Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

of, if he should disbelieve, or deny any one, he would cast off his allegiance, disfranchise himself, and be no longer a subject of Christ's kingdom. But, in this sense, nobody can tell what is fundamental to another, what is necessary for another man to believe. This catalogue of fundamentals, every one alone can make for himself: nobody can fix it for him ; nobody can collect or prescribe it to another: but this is, according as God has dealt to every one the measure of light and faith ; and has opened each man's understanding, that he may understand the Scriptures. Whoever has used what means he is capable of, for the informing of himself, with a readiness to believe and obey what shall be taught and prescribed by Jesus, his Lord and King, is a true and faithful subject of Christ's kingdom ; and cannot be thought to fail in any thing necessary to salvation.

Supposing a man and his wife, barely by seeing the wonderful things that Moses did, should have been persuaded to put themselves under his government; or by reading his law, and liking it; or by any other motive, had been prevailed on sincerely to take him for their ruler and lawgiver; and accordingly (renouncing their former idolatry and heathenish pollutions) in token thereof had, by baptism and circumcision, the initiating ceremonies, solemnly entered themselves into that communion, under the law of Moses; had they not thereby been made denizens of the commonwealth of Israel, and invested with all the privileges and prerogatives of true children of Abraham, leaving to their posterity a right to their share in the promised land, though they had died before they had performed any other act of obedience to that law; nay, though they had not known whose son Moses was, nor how he had delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, nor whither he was leading them? I do not say, it is likely they should be so far ignorant. But, whether they were or no, it was enough that they took him for their prince and ruler, with a purpose to obey him, to submit themselves en. tirely to his commands and conduct; and did nothing afterwards, whereby they disowned or rejected his authority over them. In that respect, none of his laws were greater or more necessary to be submitted to, one than another, though the matter of one might be of much greater consequence than of another. But a disobedience to any law of the least consequence, if it carry with it a disowning of the authority that made it, forfeits all, and cuts off such an offender from that commonwealth, and all the privileges of it.

This is the case, in respect of other matters of faith, to those who believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and take him to be their King, sent from God, and so are already Christians. It is not the opinion, that any one may have of the weightiness of the matter, (if they are, without their own fault, ignorant that our Saviour hath revealed it) that shall disfranchise them, and make them forfeit their interest in his kingdom : they may still be good subjects, though they do not believe a great many things, which creed-makers may think necessary to be believed. That which is required of them, is a sincere endeavour to know his mind, declared in the Gospel, and an explicit belief of all that they understand to be so. Not to believe what he has revealed, whether in a lighter or more weighty matter, calls his veracity into question, destroys his mission, denies his authority, and is a flat disowning him to be the Messiah, and so overturns that fundamental and necessary article whereby a man is a Christian. But this cannot be done by a man's ignorance, or unwilful mistake of any of the truths published by our Saviour himself, or his authorized and inspired ministers, in the New Testament. Whilst a man knows not that it was his will or meaning, his allegiance is safe, though he believe the contrary.

If this were not so, it is impossible that any one should be a Christian. For in some things we are ignorant, and err all, not knowing the Scriptures. For the holy inspired writings, being all of the same divine authority, must all equally in every article be fundamental, and necessary to be believed; if that be a reason, that makes any one proposition in it necessary to be believed. But the law of faith, the covenant of the Gospel, being a covenant of grace, and not of natural right, or debt; nothing can be absolutely necessary to be believed, but what, by this new law of faith, God of his good pleasure hath made to be so. And this, it is plain, by the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, to all that believed not already in him, was only the believing the only true God, and Jesus to be the Messiah, whom he hath sent. The performance of this puts a man within the covenant, and is that which God will impute to him for righteousness. All the other acts of assent to other truths, taught by our Saviour and his apostles, are not what make a man a Christian; but are necessary acts of obedience to be performed by one who is a Christian; and therefore, being a Christian, ought to live by the laws of Christ's kingdom.

Nor are we without some glimpse of light, why it hath pleased God of his grace, that the believing Jesus to be the Messiah should be that faith which he would impute to men for righteousness. It is evident from Scripture, that our Saviour despised the shame and endured the cross for the joy set before him ; which joy, it is also plain, was a kingdom. But, in this kingdom, which his Father had appointed to him, he could have none but voluntary subjects, such as leaving the kingdom of darkness, and of the prince of this world, with all the pleasures, pomps, and vanities thereof, would put themselves under his dominion, and translate themselves into his kingdom; which they did, by believing and owning him to be the Messiah their King, and thereby taking him to rule over them. For the faith for which God justifieth, is not an empty speculation, but a faith joined with repentance, and working by loye. And for this, which was, in effect, to return to God himself, and to their natural allegiance due to him, and to advance, as much as lay in them, the glory of the kingdom, which he had promised his Son; God was pleased to declare, he would accept them, receive them to grace, and blot out all their former transgressions.

This is evidently the covenant of grace, as delivered in the Scriptures : and if this be not, I desire any one to tell me what it is, and what are the terms of it. It is a law of faith, whereby God has promised to forgive all our sins, upon our repentance and believing something; and to impute that faith to us for righteousness. Now I ask, what it is by the law of faith, we are required to believe? For until that be known, the law of faith is not distinctly known; nor the terms of the covenant, upon which the all-merciful God graciously offers us salvation. And if any one will say, this is not known, nay, is not easily and certainly to be known under the Gospel, I desire him to tell me, what the greatest enemies of Christianity can say worse against it? For a way proposed to salvation, that does not certainly lead thither, or is proposed so as not to be known, are very little different as to their consequence; and mankind would be left to wander in darkness and uncertainty with the one as well as the other.

I do not write this for controversy's sake ; for had I minded victory, I would not have given the unmasker this new matter of exception. I know whatever is said, he must be bawling for his fashionable and profitable orthodoxy, and cry out against this too, which I have here added, as Socinianism; and cast that name upon all that differs from what is held by those he would recommend his zeal to in writing. I call it bawling, for whether what he has said be reasoning, I shall refer to those of his own brotherhood, if he be of any brotherhood, and there be any that will join with him in his set of fundamentals, when his creed is made.

. Had I minded nothing but how to deal with him, I had tied him up short to his list of fundamentals, without affording him topics of declaiming against what I have here said. But I have enlarged on this point, for the sake of such readers, who, with the love of truth, read books of this kind, and endeavour to inform themselves in the things of their everlasting concernment : it being of greater consideration with me to give any light and satisfaction to one single person, who is really concerned to understand, and be convinced of the religion he professes, than what a thousand fashionable or titular professors of any sort of orthodoxy shall say, or think of me, for not doing as they do ; i. e. for not

saying after others, without understanding what is said, or upon what grounds, or caring to understand it.

Let us now consider his argument, to prove the articles he has given us to be fundamentals. In his Thoughts concerning the Causes of Atheism, p. 119, he argues from 1 Tim. iii. 16, where he says, “ Christianity is called a mystery; that all things in Christianity are not plain, and exactly level to every common apprehension; and that every thing in Christianity is not clear, and intelligible and comprehensible by the weakest noddle.” Let us take this for proved, as much as he pleases; and then let us see the force of this subtile disputant's argument, for the necessity there is, that every Christian man should believe those, which he has given us for fundamental articles, out of the epistles. The reason of that obligation, and the necessity of every man's and woman's believing in them, he has laid in this, that they are to be found in the epistles, or in the Bible. This argument for them we have over and over again, in his Socinianism unmasked, as here, p.9, thus: “ Are they set down to no purpose, in these inspired epistles? Why did the apostles write these doctrines, was it not, that those they writ to, might give their assent to them ? p. 22. “ They are in our Bibles, for that very purpose, to be believed,” p. 25. Now I ask, Can any one more directly invalidate all he says here, for the necessity of believing his articles ? Can any one more apparently write booty, than by saying, that "these his doctrines, these his fundamental articles” (which are, after his fashion, set down between the 8th and 20th pages of this his first chapter) are of necessity to be believed by every one, before he can be a Christian, because they are in the epistles and in the Bible; and yet affirm, that in Christianity, i. e. in the epistles and in the Bible, there are mysteries, there are things “not plain, not clear, not intelligible to common apprehensions? If his articles, some of which contain mysteries, are necessary to be believed to make a man a Christian, because they are in the Bible; then, according to this rule, it is necessary for many men to believe

« PoprzedniaDalej »