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would follow from the contrary, which in that case must be true.
In the first place, On this supposition, there may be any number whatsoever of new gods appointed, provided they do not carry the names of Jupiter, Baal, Osiris, Fo, &c. which would make heathens of us all again. It is likewise to be observed, that the very same Being, in respect to the selfsame nature, may be both a creature and a God; so that we may rank him both with the true God, and ourselves ; and that we may give him every name, and every attribute, of the true God, but supremacy; which is as much as to say, that all God's attributes, but that one, are applicable to creatures, as well as to him; and that he hath no proper name, by which he may be distinguished from the works of creation. In consequence of this, we may worship and pray to creatures, whenever we take it into our heads to think, he hath set them over us for gods. Of this sort are Christ and the Holy Ghost, of whom it is not material to our faith, whether they came earlier or later into being, since they are but creatures; yet, creatures as they are, they must be worshipped and honoured as the Creator; for they act by his authority, which whosoever does, ought to have divine worship paid him, according to the station he is placed in. Although some think there are, at present, but three gods; yet it is safer to say, there are a great many more; because angels, kings, and other great men, are called gods in the same sense, but in a lower degree of divinity, with Christ and the Holy Ghost. To conclude, we must understand the first commandment in this sense, Thou shalt have some other gods beside me;' and the expression in Isaiah, “There is no other God beside me; I know not any ;' in this sense, • There are other gods beside me; I know many ;' and so in all cases of the like nature. Every one may see how much more natural this way of interpretation is, than the other too literal method. And so much for the unity of the Trinity.
In the second place, Either the nature of Adam was, from the beginning, as corrupt as ours is now, or ours is as perfect as his was at first; for we are as able to keep the whole law of God as he was; from whence it necessarily follows, that God made man just as he is, and that the entail of corruption and guilt are wholly chimerical. We need no grace, no Spirit of God, to help our infirmities, being able of ourselves to help ourselves; and able to merit all the glories of heaven by our own righteousness; at least, if we cannot do altogether so much, we need no one to do it for us, nor any sacrifice or atonement to satisfy for our sins. No man can answer, or suffer, for another: justice will not punish the innocent for the guilty, nor give peace to the guilty for the sake of the innocent. We do not believe that the Father hath made peace for us through the blood of his Son's cross, nor thereby reconciled all things to himself. What occasion for this, since we were not born in sin, nor the children of wrath ; and since, if we were alienated, and enemies, it is only by our own actual wicked works, which we may reform whenever we please, without the aid either of preventing or assisting grace? Wherefore, we renounce all claims on the death and merits of Christ; and as we work, so we desire, that the reward may be reckoned, not of grace, but of debt; for nothing can be more contrary to reason than this, that because a man believes there is one who justifies the ungodly, that man therefore shall have his belief counted to him for virtue and goodness, although he works not himself. So much for redemption and grace.
In the third place, We believe there is a heaven, and we believe there may be a hell, but that the wicked shall be tormented in the latter to all eternity, we utterly deny. We also deny the locality of this punishment; insisting that it is in no particular place, nor inflicted by real fire. We interpret metaphorically all the expressions relating to it in Scripture ; particularly, we believe, the word “everlasting,' when applied to it, should be interpreted by the word 'tedious,' or 'of long continuance ;' for notwithstanding that shocking epithet, we are firmly persuaded, the future punishment will be only temporary. But, be these rewards and punishments what they will, we do not admit them as sanctions of our morality, lest they should destroy the very essence of virtue, and render us, in all we do, slavish and mercenary. Wherefore we think of them as seldom, and as slightly, as we can; and never make the one an hinderance to any thing we have a mind to do, nor the other a motive to any thing we think fit to be done. The reasons of our actions are drawn only from the fitnesses of things ; and the motives, from the beauty of virtue, and the deformity of vice. So much for the sanctions.
In the last place, We look on the subject-matter of these doctrines as of too little importance to make either them, or their contraries, fundamental articles of faith. We think it of no great consequence to the salvation of any man, which way he thinks on these points, provided he is sincere; that is, provided he is really of his own opinion; for we do not believe the arbitrary governors of churches have any right to know his real sentiments, by his answers, his subscriptions, his declarations, with whatsoever farcical solemnities they may endeavour to pump out the secrets of his heart. We have two creeds, a short and a long one. The short one is this; Christ is the Messiah. This we believe to be fundamental; but will not be held to any consequences, excepting such as we draw ourselves. And the long one is the Bible whereof we will admit of no interpretations of other mens devising, having a peculiar method of our own, which we find answers better than any other hitherto found out. But although we differ widely with the generality of Christians about the object of worship, the unity of God, the Trinity, the necessary means of salvation, and the like speculative points; yet we love all men, we anathematize none, we endeavour to lead moral lives; and are ready, as often as we think it may be turned to good account, either to ourselves or others, to hold communion with Christians of all denominations.
Such is the system set up against that I have been labouring to defend, when openly expressed, without the shuffle of ambiguous words, and double meanings. And such is the effect, in perverse, and overweening men, of holding the Scriptures, to be the word of God, and yet denying the doctrines, that are most plainly, and most copiously, insisted on, in those Scriptures. Whether ever there hath appeared, in any age of the world, a system of any kind so big with blasphemy and absurdity, is hard to say. This is the body of divinity preferred to the Athanasian creed, as more intelligible, more consistent, and more scriptural. This is the scheme of ethics preferred to that of Christianity, which terminates in the judgment of the great day.
The word of God, however, vouches for the one, and the vain philosophy of men would advance the other. It is our business to choose which we would adhere to.
Although there should be no necessity for believing, either in what I have been labouring to prove fundamental, or in the contrary; yet it must be necessary, at least, to know, whether such belief is necessary or not. The subject does not seem to be of so little consequence, as not to merit even this preliminary attention. Can it be less than absolutely necessary to salvation, that we should know whom we are to worship, and by what means we are to be saved? The Holy Ghost tells us, over and over again, “ That we are to worship God, the one only eternal God, alone ; that we are justified by faith ; and that the just shall live by his faith. If we resolve to be concluded by the word of God, we must leave all our own opinions, prejudices, and preconceptions, behind us, that our faculties may have nothing else to do, but to receive the dictates of divine wisdom, which, in that case, we shall easily apprehend, and clearly understand. Where God hath been pleased to be silent, it becomes us to be dumb. So far as he hath vouchsafed to reveal himself, it is our duty, our highest wisdom, to believe, and to adore; not choosing to be of them, who draw back unto perdition, but of them who believe, to the saving of the soul;' not choosing, that 'our faith should stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God;' not choosing that wisdom of the wise, which God will destroy; nor that understanding of the prudent, which he will bring to nothing;' because it lieth against the truth ;' because 'it descendeth not from above; but is earthly, sensual, devilish;' but choosing that wisdom which is really from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy ;' that ‘sound wisdom which the Lord layeth up for the righteous, which is with the lowly, who ceaseth from his own wisdom,' and like 'Solomon, asketh of God that wisdom which is better than rubies, so that all things that may be desired, are not to be compared to it.' To conclude, we can in nothing so safely consult our own happiness, as in avoiding the example of that man,' who, through desire, or vain curiosity, having separated himself from the true teacher of his church, 'vainly seeketh, and impertinently intermeddleth with, all wisdom, though ever so foreign to his purpose, though ever so high above his reach; Prov. xviii. 1. Nor can we, after renouncing the wisdom of the world,' and emptying our understandings of vain refinements, do any thing so pleasing to God, or so highly beneficial to ourselves, as to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom ;' Coloss. iii. 16.
But whereas the true wisdom or religion is thy gift, O God, alone; so, in a deep sense of our own blindness and folly, we most humbly beseech thee, of thy infinite goodness, to bestow on us thy Spirit, ‘that we may know the holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith, which is in Christ Jesus;' to whom, in the unity of the ever-blessed Trinity, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore.
A TEST NECESSARY BEFORE ADMISSION INTO
2 TIM. 1. 13, 14
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith
and love, which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost,
which dwelleth in us. ALTHOUGH there is sufficient reason to doubt whether what we call the Apostles' Creed was the form of sound words here spoken of, or not; yet there is no room to question the general persuasion, that it was some such form, or brief summary of articles, necessary to the belief and practice of the church. That the apostle did not mean the instructions at large which he gave to Timothy, is plain from the word in the original, rendered by form, which properly signifies the sketch or outlines of a picture. This form he charges his favourite disciple to hold fast in a firm faith,' as to himself, and in love or charity towards others, who are