Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

him, as not to give him the hearing, though he abode two days in their city; it was surely a very bad specimen of that faith and zeal, which you think would have engaged them to lay down their lives in his cause; as it would plainly shew, that they apprehended themselves very little concerned with him, how extraordinary a person soever he might be.

Presently after you mention another text, as it seems much with the same pious design, namely, that in which our Lord upbraids the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, saying, Oh fools, and slow of heart to believe! &c*. And then you add, "Can any one imagine, all this was merely because a narrative of four hours, had not wrought a thorough conviction?-Is it to be believed, that God would reproach any of his creatures with a defective intellect, when he was pleased to give them no better?" We have here, Sir, a complication of mistakes: The one (as in a former instance,) founded upon the impropriety of our translation, in rendering avonl‰s, fools, which (as I have elsewhere observed,†) ought to be translated, in a softer manner, thoughtless or inconsiderate creatures; which contains no reflection at all on the natural defect of their intellect, but on their culpable neglect of using the rational powers which they possessed. I cannot forbear adding, that if the miraculous illumination, which you suppose referred to, had been so irresistible and instantaneous, as you tell us it was, there would have been no room for any such reflection, and consequently the text would be left quite defenceless, which on the common. interpretation admits of so easy a solution.-There is another error in supposing, as you do, that the ground of this gentle reprehension was only, "that a narrative of four hours had not wrought a thorough conviction." If you mean by a narrative of four hours, our Lord's discourse with them as they were walking to Emmaus, it is unlucky indeed. For not to say, how many hours this conversation might employ, which is not very material; it is certain, this reproof was previous to the principal part of this conversation, as you will easily see in the passage itself, and referred to the opportunities they had enjoyed for months and years before, of acquainting themselves with the

* Luke xxiv. 25.

+ Family Expositor. Note on Luke xxiv. 25.

I find, since this Letter was gone to the press, the author is so conscious to himself, how little ground there was for this reflection, as to alter the passage in his second edition. But as he has not acknowledged any mistake, I did not think it needful to recal my papers, and shall leave the animadversion as it stands for those, who may have only seen the same edition I made use of in writing these remarks.

and mar

prophetic writings; which if they had den taily done, they would have judged it no crecie or more bable report, which they had received from the been at the sepulchre, and affirmed that Jeras the dead.

I shall take notice but of two passages more, which ou bare in like manner disguised, that you might the more east ; mare them. These are what you introduce in p. 78. where vou at "That the scripture-test and standard for finding out the stirt of truth is no more than this; Hereby shall ye kura tien Every one that confesseth that Christ is come in the desh, so if God. Now (say you) this is evidently what pilesor cers al arguing in a circle, and begging the question;"walen, seite way, are not quite synonymous terms :) "But in faith we see it is a necessary preliminary, He that cometh to Christ, wat believe that he is."-As to the latter part of this sentence, every body will perceive, that, however dignified by itales, it sa scripture of your own making. It is indeed said in the episte to the Hebrews, that he who cometh to God, must believe that it is*. The sense of which is plainly this, "that a persuasion of the being of a God must be the foundation of all rational religion, and particularly of all devotional addresses." And how a person of your sense could think of representing this as a circular argument, it is almost impossible to imagine; unless it were merely to humour the character you had assumed, of a christian whose rapturous and enthusiastical divinity might transport him into an entire forgetfulness of his logic, and perhaps teach him to reckon that forgetfulness among the special gifts of the Spirit, which he imagined he had received-But as to the former, or to speak more properly the only text of scripture which you have here repeated, (for the other is merely burlesqued,) I mean that in John+, Archbishop Tillotson might long since have furnished you with an explication, which sets it above this cavil, which I confess, from the mere sound of the words, might easily present itself to the mind of a superficial reader. He justly observes, (if I remember his interpretation right,) that this epistle was written, when christianity had been for a considerable time settled in the world; and that it might now be considered as a test of doctrines, sufficiently confirmed by a train of most illustrious miracles, and a variety of other evidence. In consequence of this, a person, presuming to teach by any spirit, that Jesus was not come in the flesh, might as

Heb. xi. 6.

[ocr errors]

+1 John iv. 2.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

reasonably be rejected by christians, as a pretended prophet among the jews, who, upon the credit of a dream, or a vision, should attempt to draw them to idolatry. The evidence attending the mosaic religion was so vastly superior to that, which could be supposed to arise from any pretended dream, vision or sign, that he might be justly and reasonably rejected without looking into his credentials. But will this, Sir, at all prove, that these persons to whom the apostle addresses, received christianity at first without any evidence at all; laying it down as a first principle, thas it was true, and (resolving nevertheless to reason a little,) inferring from thence it was true, and roundly concluding, It is divine, because it is divine? This, Sir, is your candid representation of the matter: But I would hope, few reader's heads are weak enough, even after your whirl of words, to be turned round in this imaginary circle.

But to return from this digression, I shall proceed now to examine the only two arguments which I remember on the head I have been speaking to, that are yet unanswered; I mean, that from our being required to pray for the increase of our faith, and that which you draw from infant-baptism.

I readily grant you, (without cavilling at the argument as drawn from a particular scripture,) that it is our duty to pray that our faith may be increased: But I think no argument can be drawn from hence, to prove that it is not to be promoted by rational methods; any more than we can argue, that virtue is not to be rationally cultivated, because we are to pray for its growth in our souls. What I have already said of God's operating upon us as rational creatures, and in concurrence with the exercise of our own faculties, when compared with what I have said in my second letter, concerning the nature of true faith, is an abundant solution of this objection. Reasonably may we desire, that God would awaken our minds to diligence in searching after truth; that he would present the evidence of it before us in a clear and convincing light; that he would guard our hearts from those corrupt prejudices which might obstruct its entrance into them; and that he would remind us, from time to time, of those great religious truths which we do believe, with such spirit and energy, that our temper of life may, in a suitable manner, be influenced by the realizing persuasion. In such a prayer, methinks, every virtuous deist must join; as I firmly believe, that would men heartily join in it, and act accordingly, they would soon cease to be diests in the negative sense of the word. And in proportion to the degree in which we see evident reason to believe the truth of christianity, we may rea

sonably pray, that God, by the influences of his Holy Spirit on our minds, would give us more comprehensive views of its evidence, and would impress a more lively sense of its great principles on our hearts; that our faith may not be a cold assent, but powerful in the production of its genuine fruits.

It is, on the other hand, very true, that a man, who does not see reason to believe the gospel to be a divine revelation, cannot rationally pray to be confirmed in that belief, or even to be brought to it; but it is evident, that whatever rule the scripture gives on this head, it gives to those who profess to admit its divine authority. And a search into rational evidence is so far from being inconsistent with such a prayer, that where doubts and difficulties arise in the mind, which, though they do not entirely destroy the assent, introduce perplexity, such enquiry is the wisest method we can take to secure an answer to our prayers; provided they be reverently, prudently, and candidly made. But this rather belongs to the subject of my first letter. What I have just now said may be sufficient to shew, that the scripture, if it encourages us to pray for the increase of faith, (which I readily allow that it does,) gives us no room at all to expect any new revelation in answer to those prayers, which is the only view in which the mention of them could be material to your cause.

I shall conclude this head with asking you seriously, whether you think Simplicius desired or expected an immediate revelation, like that which you describe, when he prays, "that God would accurately rectify the reason which he has given us, and remove the mist that hangs upon our understandings, that we may discern things human and divine!*" If you think such a prayer as this consistent with the use of reason, which he desires might be purified and guided, you will easily see, that we may on the very same principle pray for the increase of faith, without any of those enthusiastical apprehensions, which you represent as essential to christianity.

There yet remains to be considered the argument you draw from infant-baptism, which you apprehend would be very absurd, if it were not supposed to be attended with such a communication of the Spirit, as that which is now in debate between "Can a man," say you, "be baptized into a rational religion?" (by which I suppose you mean, can that religion be

us.

* Ικέλευω, Δεσποία, σύμπραξα ως αυτό Κινήτοις ημιν προς διορθώσιν ακριβη τε εν ημιν λογές και αφελειν τελεως την αχλυν των ψυχικών ημών ομματων, ὄφρα γινωσκομεν εν τη μεν Θεον, είδε και ανδρα. Simplic. Comment. ad. fin.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

585

rational of which infant-baptism is a part?) "Where is reason
concerned, when babes accept the terms of salvation by deputy,
and are entitled to all the privileges of the most extensive faith
by anothers act? By the baptismal ceremony they commence
true believers at once, and are made heirs of heaven, you know,
And to the same
by the faith of their bondsmen." (p. 9.)
purpose, in your 69th page, "The merits of the most finished
conviction are already theirs by imputation, &c."

Now here, Sir, I am obliged to say, that if there be any form of baptism in the christian world, which justifies such inferences, and such a manner of speaking, I am extremely sorry for it. But I am very confident, the scripture teaches nothing of this kind; and it is by that, and not by the rubric of any particular church, whether popish or protestant, that the merits of this cause are to be tried.

I cannot see, how any sponsor, whether he be, or be not a parent, can pretend to answer for a child, that he shall believe, or obey the gospel: Nor does the bringing children to baptism, by any means imply it. What reason we have to conclude infant-baptism a rite of divine institution, I shall not now enquire. It is enough if I shew, that admitting it to be so, (which I really think it is very reasonable that we should admit,) it by no means implies this absurd consequence. Other ends might be answered by it, valuable enough to justify the wisdom of the ordinance: As for instance, hereby parents may give a public token of their faith in christianity, and their consequent desire that their children may partake of its benefits, and answer its demands: Hereby they may solemnly declare their resolution to train them up in the institutions of our Blessed Master, and their resignation of them to the disposal of divine providence, if God should see fit early to remove them: This also may remain, throughout all generations, as a memorial of the tenderness which our Lord shewed to little children, and of the perpetuity of that covenant, the efficacy of which reaches from one generation to another: And to add no more, it may lay a foundation for affectionate addresses to the children afterwards, as being already listed under the banners of Christ, so far as they could be listed by the act of another; so that they must either confirm, or, in effect at least, renounce what was then done. All these valuable purposes, and many more, may be answered by infant-baptism. But it will by no means follow from hence, that this rite affects the eternal state of the child; or that, if it did affect it, there must be such an extraordinary communication of the Spirit to

VOL. I.

4 D

« EdellinenJatka »