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I learn from your lordship, that it is the first part of wisdom, in some men's opinions, not to begin in such disputes. What the knowledge of the world (which is a sort of wisdom) should in your lordship's opinion make a man do, when one of your lordship's character begins with him, is very plain: he is not to reply, so far as he judges his defence and the matter requires, but as your lordship is pleased to allow; which some may think no better than if one might not reply at all.
After having thus rebuked me for having been too copious in my reply, in the next words your lordship instructs me what I should have answered; that "I should have cleared myself by declaring to the world, that I owned the doctrine of the Trinity, as it hath been received in the Christian church."
This, as I take it, is a mere personal matter, of the same woof with a Spanish san-benito, and, as it seems to me, designed to sit close to me. What must I do now, my lord? Must I silently put on and wear this badge of your lordship's favour, and, as one well understanding the world, say not a word of it, because the world soon grows weary of personal matters? Ifin gratitude for this personal favour I ought to be silent, yet I am forced to tell you, that, in what you require of me here, you possibly have cut out too much work for a poor ordinary layman, for whom it is too hard to know how a doctrine so disputed has been received in the Christian church, and who might have thought it enough to own it as delivered in the Scriptures. Your lordship herein lays upon me what I cannot do, without owning to know what I am sure I do not know: for how the doctrine of the Trinity has been always received in the Christian church, I confess myself ignorant. I have not had time to examine the history of it, and to read those controversies that have been writ about it: and to own a doctrine as received by others, when I do not know how these others received it, is perhaps a short way to orthodoxy, that may satisfy some men: but he that takes this way to give satisfaction, in my opinion makes a little bold with truth; and it may be questioned whether such a profession be pleasing to that God, who
requires truth in the inward parts, however acceptable in any man be to his diocesan.
I presume your lordship, in your discourse in Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, intends to give it us as it has been received in the Christian church. And I think your words, viz. " it is the sense of the Christian church which you are bound to defend, and no particular opinions of your own," authorize one to think SO. But if I am to own it as your lordship has there delivered it, I must own what I do not understand; for I confess your exposition of the sense of the church wholly transcends my capacity.
If you require me to own it with an implicit faith, I shall pay that deference as soon to your lordship's exposition of the doctrine of the church, as any one's. But if I must understand and know what I own, it is my misfortune, and I cannot deny, that I am as far from owning what you in that discourse deliver, as I can be from professing the most unintelligible thing that ever I read, to be the doctrine that I own.
Whether I make more use of my poor understanding in the case, than you are willing to allow every one of your readers, I cannot tell; but such an understanding as God has given me is the best I have, and that which I must use in the apprehending what others say, before I can own the truth of it: and for this there is no help that I know.
That which keeps me a little in countenance, is, that, if I mistake not, men of no mean parts, even divines of the church of England, and those of neither the lowest reputation nor rank, find their understandings fail them on this occasion; and stick not to own that they understand not your lordship in that discourse, and particularly that your sixth chapter is unintelligible to them as well as me; whether the fault be in their or my understanding, the world must be judge. But this is only by the by, for this is not the answer I here intend your lordship.
Your lordship tells me, that, "to clear myself, I should have owned to the world the doctrine of the Trinity, as it has been received," &c. Answer. I
know not whether in a dispute managed after a new way, wherein one man is urged against, and another man's words all along quoted, it may not also be a good as well as a new rule, for the answerer to reply to what was never objected, and clear himself from what was never laid to his charge. If this be not so, and that this new way of attacking requires not this new way of defence, your lordship's prescription to me here what I should have done, will, amongst the most intelligent and impartial readers, pass for a strange rule in controversy, and such as the learnedest of them will not be able to find in all antiquity; and therefore must be imputed to something else than your lordship's great learning.
Did your lordship in the discourse of the Vindication of the Trinity, wherein you first fell upon my book, or in your letter (my answer to which you are here correcting) did your lordship, I say, any where object to me, that "I did not own the doctrine of the Trinity, as it has been received in the Christian church?" &c. If you did, the objection was so secret, so hidden, so artificial, that your words declared quite the contrary. In the Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, your lordship says, that my notions were borrowed to serve other purposes [whereby, if I understand you right, you meant against the doctrine of the Trinity] than I intended them; which you repeat again for my satisfaction, and insist† upon for my vindication.
You having so solemnly more than once professed to clear me and my intentions from all suspicion of having any part in that controversy, as appears farther in the close of your first letter, where all you charge on me is the ill use that others had, or might make of my notions; how could I suppose such an objection made by your lordship, which you declare against, without accusing your lordship of manifest prevarication?
If your lordship had any thing upon your mind, any secret aims, which you did not think fit to own, but yet would have me divine and answer to, as if I knew them; this, I confess, is too much for me, who look no far
ther into men's thoughts, than as they appear in their books. Where you have given your thoughts vent in your words, I have not, I think, omitted to take notice of them, not wholly passing by those insinuations, which have been dropped from your lordship's pen; which from another, who had not professed so much personal respect, would have shown no exceeding good disposition of mind towards me.
When your lordship shall go on to accuse me of not believing the doctrine of the Trinity, as received in the Christian church, or any other doctrine you shall think fit, I shall answer as I would to an inquisitor. For though your lordship tells me, "I need not be afraid of the Inquisition, or that you intended to charge me with heresy in denying the Trinity;" yet he that shall consider your lordship's proceeding with me from the beginning, as far as it is hitherto gone, may have reason to think, that the methods and management of that holy office are not wholly unknown to your lordship, nor have escaped your great reading. Your proceedings with me have had these steps:
1. Several passages of my Essay of Human Understanding, and some of them relating barely to the being of a God, and other matters wholly remote from any question about the Trinity, were brought into the Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, and there argued against as containing the errors of those and them; which those and them are not known to this day.
2. In your lordship's answer to my first letter, when what was given as the great reason why my Essay was brought into that controversy, viz. because in it " certainty was founded upon clear and distinct ideas,” was found to fail, and was only a supposition of your own; other accusations were sought against it, in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity: viz. that " it might be of dangerous consequence to that doctrine, to introduce the new term of ideas, and to place certainty in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of our ideas." What are become of these charges, we shall see in the progress of this letter, when we come to consider what your lordship has replied to my answer upon these points.
3. These accusations not having, it seems, weight enough to effect what you intended, my book has been rummaged again to find new and more important faults in it; and now at last, at the third effort," my notions of ideas are found inconsistent with the articles of the Christian faith." This indeed carries some sound in it, and may be thought worthy the name and pains of so great a man, and zealous a father of the church, as your lordship.
That I may not be too bold in affirming a thing I was not privy to, give me leave, my lord, to tell your lordship why I presume my book has upon this occasion been looked over again, to see what could be found in it capable to bear a deeper accusation, that might look like something in a title-page. Your lordship, by your station in the church, and the zeal you have shown in defending its articles, could not be supposed, when you first brought my book into this controversy, to have omitted these great enormities that it now stands accused of, and to have cited it for smaller mistakes, some whereof were not found, but only imagined to be in it; if you had then known these great faults, which you now charge it with, to have been in it. If your lordship had been apprized of its being guilty of such dangerous errors, you would not certainly have passed them by: and therefore I think one may reasonably conclude, that my Essay was new looked into on purpose. Your lordship says, "that what you have done herein, you thought it your duty to do, not with respect to yourself, but to some of the mysteries of our faith, which you do not charge me with opposing, but by laying such foundations as do tend to the overthrow of them." It cannot be doubted but your duty would have made you at the first warn the world, that "my notions were inconsistent with the articles of the Christian faith," if your lordship had then known it: though the excessive respect and tenderness you express towards me personally in the immediately preceding words, would be enough utterly to confound me, were I not a little acquainted with your lordship's civilities in this kind. For you tell me," that these things laid