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law of faith, and manifested what that faith was, upon which he would receive penitent converts.
And though, by his apostles, our Saviour taught a great many other truths, for the explaining this fundamental article of the law of faith, that Jesus is the Messiah ; some whereof have a nearer, and some a more remote connexion with it, and so cannot be denied by any Christian, who sees that connexion, or knows they are so taught : yet an explicit belief of any one of them is no more necessarily required to make a man a Christian, than an explicit belief of all those truths, which have a connexion with the being of a God, or are revealed by him, is necessarily required to make a man not to be an atheist : though none of them can be denied by any one who sees that connexion, or acknowledges that revelation, without his being an atheist. All these truths, taught us from God, either by reason or revelation, are of great use, to enlighten our minds, confirm our faith, stir up our affections, &c. And the more we see of them, the more we shall see, admire, and magnify the wisdom, goodness, mercy, and love of God, in the work of our redemption. This will oblige us to search and study the Scripture, wherein it is contained and laid open to us.
All that we find, in the revelation of the New Testament, being the declared will and mind of our Lord and Master, the Messiah, whom we have taken to be our king, we are bound to receive as right and truth, or else we are not his subjects, we do not believe him to be the Messiah, our King, but cast him off, and with the Jews say, “ We will not have this man reign over us.” But it is still what we find in the Scripture not in this or that system ; what we, sincerely seeking to know the will of our Lord, discover to be his mind. Where it is spoken plainly, we cannot miss it; and it is evident he requires our assent: where there is obscurity, either in the expressions themselves, or by reason of the seeming contrariety of other passages, there a fair endeavour, as much as our circumstances will permit, secures us from a guilty disobedience of his will, or a
sinful error in faith, which way soever our inquiry resolves the doubt, or perhaps leaves it unresolved. If he had required more of us in those points, he would have declared his will plainer to us, and discovered the truth contained in those obscure, or seemingly contradictory places, as clearly and as uniformly as he did that fundamental article, that we were to believe him to be the Messiah, our King.
As men, we have God for our King, and are under the law of reason: as Christians, we have Jesus the Messiah for our King, and are under the law revealed by him in the Gospel. And though every Christian, both as a Deist and a Christian, be obliged to study both the law of nature and the revealed law, that in them he may know the will of God, and of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent; yet in neither of these laws is there to be found a select set of fundamentals, distinct from the rest, which are to make him a Deist, or a Christian. But he that believes one eternal, invisible God, his Lord and King, ceases thereby to be an atheist; and he that believes Jesus to be the Messiah, his King, ordained by God, thereby becomes a Christian, is delivered from the power of darkness, and is translated into the kingdom of the Son of God; is actually within the covenant of grace, and has that faith, which shall be imputed to him for righteousness; and, if he continues in his allegiance to this his King, shall receive the reward, eternal life.
He that considers this, will not be so hot as the unmasker, to contend for a number of fundamental articles, all necessary, every one of them, to be explicitly believed by every one for salvation, without knowing them himself, or being able to enumerate them to another. Can there be any thing more absurd than to say, there are several fundamental articles, each of which every man must explicitly believe, upon pain of damnation, and yet not be able to say which they be? The unmasker has set down no small number; but yet dares not say, these are all. On the contrary, he has plainly confessed there are more ; but will not, i. e. cannot tell
what they are, that remain behind : Nay, has given a . general description of his fundamental articles, by which it is not evident, but there may be ten times as many as those he had named; and amongst them (if he durst, or could name them) probably several, that many a good Christian, who died in the faith, and is now in heaven, never once thought of; and others, which many, of as good authority as he, would, from their different systems, certainly deny and contradict.
This, as great an absurdity as it is, cannot be otherwise, whilst men will take upon them to alter the terms of the Gospel ; and when it is evident, that our Saviour and his apostles received men into the church, and pronounced them believers, for taking him to be the Messiah, their King and deliverer, sent by God, have a boldness to say, “this is not enough.” But when you would know of them what then is enough, they cannot tell you: the reason whereof is visible, viz. because they being able to produce no other reason for their collection of fundamental articles, to prove them necessary to be believed, but because they are of divine authority, and contained in the holy Scriptures; and are, as the unmasker says, “writ there on purpose to be believed ;" they know not where to stop, when they have once begun: those texts that they leave out, or from which they deduce none of their fundamentals, being of the same divine authority, and so upon that account equally fundamental with what they culled out, though not so well suited to their particular systeins.
Hence come thase endless and unreasonable contentions about fundamentals, whilst each censures the defect, redundancy, or falsehood of what others require, as necessary to be believed: and yet he himself gives not a catalogue of his own fundamentals, which he will say is sufficient and complete. Nor is it to be wondered; since, in this way, it is impossible to stop short of putting every proposition, divinely revealed, into the list af fundamentals; all of thein being of divine, and so of equal authority; and, upon that account, equally necessary to be believed by every one that is a Christian, though they are not all necessary to be believed to make any, one a Christian. For the New Testament containing the laws of the Messiah's kingdom, in regard of all the actions, both of mind and body, of all his subjects; every Christian is bound, by his allegiance to him, to believe all that he says in it to be true; as well as to assent, that all he commands in it is just and good : and what negligence, perverseness, or guilt there is, in his mistaking in the one, or failing in his obedience to the other, that this righteous Judge of all men, who cannot be deceived, will at the last day lay open, and reward accordingly.
It is no wonder, therefore, there have been such fierce contests, and such cruel havoc made amongst Christians about fundamentals; whilst every one would set up his system, upon pain of fire and faggot in this, and hell-fire in the other world. Though, at the same time, whilst he isexercising theutmost barbarities against others, to prove himself a true Christian, he professes himself so ignorant that he cannot tell, or so uncharitable that he will not tell, what articles are absolutely necessary and sufficient to make a man a Christian. If there be any such fundamentals, as it is certain there are, it is as certain they must be very plain. Why then does every one urge and make a stir about fundamentals, and nobody give a list of them ? But because (as I have said) upon the usual grounds, they cannot: for I will be bold to say, that every one who considers the matter, will see, that either only the article of his being the Messiah their King, which alone our Saviour and his apostles preached to the unconverted world, and received those that believed it into the church, is the only necessary article to be believed by a theist, to make him a Christian ; or else, that all the truths contained in the New Testament are necessary articles to be believed to make a man a Christian: and that between these two, it is impossible any where to stand; the reason whereof is plain. Because, either the believing Jesus to be the Messiah, i. e. the taking him to be our King, makes us subjects and denizens of his kingdom, that is, Christians: or else an explicit knowledge of, and actual obedience to, the laws of his kingdom, is what is required to make us subjects; which, I think, it was never said of any other kingdom. For a man must be a subject, before he is bound to obey.
Let us suppose it will be said here, that an obedience to the laws of Christ's kingdom is what is necessary to make us subjects of it, without which we cannot be admitted into it, i. e. be Christians : and, if so, this obedience must be universal ; I mean, it must be the same sort of obedience to all the laws of this kingdom: which, since nobody says is in any one such as is wholly free from error, or frailty, this obedience can only lie in a sincere disposition and purpose of mind, to obey every one of the laws of the Messiah, delivered in the New Testament, to the utmost of our power. Now, believing right being one part of that obedience, as well as acting right is the other part, the obedience of assent must be implicitly to all that is delivered there, that it is true. But for as much as the particular acts of an explicit assent cannot go any farther than his understanding, who is to assent; what he understands to be truth, delivered by our Saviour, or the apostles commissioned by him, and assisted by his Spirit, that he must necessarily believe : it becomes a fundamental article to him, and he cannot refuse his assent to it, without renouncing his allegiance. For he that denies any of the doctrines that Christ has delivered, to be true, denies him to be sent from God, and consequently to be the Messiah ; and so ceases to be a Christian. From whence it is evident, that if any more be necessary to be believed to make a man a Christian, than the believing Jesus to be the Messiah, and thereby taking him for our King, it cannot be any set bundle of fundamentals, culled out of the Scripture, with an omission of the rest, according as best suits any one's fancy, system, or interest : but it must be an explicit belief of all those propositions, which he, according to the best of his understanding, really apprehends to be contained and meant in the Scripture; and an implicit belief of all the rest, which he is ready to believe, as soon as it shall please God, upon his use of the means, to enlighten him, and make them clear to his understanding. So that, in effect, almost every particular man in this sense has, or may have, a distinct catalogue of fundamentals, each whereof it is necessary for him explicitly to believe, now that he is a Christian ; where.