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It will be more like the state of the church before the flood, presented by the ark, “ wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved,” i Pet. ji. 20: And as the corruption of the old world was great, we may suppose the corruption to be greater before the second coming of Christ, as the destruction by fire is more terrible than that by water. However such an universal corruption is here foretold, as will in no ways consist with the least sort of that visibility which the church of Rome requires as a mark of the true church, and to continue with her for ever.
But on the other hand, if there shall be a visible church in those days, then that church, at least the generality, which is the visibility of it, will fall from the faith, else it would be visibly to be found upon the earth ; and then men will be misled by the church, and by those marks of visibility, &c. which the church of Rome gives her; in like manner as they were misled by the church before, when she commanded them to reject their Messiah. He came first unto “ his own,” the church of the Jews, the only visible church then upon the earth, but she “ received him not,” John i. 11. for she was corrupt and blinded, under the mask of Pharisaical sanctity, and strict oba servance of the law, even to the “ tything of mint, annise, and cummin;" she was zealous in the outward observances, but neglected " the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith,” Matth. xxiii. 23. And so it may be at the second coming of Christ, as it was at the first ; for there is no more promise of infallibility to the one state of the church, than to the other.
L. But it was prophesied in the Old Testament, that the Jews should reject their Messiah at his first coming
G. And in the New Testament, that at his second coming “ he should not find faith upon the earth."
But the Jews did not so understand these prophesies against themselves. They said that the church was the only interpreter of Scripture, and they must take the law from the mouth of their priests : and the church did interpret these Scriptures otherwise than Christ did.
L. But Christ being come, he was then the church.
G. He was not the church, for he came to redeem the church. He did not come to redeem bimself. He was the head, the church, the body; but the head is not the body.
Besides it is perfectly begging the question of the Jews, to suppose that Christ was the Messiah, for that they deny, and bid us prove it. That is the whole question betwixt them and us.
L. His heavenly doctrine, his miracles, and the prophecies of him, prove him to be the Messiah.
G. The Jews answer all this by the authority of the church, which said, “ have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law, are cursed." John, vii. 48, 49. And to rivet this curse, they excommunicated those'. who did confess Christ, chap. ix. 22, 34, xvi. 2. And
they said, that Christ wrought his miracles by Beelzebub, Matth. ix. 34, xii. 24. And who was to be judge in this case, the people or the church? Upon the foot of the authority of the church, it was impossible at that time for any to be a Christian. Therefore of all men, Christians have the least reason to insist upon this.
L. Then I find you resolve all upon private judgment.
G, It is all we have for the belief of a God, or of Christ, and, by your own confession, for the choice of a church. And then we may well trust to it in smaller matters. In short, we must trust to it in every thing without exception : for it is as impossible to believe
any thing without our understanding, is to see
without our eyes.
L. But you believe some mysteries which you pretend not to understand or explain, as the doctrine of the holy Trinity, the Incarnation, &c.
G. My reasou tells me, that there must be many things in the nature of God which I cannot understand or explain, because he is infinite and incomprehensible. And these I take purely upon the revelation that is given of them in the holy Scriptures, for any own reason could never bave found them out, nor can perfectly understand them. They are dark to me ; like a country I never saw, I cannot have a right idea of it till I come thither; as I cannot of heaven, or of the state of separate souls. Yet I cannot help framing some conception to myself, or what I know never entered into the heart of man to conceive, that is, aright, and according to these things are. Therefore I take not upon me to explain them, for that would be to involve myself, and I know that I must greatly err. And yet it would be as much against reason to deny these things, as to deny there was any country in the world, or star in the firmament, which I had not seen.
And much more unreasonable, it would be, to think there was nothing in the nature in the infinite being which I did not compreliend: or because that cannot be expressed to us, but in words adapted to our understanding, therefore to measure his nature by ours; and because Peter, James, and John are three men, therefore to think that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost must be three Gods. But when I say three persons, with relation to the divine Trinity, there comes not such a thought in my head as three persons of men ; but because personal actions are attributed to each of the divine three, therefore we call them persons, which word the Scripture applies to God. Heb. i. 3. But it is only ad captum, as the schools speak, that is, condescending our capacity, as when God is said to repent, to grieve, &c. it is not that we should think it really so, for that would be contradictory to the nature of God; but it conveys a notion to us, that we should act as if it were so, that God were angry of grieved at our sins, and would repent of the blessings he had given or promised to us, if we took not heed to walk in his ways which he has set before us.
L. I am afraid the Deists will think this a straining the point in favour of revelation, and say that they are much easier without it.
G. They will not find it so, when they consider that they are in no less difficulties upon following their own reason only; for example, they allow a first cause and creator of all things, because nothing can make itself: and that first cause must have a necessary being, and consequently from all eternity; and that eternity is a duration without succession or time, or having any beginning, wherein all is present, without either past or to come. This the Deist is forced to confess upon the conviction of his reason: but he will not pretend to have so much as any idea or conception what this eternity is or can be, nor can he imagine a duration without beginning, in which there is nothing past, nor any thing to come. Nor can he express
this any otherwise than in words of time, which he must own are not at all proper or applicable to it; the very word beginning is inconsistent with cternity, and to say before the beginning, is a contradiction. Here then he is lost, and must have recourse to the same excuse which he ridicules in revelation, viz. that we cannot speak properly of God, nor in other words than what belong to men, and therefore that these words are not to be taken strictly, nor argued upon, or consequences drawn from them, for that this would involve us in numberless contradictions. And there is not one objection which the Deist or Socinian makes against the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, &c. but are of this sort, by arguing from the