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Edwards hath, of the excellency and strength of his reasoning, in his Socinianism unmasked, I leave with him and his friends, to be considered of at their leisure : and, if they think I have misapplied the term of conceitedness, to so wise, understanding, and every way accomplished a disputant, (if we may believe himself) I will teach them a way how he, or any body else, may fully convince me of it. There remains on his score, marked in this reply of mine, several propositions to be proved by him. If he can find but arguments to prove them, that will bear the setting down in form, and will so publish them, I will allow myself to be mistaken. Nay, which is more, if he, or any body, in the 112 pages of his Socinianism unmasked, can find but ten arguments that will bear the test of syllogism, the true touchstone of right arguing; I will grant, that that treatise deserves all those commendations he has bestowed upon it, though it be made up more of his own panegyric, than a confutation of me.
In his Socinian Creed, (for a creed-maker he will be and whether he has been as lucky for the Socinians as for the orthodox, I know not) p. 120, he begins with me, and that with the same conquering hand and skill which can never fail of victory, if a man has but wit enough to know what proposition he is able to confute, and then make that his adversary's tenet. But the repetitions of his old song concerning one article, the epistles, &c. which occur here again, I shall only set down, that none of these excellent things may be lost, wbereby this acute and unanswerable writer has so well deserved his own commendations : viz. “That I say, there is but one single article of the Christian truth necessary to be believed and assented to by us,” p. 121. “That I slight the Christian principles, curtail the articles of our faith, and ravish Christianity itself from him,'
“ And that I turn the epistles of the apostles into waste paper," p. 127.
These and the like slanders I have already given an answer to, in my reply to his former book. Only one new one here I cannot pass over in silence, because of the remarkable profaneness which seems to me to be in
it; which, I think, deserves public notice. In my Reasonableness of Christianity, I have laid together those passages of our Saviour's life which seemed to me most eminently to show his wisdom, in that conduct of himself, with that reserve and caution which was necessary to preserve him, and carry him through the appointed time of his ministry. Some have thought I had herein done considerable service to the Christian religion, by removing those objections which some were apt to make from our Saviour's carriage, not rightly understood. This creed-maker tells me, p. 127, " That I make our Saviour a coward :" a word not to be applied to the Saviour of the world by a pious or discreet Christian, upon any pretence, without great necessity, and sure grounds! If he had set down my words, and quoted the page, (which was the least could have been done to excuse such a phrase) we should then have seen which of us two this impious and irreligious epithet, given to the holy Jesus, has for its author. In the mean time, I leave it with him, to be accounted for, by his piety, to those, who by his example shall be encouraged to entertain so vile a thought, or use so profane an expression of the Captain of our salvation, who freely gave himself up to death for us.
He also says in the same page, 127, “ That I every where strike at systems, the design of which is to establish one of my own, or to foster scepticism by beatting down all others.”
For clear reason, or good sense, I do not think our creed-maker ever had his fellow. In the immediately preceding words of the same sentence he charges me with “ a great antipathy against systems ;" and, before he comes to the end of it, finds out my design to be the “ establishing one of my own." So that this,
my antipathy against systems” makes me in love with one. “My design,” he says, “is to establish a system of my own, or to foster scepticism, in beating down all others." Let my book, if he pleases, be my system of Christianity. Now is it in me any more fostering scepticism to say my system is true, and others not, than it is in the creed-maker to say so of all other systems
but his own ? For I hope he does not allow any system of Christianity to be true, that differs from his, any more than I do.
But I have spoken against all systems. Answ. And always shall, so far as they are set up by particular men, or parties, as the just measure of every man's faith; wherein every thing that is contained, is required and imposed to be believed to make a man a Christian: such an opinion and use of systems I shall always be against, until the creed-maker shall tell me, amongst the variety of them ,which alone is to be received and rested in, in the absence of his creed; which is not yet finished, and, I fear, will not, as long as I live. That every man should receive from others, or make to himself such a system of Christianity, as he found most conformable to the word of God, according to the best of his understanding, is what I never spoke against: but think it every one's duty to labour for, and to take all opportunities, as long as he lives, by studying the Scriptures every day, to perfect.
But this, I fear, will not go easily down with our author; for then he cannot be a creed-maker for others: a thing he shows himself very forward to be; how able to perform it, we shall see when his creed is made. In the mean time, talking loudly and at random, about fundamentals, without knowing what is so, may stand him in some stead.
This being all that is new, which I think myself concerned in, in this Socinian Creed, I pass on to his Postscript. In the first page whereof, I find these words: “ I found that the manager of the Reasonableness of Christianity had prevailed with a gentleman to make a sermon upon my refutation of that treatise, and the vindication of it." Such a piece of impertinency as this might have been borne from a fair adversary : but the sample Mr. Edwards has given of himself, in his Socinianism unmasked, persuades me this ought to be bound up with what he says of me in his introduction to that book, in these words : “ Among others, they thought and made choice of a gentleman, who, they knew, would be extraordinary useful to them. And
he, it is probable, was as forward to be made use of by them, and presently accepted of the office that was assigned him :" and more there to the same purpose. All which I know to be utterly false. It is a pity that one who relies so entirely
upon it, should have no better an invention. The Socinians set the author of the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. on work to write that book; by which discovery the world being (as Mr. Edwards says) let into the project, that book is confounded, baffled, blown off, and by this skilful artifice there is an end of it. Mr. Bold preaches and publishes a sermon without this irrefragable gentleman's good leave and liking. What now must be done to discredit it, and keep it from being read? Why, Mr. Bold too was set on work, by “ the manager of the Reasonableness of Christianity,” &c. In your whole storehouse of stratagems, you that are so great a conqueror, have you but this one way to destroy a book, which you set your mightiness against, but to
, tell the world it was a job of journeywork for somebody you do not like? Some other would have done better in this new case, had your happy invention been ready with it: for you are not so bashful or reserved, but that you may be allowed to be as great a wit as he who professed himself “ready at any time to say a good or a new thing, if he could but think of it.” But in good earnest, sir, if one should ask you, Do
think no books contain truth in them, which were undertaken by the procuration of a bookseller? I desire you to be a little tender in the point, not knowing how far it may reach. Ay, but such booksellers live not at the lower end of Paternoster-row, but in Paul's Churchyard, and are the managers of other-guise books, than the Reasonableness of Christianity. And therefore you very rightly subjoin, “ Indeed, it was a great master
, piece of procuration, and we cannot but think that man must speak truth, and defend it very impartially and substantially, who is thus brought on to undertake the cause." And so Mr. Bold's sermon is found to have neither truth nor sense in it, because it was printed by a bookseller at the lower end of PaternosterTow; for that, I dare say, is all you know of the matter. But that is hint enough for a happy diviner, to be sure of the rest, and with confidence to report that for certain matter of fact, which had never any being but in the forecasting side of his politic brain. - But whatever were the reasons that moved Mr. Bto preach that sermon, of which I know nothing; this am sure, it shows only the weakness and malice (I will not say, and ill-breeding, for that concerns not one of Mr. Edwards's pitch) of any one who excepts against it, to take notice of any thing more than what the author has published. Therein alone consists the error, if there be any; and that alone those meddle with, who write for the sake of truth. But poor cavillers have other purposes, and therefore must use other shifts, and make a bustle about something besides the argument, to prejudice and beguile unwary readers.
The only exception the creed-maker makes to Mr. Bold's sermon, is the contradiction he imputes to him, in saying : “ That there is but one point or article necessary to be believed for the making a man a Christian: and that there are many points besides this, which Jesus Christ hath taught and revealed, which every sincere Christian is indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand :” and “ that there are parti. cular points and articles, which being known to be revealed by Christ, Christians must indispensably assent to.” And where, now, is there any thing like a contradiction in this ? Let it be granted, for example, that the creed-maker's set of articles, (let their number be what they will, when he has found them all out) are necessary to be believed, for the making a man a Christian. Is there any contradiction in it to say, there are many points besides these, which Jesus Christ hath taught and revealed, which every sincere Christian is indispensably obliged to endeavour to understand ? If this be not so, it is but for any one to be perfect in Mr. Edwards's creed, and then he may lay by the Bible, and from thenceforth he is absolutely dispensed with from studying or understanding any thing more of the Scripture.