|« Prev||SECTION VIII. Mr. W. begs the question.||Next »|
Showing how Mr. W. often begs the question himself.
The question is certainly begged in that argument which Mr. W. espouses and defends, viz. That the Lord’s supper has a proper tendency to promote men’s conversion. In the prosecution of the argument Mr. W. implicitly yields, that it is not the apparent natural tendency alone, that is of any force to prove the point; but the apparent tendency under this circumstance, that there in no express prohibition. And thus it is allowed, that in the case of express prohibition with respect to the scandalous and morally insincere, no seeming tendency in the nature of the thing proves the ordinance to be intended for the conviction and conversion of such. So that it is a thing supposed in this argument, that all morally insincere persons are expressly forbidden, but unsanctified persons not so. Now when it is supposed, that morally insincere persons are expressly forbidden, the thing meant cannot be, that they are forbidden in those very words; for no such prohibition is to be found: nor are men that live in sodomy, bestiality, and witchcraft, any where expressly forbidden in this sense. But the thing intended must be, that they are very evidently forbidden, by plain implication, or consequence. But then the whole weight of the argument lies in this supposition, that unsanctified persons are not also plainly and evidently forbidden; which is the very point in question. And therefore to make this the ground of an argument to prove this point, is a manifest begging the question. And what Mr. W. says to the contrary, (p. 127. a.) that Mr. Stoddard had proved this point before, avails nothing: for let it be never so much 517 proved before, yet, after all, to take this very point and make use of it as a further argument to prove itself, is certainly begging the question. The notion of bringing a new argument is bringing additional proof: but to take a certain point, supposed to be already proved, to prove itself with over again, certainly does not add any thing to the evidence.
Mr. W. says, my supposing unconverted persons, as such, to be as evidently forbidden, as scandalous persons, is as much begging the question. I answer, So it would be, if I made that point an argument to prove itself with, after Mr. W.’s manner. But this is far from being the case in fact.
And the question is again most certainly begged, in that other thing said to support this argument, viz. That though the Lord’s supper may seem to have a tendency to convert scandalous sinners, yet there is another ordinance appointed for that. Here the meaning must be, that there is another ordinance exclusive of the Lord’s supper; otherwise it is nothing to the purpose. For they do not deny but that there are other ordinances for the conversion of sinners, who are morally sincere, as well as of those who are scandalous. But the question is, Whether other ordinances are appointed for their conversion exclusive of the Lord’s supper; or, whether the Lord’s supper be one ordinance appointed for their conversion? This is the grand point in question. And to take this point as the foundation of an argument, to prove this same point, is plainly begging the question. And it is also giving up the argument from the tendency, and resting the whole argument on another thing.
Mr. W. again plainly begs the question in his reply, (p. 127. c. d.) That God’s prohibition is an argument, that God saw there was no such tendency for their conversion. His so saying supposes again, that there is no evident prohibition of unsanctified persons. In which he again flies to the very point in question, and rests the weight of his reasoning upon it.
Just in the same manner Mr. W. begs the question in espousing and making use of that argument, That all in external covenant, and neither ignorant nor scandalous, are commanded to perform all external covenant duties. Here it is supposed, that scandalous persons, (which, according to Mr. W.‘s scheme, must include all that have not moral sincerity,) though in the external covenant, are expressly, that is, evidently, excepted and forbidden: and that unsanctified men are not also evidently forbidden; which is the point in question. For if unsanctified men, though in external covenant, are as evidently forbidden and excepted, as scandalous men that are in external covenant, then the argument touches not one any more than the other. So that the argument is entirely a castle in the air, resting on nothing but itself. The grand thing to be proved, first taken for granted, and then made an argument to prove itself!
In explaining the nature of begging the question, I observed, that it is begging the question, or equivalent to it, whether the point that is taken for granted, and made an argument of, be the main point in controversy, or some particular known disputed point between the controverting parties: I will now illustrate this by an example. It is a known disputed point in this controversy, whether in the parable concerning the man without the wedding garment, the king condemned the man for coming into the church without grace. Now supposing that I, because I look on the matter as very clear, should, besides using it as one distinct argument, also make it the basis of other arguments; and should use it in opposition to the strongest arguments of my opposers, as if it were sufficient to stop their mouths, without offering any proper solution of those arguments: as, in case I were pressed with the argument from the passover, if I should fly to the man without the wedding garment; and should say, It is certain, this argument from the passover can be of no force against the express word of God in the 22nd of Matt.. For there it is plain as any fact that ever the sun shone upon, that the king condemns the man for coming into the church without a wedding garment; and it is plain as the sun at noonday, that the wedding garment is grace.—And if when the argument from Judas’s partaking of the Lord’s supper is alleged, I should again fly to the man without a wedding garment, and say, whatever reasons Christ might have for admitting Judas, yet it is plainly revealed, in Matt. xxii. 12. that God does not approve of men coming into the church without a wedding garment. This would be a beggarly impertinent way of disputing, thus to answer one argument by throwing another in the way, which is contested, and the validity of which is denied. It is fair, that I should have liberty to use the argument concerning the wedding garment, in its place, and make the most of it: but to use it as the support of other arguments, is to produce no additional proof. And thus, from time to time, to produce the disputed hypothesis of one argument, for answer to the arguments of my antagonist, instead of solving those arguments, is flying and hiding from arguments, instead of answering them: instead of defending the fortress which is attacked, it is dodging and flying from one refuge to another.
Mr. W. acts this part from time to time, in the use he makes of his great argument from the Old-Testament church and its ordinances. Thus (in p. 8.) he takes this method to answer my argument from the nature of visibility and profession, insisting that the Israelites avouching and covenanting was a thing compatible with ungodliness; which he knows is a disputed point in this controversy, and what I deny.—Again, he makes use of the same thing, in answer to my argument from the nature of covenanting with God. (p. 23, 24.) And again he brings it in, (p. 25. e. 26. a.) answering what I say, by confidently asserting that concerning the church of Israel, which he knows is disputed, and I deny; viz. That the covenanting of Israel did not imply a profession that they did already believe and repent: as in these words, “This was never intended nor understood, in the profession which the Israelites made; but that they would immediately and from thenceforth comply with the terms of the covenant; and by the help of God, offered in it, would fulfil it. I am sure, this was what they professed; and I am sure, God declared he took them into covenant with him.” And the same thing is brought in again to answer the same argument, (p. 31. c.)—The same thing is thrown in, once and again, as an answer to what I say of the unreasonableness of accepting such professions as leave room to judge the greater part of the professors to be enemies of God. (p. 34. b. c.) The same thing is cast in as a sufficient block in the way of my arguing from the unreasonableness of accepting such professions, as amount to nothing more than lukewarmness. (p. 36. d. e.) The same is brought in, and greatly insisted on, to stop my mouth, in arguing from the Epistles. (p. 56, 57.) The same is brought in again, to enervate my argument concerning brotherly love. (p. 69. d.) And this is made use of as the support of other arguments; as that from the name disciples, and about the church being the school of Christ; and to confute what I say, in answer to that argument. (p. 84. a.) The same is brought in as a support of the eleventh objection, and a confutation of my answer to that. (p. 125. c. d. e.) And again, in reply to what I say in answer to the nineteenth objection. (p. 137. b. c.)
Another thing, near akin to begging the question, is resting the weight of arguments on things asserted without proof; which, though they do not properly make a part of the controversy, yet are things not allowed by those on the other side.—Thus does Mr. W. in his arguing from the success of the Lord’s supper in the conversion of sinners, (p. 137,138.) Supposing, not only that the Lord’s supper has been the occasion of the conversion of many, but that their communicating was the means of it. This he offers nothing to prove, and it is not allowed by those on the other side. 601601 Thus that very eminent divine, and successful minister of Christ, the late Dr. Doddridge, in his Sermons on Regeneration, speaking of the means of regeneration (p. 251. e. 252. a.) says, “I do not mention the administration of sacraments, upon this occasion; because, though they have so noble and effectual a tendency to improve men’s minds in piety, and to promote christian edification; yet I do not remember to have heard of any instance, in which they have been the means of men’s conversion; which is the less to be wondered at, as they are appointed for a very different end.” And it is what would be very hard to prove: if many were converted at the Lord’s table, (which yet is not evident,) it would not prove, that their partaking was 518 the means of their conversion; it might be only what they saw and heard there, which others may see and hear, that do not partake.
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