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Ruler," I could not forbear magnifying the wisdom and goodness of God (which infinitely exceeds the .thoughts of ignorant, vain, and narrow-minded man) in these following words: "The all merciful God seems herein to have consulted the poor of this world, and the bulk of mankind; these are articles that the labouring and illiterate man may comprehend." Having thus plainly mentioned more than one article, I might have taken it amiss, that Mr. Edwards should be at so much pains as he is, to blame me for "contending for one" article; because I thought more than one could not be understood; had he not had many fine things to say in this declamation upon one article, which affords him so much matter, that less than seven pages could not hold it. Only here and there, as men of oratory often do, he mistakes the business, as p. 115, where he says, "I urge, that there must be nothing in Christianity that is not plain, and exactly levelled to all men's mother-wit." I desire to know where I said so, or that "the very manner of every thing in Christianity must be clear and intelligible, every thing must be presently comprehended by the weakest noddle, or else it is no part of religion, especially of Christianity;" as he has it p. 119. I am sure it is not in p. 133-136, 149-151, of my book: these, therefore, to convince him that I am of another opinion, I shall desire somebody to read to Mr. Edwards, for he himself reads my book with such spectacles, as make him find meanings and words in it, neither of which I put there. He should have remembered, that I speak not of all the doctrines of Christianity, nor all that is published to the world in it but of those truths only, which are absolutely required to be believed to make any one a Christian. And these, I find, are so plain and easy, that I see no reason why every body, with me, should not magnify the goodness and condescension of the Almighty, who having, out of his free grace, proposed a new law of faith to sinful and lost man; hath, by that law, required no harder terms, nothing as absolutely necessary to be believed, but what is suited to vulgar capacities, and the comprehension of illiterate men.
You are a little out again, p. 118, where you ironically say, as if it were my sense, "Let us have but one article, though it be with defiance to all the rest." Jesting apart, sir, this is a serious turn, that what our Saviour and his apostles preached, and admitted men into the church for believing, is all that is absolutely required to make a man a Christian. But this is, without any "defiance to all the rest," taught in the word of God. This excludes not the belief of any of those many other truths contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which it is the duty of every Christian to study, and thereby build himself up in our most holy faith; receiving with stedfast belief, and ready obedience, all those things which the Spirit of truth hath therein revealed. But that all the rest of the inspired writings, or, if you please, "articles, are of equal necessity" to be believed to make a man a Christian, with what was preached by our Saviour and his apostles, that I deny. A man, as I have shown, may be a Christian and believer, without actually believing them, because those whom our Saviour and his apostles, by their preaching and discourses, converted to the faith, were made Christians and believers, barely upon the receiving what they preached to them.
I hope it is no derogation to the Christian religion to say, that the fundamentals of it, i. e. all that is necessary to be believed in it, by all men, is easy to be understood by all men. This I thought myself authorized to say, by the very easy and very intelligible articles, insisted on by our Saviour and his apostles; which contain nothing but what could be understood by the bulk of mankind; a term which, I now not why, Mr. Edwards, p. 117, is offended at; and thereupon is, after his fashion, sharp upon me about captain Tom and his myrmidons, for whom, he tells me, I am "going to make a religion." The making of religions and creeds I leave to others. I only set down the Christian religion as I find our Saviour and his apostles preached it, and preached it to, and left it for, the "ignorant and unlearned multitude." For I hope you do not think, how contemptibly soever you speak of the "venerable
mob," as you are pleased to dignify them, p. 117, that the bulk of mankind, or, in your phrase, the rabble," are not concerned in religion, or ought to understand it, in order to their salvation. Nor are you, I hope, acquainted with any who are of that Muscovite divine's mind, who, to one that was talking to him about religion, and the other world, replied, That for the czar, indeed, and bojars, they might be permitted to raise their hopes to heaven; but that for such poor wretches as he, they were not to think of salvation.
I remember the Pharisees treated the common people with contempt, and said, Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed in him? But this people, who knoweth not the law, are cursed." But yet these, who, in the censure of the Pharisees, were cursed, were some of the poor; or, if you please to have it so, the mob, to whom the "Gospel was preached" by our Saviour, as he tells John's disciples, Matt. xi. 5.
Pardon me, sir, that I have here laid these examples and considerations before you; a little to prevail with you not to let loose such a torrent of wit and eloquence against the "bulk of mankind" another time, and that for a mere fancy of your own: for I do not see how they here came in your way; but that you were resolved to set up something to have a fling at, and show your parts, in what you call "different strain," though besides the purpose. I know nobody was going to "ask the mob, What you must believe?" And as for me, I suppose you will take my word for it, that I think no mob, no, not your "venerable mob," is to be asked, what I am to believe; nor that " Articles of faith" are to be "received by the vote of club-men," or any other sort of men you will name instead of them.
In the following words, p. 115, you ask, "Whether a man may not understand those articles of faith, which you mentioned out of the Gospels and epistles, if they be explained to him, as well as that one I speak of?" It is as the articles are, and as they are explained. There are articles that have been some hundreds of years explaining; which there are many, and those not of the most illiterate, who profess they do
not yet understand. And to instance in no other, but "He descended into hell," the learned are not yet agreed in the sense of it, though great pains have been taken to explain it.
Next, I ask, Who are to explain your articles? The papists will explain some of them one way, and the reformed another. The remonstrants, and anti-remonstrants give them different senses. And probably, the Trinitarians and Unitarians will profess, that they understand not each others' explications. And at last, I think it may be doubted, whether any articles, which need men's explications, can be so clearly and certainly understood, as one which is made so very plain by the Scripture itself, as not to need any explication at all. Such is this, that Jesus is the Messiah. For though you learnedly tell us, that Messiah is a Hebrew word, and no better understood by the vulgar than Arabic; yet I guess it is so fully explained in the New Testament, and in those places I have quoted out of it, that nobody, who can understand any ordinary sentence in the Scripture, can be at a loss about it. And it is plain, it needs no other explication than what our Saviour and the apostles gave it in their preaching; for, as they preached it, men received it, and that sufficed to make them believers.
To conclude, when I heard that this learned gentleman, who had a name for his study of the Scriptures, and writings on them, had done me the honour to consider my treatise, I promised myself, that his degree, calling, and fame in the world, would have secured to me something of weight in his remarks, which might have convinced me of my mistakes; and, if he had found any in it, justified my quitting of them. But having examined what, in his, concerns my book, I to my wonder find, that he has only taken pains to give it an ill name, without so much as attempting to refute any one position in it, how much soever he is pleased to make a noise against several propositions, which he might be free with, because they are his own: and I have no reason to take it amiss if he has shown his zeal and skill against them. He has been so favourable to what is
mine, as not to use any one argument against any passage in my book. This, which I take for a public testimony of his approbation, I shall return him my thanks for, when I know whether I owe it to his mistake, conviction, or kindness. But if he writ only for his bookseller's sake, he alone ought to thank him.
AFTER the foregoing papers were sent to the press, the Witnesses to Christianity, of the reverend and learned Dr. Patrick, now lord bishop of Ely, fell into my hands. I regretted the not having seen it before I writ my treatise of the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. I should then, possibly, by the light given me by so good a guide, and so great a man, with more confidence directly have fallen into the knowledge of Christianity; which, in the way I sought it, in its source, required the comparing oftexts with texts, and the more than once reading over the Evangelists and Acts, besides other parts of Scripture. But I had the ill-luck not to see that treatise until so few hours since, that I have had time only to read as far as the end of the introduction, or first chapter: and there Mr. Edwards may find, that this pious bishop (whose writings show he studies, as well as his life that he believes, the Scriptures) owns what Mr. Edwards is pleased to call "a plausible conceit," which, he says, "I give over and over again in these formal words, viz. That nothing is required to be believed by any Christian man, but this, That Jesus is the Messiah."
The liberty Mr. Edwards takes, in other places, deserves not it should be taken upon his word, “ That these formal words" are to be found" over and over again" in my book, unless he had quoted the pages. But I will set him down the "formal words," which are to be found in this reverend prelate's book, p. 14. "To be the Son of God, and to be Christ, being but different expressions of the same thing." And, p. 10, "It is the very same thing to believe, that Jesus is the Christ, and to believe, that Jesus is the Son of God; express it how you please. This alone is the faith which can regenerate a man, and put a divine spirit