Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

hension of others to have true piety; and that one thing that must be done in order to it, one thing pertaining to the moral evidence that recommends them to this judgment, is the profession they make of religion, (p. 5. p. 139. p. 47. b. c. p. 132. p.

p.

b

. 44. d.) In p. 42, speaking of the profession of visible Christians, he has these words, “ And it is from the nature and purport of this profession, we say, the church is to judge the members to be wise virgins, or what they make a shew of.” And Mr.

a W. insists upon it, that according to Christ's institution, this must be in words equally signifying true godliness, and something else, without any discrimination or marks of difference.This is the scheme! And certainly such a doctrine of deceitful equivocation in the public exercise of religion, is more agreeable to the principles and practices of a religion I am loth to name, than the true religion of Jesus Christ.

Mr. W. says, (p. 35. d.) “ I am at a loss to conceive how it will help the cause of truth to represent those who are of Mr. S.'s opinion, as teaching men that they may enter into covenant with God with known and allowed guile.” Supposing I had made such a representation, I can tell him how it would have helped the cause of truth, (as it would be speaking nothing but the truth,) if he be one of Mr. Stoddard's opinion, (as he says he is,) and represents his own opinion truly.

But let the unreasonableness of this notion of professing gospel holiness in words of two meanings, without any discrimination or mark of difference, be a little further considered. Since it is allowed, that gospel holiness is the thing which is to be exhibited in the profession, and there are words which signify this by a determinate meaning, why must they needs be avoided, and words of doubtful and double signification only be made use of ?* Since the design of the profession is to exhibit to others understanding that very thing; if the proper and distinguishing names of that must nevertheless be avoided in the profession, and for this very reason, that they point forth to others' understanding that very thing by a determinate meaning; then we are brought to this gross absurdity, viz. That the end of a profession is to exhibit to others’understanding and reasonable judgment a particular qualification; but at the same time such words only must be used as do not distinctly point forth to others' understanding and judgment that particular qualification. The church are to seek and demand a profession, that shall determine their rational judgment; but yet are designedly to avoid such a profession, as shall determine their understandings.-Be it far from

* Mr. W. (p. 6. d. e.) speaks ot a profession in terms of indiscriminate signification, when not contradicted in life, as the sole, entire evidence, which the church, as a church, is to have, by divine appointment, in order to that public judgment it is to make of the saintship of men.

not say.

us to attribute to the allwise God any such an absurd and inconsistent constitution.

Mr. W. says, charity obliges the church to understand the words of the professors in the most favourable sense. But cha. rity does not oblige us to understand their words in any other sense than that in which they professedly use them. But in churches which professedly act on Mr. W.'s scheme, (if any such there be,) the professors who are admitted, professedly use ambiguous words, or words equally signifying two entirely distinct things, without discrimination or marks of difference; and therefore charity obliges us to understand their words no otherwise than as signifying that they have one or other of those two things; and not that they have one in particular: for their words do not signify this, in the sense they professedly use them. If a man that is indebted to me, professes that he has either gold or brass, which he promises to pay me; or if he uses an equivocal or general term, that equally, and without marks of difference, signifies either one or the other ; charity may oblige me to believe what he says, which is, that he has either gold or brass: but no charity obliges me to believe that he has gold, which he does

Mr. W. in his description of such a profession as Christ has instituted, in order to admission to Sacraments, often mentions two things, viz. A profession of something present, a present believing in Christ, and cordial consent to the terms of the covenant of grace, &c. And a promise of something future. And with regard to the latter, he is very full in it, that what is promised for time to come is saving faith, repentance, and obedience.* Now what reason can be given why we should use words of double meaning in the former part of the profession more than in the latter? Seeing Mr. W. allows that we must profess gospel-holiness as well as promise it, and seeing we may and must make use of words of indiscriminate and double meaning in professing present gospel-holiness, why should not we do so too in promising what is future, and so equivocate in our solemn vows and oaths as the Papists do? If Mr. W. says it is very hard for men to discern the discrimination between moral sincerity and gospel-holiness; I answer, there is as much need to discern the difference in order understandingly to promise gospel-holiness with discrimination, as to profess it with discrimination. Mr. W. says (p. 8. b. c.) “ It is a received rule among man

a kind, in all public judgments, to interpret words in the most extensive and favourable sense, that the nature of the words or ex pressions will bear.” I know not what he means: But if he means (as he must, if he means any thing to the purpose) that it

* Pref. p. 3. d. e. & 5. d. p. 24. 6. 25. 6. 22. d. 27. a. 58. d. 69. d.

.

is a received rule among mankind, to trust, or accept, or at all regard any professions or declarations that men make, with professed design, in words of double and indiscriminate meaning, without any marks of difference by which their meaning can be known, for that very end that they may be used with a safe conscience, though they have no dictates of their own consciences, that they have what others are to believe they have; I say, if this be a received rule among mankind, it is a rule that mankind has lately received from Mr. W. Heretofore mankind, societies or particular persons, would have been counted very foolish for regarding such professions.

Is this the way in earthly kingdoms, in professions of allegiance to temporal princes, in order to their admission to the privileges of good subjects? Do they choose equivocal terms to put into their oaths of allegiance, to that end that men may use them and speak true, though they are secret enemies ?--There are two competitors for the kingdom of this world, Christ and Satan the design of a public profession of religion is, to declare on which side men are. And is it agreeable to the custom of mankind in such cases, to make laws that no other than ambiguous words shall be used, or to accept of such in declarations of this kind? There are two competitors for the kingdom of Great Britain, King George, and the Pretender; Is it the constitution of King George and the British Parliament, that men should take oaths of allegiance, contrived in words of indeterminate signification, to the end that men who are in their hearts enemies to King George, and friends to the Pretender, may use them and speak true? And certainly mankind, those of them that have common sense, never in any affairs of life look on such professions as worth a rush. Would Mr. W. himself, if tried, in any affair wherein his temporal interest is concerned, trust such professions as these? If any man with whom he has dealings, should profess to him that he had pawned for him, in a certain place, a hundred pounds, evidently, yea professedly using the expression as an ambiguous one, so that there is no understanding by it, what is pawned there, whether a hundred pound in money, or a hundred weight of stones: If he should inquire of the man what he meant, and he should reply, you have no business to search my heart, or to turn my heart inside out; you are obliged in charity to understand my words in the most favourable sense: would Mr. W. in this case stick to his own received rule? would he regard such a profession, or run the venture of one sixpence upon it? Would he not rather look on such a man as affronting him, and treating him as though he would make a fool of him? And would not he know, that every body else would think him a fool, if he should

a suffer himself to be gulled by such professions, in things which concern his own private interest ?-And yet it seems, this is the way in which he thinks he ought to conduct himself as a minister of Christ, and one intrusted by him in affairs wherein his honour and the interests of his kingdom are concerned.

And now I desire it may be judged by such as are possessed of human understanding, and are not disabled by prejudice from exercising it, whether this notion of Mr. W.'s of making a solemn profession of gospel-holiness in words of indiscriminate meaning, be not too absurd to be received by the reason God has given mankind. This peculiar notion of his is apparently the life and soul of his scheme; the main pillar of his temple, on which the whole weight of the building rests; which if it be broken, the whole falls to the ground, and buries the builder, or at least his work, in its ruins. For if this notion of his be disproved, then, in as much as it is agreed, that true godliness must be professed, it will follow, that it must be professed in words properly signifying the thing by a determinate meaning, which therefore no ungodly men can use, and speak true ; and that therefore men must have true godliness in order to a right in the sight of God to make such profession, and to receive the privileges depending thereon: which implies and infers all those principles of mine which Mr. W. opposes in his book, and confutes all that he says in opposition to them.

SECT. V.

Shewing that Mr. Williams, in supposing that unsanctified men

may profess such things, as he allows must be professed, and yet speak true, is inconsistent with Mr. Stoddard, and with himself

Mr. W. denies that in order to men being admitted to sacraments, they need make any peculiar profession, distinguished from what an unregenerate man may make, (p. 44. c. p. 50. e. 6. c, d. e. 9. c. 10. c. e. 45. e. 46. a. & 53. e.) or that they need to profess any thing but what an unregenerate man may say, and speak true, (p. 47. c.) And that they need make no pro

. fession but what is compatible with an unregenerate state, (p. 8. d. e.) And yet the reader has seen what things he says all must profess in order to come to sacraments. One thing he says they must profess, is a real conviction of the heart, of the divine truth of God's word ; that they do sincerely and with all their hearts believe the gospel. And these things, he says, are agrecable to the opinion of Mr. Stoddard, and the doctrine he taught, (p. 32. b. c. & p. 36. a.) Let us compare these things with the doctrine Mr. S. taught Mr. S. taught, that natural men do not believe the gospel, (Benef. of the Gosp. p. 89. b.) that they do not properly believe the word

of God. (Guide to Christ, p, 26. d.) That they do not believe the testimony of God, do not lay weight on the word of God ; that they do not believe the report of the gospel. (Safety of Ap. Edit. 2. p. 229. c. e.) That they do not receive God's testimony, nor lay weight on it. (Ibid. p. 99.) That there is no man, how great soever his profession, how large soever his knowledge, that continues in a natural condition, who thoroughly believes that truth; i. e. that men may be saved by Christ's righteousness. (Ibid. p. 4. d. & p. 5. d. e.) That common illumination does not convince men of the truth of the gospel. (Benef. of the Gosp. p. 148, 149.) How then could it be the doctrine'Mr. S. taught, that natural men may really and with all their hearts believe and be convinced of the truth of the gospel ?

And Mr. W. himself, in his sermons on Christ a King and Witness, (p. 114, 115.) says, “ man since the fall is naturally ig. norant of divine truth, and an enemy to it, and full of prejudices against the truth :" and further, (Ibid. p. 114.) “ The renewing of the Holy Ghost makes an universal change of the heart and life. He knows the doctrine contained in the Bible in a new manner.-Before he had a view of the truth as a doubtful uncertain thing; he received it as a thing which was probably true ; -and perhaps for the most part it appeared something likely to answer the end proposed. But now the gospel appears to him divinely true and real,” &c. But how do these things consist with men being, before conversion, sincerely and with all their hearts convinced of the divine truth of the gospel ? Can that be, and yet men view it as a doubtful uncertain thing, as not yet appearing to them divinely true and real ?

Again, Mr. W. supposes, that some unsanctified men may speak true, and profess a hearty consent to the terms of the covenant of grace, a compliance with the call of the gospel, submission to the proposals of it, satisfaction with that device for our salvation that is revealed in the gospel, and with the offer which God makes of himself to be our God in Christ Jesus, a fervent desire of Christ and the benefits of the covenant of grace, and an earnest purpose and resolution to seek salvation on the terms of it, (p. 11. c.) and a falling in with the terms of salvation proposed in the gospel, with a renouncing of all other ways, (which he speaks of as agreeable to Mr. Stoddard's opinion, p. 32. b. c.) Quite contrary to the current doctrine of Calvinistic Divines ; contrary to the opinion of Mr. Guthrie, whom he cites as a witness in his favour, (pref. p. 4.) who insists on satisfaction with that device for our salvation which is revealed in the gospel, and with the offer which God makes of himself to be our God in Christ, as the peculiar nature of saving faith. And contrary to the principles of Mr. Perkins (another author he quotes as his voucher) delivered in these verv words, which Mr. W

VOL. IV.

« PoprzedniaDalej »