, who believed in him, should be raised to eternal life; that was in effect, “Whether he was the Messiah?” And to this she answers, Yea, Lord, I believe this of thee: and then she explains what was contained in that faith of hers; even this, that he was the Messiah, that was promised to come, by whom alone men were to receive eternal life.
What the jews also understood by the Son of God, is likewise clear from that passage at the latter end of Luke xxii. They having taken our Saviour, and being very desirous to get a confession from his own mouth, that he was the Messiah, that they might be from thence able to raise a formal and prevalent accusation against him before Pilate; the only thing the council asked him, was, Whether he was the Messiah? v. 67. To which he answers so, in the following words, that he lets them see he understood, that the design of their question was to entrap him, and not to believe in him, whatever he should declare of himself. But yet he tells them, “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God:” Words that to the jews plainly enough owned him to be the Messiah; but yet such as could not have any force against him with Pilate. He having confessed so much, they hope to draw yet a clearer confession from him. “Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? For we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.” Can any one think, that the doctrine of his deity (which is that which the unmasker accuses me for waving) was that which the jews designed to accuse our Saviour of, before Pilate; or that they needed witnesses for? Common sense, as well as the current of the whole history, shows the contrary. No, it was to accuse him, that he owned himself to be the Messiah, and thereby claimed a title to be king of the jews. The Son of God was so known a name amongst the jews, to stand for the Messiah; that having got that from his mouth, they thought they had proof enough for treason against him. This carries with it a clear and easy meaning. But if the Son of God be to be taken, as the unmasker would have it, for a declaration of his deity, I desire him to make common and coherent sense of it.
I shall add one consideration more to show that the Son of God was a form of speech then used among the jews, to signify the Messiah, from the persons that used it, viz. John the Baptist, Nathanael, St. Peter, Martha, the sanhedrim, and the centurion, Matt. xxvii. 54. Here are jews, heathens, friends, enemies, men, women, believers and unbelievers, all indifferently use this phrase of the Son of God, and apply it to Jesus. The question between the unmasker and me, is, Whether it was used by these several persons, as an appellation of the Messiah, or (as the unmasker would have it) in a quite different sense? as such an application of divinity to our Saviour, that he that shall deny that to be the meaning of it in the minds of these speakers, denies the divinity of Jesus Christ. For if they did speak it without that meaning, it is plain it was a phrase known to have another meaning; or else they had talked unintelligible jargon. Now I will ask the unmasker, “Whether he thinks, that the eternal generation, or, as the unmasker calls it, filiation of Jesus the Son of God, was a doctrine that had entered into the thoughts of all the persons above mentioned, even of the Roman centurion, and the soldiers that were with him watching Jesus?” If he says he does, I suppose he thinks so only for this time, and for this occasion: and then it will lie upon him to give the world convincing reasons for his opinion, that they may think so too; or if he does not think so, he must give up his argument, and allow that this phrase, in these places, does not necessarily import the deity of our Saviour, and the doctrine of his eternal generation: and so a man may take it to be an expression standing for the Messiah, without being a socinian, any more than he himself is one.
“There is one place the unmasker tells us, p. 87, that confutes all the surmises about the identity of these terms. It is, says he, that famous confession of faith which the Ethiopian eunuch made, when Philip told him, he might be baptized, if he believed. This, without doubt, was said, according to that apprehension, which he had of Christ, from Philip’s instructing him; for he said he preached unto him Jesus, ver. 35. He had acquainted him, that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed of God, and also that he was the Son of God; which includes in it, that he was God. And accordingly, this noble proselyte gives this account of his faith, in order to his being baptized, in order to his being admitted a member of Christ’s church: “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God:” or you may read it according to the Greek, “I believe the Son of God to be Jesus Christ.” Where there are these two distinct propositions:
“1st, That Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
“2dly, That he is not only the Messiah, but the Son of God.”
The unmasker is every-where steadily the same subtle arguer. Whether he has proved that the Son of God, in this confession of the eunuch, signifies what he would have, we shall examine by and by. This at least is demonstration, that this passage of his overturns his principles; and reduces his long list of fundamentals to two propositions, the belief whereof is sufficient to make a man a christian. “This noble proselyte, says the unmasker, gives this account of his faith, in order to his being baptized, in order to his being admitted a member of Christ’s church.” And what is that faith, according to the unmasker? he tells you, “there are in it these two distinct propositions, viz. I believe, 1st, That Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah; 2dly, That he is not only the Messiah, but the Son of God.” If this famous confession, containing but these two articles, were enough to his being baptized; if this faith were sufficient to make this noble proselyte a christian; what is become of all those other articles of the unmasker’s system, without the belief whereof, he, in other places, tells us, a man cannot be a christian? If he had here told us, that “Philip had not time nor opportunity,” during his short stay with the eunuch, to explain to him all the unmasker’s system, and make him understand all his fundamentals; he had had reason on his side: and he might have urged it as a reason why Philip taught him no more. But nevertheless he had, by allowing the eunuch’s confession of faith sufficient for his admittance as a member of Christ’s church, given up his other fundamentals, as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian; even that of the Holy Trinity; and he has at last reduced his necessary articles to these two, viz. “That Jesus is the Messiah;” and that “Jesus is the Son of God.” So that, after his ridiculous calling mine a lank faith, I desire him to consider what he will now call his own. Mine is next to none, because, as he says, it is but one article. If that reasoning be good, his is not far from none; it consists but in two articles, which is next to one, and very little more remote from none than one is. If any one had but as much wit as the unmasker, and could be but as smart upon the number two, as he has been upon an unit, here were a brave opportunity for him to lay out his parts; and he might make vehement complaints against one, that has thus “cramped our faith, corrupted men’s minds, depraved the gospel, and abused christianity.” But if it should fall out, as I think it will, that the unmasker’s two articles should prove to be but one; he has saved another that labour, and he stands painted to himself with his own charcoal.
The unmasker would have the Son of God, in the confession of the eunuch, to signify something different from the Messiah: and his reason is, because else it would be an absurd tautology. Ans. There are many exegetical expressions put together in scripture, which, though they signify the same thing, yet are not absurd tautologies. The unmasker here inverts the proposition, and would have it to signify thus: “The Son of God is Jesus the Messiah;” which is a proposition so different from what the apostles proposed, every-where else, that he ought to have given a reason why, when, every-where else, they made the proposition to be, of something affirmed of Jesus of Nazareth, the eunuch should make the affirmation to be of something concerning the Son of God: as if the eunuch knew very well, what the Son of God signified, viz. as the unmasker tells us here, that it included or signified God; and that Philip (who, we read, at Samaria preached τὸν Χριςὸν, the Messiah, i. e. instructed them who the Messiah was) had here taken pains only to instruct him that this God was Jesus the Messiah, and to bring him to assent to that proposition. Whether this be natural to conceive, I leave to the reader.
The tautology, on which the unmasker builds his whole objection, will be quite removed if we take Christ here for a proper name, in which way it is used by the evangelists and apostles in other places, and particularly by St. Luke, in Acts ii. 38, iii. 6, 20, iv. 10, xxiv. 24, &c. In two of these places it cannot, with any good sense, be taken otherwise; for, if it be not in Acts iii. 6, and iv. 10, used as a proper name, we must read those places thus, “Jesus the Messiah of Nazareth.” And I think it plain in those others cited, as well as in several other places of the New Testament, that the word Christ is used as a proper name. We may easily conceive, that long before the Acts were writ, the name of Christ was grown, by a familiar use, to denote the person of our Saviour, as much as Jesus. This is so manifest, that it gave a name to his followers; who, as St. Luke tells us, xi. 26, were called christians; and that, if chronologists mistake not, twenty years before St. Luke writ his history of the apostles: and this so generally, that Agrippa, a jew, uses it, Acts xxvi. 28. And that Christ, as the proper name of our Saviour, was got as far as Rome, before St. Luke writ the Acts, appears out of Suetonius, l. 5; and by that name he is called in Tacitus, Ann. l. 15. It is no wonder then, that St. Luke, in writing this history, should sometimes set it down alone, sometimes joined with that of Jesus, as a proper name: which is much easier to conceive he did here, than that Philip proposed more to the eunuch to be believed to make him a christian, than what, in other places, was proposed for the conversion of others, or than what he himself proposed at Samaria.
His 7th chapter is to prove, that I am a socinian, because I omitted Christ’s satisfaction. That matter having been answered, p. 265, where it came properly under consideration, I shall only observe here, that the great stress of his argument lies as it did before, not upon my total omission of it out of my book, but on this, that “I have no such thing in the place where the advantages of Christ’s coming are purposely treated of;” from whence he will have this to be an unavoidable inference, viz. “That I was of opinion, that Christ came not to satisfy for us.” The reason of my omission of it in that place, I told him, was because my book was chiefly designed for deists: and therefore I mentioned only those advantages, which all christians must agree in; and, in omitting of that, complied with the apostle’s rule, Rom. xiv. To this he tells me flatly, that was not the design of my book. Whether the unmasker knows with what design I published it better than myself, must be left to the reader to judge: for as for his veracity in what he knows, or knows not, he has given so many instances of it, that I may safely refer that to any body. One instance more of it may be found in this very chapter, where he says, “I pretend indeed, page 163, that in another place of my book, I mention Christ’s restoring all mankind from the state of death, and restoring them to life: and his laying down his life for another, as our Saviour professes he did. These few words this vindicator has picked up in his book since he wrote it. This is all, through his whole treatise, that he hath dropped concerning that advantage of Christ’s incarnation; i. e. Christ’s satisfaction.” Answ. But that this is not all that I have dropped through my whole treatise, concerning that advantage, may appear by those places above mentioned, p. 163, where I say, that the design of Christ’s coming was to be offered up, and speak of the work of redemption; which are expressions taken to imply our Saviour’s satisfaction. But the unmasker thinking I should have quoted them, if there had been any more, besides those mentioned in my vindication, upon that presumption sticks not boldly to affirm, that there were no more; and so goes on with the veracity of an unmasker. If affirming would do it, nothing could be wanting in his cause, that might be for his purpose. Whether he be as good at proving, this consequence (among other propositions, which remain upon him to be proved) will try, viz.
That if the satisfaction of Christ be not mentioned in the place where the advantages of Christ’s coming are purposely treated of, then I am of opinion, that Christ came not to satisfy for us:
Which is all the argument of his 7th chapter.
His last chapter, as his first, begins with a commendation of himself; particularly, it boasts his freedom from bigotism, dogmatizing, censoriousness, and uncharitableness. I think he hath drawn himself so well with his own pen, that I shall need refer the reader only to what he himself has wrote in this controversy, for his character.
In the next paragraph, p. 104, he tells me, “I laugh at orthodoxy.” Answ. There is nothing that I think deserves a more serious esteem than right opinion, (as the word signifies,) if taken up with the sense and love of truth. But this way of becoming orthodox has always modesty accompanying it, and a fair acknowledgment of fallibility in ourselves, as well as a supposition of errour in others. On the other side there is nothing more ridiculous, than for any man, or company of men, to assume the title of orthodoxy to their own set of opinions, as if infallibility were annexed to their systems, and those were to be the standing measure of truth to all the world; from whence they erect to themselves a power to censure and condemn others, for differing at all from the tenets they have pitched upon. The consideration of human frailty ought to check this vanity; but since it does not, but that, with a sort of allowance, it shows itself in almost all religious societies, the playing the trick round sufficiently turns it into ridicule. For each society having an equal right to a good opinion of themselves, a man by passing but a river, or a hill, loses that orthodoxy in one company, which puffed him up with such assurance and insolence in another; and is there, with equal justice, himself exposed to the like censures of errour and heresy, which he was so forward to lay on others at home. When it shall appear, that infallibility is intailed upon one set of men of any denomination, or truth confined to any spot of ground, the name and use of orthodoxy, as now it is in fashion every-where, will in that one place be reasonable. Until then, this ridiculous cant will be a foundation too weak to sustain that usurpation that is raised upon it. It is not that I do not think every one should be persuaded of the truth of those opinions he professes. It is that I contend for; and it is that which I fear the great sticklers for orthodoxy often fail in. For we see generally that numbers of them exactly jump in a whole large collection of doctrines, consisting of abundance of particulars; as if their notions were, by one common stamp, printed on their minds, even to the least lineament. This is very hard, if not impossible, to be conceived of those who take up their opinions only from conviction. But, how fully soever I am persuaded of the truth of what I hold, I am in common justice to allow the same sincerity to him that differs from me; and so we are upon equal terms. This persuasion of truth on each side, invests neither of us with a right to censure or condemn the other. I have no more reason to treat him ill for differing from me, than he has to treat me ill for the same cause. Pity him, I may; inform him fairly, I ought; but contemn, malign, revile, or any otherwise prejudice him for not thinking just as I do, that I ought not. My orthodoxy gives me no more authority over him, than his (for every one is orthodox to himself) gives him over me. When the word orthodoxy (which in effect signifies no more but the opinions of my party) is made use of as a pretence to domineer (as ordinarily it is,) it is, and always will be, ridiculous.
He says, “I hate, even with a deadly hatred, all catechisms and confessions, all systems and models.” I do not remember, that I have once mentioned the word catechism, either in my Reasonableness of christianity, or Vindication; but he knows “I hate them deadly,” and I know I do not. And as for systems and models, all that I say of them, in the pages he quotes to prove my hatred of them, is only this, viz. in my Vindication, p. 164, 165, “Some had rather you should write booty, and cross your own design of removing men’s prejudices to christianity, than leave out one tittle of what they put into their systems.—Some men will not bear it, that any one should speak of religion, but according to the model that they themselves have made of it.” In neither of which places do I speak against systems or models, but the ill use that some men make of them.
He tells me also in the same place, p. 104, that I deride mysteries. But for this he hath quoted neither words nor place: and where he does not do that, I have reason, from the frequent liberties he takes to impute to me what no-where appears in my books, to desire the reader to take what he says not to be true. For did he mean fairly, he might, by quoting my words, put all such matters of fact out of doubt; and not force me, so often as he does, to demand where it is: as I do now here again,
Where it is that I deride mysteries?
His next words, p. 104, are very remarkable: they are, “O how he [the vindicator] grins at the spirit of creed-making! p. 169, Vindic. The very thoughts of which do so haunt him, so plague and torment him, that he cannot rest until it be conjured down. And here, by the way, seeing I have mentioned his rancour against systematic books and writings, I might represent the misery that is coming upon all booksellers, if this gentleman and his correspondence go on successfully. Here is an effectual plot to undermine Stationers-hall; for all systems and bodies of divinity, philosophy, &c. must be cashiered; whatsoever looks like system must not be bought or sold. This will fall heavy on the gentlemen of St. Paul’s church-yard and other places.” Here the politic unmasker seems to threaten me with the posse of Paul’s church-yard, because my book might lessen their gain in the sale of theological systems. I remember that “Demetrius the shrine-maker, which brought no small gain to the craftsmen, whom he called together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said to this purpose: Sirs, ye know, that by this craft we have our wealth: moreover ye see and hear, that this Paul hath persuaded, and turned away much people, saying, that they be no gods that are made with hands; so that this our craft is in danger to be set at nought. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” Have you, sir, who are so good at speechmaking, as a worthy successor of the silver-smith, regulating your zeal for the truth, and your writing divinity by the profit it will bring, made a speech to this purpose to the craftsmen, and told them, that I say, articles of faith, and creeds, and systems in religion, cannot be made by men’s hands or fancies; but must be just such, and no other, than what God hath given us in the scriptures? And are they ready to cry out to your content, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians?” If you have well warmed them with your oratory, it is to be hoped they will heartily join with you, and bestir themselves, and choose you for their champion, to prevent the misery, you tell them, is coming upon them, in the loss of the sale of systems and bodies of divinity: for, as for philosophy, which you name too, I think you went a little too far; nothing of that kind, as I remember, hath been so much as mentioned. But, however, some sort of orators, when their hands are in, omit nothing, true or false, that may move those they would work upon. Is not this a worthy employment, and becoming a preacher of the gospel, to be a solicitor for Stationers-hall? And make the gain of the gentlemen of Paul’s church-yard, a consideration for or against any book writ concerning religion? This, if it were ever thought on before, nobody but an unmasker, who lays all open, was ever so foolish as to publish. But here you have an account of his zeal: the views of gain are to measure the truths of divinity. Had his zeal, as he pretends in the next paragraph, no other aims, but the “defence of the gospel;” it is probable this controversy would have been managed after another fashion.
Whether what he says in the next, p. 105, to excuse his so often pretending to “know my heart and thoughts,” will satisfy the reader, I shall not trouble myself. By his so often doing it again, in his Socinianism unmasked, I see he cannot write without it. And so I leave it to the judgment of the readers, whether he can be allowed to know other men’s thoughts, who, on many occasions, seems not well to know his own. The railing in the remainder of this chapter I shall pass by, as I have done a great deal of the same strain in his book: only to show how well he understands or represents my sense, I shall set down my words, as they are in the pages he quotes, and his inferences from them.
He tells me here of the generality of divines. If he had aid of the church of England, I could have understood him: but he says, “The professed divines of England;” and there being several sorts of divines in England, who, I think, do not every-where agree in their interpretations of scripture; which of them is it I must have regard to, where they differ? If he cannot tell me that, he complains here of me for a fault, which he himself knows not how to mend.
Does the vindicator here “scoff at the matters of faith contained in the epistles?” or show the vain pretences of the unmasker: who undertakes to give us, out of the epistles, a collection of fundamentals, without being able to say, whether those he sets down be all or no?
Where the profaneness of this is, I do not see; unless some unknown sacredness of the unmasker’s person make it profaneness to show, that he, like the pharisees of old, has a great contempt for the common people, i. e. the far greater part of mankind; as if they and their salvation were below the regard of this elevated rabbi. But this, of profaneness, may be well born from him, since in the next words my mentioning another part of his carriage is no less than irreligion.
The matter of fact is as I relate it, and so is beyond pretence; and for this I refer the reader to the 105th and 114th pages of his “Thoughts concerning the causes of atheism.” But had I mistaken, I know not how he could have called it irreligiously. Make the worst of it that can be, how comes it to be irreligious? What is there divine in an unmasker, that one cannot pretend (true or false) that he prefers what I say, to what is offered him from the word of God, without doing it irreligiously? Does the very assuming the power to define articles, and determine who are, and who are not christians, by a creed not yet made, erect an unmasker presently into God’s throne, and bestow on him the title of Dominus Deusque noster, whereby offences against him come to be irreligious acts? I have misrepresented his meaning; let it be so: Where is the irreligion of it? Thus it is: the power of making a religion for others (and those that make creeds do that) being once got into any one’s fancy, must at last make all oppositions to those creeds and creed-makers irreligion. Thus we see, in process of time, it did in the church of Rome: but it was in length of time, and by gentle degrees. The unmasker, it seems, cannot stay, is in haste, and at one jump leaps into the chair. He has given us yet but a piece of his creed, and yet that’s enough to set him above the state of human mistakes or frailties; and to mention any such thing in him, is to do irreligiously.
“We may further see,” says the unmasker, p. 110, “how counterfeit the vindicator’s gravity is, whilst he condemns frothy and light discourses,” p. 173, Vindic. And “yet, in many pages together, most irreverently treats a great part of the apostolical writings, and throws aside the main articles of religion as unnecessary.” Answ. in my Vindic. p. 170, you may remember these words: “I require you to publish to the world those passages, which show my contempt of the epistles.” Why do you not (especially having been so called upon to do it) set down those words, wherein “I most irreverently treat a great part of the apostolical writings?” At least, why do you not quote those many pages wherein I do it? This looks a little suspiciously, that you cannot: and the more because you have, in this very page, not been sparing to quote places which you thought to your purpose. I must take leave, therefore, (if it may be done without irreligion) to assure the reader, that this is another of your many mistakes in matters of fact, for which you have not so much as the excuse of inadvertency: for, as he sees, you have been minded of it before. But an unmasker, say what you will to him, will be an unmasker still.
He closes what he has to say to me, in his Socinianism unmasked, as if he were in the pulpit, with an use of exhortation. The false insinuations it is filled with make the conclusion of a piece with the introduction. As he sets out, so he ends, and therein shows wherein he places his strength. A custom of making bold with truth is so seldom curable in a grown man, and the unmasker shows so little sense of shame, where it is charged upon him, beyond a possibility of clearing himself, that nobody is to trouble themselves any farther about that part of his established character. Letting therefore that alone to nature and custom, two sure guides, I shall only intreat him, to prevent his taking railing for argument, (which I fear he too often does,) that upon his entrance, every-where, upon any new argument, he would set it down in syllogism; and when he has done that (that I may know what is to be answered) let him then give vent, as he pleases, to his noble vein of wit and oratory.
The lifting a man’s self up in his own opinion, has had the credit, in former ages, to be thought the lowest degradation that human nature could well sink itself to. Hence, says the wise man, Prov. xxvi. 5, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit:” hereby showing, that self-conceitedness is a degree beneath ordinary folly. And therefore he there provides a fence against it, to keep even fools from sinking yet lower, by falling into it. Whether what was not so in Solomon’s days be now, by length of time, in ours, grown into a mark of wisdom and parts, and an evidence of great performances, I shall not inquire. Mr. Edwards, who goes beyond all that ever I yet met with, in the commendation of his own, best knows why he so extols what he has done in this controversy. For fear the praises he has not been sparing of, in his Socinianism unmasked, should not sufficiently trumpet out his worth, or might be forgotten; he, in a new piece, intitled, “the Socinian creed,” proclaims again his mighty deeds, and the victory he has established to himself by them, in these words: “But he and his friends (the one-article men) seem to have made satisfaction, by their profound silence lately, whereby they acknowledge to the world, that they have nothing to say in reply to what I laid to their charge, and fully proved against them, &c.” Socinian creed, p. 128. This fresh testimony of no ordinary conceit, which Mr. Edwards hath, of the excellency and strength of his reasoning, in his Socinianism unmasked, I leave with him and his friends, to be considered of at their leisure: and, if they think I have misapplied the term of conceitedness, to so wise, understanding, and every way accomplished a disputant, (if we may believe himself), I will teach them a way how he, or any body else, may fully convince me of it. There remains on his score, marked in this reply of mine, several propositions to be proved by him. If he can find but arguments to prove them, that will bear the setting down in form, and will so publish them, I will allow myself to be mistaken. Nay, which is more, if he, or any body, in the 112 pages of his Socinianism unmasked, can find but ten arguments that will bear the test of syllogism, the true touchstone of right arguing; I will grant, that that treatise deserves all those commendations he has bestowed upon it, though it be made up more of his own panegyric, than a confutation of me.
In his socinian creed, (for a creed-maker he will be; and whether he has been as lucky for the socinians as for the orthodox, I know not,) p. 120, he begins with me, and that with the same conquering hand and skill, which can never fail of victory; if a man has but wit enough to know what proposition he is able to confute, and then make that his adversary’s tenet. But the repetitions of his old song concerning one article, the epistles, &c. which occur here again, I shall only set down, that none of these excellent things may be lost, whereby this acute and unanswerable writer has so well deserved his own commendations: viz. “That I say, there is but one single article of the christian truth necessary to be believed and assented to by us, p. 121. That I slight the christian principles, curtail the articles of our faith, and ravish christianity itself from him, p. 123. And that I turn the epistles of the apostles into waste paper,” p. 127.
These and the like slanders I have already given an answer to, in my reply to his former book. Only one new one here I cannot pass over in silence, because of the remarkable profaneness which seems to me to be in it; which, I think, deserves public notice. In my “Reasonableness of christianity,” I have laid together those passages of our Saviour’s life, which seemed to me most eminently to show his wisdom, in that conduct of himself, with that reserve and caution which was necessary to preserve him, and carry him through the appointed time of his ministry. Some have thought I had herein done considerable service to the christian religion, by removing those objections which some were apt to make from our Saviour’s carriage, not rightly understood. This creed-maker tells me, p. 127, “That I make our Saviour a coward:” a word not to be applied to the Saviour of the world by a pious or discrete christian, upon any pretence, without great necessity, and sure grounds! If he had set down my words, and quoted the page, (which was the least could have been done to excuse such a phrase,) we should then have seen which of us two this impious and irreligious epithet, given to the holy Jesus, has for its author. In the mean time, I leave it with him, to be accounted for, by his piety, to those, who by his example shall be encouraged to entertain so vile a thought, or use so profane an expression of the Captain of our salvation, who freely gave himself up to death for us.
He also says in the same page, 127, “That I everywhere strike at systems, the design of which is to establish one of my own, or to foster scepticism, by beating down all others.”
For clear reason, or good sense, I do not think our creed-maker ever had his fellow. In the immediately preceding words of the same sentence he charges me with “a great antipathy against systems;” and, before he comes to the end of it, finds out my design to be the “establishing one of my own.” So that this, “my antipathy against systems” makes me in love with one. “My design,” he says, is to establish a system of “my own, or to foster scepticism, in beating down all others.” Let my book, if he pleases, be my system of christianity. Now is it in me any more fostering scepticism to say my system is true, and others not, than it is in the creed-maker to say so of all other systems but his own? For I hope he does not allow any system of christianity to be true, that differs from his, any more than I do.
But I have spoken against all systems. Answ. And always shall, so far as they are set up by particular men, or parties, as the just measure of every man’s faith; wherein every thing that is contained, is required and imposed to be believed to make a man a christian: such an opinion and use of systems I shall always be against, until the creed-maker shall tell me, amongst the variety of them, which alone is to be received and rested in, in the absence of his creed; which is not yet finished, and, I fear, will not, as long as I live. That every man should receive from others, or make to himself such a system of christianity, as he found most comformable to the word of God, according to the best of his understanding, is what I never spoke against: but think it every one’s duty to labour for, and to take all opportunities, as long as he lives, by studying the scriptures every day, to perfect.
But this, I fear, will not go easily down with our author; for then he cannot be a creed-maker for others: a thing he shows himself very forward to be; how able to perform it, we shall see when his creed is made. In the mean time, talking loudly and at random, about fundamentals, without knowing what is so, may stand him in some stead.
This being all that is new, which I think myself concerned in, in this socinian creed, I pass on to his Postscript. In the first page whereof, I find these words: “I found that the manager of the Reasonableness of christianity had prevailed with a gentleman to make a sermon upon my refutation of that treatise, and the vindication of it.” Such a piece of impertinency, as this, might have been born from a fair adversary: but the sample Mr. Edwards has given of himself, in his Socinianism unmasked, persuades me this ought to be bound up with what he says of me in his introduction to that book, in these words: “Among others, they thought and made choice of a gentleman, who, they knew, would be extraordinary useful to them. And he, it is probable, was as forward to be made use of by them, and presently accepted of the office that was assigned him:” and more there to the same purpose. All which I know to be utterly false.
It is a pity that one who relies so intirely upon it, should have no better an invention. The socinians set the author of the “Reasonableness of christianity,” &c. on work to write that book: by which discovery the world being (as Mr. Edwards says) let into the project, that book is confounded, baffled, blown off, and by this skilful artifice there is an end of it. Mr. Bold preaches and publishes a sermon without this irrefragable gentleman’s good leave and liking. What now must be done to discredit it, and keep it from being read? Why Mr. Bold too was set on work, by “the manager of the Reasonableness of christianity,” &c. In your whole storehouse of stratagems, you that are so great a conqueror, have you but this one way to destroy a book, which you set your mightiness against, but to tell the world it was a job of journey-work for somebody you do not like? Some other would have done better in this new case, had your happy invention been ready with it: for you are not so bashful or reserved, but that you may be allowed to be as great a wit as he who professed himself “ready at any time to say a good or a new thing, if he could but think of it.” But in good earnest, sir, if one should ask you, Do you think no books contain truth in them, which were undertaken by the procuration of a bookseller? I desire you to be a little tender in the point, not knowing how far it may reach. Aye, but such booksellers live not at the lower end of Pater-noster-row, but in Paul’s church-yard, and are the managers of other guise-books, than the “Reasonableness of christianity.” And therefore you very rightly subjoin, “Indeed it was a great masterpiece of procuration, and we can’t but think that man must speak truth, and defend it very impartially and substantially, who is thus brought on to undertake the cause.” And so Mr. Bold’s sermon is found to have neither truth nor sense in it, because it was printed by a bookseller at the lower end of Pater-noster-row: for that, I dare say, is all you know of the matter. But that is hint enough for a happy diviner, to be sure of the rest, and with confidence to report that for certain matter of fact, which had never any being but in the fore-casting side of his politic brain.
But whatever were the reasons that moved Mr. B— to preach that sermon, of which I know nothing; this I am sure, it shows only the weakness and malice (I will not say, and ill breeding, for that concerns not one of Mr. Edwards’s pitch) of any one who excepts against it, to take notice of any thing more than what the author has published. Therein alone consists the errour, if there be any; and that alone those meddle with, who write for the sake of truth. But poor cavillers have other purposes, and therefore must use other shifts, and make a bustle about something besides the argument, to prejudice and beguile unwary readers.
The only exception the creed-maker makes to Mr. Bold’s sermon, is the contradiction he imputes to him, in saying: “That there is but one point or article necessary to be believed for the making a man a christian: and that there are many points besides this, which Jesus Christ hath taught and revealed, which every sincere christian is indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand:” and “that there are particular points and articles, which being known to be revealed by Christ, christians must indispensably assent to.” And where, now, is there any thing like a contradiction in this? Let it be granted, for example, that the creed-maker’s set of articles (let their number be what they will, when he has found them all out) are necessary to be believed, for the making a man a christian. Is there any contradiction in it to say, there are many points besides these, which Jesus Christ hath taught and revealed, which every sincere christian is indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand? If this be not so, it is but for any one to be perfect in Mr. Edwards’s creed, and then he may lay by the bible, and from thenceforth he is absolutely dispensed with from studying or understanding any thing more of the scripture.
But Mr. Edwards’s supremacy is not yet so far established, that he will dare to say, that christians are not obliged to endeavour to understand any other points revealed in the scripture, but what are contained in his creed. He cannot yet well discard all the rest of the scripture, because he has yet need of it for the completing of his creed, which is like to secure the bible to us for some time yet. For I will be answerable for it, he will not quickly be able to resolve what texts of the scripture do, and what do not, contain points necessary to be believed. So that I am apt to imagine, that the creed-maker, upon second thoughts, will allow that saying, that there is but one, or there are but twelve, or there are but as many as shall be set down, (when he has resolved which they shall be,) necessary to the making a man a christian; and the saying, there are other points besides, contained in the scripture, which every sincere christian is indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand, and must believe, when he knows them to be revealed by Jesus Christ, are two propositions that may consist together without a contradiction.
Every christian is to partake of that bread, and that cup, which is the communion of the body and blood of Christ. And is not every sincere christian indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand these words of our Saviour’s institution, “This is my body, and this is my blood?” And if, upon his serious endeavour to do it, he understands them in a literal sense, that Christ meant, that that was really his body and blood, and nothing else; must he not necessarily believe that the bread and wine, in the Lord’s supper, is changed really into his body and blood, though he doth not know how? Or, if having his mind set otherwise, he understands the bread and wine to be really the body and blood of Christ, without ceasing to be the true bread and wine: or else, if he understands them, that the body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed given and received, in the sacrament, in a spiritual manner: or, lastly, if he understands our Saviour to mean, by those words, the bread and wine to be only a representation of his body and blood; in which way soever of these four, a christian understands these words of our Saviour to be meant by him, is he not obliged in that sense to believe them to be true, and assent to them? Or can he be a christian, and understand these words to be meant by our Saviour, in one sense, and deny his assent to them as true, in that sense? Would not this be to deny our Saviour’s veracity, and consequently his being the Messiah, sent from God? And yet this is put upon a christian, where he understands the scripture in one sense, and is required to believe it in another. From all which it is evident, that to say there is one, or any number of articles necessary to be known and believed to make a man a christian, and that there are others contained in the scripture, which a man is obliged to endeavour to understand, and obliged also to assent to, as he does understand them, is no contradiction.
To believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and to take him to be his Lord and King, let us suppose to be that only which is necessary to make a man a christian: may it not yet be necessary for him, being a christian, to study the doctrine and law of this his Lord and King, and believe that all that he delivered is true? Is there any contradiction in holding of this? But this creed-maker, to make sure work, and not to fail of a contradiction in Mr. Bold’s words, mis-repeats them, p. 241, and quite contrary, both to what they are in the sermon, and what they are, as set down by the creed-maker himself, in the immediately preceding page. Mr. Bold says, “There are other points that Jesus Christ hath taught and revealed, which every sincere christian is indispensably obliged to understand; and which being known to be revealed by Christ, he must indispensably assent to. From which the creed-maker argues thus, p. 240, Now, if there be other points, and particular articles, and those many, which a sincere christian is obliged, and that necessarily and indispensably, to understand, believe, and assent to: then this writer hath, in effect, yielded to that proposition I maintained, viz. that the belief of one article is not sufficient to make a man a christian; and consequently he runs counter to the proposition he had laid down.”
Is there no difference, I beseech you, between being “indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand, and being indispensably obliged to understand any point?” It is the first of these Mr. Bold says, and it is the latter of these you argue from, and so conclude nothing against him: nor can you to your purpose. For until Mr. Bold says (which he is far from saying,) that every sincere christian is necessarily and indispensably obliged to understand all those texts of scripture, from whence you should have drawn your necessary articles, (when you have perfected your creed,) in the same sense that you do; you can conclude nothing against what he had said, concerning that one article, or any thing that looks like running counter to it. For it may be enough to constitute a man a christian, and one of Christ’s subjects, to take Jesus to be the Messiah, his appointed King, and yet, without a contradiction, so that it may be his indispensable duty, as a subject of that kingdom, to endeavour to understand all the dictates of his sovereign, and to assent to the truth of them, as far as he understands them.
But that which the good creed-maker aims at, without which all his necessary articles fall, is, that it should be granted him, that every sincere christian was necessarily and indispensably obliged to understand all those parts of divine revelation, from whence he pretends to draw his articles, in their true meaning, i. e. just as he does. But his infallibility is not yet so established, but that there will need some proof of that proposition. And when he has proved, that every sincere christian is necessarily and indispensably obliged to understand those texts in their true meaning; and that his interpretation of them is that true meaning; I shall then ask him, Whether “every sincere christian is not as necessarily and indispensably obliged” to understand other texts of scripture in their true meaning, though they have no place in his system?
For example, To make use of the instance abovementioned, is not every sincere christian necessarily and indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand these words of our Saviour, “This is my body, and this is my blood,” that he may know what he receives in the sacrament? Does he cease to be a christian, who happens not to understand them just as the creed-maker does? Or may not the old gentleman at Rome (who has somewhat the ancienter title to infallibility) make transubstantiation a fundamental article necessary to be believed there, as well as the creed-maker here make his sense of any disputed text of scripture a fundamental article necessary to be believed?
Let us suppose Mr. Bold had said, that instead of one point, the right knowledge of the creed-maker’s one hundred points (when he has resolved on them) doth constitute and make a person a christian; yet there are many other points Jesus Christ hath taught and revealed, which every sincere christian is indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand, and to make a due use of; for this, I think, the creed-maker will not deny. From whence, in the creed-maker’s words, I will thus argue: “Now if there be other points, and particular articles, and those many, which a sincere christian is obliged, and that necessarily and indispensably, to understand, and believe, and assent to; then this writer doth, in effect, yield to that proposition which I maintained, viz. That the belief of those one hundred articles is not sufficient to make a man a christian:” for this is that which I maintain, that upon this ground the belief of the articles, which he has set down in his list, are not sufficient to make a man a christian; and that upon Mr. Bold’s reason, which the creed-maker insists on against one article, viz. because there are many other points Jesus Christ hath taught and revealed, which every sincere christian is as necessarily and indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand, and make a due use of.
But this creed-maker is cautious, beyond any of his predecessors: He will not be so caught by his own argument; and therefore is very shy to give you the precise articles that every sincere christian is necessarily and indispensably obliged to understand and give his assent to. Something he is sure there is, that he is indispensably obliged to understand and assent to, to make him a christian; but what that is he cannot yet tell. So that whether he be a christian or no, he does not know; and what other people will think of him, from his treating of the serious things of christianity, in so trifling and scandalous a way, must be left to them.
In the next paragraph, p. 242, the creed-maker tells us, Mr. Bold goes on to confute himself, in saying, “A true christian must assent unto this, that Christ Jesus is God.” But this is just such another confutation of himself as the before-mentioned, i. e. as much as a falsehood, substituted by another man, can be a confutation of a man’s self, who has spoken truth all of a-piece. For the creed-maker, according to his sure way of baffling his opponents, so as to leave them nothing to answer, hath here, as he did before, changed Mr. Bold’s words, which in the 35th page, quoted by the creed-maker, stand thus: “When a true christian understands, that Christ Jesus hath taught, that he is God, he must assent unto it:” which is true, and conformable to what he had said before, that every sincere christian must endeavour to understand the points taught and revealed by Jesus Christ; which being known to be revealed by him, he must assent unto.
The like piece of honesty the creed-maker shows in the next paragraph, p. 243, where he charges Mr. Bold with saying, “That a true christian is as much obliged to believe, that the Holy Spirit is God, as to believe that Jesus is the Christ,” p. 40. In which place, Mr. Bold’s words are: “When a true christian understands, that Christ Jesus hath given this account of the Holy Spirit, viz. that he is God; he is as much obliged to believe it, as he is to believe, that Jesus is the Christ:” which is an incontestable truth, but such an one as the creed-maker himself saw would do him no service; and therefore he mangles it, and leaves out half to serve his turn. But he that should give a testimony in the slight affairs of men, and their temporal concerns, before a court of judicature, as the creed-maker does here, and almost every-where, in the great affairs of religion, and the everlasting concern of souls, before all mankind, would lose his ears for it. What, therefore, this worthy gentleman alleges out of Mr. Bold, as a contradiction to himself, being only the creed-maker’s contradiction to truth, and clear matter of fact, needs no other answer.
The rest of what he calls “Reflections on Mr. Bold’s sermon” being nothing but either rude and misbecoming language of him; or pitiful childish application to him, to change his persuasion at the creed-maker’s entreaty, and give up the truth he hath owned, in courtesy to this doughty combatant; shows the ability of the man. Leave off begging the question, and superciliously presuming, that you are in the right; and, instead of that, show by argument: and I dare answer for Mr. Bold you will have him, and I promise you, with him, one convert more. But arguing is not, it seems, this notable disputant’s way. If boasting of himself, and contemning of others, false quotations, and feigned matters of fact, which the reader neither can know, nor is the question concerned in, if he did know, will not do; there is an end of him: he has shown his excellency in scurrilous declamation; and there you have the whole of this unanswerable writer. And for this, I appeal to his own writings in this controversy, if any judicious reader can have the patience to look them over.
In the beginning of his “Reflections on Mr. Bold’s sermon,” he confidently tells the world, “that he had found that the manager of the Reasonableness of christianity had prevailed on Mr. Bold to preach a sermon upon his Reflections,” &c. And adds, “And we cannot but think, that that man must speak the truth, and defend it very impartially and substantially, who is thus brought on to undertake the cause.” And at the latter end he addresses himself to Mr. Bold, as one that is drawn off, to be an under journeyman-worker in socinianism. In his gracious allowance, “Mr. Bold is, seemingly, a man of some relish of religion and piety,” p. 244. He is forced also to own him to be a man of sobriety and temper, p. 245. A very good rise, to give him out to the world, in the very next words, as a man of a profligate conscience: for so he must be, who can be drawn off to preach, or write for socinianism, when he thinks it a most dangerous errour; who can “dissemble with himself, and choke his inward persuasions,” (as the creed-maker insinuates that Mr. Bold does, in the same address to him, p. 248,) and write contrary to his light. Had the creed-maker had reason to think in earnest, that Mr. Bold was going off to socinianism, he might have reasoned with him fairly, as with a man running into a dangerous errour; or if he had certainly known, that he was by any by-ends prevailed on to undertake a cause contrary to his conscience, he might have some reason to tell the world, as he does, p. 239, “That we cannot think he should speak truth, who is thus brought to undertake the cause.” If he does not certainly know, that “Mr. Bold was thus brought to undertake the cause,” he could not have shown a more villanous and unchristian mind, than in publishing such a character of a minister of the gospel, and a worthy man, upon no other grounds, but because it might be subservient to his ends. He is engaged in a controversy, that by argument he cannot maintain; nor knew any other way, from the beginning, to attack the book he pretends to write against, but by crying out socinianism; a name he knows in great disgrace with all other sects of christians, and therefore sufficient to deter all those who approve and condemn books by hearsay, without examining their truth themselves, from perusing a treatise, to which he could affix that imputation. Mr. Bold’s name, (who is publicly known to be no socinian) he foresees, will wipe off that false imputation, with a great many of those who are led by names more than things. This seems exceedingly to trouble him, and he labours might and main, to get Mr. Bold to quit a book as socinian, which Mr. Bold knows is not socinian, because he has read and considered it.
But though our creed-maker be mightily concerned, that Mr. B—d should not appear in the defence of it; yet this concern cannot raise him one jot above that honesty, skill, and good breeding, which appears towards others. He manages this matter with Mr. B—d, as he has done the rest of the controversy; just in the same strain of invention, civility, wit, and good sense. He tells him, besides what I have above set down, “That he is drawn off to debase himself, and the post, i. e. the ministry he is in, p. 245. That he hath said very ill things, to the lessening and impairing, yea, to the defaming of that knowledge and belief of our Saviour, and of the articles of christianity, which are necessarily required of us, p. 245. That the devout and pious,” (whereby he means himself: for one, and none, is his own beloved wit and argument,) “observing that Mr. Bold is come to the necessity of but one article of faith, they expect that he may in time hold that none is necessary, p. 248. That if he writes again in the same strain, he will write rather like a Turkish spy, than a christian preacher; and that he is a backslider, and sailing to Racovia with a side wind:” than which, what can there be more scurrilous, or more malicious? And yet at the same time that he outrages him thus, beyond not only what christian charity, but common civility, would allow in an ingenuous adversary, he makes some awkward attempts to sooth him with some ill-timed commendations; and would have his undervaluing Mr. Bold’s animadversions pass for a compliment to him; because he, for that reason, pretends not to believe so crude and shallow a thing (as he is pleased to call it) to be his. A notable contrivance to gain the greater liberty of railing at him under another name, when Mr. B—d’s, it seems, is too well known to serve him so well to that purpose. Besides, it is of good use to fill up three or four pages of his Reflections; a great convenience to a writer, who knows all the ways of baffling his opponents, but argument; and who always makes a great deal of stir about matters foreign to his subject; which, whether they are granted or denied, make nothing at all to the truth of the question on either side. For what is it to the shallowness or depth of the animadversions, who writ them? Or to the truth or falsehood of Mr. B—d’s defence of the “Reasonableness of christianity,” whether a layman, or a churchman, a socinian, or one of the church of England, answered the creed-maker as well as he? Yet this is urged as a matter of great weight; but yet, in reality, it amounts to no more but this, that a man of any denomination, who wishes well to the peace of christianity, and has observed the horrible effects the christian religion has felt from the impositions of men, in matters of faith, may have reason to defend a book, wherein the simplicity of the gospel, and the doctrine proposed by our Saviour and his apostles, for the conversion of unbelievers, is made out, though there be not one word of the distinguishing tenets of his sect in it. But that all those, who, under any name, are for imposing their own orthodoxy, as necessary to be believed, and persecuting those who dissent from them, should be all against it, is not perhaps very strange.
One thing more I must observe of the creed-maker on this occasion: in his socinian creed, chap. vi. the author of the “Reasonableness of christianity,” &c. and his book, must be judged of, by the characters and writings of those who entertain or commend his notions. “A professed unitarian has defended it;” therefore he is a socinian. The author of A letter to the deists speaks well of it; therefore he is a deist. Another, as an abetter of the Reasonableness of christianity, he mentions, p. 125, whose letters I have never seen: and his opinions too are, I suppose, set down there as belonging to me. Whatever is bad in the tenets or writings of these men, infects me. But the mischief is, Mr. Bold’s orthodoxy will do me no good: but because he has defended my book against Mr. Edwards, all my faults are become his, and he has a mighty load of accusations laid upon him. Thus contrary causes serve so good a natured, so charitable, and candid a writer as the creed-maker, to the same purpose of censure and railing. But I shall desire him to figure to himself the loveliness of that creature, which turns every thing into venom. What others are, or hold, who have expressed favourable thoughts of my book, I think myself not concerned in. What opinions others have published, make those in my book neither true nor false; and he that, for the sake of truth, would confute the errours in it, should show their falsehood and weakness, as they are: but they who write for other ends than truth, are always busy with other matters; and where they can do nothing by reason and argument, hope to prevail with some by borrowed prejudices and party.
Taking therefore the Animadversions, as well as the sermon, to be his, whose name they bear, I shall leave to Mr. B—d himself to take what notice he thinks fit of the little sense, as well as great impudence, of putting his name in print to what is not his, or taking it away from what he hath set it to, whether it belongs to his bookseller or answerer. Only I cannot pass by the palpable falsifying of Mr. B—d’s words, in the beginning of his epistle to the reader, without mention. Mr. B—d’s words are: “whereby I came to be furnished with a truer and more just notion of the main design of that treatise.” And the good creed-maker sets them down thus: “The main design of my own treatise or sermon:” a sure way for such a champion for truth to secure to himself the laurel or the whetstone!
This irresistible disputant, (who silences all that come in his way, so that those that would cannot answer him) to make good the mighty encomiums he has given himself, ought (one would think) to clear all as he goes, and leave nothing by the way unanswered, for fear he should fall into the number of those poor baffled wretches, whom he with so much scorn reproaches, that they would answer, if they could.
Mr. B—d begins his Animadversions with this remark, that our creed-maker had said, That “I give it over and over again in these formal words, viz. That nothing is required to be believed by any christian man but this, That Jesus is the Messiah.” To which Mr. B—d replies, p. 4, in these words: “Though I have read over the Reasonableness of christianity, &c. with some attention, I have not observed those formal words in any part of that book, nor any words that are capable of that construction; provided they be considered with the relation they have to, and the manifest dependence they have on, what goes before, or what follows after them.”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
Whether it was because he would not, or because he could not, let the reader judge. But this is down upon his score already, and it is expected he should answer to it, or else confess that he cannot. And that there may be a fair decision of this dispute, I expect the same usage from him, that he should set down any proposition of his I have not answered to, and call on me for an answer, if I can; and if I cannot, I promise him to own it in print.
The creed-maker had said, “That it is most evident to any thinking and considerate person, that I purposely omit the epistolary writings of the apostles because they are fraught with other fundamental doctrines, besides that which I mention.”
To this Mr. B—d answers, p. 5, That if by “fundamental articles, Mr. Edwards means here, all the propositions delivered in the epistles, concerning just those particular heads, he [Mr. Edwards] had here mentioned; it lies upon him to prove, that Jesus Christ hath made it necessary, that every person must have an explicit knowledge and belief of all those before he can be a christian.”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
And yet, without an answer to it, all his talk about fundamentals, and those which he pretended to set down in that place, under the name of fundamentals, will signify nothing in the present case; wherein, by fundamentals, were meant such propositions which every person must necessarily have an explicit knowledge and belief of, before he can be a christian.
Mr. B—d, in the same place, p. 6, 7, very truly and pertinently adds, “That it did not pertain to [my] undertaking to inquire what doctrines, either in the Epistles, or the Evangelists and the Acts, were of greatest moment to be understood by them who are christians; but what was necessary to be known and believed to a person’s being a christian. For there are many important doctrines, both in the Gospels, and in the Acts, besides this, ‘That Jesus is the Messiah.’ But how many soever the doctrines be, which are taught in the epistles, if there be no doctrine besides this, ‘That Jesus is the Messiah,’ taught there as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian; all the doctrines taught there will not make any thing against what this author has asserted, nor against the method he hath observed; especially, considering we have an account, in the Acts of the apostles, of what those persons, by whom the epistles were writ, did teach, as necessary to be believed to people’s being christians.”
This, and what Mr. B—d subjoins, “That it was not my design to give an abstract of any of the inspired books,” is so true, and has so clear reason in it, that any, but this writer, would have thought himself concerned to have answered something to it.
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
It not being, it seems, a creed-maker’s business to convince men’s understanding by reason; but to impose on their belief by authority; or, where that is wanting, by falsehood and bawling. And to such Mr. Bold observes well, p. 8, “That if I had given the like account of the epistles, that would have been as little satisfactory as what I have done already, to those who are resolved not to distinguish ‘betwixt what is necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, and those articles which are to be believed by those who are christians,’ as they can attain to know that Christ hath taught them.”
This distinction the creed-maker, no-where that I remember, takes any notice of: unless it be p. 255, where he has something relating hereunto, which we shall consider, when we come to that place. I shall now go on to show what Mr. Bold has said, to which he answers not.
Mr. Bold farther tells him, p. 10, that if he will prove any thing in opposition to the Reasonableness of christianity, &c. it must be this: “That Jesus Christ and his apostles have taught, that the belief of some one article, or certain number of articles distinct from this, ‘That Jesus is the Messiah,’ either as exclusive of, or in conjunction with, the belief of this article, doth constitute and make a person a christian: but that the belief of this, that Jesus is the Messiah alone, doth not make a man a christian.”
But to this Mr. Edwards irrefragably answers nothing.
Mr. Bold also, p. 10, charges him with his falsely accusing me in these words: “He pretends to contend for one single article, with the exclusion of all the rest, for this reason; because all men ought to understand their religion.” And again, where he says, I am at this, viz. “That we must not have any point of doctrine in our religion, that the mob doth not, at the very first naming of it, perfectly understand and agree to:” Mr. Bold has quoted my express words to the contrary.
But to this this unanswerable gentleman answers nothing.
But if he be such a mighty disputant, that nothing can stand in his way; I shall expect his direct answer to it among those other propositions which I have set down to his score, and I require him to prove, if he can.
The creed-maker spends above four pages of his Reflections, in a great stir who is the author of those animadversions he is reflecting on. To which I tell him, it matters not to a lover of truth, or a confuter of errours, who was the author; but what they contain. He who makes such a deal to do about that which is nothing to the question, shows he has but little mind to the argument; that his hopes are more in the recommendation of names, and prejudice of parties, than in the strength of his reasons, and the goodness of his cause. A lover of truth follows that, whoever be for or against it; and can suffer himself to pass by no argument of his adversary, without taking notice of it, either in allowing its force, or giving it a fair answer. Were the creedmaker capable of giving such an evidence as this of his love of truth, he would not have passed over the twenty first pages of Mr. Bold’s Animadversions in silence. The falsehoods that are therein charged upon him, would have required an answer of him, if he could have given any; and I tell him, he must give an answer, or confess the falsehoods.
In his 255th page, he comes to take notice of these words of Mr. Bold, in the 21st page of his Animadversions, viz. “That a convert to christianity, or a christian, must necessarily believe as many articles as he shall attain to know, that Christ Jesus hath taught.” Which, says the creed-maker, wholly invalidates what he had said before, in these words,” viz. “That Jesus Christ and his apostles did not teach any thing as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, but only this one proposition, That Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.” The reason he gives to show that the former of these propositions (in Mr. Bold) invalidates the latter, and that the animadverter contradicts himself, stands thus: “For, says he, if a christian must give assent to all the articles taught by our Saviour in the gospel, and that necessarily; then all those propositions reckoned up in my late discourse, being taught by Christ, or his apostles, are necessary to be believed.” Ans. And what, I beseech you, becomes of the rest of the propositions taught by Christ, or his apostles, which you have not reckoned up in your late discourse? Are not they necessary to be believed, “if a christian must give an assent to all the articles taught by our Saviour and his apostles?”
Sir, if you will argue right from that antecedent, it must stand thus: “If a christian must give an assent to all the articles taught by our Saviour and his apostles, and that necessarily;” then all the propositions in the New Testament, taught by Christ, or his apostles, are necessary to be believed. This consequence I grant to be true, and necessarily to follow from that antecedent, and pray make your best of it: but withal remember, that it puts an utter end to your select number of fundamentals, and makes all the truths delivered in the New Testament necessary to be explicitly believed by every christian.
But, sir, I must take notice to you, that if it be uncertain, whether he that writ the Animadversions, be the same person that preached the sermon, yet it is very visible, that it is the very same person that reflects on both; because he here again uses the same trick, in answering in the Animadversions the same thing that had been said in the sermon, viz. by pretending to argue from words as Mr. Bold’s, when Mr. Bold has said no such thing. The proposition you argue from here is this: “If a christian must give his assent to all the articles taught by our Saviour, and that necessarily.” But Mr. Bold says no such thing. His words, as set down by yourself, are: “A christian must necessarily believe as many articles as he shall attain to know that Christ Jesus hath taught.” And is there no difference between “all that Christ Jesus hath taught,” and “as many as any one shall attain to know that Christ Jesus hath taught?” There is so great a difference between these two, that one can scarce think even such a creed-maker could mistake it. For one of them admits all those to be christians, who, taking Jesus for the Messiah, their Lord and King, sincerely apply themselves to understand and obey his doctrine and law, and to believe all that they understand to be taught by him: the other shuts out, if not all mankind, yet nine hundred ninety-nine of a thousand, of those who profess themselves christians, from being really so. For he speaks within compass, who says there is not one of a thousand, if there be any one man at all, who explicitly knows and believes all that our Saviour and his apostles taught, i. e. all that is delivered in the New Testament, in the true sense that it is there intended. For if giving assent to it, in any sense, will serve the turn, our creed-maker can have no exception against socinians, papists, lutherans, or any other, who, acknowledging the scripture to be the word of God, do yet oppose his system.
But the creed-maker goes on, p. 255, and endeavours to prove that what is necessary to be believed by every christian, is necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, in these words: “But he will say, the belief of those propositions makes not a man a christian. Then, I say, they are not necessary and indispensable; for what is absolutely necessary in christianity, is absolutely requisite to make a man a christian.”
Ignorance, or something worse, makes our creed-maker always speak doubtfully or obscurely, whenever he pretends to argue; for here “absolutely necessary in christianity,” either signifies nothing, but absolutely necessary to make a man a christian; and then it is proving the same proposition, by the same proposition: or else has a very obscure and doubtful signification. For, if I ask him, Whether it be absolutely necessary in christianity, to obey every one of our Saviour’s commands, What will he answer me? If he answers, No; I ask him, Which of our Saviour’s commands is it not, in christianity, absolutely necessary to obey? If he answers, Yes; then I tell him, by this rule, there are no christians: because there is no one that does in all things obey all our Saviour’s commands, and therein fails to perform what is absolutely necessary in christianity; and so, by his rule, is no christian. If he answers, Sincere endeavour to obey, is all that is absolutely necessary; I reply, And so sincere endeavour to understand, is all that is absolutely necessary: neither perfect obedience, nor perfect understanding, is absolutely necessary in christianity.
But his proposition, being put in terms clear, and not loose and fallacious, should stand thus, viz. “What is absolutely necessary to every christian, is absolutely requisite to make a man a christian.” But then I deny, that he can infer from Mr. Bold’s words, that those propositions (i. e. which he has set down as fundamental, or necessary to be believed) are absolutely necessary to be believed by every christian. For that indispensable necessity Mr. Bold speaks of, is not absolute, but conditional. His words are, “A christian must believe as many articles, as he shall attain to know that Jesus Christ hath taught.” So that he places the indispensable necessity of believing, upon the condition of attaining to know that Christ taught so. An endeavour to know what Jesus Christ taught, Mr. B—d says truly, is absolutely necessary to every one who is a christian: and to believe what he has attained to know that Jesus Christ taught, that also, he says, is absolutely necessary to every christian. But all this granted, (as true it is,) it still remains (and eternally will remain) to be proved from this, (which is all that Mr. Bold says,) that something else is absolutely required to make a man a christian, besides the unfeigned taking Jesus to be the Messiah, his King and Lord; and accordingly, a sincere resolution to obey and believe all that he commanded and taught.
The gaoler, Acts xvi. 30, in answer to his question, “What he should do to be saved?” was answered, “That he should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” And the text says, that the gaoler “took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” Now, I will ask our creed-maker, whether St. Paul, in speaking to him the word of the Lord, proposed and explained to him all those propositions, and fundamental heads of doctrine, which our creed-maker has set down as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian? Let it be considered the gaoler was a heathen, and one that seems to have no more sense of religion or humanity, than those of that calling use to have: for he had let them alone under the pain of their stripes, without any remedy, or so much as the ease of washing them, from the day before, until after his conversion; which was not until after midnight. And can any one think, that between his asking what he should do to be saved, and his being baptized, which, the text says, was the same hour, and straightway; there was time enough for St. Paul and Silas, to explain to him all the creed-maker’s articles, and make such a man as that, and all his house, understand the creed-maker’s whole system; especially, since we hear nothing of it in the conversion of these, or any others, who were brought into the faith, in the whole history of the preaching of our Saviour and the apostles? Now let me ask the creed-maker, whether the gaoler was not a christian, when he was baptized; and whether, if he had then immediately died, he had not been saved, without the belief of any one article more, than what Paul and Silas had then taught him? Whence it follows, that what was then proposed to him to be believed, (which appears to be nothing, but that Jesus was the Messiah,) was all that was absolutely necessary to be believed to make him a christian: though this hinders not, but that afterwards it might be necessary for him, indispensably necessary, to believe other articles, when he attained to the knowledge that Christ had taught them. And the reason of it is plain: because the knowing that Christ hath taught any thing, and the not receiving it for true (which is believing it,) is inconsistent with the believing him to be the Messiah, sent from God to enlighten and save the world. Every word of divine revelation is absolutely and indispensably necessary to be believed by every christian, as soon as he comes to know it to be taught by our Saviour, or his apostles, or to be of divine revelation. But yet this is far enough from making it absolutely necessary to every christian, to know every text in the scripture, much less to understand every text in the scripture; and least of all, to understand it as the creed-maker is pleased to put his sense upon it.
This the good creed-maker either will not, or cannot understand; but gives us a list of articles culled out of the scripture by his own authority, and tells us, those are absolutely necessary to be believed by every one, to make him a christian. For what is of absolute necessity in christianity, as those, he says, are, he tells us, is absolutely requisite to make a man a christian. But when he is asked, Whether these are all the articles of absolute necessity to be believed to make a man a christian? this worthy divine, that takes upon himself to be a successor of the apostles, cannot tell. And yet, having taken upon himself also to be a creed-maker, he must suffer himself to be called upon for it again and again, until he tells us what is of absolute necessity to be believed to make a man a christian, or confess that he cannot.
In the mean time, I take the liberty to say, that every proposition delivered in the New Testament by our Saviour, or his apostles, and so received by any christian as of divine revelation, is of as absolute necessity to be assented to by him, in the sense he understands it to be taught by them, as any one of those propositions enumerated by the creed-maker: and if he thinks otherwise I shall desire him to prove it. The reason whereof is this, that in divine revelation, the ground of faith being the only authority of the proposer: where that is the same, there is no difference in the obligation or measure of believing. Whatever the Messiah, that came from God, taught, is equally to be believed by every one who receives him as the Messiah, as soon as he understands what it was he taught. There is no such thing as garbling his doctrine, and making one part of it more necessary to be believed than another, when it is understood. His saying is, and must be, of unquestionable authority to all that receive him as their heavenly King; and carries with it an equal obligation of assent to all that he says as true. But since nobody can explicitly assent to any proposition of our Saviour’s as true, but in the sense he understands our Saviour to have spoken it in; the same authority of the Messiah, his King, obliges every one absolutely and indispensably to believe every part of the New Testament in that sense he understands it: for else he rejects the authority of the deliverer, if he refuses his assent to it in that sense which he is persuaded it was delivered in. But the taking him for the Messiah, his King and Lord, laying upon every one who is his subject, an obligation to endeavour to know his will in all things; every true christian is under an absolute and indispensable necessity, by being his subject, to study the scriptures with an unprejudiced mind, according to that measure of time, opportunity, and helps, which he has; that in these sacred writings, he may find what his Lord and Master hath by himself, or by the mouths of his apostles, required of him, either to be believed or done.
The creed-maker, in the following page, 256, hath these words: “It is worth the reader’s observing, that notwithstanding I had in twelve pages together (viz. from the eighth to the twentieth) proved, that several propositions are necessary to be believed by us, in order to our being christians; yet this sham-animadverter attends not to any one of the particulars which I had mentioned, nor offers any thing against them; but only, in a lumping way, dooms them all in those magisterial words: “I do not see any proof he produces,” p. 21. This is his wonderful way of confuting me, by pretending that he cannot see any proof in what I allege: and all the world must be led by his eyes.”
Answ. “It is worth the reader’s observing,” that the creed-maker does not reply to what Mr. Bold has said to him, as we have already seen, and shall see more as we go on; and therefore he has little reason to complain of him, for not having answered enough. Mr. Bold did well to leave that which was an insignificant lump, so as it was, together; for it is no wonderful thing not to see any proof, where there is no proof. There is indeed, in those pages the creed-maker mentions, much confidence, much assertion, a great many questions asked, and a great deal said after his fashion: but for a proof, I deny there is any one. And if what I have said in another place already, does not convince him of it, I challenge him, with all his eyes, and those of the world to boot, to find out, in those twelve renowned pages, one proof. Let him set down the proposition, and his proof of its being absolutely and indispensably necessary to be believed to make a man a christian; and I too will join with him in his testimonial of himself, that he is irrefragable. But I must tell him before-hand, talking a great deal loosely will not do it.
Mr. Bold and I say we cannot see any proof in those twelve pages: the way to make us see, or to convince the world that we are blind, is to single out one proof out of that wood of words there, which you seem to take for arguments, and set it down in a syllogism, which is the fair trial of a proof or no proof. You have, indeed, a syllogism in the 23d page; but that is not in those twelve pages you mention. Besides, I have showed in another place, what that proves; to which I refer you.
In answer to the creed-maker’s question, about his other fundamentals found in the epistles: “Why did the apostles write these doctrines? Was it not, that those they writ to, might give their assent to them?” Mr. Bold. p. 22, replies: “But then it may be asked again, Were not those persons christians to whom the apostles writ these doctrines, and whom they required to assent to them? Yes, verily. And if so, What was it that made them christians before their assent to these doctrines was required? If it were any thing besides their believing Jesus to be the Messiah, it ought to be instanced in, and made out.”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
The next thing in controversy between Mr. Bold and the creed-maker, (for I follow Mr. B—d’s order,) is about a matter of fact, viz. Whether the creed-maker has proved, “that Jesus Christ and his apostles have taught, that no man can be a christian, or shall be saved, unless he has an explicit knowledge of all those things, which have an immediate respect to the occasion, author, way, means, and issue of our salvation, and which are necessary for the knowing the true nature and design of it?” This, Mr. Bold, p. 24, tells him, “he has not done.” To this the creedmaker replies, p. 258.
“And yet the reader may satisfy himself, that this is the very thing that I had been proving just before, and, indeed, all along in the foregoing chapter.” Answ. There have been those who have been seven years proving a thing, which at last they could not do; and I give you seven years to prove this proposition, which you should there have proved; and I must add to your score here, viz.
That Jesus Christ, or his apostles, have taught, that no man can be a christian, or can be saved, unless he hath an explicit knowledge of all these things which have an immediate respect to the occasion, author, way, means, and issue of our salvation, and which are necessary for our knowing the true nature and design of it.
Nor must the poor excuse, of saying, it was not necessary “to add any farther medium, and proceed to another syllogism, because you had secured that proposition before;” go for payment. If you had secured it, as you say, it had been quite as easy, and much for your credit, to have produced the proof whereby you had secured it, than to say you had done it; and thereupon to reproach Mr. Bold with heedlessness; and to tell the world, that “he cares not what he saith.” The rule of fair dispute is, indispensably to prove, where any thing is denied. To evade this is shuffling: and he that, instead of it, answers with ill language, in my country, is called a foulmouthed wrangler.
To the creed-maker’s exception to my demand, about the actual belief of all his fundamentals in his new creed, Mr. Bold asks, p. 24, “Whether a man can believe particular propositions, and not actually believe them?”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
Mr. Bold, p. 25, farther acknowledges the creed-maker’s fundamental propositions to “be in the bible; and that they are for this purpose there, that they might be believed:” and so, he saith, “is every other proposition which is taught in our bibles.” But asks, How will it thence follow, that no man can be a christian, until he particularly know, and actually assent to every proposition in our bibles?”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
From p. 26 to 30, Mr. Bold shows, that the creed-maker’s reply concerning my not gathering of fundamentals out of the epistles is nothing to the purpose: and this he demonstratively proves.
And to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
The creed-maker had falsely said, That “I bring no tidings of an evangelical faith;” and thence very readily and charitably infers: “Which gives us to understand, that he verily believes there is no such christian faith.” To this Mr. Bold thus softly replies, p. 31, “I think Mr. Edwards is much mistaken, both in his assertion and inference:” and to show that he could not so infer, adds: “If the author of the Reasonableness of christianity, &c. had not brought any tidings of such a faith, I think it could not be thence justly inferred, that he verily believes there is no such christian faith: because his inquiry and search was not concerning christian faith, considered subjectively but objectively; what the articles be, which must be believed to make a man a christian; and not, with what sort of faith these articles are to be believed.”
To this the creed-maker answers indeed: but it is something as much worse than nothing, as falsehood is worse than silence. His words are, p. 258, “It may be questioned, from what he [the animadverter] hath the confidence to say, p. 31, viz. There is no inquiry in the Reasonableness of christianity, concerning faith subjectively considered, but only objectively,” &c. And thus having set down Mr. B—d’s words, otherwise than they are; for Mr. Bold does not say, there is no inquiry, i. e. no mention, (for so the creed-maker explains inquiries here. For to convince Mr. Bold that there is an inquiry, i. e. mention, of subjective faith, he alleges, that subjective faith is spoken of in the 296th and 297th pages of my book.) But Mr. Bold says not, that faith, considered subjectively, is not spoken of any-where in the Reasonableness of christianity, &c. but “that the author’s inquiry and search (i. e. the author’s search, or design of his search) was not concerning christian faith considered subjectively.” And thus the creed-maker, imposing on his reader, by perverting Mr. Bold’s sense, from what was the intention of my inquiry and search, to what I had said in it, he goes on, after his scurrilous fashion, to insult, in these words which follow: “I say it may be guessed from this, what a liberty this writer takes, to assert what he pleases.” Answ. “To assert what one pleases,” without truth and without certainty, is the worst character can be given a writer; and with falsehood to charge it another, is no mean slander and injury to a man’s neighbour. And yet to these shameful arts must he be driven, who finding his strength of managing a cause to lie only in fiction and falsehood, has no other but the dull Billingsgate way of covering it, by endeavouring to divert the reader’s observation and censure from himself, by a confident repeated imputation of that to his adversary, which he himself is so frequent in the commission of. And of this the instances I have given, are a sufficient proof; in which I have been at the pains to set down the words on both sides, and the pages where they are to be found, for the reader’s full satisfaction.
The cause in debate between us is of great weight, and concerns every christian. That any evidence in the proposal, or defence of it, can be sufficient to conquer all men’s prejudices, is vanity to imagine. But this, I think, I may justly demand of every reader, that since there are great and visible falsehoods on one side or the other, (for the accusations of this kind are positive and frequent,) he would examine on which side they are: and upon that I will venture the cause in my reader’s judgment, who will but be at the pains of turning to the pages marked out to him; and as for him that will not do that, I care not much what he says.
The creed-maker’s following words, p. 258, have the natural mark of their author. They are these: “How can this animadverter come off with peremptorily declaring, that subjective faith is not inquired into, in the treatise of the Reasonableness of christianity, &c. when in another place, p. 35, and 36, he avers, That christian faith and christianity, considered subjectively, are the same?” Answ. In which words there are two manifest untruths: the one is, “That Mr. Bold peremptorily declares, that subjective faith is not inquired into, i. e. spoken of, in the Reasonableness of christianity,” &c. Whereas Mr. Bold says in that place, p. 31, “If he, [i. e. the author,] had not said one word concerning faith subjectively considered.” The creed-maker’s other untruth is his saying, “That the animadverter avers, p. 35, 36, that christian faith and christianity, considered subjectively, are the same.” Whereas it is evident, that Mr. Bold, arguing against these words of the creed-maker (“The belief of Jesus being the Messiah, was one of the first and leading acts of christian faith,”) speaks in that place of an act of faith, as these words of his demonstrate: “Now, I apprehend that christian faith and christianity, considered subjectively, (and an act of christian faith, I think, cannot be understood in any other sense,) are the very same.” I must therefore desire him to set down the words wherein the animadverter peremptorily declares,
That subjective faith is not inquired into, or spoken of, in the treatise of the Reasonableness of christianity, &c.
And next, to produce the words wherein the animadverter avers,
That christian faith and christianity, considered subjectively, are the same.
To the creed-maker’s saying, “That the author of the Reasonableness of christianity, &c. brings us no tidings of evangelical faith belonging to christianity,” Mr. Bold replies: That I have done it in all those pages where I speak of taking and accepting Jesus to be our King and Ruler; and particularly he sets down my words out of pages 119, &c.
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
The creed-maker says, p. 59, of his Socinianism unmasked, that the author of the Reasonableness of christianity “tells men again and again, that a christian man, or member of Christ, needs not know or believe any more than that one individual point.” To which Mr. Bold thus replies, p. 33, “If any man will show me those words in any part of the Reasonableness, &c. I shall suspect I was not awake all the time I was reading that book: and I am as certain as one awake can be, that there are several passages in that book directly contrary to these words. And there are some expressions in the Vindication of the Reasonableness, &c. one would think, if Mr. Edwards had observed them, they would have prevented that mistake.”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
Mr. Bold, p. 34, takes notice, that the creed-maker had not put the query, or objection, right, which, he says, “Some, and not without some show of ground, may be apt to start; and therefore Mr. Bold puts the query right, viz. ‘Why did Jesus Christ and his apostles require assent to, and belief of, this one article alone, viz. That Jesus is the Messiah, to constitute and make a man a christian, or true member of Christ, (as it is abundantly evident they did, from the Reasonableness of christianity,) if the belief of more articles is absolutely necessary to make and constitute a man a christian?’”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
And therefore I put the objection, or query, to him again in Mr. Bold’s words, and expect an answer to it, viz.
Why did Jesus Christ, and his apostles, require assent to, and belief of, this one article alone, viz. That Jesus is the Messiah, to make a man a christian, (as it is abundantly evident they did, from all their preaching, recorded throughout all the whole history of the Evangelists and the Acts,) if the belief of more articles be absolutely necessary to make a man a christian?
The creed-maker having made believing Jesus to be the Messiah, only one of the first and leading acts of christian faith; Mr. Bold, p. 35, rightly tells him, That “christian faith must be the belief of something or other: and if it be the belief of any thing besides this, that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah, that other thing should be specified; and it should be made appear, that the belief that Jesus is the Messiah, without the belief of that other proposition, is not christian faith.”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
Mr. B—d, in the four following pages, 36—39, has excellently explained the difference between that faith which constitutes a man a christian, and that faith whereby one that is a christian, believes the doctrines taught by our Saviour; and the ground of that difference: and therein has fully overturned this proposition, “That believing Jesus to be the Messiah, is but a step, or the first step to christianity.”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
To the creed-maker’s supposing that other matters of faith were proposed with this, that Jesus is the Messiah; Mr. Bold replies, That this should be proved, viz. that other articles were proposed, as requisite to be believed to make men christians. And, p. 40, he gives a reason why he is of another mind, viz. “Because there is nothing but this recorded, which was insisted on for that purpose.”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
Mr. Bold, p. 42, shows that Rom. x. 9, which the creed-maker brought against it, confirms the assertion of the author of the Reasonableness, &c. concerning the faith that makes a man a christian.
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
The creed-maker says, p. 78, “This is the main answer to the objection, (or query above proposed,) viz. That Christianity was erected by degrees.” This Mr. Bold, p. 43, proves to be nothing to the purpose, by this reason, viz. “Because what makes one man a christian, or ever did make any man a christian, will at any time, to the end of the world, make another man a christian:” and asks, “Will not that make a christian now, which made the apostles themselves christians?”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
In answer to his sixth chapter, Mr. Bold, p. 45, tells him, “It was not my business to discourse of the Trinity, or any other particular doctrines, proposed to be believed by them who are christians; and that it is no fair and just ground to accuse a man, with rejecting the doctrines of the Trinity, and that Jesus is God, because he does not interpret some particular texts to the same purpose others do.”
But to this Mr. Edwards answers not.
Indeed he takes notice of these words of Mr. Bold, in this paragraph, viz. “Hence Mr. Edwards takes occasion to write many pages about these terms [viz. Messiah and Son of God]; but I do not perceive that he pretends to offer any proof, that these were not synonymous terms amongst the jews at that time, which is the point he should have proved, if he designed to invalidate what this author says about that matter.” To this the creed maker replies, p. 257, “The animadverter doth not so much as offer one syllable to disprove what I delivered, and closely urged on that head.” Answ. What need any answer to disprove where there is no proof brought that reaches the proposition in question? If there had been any such proof, the producing of it, in short, had been a more convincing argument to the reader, than so much bragging of what has been done. For here are more words spent, (for I have not set them all down,) than would have served to have expressed the proof of this proposition, viz. that the terms above mentioned were not synonymous among the jews, if there had been any proof of it. But having already examined what the creed-maker brags he has closely urged, I shall say no more of it here.
To the creed-maker’s making me a socinian, in his eighth chapter, for not naming Christ’s satisfaction among the advantages and benefits of Christ’s coming into the world; Mr. Bold replies, “1. That it is no proof, because I promised not to name every one of them. And the mention of some is no denial of others.” 2. He replies, That, “satisfaction is not so strictly to be termed an advantage, as the effects and fruits of it are; and that the doctrine of satisfaction instructs us the way how Christ did, by divine appointment, obtain those advantages for us.” And this was an answer that deserved some reply from the creed-maker.
But to this he answers not.
Mr. Bold says right, that this is a doctrine that is of mighty importance for a christian to be well acquainted with. And I will add to it, that it is very hard for a christian, who reads the scripture with attention, and an unprejudiced mind, to deny the satisfaction of Christ: but it being a term not used by the Holy Ghost in the scripture, and very variously explained by those that do use it, and very much stumbled at by those I was there speaking to, who were such, as I there say, “Who will not take a blessing, unless they be instructed what need they had of it, and why it was bestowed upon them;” I left it with the other disputed doctrines of christianity, to be looked into (to see what it was Christ had taught concerning it) by those who were christians, and believed Jesus to be the Saviour promised, and sent from God. And to those who yet doubted that he was so, and made this objection, “What need was there of a Saviour?” I thought it most reasonable to offer such particulars only as were agreed on by all christians, and were capable of no dispute, but must be acknowledged by every body to be needful. This, though the words above quoted out of the Reasonableness of christianity, &c. p. 129, show to be my design; yet the creed-maker plainly gives me the lye, and tells me it was not my design. “All the world are faithless, false, treacherous, hypocritical strainers upon their reason and conscience, dissemblers, journeymen, mercenary hirelings, except Mr. Edwards:” I mean all the world that opposes him. And must not one think he is mightily beholden to the excellency and readiness of his own nature, who is no sooner engaged in controversy, but he immediately finds out in his adversaries these arts of equivocation, lying, and effrontery, in managing of it? Reason and learning, and acquired improvements, might else have let him gone on with others, in the dull and ordinary way of fair arguing; wherein, possibly, he might have done no great feats. Must not a rich and fertile soil within, and a prompt genius, wherein a man may readily spy the propensities of base and corrupt nature, be acknowledged to be an excellent qualification for a disputant, to help him to the quick discovery and laying open of the faults of his opponents; which a mind otherwise disposed would not so much as suspect? But Mr. Bold, without this, could not have been so soon found out to be a journeyman, a dissembler, an hired mercenary, and stored with all those good qualities, wherein he hath his full share with me. But why would he then venture upon Mr. Edwards, who is so very quick-sighted in these matters, and knows so well what villainous man is capable of?
I should not here, in this my Vindication, have given the reader so much of Mr. Bold’s reasoning, which, though clear and strong, yet has more beauty and force, as it stands in the whole piece in his book; nor should I have so often repeated this remark upon each passage, viz. “To this Mr. Edwards answers not;” had it not been the shortest and properest comment could be made on that triumphant paragraph of his, which begins in the 128th page of his Socinian creed; wherein, among a great deal of no small strutting, are these words: “By their profound silence they acknowledge they have nothing to reply.” He that desires to see more of the same noble strain, may have recourse to that eminent place. Besides, it was fit the reader should have this one taste more of the creed-maker’s genius, who passing by in silence all these clear and apposite replies of Mr. Bold, loudly complains of him, p. 259, “That where he [Mr. Bold] finds something that he dares not object against, he shifts it off.” And again, p. 260, “That he does not make any offer at reason; there is not the least shadow of an argument—As if he were only hired to say something against me, [the creed-maker,] though not at all to the purpose: and truly, any man may discern a mercenary stroke all along;” with a great deal more to the same purpose. For such language as this, mixed with scurrility, neither fit to be spoken by, nor of, a minister of the gospel, make up the remainder of his postscript. But to prevent this for the future; I demand of him, that if in either of his treatises, there be any thing against what I have said, in my Reasonableness of christianity, which he thinks not fully answered, he will set down the proposition in direct words, and note the page of his book where it is to be found: and I promise him to answer it. For as for his railing, and other stuff besides the matter, I shall hereafter no more trouble myself to take notice of it. And so much for Mr. Edwards.
THERE is another gentleman, and of another sort of make, parts, and breeding, who, (as it seems, ashamed of Mr. Edwards’s way of handling controversies in religion) has had something to say of my “Reasonableness of christianity,” &c. and so has made it necessary for me to say a word to him, before I let those papers go out of my hand. It is the author of “The Occasional Paper,” numb. 1. The second, third, and fourth pages of that paper, gave me great hopes to meet with a man, who would examine all the mistakes which came abroad in print, with that temper and indifferency, that might set an exact pattern for controversy, to those who would approve themselves to be sincere contenders for truth and knowledge, and nothing else, in the disputes they engaged in. Making him allowance for the mistakes that self-indulgence is apt to impose upon human frailty, I am apt to believe he thought his performance had been such: but I crave leave to observe, that good and candid men are often misled, from a fair unbiassed pursuit of truth, by an over-great zeal for something, that they, upon wrong grounds, take to be so; and that it is not so easy to be a fair and unprejudiced champion for truth, as some, who profess it, think it to be. To acquaint him with the occasion of this remark, I must desire him to read and consider his nineteenth page; and then to tell me,
1. Whether he knows, that the doctrine proposed in the “Reasonableness of christianity, &c.” was borrowed, as he says, from Hobbes’s Leviathan? For I tell him, I borrowed it only from the writers of the four Gospels and the Acts; and did not know those words, he quoted out of the Leviathan, were there, or any thing like them. Nor do I know yet, any farther than as I believe them to be there, from his quotation.
2. Whether affirming, as he does positively, this, which he could not know to be true, and is in itself perfectly false, were meant to increase or lessen the credit of the author of the “Reasonableness of christianity,” &c. in the opinion of the world? Or is consonant with his own rule, p. 3, “of putting candid constructions on what adversaries say?” Or with what follows, in these words? “The more divine the cause is, still the greater should be the caution. The very discoursing about Almighty God, or our holy religion, should compose our passions, and inspire us with candour and love. It is very indecent to handle such subjects, in a manner that betrays rancour and spite. These are fiends that ought to vanish, and should never mix, either with a search after truth, or the defence of religion.”
3. Whether the propositions which he has, out of my book, inserted into his nineteenth page, and says, “are consonant to the words of the Leviathan,” were those of all my books, which were likeliest to give the reader a true and fair notion of the doctrine contained in it? If they were not, I must desire him to remember and beware of his fiends. Not but that he will find those propositions there to be true. But that neither he nor others may mistake my book, this is that, in short which it says:
1. That there is a faith that makes men christians.
2. That this faith is the believing “Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah.”
3. That the believing Jesus to be the Messiah, includes in it a receiving him for our Lord and King, promised and sent from God: and so lays upon all his subjects an absolute and indispensable necessity of assenting to all that they can attain the knowledge that he taught; and of a sincere obedience to all that he commanded.
This, whether it be the doctrine of the Leviathan, I know not. This appears to me out of the New Testament, from whence (as I told him in the preface) I took it, to be the doctrine of our Saviour and his apostles; and I would not willingly be mistaken in it. If therefore there be any other faith besides this, absolutely requisite to make a man a christian, I shall here again desire this gentleman to inform me what it is, i. e. to set down all those propositions which are so indispensably to be believed, (for it is of simple believing I perceive the controversy runs,) that no man can be a believer, i. e. a christian, without an actual knowledge of, and an explicit assent to them. If he shall do this with that candour and fairness he declares to be necessary in such matters, I shall own myself obliged to him: for I am in earnest, and I would not be mistaken in it.
If he shall decline it, I, and the world too, must conclude, that upon a review of my doctrine, he is convinced of the truth of it, and is satisfied, that I am in the right. For it is impossible to think, that a man of that fairness and candour, which he solemnly prefaces his discourse with, should continue to condemn the account I have given of the faith which I am persuaded makes a christian; and yet he himself will not tell me (when I earnestly demand it of him, as desirous to be rid of my errour, if it be one) what is that more, which is absolutely required to be believed by every one, before he can be a believer, i. e. what is indispensably necessary to be known, and explicitly believed to make a man a christian.
Another thing which I must desire this author to examine, by those his own rules, is, what he says of me, p. 30, where he makes me to have a prejudice against the ministry of the gospel, and their office, from what I have said in my Reasonableness, &c. p. 135, 136, concerning the priests of the world, in our Saviour’s time: which he calls bitter reflections.
If he will tell me what is so bitter, in any one of those passages which he has set down, that is not true, or ought not to be said there, and give me the reason why he is offended at it; I promise him to make what reparation he shall think fit, to the memory of those priests whom he, with so much good nature, patronizes, near seventeen hundred years after they had been out of the world; and is so tenderly concerned for their reputation, that he excepts against that, as said against them, which was not. For one of the three places he sets down, was not spoken of priests. But his making my mentioning the faults of the priests of old, in our Saviour’s time, to be an “exposing the office of the ministers of the gospel now, and a vilifying those who are employed in it;” I must desire him to examine, by his own rules of love and candour; and to tell me, “Whether I have not reason, here again, to mind him of his fiends, and to advise him to beware of them?” And to show him how I think I have, I crave leave to ask him these questions:
1. Whether I do not all along plainly, and in express words, speak of the priests of the world, preceding, and in our Saviour’s time? Nor can my argument bear any other sense.
2. Whether all I have said of them be not true?
3. Whether the representing truly the carriage of the jewish, and more especially of the heathen priests, in our Saviour’s time, as my argument required, can expose the office of the ministers of the gospel now? Or ought to have such an interpretation put upon it?
4. Whether what he says of the “air and language I use, reaching farther,” carry any thing else in it, but a declaration, that he thinks some men’s carriage now, had some affinity with what I have truly said, of the priests of the world, before christianity; and that therefore the faults of those should have been let alone, or touched more gently, for fear some should think these now concerned it?
5. Whether, in truth, this be not to accuse them, with a design to draw the envy of it on me? Whether out of good will to them, or to me, or both, let him look. This I am sure, I have spoken of none but the priests before christianity, both jewish and heathen. And for those of the jews, what our Saviour has pronounced of them, justifies my reflections from being bitter; and that the idolatrous heathen priests were better than they, I believe our author will not say: and if he were preaching against them, as opposing the ministers of the gospel, I suppose he will give as ill a character of them. But if any one extends my words farther, than to those they were spoke of, I ask whether that agrees with his rules of love and candour?
I shall impatiently expect from this author of the occasional paper, an answer to these questions; and hope to find them such as becomes that temper, and love of truth, which he professes. I long to meet with a man, who, laying aside party, and interest, and prejudice, appears in controversy so as to make good the character of a champion of truth for truth’s sake; a character not so hard to be known whom it belongs to, as to be deserved. Whoever is truly such an one, his opposition to me will be an obligation. For he that proposes to himself the convincing me of an errour, only for truth’s sake, cannot, I know, mix any rancour, or spite, or ill-will, with it. He will keep himself at a distance from those fiends, and be as ready to hear, as offer reason. And two so disposed can hardly miss truth between them, in a fair inquiry after it; at least they will not lose good-breeding, and especially charity, a virtue much more necessary than the attaining of the knowledge of obscure truths, that are not easy to be found; and probably, therefore, not necessary to be known.
The unbiassed design of the writer, purely to defend and propagate truth, seems to me to be that alone which legitimates controversies. I am sure it plainly distinguishes such from all others, in their success and usefulness. If a man, as a sincere friend to the person, and to the truth, labours to bring another out of errour, there can be nothing more beautiful, nor more beneficial. If party, passion, or vanity direct his pen, and have a hand in the controversy; there can be nothing more unbecoming, more prejudicial, nor more odious. What thoughts I shall have of a man that shall, as a christian, go about to inform me what is necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, I have declared, in the preface to my “Reasonableness of christianity,” &c. nor do I find myself yet altered. He that, in print, finds fault with my imperfect discovery of that, wherein the faith, which makes a man a christian, consists, and will not tell me what more is required, will do well to satisfy the world what they ought to think of him.
C. Baldwin, Printer, New Bridge-street, London.