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Mr Biddle’s preface briefly examined.
In the entrance of Mr Biddle’s preface he tells the reader very modestly “That he could never yet see or hear of a catechism” (although, I presume, he had seen, or heard at least, of one or two written by Faustus Socinus, though not completed; of one by Valentinus Smalcius, commonly called “The Racovian Catechism,” from whence many of his questions and answers are taken; and of an “Exposition of the Articles of Faith, in the Creed called the Apostles’, in way of catechism, by Jonas Schlichtingius,” published in French, anno 1646, in Latin, anno 1651) “from whence the true grounds of Christian religion might be learned, as it is delivered in Scripture;” and therefore, doubtless, all Christians have cause to rejoice at the happy product of Mr B.’s pains, wherewith he now acquaints them, ushered in with this modest account, whereby at length they may know their own religion, wherein as yet they have not been instructed to any purpose. And the reason of this is, because “all other catechisms are stuffed with many supposals and traditions, the least part of them being derived from the word of God,” Mr B. being judge. And this is the common language of his companions, comparing themselves and their own writings with those of other men.104104 “Quicunque sacras literas assidua manu versat, quantumvis nescio quos catechismos, vel locos communes et commentarios quam familiarissimos sibi reddiderit, is statim cum nostrorum libros vel semel inspexerit, intelliget quantum distant æra lupinis.” — Valent. Smalc. Res. Orat. Vogel et Peuschel. Rac. anno 1617, p. 34. “Scripta hæc, Dei gloriam et Christi Domini nostri honorem, ac ipsam nostram salutem, ab omni traditionum humanarum labe, ipsa divina veritate literis sacris comprehensa repurgare nituntur, et expeditissima explicandæ Dei gloriæ, honoris Christo Domino nostro asserendi, et salutis consequendæ ratione excerpta, ac omnibus proposita eam ipsissima sacrarum literarum authoritate sancire et stabilire conantur.” — Hieron. Moscorov. Ep. Dedic. Cat. Rac. ad Jacob. in B. R. nomine et jussu Ecclesiæ Polon. “Neque porro quemquam ease arbitror, qui in tot ac tantis Christianæ religionis placitis, a reliquis homimbus dissentiat, in quot quantisque ego dissentio.” — Socin. Ep. ad Squarcialup. anno 1581. The common language they delight in is, “Though Christians have hitherto thought otherwise.”
Whether we have reason to stand to this determination, and acquiesce in this censure and sentence, the ensuing considerations of what Mr B. substitutes in the room of those catechisms which he here rejects will evince and manifest. But to give countenance to this humble entrance into his work, he tells his reader “That councils, convocations, and assemblies of divines, have justled out the Scripture, and framed confessions of faith according to their own fancies and interests, getting them confirmed by the civil magistrate; according unto which confessions all catechisms are and have been framed, without any regard to the Scripture.” What “councils” Mr B. intends he informs us not, nor what it is that in them he chiefly complains of. If he intend some only, such as the apostatizing times of the church saw, he knows he is not opposed by them with whom he hath to de, nor vet if he charge them all for some miscarriages in them or about them. If all, as that of the apostles themselves, Acts xv., together with the rest that for some ages followed after, and that as to the doctrine by them delivered, fall under his censure, we have nothing but 60the testimony of Mr B. to induce us to a belief of this insinuation.105105 Ἄτοπονγὰρ εἰ ὁ αὐτὸς ἄπιστος ἐι τούτου λόγοι ἒσονται πιστοί. — Arist. Rhet. lib. iii. cap. xv. His testimony in things of this nature will be received only by them who receive his doctrine.
What I have to offer on this account I have spoken otherwhere. That the confessions of faith which the first general councils, as they are called, during the space of four hundred years and upward, composed and put forth, were “framed according to the fancies and interests of men,” beside the word, is Mr B.’s fancy, and his interest to have it so esteemed. The faith he professeth, or rather the infidelity he has fallen into, was condemned in them all, and that upon the occasion of its then first coming into the world; “Hinc illæ lacrimæ:” if they stand, he must fall. “That the catechisms of latter days” (I suppose he intends those in use amongst the reformed churches) “did wholly omit the Scripture, or brought it in only for a show, not one quotation amongst many being a whit to the purpose,” you have the same testimony for as for the assertions foregoing.106106 “Calumniare fortiter; aliquid adhærebit.” He that will say this, had need some other way evince that he makes conscience of what he says, or that he dare not say any thing, so it serve his turn. Only Mr B. hath quoted Scripture to the purpose! To prove God to be “finite, limited, included in heaven, of a visible shape, ignorant of things future, obnoxious to turbulent passions and affections,” are some of his quotations produced; for the like end and purpose are the most of the rest alleged. Never, it seems, was the Scripture alleged to any purpose before! And these things, through the righteous hand of God taking vengeance on an unthankful generation, not delighting in the light and truth which he hath sent forth, do we hear and read. Of those who have made bold ἀκίνητα κινεῖν, and to shake the fundamentals of gospel truths or the mystery of grace, we have daily many examples. The number is far more scarce of them who have attempted to blot out those κοιναὶ ἔννοιαι, or ingrafted notions of mankind, concerning the perfections of God, which Mr B. opposeth. “Fabulas vulgaris nequitia non invenit.” An opposition ‘to the first principles of rational beings must needs be talked of. Other catechists, besides himself, Mr B. tells you, “have written with so much oscitancy and contempt of the Scripture, that a considering man will question whether they gave any heed to what they wrote themselves, or refused to make use of their reason, and presumed others would do so also.” And so you have the sum of his judgment concerning all other catechisms, besides his own, that he hath either seen or heard of. “They are all fitted to confessions of faith, composed according to the fancies and interests of men, written without attending to the Scripture or quoting it to any purpose, their authors, like madmen, not knowing what they wrote, and refusing to make use of their reason that they might so do.” And this is the modest, humble entrance of Mr B.’s preface.
All that have gone before him were knaves, fools, idiots, madmen. The proof of these assertions you are to expect. When a philosopher pressed Diogenes with this sophism, “What I am, thou art not; I am a man, therefore thou art not,” he gave him no other answer but, “Begin with me, and the conclusion will be true.” Mr B. is a Master of Arts, and knew, doubtless, that such assertions as might be easily turned upon himself are of no use to any but those who have not aught else to say. Perhaps Mr B. speaks only to them of the same mind with himself; and then, 61indeed, as Socrates said, it was no hard thing to commend the Athenians before the Athenians, but to commend them before the Lacedæmonians was difficult.107107 Οὐ χαλεπὸν Ἀθηναίους ἐν Ἀθηναίοις ἐπαινεῖν ἀλλ ἐν Λακεδαιμονίοις. — Socrat. apud Plat. in Menexen. Cit. Arist. Rhet. lib. iii. cap. xiv. No more is it any great undertaking to condemn men sound in the faith unto Socinians; before others it will not prove so easy.
It is not incumbent on me to defend any, much less all the catechisms that have been written by learned men of the reformed religion. That there are errors in some, mistakes in others; that some are more clear, plain, and scriptural than others, I grant. All of them may have, have had, their use in their kind. That in any of them there is any thing taught inconsistent with communion with God, or inevitably tending to the impairing of faith and love, Mr B. is not, I presume, such a φιλόπονος as to undertake to demonstrate. I shall only add, that notwithstanding the vain plea of having given all his answers in the express words of Scripture (whereby, with the foolish bird, he hides his head from the fowler, but leaves his whole monstrous body visible, the teaching part of his Catechism being solely in the insinuating, ensnaring, captious questions thereof, leading the understanding of the reader to a misapprehension and misapplication of the words of the Scripture, it being very easy to make up the grossest blasphemy imaginable out of the words of the Scripture itself), I never found, saw, read, or heard of any so grossly perverting the doctrine of the Scripture concerning God and all his ways as those of Mr B.’s do; for in sundry particulars they exceed those mentioned before of Socinus, Smalcius, Schlichtingius, which had justly gotten the repute of the worst in the world. And for an account of my reason of this persuasion I refer the reader to the ensuing considerations of them.
This, then, being the sad estate of Christians, so misinformed by such vile varlets as have so foully deceived them and misled them, as above mentioned, what is to be done and what course to be taken to bring in light into the world, and to deliver men from the sorrowful condition whereinto they have been catechised? For this end, he tells the reader, doth he show himself to the world (Θεὸς ἀπὸ μηχανῆς), to undeceive them, and to bring them out of all their wanderings unto some certainty of religion.108108 “Multa passim ab ultima vetustate vitia admissa sunt, quæ nemo præter me indicabit.” — Scalig. This he discourses, pp. 4, 5. The reasons he gives you of this undertaking are two:— 1. “To bring men to a certainty;” 2. “To satisfy the pious desire of some who would fain know the truth of our religion.” The way he fixes on for the compassing of the end proposed is:— 1. “By asserting nothing;” 2. “By introducing the plain texts of Scripture to speak for themselves.” Each briefly may be considered.
1. What fluctuating persons are they, not yet come to any certainty in religion, whom Mr B. intends to deal withal? Those, for the most part, of them who seem to be intended in such undertakings, are fully persuaded from the Scripture of the truth of those things wherein they have been instructed. Of these, some, I have heard, have been unsettled by Mr B., but that he shall ever settle any (there being no consistency in error or falsehood) is impossible. Mr B. knows there is no one of the catechists he so decries but directs them whom he so instructs to the Scriptures, and settles their faith on the word of God alone, though they labour to help their faith and understanding by opening of it; whereunto also they are called. I fear Mr B.’s certainty will at length appear to be scepticism, and his settling of men to be the unsettling; that his conversions 62are from the faith; and that in this very book he aims more to acquaint men with his questions than the Scripture answers.109109 “Hoc illis negotium est, non ethnicos convertendi, sed nostros evertendi.” — Tertul. de Prescr. ad Hær. But he says, —
2. Those whom he aims to bring to this certainty are “such as would fain understand the truth of our religion.” If by “our religion” he means the religion of himself and his followers (or rather masters), the Socinians, I am sorry to hear that any are so greedy of its acquaintance.110110 “Expressere id nobis vota multorum, multæque etiam a remotissimis orbis partibus ad nos transmissæ preces.” — Præfat. ad Cat. Rac. “Nam rex Seleucus me opere oravit maxumo, Ut sibi latrones cogerem et conscriberem.” Pyrgopol. in Plaut. Mil. Glo. Act. i. ad fin. Happily this is but a pretence, such as his predecessors in this work have commonly used. [As] for understanding the truth of it, they will find in the issue what an endless work they have undertaken. “Who can make that straight which is crooked, or number that which is wanting?” If by “our religion” he means the Christian religion, it may well be inquired who they are, with their “just and pious desires,” who yet understand not the truth of Christian religion? that is, that it is the only true religion. When we know these Turks, Jews, Pagans, which Mr B. hath to deal withal, we shall be able to judge of what reason he had to labour to satisfy their “just and pious desires.” I would also willingly be informed how they came to so high an advancement in our religion as to desire to be brought up in it, and to be able to instruct others, when as yet they do not understand the truth of it, or are not satisfied therein. And, —
3. As these are admirable men, so the way he takes for their satisfaction is admirable also; that is, by “asserting nothing!’ He that asserts nothing proves nothing; for that which any one proves, that he asserts. Intending, then, to bring men to a certainty who yet understand not the truth of our religion, he asserts nothing, proves nothing (as is the manner of some), but leaves them to themselves; — a most compendious way of teaching (for whose attainment Mr B. needed not to have been Master of Arts), if it proves effectual! But by not asserting, it is evident Mr B. intends not silence. He hath said too much to be so interpreted. Only what he hath spoken, he hath done it in a sceptical way of inquiry; wherein, though the intendment of his mind be evident, and all his queries may be easily resolved into so many propositions or assertions, yet as his words lie, he supposes he may speak truly that he asserts nothing. Of the truth, then, of this assertion, that he doth not assert any thing, the reader will judge. And this is the path to atheism which, of all others, is most trod and beaten in the days wherein we live. A liberty of judgment is pretended, and queries are proposed, until nothing certain be left, nothing unshaken. But, —
4. He “introduces the Scripture faithfully uttering its own assertions.” If his own testimony concerning his faithful dealing may be taken, this must pass. The express words of the Scripture, I confess, are produced, but as to Mr B.’s faithfulness in their production, I have sundry exceptions to make; as, —
(1.) That by his leading questions, and application of the Scripture to them, he hath utterly perverted the scope and intendment of the places urged. Whereas he pretends not to assert or explain the Scripture, he most undoubtedly restrains the signification of the places by him alleged unto the precise scope which in his sophistical queries he hath included. And in such a way of procedure, what may not the serpentine wits 63of men pretend to a confirmation of from Scripture, or any other book that hath been written about such things as the inquiries are made after? It were easy to give innumerable instances of this kind, but we fear God, and dare not to make bold with him or his word.
(2.) Mr B. pretending to give an account of the” chiefest things pertaining to belief and practice,” doth yet propose no question at all concerning many of the most important heads of our religion, and whereunto the Scripture speaks fully and expressly, or proposes his thoughts in the negative, leading on the scriptures from whence he makes his objections to the grand truths he opposeth, concealing, as was said, the delivery of them in the Scripture in other places innumerable; so insinuating to the men of “just and pious desires” with whom he hath to do that the Scripture is silent of them. That this is the man’s way of procedure, in reference to the deity of Christ and of the Holy Ghost, the satisfaction and merit of Christ, the corruption of nature, and efficacy of grace, with many other most important heads of Christian religion, will be fully manifest in our consideration, of the several particulars as they shall occur in the method wherein by him they are handled.
(3.) What can be concluded of the mind of God in the Scripture, by cutting off any place or places of it from their dependence, connection, and tendency, catching at those words which seem to confirm what we would have them so to do (whether, in the proper order wherein of God they are set and fixed, they do in the least east an eye towards the thesis which they are produced to confirm or no), might easily be manifested by innumerable instances, were not the vanity of such a course evident to all.
On the consideration of these few exceptions to Mr B.’s way of procedure, it will easily appear what little advantage he hath given him thereby, and how unjust his pretence is, which by this course he aims to prevail upon men withal. This he opens, page 6: “None,” saith he, “can fall foul upon the things contained in this Catechism” (which he confesseth to be “quite contrary to the doctrine that passeth current among the generality of Christians”), “as they are here displayed, because the answers are transcribed out of the Scriptures.” But Mr B. may be pleased to take notice that the “displaying,” as he calls it, of his doctrines is the work of his questions, and not of the words of Scripture produced to confirm them, which have a sense cunningly and subtilely imposed on them by his queries, or are pointed and restrained to the things which in the place of their delivery they look not towards in any measure. We shall undoubtedly find, in the process of this business, that Mr B.’s questions, being found guilty of treason against God, will not be allowed sanctuary in the answers which they labour to creep into; and that, they disclaiming their protection, they may be pursued, taken, and given up to the justice and severity of truth, without the least profanation of their holiness. A murderer may be plucked from the horns of the altar.
Nor is that the only answer insisted on for the removal of Mr B.’s sophistry, which he mentions, p. 7, and pursues it for three or four leaves onward of his preface, namely, “That the scriptures which he urgeth do in the letter hold out such things as he allegeth them to prove, but yet they must be figuratively interpreted.” For Mr B.’s “mystical sense,” I know not what he intends by it, or by whom it is urged. This is applicable solely to the places he produceth for the description of God and his attributes, concerning whom that some expressions of Scripture are to be so interpreted himself confesseth, p. 13; and we desire to take leave to inquire whether some others, beside what Mr B. allows, may not be of the 64same consideration. In other things, for the most part, we have nothing at all to do with so much as the interpretation of the places he mentions, but only to remove the grossly sophistical insinuations of his queries. For instance, when Mr B. asks, “Whether Christ Jesus was a man or no?” and allegeth express Scripture affirming that he was, we say not that the Scripture must have a figurative interpretation, but that Mr B. is grossly sophistical, concluding from the assertion of Christ’s human nature to the denial of his divine, and desperately injurious to the persons with whom he pretends he hath to do, who as yet “understand not the truth of our religion,” in undertaking to declare to them the special “chief things of belief and practice,” and hiding from them the things of the greatest moment to their salvation, and which the Scripture speaks most plentifully unto, by not stating any question or making any such inquiry as their affirmation might be suited unto. The like instance may be given in all the particulars wherein Mr B. is departed from “the faith once delivered to the saints.” His whole following discourse, then, to the end of p. 13, wherein he decries the answer to his way of procedure, which himself had framed, he might have spared. It is true, we do affirm that there are figurative expressions in the Scripture (and Mr B. dares not say the contrary), and that they are accordingly to be interpreted; not that they are to have a mystical sense put upon them, but that the literal sense is to be received, according to the direction of the figure which is in the words. That these words of our Saviour, “This is my body,” are figurative, I suppose Mr B. will not deny. Interpret them according to the figurative import of them, and that interpretation gives you the literal, and not a mystical sense, if such figures belong to speech and not to sense. That sense, I confess, may be spiritually understood (then it is saving) or otherwise; but this doth not constitute different senses in the words, but only denote a difference in the understandings of men. But all this, in hypothesi, Mr B. fully grants, p. 9; so that there is no danger, by asserting it, to cast the least thought of uncertainty on the word of God. But, p. 10, he gives you an instance wherein this kind of interpretation must by no means be allowed, namely, in the Scripture attributions of a shape and similitude (that is, of eyes, ears, hands, feet) unto God, with passions and affections like unto us; which that they are not proper, but figuratively to be interpreted, he tells you, p. 10–12, “those affirm who are perverted by false philosophy, and make a nose of wax of the Scripture, which plainly affirms such things of God.” In what sense the expressions of Scripture intimated concerning God are necessarily to be received and understood, the ensuing considerations will inform the reader. For the present, I shall only say that I do not know scarce a more unhappy instance in his whole book that he could have produced than this, wherein he hath been blasphemously injurious unto God and his holy word. And herein we shall deal with him from Scripture itself, right reason,111111 Ὅ γὰρ πᾶσι δοκεῖ τοῦτο εἷναι φαμέν. Ὁ δὲ ἀναιρῶν ταύτην τὴν πίστιν οὐ πάνυ πιστότεραν ἔχει. — Arist. Nicom. iii. and the common consent of mankind. How remote our interpretations of the places by him quoted for his purpose are from wresting the Scriptures, or turning them aside from their purpose, scope, and intendment, will also in due time be made manifest.
We say, indeed, as Mr B. observes, that in those kinds of expressions God “condescendeth to accommodate his ways and proceedings” (not his essence and being) “to our apprehensions;” wherein we are very far from saying that “he speaks one thing and intends the clean contrary,” but only 65that the things that he ascribes to himself, for our understanding and the accommodation of his proceedings to the manner of men, are to be understood in him and of them in that which they denote of perfection, and not in respect of that which is imperfect and weak.112112 “Quie dicuntur de Deo ἀνθρωποπαπῶς intelligenda sunt θεοπρεπῶς.” For instance, when God says, “his eyes run to and fro, to behold the sons of men,” we do not say that he speaks one’ thing and understands another; but only because we have our knowledge and acquaintance with things by our eyes looking up and down, therefore doth he who hath not eyes of flesh as we have, nor hath any need to look up and down to acquaint himself with them, all whose ways are in his own hand, nor can without blasphemy be supposed to look from one thing to another, choose to express his knowledge of and intimate acquaintance with all things here below, in and by his own infinite understanding, in the way so suited to our apprehension. Neither are these kinds of expressions in the least an occasion of idolatry, or do give advantage to any of creating any shape of God in their imaginations, God having plainly and clearly, in the same word of his wherein these expressions are used, discovered that of himself, his nature, being, and properties, which will necessarily determine in what sense these expressions are to be understood; as, in the consideration of the several particulars in the ensuing discourse, the reader will find evinced. And we are yet of the mind, that to conceive of God as a great man, with mouth, eyes, hands, legs, etc., in a proper sense, sitting in heaven, shut up there, troubled, vexed, moved up and down with sundry passions, perplexed about the things that are to come to pass, which he knows not, — which is the notion of God that Mr B. labours to deliver the world from their darkness withal, — is gross idolatry, whereunto the scriptural attributions unto God mentioned give not the least countenance; as will in the progress of our discourse more fully appear. And if it be true, which Mr B. intimates, that “things implying imperfection” (speaking of sleep and being weary) “are not properly attributed to God,” I doubt not but I shall easily evince that the same line of refusal is to pass over the visible shape and turbulent affections which are by him ascribed to him. But of these more particularly in their respective places.
But he adds, pp. 13, 14, “That this consideration is so pressing, that a certain learned author, in his book entitled ‘Conjectura Cabalistica,’ affirms that for Moses, by occasion of his writings, to let the Jews entertain a conceit of God as in human shape was not any more a way to bring them into idolatry than by acknowledging man to be God, as our religion doth in Christ;” which plea of his Mr B. exagitates in the pages following. That learned gentleman is of age and ability to speak for himself: for mine own part, I am not so clear in what he affirms as to undertake it for him, though otherwise very ready to serve him upon the account which I have of his worth and abilities; though I may freely say I suppose they might be better exercised than in such cabalistical conjectures as the book of his pointed unto is full of. But who am I, that judge another? We must every one give an account of himself and his labours to God; and the fire shall try our works of what sort they are. I shall not desire to make too much work for the fire. For the present, I deny that Moses in his writings doth give any occasion to entertain a conceit of God as one of a human shape; neither did the Jews ever stumble into idolatry on that account. They sometimes, indeed, changed their glory for that which was not God; but whilst they worshipped that God that revealed himself by Moses, Jehovah, 66Ehejeh, it doth not appear that ever they entertained in their thoughts any thing but purum numen, a most simple, spiritual, eternal Being, as I shall give a farther account afterward. Though they intended to worship Jehovah both in the calf in the wilderness and in those at Bethel, yet that they ever entertained any thoughts that God had such a shape as that which they framed to worship him by is madness to imagine. For though Moses sometimes speaks of God in the condescension before mentioned, expressing his power by his arm, and bow, and sword, his knowledge and understanding by his eye, yet he doth in so many places caution them with whom he had to do of entertaining any thoughts of any bodily similitude of God, that by any thing delivered by him there is not the least occasion administered for the entertaining of such a conceit as is intimated. Neither am I clear in the theological predication which that learned person hath chosen to parallel with the Mosaical expressions of God’s shape and similitude, concerning man being God. Though we acknowledge him who is man to be God, yet we do not acknowledge man to be God. Christ under this reduplication, as man, is not a person, and so not God. To say that man is God, is to say that the humanity and Deity are the same. Whatever he is as man, he is upon the account of his being man. Now, that he who is man is also God, though he be not God upon the account of his being man, can give no more occasion to idolatry than to say that God is infinite, omnipotent. For the expression itself, it being in the concrete, it may be salved by the communication of properties; but as it lies, it may possibly be taken in the abstract, and so is simply false. Neither do I judge it safe to use such expressions, unless it be when the grounds and reasons of them are assigned. But that Mr B. should be offended with this assertion I see no reason. Both he and his associates affirm that Jesus Christ as man (being in essence and nature nothing but man) is made a God; and is the object of divine worship or religious adoration on that account. I may therefore let pass Mr B.’s following harangue against “men’s philosophical speculations, deserting the Scripture in their contemplations of the nature of God, as though they could speak more worthily of God than he hath done of himself;” for though it may easily be made appear that never any of the Platonical philosophers spoke so unworthily of God or vented such gross, carnal conceptions of him as Mr B. hath done, and the gentleman of whom he speaks be well able to judge of what he reads, and to free himself from being entangled in any of their notions, discrepant from the revelation that God hath made of himself in his word, yet we, being resolved to try out the whole matter, and to put all the differences we have with Mr B. to the trial and issue upon the express testimony of God himself in his word, are not concerned in this discourse.
Neither have I any necessity to divert to the consideration of his complaint concerning the bringing in of new expressions into religion, if he intends such as whose substance or matter, which they do express, is not evidently and expressly found in the Scripture. What is the “Babylonish language,” what are “the horrid and intricate expressions,” which he affirms to be “introduced under a colour of detecting and confuting heresies, but indeed to put a baffle upon the simplicity of the Scripture,” he gives us an account of, p. 19, where we shall consider it and them. In general, words are but the figures of things. It is not words and terms, nor expressions, but doctrines and things, we inquire after.113113 Οὐκ ἐν ἤχω μᾶλλον ἐν διανοίᾳ κεῖται ἡ ἀλήθεια. — Greg. Naz. Mr B., I suppose, 67allows expositions of Scripture, or else I am sure he condemns himself in what he practises. His book is, in his own thoughts, an exposition of Scripture. That this cannot be done without varying the words and literal expressions thereof, I suppose will not be questioned. To express the same thing that is contained in any place of Scripture with such other words as may give light unto it in our understandings, is to expound it. This are we called to, and the course of it is to continue whilst Christ continues a church upon the earth. Paul spake nothing, for the substance of the things he delivered, but what was written in the prophets; that he did not use new expressions, not to be found in any of the prophets, will not be proved. But there is a twofold evil in these expressions: “That they are invented to detect and exclude heresies, as is pretended.” If heretics begin first to wrest Scripture expressions to a sense never received nor contained in them, it is surely lawful for them who are willing to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” to clear the mind of God in his word by expressions and terms suitable thereunto;114114 Ἦν ὅταν οὐκ ἦν ὁμοιούσιος. Homo deificatus, etc., dixit Arius. 1. Υἱὸν ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων γεγενῆσθαι 2. Εἷναί ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν, etc. — Sozom. Hist. Eccles. lib. i. cap. xiv. p. 215; Theod. Hist. lib. i. cap. ii. p. 3; Socrat. Scholast. Hist. lib. i. cap. iii. etc. Οὐκ ἔλεγε γὰρ ἕνωσιν τοῦ λόγου τοῦ Θεοῦ πρὸς ἄνθρωπον ἀλλὰ δύο ὑποστάσεις ἔλεγε καὶ διαίρεσιν Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἄνθρωππον, καὶ θεὸν ἀπέκαλει τὸν Χριστὸν ἀλλὰ οὐκ ἔτι ὡς ἡμεῖς ἀλλὰ τῇ σχέσει καὶ τῇ οἰκειώσει κατὰ τὸ ταὐτὰ ἀλλήλοις ἀρέσκειν διὰ τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τῆς φιλίας — Leont. De Sect. de Nestorio. neither have heretics carried on their cause without the invention of new words and phrases.
If any shall make use of any words, terms, phrases, and expressions, in and about religious things, requiring the embracing and receiving of those words, etc., by others, without examining either the truth of what by those words, phrases, etc., they intend to signify and express, or the propriety of those expressions themselves, as to their accommodation for the signifying of those things, I plead not for them. It is not in the power of man to make any word or expression, not ῥητῶς found in the Scripture, to be canonical, and for its own sake to be embraced and received.115115 Vide Calv. Instit. lib. i cap. xiii.; Alting. Theol. Elenct. loc de Deo. But yet if any word or phrase do expressly signify any doctrine or matter contained in the Scripture, though the word or phrase itself be not in so many letters found in the Scripture, that such word or phrase may not be used for the explication of the mind of God I suppose will not easily be proved. And this we farther grant, that if any one shall scruple the receiving and owning of such expressions, so as to make them the way of professing that which is signified by them, and yet do receive the thing or doctrine which is by them delivered, for my part I shall have no contest with him. For instance, the word ὀμοούσιος was made use of by the first Nicene council to express the unity of essence and being that is in the Father and Son, the better to obviate Arius and his followers, with their ἧν ὅταν οὐκ ἦν, and the like forms of speech, nowhere found in Scripture, and invented on set purpose to destroy the true and eternal deity of the Son of God. If, now, any man should scruple the receiving of that word, but withal should profess that he believes Jesus Christ to be God, equal to the Father, one with him from the beginning, and doth not explain himself by other terms not found in the Scripture, namely, that he was “made a God,” and is “one with the Father as to will, not essence,” and the like, he is like to undergo neither trouble nor opposition from me. We know what troubles arose between the eastern and western churches about the 68words “hypostasis” and “persona,” until they understood on each side that by these different words the same thing was intended, and that ὑπόστασις with the Greeks was not the same as “substantia” with the Latins, nor “persona” with the Latins the same with πρόσωπον among the Greeks, as to their application to the thing the one and the other expressed by these terms. That such “monstrous terms are brought into our religion as neither they that invented them nor they that use them do understand,” Mr B. may be allowed to aver, from the measure he hath taken of all men’s understandings, weighing them in his own, and saying, “Thus far can they go and no farther,” “This they can understand, that they cannot;” — a prerogative, as we shall see in the process of this business, that he will scarcely allow to God himself without his taking much pains and labour about it. I profess, for ray part, I have not as yet the least conviction fallen upon me that Mr B. is furnished with so large an understanding, whatever he insinuates of his own abilities, as to be allowed a dictator of what any man can or cannot understand. If his principle, or rather conclusion, upon which he limits the understandings of men be this, “What I cannot understand, that no man else can,” he would be desired to consider that he is as yet but a young man, who hath not had so many advantages and helps for the improving of his understanding as some others have had; and, besides, that there are some whose eyes are blinded by the god of this world, that they shall never see or understand the things of God, yea, and that God himself doth thus oftentimes execute his vengeance on them, for detaining his truth in unrighteousness.
But yet, upon this acquaintance which he hath with the measure of all men’s understandings, he informs his reader that “the only way to carry on the reformation of the church, beyond what yet hath been done by Luther or Calvin, is by cashiering those many intricate terms and devised forms of speaking,” which he hath observed slily to couch false doctrines, and to obtrude them on us; and, by the way, that “this carrying on of reformation beyond the stint of Luther or Calvin was never yet so much as sincerely endeavoured.” In the former passage, having given out himself as a competent judge of the understandings of all men, in this he proceeds to their hearts. “The reformation of the church,” saith he, “was never sincerely attempted, beyond the stint of Luther and Calvin.” Attempted it hath been, but he knows all the men and their hearts full well who made those attempts, and that they never did it sincerely, but with guile and hypocrisy! Mr B. knows who those are that say, “With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own.” To know the hearts of men and their frame towards himself, Mr B. instructs us, in his Catechism, that God himself is forced to make trial and experiments; but for his own part, without any great trouble, he can easily pronounce of their sincerity or hypocrisy in any undertaking! Low and vile thoughts of God will quickly usher in light, proud, and foolish thoughts concerning ourselves. Luther and Calvin were men whom God honoured above many in their generation; and on that account we dare not but do so also. That all church reformation is to be measured by their line, — that is, that no farther discovery of truth, in, or about, or concerning the ways or works of God, may be made, but what hath been made to them and by them, — was not, that I know of, ever yet affirmed by any in or of any reformed church in the world. The truth is, such attempts as this of Mr B.’s to overthrow all the foundations of Christian religion, to accommodate the Gospel to the Alcoran, and subject all divine mysteries to the judgment of that wisdom which is carnal and sensual, under the fair pretence of carrying 69on the work of reformation and of discovering truth from the Scripture, have perhaps fixed some men to the measure they have received beyond what Christian ingenuity and the love of the truth requireth of them. A noble and free inquiry into the word of God, with attendance to all ways by him appointed or allowed for the revelation of his mind, with reliance on his gracious promise of “leading us into all truth” by his holy and blessed Spirit, without whose aid, guidance, direction, light, and assistance, we can neither know, understand, nor receive the things that are of God; neither captivated to the traditions of our fathers, for whose labour and pains in the work of the gospel, and for his presence with them, we daily bless the name of our God; neither yet “carried about with every wind of doctrine,” breathed or insinuated by the “cunning sleight of men who lie in wait to deceive,” — is that which we profess. What the Lord will be pleased to do with us by or in this frame, upon these principles; how, wherein, we shall serve our generation, in the revelation of his mind and will, — is in his hand and disposal. About using or casting off words and phrases, formerly used to express any truth or doctrine of the Scripture, we will not contend with any, provided the things themselves signified by them be retained. This alone makes me indeed put any value on any word or expression not ῥητῶς found in the Scripture, namely, my observation that they are questioned and rejected by none but such as, by their rejection, intend and aim at the removal of the truth itself which by them is expressed, and plentifully revealed in the word. The same care also was among them of old, having the same occasion administered. Hence when Valens,116116 Theod. Hist. Eccles. lib. iv. cap. xvii. p. 126; Socrat. lib. iv. cap. xxi. xxii.; Sozom. lib. vi. cap. xv.–xvii. the Arian emperor, sent Modestus, his prætorian præfect, to persuade Basil to be an Arian, the man entreated him not to be so rigid as to displease the emperor and trouble the church, δι’ ὀλίγην δογμάτων ἀκρίβειαν, for an over-strict observance of opinions, it being but one word, indeed one syllable, that made the difference, and he thought it not prudent to stand so much upon so small a business. The holy man replied, Τοῖς θείοις λόγοις ἐντεθραμμένοι πρόεσθαι μὲν τῶν θείων δογμάτων οὐδὲ μίαν ἀνέχονται συλλαβήν — “However children might be so dealt withal, those who are bred up in the Scriptures or nourished with the word will not suffer one syllable of divine truth to be betrayed.” The like attempt to this of Valens and Modestus upon Basil was made by the Arian bishops at the council of Ariminum,117117 Theod. Hist. lib. ii. cap. xviii.; Sozom. lib. iv. cap. xiii.; Niceph. lib. ix. cap. xxxix. who pleaded earnestly for the rejection of one or two words not found in the Scripture, laying on that plea much weight, when it was the eversion of the deity of Christ which they intended and attempted. And by none is there more strength and evidence given to this observation than by him with whom I have now to do, who, exclaiming against words and expressions, intends really the subversion of all the most fundamental and substantial truths of the gospel; and therefore, having, pp. 19–21, reckoned up many expressions which he dislikes, condemns, and would have rejected, most of them relating to the chiefest heads of our religion (though, to his advantage, he cast in by the way two or three gross figments), he concludes “that as the forms of speech by him recounted are not used in the Scripture, no more are the things signified by them contained therein.” In the issue, then, all the quarrel is fixed upon the things themselves, which, if they were found in Scripture, the expressions insisted on might be granted to suit them well enough. What need, then, all this long discourse about words and expressions, when it is 70the things themselves signified by them that are the abominations decried? Now, though most of the things here pointed unto will fall under our ensuing considerations, yet because Mr B. hath here cast into one heap many of the doctrines which in the Christian religion he opposeth and would have renounced, it may not be amiss to take a short view of the most considerable instances in our passage.
His first is of God’s being infinite and incomprehensible. This he condemns, name and thing, — that is, he says “he is finite, limited, of us to be comprehended;” for those who say he is infinite and incomprehensible do say only that he is not finite nor of us to be comprehended. What advance is made towards the farther reformation of the church118118 “Solent quidam miriones ædificari in ruinam.” — Tertul. de Præsc. ad Hæres. by this new notion of Mr B.’s is fully discovered in the consideration of the second chapter of his Catechism; and in this, as in sundry other things, Mr B. excels his masters.119119 “Est autem hæc magnitudo (ut ex iis intelligi potest, quæ de potentia et potestate Dei, itemque de sapientia ejus dicta sunt), infinita et incomprehensibilis.” — Crell. de Deo, seu de Vera Rel. præfix, op. Volkel. lib. i. cap. xxxvii., p. 273. The Scripture tells us expressly that “he filleth heaven and earth;” that the “heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him;” that his presence is in heaven and hell, and that “his understanding is infinite” (which how the understanding of one that is finite may be, an infinite understanding cannot comprehend); that he “dwelleth in that light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (which to us is the description of one incomprehensible); that he is “eternal,” which we cannot comprehend. The like expressions are used of him in great abundance. Besides, if God be not incomprehensible, we may search out his power, wisdom, and understanding to the utmost; for if we cannot, if it be not possible so to do, he is incomprehensible. But “canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?” “There is no searching of his understanding.” If by our lines we suppose we can fathom the depth of the essence, omnipotency, wisdom, and understanding of God, I doubt not but we shall find ourselves mistaken. Were ever any, since the world began, before quarrelled withal for asserting the essence and being of God to be incomprehensible? The heathen who affirmed that the more he inquired, the more he admired and the less he understood,120120 Simonides apud Ciceronem, lib i. de Nat. Deorum, lib. i. 22. had a more noble reverence of the eternal Being121121 Vide passim quæ de Deo dicuntur, apud Aratum, Orpheum, Homerum, Asclepium, Platonem, Plotinum, Proclum, Psellum, Porphyrium, Jamblichum, Plinium, Tullium, Senecam, Plutarchum, et quæ ex iis omnibus excerpsit. Eugub. de Prim. Philos. which in his mind he conceived, than Mr B. will allow us to entertain of God. Farther; if God be not infinite, he is circumscribed in some certain place; if he be, is he there fixed to that place, or doth he move from it? If he be fixed there, how can he work at a distance, especially such things as necessarily require divine power to their production? If he move up and down, and journey as his occasions require, what a blessed enjoyment of himself in his own glory hath he! But that this blasphemous figment of God’s being limited and confined to a certain place is really destructive to all the divine perfections of the nature and being of God is afterward demonstrated. And this is the first instance given by Mr B. of the corruption of our doctrine, which he rejects name and thing, namely, “that God is infinite and incomprehensible.” And now, whether this man be a “mere Christian” or a mere Lucian, let the reader judge.
That God is a simple act is the next thing excepted against and decried, 71name and thing; in the room whereof, that he is compounded of matter and form,” or the like, must be asserted. Those who affirm God to be a simple act do only deny him to be compounded of divers principles, and assert him to be always actually in being, existence, and intent operation.122122 “Via remotionis utendum est, in Dei consideratione: nam divina suhstantia sua immensitate excedit omnem formam, quam intellectus noster intelligit, unde ipsum non possumus exacte cognoscere quid sit, sed quid non sit.” — Thom. Con. Gentes, lib. i., cap. xiv. “Merito dictum est a veteribus, potius in hac vita de Deo a nobis cognosci quid non sit, quam quid sit; ut enim cognoscamus quid Deus non sit, negatione nimirum aliqua, quæ propria sit divinæ essentiæ, satis est unica negatio dependentiæ,” etc. — Socin. ad lib. ii. cap i.; Metaph. Arist. q. 2, sect 4. God says of himself that his name is Ehejeh, and he is I am, — that is, a simple being, existing in and of itself; and this is that which is intended by the simplicity of the nature of God, and his being a simple act. The Scripture tells us he is eternal, I am, always the same, and so never what he was not ever. This is decried, and in opposition to it his being compounded, and so obnoxious to dissolution, and his being in potentia, in a disposition and passive capacity to be what he is not, is asserted; for it is only to deny these things that the term “simple” is used, which he condemns and rejects. And this is the second instance that Mr B. gives in the description of his God, by his rejecting the received expressions concerning him who is so: “He is limited, and of us to be comprehended; his essence and being consisting of several principles, whereby he is in a capacity of being what he is not.” Mr B., solus habeto; I will not be your rival in the favour of this God.
And this may suffice to this exception of Mr B., by the way, against the simplicity of the being of God; yet, because he doth not directly oppose it afterward, and the asserting of it doth clearly evert all his following fond imaginations of the shape, corporeity, and limitedness of the essence of God (to which end also I shall, in the consideration of his several depravations of the truth concerning the nature of God, insist upon it), I shall a little here divert to the explication of what we intend by the simplicity of the essence of God, and confirm the truth of what we so intend thereby.
As was, then, intimated before, though simplicity seems to be a positive term, or to denote something positively, yet indeed it is a pure negation,123123 Suarez. Metaph. tom. ii. disput. 30, sect. 3; Cajetan. de Ente et Essen. cap ii. and formally, immediately, and properly, denies multiplication, composition, and the like. And though this only it immediately denotes, yet there is a most eminent perfection of the nature of God thereby signified to us; which is negatively proposed, because it is in the use of things that are proper to us, in which case we can only conceive what is not to be ascribed to God. Now, not to insist on the metaphysical notions and distinctions of simplicity, by the ascribing of it to God we do not only deny that he is compounded of divers principles really distinct, but also of such as are improper, and not of such a real distance, or that he is compounded of any thing, or can be compounded with any thing whatever.
First, then, that this is a property of God’s essence or being is manifest from his absolute independence and firstness in being and operation, which God often insists upon in the revelation of himself: Isa. xliv. 6, “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Rev. i. 8, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is,” etc.: so chap. xxi. 6, xxii. 13. Which also is fully asserted, Rom. xi. 35, 36, “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? for of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom 72be glory for ever.” Now, if God were of any causes, internal or external, any principles antecedent or superior to him, he could not be so absolutely first and independent. Were he composed of parts, accidents, manner of being, he could not be first; for all these are before that which is of them, and therefore his essence is absolutely simple.
Secondly, God is absolutely and perfectly one and the same, and nothing differs from his essence in it: “The Lord our God is one Lord,” Deut. vi. 4; “Thou art the same,” Ps. cii. 27. And where there is an absolute oneness and sameness in the whole, there is no composition by an union of extremes. Thus is it with God: his name is, “I am; I am that I am,” Exod. iii. 14, 15; “Which is,” Rev. i. 8. He, then, who is what he is, and whose all that is in him is, himself, hath neither parts, accidents, principles, nor any thing else, whereof his essence should be compounded.
Thirdly, The attributes of God, which alone seem to be distinct things in the essence of God, are all of them essentially the same with one another, and every one the same with the essence of God itself. For, first, they are spoken one of another as well as of God; as there is his “eternal power” as well as his “Godhead.” And, secondly, they are either infinite and infinitely perfect, or they are not. If they are, then if they are not the same with God, there are more things infinite than one, and consequently more Gods; for that which is absolutely infinite is absolutely perfect, and consequently God. If they are not infinite, then God knows not himself, for a finite wisdom cannot know perfectly an infinite being. And this might be farther confirmed by the particular consideration of all kinds of composition, with a manifestation of the impossibility of their attribution unto God; arguments to which purpose the learned reader knows where to find in abundance.
Fourthly, Yea, that God is, and must needs be, a simple act (which expression Mr B. fixes on for the rejection of it) is evident from this one consideration, which was mentioned before: If he be not so, there must be some potentiality in God. Whatever is, and is not a simple act, hath a possibility to be perfected by act; if this be in God, he is not perfect, nor all-sufficient. Every composition whatever is of power and act; which if it be, or might have been in God, he could not be said to be immutable, which the Scripture plentifully witnesseth that he is.
These are some few of the grounds of this affirmation of ours concerning the simplicity of the essence of God; which when Mr B. removes and answers, he may have more of them, which at present there is no necessity to produce.
From his being he proceeds to his subsistence, and expressly rejects his subsisting in three persons, name and thing. That this is no new attempt, no undertaking whose glory Mr B. may arrogate to himself, is known. Hitherto God hath taken thought for his own glory, and eminently confounded the opposers of the subsistence of his essence in three distinct persons. Inquire of them that went before, and of the dealings of God with them of old. What is become of Ebion, Cerinthus, Paulus Samosatenus, Theodotus Byzantinus, Photinus, Arius, Macedonius, etc.? Hath not God made their memory to rot, and their names to be an abomination to all generations? How they once attempted to have taken possession of the churches of God, making slaughter and havoc of all that opposed them, hath been declared; but their place long since knows them no more. By the subsisting of God in any person, no more is intended than that person’s being God. If that person be God, God subsists in that person. If you grant the Father to be a person (as the Holy Ghost expressly affirms him 73to be, Heb. i. 3) and to be God, you grant God to subsist in that person: that is all which by that expression is intended. The Son is God, or is not. To say he is not God, is to beg that which cannot be proved. If he be God, he is the Father, or he is another person. If he be the Father, he is not the Son. That he is the Son and not the Son is sufficiently contradictory. If he be not the Father, as was said, and yet be God, he may have the same nature and substance with the Father (for of our God there is but one essence, nature, or being), and yet be distinct from him. That distinction from him is his personality, — that property whereby and from whence he is the Son. The like is to be said of the Holy Ghost. The thing, then, here denied is, that the Son is God, or that the Holy Ghost is God: for if they are so, God must subsist in three persons; of which more afterward. Now, is this not to be found in the Scriptures? Is there no text affirming Christ to be God, to be one with the Father, or that the Holy Ghost is so? no text saying, “There are three that bear record in heaven; and these three are one?” none ascribing divine perfections, divine worship distinctly to either Son or Spirit, and yet jointly to one God? Are none of these things found in the Scripture, that Mr B. thinks with one blast to demolish all these ancient foundations, and by his bare authority to deny the common faith of the present saints, and that wherein their predecessors in the worship of God are fallen asleep in peace? The proper place for the consideration of these things will farther manifest the abomination of this bold attempt against the Son of God and the Eternal Spirit.
For the divine circumincession, mentioned in the next place, I shall only say that it is not at all in my intention to defend all the expressions that any men have used (who are yet sound in the main) in the unfolding of this great, tremendous mystery of the blessed Trinity, and I could heartily wish that they had some of them been less curious in their inquiries and less bold in their expressions. It is the thing itself alone whose faith I desire to own and profess; and therefore I shall not in the least labour to retain and hold those things or words which may be left or lost without any prejudice thereunto.
Briefly; by the barbarous term of “mutual circumincession,” the schoolmen understand that which the Greek fathers called ἐμπεριχώρησις, whereby they expressed that mystery, which Christ himself teaches us, of “his being in the Father, and the Father in him,” John x. 38, and of the Father’s dwelling in him, and doing the works he did, chap. xiv. 10, — the distinction of these persons being not hereby taken away, but the disjunction of them as to their nature and being.
The eternal generation of the Son is in the next place rejected, that he may be sure to cast down every thing that looks towards the assertion of his deity, whom yet the apostle affirms to be” God blessed for ever,” Rom. ix. 5. That the Word, which “in the beginning was” (and therefore is) “God,” is “the only begotten of the Father,” the apostle affirms, John i. 14. That he is also” the only begotten Son of God” we have other plentiful testimonies, Ps. ii. 7; John iii. 16; Acts xiii. 33; Heb. i. 4–6; — a Son so as, in comparison of his sonship, the best of sons by adoption are servants, Heb. iii. 5, 6; and so begotten as to be an only Son, John i. 14; though, begotten by grace, God hath many sons, James i. 18. Christ, then, being begotten of the Father, hath his generation of the Father; for these are the very same things in words of a diverse sound. The only question here is, whether the Son have the generation so often spoken of from eternity or in time, — whether it be an eternal or a temporal generation from whence he is so said to be “begotten.” As Christ is a Son, so by him 74the “worlds were made,” Heb. i. 2, so that surely he had his sonship before he took flesh in the fulness of time; and when he had his sonship he had his generation. He is such a Son as, by being partaker of that name, he is exalted above angels, Heb. i. 5; and he is the “first begotten” before he is brought into the world, verse 6: and therefore his “goings forth” are said to be “from the days of eternity,” Mic. v. 2; and he had “glory with the Father” (as the Son) “before the world was,” John xvii. 5. Neither is he said to be “begotten of the Father” in respect of his incarnation, but conceived by the Holy Ghost, or formed in the womb by him, of the substance of his mother; nor is he thence called the “Son of God.” In brief, if Christ be the eternal Son of God, Mr B. will not deny him to have had an eternal generation: if he be not, a generation must be found out for him suitable to the sonship which he hath; of which abomination in its proper place.
This progress have we made in Mr B.’s creed: He believes God to be finite, to be by us comprehended, compounded; he believes there is no trinity of persons in the Godhead, — that Christ is not the eternal Son of God. The following parts of it are of the same kind:—
The eternal procession of the Holy Ghost is nextly rejected. The Holy Ghost being constantly termed the “Spirit of God,” the “Spirit of the Father,” and the “Spirit of the Son” (being also” God,” as shall afterward be evinced), and so partaking of the same nature with Father and Son (the apostle granting that God hath a nature, in his rejecting of them who” by nature are no gods”), is yet distinguished from them, and that eternally (as nothing is in the Deity that is not eternal), and being, moreover, said ἐκπορεύεσθαι or to “proceed” and “go forth” from the Father and Son, this expression of his “eternal procession” hath been fixed on, manifesting the property whereby he is distinguished from Father and Son. The thing intended hereby is, that the Holy Ghost, who is God, and is said to be of the Father and the Son, is by that name, of his being of them, distinguished from them; and the denial hereof gives you one article more of Mr B.’s creed, namely, that the Holy Ghost is not God. To what that expression of “proceeding” is to be accommodated will afterward be considered.
The incarnation of Christ (the Deity and Trinity being despatched) is called into question, and rejected. By “incarnation” is meant, as the word imports, a taking of flesh (this is variously by the ancients expressed, but the same thing still intended124124 Ἐνσάρκωσις ἐνσωμάτωσις ἐνανθρώπησις ἡ δεσποτικὴ ἐπιδημία ἡ παρουσία ἡ οἰκονομία ἡ διὰ σαρκὸς ἡ δι ἀνθρωπότητος φανέρωσις ἡ ἔλευσις ἡ κένωσις ἡ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐπιφάνεια ἡ συγκατάβασις ἡ περιχώρησις.), or being made so. The Scripture affirming that “the Word was made flesh,” John i. 14; that “God was manifest in the flesh,” 1 Tim. iii. 16; that “Christ took part of flesh and blood,” Heb. ii. 14; that “he took on him the seed of Abraham,” chap. ii. 16; that he was “made of a woman,” Gal. iv. 4, 5; sent forth “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” Rom. viii. 3; “in all things made like unto his brethren,” Heb. ii. 17, — we thought we might have been allowed to say so also, and that this expression might have escaped with a less censure than an utter rejection out of Christian religion. The Son of God taking flesh, and so being made like to us, that he might be the “captain of our salvation,” is that which by this word (and that according to the Scripture) is affirmed, and which, to increase the heap of former abominations (or to “carry on the work of reformation beyond the stint of Luther or Calvin”), is here by Mr B. decried.
Of the hypostatical union there is the same reason. Christ, who as 75“concerning the flesh” was of the Jews, and is God to be blessed for ever, over all, Rom. ix. 5, is one person. Being God to be blessed over all, that is, God by nature (for such as are not so, and yet take upon them to be gods, God will destroy), and having “flesh and blood as the children” have, Heb. ii. 14, that is, the same nature of man with believers, yet being but one person, one mediator, one Christ, the Son of God, we say both these natures of God and man are united in that one person, namely, the person of the Son of God. This is that which Mr B. rejects (now his hand is in), both name and thing. The truth is, all these things are but colourable advantages wherewith he laboureth to amuse poor souls. Grant the deity of Christ, and he knows all these particulars will necessarily ensue; and whilst he denies the foundation, it is to no purpose to contend about any consequences or inferences whatever. And whether we have ground for the expression under present consideration, John i. 14, 18, xx. 28; Acts xx. 28; Rom. i. 3, 4, ix. 5; Gal. iv. 4; Phil. ii. 5–8; 1 Tim. iii. 16, i.John i. 1, 2; Rev. v. 12–14, with innumerable other testimonies of Scripture, may be considered. If “the Word, the Son of God, was made flesh, made of a woman, took our nature,” wherein he was pierced and wounded, and shed his blood, and yet continues” our Lord and our God, God blessed for ever,” esteeming it “no robbery to be equal with his Father,” yet being a person distinct from him, being the “brightness of his person,” we fear not to say that the two natures of God and man are united in one person; which is the hypostatical union here rejected.
The communication of properties, on which depend two or three of the following instances mentioned by Mr B., is a necessary consequent of the union before asserted; and the thing intended by it is no less clearly delivered in Scripture than the truths before mentioned.125125 “Non ut Deus esset habitator, natura humana esset habitaculum: sed ut naturæ alteri sic misceretur altera, ut quamvis alia sit quæ suscipitur, alia vero quæ suscipit, in tantam tamen unitatem conveniret utriusque diversitas, ut unus idemque sit Filius, qui se, et secundum quod unus homo est, Patre dicit minorem, et secundum quod unus Deus est, Patri se profitetur æqualem.” — Leo. Serm. iii. de Nat. It is affirmed of “the man Christ Jesus” that he “knew what was in the heart of man,” that he “would be with his unto the end of the world,” and Thomas, putting his hand into his side, cried out to him, “My Lord and my God,” etc., when Christ neither did nor was so, as he was man.126126 Τοὺς μὲν ταπεινοὺς λόγους τῷ ἐκ Μαρίας ἀνθρώπῳ τοὺς δὲ ἀνηγμένους καὶ θεοπρεπεῖς τῷ ἐν ἀρχῇ ὄντι λόγῳ. — Theod. Dial. Ἀσυγχ. Again, it is said that “God redeemed his church with his own blood,” that the “Son of God was made of a woman,” that “the Word was made flesh,” none of which can properly be spoken of God, his Son, or eternal Word,127127 Ταῦτα πάντα σύμβολα σαρκὸς τῆς ἀπὸ γῆς εἰλημμένης. — Iren. lib. iii. ad. Hæres. in respect of that nature whereby he is so; and therefore we say, that look what properties are peculiar to either of his natures (as, to be omniscient, omnipotent, to be the object of divine worship, to the Deity;128128 “Salva proprietate utriusque naturæ, suscepta est a majestate humilitas, a virtute infirmitas, ab æternitate modalitas.” — Leo. Ep. ad Flavi. to be born, to bleed, and die, to the humanity), are spoken of in reference to his person, wherein both those natures are united. So that whereas the Scriptures say that “God redeemed his church with his own blood,” or that he was “made flesh;” or whereas, in a consonancy thereunto, and to obviate the folly of Nestorius, who made two persons of Christ, the ancients called the blessed Virgin the Mother of God, — the intendment of the one and other is no more but that he was truly God, who in his manhood was a son, had a mother, did bleed and die. And such Scripture expressions we affirm to be founded in this “communication of properties,” or the assignment of 76that unto the person of Christ, however expressly spoken of as God or man, which is proper to him in regard of either of these natures, the one or other, God on this account being said to do what is proper to man, and man what is proper alone to God, because he who is both God and man doth both the one and the other.129129 Oὑτος ἐστὶν ὁ τρόπος ἀντιδώσεως ἐκατέρας φύσεως ἀντιδιδούσης τῆ ἐκατέρα τὰ ἴδια διὰ τὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως ταυτότητα καὶ τὴν εἰς ἀλλήλα αὐτῶν περιχώρησιν. — Damas. de Orthod. Fide, iii. cap. iv. By what expressions and with what diligence the ancients warded the doctrine of Christ’s personal union against both Nestorius and Eutyches,130130 Ἀληθῶς τελέως ἀδιαιρέτως ἀσυγχύτως. — Vide Evagrium, lib. i. cap. ii. iii.; Socrat. Hist. lib. vii. cap. xxix. xxxii. xxxiii.; Niceph. lib. xiv. cap. xlvii. the one of them dividing his person into two, the other confounding his natures by an absurd confusion and mixture of their respective essential properties (Mr B. not giving occasion), I shall not farther mention.
And this is all Mr B. instances in of what he rejects as to our doctrine about the nature of God, the Trinity, person of Christ, and the Holy Ghost; of all which he hath left us no more than what the Turks and other Mohammedans will freely acknowledge.131131 Vid. Ioh. Hen. Hotting. Hist. Oriental., lib. i. cap. iii. ex Alko. sura. 30. And whether this be to be a “mere Christian,” or none at all, the pious reader will judge.
Having dealt thus with the person of Christ, he adds the names of two abominable figments, to give countenance to his undertaking, wherein he knows those with whom he hath to do have no communion, casting the deity of Christ and the Holy Ghost into the same bundle with transubstantiation and consubstantiation; to which he adds the ubiquity of the body of Christ, after mentioned, — self-contradicting fictions. With what sincerity, candour, and Christian ingenuity, Mr B. hath proceeded, in rolling up together such abominations as these with the most weighty and glorious truths of the gospel, that together he might trample them under his feet in the mire, God will certainly in due time reveal to himself and all the world.
The next thing he decries is original sin (I will suppose Mr B. knows what those whom he professeth to oppose intend thereby); and this he condemns, name and thing. That the guilt of our first father’s sin is imputed to his posterity; that they are made obnoxious to death thereby, that we are “by nature children of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins, conceived in sin; that our understandings are darkness, so that we cannot receive the things that are of God; that we are able to do no good of ourselves, so that unless we are born again we cannot enter into the kingdom of God; that we are alienated, enemies, have carnal minds, that are enmity against God, and cannot be subject to him;”132132 Rom. v. 12, 15, 16, 19; Eph. ii. 1–3; Ps. li. 5; John i. 5; Eph. iv. 18; 1 Cor. ii. 14; John iii. 5, 6; Eph. ii. 12; Col. i. 21; Rom. viii. 6–8. — all this and the like is at once blown away by Mr B.; there is no such thing. “Una litura potest.” That Christ by nature is not God, that we by nature have no sin, are the two great principles of this “mere Christian’s” belief.
Of Christ’s taking our nature upon him, which is again mentioned, we have spoken before. If he was “made flesh, made of a woman, made under the law; if he partook of flesh and blood because the children partake of the same; if he took on him the seed of Abraham, and was made like to us in all things, sin only excepted; if, being in the form of God and equal to him, he took on him the form of a servant, and became like to us, — he took our nature on him;133133 John i. 14; Gal. iv. 4, 5; Heb. ii. 14, 16, 17; Phil. ii. 6–8. for these, and these only, are the things which by that expression are intended.
77The most of what follows is about the grace of Christ, which, having destroyed what in him lies his person, he doth also openly reject; and in the first place begins with the foundation, his making satisfaction to God for our sins, all our sins, past, present, and to come, which also, under sundry other expressions, he doth afterward condemn. God is a God of “purer eyes than to behold evil,” and it is “his judgment that they which commit sin are worthy of death;” yea, “it is a righteous thing with him to render tribulation” to offenders;134134 Hab. i. 13; Rom. i. 32; 2 Thess. i. 6. and seeing we have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God,” doubtless it will be a righteous thing with him to leave them to answer for their own sins who so proudly and contemptuously reject the satisfaction which he himself hath appointed and the ransom he hath found out.135135 Job xxxiii. 24. But Mr B. is not the first who hath “erred, not knowing the Scriptures” nor the justice of God. The Holy Ghost acquainting us that “the Lord made to meet upon him the iniquity of us all; that he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and that the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed; that he gave his life a ransom for us, and was made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him; that he was for us made under the law and underwent the curse of it; that he bare our sins in his body on the tree; and that by his blood we are redeemed, washed, and saved,”136136 Isa. liii. 5, 6, 10, 11; 1 Pet. ii. 24; Matt. xx. 28; 1 Tim. ii. 6; 2 Cor. v. 21; Gal. iii. 13; 1 Pet. i. 18, ii. 24; Eph. i. 7; Rev. i. 5, 6, etc. — we doubt not to speak as we believe, namely, that Christ underwent the punishment due to our sins, and made satisfaction to the justice of God for them; and Mr B., who it seems is otherwise persuaded, we leave to stand or fall to his own account.
Most of the following instances of the doctrines he rejects belong to and may be reduced to the head last mentioned, and therefore I shall but touch upon them. Seeing that “he that will enter into life must keep the commandments, and this of ourselves we cannot do, for in many things we offend all, and he that breaks one commandment is guilty of the breach of the whole law,137137 Matt. xix. 17, i.John i. 8; James ii. 10. God having sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children; and that which was impossible to us by the law, through the weakness of the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us; and so we are saved by his life, being justified by his blood, he being made unto us of God righteousness, and we are by faith found in him, having on not our own righteousness, which is by the law, but that which is by Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God by faith;”138138 Gal. iv. 4, 5; Rom. viii. 3, 4, v. 9, x. 4; 1 Cor. i. 30; Phil. iii. 8–10. — we do affirm that Christ fulfilled the law for us, not only undergoing the penalty of it, but for us submitting to the obedience of it, and performing all that righteousness which of us it requires, that we might have a complete righteousness wherewith to appear before God. And this is that which is intended by the active and passive righteousness of Christ, after mentioned; all which is rejected, name and thing.
Of Christ’s being punished by God, which he rejects in the next place, and, to multiply his instances of our false doctrines, insists on it again under the terms of Christ’s enduring the wrath of God and the pains of a damned man, the same account is to be given as before of his satisfaction. That God “bruised him, put him to grief, laid the chastisement of 78our peace on him;139139 Isa. liii. 5, 6, etc. that for us he underwent death, the curse of the law, which inwrapped the whole punishment due to sin, and that by the will of God, who so made him to be sin who knew no sin, and in the undergoing whereof he prayed and cried, and sweat blood, and was full of heaviness and perplexity,”140140 Heb. ii. 9, 14, x. 10; 2 Cor. v. 21; Luke xxii. 41–44. the Scripture is abundantly evident; and what we assert amounts not one tittle beyond what is by and in it affirmed.
The false doctrine of the merit of Christ, and his purchasing for us the kingdom of heaven, is the next stone which this master-builder disallows and rejects. That “Christ hath bought us with a price; that he hath redeemed us from our sins, the world, and curse, to be a peculiar people, zealous of good works, so making us kings and priests to God for ever; that he hath obtained for us eternal redemption, procuring the Spirit for us, to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, God blessing us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him, upon the account of his making his soul an offering for sin,” performing that obedience to the law which of us is required,141141 1 Cor. vi. 20; 1 Pet. i. 18: Gal. i. 4, iii. 13; Tit. ii. 14; Eph. v. 26, 27; Rev. i. 5, 6; Heb. ix. 12–14; Eph. i. 3; Phil. i. 29. — is that which by this expression of the “merit of Christ” we intend, the fruit of it being all the accomplishment of the promise made to him by the Father, upon his undertaking the great work of saving his people from their sins. In the bundle of doctrines by Mr B. at once condemned, this also hath its place.
That Christ rose from the dead by his own power seems to us to be true, not only because he affirmed that he “had power so to do, even to lay down his life and to take it again,” John x. 18, but also because he said he would do so when be bade them “destroy the temple,” and told them that “in three days he would raise it again.” It is true that this work of raising Christ from the dead is also ascribed to the Father and to the Spirit (as in the work of his oblation, his Father “made his soul an offering for sin,” and he “offered up himself through the eternal Spirit”), yet this hinders not but that he was raised by his own power, his Father and he being one, and what work his Father doth he doing the same.
And this is the account which this “mere Christian” giveth us concerning his faith in Christ, his person, and his grace: He is a mere man, that neither satisfied for our sins nor procured grace or heaven for us; and how much this tends to the honour of Christ and the good of souls, all that love him in sincerity will judge and determine.
His next attempt is upon the way whereby the Scripture affirms that we come to be made partakers of the good things which Christ hath done and wrought for us; and in the first place he falls foul upon that of apprehending and applying Christ’s righteousness to ourselves by faith, that so there may no weighty point of the doctrine of the cross remain not condemned (by this wise man) of folly. This, then, goes also, name and thing: Christ is “of God made unto us righteousness” (that is, “to them that believe on him,” or “receive” or “apprehend” him, John i. 12), God “having set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the forgiveness of sins,” and declaring that every one who “believeth in him is justified from all things from which he could not be justified by the law,” God imputing righteousness to them that so believe; those who are so justified by faith having peace with God. It being the great thing we have to aim at, namely, that “we may know Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of his sufferings, and the power of his resurrection, and be found in him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the 79law, but the righteousness which is by the faith of Christ, Christ being the end of the law to every one that believeth,”142142 Rom. iii. 25; Acts xiii. 38, 39; Rom. iv. 5, 8, v. 1; Phil. iii. 9, 10; Rom. x. 3, 4. we say it is the duty of every one who is called, to apprehend Christ by faith, and apply his righteousness to him; that is, to believe on him as “made the righteousness of God to him,” unto justification and peace. And if Mr B. reject this doctrine, name and thing, I pray God give him repentance before it be too late, to the acknowledgment of the truth.
Of Christ’s being our surety, of Christ’s paying our debt, of our sins imputed to Christ, of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, of Christ dying to appease the wrath of God and reconcile him to us, enough hath been spoken already to clear the meaning of them who use these expressions, and to manifest the truth of that which they intend by them, so that I shall not need again to consider them as they lie in this disorderly, confused heap which we have here gathered together.
Our justification by Christ being cashiered, he falls upon our sanctification in the next place, that he may leave us as little of Christians as he hath done our Saviour of the true Messiah. Infused grace is first assaulted. The various acceptations of the word “grace” in the Scripture this is no place to insist upon. By “grace infused” we mean grace really bestowed upon us, and abiding in us, from the Spirit of God. That a new spiritual life or principle, enabling men to live to God, — that new, gracious, heavenly qualities and endowments, as light, love, joy, faith, etc., bestowed on men, — are called “grace” and “graces of the Spirit,”143143 Eph. ii. 1, 2; Gal. v. 23–25. I suppose will not be denied. These we call “infused grace” and “graces;” that is, we say God works these things in us by his Spirit, giving us a “new heart and a new spirit, putting his law into our hearts, quickening us who were dead in trespasses and sins, making us light who were darkness, filling us with the fruits of the Spirit in joy, meekness, faith, which are not of ourselves but the gifts of God.”144144 Phil. i. 6, ii. 13; Jer. xxxi. 33, xxxii. 39; Ezek. xi. 19, xxxvi. 26, 27; Heb. viii. 10. Mr B. having before disclaimed all original sin, or the depravation of our nature by sin, in deadness, darkness, obstinacy, etc., thought it also incumbent on him to disown and disallow all reparation of it by grace; and all this under the name of a “mere Christian,” not knowing that he discovereth a frame of spirit utterly unacquainted with the main things of Christianity.
Free grace is next doomed to rejection. That all the grace, mercy, goodness of God, in our election, redemption, calling, sanctification, pardon, and salvation, is free, not deserved, not merited, nor by us any way procured, — that God doth all that he doth for us bountifully, fully, freely, of his own love and grace, — is affirmed in this expression, and intended thereby. And is this found neither name nor thing in the Scriptures? Is there no mention of “God’s loving us freely; of his blotting out our sins for his own sake, for his name’s sake; of his giving his Son for us from his own love; of faith being not of ourselves, being the gift of God; of his saving us, not according to the works of righteousness which we have done, but of his own mercy; of his justifying us by his grace, begetting us of his own will, having mercy on whom he will have mercy; of a covenant not like the old, wherein he hath promised to be merciful to our unrighteousness,” etc.?145145 Eph. i. 4; John iii. 16, 1 John iv. 8, 10; Rom. v. 8; Eph. ii. 8; Tit. iii. 3–7; James i. 18; Rom. ix. 18; Heb. viii. 10–12. or is it possible that a man assuming to himself the name of a Christian should be ignorant of the doctrine of the free grace of God, or oppose it and yet profess not to reject the gospel as a 80fable? But this was, and ever will be, the condemnation of some, that “light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light.”
About the next expression, of the world of the elect, I shall not contend. That by the name of “the world” (which term is used in the Scriptures in great variety of significations), the elect, as being in and of this visible world, and by nature no better than the rest of the inhabitants thereof, are sometimes peculiarly intended, is proved elsewhere,146146 Salus Electorum Sanguis Jesu, or the Death of Death, etc. beyond whatever Mr B. is able to oppose thereunto.
Of the irresistible working of the Spirit, in bringing men to believe, the condition is otherwise. About the term “irresistible” I know none that care much to strive. That “faith is the gift of God, not of ourselves, that it is wrought in us by the exceeding greatness of the power of God; that in bestowing it upon us by his Spirit (that is, in our conversion), God effectually creates a new heart in us, makes us new creatures, quickens us, raises us from the dead, working in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure; as he commanded light to shine out of darkness, so shining into our hearts, to give us the knowledge of his glory;147147 Eph. ii. 8, i. 18, 19; 2 Cor. v. 17, etc., iv. 6. begetting us anew of his own will,” so irresistibly causing us to believe, because he effectually works faith in us, — is the sum of what Mr B. here rejecteth, that he might be sure, as before, to leave nothing of weight in Christian religion uncondemned. But these trifles and falsities being renounced, he complains of the abuse of his darling, that it is called carnal reason; which being the only interpreter of Scripture which he allows of, he cannot but take it amiss that it should be so grossly slandered as to be called “carnal.” The Scripture, indeed, tells us of a “natural man, that cannot discern the things which are of God, and that they are foolishness to him; of a carnal mind, that is enmity to God, and not like to have any reasons or reasonings but what are carnal; of a wisdom that is carnal, sensual, and devilish;148148 1 Cor. ii. 14; Rom. viii. 7; James iii. 15. of a wisdom that God will destroy and confound;” and that such is the best of the wisdom and reason of all unregenerate persons; — but why the reason of a man in such a state, with such a mind about the things of God, should be called “carnal,” Mr B. can see no reason; and some men, perhaps, will be apt to think that it is because all his reason is still carnal. When a man is “renewed after the image of him that created him” he is made “spiritual, light in the Lord,” every thought and imagination that sets up itself in his heart in opposition to God being led captive to the obedience of the gospel. We acknowledge a sanctified reason in such an one of that use in the dijudication of the things of God as shall afterward be declared.
Spiritual desertions are nextly decried. Some poor souls would thank him to make good this discovery. They find mention in the Scripture of “God’s hiding his face, withdrawing himself, forsaking, though but for a moment,” and of them that on this account “walk in darkness and see no light, that seek him and find him not, but are filled with troubles, terrors, arrows from him,” etc.149149 Job xiii. 24; Ps. x. 1, xiii. 1, xxvii. 9, xxx. 7, xliv. 24, lv. 1, lxix. 17, cii. 2; Isa. xlv. 15, viii. 17, xlix. 14, liv. 7, 8, lx. 15, l. 10, etc. And this, in some measure, they find to be the condition of their own souls. They have not the life, light, power, joy, consolation, sense of God’s love, as formerly; and therefore they think there are spiritual desertions, and that in respect of their souls these dispensations of God are signally and significantly so termed; and they fear that those who deny all desertions never had any enjoyments from or of God.
81Of spiritual incomes there is the same reason. It is not the phrase of speech, but the thing itself, we contend about. That God who is the Father of mercy and God of all consolation gives mercy, grace, joy, peace, consolation, as to whom, so in what manner or in what degree he pleaseth. The receiving of these from God is by some (and that, perhaps, not inaptly) termed “spiritual incomes,” with regard to God’s gracious distributions of his kindness, love, good-will and the receiving of them. So that it be acknowledged that we do receive grace, mercy, joy, consolation, and peace from God, variously as he pleaseth, we shall not much labour about the significancy of that or any other expression of the like kind. The Scriptures mentioning the “goings forth of God,” Mic. v. 2, leave no just cause to Mr B. of condemning them who sometimes call any of his works or dispensations his outgoings.
His rehearsal of all these particular instances, in doctrines that are found neither name nor thing in Scripture, Mr B. closeth with an “etc.;” which might be interpreted to comprise as many more, but that there remain not as many more important heads in Christian religion. The nature of God being abased, the deity and grace of Christ denied, the sin of our natures and their renovation by grace in Christ rejected, Mr B.’s remaining religion will be found scarce worth the inquiry after by those whom he undertakes to instruct, there being scarcely any thing left by him from whence we are peculiarly denominated Christians, nor any thing that should support the weight of a sinful soul which approacheth to God for life and salvation.
To prevent the entertainment of such doctrines as these, Mr B. commends the advice of Paul, 2 Tim. i. 13, “Hold fast the form of sound words,” etc.; than which we know none more wholesome nor more useful for the safeguarding and defence of those holy and heavenly principles of our religion which Mr B. rejects and tramples on. Nor are we at all concerned in his following discourse of leaving Scripture terms, and using phrases and expressions coined by men; for if we use any word or phrase in the things of God and his worship, and cannot make good the thing signified thereby to be founded on and found in the Scriptures, we will instantly renounce it. But if indeed the words and expressions used by any of the ancients for the explication and confirmation of the faith of the gospel, especially of the doctrine concerning the person of Christ, in the vindication of it from the heretics which in sundry ages bestirred themselves (as Mr B. now doth) in opposition thereunto, be found/ consonant to Scripture, and to signify nothing but what is written therein with the beams of the sun, perhaps we see more cause to retain them, from the opposition here made to them by Mr B., than formerly we did, considering that his opposition to words and phrases is not for their own sake, but of the things intended by them.
The similitude of “the ship that lost its first matter and substance by the addition of new pieces, in way of supplement to the old decays,” having been used by some of our divines to illustrate the Roman apostasy and traditional additionals to the doctrines of the gospel, will not stand Mr B. in the least stead, unless he be able to prove that we have lost, in the religion we profess, any one material part of what it was when given over to the churches by Christ and his apostles, or have added any one particular to what they have provided and furnished us withal in the Scriptures; which until he hath done, by these and the like insinuations he doth but beg the thing in question; which, being a matter of so great consequence and importance as it is, will scarce be granted him on any such terms. I 82doubt not but it will appear to every person whatsoever, in the process of this business, who hath his senses any thing exercised in the word to discern between good and evil, and whose eyes the god of this world hath not blinded, that the glorious light of the gospel of God should not shine into their hearts, that Mr B., as wise as he deems and reports himself to be, is indeed, like the foolish woman that pulls down her house with both her hands, labouring to destroy the house of God with all his strength, pretending that this and that part of it did not originally belong thereto (or like Ajax, in his madness, who killed sheep, and supposed they had been his enemies150150 Sophoc. in Ajace, μαστιγοφ, l. 25, 43, etc.), upon the account of that enmity which he finds in his own mind unto them.
The close of Mr B.’s preface contains an exhortation to the study of the word, with an account of the success he himself hath obtained in the search thereof, both in the detection of errors and the discovery of sundry truths. Some things I shall remark upon that discourse, and shut up these considerations of his preface:—
For his own success, he tells us “That being otherwise of no great abilities, yet searching the Scriptures impartially, he hath detected many errors, and hath presented the reader with a body of religion from the Scriptures; which whoso shall well ruminate and digest will be enabled,” etc.
As for Mr B.’s abilities, I have not any thing to do to call them into question: whether small or great, he will one day find that he hath scarce used them to the end for which he is intrusted with them; and when the Lord of his talents shall call for an account, it will scarce be comfortable to him that he hath engaged them so much to his dishonour as it will undoubtedly appear he hath done. I have heard, by those of Mr B.’s time and acquaintance in the university, that what ability he had then obtained, were it more or less, he still delighted to be exercising of it in opposition to received truths in philosophy; and whether an itching desire of novelty, and of emerging thereby, lie not at the bottom of the course he hath since steered, he may do well to examine himself.
What errors he hath detected (though but pretended such, which honour in the next place he assumes to himself) I know not. The error of the deity of Christ was detected in the apostles’ days by Ebion Cerinthus, and others,151151 Euseb. Hist. lib. iii. cap. xxi.; Iræn. ad Hær. lib. i. cap. xxvi.; Epiphan. Hær. i. tom. ii. lib. i.; Ruf. cap. xxvii. — not long after by Paulus Samosatenus, by Photinus, by Arius, and others;152152 Euseb. lib. vii. cap. xxii.–xxiv.; August. Hær. xliv.; Epiphan. Hær. i. lib. ii.; Socrat. Hist. lib. ii. cap. xxiv., etc. the error of the purity, simplicity, and spirituality of the essence of God, by Audseus and the Anthropomorphites; the error of the deity of the Holy Ghost was long since detected by Macedonius and his companions; the error of original sin, or the corruption of our nature, by Pelagius; the error of the satisfaction and merit of Christ, by Abelardus; all of them, by Socinus, Smalcius, Crellius, etc. What new discoveries Mr B. hath made I know not, nor is there any thing that he presents us with, in his whole body of religion, as stated in his questions, but what he hath found prepared, digested, and modelled to his hand by his masters, the Socinians, unless it be some few gross notions about the Deity; nor is so much as the language which here he useth of himself and his discoveries his own, but borrowed of Socinus, Ep. ad Squarcialupum.
We have not, then, the least reason in the world to suppose that Mr B. was led into these glorious discoveries by reading of the Scriptures, much less by “impartial reading of them;” but that they are all the fruits of a deluded 83heart, given up righteously of God to believe a lie, for the neglect of his word and contempt of reliance upon his Spirit and grace for a right understanding thereof, by the cunning sleights of the forementioned persons, in some of whose writings Satan lies in wait to deceive. And for the “body of religion” which he hath collected, which lies not in the answers, which are set down in the words of the Scripture, but in the interpretations and conclusions couched in his questions, I may safely say it is one of the most corrupt and abominable that ever issued from the endeavours of one who called himself a Christian; for a proof of which assertion I refer the reader to the ensuing considerations of it. So that whatever promises of success Mr B. is pleased to make unto him who shall ruminate and digest in his mind this body of his composure (it being, indeed, stark poison, that will never be digested, but will fill and swell the heart with pride and venom until it utterly destroy the whole person), it may justly be feared that he hath given too great an advantage to a sort of men in the world, not behind Mr B. for abilities and reason (the only guide allowed by him in affairs of this nature), to decry the use and reading of the Scripture, which they see unstable and unlearned men fearfully to wrest to their own destruction. But let God be true, and all men liars. Let the gospel run and prosper; and if it be hid to any, it is to them whom the god of this world hath blinded, that the glorious light thereof should not shine into their hearts.
What may farther be drawn forth of the same kind with what is in these Catechisms delivered, with an imposition of it upon the Scripture, as though any occasion were thence administered thereunto, I know not, but yet do suppose that Satan himself is scarce able to furnish the thoughts of men with many more abominations of the like length and breadth with those here endeavoured to be imposed on simple, unstable souls, unless he should engage them into downright atheism and professed contempt of God.
Of what tendency these doctrines of Mr B. are unto godliness, which he next mentioneth, will in its proper place fall under consideration. It is true, the gospel is a “doctrine according to godliness,” and aims at the promotion of it in the hearts and lives of men, in order to the exaltation of the glory of God; and hence it is that so soon as any poor deluded soul falls into the snare of Satan, and is taken captive under the power of any error whatever, the first sleight he puts in practice for the promotion of it is to declaim about its excellency and usefulness for the furtherance of godliness, though himself in the meantime be under the power of darkness, and knows not in the least what belongs to the godliness which he professeth to promote. As to what Mr B. here draws forth to that purpose, I shall be bold to tell him that to the accomplishment of a godliness amongst men (since the fall of Adam) that hath not its rise and foundation in the effectual, powerful changing of the whole man from death to life, darkness to light, etc., in the washing off the pollutions of nature by the blood of Christ; that is not wrought in us and carried on by the efficacy of the Spirit of grace, taking away the heart of stone and giving a new heart circumcised to fear the Lord; that is not purchased and procured for us by the oblation and intercession of the Lord Jesus; a godliness that is not promoted by the consideration of the viciousness and corruption of our hearts by nature, and their alienation from God, and that doth not in a good part of it consist in the mortifying, killing, slaying of the sin of nature that dwelleth in us, and in an opposition to all the actings and workings of it; a godliness that is performed by 84our own strength in yielding obedience to the precepts of the word, that by that obedience we may be justified before God and for it accepted, etc., — there is not one tittle, letter, nor iota, in the whole book of God tending.
Mr B. closeth his preface with a commendation of the Scriptures, their excellency and divinity, with the eminent success that they shall find who yield obedience to them, in that they shall be, “even in this life, equal unto angels.” His expressions, at first view, seem to separate him from his companions in his body of divinity, which he pretends to collect from the Scriptures, whose low thoughts and bold expressions concerning the contradictions in them shall afterward be pointed unto; but I fear “latet anguis in herba:” and in this kiss of the Scriptures, with “hail” unto them, there is vile treachery intended, and the betraying of them into the hands of men, to be dealt withal at their pleasure. I desire not to entertain evil surmises of any (what just occasion soever be given on any other account) concerning things that have not their evidence and conviction in themselves. The bleating of that expression, “The Scriptures are the exactest rule of a holy life, evidently allowing other rules of a holy life, though they be the exactest, and admitting other things or books into a copartnership with them in that their use and service, though the preeminence be given to them, sounds as much to their dishonour as any thing spoken of them by any who ever owned them to have proceeded from God. It is the glory of the Scriptures, not only to be the rule, but the only one, of walking with God. If you take any others into comparison with it, and allow them in the trial to be rules indeed, though not so exact as the Scripture, you do no less cast down the Scripture from its excellency than if you denied it to be any rule at all. It will not lie as one of the many, though you say never so often that it is the best. What issues there will be of the endeavour to give reason the absolute sovereignty in judging of rules of holiness, allowing others, but preferring the Scripture, and therein, without other assistance, determining of all the contents of it, in order to its utmost end, God in due time will manifest. We confess (to close with Mr B.) that true obedience to the Scriptures makes men, even in this life, equal in some sense unto angels; not upon the account of their performance of that obedience merely, as though there could be an equality between the obedience yielded by us whilst we are yet sinners, and continue so (for “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves”), and the exact obedience of them who never sinned, but abide in doing the will of God: but the principal and main work of God required in them, and which is the root of all other obedience whatever, being to “believe on him whom he hath sent,” to “as many as so believe on him and so receive him power is given to become the sons of God;” who being so adopted into the great family of heaven and earth, which is called after God’s name, and invested with all the privileges thereof, having fellowship with the Father and the Son, they are in that regard, even in this life, equal to angels.
Having thus, as briefly as I could, washed off the paint that was put upon the porch of Mr B.’s fabric, and discovered it to be a composure of rotten posts and dead men’s bones, — whose pargeting being removed, their abomination lies naked to all, — I shall enter the building or heap itself, to consider what entertainment he hath provided therein for those whom, in the entrance, he doth so subtilely and earnestly invite to turn in and partake of his provisions.
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