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God, and in order to a lawful coming to them. No man, I trust, will say, that a man has a right in God's sight, who has no sort of seriousness of mind; and that merely outward sounds and motions, give him this right in God's sight, without regard to any property or quality of mind, and though this outward show is joined with the most horrid and resolved secret irreligion and wickedness. Mr. Williams in particular utterly disclaims such doctrine as this in 3d and 4th pages of his preface, and always maintains that in order to men's lawful coming, they must be morally sincere ; as there in his preface, and also in p. 25, 27, 30, 35, 111. In p. 115, he supposes, that if a man makes a doubt of his moral sincerity, no divine will advise him to come till he knows.
Having observed this, I now desire it may be considered, whether it be reasonable to suppose, as Mr. Williams does, that God would give men, that are without grace, a lawful right to sacraments, so that this qualification itself should be nothing necessary to a proper and rightful claim to these ordinances; and yet that he would wholly forbid them to come, and others to admit them, without their making some pretence to it, and exhibiting moral evidence that they have it: that moral sincerity is the qualification which by God's own appointment invests persons with a lawful right to sacraments, and that by his institution nothing more is requisite to a lawful right; and yet that he has commanded them not to come, nor others to allow them to come, without making a profession of something more than moral sincerity, as Mr. Williams says. Mr. Williams supposes that God requires us, before we admit persons, to seek credible evidence of true piety, and to see to it that we have reasonable ground to believe they have it ; otherwise not to allow them to come: and yet that God does not look on such qualification requisite in itself, when all is done, and that he has given them as true and lawful a right to come without it, as with it. If God insists upon it, as Mr. Williams supposes, that members should be admitted under no other notion than of their being truly godly, and from respect to such a character appearing on them, is it not plain, that God looks on such a character in itself requisite, in order to a person's being a rightful subject of such a privilege ? If the want of this qualification does not in the least hinder a person's lawful right to a thing, on what account can the want of an appearance of it and pretence to it, warrant and oblige others to hinder his taking possession of that thing?
That we should be obliged to require a credible pretence and evidence of the being of a thing, in order to a certain purpose, the being of which is not requisite to that purpose ; or that some evidence of a thing should be necessary, and yet withal no necessity there should be any foundation of such evidence, in the being of the thing to be made evident; that it should be necessary for us to seek evidence that something is true, and yet there be no need in order to the intended purpose, that there be any such truth to be made evident; if these things are the dictates of common sense, I am willing all that are possessed of any degree of common sense should be judges.
If God has plainly revealed, that gospel holiness is not necessary in itself in order to men's lawful right to sacraments, as Mr. Williams greatly insists, then his churches need not believe it to be necessary; yea, it is their duty to believe that it is not necessary, as it is their duty to believe what God says to be true. But yet Mr. Williams holds, that God forbids his churches to admit any to sacraments, unless they first have some rational evidence obliging them to believe that they have gospel holiness. Now how palpable is the inconsistence, that we must be obliged to believe men have a qualification in order to our sutfering them to come, which yet at the same time we need not believe to be
necessary for them to have in order to their coming, but which God requires un to believe to be unnecessary! Or in other words, that God has made it necessary for us to believe or suppose men are truly pious, in order to our lawfully allowing them to take the sacrament, and yet at the same time requires us to believe no such thing as their being pious is necessary in order to their lawfully taking the sacraments !
Mr. Stoddard (whose principles Mr. Williams, in preface p. 3, declares himself to be fully established in not only says, that some unsanctified men have " a right before God to the Lord's Supper," but strongly asserts, over and over, that they are fit to be admitted to the Lord's Supper, that they are DULY QUALified, FIT MATTER for church niembership” (Appeal, p. 15, 16), and Mr. Wil. liams argues that “such qualifications as some unsanctified men have, are sufFICIENT to bring them into the church.” Now if it be so, what business have we to demand evidence or a pretence of any thing further ? What case in the world can be mentioned parallel to it, in any nation or age? Are there any such laws or regulations to be found in any society, nation, city or family, civil society, military or academic, stated society or occasional, that the society should be required to insist on some credible pretence and evidence of a certain qualification, in order to persons being admitted to the privileges of the society; prohibiting their being admitted under any other notion than as persons possessed of that qualification, or without a respect, in their admission, to such a chan racter appearing on them: and yet at the same time, by the laws of that very society, or the head of it, that qualification is not necessary; but persons are declared, without any such qualification, to have a LAWFUL RIGHT, to be fit Matter, to be DULY QUALIFIED, and to have suFFICIENT qualifications to be admitted to these privileges, without that qualification ?
If some men have a right in the sight of God to sacraments, without true piety, and are fit, and duly qualified without it in his sight, and by his institution, and yet the church must not admit them unless they are truly pious in their sight; then the eye of man must require higher terms, than the infinitely holy eye of God himself; they must look for something that the eye of God looks not for, and which he judges them duly qualified without.
Mr. Williams when speaking of the evidence, on which he supposes the church ought to judge persons to be real saints, from time to time adds, that on such evidence " the church is obliged, in their external carriage, to treat them as saints, and admit them to the external privileges of the church.” So p. 9, 12, &c. p. 13 and 14, and in other places. But what does he mean by treating them as saints, in admitting them to the external privileges of the church ? If sinners have as much of a lawful right to these privileges, as saints, then why is giving them these privileges, a treating them as saints, any more than as sinners? If it belongs to an ignorant child, to be admitted into school, as much as one that is learned, then how is it treating him as one that is learned, to admit him ? Mr. Williams (p. 11) giving a reason why he that professes conviction of the truth of the gospel, &c., ought to be admitted to sacraments, says, " though this conviction may be only by moral evidence and common illumination, yet the church know not but it is done on a divine and gracious discovery." But how can this be a reason? What if the church did know that it was not on a gracious discovery, if the man has a right in the sight of God without, and God has made it his duty to come to sacraments without ? Surely the church have no right to forbid him to do that which God has given him a right to do, and made it his duty to do; as Mr. Stoddard says (Doct. of Inst. Churches, p. 20), “The church may not hinder any man from doing his duty.”
Therefore if this be Mr. Stoddard's question," whether some unsanctified men may lawfully come to the Lord's supper," and if this be the grand point in dispute, the thing which Mr. Williams undertakes to maintain, as he often declares, then it is most plainly evident, that in conceding and asserting those . things forementioned, he does in effect abundantly give up that which he himself insists on as the grand point in controversy; and so makes void and vain all his own labor, and for himself effectually confutes all that he has written.
Concerning Mr. Williams's Notion of a public Profession of Godliness in terms of an
indeterminate and double Signification. According to Mr. Williams the profession of godliness must be in words not of a determinate meaning, or“ without any discrimination in the meaning of the words obliging us to understand them of saving religion," p. 6. They must make an "open declaration of their sincere consent to the terms of the covenant, without any discrimination, by which it can be determined, that the consent signified by the words is a gracious consent," p. 9. And without any marks of difference, or any distinction in the words, whereby we can be enabled to judge when they mean a saving faith, and when a different one,” p. 10, 50 and 53. That" nothing should be expressed in the words of the profession, but what some unsanctified men may say, and speak true," p. 47. He supposes, that the primitive Christians in the profession they made of faith, did not speak only in that sense, viz., so as to signify justifying faith; and that “the persons admitted did not understand that their profession was understood by those that admitted them, only in that sense,” p. 58.
Agreeably to this notion of making a profession in words of indiscriminate meaning, and professing godliness without godliness, and yet speaking true, Mr. Williams (in p. 44) allows, “ that men must be by profession godly persons, in order to come to the sacrament;' and yet in the next sentence he denies, “ that Christian grace itself is requisite in the person who is to come to the sacrament, or that the dictate of his conscience that he has it, is the thing that gives him a right to offer himself.” And agreeably to this last clause, Mr. Stoddard (of whose opinion Mr. Williams professes himself fully to be) expressly maintains, that a man “may and ought to come to the Lord's supper, though he knows himself to be in a natural condition.” (Doct. of Inst. Churches, p. 21, see also his sermon on this controversy, p. 13.) So that putting these things together, it must be agreeable to Mr. Williams's scheme that a man has a right to make a profession of godliness, without having godliness, and without any dictate of his conscience that he has the thing he professes, yea though he knows he has it not! And all this is made out by the doctrine of professing godliness in words that are ambiguous and of two meanings.
This notion of a solemn profession of godliness, in words of a double meaning, without any marks of difference in their signification, is the great peculiarity of Mr. Williams's scheme; and in all his controversy with me, this appears to be the main hinge of the whole affair. Therefore I would particularly consider it.
And for the greater distinctness and clearness, I will lay down certain positions, as of most evident truth; observing some of their no less plain and evident consequences.
Position I. Words declare or profess nothing any otherwise than by their signification : for to declare or profess something by words, is to signify some-,
thing by words. And therefore if nothing is signified by words of a pretended · profession, nothing is really professed ; and if something be professed, no more is professed than the words of the profession signify or import.
Position. II. If a man goes about to declare or profess any particular thing by words which have no distinguishing signification, or without any signs or discriminating marks by which men may be enabled to distinguish what he means, his words are vain to the pretended purpose, and wholly fail of answering the end of words, which is to convey the thing meant, to others' understanding, or to give notice to others of the thing that is supposed or understood.*
Therefore to use words thus in common conversation, is to act in a vain trifling manner, more like children than men: but to use words thus in the sacred services of God's house, and solemn duties of his worship, is something much worse than children's play. But thus Mr. Williams expressly declares, words are to be used in a public profession of religion. He says (p. 10), “ And these words are so used in such cases, without any marks of difference, whereby we are enabled to judge when they mean a saving faith, and when a different one.”
Position III. A profession made in words that are either equivocal, or general, equally signifying several distinct things, without any marks of difference or distinction, by which we are enabled to judge which is meant, is not a profession or signification of any one of those several things; nor can they afford any rational ground of understanding or apprehending any particular thing. Thus, for instance, if a man, using an equivocal terın, should say, that such an evening a king was in that room, without any marks of difference or discriinination whatsoever, by which others could discern whether by a king, he meant the ruler of a kingdom, or a king used in a game of chess: the word thus used would be no declaration that the head of a kingdom was there at such a time; nor would they give any notice of any such thing to those to whom he spoke, or give them any rational ground to understand or judge any such thing.
Or if a man should use a general term, comprehending various particular sorts, without at all distinguishing or pointing forth any one particular sort, he thereby professes no one particular sort. Thus if a man professes that he has metal in his pocket, not saying what sort of metal, whether gold, silver, brass, iron, lead, or tin; his words are no profession that he has gold.
So if a man professes sincerity or religion, designedly using terms of double signification, or (which comes to the same thing) of general signification, equally signifying two entirely distinct things, either moral sincerity, or real piety, his words are no profession of real piety; he makes no credible profession, and indeed no profession at all of gospel holiness.
Position IV. If a man who knows himself to be destitute of any certain qualification, yet makes a profession or pretence, in words of double meaning, equally signifying that qualification, and something else very different with a design to recommend himself to others' judgment, as possessed of that qualifica. tion, he is guilty of deceitful equivocation. This is the notion of deceitful equivocation, viz., the using words of double meaning, or capable of double application, with a design to induce others to judge something to be true, which
* The Apostle Paul says, 1 Cor. xiv. 7, “Even things without life, giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction is the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped ?"-Mr. Locke says, Hum. Und. Vol. 2. Edit. 7, p. 103, “ He that uses words of any language without DISTINCT ideas in his mind, to which he applies then, does so far as he uses them in discourse, only inake a noise without any sense or signification."
is not true. But he that goes about to recommend himself by such terms to others' opinion or judgment as being what he at the same time knows he is not, endeavors to induce them to believe what he knows is not true, which is to deceive them. *
But if the scheme which Mr. Williams undertakes to defend, were true, it would follow that such a kind of equivocation as this (be it far from us to suppose it) is what the infinitely wise and holy God has instituted to be publicly made use of in the solemn services of his house, as the very condition of persons' admission to the external privileges of his people! For Mr. Williams abundantly asserts, that persons must be esteemed in the judgment and apprehension of others to have true piety; and that one thing that must be done in order to it, one thing pertaining to the moral evidence that recommends them to this judgment, is the profession they make of religion, p. 5, 139, 47, 132,44. In p. 42, speaking of the profession of visible Christians, he has these words : “ And it is from the nature and purport of this profession, we say, the church is to judge the members to be wise virgins, or what they make a show of.” And Mr. Williams 'insists upon it, that according to Christ's institution, this must be in words equally signifying true godliness, and something else, without any discrimination or marks of difference. This is the scheme! And, certainly such a doctrine of deceitful equivocation in the public exercises of religion, is more agreeable to the principles and practices of a religion I'am loth to name, than the true religion of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Williams says, p. 35, “ I am at a loss to conceive how it will help the cause of truth to represent those who are of Mr. Stoddard's opinion, as teaching men that they enter into covenant with God with known and allowed guile." Supposing 1 had made such a representation, I can tell him how it would have helped the cause of truth (as it would be speaking nothing but the truth), if he be one of Mr. Stoddard's opinion (as he says he is) and represents his own opinion truly.
But let the unreasonableness of this notion of professing gospel holiness in words of two meanings, without any discrimination or mark of difference, be a little further considered. Since it is allowed that gospel holiness is the thing which is to be exhibited in the profession, and there are words which signify this by a determinate meaning, why must they needs be avoided, and words of doubtful and double signification only made use of ?t Since the design of the profession is to exhibit to others' understanding that very thing; if the proper and distinguishing names of that must nevertheless be avoided in the profession, and this, for that very reason, that they point forth to others' understanding that very thing by a determinate meaning ; then we are brought to this gross absurdity, viz., that the end of a profession is to exhibit to others' understanding and reasonable judgment a particular qualification ; but at the same time such words only must be made use of as do not distinctly point forth to others' understanding and judgment that particular qualification. The church are to seek and demand a profession, that shall determine their rational judgment; but yet are designedly to avoid such a profession as shall determine their understandings. Be it far from us to attribute to the allwise God any such absurd and inconsistent constitution.
" To advance a dubious proposition, knowing it will be understood in a sense different from what you give it in your mind, is an equivocation, in breach of good faith and sincerity." Chambers' Dictionary, under the word Equivocation.
+ Mr. Williams (p. 6) speaks of a profession in terms of indiscriminate signification, when not contradicted in life, as “ The sole entire evidence, which the church as a church, is to have, by divine ap. pointment, in order to that public judgment it is to make of the saintship of men."