« PreviousContinue »
REASONABLENESS OF CHRISTIANITY,
My Book had not been long out, before it fell under the correction of the author of a Treatise, entitled, "Some Thoughts concerning the several Causes and Occasions of Atheism, especially in the present Age." No contemptible adversary, I will assure you; since, as it seems, he has got the faculty to heighten every thing that displeases him into the capital crime of atheism; and breathes against those, who come in his way, a pestilential air, whereby every the least distemper is turned into the plague, and becomes mortal. For whoever does not just say after Mr. Edwards, cannot, it is evident, escape being an atheist, or a promoter of atheism. I cannot but approve of any one's zeal, to guard and secure that great and fundamental article of all religion and morality, "That there is a God:" but atheism being a crime, which, for its madness as well as guilt, ought to shut a man out of all sober and civil society, should be very warily charged on any one, by deductions and consequences, which he himself does not own, or, at least, do not manifestly and unavoidably flow from what he asserts. This caution, charity, I think,
obliges us to: and our author would possibly think himself hardly dealt with, if, for neglecting some of those rules he himself gives, p. 31 and 34, against atheism, he should be pronounced a promoter of it: as rational a charge I imagine, as some of those he makes; and as fitly put together, as the treatise of the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. brought in among the causes of atheism. However I shall not much complain of him, since he joins me, p. 104, with no worse company than two eminently pious and learned * prelates of our church, whom he makes favourers of the same conceit, as he calls it. But what has that conceit to do with atheism? Very much. That conceit is of kin to Socinianism, and Socinianism to atheism. Let us hear Mr. Edwards himself.. He says, p. 113, I am "all over Socinianized:" and therefore, my book, fit to be placed among the causes of atheism. For in the 64th, and following pages, he endeavours to show, That " a Socinian is an atheist ;" or, lest that should seem harsh, "one that favours the cause of atheism," p. 75. For so he has been pleased to mollify, now it is published as a treatise, what was much more harsh, and much more confident in it, when it was preached as a sermon. In this abatement, he seems a little to comply with his own advice, against his fourth cause of atheism; which we have in these words, p. 34, "Wherefore, that we may effectually prevent this folly in ourselves, let us banish presumption, confidence, and self-conceit; let us extirpate all pride and arrogance; let us not list ourselves in the number of capricious opiniators."
I shall leave the Socinians themselves to answer his charge against them, and shall examine his proof of my being a Socinian. It stands thus, page 112, "When he" (the author of the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c.) proceeds to mention the advantages and benefits of Christ's coming into the world, and appearing in the flesh, he hath not one syllable of his satisfying for us; or, by his death, purchasing life or salvation, or any
* Bp. Taylor, and the author of " the Naked Truth.”
thing that sounds like it. This, and several other things, show, that he is all over Socinianized." Which in effect is, that because I have not set down all that this author perhaps would have done, therefore I am a Socinian. But what if I should say, I set down as much as my argument required, and yet am no Socinian? Would he, from my silence and omission, give me the lie, and say, I am one? Surmises that may be overturned by a single denial are poor arguments, and such as some men would be ashamed of: at least, if they are to be permitted to men of this gentleman's skill and zeal, who knows how to make a good use of conjectures, suspicions, and uncharitable censures in the cause of God; yet even there too (if the cause of God can need such arts) they require a good memory to keep them from recoiling upon the author. He might have taken notice of these words in my book, (page 9, of this vol.) "From this estate of death, Jesus Christ restores all mankind to life." And a little lower, "The life which Jesus Christ restores to all men." And p. 109, "He that hath incurred death for his own transgression, cannot lay down his life for another, as our Saviour professes he did." This, methinks, sounds something like "Christ's purchasing life for us by his death." But this reverend gentleman has an answer ready; it was not in the place he would have had it in; it was not where I mention the advantages and benefits of Christ's coming. And therefore, I not having there one syllable of Christ's purchasing life and salvation for us by his death, or any thing that sounds like it: this, and several other things, that might be offered, show that I am "all over Socinianized." A very clear and ingenuous
proof, and let him enjoy it.
But what will become of me, that I have not mentioned satisfaction!
Possibly, this reverend gentleman would have had charity enough for a known writer of the brotherhood, to have found it by an innuendo, in those words above quoted, of laying down his life for another. But every thing is to be strained here the other way. For
the author of the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c., is of necessity to be represented as a Socinian; or else his book may be read, and the truths in it, which Mr. Edwards likes not, be received, and people put upon examining. Thus one, as full of happy conjectures and suspicions as this gentleman, might be apt to argue. But what if the author designed his treatise, as the title shows, chiefly for those who were not yet thoroughly, or firmly, Christians, proposing to work on those, who either wholly disbelieved, or doubted of the truth of the Christian religion? Would any one blame his prudence, if he mentioned only those advantages, which all Christians are agreed in? Might he not remember and observe that command of the apostle, Rom. xiv. 1, “ Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations;" without being a Socinian? Did he amiss, that he offered to the belief of those who stood off, that, and only that, which our Saviour and his apostles preached, for the reducing the unconverted world: and would any one think he in earnest went about to persuade men to be Christians, who should use that as an argument to recommend the Gospel, which he has observed men to lay hold on as an objection against it? To urge such points of controversy as necessary articles of faith, when we see our Saviour and the apostles, in their preaching, urged them not as necessary to be believed, to make men Christians, is (by our own authority) to add prejudices to prejudices, and to block up our own way to those men, whom we would have access to, and prevail upon. But some men had rather you should write booty, and cross your own design of removing men's prejudices to Christianity, than leave out one tittle of what they put into their systems. To such, say, convince but men of the mission of Jesus Christ, make them but see the truth, simplicity, and reasonableness, of what he himself taught, and required to be believed by his followers; and you need not doubt but, being once fully persuaded of his doctrine, and the advantages which all Christians agree are received by him, such converts will not lay by the Scriptures, but by a