TO THE BIRMINGHAM DIALOGUE-WRITER,
UPON THE FOLLOWING SUBJECTS:
The Divinity Of Christ, Irresistible Grace, Election, Imputed Righteousness, Original Sin, Perseverance, Free-Will, Baptism.
HAVING lately met with a pamphlet, entitled, A Dialogue between a Baptist and a Churchman, occasioned by the Baptists opening a new Meeting-house for reviving old Calvinistical doctrines, and spreading Antinomian, and other errors, at Birmingham in Warwickshire, Part 1. by a Consistent Christian; I prevailed upon myself to give it a reading, and make some remarks upon it. The author of it has thought fit to write in a dialogue-way, probably for this reason, that he might have the opportunity of making the Baptist speak what he pleases, and what he thought he was best able to reply to: So far he has acted wisely, that he has not made him say such things, he was conscious to himself, he was not able to answer. However, this must be acknowledged, that though he has represented the Baptist in the debate as a very weak man; yet, as very mild, calm, and good-natured, and by far a better christian, and of a more christian spirit and temper than himself; who, notwithstanding all his pretences to a calm and charitable religion, casts firebrands, arrows, and death; (Prov. 26:18.) reproaching, in a very mean and scandalous manner, both men and doctrines that are not agreeable to his own sentiments. One would think his Baptist never attended upon, at least, must not have received any ill impression, from the wild, furious, and uncharitable preachers at Birmingham; or else that the preachers that come there are not such persons this writer would have them thought to be.
I observe, that in his running title in page 3, he calls his dialogue, A Dialogue between a new Baptist and a Churchman; what he means by a new Baptist, I am pretty much at a loss to know, since the Baptist, in this dispute, does not appear to have entertained any different notions about Baptism than what the Baptists have always held, nor any other doctrines but what the greater part of the Baptist churches have always asserted, as is manifest from their printed confessions of faith, published many years ago. Perhaps he calls him so, because he is one that has been lately baptized, or because the Baptists have opened a new Meeting-house at Birmingham; which, it seems, is the occasion of our author's writing this dialogue; at which he is very uneasy, and with the preachers that come thither; it being opened, as he says, for reviving old Calvinistical doctrines; by which, if any judgment is to be made by the dialogue, he means the doctrines of Christ's Divinity, Election, Original Sin, Efficacious Grace, Imputed Righteousness, and the Saints Perseverance; doctrines which our first reformers from Popery set out with, and the reformed churches embraced; and which also the established church of England, of which this writer would be thought to be a member, in her Articles maintains; doctrines which no church, community, or set of men under any denomination, have reason to be ashamed of; and it is the glory of the Particular Baptists, and, what is greatly to their honor, that they are so zealously affected to those truths, and to the utmost of their abilities defend them, in an age, when there are so many apostates from the faith once delivered to the saints. But, it seems, this new meeting at Birmingham is opened also for spreading Antinomian, and other errors; what those Antinomian, and other errors are, he does not tell us. He cannot mean the above doctrines, since they are distinguished from them, and besides were never reckoned Antinomian ones; perhaps we shall hear of them in the next part, for at present we are only entertained with the first part of this mighty work, consisting of forty-four pages. We are to have a second part, and I know not whether a third, fourth, and fifth, or how many more. If this writer goes on at this rate, we may expect proposals for printing by subscription The Works of the Consistent Christian, in Folio. This puts me in mind of what I formerly have seen, The History of Tom Thumb, in Folio, with Dr. Wagstaff's notes upon it.
Our author stiles himself a Consistent Christian; for my own part, I cannot help being so uncharitable (if it must be reckoned so) as to call in question his Christianity; I take him to be a Heathen, and not a Christian, much less a consistent one; since he gives strong intimation of his belief of a supreme and subordinate Deity, a superior God, and an inferior one; and both as the objects of religious worship. He says, that God the Father is the supreme and most high God, and that Jesus Christ the Son of God is not so; but yet he is a God, and such an one as all men are commanded to worship; and, in consequence, there must be two different Gods, two distinct Deities, the one superior, the other inferior, which are to be worshipped; and if we may worship two Gods, we may worship two hundred: and if this is not heathenism, and downright idolatry, I know not what is. But let him be admitted a Christian, if it can be, is he a consistent one? No; does the mild, calm and gentle spirit of christianity appear in him? His dialogue is a standing proof against it. Are his notions consistent with the doctrines of christianity? This is easily determined; for if there are any doctrines peculiar to christianity, they are those he militates against. Is he consistent with his character as a churchman? Far from it, he contradicts and opposes the Articles of the Church of England; he is no true son of the church, but a degenerate plant, and ought to be rejected as such: though I am informed, it is greatly suspected that he is a Presbyterian preacher; and if so, he has shown much insincerity and unfaithfulness, things not consistent with a Christian, by taking upon him the name of a Churchman, and talking of our Church and you Dissenters: But be he what he will, a Churchman or a Dissenter, to me he appears to be a Posture or Dancing-master; he sets up for a judge of gesture and action; he can tell you what motion is proper or is not for the pulpit or the stage, and no doubt elsewhere. The gestures of the Baptist preachers at Birmingham, it seems, are not agreeable; they do not behave secundum artem; he represents them as very ridiculous and antic. One would imagine, from his account of them, that they have got into the way of the Quakers; yea, that their preachers are women preachers, nay, even that the old Sybils, Pythonesses, and Daemon Prophetesses of the Heathens, were risen out of their graves, and were come to Birmingham, and there playing their old pranks. How easy is it for persons to put others in an odd and awkward dress, and then laugh at them? But, to leave him possessed of his little diversions, I proceed to consider what is more serious, and ought to be treated with more regard and decency than this author has thought fit to show, namely, the doctrines which these preachers assert, and he opposes. But before he brings them into the debate, he is pleased to give us his sense of Orthodoxy, and to explain some passages of scripture, which by the help of his Concordance he has collected together, where the word sound is used, as applied to doctrine, speech and faith. As to orthodoxy, I can assure this writer, that the Baptists do not make any confession, catechism, articles, or any writings of men, as he suggests, the standard of it, but the Bible only; and though soundness of doctrine and uprightness of conversation ought to go together, and the former has a tendency to promote the latter, yet they are two different things, which this author seems to confound; nor will the text in Psalm 109:10 prove them to be the same: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments. Doing the commandments of God according to his will, from a principle of love and gratitude, with a view to his glory, and without any dependence upon what is done for salvation, is indeed a proof of a man's having a good understanding of the will of God, of the way of salvation by Christ, and of the doctrine of grace, which teaches men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. But then, doctrine and practice, knowledge and obedience, are distinct things; and it is possible for a man to have a considerable share of speculative knowledge of gospel-truths, and yet not live uprightly in his life and conversation; and, on the other hand, to perform acts of morality as to outward appearance, and to be externally upright, sincere and good, and have no good understanding of the truths and doctrines of the gospel.
The passages of scripture cited out of the epistles of the apostle Paul to Timothy and Titus, which speak of sound doctrine, speech and faith, are to be understood of such doctrinal truths as are to be found in and gathered out of the word of God, which have a tendency to influence and promote, and, when attended with the Spirit of God, do really and powerfully influence and promote practical religion; but then they are distinct from that practical religion which they serve. Sound doctrine, in 1 Timothy 1:10, is the same with the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which, though it no ways countenances, but is as contrary to whoring and lewdness, lying and stealing, malice and murder, as the law which is made for and lies against such as commit these things; yet it is distinct from the law which forbids these things, and condemns persons that are guilty of them. A sound mind, or rather the spirit of a sound mind, in 2 Timothy 1:7, is such a mind or spirit, that he who is possessed of it, is not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, verse 8, and particularly of that glorious part of it, verse 9, where our salvation and vocation of God are said to be not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. The form of sound words, in verse 13, is distinct from faith and love, and the exercise of these graces, in which it was either heard, or to be held fast. It does not, indeed, mean the Assemblies Catechism, nor any Church Articles, nor any words which man's wisdom teacheth; yet the Articles of the Church of England and the Assemblies Catechism, so far as they agree with the words of scripture, the words which the Holy Ghost hath taught, ought each of them to be esteemed a form of sound words, and to be abode by against all opposition; though this author rudely suggests, that they are what man's folly have taught; when, it is well known they were both of them drawn up by men of great learning and judgment, gravity and piety. A fine Churchman, or a pretty Presbyterian parson this! Sound doctrine, in 2 Timothy 4:3, is the word of the gospel, which the apostle exhorts Timothy to preach constantly, verse 2. the same with the truth, and stands opposed to fables, verse 4, by the constant preaching of which, watching in it, and abiding by it, Timothy would do the work of an evangelist, and make full proof of his ministry, verse 5. Sound doctrine, in Titus 1:9, is the faithful word of salvation alone by Christ and his righteousness, which is to be held fast in spite of all gainsayers, unruly and vain talkers, such as our author declares himself to be. To be sound in the faith, verse 13, is opposed to giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men, verse 14, to infidelity, and a mind and conscience defiled with bad principles, verse 15, which it is no wonder should be attended with bad practices, notwithstanding their profession of knowing God when they have no regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 16. Sound doctrine, in Titus 2:1, is distinct from the practice of virtue and morality, and the rules thereof, given to both sexes, to young and old, in the following verse: these are not the sound doctrine itself, but the things which become it, as this author might have learnt from the text itself. To be sound in faith, verse 2, is firmly to believe the doctrine of faith; to be sound in charity, is to love the Lord, his people, truths and ordinances, with all the heart and soul; and to be sound in patience, is cheerfully and constantly to bear whatever we are called to suffer for Christ's sake and his gospel. Sound speech, verse 9, is the doctrine of grace delivered in the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus, without corrupting the word of God; speaking it with all faithfulness, integrity and sincerity, as in the sight of God. Upon the whole, it is easy to observe that the contexts of these several texts do not countenance the exposition this writer has given of them. I shall now attend to what he has to object to those doctrines which he undertakes to oppose, and refute; as,
I. The doctrine of Christ's deity and equality with the Father. In his debate on this subject, I observe the following things:
1. That he holds that Jesus Christ is a God, but not the most high God. The reason why he believes him to be a God, is, because the Father has given him divine perfections, universal dominion or headship, authority to judge, and has commanded all men to worship him; but he thinks he cannot be the most high God, because there is but one most high God, who is the God and Father of Christ; for both to be so, appears to him a contradiction, and he cannot believe two contradictory propositions; and besides Christ, before he became man, came from the Father, was sent and employed by him, he observes; which would be a thought absurd and blasphemous, and to be abhorred, if he was the supreme God. To all which I reply; if the Father has given to Christ divine perfections, for which reason he is God, or a God; he has either given him only some divine perfections, or all divine perfections; if he has only given him some divine perfections, then he is imperfectly God, or an imperfect one; if he has given him all divine perfections, then he must be equal to him; and, indeed, all that the Father hath are his; (John 16:15.) not by his gift, or as arising from and depending upon his will and pleasure, but by necessity of nature, as being his own and only begotten Son. Universal dominion, or headship and authority to judge, are indeed given to him, not as the Son of God, but as the Son of man. Again; if the Father only is the most high God, and Christ is a God, that is, a God inferior to him, whom he has commanded all men to worship; then there are two distinct Gods, objects of religious worship, directly contrary to the express words of the first command, Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. (Ex. 20:3.) Moreover, if the most High over all the earth is He whose name alone is Jehovah, and Christ's name is Jehovah; if the same things which prove the Father to be the most high God, are said of the Son, as they are, why may he not be thought to be the most high God equally with the Father? To say, indeed, that there are two supreme or most high Gods would be a contradiction, or to say that the Father is one most high God, and the Son is another most high God, would be two contradictory propositions. But who says so? We say, that Father, Son and Spirit are the one most high God; and to say and believe this, is not to say and believe two contradictory propositions, for there is but one proposition, and no contradiction in it. Once more; though Christ, before his incarnation, came from and was sent by the Father as the angel of his presence, to redeem Israel out of Egypt, to lead them through the Red sea and wilderness into Canaan's land, yet this no ways contradicts his proper deity and equality with the Father; for though he agreed to be sent, as an equal may by agreement be sent by another, and which may be thought and said of the divine persons in the Godhead, without absurdity and blasphemy; and though he condescended to take upon him an office for the good of the people of Israel; yet he appeared with full proof of proper deity, of his equality with the Father, from whom he came, and of his being with him the one most high God; for he calls himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, Exodus 3:6, and I AM THAT I AM, verse 14, and Jehovah says of him, that his name was in him, chapter 23:21, and intimates that he could, though he would not, pardon iniquity, which none can do but the most high God.
2. I observe, that he seems to be aware that the passage of scripture, Philippians 2:6, where it is said, that Christ being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, stands in his way, since it expressly asserts Christ's equality with God; and therefore he attempts to remove it, by saying, that that translation, he thinks, is given up by most learned men, because it corresponds not to the original Greek. Who those learned men are that have given it up he does not tell us, nor point out in what it does not correspond to the original Greek. Arians and Socinians have quarreled with it, but learned Trinitarians have stiffly defended it: however, this dialogue-writer "thinks it must be wrong."
(1.) Because it no way suits the context, which speaks of "the same person in the same image or likeness of God, as obedient to God and exalted by him." But what this author observes, is a reason why it should be right, and not wrong; for if Christ was in the form of God, en morfh qeou, in the essential form of God, for no other can be intended; if he existed in the nature and essence of God, was arrayed with the same glory and majesty, and possessed of the same perfections, he must be equal to him; nor could it be thought by Christ, nor should it by any other, a robbery, to assert his equality with him; for, as to be in the form of a servant, is to be really and truly a servant; to be in the likeness of a man, and to be in fashion as a man, is to be really and truly man; so to be in the form of God, is to be really and truly God: and if Christ is really and truly God, he is equal with the Father. And whereas in the context he is represented as obedient unto death, not unto God, as this author inadvertently expresseth it, and exalted by God; these things are evidently said of him as man, and express both his humiliation and exaltation in the human nature; and no ways contradict his equality with the Father in the divine nature.
(2.) Another reason why this translation is thought to be wrong, is, "because it is contradictory to the reason God has given us, as our highest guide, to conceive that the Son, who was begotten by the Father, came from him, has his life, power, dominion, glory, as a gift and reward from him, should be equal to him." I take no farther notice of this man's great encomium of reason, than just to observe, that whatever guide reason is to us in things natural and civil, it is a very poor one in religious affairs, in things which concern our spiritual and eternal welfare, being so wretchedly corrupted by sin: however, one would think, in matters of revelation, the revelation itself, the scriptures of truth, should be a higher guide to us than reason, especially the Spirit of God, who in them is promised to guide us into all truth. But what contradiction is it even to reason, to conceive that the Son, begotten by the Father, should be equal to him? Was such a thing never known in nature, that a Son was equal to a Father? And why should it be thought contradictory to reason, that the only begotten Son of God, who is the brightness of his Father's glory, the express image of his person, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells, should be equal to God? His coming from God, and having his life, power, dominion and glory from him, as a gift and reward, and all those scriptures which speak of them as such, are to be understood of him in his office-capacity and relation, as he is man and mediator; and not of him as a divine person, as God over all, blessed forever; who, as such, does not derive his being, life and glory from another, but equally enjoys them with his Father, without derivation.
(3.) A third reason given is, "because it is a sense contrary to all those plain texts which speak of Christ as the express image of the Father, as commissioned by him, as doing his will, etc." I reply, that this sense is not at all contrary to those scriptures which speak of Christ as the image of God, but perfectly accords with them; since Christ is the essential image of God, and as such partakes of the same nature, essence, perfections and glory with his Father, and therefore must be equal to him. As for those scriptures which speak of him as commissioned by the Father, doing his will, seeking his glory, praying to him for his original glory; and, as appointed by him universal head and judge, these are to be understood of him as Man and Mediator, and so are no contradiction to his equality with God in the divine nature. This writer sets himself, with all his might, against this great truth of the Son's equality with the Father; but is it to be wondered at, when he even postpones Jesus Christ to the apostles Peter and Paul, and that more than once in this dialogue? Speaking of the fruits of the Spirit: "they are, says he, such as we find in the life and sermons of St Paul and of his master Jesus Christ." And in another place, "the Jews did so, that is, set up their judgment against their teachers, in following Peter and Paul, and Jesus Christ."
3. Whereas it is observed to him what Christ says, John 10:30, I and the Father are one: he replies, "would you have Christ contradict himself in the same breath, by saying, we two persons are one person, one Being, one God? The easy, natural and just sense, he says, is, that he and the Father were one, as he did the Father's will and acted by commission from him, and pursued the same end and design; and not to be understood of his unity of essence, for he cannot think that a begotten and an unbegotten essence are the same." To which I answer, that though there are two persons spoken of in this text as being in some sense one, I, as one Person, and MY FATHER as another Person; yet we do not say that the meaning is, that these two Persons are one Person, this would be a contradiction; but that these two Persons are of one and the same nature, which is no contradiction. This writer thinks, that to understand the words of unity of will, or rather of doing the Father's will, best suits the context; whereas Christ, in the context, is speaking not of unity of will, but of sameness of operation, and of his having the same power the Father has, to keep his sheep from perishing, which he proves from their being ONE; and from whence should sameness of power arise, but from sameness of nature? Nor is the essence of the Son begotten, and the essence of the Father, as distinct from that of the Son, unbegotten, none ever thought or said so, that I know of. The Father, as a divine Person, begets; the Son, as a divine Person, is begotten in the divine nature and essence; but that nature or essence is not begotten, but in both the same. This man calls himself a Churchman; did he pay any regard, as he does none, to the Articles of the Established Church, he might observe this doctrine, he is militating against, fully expressed in them: in the first Article are these words, "in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." The beginning of the second Article runs thus: "the Son, which is the word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed virgin, of her substance."
4. This writer seems very desirous, that "persons, under a notion of speaking honourably of the Son, would be careful of eclipsing the glory of the Father, and of dishonoring him, by setting up a rival with him in supreme empire, and of affronting and displeasing the Son, by belying him, as the Jews did, when they said he made himself equal with God." But what danger can there be of lessening or sullying the Father's glory by asserting the Son's equality with the Father? Nothing is taken from the Father and given to the Son; the same things are said of the one as of the other; the same nature, perfections and glory are ascribed to the one as to the other; nor need we fear affronting and displeasing either the Father or the Son, by giving equal honor to them; since as the Son has thought it not robbery to be equal with God, (Phil. 2:6.) God has declared it is his will, that all men should honor the Son as they honor the Father; (John 5:23.) which is done by asserting that they are of one and the same essence, substance and eternity; and are what may be understood by the words co-essential, con-substantial, co-eternal: though this writer calls them great swelling words, hard and unintelligible names. That the Jews belied Christ, when they said he made himself equal with God, does not appear; our Lord never charged them with belying him, nor did he go about to convince them of a lie or a mistake; but afterwards said those things which were enough to confirm them, and anyone else, in the truth of his equality with the Father.
5. This man laughs, as those of his complection generally do, at mysteries in religion, and at this doctrine being a mystery, though revealed, and as being above, though not contrary, to reason: he says, that "if any doctrine was a mystery before, revealing it has made it no longer a mystery." It is true, that when a thing is revealed, it is no longer a mystery that it is, but may still remain a mystery how it is, what it is: as in the care before us, it is no longer a mystery, now revealed, that the three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, are one God; but how they are so, is still a mystery. The incarnation of Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is not a thing hidden from us, being revealed; but how the word was made flesh, will ever continue a mystery to us. It is no longer a mystery, that the living will be changed at Christ's second coming; but how they will be changed, is a mystery to us. So the resurrection from the dead is a certain part of revelation; nevertheless, it is mysterious to us how it will be brought about; and our ideas of rising from the dead, and living again, must be greatly short of the things themselves: though this author says, he "very, well understands what rising from the dead and living again means, as well as he does rising from sleep and living again." I suppose he would have said, being awake again, means; for I hope he does not think that men are dead when asleep, and come to life again when they rise out of it. These doctrines instanced in are above our reason, and seem as contrary to our ideas of things, and the dictates of reason, as what we have been considering may be thought to be. I go on,
II. To consider what he has to say to the doctrine of eternal Election, though he chiefly militates against that of Reprobation. Our author's harangue upon this head is mere plagiarism, being stolen out of Dr. Whitby upon the Five Points, as anyone may easily observe, by comparing it with the second chapter of his first discourse concerning Election and Reprobation, and many other passages in that performance; and since I have lately considered the arguments and reasonings of that writer, I might at once dismiss this subject, by referring the reader to the answer I have already given; but as that may not be in the hands of everyone to whom this may come. I choose to take some notice of what is here advanced. The sum of the charge against this doctrine is, that "it is unmerciful, unjust, insincere, and uncomfortable."
1. It is charged with cruelty and unmercifulness; God is said to be, according to this doctrine, "a most cruel Being, and more hard-hearted than Pharaoh;" but I hope it carries no mark of cruelty and unmercifulness in it to the elect, who are vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory: it can only be thought to do so to the rest, for whom God has ordained no help; and to raise the idea of cruelty towards them, they are represented under the lovely characters of God's offspring, his creatures, and his children; but not a word said of their rebellions, sins and transgressions, or of their being "the children of wrath, the children of hell, and the children of the Devil;" and to increase this idea, they are considered as in distress and misery, in a perishing condition, through some misfortune, and not upon the account of any sin or iniquity they have been guilty of. With the same view their number is taken notice of; "the human race is said to be infinite, and help decreed only for a very few; whilst God has resolved not to help millions of undone creatures, and to torment them millions of years and ages, for what they could not help; and this only to shew what his power and wrath can do, or from pure ill nature." But supposing God had decreed help for none of the infinite race of his fallen offspring, as this author calls them, but had determined to leave them all, being fallen to the perversity of their hearts and ways, and to punish them for their sins and transgressions committed against his righteous law; would this have been deemed cruelty and unmercifulness? Has he not proceeded in such a manner with the whole body of the apostate angels, those millions of undone perishing creatures, whom he has resolved not to help, and who are equally his offspring, his creatures, and his children, as the fallen race of Adam, so considered? And is this ever esteemed cruelty, and pure ill nature? Now if it was not acting the cruel and unmerciful part, not to ordain help for any of the fallen angels, it would not have been acting such a part, had God resolved not to help any of the fallen race of Adam; and if it would not have been an act of cruelty to have determined not to help any of the race of mankind, surely it can be no act of cruelty or unmercifulness to ordain help for some of them, when he could in justice have condemned all. The doctrine of Election is no unmerciful one, yea, it is more merciful than the contrary scheme, since it infallibly secures the salvation of some; whereas the other does not ascertain the salvation of any single person, but leaves it uncertain, to the precarious and fickle will of man.
2. This doctrine is charged with injustice, and God is represented as "a most unrighteous Being; since, according to it, he threatens a feverer damnation, if men accept not his offer, which he knows they cannot accept; has decreed to damn millions of men for being fallen in Adam; a decree, it is said, which none but a Devil could make; and a thousand times more unjust than the decree of Pharaoh to drown all the male children, because they were born of Israelitish parents, or were born males; and also has decreed to damn men for not believing in a Christ who never died for them, and for not being converted, when he has decreed not to convert them." To all which I reply, that God's act of election does no injustice either to the elect or non-elect; not to the elect, to whom it secures both grace and glory; nor to the non-elect, or to the rest who are left out of it: for as God condemns no man but for sin, so he has decreed to condemn no man but for sin. And where is the unrighteousness of such a decree? It would have been no unrighteousness in God to have condemned all mankind for sin, and would have been none in him, if he had decreed to condemn them all for sin. If therefore it would have been no injustice in him to have decreed to condemn all mankind for sin, it can be none in him to decree to condemn some of them for sin, when he could have decreed to have condemned them all. Herein he shows both his clemency and his justice; his clemency to some, his justice to others. As to the things particularly instanced in, I answer, that when this author points out any offers of help in a saving way God has made to all mankind, or to any to whom he has decreed no saving help, and then threatens them with a severer damnation for non-acceptance of them, I shall attend to the charge of unrighteousness. That all men sinned in Adam, and that by his offense judgment came upon all men to condemnation, the scriptures declare; (Rom. 5:12, 18.) and therefore to say that God condemns men, or has decreed to condemn them for the offense of Adam, or for their sinning in him, and being fallen with him in his first transgression, cannot be disagreeable to them; though we do not say that any of the sons of Adam, who live to riper years, are condemned only for the sin of Adam, but for their numerous actual sins and transgressions. And as for infants dying in infancy, their case is a secret to us; yet inasmuch as they come into the world children of wrath, should they go out as such, would there be any unrighteousness in God? Again; as God will not condemn the heathens, who never heard of Christ, for not believing in him, but for their sins against the law and light of nature; nor such as have heard of him, for not believing that he died for them, nor for not being converted, but for their transgressions of God's law; of which condemnation, their disbelief and contempt of Christ and his gospel will be an aggravation, of which they had the opportunity of being informed: so we do not say that God has decreed to condemn or damn men for the things mentioned by this writer.
3. The doctrine of God's choosing some, and leaving others, is charged with insincerity, and with representing God as "the most deceitful and insincere Being; yea, as the greatest of all cheats, when he offers to sinners a salvation never purchased for them, and which he has absolutely decreed never to give them; and when he offers it upon conditions they cannot comply with, without irresistible grace, and he has decreed never to give them that grace; and when he threatens a heavier damnation if they do not believe and obey the gospel, which he knows they cannot do." To which I answer, that salvation is not offered at all by God, upon any condition whatsoever, to any of the sons of men, no, not to the elect: they are chosen to it, Christ has procured it for them, the gospel publishes and reveals it, and the Spirit of God applies it to them; much less to the non-elect, or to all mankind; and consequently this doctrine, or God according to it, is not chargeable with delusion and insult. When this author goes about to prove any such offers, I shall attend to them; and if he can prove them, I own, I must be obliged to think again.
4. This doctrine is represented as "very uncomfortable, because it leaves the rest of these children, and millions of his creatures, in helpless misery for ever; and makes it a hundred to one to a man that he is not elected, but must be for ever damned." But when it is considered that those children are rebellious ones, and those creatures vile and wicked, who are thus left, it can give no unlovely and horrid image of God to such who know that he is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. (Ps. 145:17.) Should it be said, that such are also the men that are chosen; it is very true, and therefore they admire and adore electing grace, and receive abundance of spiritual comfort from it: nor is it such a chance matter or uncertain thing to a man, as a hundred to one, whether he is elected or no, to whom the gospel is come not in word only, but also in power, and in the holy Ghost; who from hence may truly know and be comfortably assured of his election of God. (1 Thess. 1:4, 5.) What true and solid comfort can arise from the universal scheme, or from God's universal love? When notwithstanding that, and redemption by Christ, and the general offers of mercy, yea, grace itself bestowed, a man may be lost and damned.
One would think, that since this writer takes upon him the name of a Churchman, he might have been more sparing of, and less severe in, his reflections upon this doctrine, seeing it is so expressly and in such strong terms asserted in the seventeenth Article of the Church of England, and there represented as a very comfortable doctrine. The Article runs thus: "Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed, by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of man- kind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose, by his Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity." And then it is afterwards observed, that "the godly consideration of predestination, and our election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their minds to high and heavenly things; as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God."
5. Before I quit this subject, I would just remark the sense this author gives of several texts, which plainly assert a predestination and election, in the epistles of Paul and Peter; by which, I suppose, are meant, Romans 8:29, 30, and 9:11, 23, and 11:5-7, Ephesians 1:4, 5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2. The sense of them, according to his reading and judgment, and according to others, whom he esteems the best writers and preachers, is this; "Those texts, says he, are to be understood of God's first electing and adopting the seed of Abraham; and then, upon their crucifying the Son of God, and rejecting his gospel, God's choosing, electing or adopting all the spiritual seed of Abraham, though amongst the Gentiles; all virtuous and good men, all who believed the gospel; and this agreeable to his ancient designs, before he laid the foundation of the Jewish ages." But these passages of scripture have not one word, one syllable, one jot nor tittle in them of God's electing and adopting the seed of Abraham, the natural seed of Abraham, or the Jewish nation, as such; but of some persons only from among that nation, and from among the Gentiles; and that not upon the Jews' crucifying Christ, and rejecting his gospel, or before the foundation of the Jewish ages were laid; but before the foundation of the world, from the beginning, even from eternity: and though all the spiritual seed of Abraham, whether among Jews or Gentiles, all good men, all who believe in Christ, are elected; yet they were not elected as such, or because they were so, but that they might be so; for such who are chosen in Christ, are chosen, not because they were, or are, but that they should be, holy, and without blame before God in love.
III. The doctrine of original sin, and the concern which the posterity of Adam have in it, is greatly found fault with; it is not, indeed, separately and distinctly considered, but dragged into the debate about Election, and Reprobation. And,
1. The Baptist, in this Dialogue, is made to say, that men lost their ability to repent, to believe and obey the gospel in Adam, and by and at the fall; upon which, this writer makes this wise supposition: "I suppose the women lost it in Eve, and the men in Adam." This little piece of drollery Dr. Whitby has suggested to him, from whom he has borrowed, or rather stolen, a great many of his beautiful and masterly strokes in this performance. Adam, in his state of innocence, had a power of doing what is truly good and righteous; but by sinning, lost it. God made him upright, but he sinned, and lost the uprightness, the rectitude of his nature; and this loss is sustained by all his posterity: for there is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God; they are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one. (Rom. 3:10-12.) This man owns, that "we suffer loss through Adam's fall, and have an hereditary disease conveyed to us which worketh death;" which hereditary disease cannot be any one particular corporal disease, because no such disease is hereditary to all mankind, or conveyed to every individual of human nature. No disease but the disease of sin is hereditary, and conveyed to Adam's whole posterity, and this worketh death; the wages of sin is death, not only corporal, but eternal; as the antithesis in the following words declares, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 6:23.)
2. This writer thinks, "God is not at all angry with us for what Adam did, nor that it is just to condemn his posterity for what was done by him so long ago." To which I answer, that all men are by nature children of wrath, (Eph. 2:3.) that is, deserving of the wrath and displeasure of God, because they bring a corrupt nature into the world with them, derived from Adam, and conveyed unto them by natural generation; they are shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, (Ps. 51:5.) and as such, must be displeasing to God; whatsoever is born of the flesh is flesh; (John 3:6.) that is, is carnal and corrupt; and whatsoever is so, cannot be agreeable to God: and since this is the consequence of Adam's transgression, why may not God be thought to be angry and displeased with men on that account, and even punish them for it, since he threatens to visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children? (Ex. 20:5.) It is true, indeed, that in general that rule holds good; that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father; (Ezek. 18:20.) though this is not without exceptions to it, and only holds in such cases in which children have no concern with their parents; whereas the posterity of Adam were not only concerned with him as their natural, but as their federal and representative head; they stood in him, and fell with him in his transgression. The apostle expressly says, that in him all have sinned; and gives this as a reason why death hath passed upon all men. (Rom. 5:12.) Besides, he further observes, (Rom. 5:18.) that by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation. The plain and obvious meaning of which is, that all men are condemned through the offense of the first man, being made sinners by his sin: which is expressly asserted by the apostle, when he says, by the disobedience of one many were made sinners. But, says our author, (Rom. 5:19.) "that St Paul, by sinners, means sufferers, is plain, not only from reason, for no other sense can be true, but from his own explication, in Adam all die." This sense he has learned from Dr. Whitby; but does not pretend to give us one instance in which this word is ever so used. Auartwlov always signifies persons criminal, guilty of a fault, and frequently such who are notoriously so. The sense he gives is contrary to the apostle's design in the context, to the distinction he all along makes between sin and death, the one being the cause, the other the effect; and is to be disproved by the following part of the text, by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous: where the obedience of Christ is opposed to Adam's disobedience, righteous to sinners; and a being made righteous by the one, to a being made sinners by the other. Now, by the rule of opposition, as to be made righteous by Christ's obedience, is to be constituted and accounted so for the sake of his obedience; so to be made sinners by Adam's disobedience, is to be constituted and reckoned so on the account of it: and, after all, how is it reconcilable with the justice of God, that men should die in Adam, suffer for his disobedience, if they are in no sense guilty of it, or chargeable with it? But,
3. The imputation of Adam's sin, the ground of which is the covenant God made with him as a federal head, is represented as "an absurd and unrighteous scheme of divinity; and what men must quit their understandings, and give up all the principles of reason, truth and justice, to give into." But where is the absurdity or injustice of God's setting up Adam as a federal head to all his posterity, to stand or fall together, who were all naturally in his loins, as Levi was in the loins of Abraham? Had we been in being, had we been admitted principals, given out our own orders, and made our own choice, could we have made a better choice than God did for us? And since, had he stood, we should have enjoyed the advantages arising from his standing, why should we think it any hardship or injustice done us, that we share in the consequences of his fall? Was it never known, even among men, that posterity unborn have been obliged by covenants, which could not be made by their order, of which they could have no knowledge, and to which they gave no consent? Nay, have not children been involved in the crimes of parents, and been subject to penalties, and have endured them on the account of them, as in the case of treason? And have such procedures been reckoned absurd and unrighteous?
4. This author seems to have no other notion of original sin, but as it is an approbation or imitation of Adam's transgression; "if we approve of, says he, and imitate Adam's transgression, we may be punished for such approbation and imitation, but not for his transgression:" which was the vain opinion of the Pelagians, condemned by that church, to which he would be thought to belong, in her ninth Article, and in which she represents original sin as deserve of God's wrath and damnation: it begins thus, "Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk) but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is, of his own nature, inclined to evil; so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world it deserveth God's wrath and damnation."
IV. The doctrine of man's free-will, and the irresistible grace of God in conversion, is next considered. And under this head our author,
1. Most bitterly exclaims against the preachers of free grace, and affirms, that they are the greatest enemies to it in the world, upon their scheme of predestination, particular redemption, and the ministry of the gospel; and asks if this and that, and the other thing, are grace in God, some of which are suppositions of his own, and were never articles of our faith. And pray let me ask this writer, upon the foot of the universal scheme, "what grace is that in God, to decree to save all men conditionally, to send his Son to redeem all mankind; and yet to millions, even to whole nations, and that for many hundred years together, never so much as to afford the means of grace, the means of knowing the way of salvation and redemption by Christ; and to multitudes, who enjoy the outward ministry of the word, he does not vouchsafe his spirit to convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment, or to make application of salvation, but leaves them to go on in sin, and at last eternally damns them?" Whereas, according to the particular scheme, God chooses some peremptorily to eternal salvation, sends his Son to obtain eternal redemption for them, calls them effectually by his grace, and at last brings them safe to eternal glory; in doing which, are shown forth the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards them.
2. He next proceeds to state the notion of free-will, which he himself gives into: "If, says he, by free-will, you mean a faculty or power in man to turn his thoughts to this subject or another, to do good or ill actions, to choose the way of life or death, when both are set before him, to receive or reject the offers of Christ, when fairly made; I cannot but think every man hath this sort of free-will." And further observes, that such who "declaim against free agency, act upon this principle as much as other men — exhort and persuade to religion and good works, and act and live upon the principle of free agency, while in words they deny it." I hope, then, such persons are not Antinomians; and yet this poor inconsistent man, though he stiles himself a consistent Christian, immediately observes: "Thus do Antinomian notions in divinity turn mens heads, and quite intoxicate their brains." We own, that there is a power of free-will in man to perform the natural and civil actions of life, yea, the external parts of religion, but not anything that is spiritually good; such as to convert and regenerate himself, to believe in Christ, and repent of sin in an evangelic manner. God made man at first upright, with a power to do that which is truly good, and under no co-active necessity of sinning; his present case is not owing to his original make, but to his sin and fall. Men in an unregenerate state, are only free to do evil, without a power to do good; which is no self-contradiction; as appears from the case of the devils, who have no power to do good, are wholly bent upon evil, and yet do it freely. This freedom, indeed, is no other than servitude; men are overcome by sin, are brought into bondage through it, and are slaves unto it. This may be thought, indeed, contrary to the notion of man's present state, being a state of trial, and to some men's way of preaching; but does not contradict man's obligation to duty, nor overthrow the doctrine of a future judgment. Regenerate persons are free to do that which is good; but this freedom they have not naturally, but from the grace of God, by which they are made a willing people in the day of its power upon them. No man is or can be truly converted unto God, but by his powerful, efficacious and irresistible grace. But,
3. To say a man cannot turn to God without his almighty and irresistible grace, is represented as making the gospel not only an useless, but a deceitful institution. This must be denied; it is not hereby made a deceitful one, since that fully and clearly holds forth and expresses this truth, that no man can come to Christ except the Father draw him; nor is it made an useless one, seeing it is the power of God unto salvation to many souls, agreeable to this doctrine. But if no man can come to God or Christ unless irresistible grace draw him, it is urged, that "then he cannot help turning, then there can be no fault in not turning, and no virtue in turning to God." This argument, as well as some others, is borrowed from Dr. Whitby. And to it I answer, that not to turn to God, or to be in an unconverted state, is to be in a sinful one, and to live in sin is blameworthy: and though man, by sinning, has involved himself in a state out of which he cannot extricate himself; yet is he not the less culpable on that score for living in it, though none will be punished for not being elected or converted, but as sinners. And when a man is turned or converted to God, this is, indeed, no natural virtue in him; nor is it to be ascribed to any such virtue; but all the praise and glory of it are to be given to the powerful and efficacious grace of God, who will follow his own work of grace with glory, and not to the free-will of man; for, as it is expressed in the tenth Article of the Church of England, which I would recommend to the perusal and consideration of our Churchman; "The condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God: wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us; that we may have a good-will, and working with us when we have that good-will."
4. This man observes, that "men resist the holy Ghost, and when God would heal them, will not be healed, nor come to Christ for Life." I reply, men may indeed resist the holy Ghost, as the Jews did, Acts 7:51; which is what I suppose is referred to: but this is to be understood of resisting the holy Ghost in the external ministry of the word, of the Jews contempt, rejection and persecution of the prophets and apostles; as appears from the following words, and not of a resisting the internal operations of his grace; though we do not deny that these may be resisted, yet not so, as to be overcome, frustrated and brought to nothing: this is our sense of irresistible grace. As for God's willingness to heal persons when they would not be healed, I know no such expression in scripture, especially as referring to spiritual healing; it is said in Jeremiah 51:9. We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed. But this designs not the willingness of God, but of the Jews, or some other people to heal her. This mistake Dr. Whitby is guilty of: It is not always safe to follow him. It is true, indeed, the Jews would not come to Christ for life, which is an argument not for, but against free-will; and shows the weakness, wickedness and obstinacy of the will of man.
V. Another doctrine militated against by this Dialogue-writer, is, that of the insufficiency of man's righteousness to justify him before God, and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ for that purpose. And,
1. He allows, that the false deceitful outride and ceremonial righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, of Jewish and Christian hypocrites,—may well enough be compared to filthy rags; but not the righteousness of the saints. But pray, who were the persons that acknowledged their righteousness to be as filthy rags in Isaiah 64:6, the only place of scripture where this phrase is used? Were these scribes or Pharisees, Jewish or Christian hypocrites, who made such an ingenuous and hearty confession of the pollution both of their nature and actions? No, they were the church of God, a set of godly persons in Isaiah's time, whose minds were impressed with a sense of the awfulness of the divine Majesty, and of their own vileness and unworthiness; they were men truly humbled before God, in a view of the impurity of their nature, the imperfection of their services, and their coldness and backwardness to things divine and spiritual; as the context manifestly shows. Can it be thought that such words as these should be spoken by hypocrites, we are all as an unclean thing? How strong and full is the following expression? And all our righteousness are as filthy rags: not only some part of our obedience, but all our performances, even the best of them, everything done by us, that can come under the name of righteousness, are so, being attended with so much sin and imperfection. What righteousness was that which the apostle Paul renounced, Philippians 3:9, and desired not to be found in? Says this man, his Jewish righteousness, or conformity to the ceremonial law; but this he had renounced before, in verse 4-7, and then adds, verse 8. Yea, doubtless, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. Now, by all things, he must mean something else, over and above, and besides what he had before renounced, and which at least, in part, he explains of his own righteousness, which is of the law, his moral righteousness; yea, all the obedience he had been enabled, by the grace of God, to perform, since his conversion; for to understand it of his ceremonial righteousness, is to make him guilty of a very great tautology.
2. The imputed righteousness of Christ, this author says, is a phrase no where to be found in God's book, nor is it easy to be understood; wherefore he calls it unscriptural and unintelligible doctrine. Imputed righteousness is a phrase neither unscriptural nor unintelligible, nor is the imputed righteousness of Christ so. David describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works. (Rom. 4:6.) Now what righteousness is that which is imputed without works? not a man's own righteousness, that cannot possibly be imputed without works; it must be the righteousness of Christ, which is imputed without the works of men being joined unto it to make it perfect. Again: Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. (Rom. 4:3.) Not Abraham's own faith, or faithful obedience, as says this man; but the object of his faith, the righteousness of the Messiah, in whom he believed; for that which was imputed to Abraham, was not imputed to him only, but to others, even to believers under the gospel dispensation. Now it was not written, says the apostle, for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Rom. 4:23, 24.) So Christ is made unto us righteousness, (1 Cor. 1:30.) by the imputation of it, not to himself, but to us; nor is the meaning, as this author would have it, that the doctrine, example, life and death of Christ, are the means of making men righteous; but he himself is made unto them righteousness, and they are made the righteousness of God in him, through the imputation of his righteousness to them, as he is made sin for them, through the imputation of their sins to him. (2 Corinthians 5:21.) Add to all this, that in the same way that we are made sinners by the disobedience of one, which is by the imputation of his disobedience to us, are we made righteous by the obedience of one, of Christ, namely, by the imputation of his obedience or righteousness to us. (Rom. 5:19.)
3. This writer suggests, that the "doctrine of Justification, by the imputed righteousness of Christ, is a poisonous doctrine; and asserts it to be an encouragement to bad men and loose women to go on in sin, and a discouragement to good men to perform duty." To which I need only say, with the apostle, (Rom. 3:31.) Do we make void the law through faith? that is, by the doctrine of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ, which is the doctrine he was speaking of? God forbid! yea, we establish the law. Nothing can lay men and women under a greater obligation to live soberly, righteously and godly, or has a greater tendency to make them careful to maintain good works, than this doctrine of grace, or the consideration of this, that being justified by grace, they are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 2:11, 12 and 3:7, 8.) In this, as in other doctrines, our author shows himself to be no true Churchman; and, for the future, ought to drop that character. The doctrine of Justification is thus expressed in the eleventh Article of the Church of England: "We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings; wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesom doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification." Nor did the compilers of this Article reckon this doctrine a licentious one, or a discouragement to good works, as appears by the Article concerning them, which follows upon this.
VI. The doctrine of Perseverance is next introduced into the dialogue; and the writer of it,
1. Hopes "that every truly good man will persevere in his goodness; but cannot say it is impossible for a righteous man to turn from his righteousness, or for one that has tasted the heavenly gift, and has partook of the holy Ghost, to fall away; else, what need of so many cautions given to persons and churches: besides, David and Peter did apostatize and fall away as well as Judas." To which I answer; it is well this author has entertained any hope of a truly good man's persevering in his goodness; but why not believe it? since it is promised, that the righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger. (Job 17:9.) The apostle Paul was confident of this very thing, and so may we, that he which hath begun a good work in the saints, will perform it until the day of Christ. (Phil. 1:6.) A righteous man, one that is only so before men, and in his own apprehensions, who trusts to and depends upon his own righteousness for justification before God, such an one as is described in the 18th and 33rd chapters of Ezekiel; such a righteous man, I say, may indeed turn from his own legal righteousness to an open course of sin, and die and perish eternally. But this is no proof of a truly righteous man, one that is made so by the obedience of Christ, who has a principle of grace wrought in him, in consequence of which, he lives soberly, righteously and godly, turning from his righteousness, and falling into sin, so as to be lost foreverse For, should this be, how could the righteousness by which he is justified be called an everlasting one, as it is in Daniel 9:24? Nor could it be said, with truth, that whom God justified, them he also glorified, Romans 8:30. So, a man who has only a taste, a superficial knowledge of the heavenly gift, and has partook of the holy Ghost, either of the ordinary or extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, may fall away, so as not to be renewed again to repentance; but this is no instance of a man's falling away, who has truly eat the flesh and drank the blood of Christ by faith, and has been made a partaker of the special and internal grace of the Spirit of God. The cautions given to persons and churches to watch and pray, left they enter into temptation, to hold fast, to continue in well doing, etc. are not arguments against, but means which the Spirit of God makes use of to secure the perseverance of the saints. Besides, though true believers cannot fall from grace totally and finally; yet inasmuch as they may fall so as to wound their own consciences, stumble others, and dishonor the name of God, there is room and reason for such cautions. Though David and Peter fell, yet not as Judas did, which is suggested; otherwise, why are they put together? Judas fell from a profession of Christ, and from his apostleship, but not from the grace of God, which he never had. David and Peter fell into great sins, but not totally and finally; there was a principle of true grace still in them, which was revived and excited by the Spirit of God, whereby they were enabled to turn from their iniquity, and do that which was right. "But, says this man, as it was possible for them to fall into sin, mortal sin; so it was possible for them to have died in the sin they had sinned, and how they would have fared in that case, he leaves us to judge." One would be tempted to conclude from this passage, that our Churchman is rather a member of the church of Rome, than of the church of England; since he seems to give into the popish distinction of sin, into mortal and venial, otherwise, why should he be so careful to explain sin, by mortal sin? Is not every sin mortal, that is to say, deserving of death? And though it was possible for David and Peter to fall into mortal sins, sins deserving of death, as they did; yet it was not possible they should die in them, since it is the will of God that none of his beloved ones, as David and Peter were, should perish, but should come to repentance; and since Christ undertook to die for their sins, and their sins were actually pardoned for Christ's sake.
2. Under this head, is brought in the doctrine of God's seeing no sin in his people, as he looks upon them through Christ, and as clothed with his righteousness; which is represented as "a doctrine immoral and absurd, unworthy of God, and shocking to a pious mind." But why should it be thought to be so, when it is expressly asserted in the sacred writings? He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel. (Num. 23:21.) With respect to the attribute of God's omniscience, it is freely allowed, that God sees all persons and things just as they are; he sees the sins of David and Peter, and he sees the sins of all professors of religion, even of his own people; and, in a providential way resents them, and chastises them for them, though he does not impute them to them, or punish them for them. But with respect to the article of Justification by Christ's righteousness, and pardon by his blood, God sees no sin in his people; their sins are covered from the sight of justice, they are all discharged, forgiven, blotted out, and done away; so that when they are sought for, there shall be none, and they shall not be found. (Jer. 50:20.) Now, as this doctrine does not impeach the omniscience of God, and perfectly accords with his justice, which is satisfied by the blood and righteousness of Christ, it cannot be absurd and unworthy of God; and since it leaves room for, and supposes God's resentment of sin in his people, and his chastisement for it, it cannot be an immoral one, or shocking to a pious mind.
3. The absolute and unconditional promises of the covenant, mentioned in Jeremiah 31:32, 33 and Ezekiel 36:26, are produced in favor of the saints' perseverance; whereas they belong to the doctrine of efficacious grace in conversion, and under that head should have been placed and considered: but this author is pleased to make his Baptist say anything which he thinks fit, that he may make him appear weak and ridiculous, and himself a match for him. Of this conduct, his whole Dialogue is a proof. The prophetic texts usually brought in favor of the final perseverance of the saints, are, Isaiah 54:10 and chap. 59:21, Jeremiah 32:38-40, Hosea 2:19, which this writer was either ignorant of, or perhaps did not care to mention them, nor meddle with them, as furnishing out arguments in proof of this doctrine beyond his capacity to reply to.
VII. The last thing considered in this debate is, the ordinance of Baptism; and it would have been writing out of character, indeed, to have attacked a Baptist, and not have meddled with his denomination principle. And,
1. I observe, "that the controversy about the time and mode of baptism, appears to him of no great moment; seeing Baptism itself is an outward ordinance, or a mere ceremony, though of Christ's institution: nor is it mentioned in the commission given to St Paul, who was the apostle of the Gentiles." But pray, were not all the apostles sent to the Gentiles, into all the world, to each all nations? And was not the ordinance of baptism in the commission given to them all? What, though Baptism is an outward ordinance; yet, since it is of Christ's institution, it must be of considerable moment to know and be satisfied, who are the proper subjects of it, and in what manner it should be performed. An ordinance of Christ should not be treated as an indifferent thing, to whom, or how it is administered; or whether it is attended to or not.
2. This man has many wise reasonings upon the mode of Baptism: "I allow, says he, that if baptism with water be efficacious, and does operate to the purifying of the conscience, and cleansing of the heart, then the more water the better." I do not transcribe the sentence that follows, to avoid defiling of paper with the indecency of his expressions, since they add no force to his argument: would he be concluded by his own reasoning, he, and the rest of the Poedobaptists, ought to be the last that should drop the practice of immersion; for who are they that say that baptism is efficacious to internal purposes? Not the Baptists, who insist upon persons making a profession, and giving proof of their repentance towards God, and faith in Christ; of their being regenerated, and having their hearts and consciences cleansed and purified by faith in the blood of Christ, before they are admitted to this ordinance: But those who say, that "by baptism original sin is taken away, persons are regenerated, made members of Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven;" who behave as though they thought there could be no salvation without baptism; when, upon the least indisposition of a new born infant, they are in a hurry to fetch the minister to sprinkle it; these, according to this man's reasonings, and his own principles, ought to plunge it. He goes on: "but if baptism be only declarative and significative, then a handful of water, poured or sprinkled on the face (the chief part of the body, and the seat of the soul) may answer this purpose as well, if a serious profession of christianity go along with it, as well as sprinkling the whole congregation of Israel, Exodus 24."
Here our author entertains us with considerable hints: not the heart, as some; nor the brain, as others; nor the glandula pinealis, but the face is the seat of the soul. He does not, indeed, tell us what part of the face; but leaves us to conclude it must be the forehead, since there the sign of the cross is made in baptism: but be it so, that the face is the chief part of the body, and the seat of the soul; and that baptism is declarative and significative, as it is of the sufferings, death, burial and resurrection of Christ, see Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12. Not sprinkling or pouring a handful of water upon the face, but immersion or covering the whole body in water, only can be declarative and significative of these things; and therefore the former cannot as well answer the purposes of baptism as the latter. But, says this man, "it may do as well as sprinkling the whole congregation of Israel." Very right, provided it was done by the same authority, and for a like end; but then, this is no instance of a part being put for the whole, or of the sign put for the thing signified. This our author, upon a review of his work when printed off, saw; and therefore, in his table of the errors of the press, one big enough for a folio volume, and which might have been still made larger, he has corrected this passage; and would have it read thus, "as well as sprinkling the twelve pillars, served instead of sprinkling the whole congregation of Israel."
But how does it appear, that not the people, but the twelve pillars, were sprinkled instead of them? not one syllable is said of sprinkling the pillars in Exodus 24, only the people; for it is expressly said, that Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people; and the author of the epistle to the Hebrews confirms it, by saying, that he sprinkled both the book and all the people. (Hebrews 9:19.) However, if sprinkling water on the face in baptism will not do as well as this, it will "as well, says this writer, as eating one morsel of bread and tasting wine may signify and declare a person's faith in the death, and the second coming of Christ, to as good purpose, as eating a meal or drinking a full cup in remembrance of him." I answer, the case is not parallel, for baptism does not merely signify and declare a person's faith in the sufferings, death, burial and resurrection of Christ, but the things themselves; and therefore, though eating a morsel of bread and tasting the wine may, in the Lord's Supper, answer the purpose of that ordinance, as well as a full meal or cup; yet sprinkling or pouring water on the face in baptism will not answer the end of that ordinance, as well as immersion or covering the body in water. After all, a clogging clause is put into this argument, which is, that this may do as well, "if a serious profession of christianity go along with it." And of the same kind is the following paragraph, "if there be the answer of a good conscience, or a sincere profession of christianity, and a hearty resolution to serve Christ, which is the moral, or spiritual part of baptism, I do not think our Lord and Master will be so scrupulous as some of his disciples are about the mode."
But where is the answer of a good conscience, or a sincere profession of christianity, or a hearty resolution to serve Christ, in infants, for that of others for them can be of no avail, when water is sprinkled or poured upon their faces? We are obliged to this man, that he will vouchsafe to own us to be the disciples of Christ, we desire to be followers of him in every ordinance, and in this; the mode of which he has taught us, without any scruple, by his own example. Our author goes on, and observes, that "if the washing the principal part, instead of the whole, be a more safe way for health, and a more decent way upon the rules of chastity, I think it the better way; and that there is room to apply that sacred proverb, which our Lord applied on another occasion, God will have mercy, not sacrifice; for he always prefers morals to rituals." This is the old rant, that has been answered over and over; and must be despised and treated as mere calumny, by all that know the safety and healthfulness of cold bathing, which now generally obtains; or have seen with what decency this ordinance is performed by us. He adds, "If St Paul made so little account of the external part of baptism, 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, what would he have said to a controversy about the mode of using it?" It seems from hence, that baptism has an internal part as well as an external one; though before it is called an outward ordinance, and a mere ceremony. But what was the little account the apostle Paul made of it? Though he was not sent only or chiefly and principally to baptize, but to preach the gospel; and he thanks God, that he had baptized no more of the Corinthians, since they made such an ill use of it: yet it does not appear, that he at any time, or in any respect, made light or little account of it; since no sooner had he any intimation of it, as his duty, but he submitted to it; as did Lydia and the Jailor, with their households, and many of the Corinthians, if not as administered by him, yet by his order, and with his knowledge and consent; and, was he now on the spot, would soon put an end to the controversy about the mode of it, could he be attended to, though I fear he would be little regarded by persons of this man's complexion; for since so little regard is had to his doctrines, there would be very little shown to his sense, either of the mode or subjects of an ordinance.
3. The time of baptism is next considered, which, with this writer, is but another word for the subjects of it; for we have no controversy about the precise time of baptism, the question with us, is not whether an infant is to be baptized as soon as born, or at eight days, or when a month old; but whether it is to be baptized at all or no; nor whether adult persons are to be baptized at thirty years of age, or whether at Whitsuntide, or any other time of the year; but whether believers, and such that profess themselves, and are judged to be so, and they only, are to be baptized. This author says, that "it is certainly very proper that parents devote their children to God; which they may do by prayer, without baptizing, for which they have no warrant; and that they enter them as infant-disciples in the school of Christ, in order to become his actual scholars as soon as capable." But this is beginning wrong, and perverting the order which Christ has fixed, that persons should first be taught and made disciples, and then baptized; and not first baptized, and then made disciples. He asks, "Is it not as proper that this be done by the visible ceremony of baptism, as for the Jewish children to be entered into their church by circumcision?" He ought first to prove, that Jewish children were entered into their church by circumcision; and then that it is the will of God, or appointment of Christ, that infants should be entered into the christian church by baptism; and that baptism succeeds circumcision, and for such a purpose; neither of which can ever be made good. He further asks, "If parents make a profession of the christian faith at the baptism of their children, and also enter into public engagements to give them a christian education, are not as good ends, as to practical religion, answered by the baptism of christians children, as by the baptism of adult persons?" I answer, that parents may do these things if they please, without baptizing their infants; nor were these ever designed as ends to be answered by baptism in any; a profession of faith should be made by the party baptized, and that before baptism. After a little harangue upon the virtue of washing the body with water, intimating, that this cannot make a person one jot holier, or secure from sin in future life, which nobody ever affirmed, he owns, that "penitent confession of sin, profession of faith in Christ, and engagement to a new life, were the conditions of baptism to all Jews and Gentiles;" which, as we believe they are, we desire to have them continued so; for this we contend.
This Dialogue is concluded with some distinctions about zeal, and some censures upon the Particular Baptists, and their preachers, for their blind, bodily, immodest and uncharitable zeal; which, if guilty of, this man is a very improper person to be a rebuker, since he has shown so much intemperate heat against men, whom he himself owns to be the disciples of Christ; and against doctrines held by all the reformed churches. I wish he may appear of another spirit in his second part, which he has given us reason to expect.
I would fain persuade this author, to leave this pamphleteering way of writing, and appear undisguised. He seems to be fond of engaging in a controversy with the Baptists upon the above points, which require a larger compass duly to consider, than he has taken. I am a Baptist, he may call me, if he pleases, a new Baptist, or an old Calvinistical one, or an Antinomian; it is a very trifle to me, by what name I go. I have published a treatise upon the doctrine of the Trinity, another upon the doctrine of Justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ; and lately three volumes against the Arminians, and particularly Dr. Whitby; in which are considered the arguments, both from scripture and reason, on both sides of the question; and am now preparing a fourth, in which the sense of the christian writers before Austin will be given upon the points in debate: if this Gentleman thinks it worth his while to attend to any, or all of them, and enter into a sober controversy on these subjects, I shall readily join him; and, in the meantime, bid him farewell, till his second part is made public.
Dialogue p. 12.
Dialogue, p. 16.
Ibid. p. 7.
Dialogue, p. 8,9.
Dialogue, p. 11.
Dialogue, p. 11.
Ibid. p. 12.
Dialogue, p. 6, 7.
Ibid. p. 16.
Ibid. p. 12, 13.
Dialogue, p. 13.
Dialogue, p. 14.
Dialogue, p. 15.
Ibid. p. 15.
Ibid. p. 19, 20.
Dialogue, p. 17.
Ibid. p. 18-20.
Ibid. p. 19.
Ibid. p. 21.
Dialogue, p. 19, 22, 23.
Dialogue, p. 22, 23.
Dialogue, p. 26, 27.
Ibid. p. 24.
Discourse of Election, p. 79. Ed. 2. 78.
Dialogue, p. 24.
Dialogue, p. 24.
Dialogue, p. 25.
Discourse of Election, p. 85. Ed. 2. 84.
Dialogue, p. 25.
Dialogue, p. 24.
Ibid. p. 28.
Ibid. p. 29, 30.
Dialogue, p. 31.
Discourse of Election, p. 260, 261. Ed. 2. 252.
Dialogue, p. 32.
Discourse of Election, p. 204, 477. Ed. 2. 199, 457.
Dialogue, p. 33.
Ibid. p. 34, 35.
Dialogue, p. 35.
Dialogue, p. 35.
Dialogue, p. 34, 35.
Dialogue, p. 36.
Dialogue, p. 36, 37.
Ibid. p. 37.
Dialogue, p. 41.