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anxious to impress it upon your mind, that Christianity, apart from its distinguishing doctrines (if it be possible to conceive of so stránge a disruption of body and soul, in that which will endure for ever), will have no firm hold upon the heart; nor, in those great conjunctures where its aid is most necessary, can it reasonably be expected to have any abiding influence upon the conduct. I wish you, farther, to believe (and trust I shall, ere I close these letters, succeed in causing you to believe) that there is no intermediate ground in argument, which a fair, candid, and unsophistical reasoner can render tenable, between pure Deism, and moderate orthodoxy; that is, between the system exploded in my first letter, and that which in the remainder of the series I purpose to defend. Let me also be permitted to remark, that it is no new scheme of religion which I am recommending for your adoption. I have not argued, nor will I argue, exclusively in favour of Calvinism, or Arminianism, or Methodism, or any set of opinions of human fabrication; but shall endeavour to attain that middle point where all that is good in either seems to meet, and all that is exceptionable to be excluded; (g) and therefore
(9) Since the publication of the first edition of these Letters, I have met with two passages in the writings of Dr. Watts, which, as they very clearly express sentiments on the disputed topics, analogous to those which I have long entertained, I shall beg leave to transcribe into this note.
“Let it be observed that when the Remonstrants assert that Christ “ died for all mankind, merely to purchase conditional salvation for “them, and when those who profess to be the strictest Calvinists assert " that Christ died only and merely to procure effectual pardon and salva6tion for the elect; it is not because the whole Scripture every where
shall defend those sentiments and doctrines which are so clearly contained in the Bible, that none deny them who are not in consequence compelled to give up the authority of some part of Sacred Writ,which were held and taught by the ablest and best men in the first three centuries, which warmed the breasts of saints and martyrs,—which have inspired the hopes and regulated the conduct of a great majority of pious
66 expressly or plainly reveals or asserts the particular sentiments of " either of these sects, with an exclusion of the other : but the reason of " these different assertions of men is this, that the holy writers in differ“ ent texts, pursuing different subjects, and speaking to different per: " sons, sometimes SEEM to favour each of these two opinions; and men “ being at a loss to reconcile them by any medium, run into different “ extremes, and entirely follow one of these tracks of thought, and ne66 glect the other. But surely, if there can be a way found to reconcile " these two doctrines of the absolute salvation of the elect, by the obe. “ dience, righteousness, and death of Christ procuring it for them, with 66 all things necessary to the possession of it; and also of the conditional 66 salvation provided for all mankind, and offered to them in the Gospel, " through the all-sufficient and overflowing value of the obedience and 66 sufferings of Christ ; this will be the most fair, natural, and easy way " of reconciling these different texts of Scripture, without any strain or “ torture put upon any of them.” Watts's Ruin and Recovery of Mankind, Quest. 13. See also, Baxter on Doctrinal Controversies, pp. 17, 18; and the Rev. Robert Hall's preface to the 3d edition of his father's “ Help to Zion's Travellers.”
The second passage relates to the Divinity of Christ. “In my younger “ years (says he) when I endeavoured to form my judgment on that arti. “ cle, the Socinians were the chief or only popular opponents. Upon (1 an honest search of the Scripture, and a comparison of their notions 66 with it, I wondered how it was possible for any person to believe the “ Bible to be the Word of God, and yet to believe that Jesus Christ " was a mere man. So perverse and preposterous did their sense of the " Scripture appear, that I was amazed how men, who pretended to rea" son above their neighbours, could wrench and strain their understand« ings, and subdue their assent to such interpretations. And I am of " the same mind still.” Pref. to Chris. Doct, of Trinity.
so general denomination, and yet humiliating as a 56 special badge, for every thing that ignorance and “ folly may mistake for fanaticism, or that malice may 56 wilfully assign to it. Whenever a grave formalist “ feels it his duty to sneer at those operations of reli“ gion on the passions which he never felt, he has
only to call them methodistical ; and notwithstanding “ that the word is both so trite and so vague, he feels “ as if he had uttered a good pungent thing. There 5 is satiric smartness in the word, though there be none 6 in the man. In default of keen faculty in the mind, ç it is delightful thus to find something that will do 56 as well, ready bottled up in odd terms. It is equally " convenient to a profligate, or a coxcomb, whose “ propriety of character is to be supported by laughing “ indiscriminately at all the symptoms of religion; the “ one to evince that his courage is not sapped by con“ science, the other to make the best advantage of his s instinct of catching at impiety as a substitute for “ sense. Each feels that he has manfully set them “ down, when he has called them methodism. Such “ terms have a pleasant facility of throwing away the “ matter in question to scorn, without any trouble of 66 making a definite, intelligible charge of extravagance “ or delusion, and attempting to prove it.” (s)
Others, to give vent to their contempt, may characterise you as evangelical. And “ such is the new “ meaning now assigned to old terms, that we doubt “ if the application of the epithet in question would “not excite a sneer, if not a suspicion, in some minds
(9) Foster’s Essays, vol. ii. Lett. 1.
5 against the character of Isaiah himself, were we to
name him by his ancient denomination, The Evan“ gelical Prophet. This laconic term includes a “ diatribe in a word. It is established into a sweeping “ term of derision of all serious Christians, and its 5 compass is stretched to such an extent as to involve
within it every shade and shape of real or fictitious " piety from the elevated, but sound and sober Chris“ tian, to the wildest and most absurd fanatic; its * large enclosure takes in all, from the most honour" able heights of erudition to the most contemptible “ depths of ignorance. Every man who is serious, and “ every man who is silly ; every man who is holy, and “ every man who is mad, is included in this compre“ hensive epithet. We see perpetually that solidity, “sublimity, and depth, are not found a protection “ against the magic mischief of this portentous appel“ lation.” (1)
The men, who are so fond of employing terms of reproach to designate those who think that religion is something more than a mere matter of speculation, seem to have forgotten that the first and most indispensable requisite in religion is seriousness ; and that levity in religion upon religious topics, or sneering at men who are in earnest whenever such topics are in troduced, has a very prejudicial effect upon those who indulge in such practices. Of such you may call the attention to the sentiments of a late venerable moralist and divine, as exhibited in the passage below. “ The turn which this leyity usually takes is in
(t) Mrs. More’s Christian Morals, vol. ii. p. 81.
“ jests and raillery upon the opinions, or the pecu“ liarities, or the persons, of men of particular sects, 5 or who bear particular names: especially if they “ happen to be more serious than ourselves. And o “ late this loose, and I can hardly help calling it pro“ fane, humour has been directed chiefly against the 6 followers of methodism. But against whomsoever 6s it happens to be pointed, it has all the bad effects, “ both upon the speaker and the hearer, which we have “ noticed ; and as in other instances, so in this, give 6 me leave to say that it is very much misplaced. In 66 the first place, were the doctrines and sentiments “ of those who bear this name ever so foolish and ex66 travagant (I do not say that they are either), this “ proposition I shall always maintain to be true, viz. « that the wildest opinion that ever was entertained, " in matters of religion, is more rational than un“ concern about these matters. Upon this subject “ nothing is so absurd as indifference: no folly so " contemptible as thoughtlessness and levity. In the “ next place, do methodists deserve this treatment? “ Be their particular doctrines what they may, the “ professors of these doctrines appear to be in earnest “6 about them: and a man who is in earnest about “ religion cannot be a bad man, still less a fit subject “ for derision. I am no methodist myself. In their “ leading doctrines I differ from them. But I contend 66 that sincere men are not for these, or indeed any, 6 doctrines, to be made laughing-stocks to others. I “ do not bring in the case of the methodists for the 6 purpose of vindicating their tenets, but for the pur