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during the merry time of rope-dancing, and puppet plays? What is truth, would, I hope, nevertheless be truth in it, however oddly spruced up by such an author: though, perhaps, it is likely some would be apt to say, such merriment became not the gravity of my subject, and that I writ not in the style of a graduate in divinity. I confess, (as Mr. Edwards rightly says) my fault lies on the other side, in a want of "vivacity and elevation:" and I cannot wonder, that one of his character and palate should find out and complain of my flatness, which has so overcharged my book with plain and direct texts of Scripture, in a matter capable of no other proofs. But yet I must acknowledge his excess of civility to me; he shows me more kindness than I could expect or wish, since he prefers what I say to him myself to what is offered to him from the word of God; and makes me this compliment, that I begin to mend, about the close, i. e. when I leave off quoting of Scripture and the dull work was done, of "going through the history of the Evangelists and Acts," which he computes, p. 105, to take up three quarters of my book. Does not all this deserve, at least, that I should, in return, take some care of his credit? Which I know not how better to do, 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 and 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.
Some men have so peculiar a way of arguing, that one may see it influences them in the repeating another man's reasoning, and seldom fails to make it their own. In the next paragraph I find these words: "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, I confess, is a reasoning I did not think of; nor could it hardly, I fear, have been used but by one who had first took up his opinion from the recommendation of fashion or interest, and then sought topics to make it good. Perhaps the deference due to your character excused you from the trouble of quoting the page, where I pretend, as you say; and it is so little like my way of reasoning, that I shall not look for it in a book where I remember nothing of it, and where, without your direction, I fear the reader will scarce find it. Though I have not "that vivacity of thought, that elevation of mind," which Mr. Edwards demands, yet common sense would have kept me from contending that there is but one article, because all men ought to understand their religion. Numbers of propositions may be harder to be remembered, but it is the abstruseness of the notions, or obscurity, inconsistency, or doubtfulness of the terms or expressions, that makes them hard to be understood: and one single proposition may more perplex the understanding than twenty others. But where did you find "I contended for one single article, so as to exclude all the rest?" You might have remembered, that I say, p. 16, 17; That the article of the one only true God was also necessary to be believed. This might have satisfied you, that I did not so contend for one article of faith, as to be at defiance with more than one. However, you insist on the word one with great vigour, from p. 108 to 121. 108 to 121. And you did well; you had else lost all the force of that killing stroke reserved for the close, in that sharp jest of Unitarians, and a clench or two more of great moment.
Having found, by a careful perusal of the preachings of our Saviour and his apostles, that the religion they proposed consisted in that short, plain, easy, and intelligible summary which I set down, p. 157, in these words: Believing Jesus to be the Saviour promised, and taking him, now raised from the dead, and constituted the Lord and Judge of men, to be their King and
Ruler," I could not forbear magnifying the wisdom and goodness of God (which infinitely exceeds the thoughts of ignorant, vain, and narrow-minded man) in these following words: "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." Having thus plainly mentioned more than one article, I might have taken it amiss, that Mr. Edwards should be at so much pains as he is, to blame me for "contending for one" article; because I thought more than one could not be understood; had he not had many fine things to say in this declamation upon one article, which affords him so much matter, that less than seven pages could not hold it. Only here and there, as men of oratory often do, he mistakes the business, as p. 115, where he says, "I urge, that there must be nothing in Christianity that is not plain, and exactly levelled to all men's mother-wit." I desire to know where I said so, or that "the very manner of every thing in Christianity must be clear and intelligible, every thing must be presently comprehended by the weakest noddle, or else it is no part of religion, especially of Christianity;" as he has it p. 119. I am sure it is not in p. 133-136, 149-151, of my book: these, therefore, to convince him that I am of another opinion, I shall desire somebody to read to Mr. Edwards, for he himself reads my book with such spectacles, as make him find meanings and words in it, neither of which I put there. He should have remembered, that I speak not of all the doctrines of Christianity, nor all that is published to the world in it but of those truths only, which are absolutely required to be believed to make any one a Christian. And these, I find, are so plain and easy, that I see no reason why every body, with me, should not magnify the goodness and condescension of the Almighty, who having, out of his free grace, proposed a new law of faith to sinful and lost man; hath, by that law, required no harder terms, nothing as absolutely necessary to be believed, but what is suited to vulgar capacities, and the comprehension of illiterate men.
You are a little out again, p. 118, where you ironically say, as if it were my sense, "Let us have but one article, though it be with defiance to all the rest." Jesting apart, sir, this is a serious turn, that what our Saviour and his apostles preached, and admitted men into the church for believing, is all that is absolutely required to make a man a Christian. But this is, without any "defiance to all the rest," taught in the word of God. This excludes not the belief of any of those many other truths contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which it is the duty of every Christian to study, and thereby build himself up in our most holy faith; receiving with stedfast belief, and ready obedience, all those things which the Spirit of truth hath therein revealed. But that all the rest of the inspired writings, or, if you please, "articles, are of equal necessity" to be believed to make a man a Christian, with what was preached by our Saviour and his apostles, that I deny. A man, as I have shown, may be a Christian and believer, without actually believing them, because those whom our Saviour and his apostles, by their preaching and discourses, converted to the faith, were made Christians and believers, barely upon the receiving what they preached to them.
I hope it is no derogation to the Christian religion to say, that the fundamentals or it, i. e. all that is necessary to be believed in it, by all men, is easy to be understood by all men. This I thought myself authorized to say, by the very easy and very intelligible articles, insisted on by our Saviour and his apostles; which contain nothing but what could be understood by the bulk of mankind; a term which, I now not why, Mr. Edwards, p. 117, is offended at; and thereupon is, after his fashion, sharp upon me about captain Tom and his myrmidons, for whom, he tells me, I am "going to make a religion." The making of religions and creeds I leave to others. I only set down the Christian religion as I find our Saviour and his apostles preached it, and preached it to, and left it for, the "ignorant and unlearned multitude." For I hope you do not think, how contemptibly soever you speak of the "venerable
mob," as you are pleased to dignify them, p. 117, that the bulk of mankind, or, in your phrase, the "rabble," are not concerned in religion, or ought to understand it, in order to their salvation. Nor are you, I hope, acquainted with any who are of that Muscovite divine's mind, who, to one that was talking to him about religion, and the other world, replied, That for the czar, indeed, and bojars, they might be permitted to raise their hopes to heaven; but that for such poor wretches as he, they were not to think of salvation.
I remember the Pharisees treated the common people with contempt, and said, "Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed in him? But this people, who knoweth not the law, are cursed." But yet these, who, in the censure of the Pharisees, were cursed, were some of the poor; or, if you please to have it so, the mob, to whom the "Gospel was preached" by our Saviour, as he tells John's disciples, Matt. xi. 5.
Pardon me, sir, that I have here laid these examples and considerations before you; a little to prevail with you not to let loose such a torrent of wit and eloquence against the "bulk of mankind" another time, and that for a mere fancy of your own: for I do not see how they here came in your way; but that you were resolved to set up something to have a fling at, and show your parts, in what you call your "different strain," though besides the purpose. I know nobody was going to "ask the mob, What you must believe?" And as for me, I suppose you will take my word for it, that I think no mob, no, not your "venerable mob," is to be asked, what I am to believe; nor that "Articles of faith” are to be "received by the vote of club-men," or any other sort of men you will name instead of them.
In the following words, p. 115, you ask, "Whether a man may not understand those articles of faith, which you mentioned out of the Gospels and epistles, if they be explained to him, as well as that one I speak of?" It is as the articles are, and as they are explained. There are articles that have been some hundreds of years explaining; which there are many, and those not of the most illiterate, who profess they do