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To the TRUE PROTESTANTS
In Great Britain and Ireland.
Containing fome remarks upon the diftinguishing character
of true Proteftants, and upon the contrary disposition.True Pratestants are chosen judges of the Doctrines advanced in this book.– A sketch of the Author's Plan.Observations upon the manner in which it is executed. ---General directions to the Reader.- True Protestants are encouraged to protest againf religious absurdities, and unfcriptural impositions: The Author enters a double protest against the ANTINOMIAN and PHARISAIC gospels of the day—and continues to express his love and efteem for the good men, who, thro' the force of prejudice, cspouse and defend those partial gospels.
BRETHREN AND FATHERS,
errors at the time of the reformation. They pleaded, that antiquity, fynods, councils, Fathers, canons, tradition, and the church were on their side : And they so obfcured the truth by urging scripturemetaphors, and by quoting unguarded paffages from the writings of the Fathers, that thousands of fimple souls knew not which of the contending parties had the Truth on its side. The great question debated in those days was, whether the host, that is, the bread consecrated by the prieit in the Lord's fupper, was to be worshipped as the identical body of our Lord. The Romanilts produced Christ's own words, Take and eat, This is My body :--This is my blood; drink of it.
Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in you. The Reformers answered that, thofe exi pressions being figurative, it was absurd to take them in a literal sense; and they proved their assertion by appeals to reason, and to the scriptures, where the consecrated bread is plainly called bread. The Romanists replied, that in matters of faith we must set aside reafon : And some of them actually decried it as the greatest enemy to faith; while others continued to produce crude quotations from all the injudicious, inconsistent, over-doing Fathers. The Reformers seeing that, at this rate, there would be no end of the controversy, protefied three things in general: (1) That right reason has an important place in matters of faith : (2) That all matters of faith may, and must be decided by scripture understood reasonably, and consistently with the context: And (3) That antiquity and Fathers, traditions and councils, canons and the church, lose their authority, when they depart from sober reason and plain fcripture. These three general protests are the very ground of our religion, when it is contradistinguished from popery. They who stand to them deserve, in my humble opinion, the title of true. Protestants; They are at least the only persons, to whom this epistle is inscribed.
If the preceding account is just, true Protestants are all candid; christian candor being nothing but a readiness to hear right Reason and plain Scripture. Sincerely desirous to prove all things, to hold fast that which is good, and to approve things which are excellent, Protestants are then never afraid to bring their creed to a reasonable and scriptural test. And, conscions that the mines of natural and revealed religion are not yet: exhaufted, they think with the apostle, that if any man supposes, he has learned all that he should know, be is vainly puffed up in his fleshly mind, and knows nothing yet as be ought to know.
Hence it is, that of all the tempers which true Pro. testants abhor, none seems to them more detestable: than that of those gnosticks--those pretenders to supe: rior illumination, who under the cominon pretence
of orthodoxy or infallibility, shut their eyes against the light, think plain fcripture beneath their potice, enter their protest against reason, steel their breasts against conviction, and are so rooted in blind obstinacy, that they had rather hug Error in an old fartastic dress, than embrace the naked Truth, newly emerging from under the streams of prejudice:--impetuous streams these, which the dragon cafts out of his mouth, that he may cause the celestial virgin to be carried away by the flood, Rev. xii. 15. Alas! how many profeffors are there, who like St. Stephen's opponents, judges, and executioners, are neither able to refift, nor willing to admit the truth; who make their defence by stopping their ears, and crying out, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we; who thrust the supposed heretic out of their fanhedrim; who from the press, the pulo pit, or the dictator's chair, fend vollies of hard infinua. tions or soft assertions, in hope that they will pass for folid arguments; and who, when they have no more stones or snow-balls to throw at the supposed Philif. tine, prudently avoid drawing, the sword of the Spirit, retire behind the walls of their fancy'd orthodoxy, raise a rampart of flanderous contempt against the truth that besieges them, and obstinately refuse either candidly to give up, or manfully to contend for, the unscriptural tenets which they will impose upon others as pure gofpel.
Whether some of my opponents, good men as they are, have not inclined a little to the error of those fons of prejudice, I leave the candid reader to decide. They have neither answered, nor yielded to the argument of my Checks. They are shut up in their own city. Strong and high are thy walls, O mystical Jericho: thy battlements reach unto the clouds; but truth, the spiritual ark of God, is stronger, and shall prevail. The bearing of it patiently around thy ramparts, and the blowing of rams horns in the name of the Lord, will yet shake the very foundation of thy towers. O that I had the honour of successfully mix. ing my feeble voice with the blasts of the champions
who encompass the devoted city! O that the irresistible shout, Reason and Scripture. ---Christ and the Truth, was universal ! If this were the case, how soon would Jericho and Babylon-antinomianism and pharisailm, fall together!
Those two antichristian fortresses are equally attacked in the following pages ; and to you, true protestants, I submit the inspection of the attack. Direct me where I am wrong, affist me where I ght, nor refuse to support my feebleness by your ardent prayers; for, next to the captain of our salvation, I look to you: for help and comfort.
My opponents and I equally pretend to proteftantism, and who shall judge between us? Shall it be the men of the world ? No: for St. Paul says, I speak to your, Shame : Is it po, that there is not a WISE MAN. among you? No, not one that shall be able to juilge among his brethren ? - There are wise men in our deipiled camp, able to judge between us; and ye are the men, honour.. ed brethren; for ye are all willing to hear reason, and ready to weigh firipture: Therefore, on my part, fincerely chule you as judges of the present dispute.
And that you may not lok upon this office as inworthy of your acceptance, permit me to tell you, that: our controversy is one of the most important which was ever set on foot. To convince you of it, I need: only reinind you, that the GRAND enquiry, Wbat. Joail I do to be saved? is entirely fufpended on this GREATER question, Have I any thing to do, to be eter-. nally saved? A question this, which admits of three. answers: (1) That of the mere Solifidian, who says, if we are elect, we have nothing to do in order to eter-. nal falvation, unless it be to believe that Christ has. done all for us, and then to fing finished Jaivation : and. if we are not elett, whether we do nothing, little, or much, eternal ruin is our inevitable portion.- (2) That of the mere Moralift, who is as great a stranger to the doctrine of free-grace, as to that of free-wrath ; and tells you, that there is no free, initial salvation for us; and that we must work ourselves into a ftate
of initial salvation by dint of care, diligence, and faithfulness.—And (3) that of their reconciler whom I consider as a rational bible-ehristian, and who arferts : (1) That Christ has done the part of a facrificing priest and teaching prophet upon earth, and does still that of an interceding and royal priest in heaven, whence he fends his holy Spirit to act as an enlightener, fanctifier, comforter, and helper in our hearts :(2) That the free gift of initial salvation, and of one or more talents of saving grace, is come upon all thro' the God-man Christ, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe : And (3) that our free. will affitted by that saving grace imparted to us in the free gift, is enabled to work with God in a subordi. rate manner : So that we may freely (without necesity] do the part of penitent, obedient, and persevering believers, according to the gospel-dispensation we are under.
This is the plan of this work, in which I equally fight pro aris ei focis, for faith and works, for gratuitous mercy and impartial justice ; reconciling all along Christ our Saviour with Christ our Judge, heated Augustin with heated Pelagius, free-grace with freewill, divine goodness with human obedience, the faithfulness of God's promises with the veracity of his threatnings, first with second causes, the original merits of Christ with the derived worthiness of his members, and God's foreknowledge with our freeagency.
The plan, I think, is generous ; standing at the utmost distance from the extremes of bigots : It is deep and extensive ; taking in the most interesting subjects, about which professors generally divide, such as the origin of evil, liberty and necessity, the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ, general and particular redemption, the apostacy and perseverance of the saints, the election and reprobation maintained by St. Paul, &c.-I entirely rest the caufe upon proteftant-ground, that is, upon Reason and Scripture. Nevertheless, to show our antagonists that we are not afraid to meet