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SECT. VII.

What is, and what is not, begging the question; and how Mr. W. charges me, from time to time, with begging the question, without cause.

Among the particulars of Mr. W.‘s method of disputing, I observed, that he often causelessly charges me with begging the question, while he frequently begs the question himself, or does that which is equivalent.

But that it may be determined with justice and clearness, who does, and who does not, beg the question, I desire it may be particularly considered, what that is which is called begging the question in a dispute.—This is more especially needful for the sake of illiterate readers. And here,

1. Let it be observed, that merely to suppose something in a dispute, without bringing any argument to prove it, is not begging the question: for this is done necessarily, in every dispute, and even in the best and clearest demonstrations. One point is proved by another, till at length the matter is reduced to a point that is supposed to need no proof; either because it is self-evident, or is a thing wherein both parties are agreed, or so clear that it is supposed it will not be denied.

2. Nor is begging the question the same thing as offering a weak argument, to prove the point in question. It is not all weak arguing, but one particular way of weak arguing, that is called begging the question.

3. Nor is it the same thing as missing the true question, and bringing an argument that is impertinent, or beside the question.

But the thing which is called begging the question, is the making use of the very point in debate, or the thing to be proved, as an argument to prove itself. Thus, if I were endeavouring to prove that none but godly persons might come to sacraments, and should take this for an argument to prove it, that none might come but such as have saving faith, taking this for granted; I should then beg the question: for this is the very point in question, whether a man must have saving faith or no? It is called begging the question, because it is a depending as it were on the courtesy of the other side, to grant me the point in question, without offering any argument as the price of it.

And whether the point I thus take for granted, be the main point in question, in the general dispute, or some subordinate point, something under consideration, under a particular argument; yet if I take this particular point for granted, and then make use of it to prove itself, it is begging the question.

Thus if I were endeavouring, under this general controversy between Mr. W. and me, to prove that particular point, that we ought to love all the members of the church as true saints; and should bring this as a proof of the point, that we ought to love all the members of the church as true Christians, taking this for granted; this is only the same thing, under another term, as the thing to be proved; and therefore is no argument at all, but only begging the question.

Or if the point I thus take for granted, and make use of as an argument, be neither the general point in controversy, nor yet the thing nextly to be proved under a particular argument; yet if it be some known controverted point between the parties, it is begging the question, or equivalent to it: for it is begging a thing known to be in question in the dispute, and using it as if it were a thing allowed.

I would now consider the instances, wherein Mr. W. asserts or suggests that I have begged the question.

In p. 30. d. e. and 31. a. b. he represents the force of my reasoning as built on a supposition, that there is no unsanctified man, but what knows he has no desire of salvation by Christ, no design to fulfil the covenant of grace, but designs to live in stealing, lying, adultery,—or some other known sin: and then says, “Is it not manifest, that such sort of reasoning is a mere quibbling with words, and begging the question?” And so insinuates, that I have thus begged the question. Whereas, I nowhere say or suppose this which he speaks of, nor any thing like it. But on the contrary, often say, what supposes an unsanctified man may think he is truly godly, 516 and that he has truly upright and gracious designs and desires.—Nor does any argument of mine depend on any such supposition. Nay, under the argument he speaks of, I expressly suppose the contrary, viz. That unsanctified men who visibly enter into covenant, may be deceived.

In p. 38. a. Mr. W. makes a certain representation of my arguing from Isaiah lvi. and then says upon it, “It is no arguing, but only begging the question.” But as has been already shown, that which he represents as my argument from that scripture, has no relation to my argument.

In p. 59. in opposition to my arguing from the Epistles, that the apostles treated those members of churches which they wrote to, as those who had been received on a positive judgment, i.e. (as I explain myself,) a proper and affirmative opinion, that they were real saints; Mr. W. argues, that the apostles could make no such judgment of them, without either personal converse, or revelation; unless it be supposed to be founded on a presumption, that ministers who baptized them, would not have done it, unless they had themselves made such a positive judgment concerning their state: and then adds these words, This may do for this scheme, but only it is a begging the question. Whereas, it is a point that never has been in question in this controversy, as ever I knew, whether some ministers or churches might reasonably and affirmatively suppose, the members of other churches they are united with, were admitted on evidence of proper qualifications, (whatever they be, whether common or saving,) trusting to the faithfulness of other ministers and churches. Besides, this can be no point in question between me and Mr. W. unless it be a point in question between him and himself. For he holds, as well as I, that persons ought not to be received as visible Christians, without moral evidence (which is something positive, and not a mere negation of evidence of the contrary) of gospel-holiness.

In p. 82. of my book I suppose, that none at all do truly subject themselves to Christ as their master, but those who graciously subject themselves to him, and are delivered from the reigning power of sin. Mr. W. suggests, (p. 83. d.) that herein I beg the question. For which there is no pretext, not only as this is no known point in controversy between the parties in this debate; but also as it is a point I do not take for granted, but offer this argument to prove it, that they who have no grace, are under the reigning power of sin, and no man can truly subject himself to two such contrary masters, at the same time, as Christ and sin. I think this argument sufficient to obtain the point, without begging it. And besides, this doctrine, that they who have no grace do not truly subject themselves to Christ, was no point in question between me and Mr. W. But a point wherein we were fully agreed, and wherein he had before expressed himself as fully, and more fully, than I. In his sermons on Christ a King and Witness, (p. 18. b.) he speaks of all such as do not depend on Christ, believe in him, and give up themselves and all to him, as not true subjects to Christ; but enemies to him, and his kingdom. We have expressions to the same purpose again, in p. 74. and 91. and in p. 94. d. e. of the same book, he says, “It is utterly inconsistent with the nature of the obedience of the gospel, that it should be a forced subjection.—No man is a subject of Christ, who does not make the laws and will of Christ his choice, and desire to be governed by him, and to live in subjection to the will of Christ, as good and fit, and best to be the rule of his living, and way to his happiness. A forced obedience to Christ is no obedience. It is in terms a contradiction. Christ draws men with the cords of love, and the bands of a man. Our Lord has himself expressly determined this point. There are other passages in the same book to the same purpose. So that I had no need to beg this point of Mr. W. since he had given it largely, and that in full measure, and over and over again, without begging.

In p. 120. b. he observes, ” That to say, such a profession of internal invisible things is the rule to direct the church in admission,—is to hide the parallel, and beg the question. For the question here is about the persons’ right to come, and not about the church’s admitting them.” Here Mr. W. would make us believe, that he does not know what begging the question is: for it is evident, his meaning is, that my saying so is beside the question. But to say something beside the question, is a different thing from begging the question, as has been observed. My saying, that a profession of invisible things is the church’s rule in admission, is not begging the question: because it is not, nor ever was, any thing in question. For Mr. S. and Mr. W. himself are full in it, that a profession of invisible things, such as a believing that Christ is the Son of God, &c. is the church’s rule. Yea, Mr. W. is express in it, that a credible profession and visibility of gospel-holiness is the church’s rule, p. 139. Nor is my saying as above, beside the question then, in hand, relating to the church of Israel admitting to the priesthood, those that could not find their register. For that wholly relates to the rule of admission to the priesthood, and not to the priests’ assurance of their own right. For, as I observed, if the priests had been never so fully assured of their pedigree, yet if they could not demonstrate it to others, by a public register, it would not have availed for their admission.

Again, in p. 124. e. Mr. W. charges me with begging the question, in supposing that sacraments are duties of worship whose very nature and design is an exhibition of those vital and active principles and inward exercises, wherein consists the condition of the covenant of grace. He charges the same thing as a begging the question, p. 131. d.—But this is no begging the question, for two reasons; (1.) Because I had before proved this point, by proofs which Mr. W. has not seen cause to attempt to answer, as has been just now observed, in the last section. (2.) This, when I wrote, was no point in question, wherein Mr. W. and I differed; but wherein we were agreed, and in which he had declared himself as fully as I, in his sermons on Christ a King and Witness; p. 76. c. “When we attend sacraments (says he) we are therein visibly to profess our receiving Christ, and the graces of his Spirit, and the benefits of his redemption, on his own terms and offer, and giving up the all of our souls to him, on his call, covenant, and engagement.” And in the next preceding page but one, in a place forecited, he speaks of these acts “as mockery, hypocrisy, falsehood, and lies, if they are not the expressions of faith and hope, and spiritual acts of obedience.” So that I had no manner of need to come to Mr. W. as a beggar for these things, which he had so plentifully given me, and all the world that would accept them, years before.

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