« PoprzedniaDalej »
to be "
LETTERS OF THE LATE Rev. ANDREW errors concerning this plain book FULLER.
are altogether innocent.* To the Editor of the Baptist Magazine.
I agree with Mr. R. in believing
that, upon the whole, the Bible is DEAR SIR,
a plain book, adapted to the comThe following is the first of five mon understandings of mankind; Letters, written by my father to a and that men in general may unhighly-esteemed Christian friend derstand all they are required to now deceased, in refutation of understand, if their hearts are some of the leading sentiments of rightly disposed. At the same the ingenions, and in many re. time, there are things revealed in spects estimable, ROBERT Ro- the Scriptures which must be to BINSON. If you think they will us incomprehensible; as the incarbe acceptable to your readers, the nation of the Son of God, which other four shall be forwarded in even an inspired apostle declares due course.
a great mystery.” There I am, dear Sir,
are some things also in the propheYours sincerely,
.G. FULLER. Bristol, Jan. 1828.
* " The New Testament is a book so plain, and the religion of it so easy, that any man of common sense might understand
it if he would.” A person who has exaLETTER I.
mined a Soripture doctrine, “and cannot The Criminality of Mentul Error. in a state in which his knowledge is imper
obtain evidence of the truth of it, is indeed My Dear FRIEND,
fect; but bis imperfection is innocent, beONE main article in Mr. Robin- virtue he bas, and his ignorance is involun
cause he hath exercised all the ability and son's creed is, that the Bible knows tary; yea, perbaps he may have exercised nothing of mystery, but is a plain ten times more industry and application, book ; so plain as to be level with though without success, than many others
who have obtained evidence.”-General the common
sense of mankind. Doctrina of Toleration, fc. Whether the Scriptures contain “ Any man of common sense might unany thing mysterious, or not, it derstand it if he would ; and yet many such appears to me altogether a mys- and all their virtue, and yet not obtain evi
men may examine it, with all their ability tery, that any man of common dence!" This is a mystery, let what will sense should maintain two such be plain. And such a man's imperfection opposite positions as the simplicity is innocent
, because he hath exercised all of the Scriptures, and the inno- the ability and virtue he has ! Ii our obli
gations are to be measured by the degree of cence of mental error: asserting virtue we possess, the way to get clear of that the Bible is so plain a book, all obligation is to become totally abandoned that nobody, without either neg- to vice. Far be it from me to attach to
others more blame than I would acknowlecting, or doing violence to com
ledge belongs to myself, if I continue in mon sense, can mistake its mean
We are all imperfect; but let us ing; and yet that even a thousand not call our imperfections innocent.
VOL. IIÍ. 3d Series.
tic writings, which can never be and proposed their being made fully understood till their accom- free by the knowledge of the truth. plishment. But then our not com- With à haughty, contemptuous air, prehending these things is not they spurn the proposal; replying, criminal, though the little attention “ We be Abraham's seed, and were we devote to them may be. never in bondage to any man : how
In proportion, however, as the sayest thou, Ye shall be made Scriptures are plain, and easy to free?". Their prejudice in favour be understood, must be our crimi- of their old religion hardened them nality, if we be endowed with against conviction, and their love common sense,
in not understand- of sin set them against that Gospel ing them. If the way of salvation which laid the axe at the root of is so plain, that “a wayfaring that evil tree. Our Lord, in effect, man, though a fool, shall not err told them so.
6. Ye are of your therein,” then the errors of men father, the devil, and the deeds of concerning it cannot be innocent. your father ye will do.” As if he And the same is true of the pre- had said, You would rather conceptive parts of Scripture. Iftinue slaves to Satan, than that the error arise not from the obscurity Son should make
free! of Scripture, from its being be- There seems to be a beautiful yond the capacity of men in gene- propriety in our Lord's parable of ral, it must arise from other causes; the sower. It is observable, that and what these can be besides in- of the four sorts of ground, only difference, indolence, carelessness, one received the seed so as to prejudice, pride, or aversion, 1 bring forth fruit; and that one is know not.
explained of persons who have "Why do ye not understand my * good and honest hearts:" plainly speech ?" said our Lord to the implying, that if men's hearts were Jewş. Was it because it was not but honest, they would be sure to important enough to demand their embrace the word of God. Inattention, or because it was not deed, the nature of divine revelaplain enough to meet their capa- tion is such, that its rejection imcities ? No. Mark the answer. plies a dishonest heart. For inWhy? “ Because ye cannot hear stance, does the word of God set my word.” What, then, were they forth the rights of Deity, and bunaturally deaf? No. That had man obligation? This is what an been their felicity. Better have no honest heart loves. That heart ears, than ears and hear not. Their cannot be honest, which does not deafness was like that of the ad- rejoice in every one having his due, der, that “will not hear the voice and consequently in God's having of the charmer, charm he never so his. Does it represent man as wisely.” Then would they not having forfeited all claim to the listen to his discourses? This does goodness of God ? An honest heart not appear. But they could not will acquiesce in this, and be willreceive his doctrine. This is the ing to receive all as a free donaimport of the answer. And why tion. Does it exhibit such a way could they not receive it ? Evi- of salvation as provides for the dently because of their pride, pre- honour of injured Majesty ? This judice, and love of sin. "The pride is sure to be embraced by an hoof their hearts could not bear the nest heart: such a mind could not doctrine which represented them bear the thought of being saved at as slaves to ignorance and sin, the expence of righteousness. To
desire to receive mercy in any Or we are prejudiced in favour of other than an honourable way, preconceived notions, and so are indicates a dishonest heart. Who- apt to stifle evidence. The preever, therefore, does not cordially judices of mankind, of both bad approve and embrace the salvation and good men, are almost infinite. of the Gospel, the reason is plain. There is not a mind in the world
Perhaps it will be said, these without prejudice, in a greater or things are spoken of wicked men, less degree. And these are the and indicate the criminality of causes why the truth of God's their errors. But surely the errors word is not believed and obeyed. of good men arise from different We might as well plead weakness causes. Surely they may be in- for not obeying God's commands, nocent. It must be allowed that as for not believing his declaragood men have errors in judgment, tions. The one, as well as the as well as in practice; but that other, is a moral weakness; and the former, any more than the lat- that, strictly speaking, is not weakter, are innocent, does not appear. ness, but wickedness. Doubtless, I wish not to think worse of any there is such a thing as excusable man's errors than I do of my own, weakness, both in reference to or of him than of myself, for being obeying God's commands, and to in error.
No doubt I have mis- believing his sacred truth. If a taken apprehensions of some things, man be afflicted, so as to be inas well as other people; though capable of attending the house of wherein is unknown to me: but I God, or if he he detained by the would abhor the thought of plead- afflictions of others, the command ing innocence in such affairs. If for publicly worshipping God my mistakes, be they what they ceases, at that time, to be binding. may, do not arise from the obscu- The same may be said of mental rity of Scripture, they must arise debility. If a man be in any way from some other cause. It is vain deprived of reason, his weakness, to allege that our errors arise from in proportion as it prevails, excuses weakness; for the Scriptures can him from blame, in not understandbe no otherwise plain and easy, ing and believing the truth. Nay, than as they are level with common
persons of extremely weak capacities. If the Scriptures were capacities are comparatively exwritten for the bulk of mankind, cusable. If they be weak ön other and yet the generality of men are things, as well as in religion, we too weak to understand them, in- are bound not to impute it to the stead of being plain and easy, they want of a disposition, any further must be essentially obscure. than their weakness in both may
The truth is, our mistakes, as be imputed to the want of diligent well as the ignorance of wicked application. The same may be men, arise from our criminal dis- said of persons who never hail the positions. We are too careless means, or the opportunity of knowabout truth, and so do not search ing the truth. The heathen will for it as one searcheth for hid trea- not be condemned for rejecting the sure. Prov. ii. 1-9. Or we are Gospel, unless they have, or might self-sufficient, and think ourselves if they would, have heard it; but competent to find out the truth by for rejecting the light of nature. our own ingenuity and mere rea- Rom. i. 18—25. son; and so neglect to pray for But I believe, if we examine, we the guidance of the Holy Spirit. shall find the far greater part of
our ignorance and error to arisel bers. If, for instance, a member from
very different causes-causes of a church were to become a Soof which our Lord complains in his cinian, and the church were to own immediate disciples : “ Oh, blame him for what they accountfools, and slow of heart to believe ed apostacy from the truth, and all that the prophets have spoken." ultimately, if he continued in this Our ignorance and errors, like error, were to exclude him, this theirs, are owing in a great degree, would include a part of what is to that dulness to spiritual things, meant by “blame and punishment of which the best Christians have among men.” And though it is sometimes reason to complain. The expressly said, " An heretic reLord Jesus, so remarkable for his ject, after the first and second tenderness, and especially to his admonition,” Mr. R. would deny disciples, would not have rebuked that the church had any right to. them so severely, for an error judge, in respect to others, what wherein they were blameless. Be- is heresy.*
Herein I am of a sides, they were prejudiced in fa- different opinion : but as I may vour of another system. They consider this subject more particuhad been long dreaming of an larly in my next letter, on Liberty, earthly kingdom, and it is to be I shall now offer a few more refeared) of the figure they were to marks on the above passage. cut in it. Their pride, therefore, “ Variety of sentiment is the life and carnal-mindedness, tended of society." True, as one person greatly to warp their judgments in discovers one truth, and another, this matter ; so that all Christ had another; as one views the same said (and he had said much) about truth in this light, and another in his leath and resurrection, seemed that; and so all together become to stand for nothing. Their foolish serviceable to each other : but this minds were so dazzled with the does not prove that a variety of false ideas of a temporal kingdom, false sentiments do any good. I that they were blinded to the true greatly query if Mr. R. or any one end of Christ's coming, and to all else would hold this, when it afthat the prophets declared concern- fected themselves. Suppose, for ing it.
instance, a variety of sentiment Mr. R. says- Variety of sen- concerning his character as a mitiment, which is the life of society, nister. One thinks he is a worthy cannot be destructive of real reli- minister of Christ, as well as a gion. Mere mental errors, if they learned, ingenious man, and an hobe not entirely innocent in the ac- nour to the Dissenting interest. count of the Supreme Governor of Another thinks him, though very mankind, cannot, however, be ingenious, not equally ingenuous ; objects of blame and punishment and a third, for variety's sake, among men.
So far as this relates to a cogni- * This is not mere supposition. It is zance of the civil powers, or any well known, that Mr. R. espoused the cause powers which inflict civil penal- of some who were expelled from the Hoties, we are perfectly agreed. But werton Academy, for what the tators of that I suppose Mr. R. means to extend ciples I know little or nothing, and therefore it to the opinion and behaviour of cannot judge: but Mr. R. has not only churches towards individual mem- endeavoured to vindicate them from the
charge of heresy, but he has also denied
that the Society have any right to judge * Suurin's Sermous, vol. iii. Pref. p. 7. what is heresy!
might suggest that his principles nology,” or something of that kind : were even pernicious in their tend- but follow him into the
of ency. Now, it is very doubtful, if Arians and Socinians, and then his Mr. R., however he may admire meaning extends to their peculiar variety of sentiment, would in his sentiments! This is founded on heart consider this variety of senti- fact, and not on supposition. Inment good, either in itself, or as deed, it is plain, hy his writings, tending to enliven society, It is a life, and conduct, that he means to question if he would not greatly include Arianism and Socinianism. prefer that people should plod on, But to call these mere mental erin the old, dull path of uniformity, rors, in the innocent sense of the and all cordially agree in believing phrase, is begging the question : him to be an honest man. And in it is taking for granted, what fethe absence of evidence to the con- mains to be proved, that such sentrary, this uniformity of sentiment timents (if they be errors) are in ought to exist. But why in this that sense merely mental. Cercase only? Why should not people tainly it cannot be pleaded, in be obliged to unite in thinking behalf of the generality of those highly and honourably of the Lord who embrace these sentiments, that and Saviour of men, as well as of they are not endowed with the use a creature of yesterday?
of reason, or that they are persons “ But Mr. R. does not positively of weak natural capacities, or affirm the entire innocence of men- that they have not opportunity to tal error, in the account of the obtain evidence. Supreme Governor of mankind.” Should it be said that some of True; but he writes as if he them have given proof of their thought it very nearly innocent, being honest and sincere, by their and as if it were very doubtful frankness in declaring their sentiwhether it is not entirely innocent: ments, and relinquishing worldly and in one sense, it seems, it is emoluments for the sake of enjoybeneficial, as tending to enliven ing them; I answer, in the words society.
of Waterland, “A man may be “ But he guards his language, said to be sincere-1. When he by saying mere mental error ; by speaks what he really thinks truth. which, may he not mean such 2. When he searches after truth errors only as arise from mental with impartiality and perseverweakness; and not from disposi- ance.” The former, we believe, tion ?” If so, we are agreed as to many of these gentlemen possess; its innocence. But if so, he would and we think it very commendable, not have scrupled to assert its en- far preferable to a mean-spirited tire innocence in the account of the concealment, or a doubtful and Supreme Governor of mankind. ambiguous declaration of sentiIt is plain, therefore, that by mere ment. But to believe that any mental error, he means errors who fundamentally err, whether which have their existence in the they or ourselves, “ search after mind merely, or which relate to truth with impartiality and perseprinciples, in distinction from those verance,” is to disbelieve the prowhich relate to practice. If he mise of God, who declares, "the were accosted by a Calvinist, he meek will he guide in judgment; might illustrate his meaning by an the meek will he teach his way.” error respecting “the weight of I wish it to be considered whethe shekel,” or an error in " chro- ther, if not the whole, a great part