Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

must make any profession at all, having been completely admitted before, in the profession of their ancestors ?

Therefore, if it be so, that the infants of risible believers are born in the church, and are already members in complete standing, and do not drop out of the church, and fall from a complete standing, when they grow up; and therefore if they are not ignorant nor immoral, and desire full communion, nothing else can be required of them : and it will hence follow, contrary to my principles, that they cannot be required to make a profession in words of discriminate meaning : but then, it also equally follows, contrary to his principles, that neither can they be required to make a profession in words of indiscriminate meaning. If nothing else besides those forementioned things is necessary, then no profession is necessary, in any words at all, neither of determinate nor indeterminate signification. So that Mr. Williams, in supposing some personal profession to be necessary, gives up and destroys this his grand argument.

But if he did not give it up by this means, it would not be tenable on other principles belonging to his scheme'; such as its being necessary in order to a being admitted to sacraments, that persons should have a visibility that recommends them to the reasonable judgment and apprehension of the minds of others, as true Christians, really pious persons, and that there should be such a profession as exhibits moral evidence of this. For who will say, that the individual profession of an ancestor, a thousand or fifteen hundred years ago, is a credible exhibition and moral evidence of the real piety of his present posterity, without any personal, explicit profession of any thing about religion, in any one of the succeeding generations? And if Mr. Williams had not said, there must be a credible exhibition of gospel holiness, but only some common faith or virtue ; yet no such thing is made visible to a rational judgment and apprehension of mind, by this means. How, for instance, does it make orthodoxy visible? What reasonable ground is there in it, at such a day as this in England, to believe concerning any mạn, that he believes the doctrine of the Trinity, and all other fundamental doctrines, with full conviction, and with all his heart, because he descended from an ancestor that made a good profession, when the ancient Britons or Saxons were converted from heathenisin, and because withal he is free froin open, scandalous immorality, and appears willing to attend duties of public worship? If an attendance on these public duties was in its own nature a profession of orthodoxy, or even piety ; yet the reason of mankind teaches thein the need of joining words and actions together in public manifestations of the mind, in cases of importance: speech being the great and peculiar talent, which God has given to mankind, as the special means and instrument of the manifestation of their minds one to another. Thus treaties of peace among men are not concluded and finished with actions only, without words. Feasting together was used of old, as a testimony of peace and covenant friendship; as between Isaac and Abimelech, Laban and Jacob, but not without a verbal profession. Giving the hand, delivering the ring, &c., are to express a marriage agreement and union; but still a profession in words is annexed. So we allow it to be needful, after persons have fallen into scandal, that in manifesting repentance there should be a verbal profession, besides attending duties of worship. Earthly princes will not trust a profession of allegiance, in actions only, such as bowing, kneeling, keeping the king's birth day, &c., but they require also a profession in words, and an oath of allegiance is demanded. Yea, it is thought to be reasonably demanded, in order to men's coming to the actual possession and enjoyment of those privileges they are born heirs to. Thus, the eldest sons of noblemen in Great Britain, are born heirs to

the chthing to the mine. Thers in comh already, ats. And this and this op Mir.

the honors and estate vf their fathers; yet this no way binders but they may be obliged when they come to ripeness of age, in order to a being invested in the actual possession, to take the oath of allegiance: though in order to their lawfully doing it, it may be necessary they should believe in their hearts, that king George is the lawful prince, and that they should not be enemies to him, and friends to the pretender, in their hearts.

But moreover, if this objection of Mr. Williams about infants being born in the church be well considered, it will appear to be all beside the question, and so nothing to the purpose. It is not to the purpose of either of the questions, Mr. Williams's or mine. The question as I have stated it, is concerning them that may be admitted members in complete standing ; not about them that hate a complete standing in the church already, and so are no candidates for admission; which he says is the case of these infants. And the question as he often states it, is concerning them that may lawfully come: and this objection, from infants' being born in the church, as it must be understood from Mr. Williams, does not touch this question. For when Mr. Williams objects, that some persons are born in the church, and therefore may lawfully come to sacraments, he cannot be understood to mean, that their being born in the church alone is sufficient; but that, besides this, persons must have some virtue or religion, of one sort or other, in order to their lawful coming. For he is full in it, that it is not lawful for men to come without moral virtue or sincerity. Therefore the question comes to this in the result: seeing persons, besides their being born in covenant, must have some sort of virtue and religion in order to a lawful coming to the Lord's supper, What sort of virtue and religion that is, whether common or saving? Now this question is not touched by the present objection. Merely persons' being born in covenant, is no more evidence of their having moral sincerity, than saving grace. Yea, there is more reason to suppose the latter, than the former without it, in the infant children of believing parents. For the Scripture gives us ground to think, that some infants have the habit of saving grace, and that they have a new nature given them; but no reason at all to think, that ever God works any mere moral change in them, or refuses any habits of moral virtue without saving grace: and we know, they cannot come by moral habits in infancy, any other way than by immediate infusion: they cannot obtain them by human instruction, nor contract them by use and custom. And especially there is no reason to think, that the children of such as are visible saints, according to Mr. Williams's scheme, have any goodness infused into them by God, of any kind. For in his scheme, all that are morally sincere may lawfully receive the privileges of visible saints: but we have no Scripture grounds to suppose, that God will bless the children of such parents as have nothing more than moral sincerity, with either common or saving grace. There are no promises of the covenant of grace made to such parents, either concerning themselves or their children. The covenant of grace is a conditional covenant; as both sides in this controversy suppose : and therefore, by the supposition, men have no title to the promises without the condition. And as saving faith is the condition, the promises are all made to that, both those which respect persons themselves, and those that respect their seed. As it is with many covenants or bargains among men; by these, men are often entitled to possessions for themselves and their heirs : yet they are entitled to no benefits of the bargain, neither for themselves, nor their children, but by complying with the terms of the bargain. So with respect to the covenant of grace, the apostle says, Acts ii. 39, “The promise is to you and to your children." So the apostle says to the jailer, Acts xvi. 31, “ Believe ou

erity, being bothis ques sort of de andersons, bet sincerit in

the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." And we find many promises, all over the Bible, made to the righteous, that God will bless their seed for their sakes. Thus, Psal. cxii. 2, “The generation of the upright shall be blessed." Psal. lxix. 35, 36, “ For God will save Zion : the seed also of his servants shall inherit it; and they that love his name shall dwell therein.” See also Prov. xiv. 26; Psal. ciii. 17, 18; cii. 28; Exod. xx. 5, 6; Deut. vii. 9. Supposing these to be what are called indefinite promises; yet do they extend to any but the seed of the righteous ? Where are any such promises made to the children of unsanctified men, the enemies of God, and slaves to the devil (as Mr. Williams owns all unsanctified men are), whatever moral sincerity, and common religion they may have ?

The baptison of infants is the seal of these promises made to the seed of the righteous : and on these principles, some rational account may be given of infant baptism ; but no account can be given of it on Mr. Williams's scheme, no warrant can be found for it in Scripture; for they are promises that are the warrant for privileges : but there are no promises of God's word to the seed of morally sincere men, and only half Christians.

Thus this argument of Mr. Williams's, let us take it which way we will, has nothing but what is as much, yea, much more, against his scheme, than against mine.

However, if this were not the case, but all the show or pretence of strength there is in the argument, lay directly and only against me, yet the strength of it, if tried, will avail to prove nothing. The pretended argument, so far as I can find out what it is, is this: The children of visible saints are born in covenant ; and being already in covenant, they must have a right to the privileges of the covenant, without any more ado: suck therefore have a right to come to the Lord's supper, whether they are truly godly, or not.

But the show of argument there is here, depends on the ambiguity of the phrase, being in covenant ; which signifies two distinct things : either (1,) being under the obligations and bonds of the covenant ; or (2,) a being conformed to the covenant, and complying with the terms of it. A being the subject of the obligations and engagements of the covenant, is a thing quite distinct from a being conformed to these obligations, and so being the subject of the condition of the covenant.

Now it is not a being in covenant in the former, but the latter sense, that gives a right to the privileges of the covenant. The reason is plain, because it is compliance and conformity to the terms of a covenant, that is the thing which gives right to all the benefits; and not merely a being under ties to that compliance and conformity. Privileges are not annexed merely to obligations, but to compliance with obligations.

Many that do not so much as visibly comply with the conditions of the covenant, are some of God's covenant people in that sense, that they are under the bonds and engagements of the covenant; so were Korah and his company; so were inany gross idolaters, in Israel, that lived openly in that sin ; and so may heretics, deists, and atheists be God's covenant people; they may still be held under the bonds of their covenant engagements to God; for their great wickedness and apostasy do not free them from the obligation of the solemn promises and engagements they formerly entered into. But yet a being in covenant merely in this sense, gives them no right tu any privileges of the covenant. In order to that, they must be in covenant in another sense; they must cordially consent to the covenant: which indeed Mr. Williams himself owns, when he acknowledges, that in order to come to sacrainents,"men must profess a cordial consent to, and compliance with the conditions of the covenant of grace.* And if Mr. Williams inquires, why those children that were born in the covenant are not cast out, when in adult age they make no such profession; certainly it as much concerns him to answer, as me; for it is as much his doctrine, as mine, that they must profess such consent. But I am willing to answer nevertheless. They are not cast out because it is a matter held in suspense, whether they do cordially consent to the covenant, or not; or whether their making no such profession does not arise from some other cause. And none are to be excommunicated, without some positive evidence against them. And therefore they are left in the state they were in, in infancy, not admitted actually to partake of the Lord's supper (which actual participation is a new positive privilege) for want of a profession, or some evidence, beyond what is merely negative, to make it visible that they do consent to the covenant. For it is reasonable to expect some appearance more than what is negative, of a proper qualification, in order to being adınitted to a privilege beyond what they have hitherto actually received. A negative charity may be sufficient for a negative privilege, such as freedom from censure and punishment; but something more than a negative charity, is needful to actual admission to a new positive privilege.

'SECTION XV. A particular Examination of Mr. Williams's Defence of the 9th Objection, or that

boasted Argument, that if it be not lawful for unconverted Men to come to the Lord's Supper, then none may come but they that know themselves to be converted.

This argument has been greatly gloried in, as altogether invincible. Mr. Williams seems to have been alarmed, and his spirits raised to no small degree of warmth at the pretence of an answer to it: and he uses many big words, and strong expressions in his reply; such as, “ It is absolutely certain-It is beyond my power to comprehend, and I believe beyond the power of any man to tell me. - This I assert and stand to-As plain as the sun-A contradiction of the Bible, of the light of nature, and of the common sense of mankind,” &c. &c. But let us get away from the noise of a torrent, and bring this matter to the test of calm reasoning, and examine it to the very bottom.

Here let it be considered, wherein precisely the argument consists. If it has any strength in it, it consists in this proposition, viz., That it is not lawful for men to come to sacraments, without a known right. This is the proposition Mr. Stoddard himself reduces the argument to, in his Appeal, p. 62, 63. And it is very evident, that the whole strength of the argument rests on the supposed truth of this proposition.

And here let it be noted, what sort of knowledge of a right Mr. Stoddard, and so Mr. Williams, means in this argument. It is lènowledge as distinguished from such an opinion, or hope, as is founded in probability. Thus Mr. Stoddard expressly insists, that a man must not only think he has a right, but he must know it. Appeal. p. 62. And again, p. 63, he says, probable hopes will not warrant him to come.

Mr. Williams uses many peremptory, strong expressions, p. 109, to set forth the certainty of that which never was denied ; viz., that a man cannot know he has a right, unless he knows he has the qualification which gives him a right. But this is not the thing in question: the point is, whether a man may not have a lawful right, or may not lawfully come, and yet not know his right, with such a knowledge and evidence as is beyond all probability ? This is the thing asserted, and herein lies the argument. And the negative of this cannot be stood to and maintained, in order to maintain Mr. Williams's scheme, without the grossest absurdity; it being a position which, according to Scripture, reason, and Mr. Stoddard's doctrine, and Mr. Williams's own, effectually destroys his scheme.

If it be said here, those who have been born of baptized ancestors, though they do not comply with the terms of the covenant, are in covenant, in this sense, that they have a right to the promises of the covenant conditionally, in case they will hereafter comply: 1 an

se they will hereafter comply: I answer, so are all mankind in covenant God may be said to have bound himself conditionally to thein all ; and many have these promises de elared ri tham that coll unnin Toure Mohnmetone or Hanthand

To this purpose I observed, if this proposition be true, that no man may come, save he which not only thinks, but knows he has a right, then it will follow, that no unconverted person may come, unless he knows that doctrine to be true, that unconverted men may have a right. Because an unconverted man cannot know that one in particular (viz., he himself), who is an unconverted man, has a right, unless he knows that doctrine which Mr. Stoddard maintained, to be true, viz., that men may have a right, though they are unconverted. And consequently no one unconverted man may lawfully come to the Lord's supper, unless he is so knowing in this point of controversy, as not only to think, and have probable evidence, that this opinion is right, but knows it to be so. Mr. Williams endeavors to help the matter by a distinction of different kinds of knowledge: and by the help of this distinction would make it out, that common people in general, and even boys and girls of sixteen years old, may with ease know that his doctrine about unsanctified men's awfully coming to the Lord's supper, is true. And we must understand him (as he is defending Mr Stoddard's argument) that they may know it with that evidence that is distin. guished from probability; and this according to Mr. Williams himself, is certainty; which he speaks of as above a thousand probabilities. See p. 118. But how miserable is this! To pretend that this doctrine about qualifications for sacraments, is so far from a disputable point, that it is of such plain and obvious evidence, to common people and even children, that without being studied in divinity, they may not only think it to be exceeding probable, but know it to be true! When it is an undeniable fact, that multitudes of the greatest ability and piety, that have spent their lives in the study of the holy Scriptures, have never so much as thought so.

Again, I observed, that according to Mr. Stoddard's doctrine, not one unconverted man in the world can know that he has warrant to come to the Lord's supper; because if he has any warrant, God has given him warrant in the Scriptures : and therefore if any unconverted man, not only thinks, but knows, that he has warrant from God, he must of consequence not only think, but know the Scriptures to be the word of God. Whereas it was the constant doctrine of Mr. Stoddard, that no unconverted man knows the Scriptures to be the word of God.* But Mr. Williams would make it out, that Mr. Stoddard did hold, unconverted men might know the Scriptures to be the word of God; but only not know it with ".a gracious knowledge, such as effectually bowed men's hearts, and influenced them to a gracious obedience," p. 113. But let us see whether it was so, or not. Mr. Stoddard in his Nature of saving Conversion, p. 73, says, “ The carnal man is ignorant of the divine authority of the word of God; -- his wound is, that he does not know certainly the divine authority of these institutions; he does not know but they are the inventions of men." Again, Ibid. p. 74, he says, “ The carnal man is uncertain of those things that are the foundation of his reasonings. He thinks there is a great probability of the truth of these things; but he has no assurance. His principles are grounded on an

* I did not say, that it was also a doctrine according to Scripture ; for there was no occasion for this, among those with whom I had chiefly to do in this controversy; with whom I knew it was a point as much settled and uncontroverted, as any doctrine of Mr. Stoddard whatever. And I knew it to be the current doctrine of orthodox divines; who ever allow this doctrine to be implied in such texts as those, John xvii. 7 1 John iv. 14, 16, chap. v. 1, 10, and many other places.

« AnteriorContinuar »