« AnteriorContinuar »
Mr. Williams says, “ Charity obliges the church to understand the words of the professors in the most favorable sense." But charity does not oblige us to understand their words in any other sense than that in which they professedly use them. But in churches which professedly act on Mr. Williams's scheme (if any such there be) the professors who are admitted, professedly use ambig-. uous words, or words equally signifying two entirely distinct things, without discrimination or marks of difference; and therefore charity obliges us to understand their words no otherwise, than as signifying that they have one or other of those two things; and not that they have one in particular: for their words do not signify this, in the sense they professedly use them. If a man that is indebted to me, professes that he has either gold or brass, which he promises to pay me; or if he uses an equivocal or general term, that equally, and without marks of difference, signifies either one or the other : charity may oblige me to believe what he says, which is that he has either gold or brass; but no charity obliges me to believe that he has gold, which he does not say..
Mr. Williams, in his description of such a profession as Christ has instituted, in order to admission to sacraments, often mentions two things, viz., " a profession of something present, a present believing in Christ, and cordial consent to the terms of the covenant of grace, &c. And a promise of something future." And with regard to the latter he is very full in it, that what is promised for time to come is saving faith, repentance and obedience.* Now what reason can be given why we should use words of double meaning in the former part of the profession more than in the latter ? Seeing Mr. Williams allows that we must profess gospel holiness as well as promise it, and seeing we may and must make use of words of indiscriminate and double meaning in professing present gospel holiness, why should we not do so too in promising what is future; and so equivocate in our solemn vows and oaths as the Papists do? If Mr. Williams says it is very hard for men to discern the discrimination between moral sincerity and gospel holiness; I answer, there is as much need to discern the difference in order understandingly to promise gospel holiness with discrimination, as to profess it with discrimination. • Mr. Williams says (p. 8), “ It is a received rule among mankind, in all public judgments, to interpret words in the most extensive and favorable sense, that the nature of the words or expressions will bear.” I know not what he means : but if he means (as he must if he means any thing to the purpose) that it is a received rule amongst mankind, to trust or accept, or regard any professions or declarations that men make with professed design, in words of double and indiscriminate meaning, without any marks of difference by which their meaning can be known, for that very end that they may be used with a safe conscience, though they have no dictates of their own consciences, that they have that which others are to believe they have; I say, if this be a received rule among mankind, it is a rule that mankind has lately received from Mr. Williams. Heretofore mankind, societies, or particular persons, would have been counted very foolish for regarding such professions. Is this the way in earthly kingdoms, in professions of allegiance to temporal princes, in order to their admission to the privileges of good subjects? Do they choose equivocal terms to put into their oaths of allegiance, to that end that men may use them and speak true, though they are secret enemies? There are two competitors for the kingdom of this world, Christ and Satan : the design of a public profession of religion is, to declare on which side men are. And is it agreeable
• Preface, p. 3, 5, 24, 25, 22, 7, 58, 69.
to the custom of mankind in such cases, to make laws that no other than ambiguous words shall be used, or to accept of such in declarations of this kind ? There are two competitors for the kingdom of Great Britain, king George, and the Pretender : is it then the constitution of king George and the British Parliament, that men should take oaths of allegiance, contrived in words of indeterminate signification, to the end that men who are in their hearts enemies to king George, and friends to the Pretender, may use them and speak true? And certainly mankind, those of them that have common sense, never in any affairs of life look on such professions worth a rush. Would Mr. Williams himself, if tried, in any affair wherein his temporal interest is concerned, trust such professions as these? If any man that he has dealings with, should profess to him that he had pawned for him, in a certain place, a hundred pounds, evidently, yea, professedly using the expression as an ambiguous one, so that there is no understanding by it, what is pawned there, whether a hundred pounds in money, or a hundred weight of stones : if he should inquire of the man what he meant, and he should reply, You have no business to search my heart, or to go to turn my heart inside out ; you are obliged in charity to understand my words in the most favorable sense ; would Mr. Williams in this case stick to his own received rule? Would he regard such a profession, or run the venture of one sixpence upon it ? Would he not rather look on such a man as affronting him, and treating him as though he would make a fool of him? And would not he know, that every body else would think him a fool, if he should suffer himself to be gulled by such professions, in things which concern his own private interest ? And yet it seems, this is the way in which he thinks he ought to conduct himself as a minister of Christ, and one intrusted by him in affairs wherein his honor and the interests of his kingdom are concerned.
And now I desire it may be judged by such as are possessed of human understanding, and are not disabled by prejudice from exercising it, whether this potion of Mr. Williams's, of making a solemn profession of gospel holiness in words of indiscriminate meaning, be not too absurd to be received by the reason God has given mankind. This peculiar notion of his is apparently the life and soul of his scheme; the main pillar of his temple, on which the whole weight of the building rests, which if it be broken, the whole falls to the ground. For if this notion of his be disproved, then, inasmuch as it is agreed, that true godliness must be professed, it will fallow, that it must be professed in words properly signifying the thing by a determinate meaning, which therefore no ungodly men can use, and speak true; and that therefore men must have true godliness in order to a right in the sight of God to make such profession, and to receive the privileges depending thereon : which implies and infers all those principles of mine which Mr. Williams opposes in his book, and confutes all that he says in opposition to them.
Showing that Mr. Williams, in supposing that unsanctified Men may profess such
things, as he allows must be professed, and yet speak true, is inconsistent with Mr. Stoddard, and with himself.
Mr. Williams denies, that in order to men's being admitted to sacraments, they need make any peculiar profession, distinguished from what an unregene
rate man may make, p. 44, 50, 6, 9, 10, 45, 46, and 53, or that they need to profess“ any thing but what an unregenerate man may say, and speak true," p. 47. And that they need make no profession but what is “compatible with an unregenerate state,” p. 8. And yet the reader has seen what things he says all must profess in order to come to sacraments. One thing he says they must profess, is “ a real conviction of the heart, of the divine truth of God's word; that they do sincerely and with all their hearts believe the gospel.” And these things he says, are agreeable to the opinion of Mr. Stoddard, and the doctrine he taught, p. 32, and 36. Let us compare these things with the doctrine Mr. Stoddard taught, that natural men do not“ believe the gospel,” Benef. of the Gosp., p. 89. That they “ do not properly believe the word of God," Guide to Christ, p. 26. That “ they do not believe the testimony of God, do not lay weight on the word of God; that they do not believe the report of the gospel, Safety of Ap. Edit. 2. p. 229. That they do “ not receive God's testimony, nor lay weight on it,” Ibid. p. 99. That “there is no man, how great soever his profession, how large soever his knowledge, that continues in a natural condition, who thoroughly believes the truth ;" i. e., that men may be saved by Christ's righteousness, Ibid. p. 4 and 5. That" common illumination does not convince men of the truth of the gospel,” Benef. of the Gosp. p. 148, 149. How then could it be the doctrine Mr. Stoddard taught, thạt natural men may really and with all their hearts believe and be convinced of the truth of the gospel ?
And Mr. Williams hiinself in his sermons on Christ a King and Witness, p. 144, 115, says, “man since the fall is naturally ignorant of divine truth, and an enemy to it, and full of prejudices against the truth.” And says, further, Ibid. p. 114, " The renewing of the Holy Ghost makes a universal change of the heart and life. He knows the doctrine contained in the Bible in a new manner.-Before he had a view of the truth as a doubtful uncertain thing; he received it as a thing which was probably true ;-and perhaps for the most part it appeared something likely to answer the end proposed. But now the gospel appears to him divinely true and real,” &c. But how do these things consist with men's being before conversion, sincerely and with all their hearts convinced of the divine truth of the gospel ? Can that be, and yet men view it as a doubtful uncertain thing, it not yet appearing to them divinely true and real ?
Again, Mr. Williams supposes, that some unsanctified men may speak true, and profess" a hearty consent to the terms of the covenant of grace, a compliance with the call of the gospel, submission to the proposals of it, satisfaction with that device for our salvation that is revealed in the gospel, and with the offer which God makes of himself to be our God in Christ Jesus, a fervent desire of Christ and the benefits of the covenant of grace, and an earnest purpose and resolution to seek salvation on the terms of it (p. 11), and a falling in with the terms of salvation proposed in the gospel, with a renouncing of all other ways (which he speaks of as agreeable to Mr. Stoddard's opinion, p. 32). Quite contrary to the current doctrine of Calvinistic divines ; contrary to the opinion of Mr. Guthrie, whom he cites as a witness in his favor (Pref. p. 4), who insists on satisfaction with that device for our salvation which is revealed in the gospel, and with the offer which God makes of himself to be our God in Christ, as the peculiar nature of saving faith. And contrary to the principles of Mr. Perkins (another author he quotes as his voucher) delivered in these very words, which Mr. Williams cites in the present point (p. 11), “ That a desire of the favor and mercy of God in Christ, and the means to attain that favor, is a special grace of God, and hath the promise of blessedness. That wicked men
cannot sincerely desire these means of eternal life, faith, repentance, mortification, reconciliation,” &c. And exceeding contrary to the constant doctrine of Mr. Stoddard (though he says it was his opinion), who ever insisted, that all unconverted sinners under the gospel are so far from heartily consenting to the covenant of grace, and complying with the call of the gospel, and falling in with the terms of salvation proposed in in it, renouncing all other ways, as Mr. Williams supposes, that they are wilful rejecters of Christ, despisers of the gospel, and obstinate refusers of offered mercy. So he says, “ the man that has but common grace-sets himself against the way of salvation which God prescribes," Nat. of Sav. Conv. p. 10. “In awakened sinners, it is not merely from weakness, but from pride and sturdiness of spirit, that they do not come to Christ," Safety of Ap., p 229. And in other places he says, that it is “ from the hardness and stubborness of natural men's hearts,” that they do not comply with the gospel : that “there is a mighty opposition in their hearts to believe in Christ,” because it is “ cross to their haughty spirit : that they are enemies to this way of salvation : that they are dreadfully averse to come to Christ." See Book of Three Sermons, p. 84, Guide to Christ, p. 55, Safety of Ap., p. 106, and 194.
And this scheme of our author is in a no less glaring manner contrary to the doctrine of Mr. Williams himself, in his sermon on Isa. xlv. 11 (p. 25, 26, 27). Speaking to those “ whose natures remain unrenewed and unsanctified”—see his words p. 25-he says, p. 27,“ You are opposing all the means of your own deliverance and salvation. The offers of grace, the allurements and invitations of the great Saviour of the world, have all been ineffectual to persuade you to accept of deliverance from a slavery you are willingly held in. Nay, you strive against the liberty of the sons of God, and labor to find out all manner of difficulties and hinderances in the way of it. If you pray for it, you do not desire it should yet come, but would stay a while longer.” And are these the persons who can truly profess, that they comply with the call of the gospel, and submit to the proposals of it, and are satisfied with the device for our salvation, and with the offers of the gospel, and consent to the terms of the covenant of grace with all their hearts, renouncing all other ways ?- It is not much more easy to make these things consist with what he says in his answer to Mr. Croswell (p. 26): he there says, “ there is not a son nor daughter of Adam excluded from salvation, who will accept Christ upon God's offer, and take him in his person and offices, and whole work of redemption, to be their Saviour, and they find themselves willing to accept of Christ as so offered to them, and PLEASED WITH THAT device for their salvation, and heartily choosing him to be to them and in them, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." See also to the same purpose, Ibid. p. 32, 33, and 94.
Mr. Williams, though he holds, that it is lawful for some unsanctified men to come to sacraments, yet supposes it not to be lawful for those that are luke. warm in religion to come, p. 35. So that according to his scheme, some unsanctified professors are above lukewarmness ; that is to say, their hearts within them are truly hot or fervent with Christian zeal, and they such as Christ will never spew out of his mouth; in a great inconsistence with the Scripture. He suggests, that it is an injury done to the cause of truth, in me, to represent Mr. Stoddard as being of another opinion (p. 35), but let us see whether such a rep"resentation be an injury to truth or no. Mr. Stoddard taught, that natural men have “no sincerity in them,” Guide to Christ, p. 60, 61. That “their hearts are dead as a stone, that there is no disposition or inclination to any thing that Ishgood, but a total emptiness of all goodness, Ibid. p. 63. That “some of . VOL. I.
them have considerable shows of goodness, there is an appearance of good desires, &c., but there is nothing of goodness in all this; that all they do is in hypocrisy,” Benef. of the Gosp. p. 73. That “they are acted by a lust of selflove in all their religion : if they are swept and garnished, they are empty : there may be some similitude of faith and love, but no reality, not a spark of goodness in their hearts; though corruption may be restrained, yet it reigns.” He speaks abundantly to the same purpose in his sermon, entitled, Natural men are under the government of self-love.
And Mr. Williams himself, in his sermon on Psal. xci. 1, describing carnal inen, by which he means the same with unconverted men (as is evident through the book, particularly p. 36), says, p. 27, 28, that to such “religion looks like a dull, unpleasant kind of exercise, and so different from the sensual joys and pleasures which they choose, that they hate to set about it, as long as they dare let it alone; and would do as little as ever they can at it: that when they durst not let it alone any longer, they set about it, but would fain despatch it as soon, and as easily as they can; because it seems to them a miserable, un. comfortable sort of life. Ask your own conscience (says he), see if this be not the truth of the case.” Now let the reader judge, whether this be a description of persons whom it would be injurious to represent as having nothing above lukewarmness.
Another thing, which Mr. Williams supposes must be professed in order to come to sacraments, and therefore according to him is what an unsanctified man can profess, and speak true, is, “ That they with all their hearts cast themselves upon the mercy of God, to help them to keep covenant,” p. 31, and 32. And yet elsewhere he mentions a depending on Christ for things of this nature, as a discriminating mark of a true Christian, Ser. on Christ a King and Witness, p. 19. Under a use of examination, he there says, “Do you depend on Christ to protect you from all your spiritual enemies, to restore you to holiness, to subdue all your heart to the will of God, to make you partakers of his image and moral perfections, and in that way to preserve and lead you to your true perfection and eternal happiness ?”
Mr. Williams supposes, p. 36, that the profession men must make in order to come to sacraments, implies real friendship to God," loving God more than his enemies, loving him above the world;" and therefore, according to Mr. Williams, unsanctified men may make this profession also, and speak true ; contrary to the whole current of Scripture, which represents unsanctified men as, “ the enemies of God, those that have not the love of God in them, under the power of a carnal mind, &c." And contrary to the unanimous voice of all sound divines, yea, of the whole Christian world. Mr. Williams in the forementioned place blames me, that I had intimated (as he supposes) that the profession which Mr. Stoddard taught to be necessary, did not imply “real friendship, and loving God above his enemies, and above the world.” Let us then compare this with Mr. Stoddard's doctrine, as that is extant in his writings. He speaks of it as a “property of saving grace, wherein it specifically differs from common grace, that a true love to God prizes God above all the world," Nat. of Conv. p. 7. “ That every natural man prefers vain and base things before God,” Ibid. p. 96. " That they are all enemies to God, and the very being of God,” Ibid. p. 5, and 97. “That their hearts are full of enmity to God," Ibid. p. 55. “That they have an aversion to those gracious actions of loving God, and trusting in Christ, and are under the dominion of a contrary inclination," Ibid. p. 67. “That those of them whose consciences are enlightened, and are reforming their lives, have no love; and that it is a burden
bend. Ibid. 2, and trust7 That lit