« PoprzedniaDalej »
that that coat, which you had worn with so much reputa. tion, 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 authors. 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 account 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 stricterand 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 tenor 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 incul. cated 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 lawgiver 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 circumstances 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
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,
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 communi. cation.
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 least 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.