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General observations upon his way of arguing, and answering arguments; with some instances of the first method excepted against.
Mr. W. endeavours to support his own opinion, and to confute the book he pretends to answer, by the following methods.
1. By frequently misrepresenting what I say, and then disputing or exclaiming against what he wrongfully charges as mine.
2. By misrepresenting what others say in their writings, whose opinions he pretends to espouse.
3. By seeming to oppose and confute arguments, and yet only saying things which have no reference at all to them, but relate entirely to other matters, that are altogether foreign to the argument in hand.
4. By advancing new and extraordinary notions; which are both manifestly contrary to truth, and also contrary to the common apprehensions of the christian church in all ages.
5. By making use of peremptory and confident assertions, instead of arguments.
6. By using great exclamation, in the room of arguing; as though he would amuse and alarm his readers, and excite terror in them, instead of rational conviction.
7. By wholly overlooking arguments, and not answering at all; pretending, that there is no argument, nothing to answer; when the case is manifestly far otherwise.
8. By frequently turning off an argument with this reflection, that it is begging the question; when there is not the least show or pretext for it.
9. By very frequently begging the question himself, or doing that which is equivalent.
10. By often alleging and insisting on things in which he is inconsistent with himself.
510 As to the first of these methods used by Mr. W. i.e. his misrepresenting what I say, and then disputing or exclaiming against what he injuriously charges as mine, many instances have been already observed: I now would take notice of some other instances.
In p. 15. c. He charges me with “affirming vehemently, in a number of repetitions, that the doctrine taught is, that no manner of pretence to any visible holiness is made or designed to be made.” These he cites as my words, marking them with notes of quotation. Whereas I never said or thought any such thing, but the contrary. I knew, that those whose doctrine I opposed, declared that visible holiness was necessary: and take particular notice of it, (p. 8.) where I say, “It is granted on all hands, that none ought to be admitted, as members of the visible church of Christ, but visible saints:” and argue on this supposition for fifteen pages together, in that same part of my book where Mr. W. charges me with asserting the contrary. What I say is, that people are taught, that they come into the church without any pretence to sanctifying grace, (p. 15. d.) I do not say, without a pretence to visible holiness. Thus Mr. W. alters my words, to make them speak something not only diverse but contrary to what I do say, and say very often; and so takes occasion, or rather makes an occasion, to charge me before the world, with telling a manifest untruth, (p. 15. d.)
Again, Mr. W. in answering my argument concerning brotherly love, (p. 70. e. 71. a.) represents me as arguing, “That in the exercise of christian love described in the gospel, there is such an union of hearts, as there cannot be of a saint to an unsanctified man.” Which is a thing I never said, and is quite contrary to the sentiments which I have abundantly declared. I indeed speak of that brotherly love, as what cannot be of a saint to one that is not apprehended and judged to be sanctified. But that notion of a peculiar love, which cannot be to an unsanctified man—or without the reality of holiness in the person beloved—is what I ever abhorred, and have borne a most loud and open and large testimony against, again and again, from the press, 597597 Marks of a Work of the True Spirit, p. 101, 102.103,104. Thoughts on the Revival of Religion, from p. 292 to 303. Nature of Religious Affections, p. 85-87. Preface to Inquiry into Qualifications for Communion, p. 5. and did so in the preface to that very book which Mr. W. writes against.
In p. 74. a. b. Mr. W. represents me as supposing, that in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, both the covenanting parties, viz. Christ and the communicant, seal to the truth of the communicant’s faith; or that both seal to this as true, that the communicant does receive Christ. Whereas, by me, no such thing was ever thought; nor is any thing said that has such an aspect. What I say, is very plain and express, (p. 75.) “That Christ by his minister professes his part of the covenant, presents himself, and professes the willingness of his heart to be theirs who receive him. That on the other hand, the communicant in receiving the offered symbols, professes his part in the covenant, and the willingness of his heart to receive Christ who is offered.” How different is this from both parties sealing to the truth of the communicant’s faith!
In p. 76, 77, and 80, he greatly misrepresents my argument from . “Let a man examine himself,” &c. as though I supposed, the Greek word translated examine, must necessarily imply an examination to approbation; that it signifies to approve; and that a man’s examination must mean his approving himself to himself to be sanctified. This representation he makes over and over, and builds his answer to the argument upon it; and in opposition to this, he says, (p. 77. c.) “Wherever the word means to examine to approbation, it is not used in its natural sense, but metonymically.” Whereas, there is not the least foundation for such a representation: no such thing is said or suggested by me, as if I supposed that the meaning of the word is to approve, or to examine to approbation. What I say is, that it properly signifies proving or trying a thing, whether it be true and of the right sort. (p. 77. d.) And, in the same place, I expressly speak of the word (in the manner Mr. W. does) as not used in its natural sense, but metonymically, when it is used to signify approve. So that Mr. W.‘s representation is not only diverse from, but contrary to, what I say. Indeed I suppose (as well I may) that when the apostle directs persons to try themselves with respect to their qualifications for the Lord’s supper, he would not have them come, if upon trial they find themselves not qualified. But it would be ridiculous to say, that I therefore suppose the meaning of the word, try or examine, is to approve, when it is evident that the trying is only in order to knowing whether a thing is to be approved, or disapproved.
In p. 98. b. on the argument from John’s baptism, Mr. W. alters my words, bringing them the better to comport with the odious representation he had made of my opinion, viz. that I required giving an account of experiences, as a term of communion; he puts in words as mine which are not mine, and distinguishes them with marks of quotation; charging me with representing it as ” probable that John had as much time to inquire into their experiences as into their doctrinal knowledge.”—Whereas, my words are these, (p. 101. a.) He had as much opportunity to inquire info the credibility of their profession, as he had to inquire into their doctrinal knowledge and moral character.
In p. 118. d. (and to the like purpose, p. 134. c.) our author represents me, and others of my principles, as holding, That the gospel does peremptorily sentence men to damnation for eating and drinking without sanctifying grace. But surely Mr. W. would have done well to have referred to the place in my Inquiry, where any thing is said that has such an appearance. For, I find nothing that I have said in that book, or any other writing of mine, about the gospel peremptorily sentencing such men to damnation, or signifying how far I thought they were exposed to damnation, or expressing my sentiments more or less about the matter.
In p. 130. e. and 131. a. Mr. W. says, ” When one sees with what epithets of honour Mr. Edwards in some parts of his book has complimented Mr. Stoddard, it must look like a strange medley to tack to them;—That he was a weak beggar of his question; a supposer of what was to be proved; taking for granted the point in controversy; inconsistent with himself; ridiculously contradicting his own arguments.” These expressions, which Mr. W. speaks of as tacked to those honourable epithets, he represents as expressions which I had used concerning Mr. Stoddard. And his readers that have not consulted my book, will doubtless take it so from his manner of representation. Whereas, the truth is, no one of these expressions is used concerning Mr. S. any where in my book; nor is there one disrespectful word spoken of him there. All the ground Mr. W. had to make such a representation, was, that in answering arguments against my opinion I endeavoured to show them to be weak, (though I do not find that I used that epithet,) and certainly for one to pretend to answer arguments, and yet allow them to be strong, would be to show himself to be very weak. In answering some of these arguments, and endeavouring to show wherein the inconclusiveness of them lay, I have sometimes taken notice that the defect lay in what is called begging the question, or supposing the thing to be proved. And if I had said so concerning Mr. S—d’s arguments, speaking of them as his, I do not know why it should be represented as any personal reflection, or unhandsome dishonourable treatment of him. Every inconclusive argument is weak; and the business of a disputant is to show wherein the weakness lies: but to speak of arguments as weak, is not to call men weak.—All the ground Mr. W. has to speak of me as saying, that Mr. S. ridiculously contradicted his own arguments is, that (in p. 11.) citing some passages out of Mr. S—d’s Appeal, I use these words; “But how he reconciled these passages with the rest of his treatise, I would modestly say, I must confess myself at a loss.” And particularly I observed, that I could not see how they consist with what he says, p. 16. and so proceed to mention one thing which appears to me not well to consist with them. But certainly this is not indecently to reflect on Mr. S. any more than Mr. W. indecently reflects on the first reformers, in his answer to Mr. Croswell, (p. 74, 75.) where speaking of their doctrine of a particular persuasion as of the essence of saving faith, he says, They are found inconsistent with themselves, and their doctrine lighter than vanity. And 511 again, (p. 82.) If ever, (says Mr. W.) any men were confuted from their own concessions, these divines are. And more to the like purpose.—Which gives me a fair occasion to express the like wonder at him, as he does at me, (p. 131. a.) but I forbear personal reflections.
Mr. W. (in the same p. d.) has these words; “And to say, that all unsanctified men do profess and seal their consent to the covenant of grace in the Lord’s supper, when they know at the same time they do not consent to it, nor have their heart at all in the affair,—is something worse than begging the question,”—that is, as I suppose, (the same that he charged me with before,) telling a manifest untruth. By which he plainly suggests, that I have said thus. Whereas, I no where say, nor in any respect signify that I suppose, all unsanctified communicants do know that they do not consent to the covenant of grace. I never made any doubt, but that multitudes of unsanctified communicants are deceived, and think they do consent to it.
In p. 132. d. he says of me, “The author endeavours to show, that the admitting unsanctified persons tends to the ruin and reproach of the christian church; and to the ruin of the persons admitted.” But how widely different is this from what I express in the place he refers to! (Inq. p. 121. c.) That which I say there, is, that “by express liberty given, to open the door to as many as please, of those who have no visibility of real saintship, and make no profession of it, nor pretension to it, is a method which tends to the ruin and great reproach of the christian church, and also to the ruin of the persons admitted.” I freely grant, and show abundantly in my book, it is never to be expected, that all unsanctified men can be kept out, by the most exact attendance on the rules of Christ, by those that admit members.
In p. 136. d. Mr. W. wholly without grounds speaks of me as representing, that “unconverted men make pretension to nothing but what God’s enemies have, remaining in open and avowed rebellion against him.” Whereas, I suppose that some natural men do profess, and profess truly, many things, which those have not, who are open and avowed enemies of God. They may truly profess that sort of moral sincerity, in many things belonging to morality and religion, which avowed enemies have not: nor is there any sentence or word in my book, which implies or intimates the contrary.
In p. 141. c. d. Mr. W. evidently insinuates, that I am one of those who “If men live never so strictly conformable to the laws of the gospel, and never so diligently seek their own salvation, to outward appearance, yet do not stick to speak of them, and act openly towards them, as persons giving no more public evidence, that they are not the enemies of God and haters of Jesus Christ, than the very worst of the heathen.” But surely every one that has read my book, every one that knows my constant conduct, and manner of preaching, as well as writing, and how much I have written, said, and done, against judging and censuring persons of an externally moral and religious behaviour, must know how injurious this representation of me is.
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