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re not convinceding the word of together: th
uncertain proposition.” And he observes, p. 20, “Men when converted, do pot look upon it as probable, that the word is his word, as they did before ; but they have assurance of the truth of it.”-So elsewhere (Guide to Christ, p. 26), “ They that have not grace, do not properly believe the word of God." And in another book (Safety of Ap. p. 6), “The Gospel always works effectually where it is believed and received as the truth of God.” In another book (Benef. of the Gosp. p. 159), “ Common illumination does not convince men of the truth of the gospel.” In his discourse on the Virtue of Christ's Blood, p. 27, speaking of such as have no interest in the blood of Christ, he says, “They are strangers to the divine authority of the word of God.” Again (Ibid. p. 16), “ Before [i. e. before saving faith), they were at a loss whether the word was the word of God.” To the like purpose are many other passages in his writings. See Nat. of Sav. Conv. p. 72, Safety of Ap. p. 67, 99, 107, 186, 187, 229, Benef. of the Gosp. p. 89.
So that here, if it be true, that some unconverted men have a divine warrant to come to the Lord's supper; and if the thing which is the foundation of this argument, be also true, viz., that in order to men's warrantably coming to the Lord's supper, they must not only think, but know they have a right; then it must be true likewise, that they not only think, but know, that the Scripture, wherein this warrant is supposed to be delivered, is the word of Gor. And then we. have the following propositions to make hang together : that unconverted men are ignorant of the Scriptures being the word of God, are uncertain of it, have no assurance of it, are not convinced of it, do not properly believe it, are at a loss whether it be the word of God or not; and yet they not only think, but know, that the Scriptures are the word of God, and that the gospel, which is the charter of all Christian privileges, is divine ; they have a knowledge of it which is above all proSable hope or thought, and attended with evidence above a thousand probabilities.
And now let it be considered, whether this agrees better with Mr. Williams's own doctrine, concerning men's knowing the truth and divine authority of the gospel, in what has been before cited from his sermons on Christ a King and Witness. Where he expressly says, “That man, since the fall, is ignorant of livine truth, and full of prejudices against it; has a view of the truth contained in the Bible, as a doubtful, uncertain thing; receives it as what is probably true; sees it as a probable scheme, and something likely to answer the end proposed : but that after conversion it appears divinely true and real." See p. 114, 115, and 144. Then unconverted men only looked on the truth of the word of God, as probable, something likely, yet as a doubtful, uncertain thing ; but now they not only think, but know it to be true. .
No distinction about the different kinds of knowledge, or the various ways of knowing, will ever help these absurdities, or reconcile such inconsistencies. If there be any such sort of knowing, as is contradistinguished to probable thinking, and to such opinion as is built on a thousand probabilities, which is yet consistent with being ignorant, not believing, being uncertain, not assured, not convinced, only looking on a thing probable, looking on it doubtful and uncerlain, it must certainly be a new and very strange sort of knowledge.
But this argument, that is so clear and invincible, must have such supports as these, or must quite sink to the earth. It is indeed a remarkable kind of argument. It is not only as much against the scheme it is brought to support, as against that which it would confute; but abundantly more so. For if it were the case in truth, that none might come to the Lord's supper, but they that know they have a right, yet it would be no direct and proper proof, that unconverted men might come. It would indeed prove, that many godly men might not come: which, it is true, would bring some difficulty on the scheme opposed ; yet it would be no proof against it. But it is direct and perfect deinonstration against the scheme it would support : it demonstrates according to the Scrip, ture, and according to the doctrine of those that urge the argument, that not one unconverted man in the world may lawfully come to the Lord's supper; as no one of them certainly knows the gospel to be divinè, and so no one knows the charter to be authentic, in which alone the right of any to Christian privileges is conveyed; hence no one unsanctified man is sure of his right; and therefore (as they draw the consequence) no one unsanctified man may come to the Lord's supper. And so it follows, that the more strongly Mr. Williams stands to this argument, the more peremptory and confident his expressions are concerning it, the more violently and effectually does he supplant himself.
And ihis position, that a man must not take any privilege, till he not only thinks, but knows he has a right, is not only unreasonable, as used by Mr. Williams against me, when indeed it is ten times as much against himself ; but it is unreasonable in itself, as it is an argument, which if allowed and pursued, will prove that a man may do nothing at all, never move hand or foot, for his own advantage, unless he first, not only thinks, but knows, it is his duty. Mr. Williains himself owns, p. 116, that all the duties, which God requires of us in his instituted worship, are privileges, as well as the Lord's supper : and so is every other duty, which we are to do for our own benefit. But all human actions are, upon the whole, either good or evil : every thing that we do as rational creatures, is either a duty, or a sin ; and the neglect of every thing that is our duty, is forbidden. So that we must never so much as take a step, or move a finger, upon only a probable judgment and hope ; but must first know it to be our duty, before we do it: nay, we must neither move, nor voluntarily forbear to move, without a certainty of our duty in the case, one way or other !
As to its being alike difficult for men to know or be assured of their moral sincerity, as of their real sanctification, I shall speak to that under the next head; whereby it will appear again, another way, that this argument is vastly more against Mr. Williams's scheme, than mine.
SECTION XVI. A consideration of Mr. W.'s defence of the 10th Objection, against the doctrine of the unlawfulness of unsanctified men's coming to the Lord's Supper, that it tends to the great perplexity and tormentof'many godly men in their attendance on this ordinance.
My first reply to this objection was, that it is for want of like tenderness of conscience, that the other doctrine which insists on moral sincerity, does not naturally bring such as are received on those principles, into as great perplexities.-Mr. Williams in his animadversion upon it says, “ This is an assertion which I take to be contrary to common sense, and the experience of mankind; and the allowing of it to be true, must overthrow the law of nature, and cast infinite reproach upon the author of it."
These are strong expressions; but let us bring the matter to the test of reason. The necessary qualification, on Mr. Williams's principles, is moral sincerity, and a certain degree of moral sincerity. For there is scarcely any man, that lives under the light of the gospel, and is not an atheist or deist, but what has some degree of moral sincerity, in some things pertaining to Christianity and his duty; some degree of common faith, some degree of conviction of the need of Christ, some desire of him, and moral willingness, though from selfish considerations, to be good; and some purpose to endeavor a conformity to the covenant of grace and to seek salvation on the terms of it. But how shalla man know what is a sufficient degree of these things ? Mr. W. has determined the matter thus .
that his belief of the doctrine of the gospel, and moral willingness to be conformed to the covenant of grace, must be with his whole heart, p. 49, 5, 36 : and that his conviction of his undone state without Christ must be deep; and his desire of Christ and his benefits fervent, and his purpose earnest, p. 75, 11, so as to induce hiin to enter into covenant with all the earnestness he can, and engage him to use endeavors with all the strength and power that he has, p. 83, 32, 36. .
Now how exceedingly difficult must it be for unsanctified men to determine, with any assurance, whether they have moral sincerity to such a degree! How difficult for them to know, whether their convictions are thus deep! Every one that is used to deal with souls under conviction, knows, that when they are indeed under deep convictions, they are especially apt to complain of the hardness of their hearts, and to think their convictions are not deep. How difficult to determine, with any assurance, whether their assent rises so high, that they can truly be said to believe with all their hearts! Whether their moral willingness to be conformed to the covenant of grace, be with their whole heart! And whether they are really engaged with all the solicitude they can, and are willing to do all that they can! These things, I am pretty sure, are of vastly more difficult determination, than whether a man has any true holiness, or not. For in the former case, the determination is concerning the degree of things, that are capable of an infinite variety of degrees; some of which are nearer to, and others are farther from, the lowest sufficient degree: and consequently some of the degrees that are not sufficient, may yet be very near; which renders the matter of very difficult determination; unspeakably more so, than when what is to be distinguished, is the nature of things, which in all degrees is widely diverse, and even contrary to that which it is to be distinguished from : as is the case between saving and common grace; which Mr. Williams himself acknowledges.* It is more easy to distinguish light from darkness, though there may be innumerable degrees of light, than to determine the precise degree of light: and so it is more easy to determine, whether a man be alive, or dead, than whether there be exactly such a degree of vigor and liveliness.
This moral sincerity which Mr. Williams insists on, is a most indeterminate, uncertain thing; a phrase without any certain, precise meaning; and must forever remain so. It being not determined how much men must be morally sincere; how much they must believe with a moral sincerity; whether the deeply awakened and convinced sinner must believe, that God is absolutely sovereign with respect to his salvation, and that Christ is perfectly sufficient to save him in particular; and to what degree of moral assent and consent, he must believe and embrace these things, and comply with the terms of the covenant of grace; whether he must be willing to obey all God's commands, the most difficult, as well as the most easy, and this in all circumstances, even the most difficult that can arise in providence; or whether only in some circumstances; and what, and how many. The Scripture gives us many infallible rules, by which to distinguish saving grace, and common: but I know of no rules given in the Bible, by which men may certainly determine this precise degree of moral sincerity. So that if grace is not the thing which gives a right to sacraments in the sight of God, we have no certain rule in the Bible, commensurate to the understanding of mankind, by which to determine when we have a right, and when not Now let the impartial reader judge, which scheme lays the greatest foundation for perplexity to communicants, of tender consciences, concerning their qualifications for the Lord's supper; and whether this argument drawn from such a
. See his sermon on Christ a King and Witness, p. 84, where he says, "Notwithstanding the visible likeness of rumina. and reai Christians, there is a wide difference, as there is between the subjects of Chvist, ani! t'c slaves of the devil."
supposed tendency to such perplexity (if there by any force in it), is not vastly more against Mr. Williams's scheme, than mine.
And, here by the way, let it be noted, that by these things it is again de monstrated, that the ninth objection, the great argument considered in the pre ceding section, concerning the necessity of a known right, in order to a lawful partaking, is exceedingly more against Mr. Williams's principles, than mine ; inasmuch as, on his principles, it is so much more difficult for men to know whether they have a right, or have the prescribed qualification, or not.
I answered this arguinent in the second place, by alleging that this doctrine of the necessity of saving grace in order to a right to the Lord's supper, is not properly the cause of the perplexities of doubting saints, in their attendance on this ordinance; though it may be the occasion : but that their own negligence and sin is the true cause ; and that this doctrine is no more the cause of these perplexities, than the doctrine of the necessity of saving grace in order to salvation, is the cause of the perplexity of doubting saints when they come to die. Upon which Mr. Williams says, “ There is no shadow of resemblance of these cases, because death is no ordinance," &c. But if death is no ordinance, yet it is the required duty of the saints to yield themselves to the Lord, and resign to the will of God, in their death. And in this respect the cases are exactly parallel, that perplexities are just so much the consequence of the respective doctrines, in one case as in the other; that is, the perplexities of a doubting saint on a death-bed, the difficulty and trouble he meets with in resigning bimself to the will of God in dying, is just in the same manner the consequence of the doctrine of the necessity of saving grace in order to eternal salvation, as the perplexities of a doubting saint at the Lord's table are the consequence of the doctrine of the necessity of saving grace in order to a right to the Lord's supper. And this is sufficient for my purpose.
Mr. Williams himself says, in his answer to Mr. Croswell, p. 122, " Although there are comparatively few that obtain assurance; yet it is through their own sloth and negligence, that they do not. We fully agree with M. Perkins that a man in this life may ordinarily be infallibly certain of his salvation.” So Mr. Stoddard, in his sermon on One good Sign, says, “ There is no necessity that the people of God should lie under darkness and temptation ; they may obtain assurance.” Now, if this be the case, then certainly there is no justice in Jaying the temptation and uneasiness, which is the effect of sloth and negligence, to the doctrine I maintain, in those that embrace it. It is a wise dispensation of God, that he has so ordered things, that comfort in ordinances, and in all duties, and under all providences, should be to be obtained in a way of diligence; and that slothfulness should be the way to perplexity and uneasiness, and should be a way hedged up with thorns, agreeable to Prov. xv. 19. That it is so ordered, is for the good of the saints, as it tends to turn them out of this thorny path, into the way of diligence. And so this doctrine, as it • has this tendency, has a tendency in the end to that solid peace and comfort, which is the happy fruit of their holy diligence. And that, and not the saints' perplexity, is properly the effect of this doctrine.
SECTION XVII. Containing some further Observations on what is said by Mr. Williams in support of the
13th Objection, concerning God's commanding all the Members of the visible Church, that are not ignorant nor scandalous, to attend all external Covenant Duties.
It has been already demonstrated (sect. 8th of this third part) that in this Argument the question is begged, notwithstanding what Mr. Williams has said
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same store that thinord's support
; to the contrary; which sufficiently overthrows the whole argument. Never
theless, that I may pass by nothing, which such as are on Mr. Williams's side may be likely to think material; I will here make some further observations on this objection, as represented and supported by Mr. Williams.
The chief thing that has the plausible appearance of argument in what Mr. Stoddard and Mr. Williams say on this head, is this ; that“ for God to require all who are in covenant to come to the Lord's supper, and yet to forbid them to come unconverted, is to suppose, that he both commands them, and forbids them at the same time.” And this is thought to be the more manifest, inasmuch as conversion is not in men's power. Though it is not denied, but that God justly requires men to be converted, or to be truly holy. See p. 129, 130.
To this I would say,
(1.) If when they speak of commanding and forbidding at the same time, they mean God's commanding and forbidding the same thing, at the same time, no such consequence follows from my principles. For that thing, and that only, which I suppose God requires of any, is to come to the Lord's supper with a sanctified heart; and that this God requires at all times, and never forbids at any time; and that to come without this qualification, is what he always forbids, and requires at no time. So that what he requires, at the same time he forbids something, is not the same thing that he forbids; but a very different and contrary one: and it is no absurdity, to suppose, that God requires one thing, and forbids a contrary thing at the same time. ry. To illustrate this by an example: it was the duty of the Jews at Jerusalem, openly to confess CHRIST, to own him as the Messiah, at that hour when he was led away to be crucified, and openly to testify their adoring respect to him on that extraordinary occasion. But yet they did not believe him to be the Messiah, and could not believe it (many of them at least), since they looked on his present abject circumstances as a demonstration, that he was not the Messiah. It was beyond their power, at least at once, in that instant to give their assent, with all their hearts, to such a supposition. Nor was it in their power, to exercise an adoring respect to him : for besides their strong prejudices, most of them were judicially hardened, and given up to a spirit of unbelief and obstinate rejection of him; as appears by that account, John xii. 39, 40, " Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes," &c. See also Luke xix. 41, 42, and Matt. xiii. 14, 15. And yet it would have been unlawful for them to have made a lying profession; to profess, that they believed him to be the Messiah, and that they received and loved him as such, when at the same time they hated him, and did not believe he was the Messiah. But here is no requiring and forbidding the same thing at the same time: for the only thing required of them was, to have faith and love, and to testify it ; which was not at all forbidden.
(2.) None of the difficulties which Mr. Stoddard or Mr. Williams objects, either God's supposed requiring impossibilities, or his requiring and forbidding at the same time, do follow, any more on my principles, than on Mr. Williams's Mr. Williams maintains, that God calls men this moment to enter into cove nant with him, and commands them to do it, p. 28 One thing implied in this, according to his own frequent explanation of visibly entering into covenant, is professing a belief of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Now therefore we will suppose a man to be a candidate for baptism, who has been brought up in Arianism; and is strongly persuaded that the doctrine of the Txinity is not true: yet he is this moment required to profess that doctrine; but has no ability in a moment to believe the doctrine, because he does not at present see the