Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

certain qualification, in order to persons being admitted to the privileges of the society ; prohibiting their being admitted under any other notion than as persons possessed of that qualification, or without a respect in their admission to such a character appearing on them; and yet at the same time by the laws of that very society, that qualification is not necessary; but persons are declared, without any such qualification, to have a lawful right, to be fit matter, to be duly qualified, and to have sufficient qualifications to be admitted to these privileges without that qualification?

If some men have a right in the sight of God to sacraments, without true piety, and are fit, and duly qualified without it, in his sight and by his institution, and yet the church must not admit them unless they are truly pious in their sight; then the eye of man must require higher terms, than the infinitely holy eye of God himself; they must look for something that the eye of God looks not for, and which he judges them duly qualified without.

Mr. W. when speaking of the evidence on which lie supposes the church ought to judge persons to be real saints, from time to time adds, that on such evidence " The church is oblig. ed, in their external carriage, to treat them as saints, and admit them to the external privileges of the church."-So, p. 9. d. p. 12. a. &c. p. 13. a. b. and p. 14. c. and in other places. But what does he mean by treating them as saints, in admitting them to the external privileges of the church? If sinners have as much of a lawful right to these privileges, as saints, then why is giving them these privileges a treating them as saints, any more than as sinners? If it belongs to an ignorant child, to be admitted into school, as much as one that is learned, then how is it treating him as one that is learned, to admit him? Mr. W. (p. 11. d. e.) giving a reason why he that professes conviction of the truth of the gospel, &c. ought to be admitted to sacraments, says, “Though this conviction may be only by moral evidence and common illumination, yet-the church know not but it is done on a divine and gracious discovery.” But how can this be a reason? What if the church did know that it was not on a gracious discovery, if the man has a right in the sight of God without, and God has made it his duty to come to sacraments without it? Surely the church have no right to forbid him to do that which God has given him a right to do, and made it his duty to do, as Mr. S. says, (Doct. of Inst. Churches, p. 20. 6.) The church may not hinder any man from doing his duty.

Therefore if this be Mr. S--d's question, Whether some unsanctified men may lawfully come to the Lord's Supper, and if this be the grand point in dispute, the thing which Mr. W.

VOL. IV.

undertakes to maintain, as he often declares, then it is most plainly evident, that in conceding and asserting those things forementioned, he does in effect abundantly give up that which he himself insists on as the grand point in controversy ; and so makes void and vain all his own labour, and for himself effectually confutes all that he has written.

SECT, IV.

Concerning Mr. W.'s notion of a public Profession of Godliness

in terms of an indeterminate and double Signification.

According to Mr. W. the profession of godliness must be in words not of a determinate meaning, or without any discrimination in the meaning of the words, obliging us to understand them of saving religion. (p. 6. c. d.) They must make an open declaration of their sincere consent to the terms of the covenant, without any discrimination, by which it can be determined, that the consent signified by the words is a gracious consent. (p. 9. c.) And without any marks of diflerence, or any distinction in the words, whereby we can be enabled to judge when they mean a saving faith, and when a different one. (p. 10. c. e. p. 50. e. and 53.c.) That nothing should be expressed in the words of the profession, but what some unsanctified men may say, and speak true. (p. 47. e.) He supposes, that the primitive Christians in the profession they made of faith, did not speak only in that sense, viz. so as to signify justifying faith ; and that the persons admitted did not understand that their profession was understood by those that admitted them, only in that sense. (p. 58. c.)

Agreeable to this notion of making a profession in words of indiscriminate meaning, and professing godliness without godliness, and yet speaking true, Mr. W. (in p. 44. d. e.) allows, that men must be by profession godly persons, in order to come to the sacrament; and yet in the next sentence he denies, that Christian grace itself is requisite in the person who is to come to the sacrament, or that the dictate of his conscience that he has it, is the thing that gives him a right to offer himself. And agreeable to this last clause, Mr. Stoddard (of whose opinion Mr. W. professes himself fully to be,) expressly maintains, that a man may and ought to come to the Lord's supper, though he knows himself to be in a natural condition. (Doct. of Inst. Churches, p. 21. See also his sermon on this controversy, p. 13.) So that putting these things together, it must be agreeable to Mr. W.'s scheme, that a man has a right to make a profession of godliness, without having godliness, and without any dictate of his conscience that he has the thing he professes, yea, though he knows he has it not! And all this is made out by the doctrine of professing godliness in words that are ambiguous, and of two meanings.

This notion of a solemn profession of godliness in words of a double meaning, without any marks of difference in their signification, is the great peculiarity of Mr. W.'s scheme; and in all his controversy with me, this appears to be the main binge, the crisis of the whole aflair. Therefore I would particularly consider it. And for the greater distinctness and clearness, I will lay down certain positions, as of most evident truth; observing some of their no less plain and evident consequences.

1. Words declare or profess nothing any otherwise than by their signification: For to declare or profess something by words, is to signify something by words. And therefore, if nothing is signified by words of a pretended profession, nothing is really professed; and if something be professed no more is professed than the words of the profession signify or import.

2. If a man declare or profess any particular thing by words which have no distinguishing signification, or without any signs or discriminating marks by which men may be enabled to distinguish what he means, his words are vain to the pretended purpose, and wholly fail of answering the end of words, which is to convey the thing meant to others' understanding, or to give notice to others of the thing supposed or understood.*

Therefore to use words thus in common conversation, is to act in a vain trifling manner, more like children than men : But to use words thus in the sacred services of God's house, and solemn duties of his worship, is something much worse than children's play. But thus Mr. W. expressly declares, words are to be used in a public profession of religion, (p. 10. c.) “ And these words are so used in such cases, without any marks of difference, whereby we are enabled to judge when they mean a saving faith, and when a different one.”

3. A profession made in words that are either equivocat or general, equally signifying several distinct things, without any marks of difference or distinction, by which we are enabled to judge which is meant, is not a profession or signification of any

* The apostle Paul says, 1 Cor. xiv. 7. “Even things without life, giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped ?- -Mr Locke says, Hum. Und. Vol. 2. Edit. 7. p. 103. “He that uses words of any language without distinct ideas in his mind, to which he applies them, does so far as he uses them in discourse, only make a noise without any sense or signification.”

one of those several things; nor can they afford any rational ground of understanding or apprehending any particular thing. Thus for instance, if a man using an equivocal term, should say, that such an evening a king was in that room, without any marks of difference or discrimination whatsoever, by which others could discern whether by a king, he meant the ruler of a kingdom, or a king used in a game of chess; the words thus used would be no declaration, that the head of a kingdom was there at such a time; nor would they give any notice of any such thing to those to whom he spoke, or give them any rational ground to understand or judge any such thing.

Or if a man should use a general term, comprehending various particular sorts, without at all distinguishing or pointing forth any one particular sort, he thereby professes no one particular sort. Thus if a man professes that he has metal in his pocket, not saying what sort of metal, whether gold, silver, brass, iron, lead, or tin; his words are no profession that he has gold.

So if a man professes sincerity or religion designedly using terms of double signification, or (which comes to the same thing) of general signification, equally signifying two entirely distinct things, either moral sincerity, or real piety, his words are no profession of real piety; he makes no credible profession, and indeed no profession at all of gospel-holiness.

4. If a man who knows himself to be destitute of any certain qualification, yet makes a profession or pretence, in words of double meaning, equally signifying that qualification, and something else very different, with a design to recommend himself to others' judgment and apprehension, as possessed of that qualification, he is guilty of deceitful equivocation, viz. using words of double meaning, or capable of double application, with a design to induce others to judge something to be true, which is not true. But he that would recommend himself by such terms to others' opinion or judgment, as being what he at the same time knows he is not, endeavours to induce them to believe what he knows is not true, which is to deceive them.*

But if the scheme which Mr. W. undertakes to defend were true, it would follow that such a kind of equivocation as this, (be it far from us to suppose it,) is what the infinitely wise and holy God has instituted to be publicly used in the solemn services of his house, as the very condition of persons' admission to the external privileges of his people! For Mr. W. abundantly asserts, that persons must be esteemed in the judgment and apprehension of others to have true piety; and that one thing that must be done in order to it, one thing pertaining to the moral evidence that recommends them to this judgment, is the profession they make of religion, (p. 5. p. 139. p. 47. b. c. p. 132. p. 44. d.) In p. 42, speaking of the profession of visible Christians, he has these words, “And it is from the nature and purport of this profession, we say, the church is to judge the members to be wise virgins, or what they make a shew of.” And Mr. W. insists upon it, that according to Christ's institution, this must be in words equally signifying true godliness, and something else, without any discrimination or marks of difference.This is the scheme! And certainly such a doctrine of deceitful equivocation in the public exercise of religion, is more agreeable to the principles and practices of a religion I am loth to name, than the true religion of Jesus Christ.

*"To advance a dubious proposition, knowing it will be understood in a unse different from what you give it in your mind, is an equivocation, in breach of good faith and sincerity."-Chambers's Dictionary, under the word Equivocation.

Mr. W. says, (p. 35. d.) “I am at a loss to conceive how it will help the cause of truth to represent those who are of Mr. S.'s opinion, as teaching men that they may enter into covenant with God with known and allowed guile.” Supposing I had made such a representation, I can tell him how it would have helped the cause of truth, (as it would be speaking nothing but the truth,) if he be one of Mr. Stoddard's opinion, (as he says he is,) and represents his own opinion truly.

But let the unreasonableness of this notion of professing gospel holiness in words of two meanings, without any discrimination or mark of difference, be a little further considered. Since it is allowed, that gospel holiness is the thing which is to be exhibited in the profession, and there are words which signify this by a determinate meaning, why must they needs be avoided, and words of doubtful and double signification only be made use of?* Since the design of the profession is to exbibit to others' understanding that very thing; if the proper and distinguishing names of that must nevertheless be avoided in the profession, and for this very reason, that they point forth to others' understanding that very thing by a determinate meaning; then we are brought to this gross absurdity, viz. That the end of a profession is to exhibit to others'understanding and reasonable judgment a particular qualification; but at the same time such words only must be used as do not distinctly point forth to others' understanding and judgment that particular qualification. The church are to seek and demand a profession, that shall determine their rational judgment; but yet are designedly to avoid such a profession, as shall determine their understandings.--Be it far from

Mr. W. (p. 6. d. e.) speaks ot a profession in terms of indiscriminate signification, when not contradicted in life, as the sole, entire evidence, which the church, as a church, is to have, by divine appointment, in order to that public judgment it is to make of the saintship of men.

« AnteriorContinuar »