« PoprzedniaDalej »
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 “ 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 errors 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 à 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 ad. mitted 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 himn 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, so that none of the moral virtues, none of the evangeli. cal graces, are exerted thus always,” until you had met with somebody who said thus. That I did so, I think, would have entered into nobody'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
IX. 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 nor 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 no. tice 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 fundamentais! 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 unmasker 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,
X. 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 every where, 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 with out 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 110 more be a Christian, than he that wants what is necessary to make liim á 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 sò 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 inan a Christian: if our Saviour and his apostles ad mitted converts into the church, without preaching those your articles to them, or requiring an explicitassent 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