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Some Observations upon the Original Constitu

tion of the Christian Church,

In a letter to the author of the book bearing

that title.

[First published in the year 1730.]

Stand ye in the ways, and fee, and ask forithe old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye hall , find rest for your souls : but they said, We will not walk

therein, Jer. vi. 16. Set thee up way-marks, make thee high heaps : set thing

heart toward the high-way, even the way which thox wenteft : turn again, o virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. Jer. xxxi. 21.

S I R, | Have seen your performance, wherein I find you take

fome notice of the explication of my proposition. And

it being now more than a year since the principles maintained in that explication were fome way impugned in the defence of national churches, and further defended in my answer, which stands to this day without any return, I expected that some notice would have been taken by you of what I offer in that answer; as also of my fpeech before the commission, published fome months before your book; especially considering your objections are mostly obviated in these papers of mine: but feeing you have not meddled with them, perhaps because you have not seen them, I desire you will do me the justice to consider them; and when you have offered something in the confutation of them, I thall either receive light, or know how to defend my principles, without being put to the trouble of answering objections that stand fufficiently anfwered already, and must be held as answered, till such time as you, or some other, thew the insufficiency of the answers.

In the mean time I presume to offer you some observations of mine upon your performance. As,

OBSERVATION I.. I find you still upon the old tract of the contenders for classical presbytery against the Independents: and as I always thought, they discovered another fpirit in this dispute, than in some other controversies wherein they have been en. gaged; so they have cast you a copy in several things, where. in I humbly judge it was not ycur duty to follow them. As,

1. It was always their way, to fly to human authority when they came to the pinch, in a question which is only to be decided by the word of God, and to boast exceedingly in that authority, and almost anathematise those who take upon them to differ from so many, so learned, fo godly men, for pretending to be straitencd where they were not strairened, and to fee what they could not fee. You follow them exact. ly in this; and so do you likewise in having recourse to com. mentators, when you cannot otherwise instruct your sense of a text; as if the sense of scripture were to be found out by plurality of voices among those commentators. Yea, I find you sometimes fain to use the authority of Dr Owen. But if his authority be a good argument in some cases, why not in others also ? and if his authority be not a sufficient argument to convince yourself, why do you bring it to convince me? · 2. It has been the way of these writers, to tell stories of the divisions among the Independents, and of the things that befel apostates from the congregational way, and of the seco taries, and charge them all upon congregational principles as the.cause; and herein they allo copied after the Papists. But though this way of doing might pass near an hundred years ago; yet the stories of these vile writers, Edwards and Bastwick, come up again now with vast disadvantage, after they have been confuted, for so long a tract of time, by the congrega. tional churches in England, ftanding monuments of the falle. hood of their charges, and of the vanity of their lying pro: phecies. Their vile stories and calumnies put me in mind of the methods wherein Christianity was opposed, when it came abroad in the world : and your innuendo about silly women, when you would apply the Apostle's prophecy, that was evi. dently fulfilled in the Popish church, unto Independents, is very like what the Heathens said sometimes againl Chri

ftians, who, they alledged, “ gathered a company of the very “ dregs and refuse of the people, and Gilly credulous women, « who, by the weakness of their sex, are easily imposed up. “ on, and combined into a wicked confederacy.

3. There was never a greater application of metaphysics unto scripture texts, to darken and perplex them, than that which has been made by the writers for classical presbyterý against the Independents; and you would ape them in this also. I must say, you do it in a very diverting manneř on i Cor. xiv, 23. 24. “ If therefore the whole church be come * together into one place,” &c. when you tell, this must be understood in a distributive sense; and that their prophesying, and one coming in that believed not, is to be taken for their doing this in their distinct congregational meetings. Men of a very metaphysical genius have been engaged in this controverly; and, as I fee by your book, that you learned some school-terms; so your reasonings upon the words if and all, in that text, upon which you make this exquisite distinction, do convince me, that, if you had but a little more access to converse in a certain learned place, you might be inrolled a. mong the writers for classical presbytery against Independ. ents. Í must also say this for you, that you know where to use your distinctions ; for where you imagine any shadow of scripture for you, there must be no diftinétion.

4. You likewise follow the example of these writers, in the intolerable confidence which they express in an argument, they sometimes use, when scripture fails them, viz. That it would be an imputation too injurious on Christ and his apo. Iles, to suppose, that they ordered otherwise than according to the Presbyterian scheme. These writers, and you after them, put on an air of infallibility, and thereupon freely use all manner of reflections on the Independents, while, at the same time, you take the least insinuation of a reflection from an Independent, as a thing altogether intolerable. You injure not an Independent, when you tell him, as confidently as the Pope can tell Protestants, that he is in a dangerous error and a delusion; that he is void of sense and candor; that he is a child, or a Jesuite, a fool, or a rogue; But if an Inde: - pendent should be so bold as to desire more sense, or more candor in your arguings, or affirm with confidence, that he is in the right, and you in the wrong; then, as if you were the only men that had right to judge, not only for yourselves, but for all others, you pronounce the Independent too arro. gant, too uncharitable, and what not. You may say whać,

VOL. I.

.

YON

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you please, without proof, make conjectures, lay down fup. positions, and explain scriptures by them, and make what in. ferences you will from scriptures, and the Independent must receive all for undoubted truth; but he must not open his lips without the strictest demonstration.

I know that no dispute of this kind can be carried on by fallible men, and subject to passions, without manifold disco. veries of human frailty, which each of the parties in their turn will not fail to spy out very narrowly, and aggravate to the utmost, while they overlook what is amiss about them. selves, or put the best construction upon it; but seeing we are liable to mistakes, and wrong biasies, an air of infallibili. ty and contempt of the understandings of them that differ from us, as to the strength of our inferences, upon such a question as this is, very ill becomes us, at least it ill becomes Protestants. And if it were given to you and me “ to lay « alide all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisies and en. « vies, and all evil speakings; and as new born babes to deo fire the sincere milk of the word, not following a multitude “ to do evil,” nor « leaning to our own understanding, but “ trusting in the Lord with all our heart," and giving up ourselves as wcaned children to the conduct of his word, I am persuaded we would either soon come to be of one mind in this matter, or “ forbear one another in love."

OBSERVATION II. Your book has confirmed me in an opinion that I have for some time entertained. I was of opinion, that it is not meet to manage the cause of classical and national prelbytery against the Episcopalians and independents both in one and the same book. And when I say I am confirmed in this by read. ing your books, I intend no reflection on your ability for dispute : for, I am persuaded, the ableft defender of presby. tery on earth would find himself hard put to it in a conflict with both these adversaries at once ; even as a Prelatist would be in a wretched condition in an engagement with Papists and Anti prelatists at the same time. It is far the wiser course to have one of these parties for a second, when you would fight with the other. And I am not surprised at your apology for your temper, which is owing to your situation betwixt two such mi. serable comforters. The Episcopalian was able to give you some comfort against the Independent, by his unity and order and catholic uniformity; for which he is obliged to his friend

the

you with the land mistake an, by thatvafford you fom

the Papilt ; and the Independent could afford you some com : fort against the Episcopalian, by that very thing which you reckon his grand mistake ; and when the Episcopalian vexed you with the antiquity of that saying, “ One bishop and one ó church," the Independent could have comforted you a. gainst him exceedingly, with that ancient word of his, “ One « church and one altar.” But then it might be inquired, what becomes of classical prelbytery? and I confess that is indeed the question.' Bur I am sure the greatest Presbyterian writers against Episcopacy have comforted themselves much with this independent cordial : and what Presbyterian writer is it, that has not taken fume comfort this way against the Episcopalians, especially on the Itate of things in the three first centuries? You yourself, that complain of both these comforters, are yet obliged to take some comfort from them; and while you are warmly engaged with one of them, you are glad to have some respite from the other. If I be mista. ken in this, you will correct me; but I will give you some instances. As,

1. When you write against the Episcopalians, you shew a warm zeal for the word of God, and the pattern expressly laid down there, in opposition to what crept in afterward, with the fairest thew of wisdom. But when you write against the Independents, you are for some things that your wisdom judges moft necessary unto decency and order, that do not appear in the first formation of churches by the apostles ; and these are such things as ecclesiastic courts meeting in the name and authority of Jesus Christ. And it is your judg. ment, that the rulers of the churches are authorised to deter. mine the number of judicatures in any kingdom where Chri. stianity is universally professed, when they are to be divided or sub-divided, according to the different circumstances of churches and places; and this by virtue of the apostulical di. rection, “ That all things should be done decently and in or. « der,” or according as they find the exigencies and edifica. tion of the whole body may be best advanced. Thus, while you will not suffer the Episcopalians, for decency and order, to set one church officer over a prelbytery and diocese, for the edification of the whole, you yourself, for decency and order, establish three church courts, for which you have as little scripture warrant as he has for his officer, even kirk seffions, provincial and national synods, p. 213. 258. 254. 260. And the thing you drive at in this, even the adaptig of the government of the church to the constitutions of the king. Cg2

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