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To proceed; As a farther defence of the Reformation, you alk, “How did the first reformers behave themselves ? Did they not think and speak of them (viz. absolution and excommunication) as having nothing to do with the favour of God, as human engines, and mere outeries of human terror? And did they mean by this to claim to themselves the right of absolution, which they had denied to others, because they were fallible and weak men ; or to assert a power of excommunication, so as to affect men's eternal salvation, to themselves in one church, which they had disregarded and trampled upon in another? No: they treated all excommunications as alike, and upon an equal foot; and could, upon no other account, neglect and disregard them as they did, but because God had not given to any man the disposal of his mercy or anger *.”

The argument, my lord, here proceeds thus: First, That all abfolutions and excommunications must have been esteemed alike, and equally insignificant by our reformers, because they were not terrified at the excommunications of the church of Roine, nor thought an absolution from that church necessary.

Secondly, That the reformers having thus disregarded these powers in that church, ought not to pretend that the same powers have any more effect when they exercise them in this church.

To this it may be answered, that if we ought not to pretend to any effects in absolution or excommunication, because we disre. garded those powers as exercised by the church of Rome; that then we ought not to pretend the necessity of any faith, because we disregared the faith of the Romish church ; nor the necessity of any facraments, nor the necessity of the canonical writings, because we disregarded the canonical books of the church of Rome. And it is as good sense to cry out here, “ Did they not treat their sacraments as mere inventions of men ? Did they mean by this to claim to themselves a power to make sacraments necessary in one church, which power they had trampled upon in another? Did they deny the necessity of seven sacraments there, in order to affert the necessity of two facraments here? No: they treated all facraments as alike, and upon an equal foot, with respect to God's favour, and could upon no other account neglect and disregard them as they did, but because God's favour or displeasure was no ways affected by any sacraments." Here let common sense judge, whether this argument of yours Shewing the unreasonableness of pretending to any fignificancy in excommunication, because we disregarded the excommunication of the church of Rome, does not prove it as unreasonable to infift upon the necessity of any faith, or any facraments, or any canonical books, because we denied the Romish creed, the Romith facraments, and canon of Scripture?

* Answer to Repr. p. 121, 122.

For our reformers no more intended to fhew that excommunication was a dream and trifle, because they disregarded the excommunication of the church of Rome; than they intended to fhew that all sacraments, all faith, and all Scripture, were dreams and trifles, by their not owning either the sacraments, or the creed, or the canon of the church of Rome. And, my lord, what a worthy defender of Christianity and the Reformation would he be, who Thould ask us what we mean by the necessity of sacraments, or faith, or Scripture, since we have not allowed the necessity either of the Roinish sacraments, faith, or Scripture? Yet such a defender is your lordship, who contends that we ought to reject excommunication as a trifle and a dream, because we disregarded the excommunication of the church of Rome. I have now gone as far in the examination of

your

doctrines as my present design will allow me, and am apt to think that in this and my former letters, I have gone so far as to shew, that a few more such defences of Christianity and the Reformation, as you have given us, would compleat their ruin, as far as human writings can compleat it.

And had you meant ever so much harm to Christianity and the Reformation, I believe no one who wishes their confusion, would have thought you could have taken a better way to obtain that end, than by writing as you have lately written.

For he must be a very bitter enemy to them both, who would not think it fufficient, to set Christianity and Mahometanism, the Reformation and Quakerism upon the same foot.

And he must be very low of apprehension, who does not see that to be plainly done, by refolving all into. private persuasion, and making sincerity in every religion, whether true or false, the same title to the fame degrees of God's favour.

I shall not with your lord hip make any declarations about my own sincerity; I am content to leave that to God, and to let all the world pass what judgment they please about it.

I am your lordship's
Most humble servant,

WILLIAM LAW.

POST SCRIPT.

'HE learned Committee observed to your lordship, that “ an

erroneous conscience was never, till now, allowed wholly to justify men in their errors."

This observation I have shewn to be true and just, as it implien; that though sincerity in an erroneous way of worship Mould in some degree or other recommend men to the favour or mercy of God; yet it is not that entire recommendation to his favour, which is effected by our sincere obedience in the true way of sal'vation : that is, though it should justify them in some degree, yet it cannot justify them in that degree, in which they are justified, who sincerely serve God, in that true religion which he himself has instituted.

Now our justification, as it is effected by the merits of Christ, is in one and the same degree; but as our justification is effected by our own behaviour, it is as capable of different degrees, as our virtue and holiness is capable of different degrees; and it is also necessary that our justification be more or less, according as our holiness is more or less,

Yet in answer to this observation of the learned Committee, you say, " it must either justify them, or not justify them ; it must either justify them wholly, or not justify them at all.” This, my lord, is as contrary to the Scripture, as it is to the observation of the Committee. For our blessed Saviour, speaking of the publican, says, “I tell you, this man went down to his house “ justified, rather than the other *."

Here, my lord, is as plain a declaration of degrees in justifica. tion, as can well be made, so far as justification can be effected by our own behaviour.

For, it is plain, the publican was not wholly justified, because then there would be no need of his embracing Christianity; it is also plain, that he was justified in part, or else he could not be said to be justified rather than the Pharisee.

If therefore your answer confutes the observation of the learned Committee, it must also confute this passage of Scripture.

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I shall only add one word in relation to another point.

I have already shewn the falseness and evil tendency of your argument against excommunication, which you allerted to be a dream and trifle, without any effect, because it is our own behaviour alone which can signify any thing to us with regard to the favour of God. Now, my lord, this philofophy strikes at the very vitals of the Christian religion : for, if this sentence can have no effect, if it is a dream and trife, because it is our behaviour alone on which the favour of God depends; then how shall we account for these passages of Scripture, which attribute our justification to the merits and death of Christ? As thus;

Jefus Christ, who gave himself for our fins *." “ In whom we have redemption, through his blood t.” “ Being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath ."

It is the constant uniform doctrine of Scripture, that our reconciliation and peace with God, our justification and sanctification before God, is owing to the merits and death of Christ. But if what you have said be true, that it is our behaviour alone, which procures the favour of God, then the blood of Christ must be as truly without any effect, as excommunication is without any effect.

For if the favour of God depends entirely upon our behaviour alone, then it can depend upon nothing else; and if it depend upon nothing else, then every thing else is equally triling and without any effect as to that purpose; and consequently every paffage in Scripture which ascribes our acceptance with God to the merits and blood of Christ, is as much condemned by your doctrine, as the effects of excommunication are condemned by it.

Whether your lordship did not perceive the inconsistency of this doctrine with that fatisfaction and redemption which the Scriptures teach ; or whether you knowingly intended to oppose this doctrine, is what I shall leave to every one's own judgment. Thus much I thall only say, that as you have here directly contradicted the first principle of the Christian religion, if it is not what you intended, I hope you will, for the fake of Christianity, venture to declare, that though you have afferted, that it is our behaviour alone, yet it is not our behaviour alone, but more particularly the merits and death of Christ which recommends us to the favour of God.

* Gal. i, 3.

† Ephef. i. 7.

* Rom. v. 9.

END OF VOL. J.

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