Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

PREFACE

TO THE

READER.

Ir hath pleased Mr. Edwards, in answer to the Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. and its Vindication, to turn one of the most weighty and important points that can come into question, (even no less than the very fundamentals of the Christian religion) into a mere quarrel against the author; as every one, with Mr. Bold, may observe. In my reply to him, I have endeavoured, as much as his objections would allow me, to bring him to the subject-matter of my book, and the merits of the cause; though his peculiar way of writing controversy has made it necessary for me, in following him step by step, to wipe off the dirt he has thrown on me, and clear myself from those falsehoods he has filled his book with. This I could not but do, in dealing with such an antagonist; that, by the untruths I have proved upon him, the reader may judge of those other allegations of his, whereof the proof lying on his side, the bare denial is enough on mine, and, indeed, are wholly nothing to the truth or falsehood of what is contained in my Reasonableness of Christianity, &c. To which I shall desire the reader to add this farther consideration from his way of writing, not against my book, but against me, for writing it, that if he had had a real concern for truth and religion in this dispute, he would have treated it after another manner; and we

should have had from him more argument, reasoning, and clearness, and less boasting, declamation, and railing. It has been unavoidable for me to take notice of a great deal of this sort of stuff, in answering a writer who has very little else to say in the controversy, and places his strength in things beside the question: but yet I have been so careful to take all occasions to explain the doctrine of my book, that I hope the reader will not think his pains wholly lost labour, in perusing this reply; wherein he will find some farther, and, I hope, satisfying account, concerning the writings of the New Testament, and the Christian Religion contained in it.

Mr. Edwards's ill language, which I thought personally to me, (though I know not how I had provoked a man whom I had never had to do with) I am now satisfied, by his rude and scurrilous treating of Mr. Bold, is his way and strength in management of controversy; and therefore requires a little more consideration in this disputant, than otherwise it would deserve. Mr. Bold, with the calmness of a Christian, the gravity of a divine, the clearness of a man of parts, and the civility of a wellbred man, made some "animadversions" on his Socinianism unmasked; which, with a sermon preached on the same subject with my Reasonableness of Christianity, he published: and how he has been used by Mr. Edwards let the world judge.

I was extremely surprised with Mr. Bold's book, at a time when there was so great an outcry against mine, on all hands. But, it seems, he is a man that does not take up things upon hearsay; nor is afraid to own truth, whatever clamour or calumny it may lie under. Mr. Edwards confidently tells the world, that Mr. Bold has been drawn in to espouse this cause upon base and mean considerations. Whose picture of the two such a description is most likely to give us, I shall leave to the reader to judge, from what he will find in their writings on this subject. For as to the persons themselves, I am equally a stranger to them both: I know not the face of either of them and having hitherto never had any communication with Mr. Bold, I shall begin with him,

:

as I did with Mr. Edwards, in print; and here publicly return him this following acknowledgment, for what he has printed in this controversy.

SIR,

To Mr. BOLD.

THOUGH I do not think I ought to return thanks to any one for being of my opinion, any more than to fall out with him for differing from me; yet I cannot but own to all the world the esteem that I think is due to you, for that proof you have given of a mind and temper becoming a true minister of the Gospel, in appearing, as you have done, in the defence of a point, a great point of Christianity, which it is evident you could have no other temptation to declare for, but the love of truth. It has fared with you herein no better than with me. For Mr. Edwards not being able to answer your arguments, he has found out already that you are a mercenary, defending a cause against your persua sion, for hire; and that you "are sailing to Racovia by a side-wind:" such inconsistencies can one (whose business it is to rail for a cause he cannot defend) put together to make a noise with: and he tells you plainly what you must expect if you write any more on this argument, viz. to be pronounced a downright apostate and renegado.

As soon as I saw your sermon and animadversions, I wondered what scarecrow Mr. Edwards would set up, wherewith he might hope to deter men of more caution than sense from reading of them; since Socinianism, from which you were known to be as remote as he, I concluded would not do. The unknown author of the Reasonableness of Christianity he might make a Socinian, Mahometan, atheist, or what sort of raw-head and bloody-bones he pleased. But I imagined he had more sense than to venture any such aspersions on a man whom, though I have not yet the happiness personally to know, yet I know hath justly a great and settled reputation amongst worthy men; and I thought

that that coat, which you had worn with so much reputation, might have preserved you from the bespatterings of Mr. Edwards's dunghill. But what is to be expected from a warrior that hath no other ammunition, and yet ascribes to himself victory from hence, and, with this artillery, imagines he carries all before him? And so Skimmington rides in triumph, driving all before him, by the ordures that he bestows on those that come in his way. And, were not Christianity concerned in the case, a man would scarce excuse to himself the ridiculousness of entering into the list with such a combatant. I do not, therefore, wonder that this mighty boaster, having no other way to answer the books of his opponents, but by popular calumnies, is fain to have recourse to his only refuge, and lay out his natural talent in vilifying and slandering the authors. But I see, by what you have already writ, how much you are above that; and, as you take not up your opinions from fashion or interest, so you quit them not, to avoid the malicious reports of those that do: out of which number they can hardly be left, who (unprovoked) mix, with the management of their cause, injuries and ill-language to those they differ from. This, at least, I am sure, zeal or love for truth can never permit falsehood to be used in the defence of it.

Your mind, I see, prepared for truth, by resignation of itself, not to the traditions of men, but the doctrine of the Gospel, has made you more readily entertain, and more easily enter into the meaning of my book, than most I have heard speak of it. And since you seem to me to comprehend what I have laid together, with the same disposition of mind, and in the same sense that I received it from the Holy Scriptures, I shall, as a mark of my respect to you, give you a particular account of it.

The beginning of the year in which it was published, the controversy that made so much noise and heat amongst some of the dissenters, coming one day accidentally into my mind, drew me, by degrees, into a stricter and more thorough inquiry into the question about justification. The Scripture was direct and plain, that it

1

was faith that justified: The next question then was, What faith that was that justified; what it was which, if a man believed, it should be imputed to him for righteousness. To find out this, I thought the right way was, to search the Scriptures; and thereupon betook myself seriously to the reading of the New Testament, only to that purpose. What that produced, you and the world have seen.

The first view I had of it seemed mightily to satisfy my mind, in the reasonableness and plainness of this doctrine; but yet the general silence I had in my little reading met with, concerning any such thing, awed me with the apprehension of singularity; until going on in the Gospel-history, the whole tenor of it made it so clear and visible, that I more wondered that every body did not see and embrace it, than that I should assent to what was so plainly laid down, and so frequently inculcated in holy writ, though systems of divinity said nothing of it. That which added to my satisfaction was, that it led me into a discovery of the marvellous and divine wisdom of our Saviour's conduct, in all the circumstances of his promulgating this doctrine; as well as of the necessity that such a lawgiver should be sent from God, for the reforming the morality of the world; two points, that, I must confess, I had not found so fully and advantageously explained in the books of divinity I had met with, as the history of the Gospel seemed to me, upon an attentive perusal, to give occasion and matter for. But the necessity and wisdom of our Saviour's opening the doctrine (which he came to publish) as he did in parables and figurative ways of speaking, carries such a thread of evidence through the whole history of the evangelists, as, I think, is impossible to be resisted; and makes it a demonstration, that the sacred historians did not write by concert, as advocates for a bad cause, or to give colour and credit to an imposture they would usher into the world: since they, every one of them, in some place or other, omit some passages of our Saviour's life, or circumstances of his actions, which show the wisdom and wariness of his conduct; and which, even those of the evangelists who have recorded, do barely

« AnteriorContinuar »