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is concerned : a consequence too absurd for any sober and considering man to admit ; and so I need not say more of it, but may pass on to a new article.
VIII. Another pretended rule or criterion for determining fundamentals, is universality of agreement among Christians so called : to throw out what is disputed, and to retain only what all agree in. A rule as uncertain in its application and use, as it is false in its main ground: for how shall any one know what all sects and denominations of Christians agree in, or how long they shall do so? Or if that could be known, are we to be guided by the floating humours, fancies, follies of men, or by the unerring wisdom of God? What article of faith is there which has not heretofore, or may not again be disputed? Or what creed can there be pitched upon, be it ever so short, that can please all y, or that some perverse sect or other may not controvert? The Romanists allow the Church governors to augment the number of fundamentals at discretion by their definitions : on the other hand, these Universalists, still worse, seem to allow any the wildest sectaries to abridge the number as they please, (by disputations,) and not for themselves only, but for all Christendom: for whatever is disputed by any of them, is by the supposition to be thrown out as unnecessary or non-fundamental. A strange expedient for healing differences : a remedy much worse than the disease. It must be owned that a comprehension or coalition of religious parties is a thing very desirable in itself; and so far
y Quidam toto theologiæ systemate, tionem harum quoque sectarum quas ac notorie fundamentalibus articulis tetigimus, cum Protestantibus moliti dissentiunt. Ad (quam) classem sunt, eoque fine vel symbolum Aporeferimus Socinianos, et qui hisce stolicum, vel aliam laxissimam formuproxime accedunt ; tum plerasque lam proposuerunt.--Nam si formula Anabaptistarum familias, Tremulos, concordiæ ita laxe concipiatur, ut seu Quackeros, et qui Fanaticorum eadem quibusvis sectariis ad palatum nomen merentur : qui articulos quos sit, theologia emerget oppido quam Protestantes palmarios habent, 'ne- jejuna ac mutila, et quam parum e gant, aut detorquent, et velut eva- solido Christianismo retineat. Pufcuant; ut amoto nucleo, inania tan- fendorf, Jus feciale Divin. sect. xvi. tum putamina remaneant. Sic ut p. 82. theologiæ systema ab istis formatum z Præstat salutiferam veritatem vel a nostro plane abeat, et vix circa alia inter pugnas et contradictiones retiinter eos conveniat quam quæ ex ipso nere, quam mendacio, altam inter naturalis rationis lumine cognita sunt. quietem, indormire. Sed nec ejus
-Circa quos, quamdiu hypothesi- modi concordiæ ratio est ineunda quæ bus suis innituntur, nobiscum con- vel Christianæ religionis indoli repugciliandos satagere, vesanie proximum, net, vel plures calamitates generet ac plane inutile duco &c.
quam illæ ipsæ dissensiones, non laEx quo et illud consequitur, ratio- cessitæ et irritatæ, prodicebant. Pufnem istos valde fugisse, qui concilia- fendorf, ibid. sect. lii.
as it can be effected by throwing out circumstantials and retaining only essentials, it is well worthy of every good man's thoughts and care: but to attempt the doing it by relaxing the rule for essentials, or leaving us no rule at all, or what is next to none, is a wild undertaking. If it may be called uniting, it is uniting in nothing but a cold indifference towards the weighty concerns of God and a world to come, which of course will be accompanied with so much the warmer pursuit of secular emoluments; for, in the same proportion as religious fervours abate, secular will succeed in their room. I forbear to be more particular in answer to this so popular pretence, because the learned Spanheim is beforehand with me, and has in a manner exhausted the argument under nine several articlesa. To recite what he says, at length, would be trespassing too far upon your patience, and to abridge what is so close and so well written would be doing it an injury, and much impairing its force. So I pass on to another head.
IX. There is another pretence, which proceeds upon a like bottom with what I last mentioned, but is looser still, and much more extravagant. For as that pitched upon the universal agreement of Christians so called, for its mark or rule to steer by, so this still fetching a wider compass, pitches upon the universal agreement of the whole race of mankind (or of the soberer part at least) in all ages, for its measure of fundamentals. Throw out all that has been disputed, not only between Christian and Christian, but between Christians and Pagans, or between Christians and Jews, or Mahometans, and make a short creed of the remainder, and there is your list of fundamentals, your terms of communion, reducible to five articles of natural religion, as is pretended. 1. The existence of a Deity. 2. Some kind of worship to be paid him. 3. The practice of moral virtue. 4. Repentance for sins past. 5. Belief of a future state of rewards and punishments.
a Frid. Spanheim. tom. iii. 1332, riorum censu fidem Christianam dis1333, 1334. Compare Hoornbeeck, punxit, eaque solummodo capita quæ Socin. Confut. p. 193, 206, &c. Bud- prudentiores Gentilium admiserunt, dæus, Miscellan. Sacr. tom. i. p. 320, in fundamentalibus habuit, qualia vide&c. Turretin. de Fundam. p. 13. licet; 1. Esse Deum. 2. Colendum
b Herbert de Religione Gentilium, eundem. 3. Virtuti operam dandam. c. i. sect. 15. de Veritate, p. 268, &c. 4. A peccatis resipiscendum. 5. Dede Causis Errorum, p. 31.
nique præmia et pænas post hanc Longe processit E. Herbertus, vir vitam expectandas. Frid. Spanheim. illustris, in suis de veritate, et causis vol. iii. p. 1294. Conf. Kortholt de errorum scriptis : in quibus e necessa- Trib. Impost. magn. p. II.
I shall not here waste your time in confuting a notion which confutes itself, and which ought rather to be exploded at once with abhorrence, than seriously answered. If infidelity in the worst sense, carried up to apostasy C, is not a fatal delusion, or if Christianity itself is not a necessary term of communion, it is in vain to attempt to prove any thing, or to say any thing upon the subject of fundamentals. But from hence we may observe what mazes of error the minds of men (and sometimes men of excellent sense otherwise) are exposed to, when once they recede from true and sound principles, and are set afloat to follow their own wanderings. The effect is natural, as error is infinite, and knows no bounds: and when vain presumption once gets the ascendant, and makes men full of themselves, God leaves them to themselves, and to their own inventions.
X. There is one pretence more which I have reserved for the last place, being as loose as any, and yet carrying so fair a face with it, that it may be most apt to deceive. It is to throw off all concern for a right faith, as insignificant, and to comprise all fundamentals in the single article of a good life, as they call it ; to which some are pleased to add faith in the Divine promises d. Well : but can we say any thing too much, or too high, in commendation of a good life, the flower and perfection of all religion, and the brightest ornament of every rational mind ? I do not say that we can ever think or speak too highly of it, provided only that it be rightly understood : but the more valuable a thing it is, the greater care should be taken to understand what it means, and not to repose ourselves on an empty name, instead of a real thing. There is not a more equivocal or ambiguous phrase than this of a good life: every different sect almost has its own peculiar idea of it : and though they may perhaps agree in some few generals, yet none of them agree in all the particulars that should go in to make up the one collective notion or definition of it. Jews, Turks, Pagans, and Infidels, as well as Christians, all talk of a good life, and each in their own sense : and the several denominations of Christians, as Papists and Protestants, believers and half believers, the soberest churchmen and the wildest sectaries, all equally claim a title to what they call a good life e. But do they all mean the same thing by it? No certainly: and there lies the fallacy. To be a little more particular, it is observable, that the infamous Apelles, of the Marcionite tribe, in the second century, (a man that discarded the prophecies of the Old Testament, and who denied the real humanity, or incarnation, of our blessed Lord, yet) pleaded this for a salvo, or cover for all his execrable doctrines, that a good life, together with a reliance upon Christ crucified, was sufficient for every thing. It is certain that he left out of his idea of a good life one essential ingredient of it, viz. a sincere love of truth, accompanied with an humble submission of his own conceits to the plain and salutary doctrine of the Gospel. Soagain, professed Deists have put in their claims, along with others, to the title of a good life, and have valued themselves upon it 5, under a total contempt of all recealed religion. It is manifest, they must have left out of their idea of a good life, the best ingredient of it ; namely, the obedience of faith. No doubt but moral probity is in itself an excellent quality, and I should be apt to value even a Turk, a Jew, or a Pagan, who enjoys it in any competent degree, more than the most orthodox Christian who is a stranger to it: but still it is but a part (though an essential part) of a good life, in the proper Christian sense ; for nothing comes up to the true and full notion of a good life, but universal righteousness both in faith and manners h. A right belief (in fundamentals at least) is implied and included in true obedience, as believing is submitting to Divine authority, and is obeying the commands of God i. It is a vain thing therefore to speak of a good life, as separate from saving belief, or knowledge, where such knowledge may be had k. The pretence to it carries this twofold absurdity along with it: it supposes the end already attained without the previous necessary means, and makes the whole to subsist without the essential parts. In short, there is no judging of a good life, but by considering first what it contains, and whether it answers its true idea or definition, or means only a partial obedience. A belief of fundamentals ought to make part of the idea, ordinarily at least: which therefore must be determined before we can form a just estimate of a good life. To deny or disbelieve the fundamental articles of Christianity, is a contradiction to the very nature and notion of true Christian obedience, and will always be a stronger argument against the supposition of a good life, than any other circumstances can be
c Infidelitatis species quatuor.
ter obedientiam mandatis divinis, et 1. Gentilismus, materialiter maxima positam in promissis evangelicis fiduinfidelitas, sed formaliter levior quam ciam, fundamentale nihil esse. TurJudaismus.
retin. p. 13, 14. Conf. Hoornbeeck, 2. Judaismus est gravior infidelitas, tom. i. p. 176. quia acceperunt figuram evangelii, Minus recte assertum aliis hoc criquæ erat quasi aurora respectu diei terium fieret; ea sola censeri debere evangelicæ.
necessaria, vel fundamentalia, quæ 3. Heresis, gravissima infidelitas, practica, quæ ad vitam et mores faciquæ renititur fidei claræ.
unt, quæ accommodata ad studium 4. Apostasia est fastigium hæreseos; pietatis excitandum. Unde quosdam, scilicet generalis defectio a fide. Rog. nostra ætate, promissionum, Boyle, Summ. Theolog. Christian. p. et præceptorum obedientia totum 204
Christianismum circumscripsisse cond Nonnulli eo usque restringunt stat. Frid. Spanh. tom. iii. p. 1334. fundamenta religionis, ut dicant, præ
e “ Salmeron, Costerus, Acosta, are 6. Mahometanism, Familism, and Ana“ so ingenuous as to confess expressly, baptism of late; and, unless God of “ that a life apparently good and “his infinite mercy prevent, may ruin “ honest is not proper to any one sect,
“ Christendom now.” Thomas Smith, “ but common to Jews, Turks, and Preface to his Translation of Daille's “ Heretics : and St. Chrysostom is as Apology, p. 31. “ plain and large to my purpose as
f Euseb. Eccl. Histor. v. c. 13. P. any of them. It is too plain, that 226.
arguing from the pretended holiness & Haud crucient animum quæ circa “ of men's lives to the goodness of relligionem vexantur lites; sit modo “their causeor opinion, is a paralogism vita proba. Baro. Herbert. apud Kor“ which hath advanced Arianism, Pe- tholt. p. 20. “ lagianism, and other heresies of old,
tl. Or if we may sometimes charitably hope or believe that such and such persons, erring fundamentally, and propagating their errors, are yet strictly honest men, and accepted by the great Searcher of hearts, as holding what is sufficient for them, and as doing the best they can ; yet this can be no rule for the Church to proceed by, which must judge by the nature and tendency of the doctrines, what is fundamental in an abstract view to the Christian fabric, as before intimated. As to what is so in a relative view to particular persons, God only is judge, and not we; and therefore to him we should leave it.
Having thus, my Reverend Brethren, recited, and competently examined the several improper or erroneous rules suggested by
h See Importance &c. vol. iii. p. “ articles of faith, is loudly proclaim47.8, &c. 566
ing him a liar? He that believeth i Íbid. p. 433, &c.
“not God, hath made him a liar, bek A late ingenious writer well ex- cause he believeth not the record presses this matter as follows : “ It is “ that God gave of his Son. 1 John v. « in vain to pretend to real purity of “ 10.” Dunlop's Preface to West“ heart, or life, without a belief of the minster Confession, p. 168. “ truth.-How is it possible that 1 See more in reference to this head, “ the man can be really good, who is in Frid. Spanheim, tom. iii. 1336. " constantly offering the highest af. Velthuysius, 698, 703, 742. Turretin, “ fronts to his Maker, and by a dis- p. 14. Hoornbeeck, p. 177–187. “ belief of the plain and important