« PoprzedniaDalej »
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 you, 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, SIR,
Your most humble servant,
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
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.
REASONABLENESS OF CHRISTIANITY,
A CAUSE that stands in need of falsehoods to support it, and an adversary that will make use of them, deserve nothing but contempt; which I doubt not but every_considerate reader thought answer enough to Mr. Edwards's Socinianism unmasked. But since in his late Socinian Creed he says, "I would have answered him if I could," that the interest of Christianity may not suffer by my silence, nor the contemptibleness of his treatise afford him matter of triumph among those who lay any weight on such boasting, it is fit it should be shown what an arguer he is, and how well he deserves, for his performance, to be dubbed, by himself, "irrefragable."
Those who, like Mr. Edwards, dare to publish inventions of their own for matters of fact, deserve a name so abhorred, that it finds not room in civil conversation. This secures him from the proper answer, due to his imputations to me, in print, of matters of fact utterly false, which, without any reply of mine, fix upon him that name (which, without a profligate mind,
a man cannot expose himself to) till he hath proved them. Till then, he must wear what he has put upon himself. This being a rule, which common justice hath prescribed to the private judgments of mankind, as well as to the public judicatures of courts, that all allegations of facts, brought by contending parties, should be presumed to be false till they are proved.
There are two ways of making a book unanswerable. The one is by the clearness, strength, and fairness of the argumentation. Men who know how to write thus, are above bragging what they have done, or boasting to the world that their adversaries are baffled. Another way to make a book unanswerable, is to lay a stress on matters of fact foreign to the question, as well as to truth; and to stuff it with scurrility and fiction. This hath been always so evident to common sense, that no man, who had any regard to truthjor ingenuity, ever thought matters of fact besides the argument, and stories made at pleasure the way of managing controversies. Which showing only the want of sense and argument, could, if used on both sides, end in nothing but downright railing and he must always have the better of the cause who has lying and impudence on his side.
The unmasker, in the entrance of his book, sets a great distance between his and my way of writing. I am not sorry that mine differs so much as it does from his. If it were like his, I should think, like his, it wanted the author's commendations. For, in his first paragraph, which is all laid out in his own testimony of his own book, he so earnestly bespeaks an opinion of mastery in politeness, order, coherence, pertinence, strength, seriousness, temper, and all the good qualities requisite in controversy, that I think, since he pleases himself so much with his own good opinion, one in pity ought not to go about to rob him of so considerable an admirer. I shall not, therefore, contest any of those excellencies he ascribes to himself, or faults he blames in me, in the management of the dispute between us, any farther than as particular passages of his book, as I come to examine them, shall suggest unavoidable re