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There is another gentleman, and of another sort of make, parts, and breeding, who, (as it seems, ashamed of Mr. Edwards's way of handling controversies in religion) has had something to say of my Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. and so has made it necessary for me to say a word to him, before I let those papers go out of my hand. It is the author of the Occasional Paper, numb. 1. The second, third, and fourth pages of that paper gave me great hopes to meet with a man who would examine all the mistakes which came abroad in print, with that temper and indifferency, that might set an exact pattern for controversy to those who would approve themselves to be sincere contenders for truth and knowledge, and nothing else, in the disputes they engaged in. Making him allowance for the mistakes that self-indulgence is apt to impose upon human frailty, I am apt to believe he thought his performance had been such ; but I crave leave to observe, that good and candid men are often misled, from a fair unbiassed pursuit of truth, by an over-great zeal for something, that they, upon wrong grounds, take to be so; and that it is not so easy to be a fair and unprejudiced champion for truth as some, who profess it, think it to be. To acquaint bim with the occasion of this remark, I must desire him to read and consider his nineteenth page; and then to
1. Whether he knows, that the doctrine proposed in the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. was borrowed, as he says, from Hobbes's Leviathan? For I tell him, I borrowed it only from the writers of the four Gospels and the Acts; and did not know those words, he quoted out of the Leviathan, were there, or any thing like them. Nor do I know yet, any farther than as I believe them to be there, from his quotation.
2. Whether affirming, as he does positively, this, which he could not know to be true, and is in itself
perfectly false, were meant to increase or lessen the credit of the author of the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. in the opinion of the world ? or is consonant with his own rule, p. 3, "of putting candid constructions on what adversaries say?" or with what follows, in these words ? « The more divine the cause is, still the greater should be the caution. The very discoursing about Almighty God, or our holy religion, should compose our passions, and inspire us with candour and love. It is very
indecent to handle such subjects in a manner that betrays rancour and spite. These are fiends that fought to vanish, and should never mix, either with a search after truth or the defence of religion.”
3. Whether the propositions which he has, out of my book, inserted into his nineteenth
and says, "are consonant to the words of the Leviathan,” were those of all my book which were likeliest to give the reader a true and fair notion of the doctrine contained in it? If they were not, I must desire him to remember and beware of his fiends. Not but that he will find those propositions there to be true. But that neither he nor others may mistake my book, this is that, in short, which it says:
1. That there is a faith that makes men Christians.
2. That this faith is the believing “ Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah.”
3. That the believing Jesus to be the Messiah includes in it a receiving him for our Lord and King, promised and sent from God: and so lays upon all his subjects an absolute and indispensable necessity of assenting to all that they can attain the knowledge that he taught; and of a sincere obedience to all that he commanded. : This, whether it be the doctrine of the Leviathan, I know not. This appears to me out of the New Testament, from whence (as I told him in the preface) I took it to be the doctrine of our Saviour and his apostles; and I would not willingly be mistaken in it. If therefore there be any other faith besides this absolutely requisite to make a man a Christian, I shall here again desire this gentleman to inform me what it is; i. e. to set down all those propositions which are so indispensably to be believed, (for it is of simple believing I perceive the controversy runs) that no man can be a believer, i. e. a Christian, without an actual knowledge
of, and an explicit assent to, them. If he shall do this with that candour and fairness he declares to be necessary in such matters, I shall own myself obliged to him: for I am in earnest, and I would not be mistaken in it.
If he shall decline it, I, and the world too, must conclude, that upon a review of my doctrine he is convinced of the truth of it, and is satisfied that I am in the right. For it is impossible to think that a man of that fairness and candour, which he solemnly prefaces his discourse with, should continue to condemn the account I have given of the faith which I am persuaded makes a Christian; and yet he himself will not tell me (when I earnestly demand it of him, as desirous to be rid of my error, if it be one) what is that more which is absolutely required to be believed by every one before he can be a believer, i.e. what is indispensably necessary to be known, and explicitly believed, to make a man a Christian.
Another thing which I must desire this author to examine, by those his own rules, is, what he says of me, p. 30, where he makes me to have a prejudice against the ministry of the Gospel, and their office, from what I have said in my Reasonableness, &c. p. 135, 136, concerning the priests of the world, in our Saviour's time: which he calls bitter reflections.
If he will tell me what is so bitter, in any one of those passages which he has set down, that is not true, or ought not to be said there, and give me the reason why he is offended at it; I promise him to make what reparation he shall think fit to the memory of those priests, whom he, with so much good-nature, patronises, near seventeen hundred years after they have been out of the world; and is so tenderly concerned for their reputation, that he excepts against that, as said against them, which was not. For one of the three places he sets down was not spoken of priests. But his making my mentioning the faults of the priests of old, in our Saviour's time, to be an “exposing the office of the ministers of the Gospel now, and a villifying those who are employed in it," I must desire him to examine, by his own rules of love and candour, and to tell
me,“ Whether I have not reason, here again, to mind him of his fiends, and to advise him to beware of them?” And to show him why I think I have, I crave leave to ask him these questions : 1. Whether I do not all along plainly, and in express
of the priests of the world preceding, and in our Saviour's time? Nor can my argument bear any other sense.
2. Whether all I have said of them be not true?
3. Whether the representing truly the carriage of the Jewish, and more especially of the heathen priests, in our Saviour's time, as my argument required, can expose the office of the ministers of the Gospel now? Or ought to have such an interpretation put upon it?
4. Whether what he says of the "air and language I use, reaching farther,” carry any thing else in it but a declaration, that he thinks some men's carriage now hath some affinity with what I have truly said of the priests of the world before Christianity; and that there, fore the faults of those should have been let alone, or touched more gently, for fear some should think these now concerned in it?
5. Whether, in truth, this be not to accuse them, with a design to draw the envy of it on me? Whether out of good-will to them, or to me, or both, let him look. This I am sure, I have spoke of none but the priests before Christianity, both Jewish and heathen. And for those of the Jews, what our Saviour has pronounced of them justifies my reflections from being bitter; and that the idolatrous heathen priests were better than they, I believe our author will not say: and if he were preaching against them, as opposing the mic nisters of the Gospel, I suppose he will give as ill a character of them. But if any one extends my words farther than to those they were spoke of, I ask whether that agrees with his rules of love and candour ?
I shall impatiently expect from this author of the Occasional Paper an answer to these questions; and hope to find them such as becomes that temper, and love of truth, which he professes. I long to meet with a man, who, laying aside party, and interest, and prejudice, appears in controversy so as to make good the character of a champion of truth for truth's sake; a character not so hard to be known whom it belongs to, as to be deserved. Whoever is truly such an one, his opposition to me will be an obligation. For he that proposes to himself the convincing me of an error, only for truth's sake, cannot, I know, mix any rancour, or spite, or illwill, with it. He will keep himself at a distance from those fiends, and be as ready to hear, as offer reason. And two so disposed can hardly miss truth between them in a fair inquiry after it; at least, they will not lose good-breeding, and especially charity ; a virtue much more necessary than the attaining of the knowledge of obscure truths, that are not easy to be found ; and pro
l bably, therefore, not necessary to be known.
The unbiassed design of the writer, purely to defend and propagate truth, seems to me to be that alone which legitimates controversies. I am sure it plainly distin. guishes such from all others, in their success and usefulness. If a man, as a sincere friend to the person, and to the truth, labours to bring another out of error, there can be nothing more beautiful, nor more beneficial. If party, passion, or vanity direct his pen, and
, have a hand in the controversy ; there can be nothing more unbecoming, more prejudicial, nor more odious. What thoughts I shall have of a man that shall, as a Christian, go about to inform me what is necessary to be believed to make a man a Christian, I have declared, in the preface to my Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. nor do I find myself yet altered. He that, in print, finds fault with my imperfect discovery of that, wherein the faith which makes a man a Christian consists, and will not tell me what more is required, will do well to satisfy the world what they ought to think of him.