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TO THE READER.
Having put the foregoing papers to the press, I thought it not unmeet to adjoin these here following, as being on the same subject, and to the same purpose. It was but the hasty determination of a question, in one of our usual monthly disputations, which are maintained by the ministers of this association, for our mutual edification. It was a more private conference with some miserable men, who maintained the negative, which occasioned the choice of this question, as being the matter then freshest in my mind, and heaviest upon my heart, because of the misery of such apostates, and the danger that I perceived some to be in, through their subtlety and industry. By experience of them, I am caused to expect, that the apostatised should prove hardened ; and that many who profess themselves their greatest adversaries, should still contribute to their hardening, by refusing to defend their own religion, and backbiting and reproaching those that do it. If the Lord will bless these weak endeavours for the confirmation of thy faith, the repelling of temptations, and the preventing of thy ruin by thy great sin of unbelief, the quarrels of adversaries, and offended friends, will be the easier borné, by
A DETERMINATION, &c.
oblige those to believe, who never saw them?
he had no church before his incarnation, because the mystery was hid till then ; and he had none when miracles ceased, nor where they were not; because Christ said, “If I had not done the works that no man else could do, ye had no sin : and these signs shall follow them that believe : in my name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues,” &c. (Mark xvi.) Hereupon they maintain, that miracles being ceased, there are now neither churches, Christians, ministers, or Scripture, known to them: and that the world, for want of such miracles, is not now bound to believe the Gospel ; that is, in plain terms, infidelity is no sin : faith in Christ is no duty: it is no fault to be
an infidel : no duty to be a Christian ; which must be grounded on this, that either the Gospel is false, or we have no evidence of its truth; for if there be evidence of its truth, no doubt it is our duty to believe it; could they persuade men that Christ, the Redeemer, who came to seek and to save that which was lost, was so unhappy or unsuccessful in his undertaking, as that his dear-bought church did die in the shell, or when it was newly hatched, and was strangled in the very birth or infancy, and that he had no body or kingdom but the beholders of those miracles : no wonder if they next persuaded them that he was a mere pretender and deceiver. Yet you would think by their arguing, that they gave Christ freely this portion of honour to have had a true church, and truly proved the verity of his Gospel, so far as his miracles did extend ; but, indeed, they believe not this much ; as who can, that denieth the rest ; for if you plead the argument of miracles with them, for the verity of Christ's doctrine, they will tell you that antichrist and Satan may do the like ; and, therefore, that this is no sufficient argument: and so, I fear, they blaspheme the Holy Ghost. Some half disciples that follow them in the dark, go not yet so far, nor discern yet, the bottom of their designs. And I much fear, lest the Jesuits have had a strong hand in this damnable seduction, thinking to convince the world that at last we must be papists, or no Christians : of the Roman church, or of none. 2. To loosen men from their former grounds, church, Scripture, ministry, that at least they may have free audience, and room and advantage to put in for their interest. To fortify us in our Christianity, against the vain cavils of pagans, Jews, and these apostate infidels, is the scope of this dispute.
For explication of the terms, I shall say no more than is necessary.
1. By 'miraculous works' we mean, principally, those works, 1. Which were so above and against the established course of nature, that none but God himself could do them, being above the power of angels or men. 2. Those which angels could do, but not without the special help of God, or at least without his special commission, but still above the course of nature; that is, above the power of natural causes, working in the order that God at first established them in, and, by his common providence, doth sustain and actuate them. The most observable of these was Christ's own resurrection, and conversing afterwards with his disciples on earth; and then all the niraculous actions of his
foregoing life : his ascending up into heaven before their eyes ; his pouring out the Spirit on his disciples; the miraculous works of that Spirit: so frequent; on and by so many ; in so many; in so many places ; uncontrolled by any adverse power ; of unquestionable evidence, for verity and greatness; and I yet see not but that the work of sanctification is truly miraculous; for though it be by natural means, and take advantage of some natural principles and inclinations in the soul, yet is the principal cause the Spirit of God, which worketh supernaturally, by doing that by those natural means, and on those faculties, which the means in an ordinary course of nature could not effect. So that it is nevertheless miraculous, though it is by instruments, or on a prepared subject : as an infant's arm cannot do that with a sword, which Sampson or Achilles could have done; so a creature cannot do that by persuasion or other natural means, as God doth in this work. So far as the instrument or means doth work on natural men, that ordinary effect, which is but answerable to its own strength and the disposition of the recipient, so far the work is not miraculous; but as it is elevated by an almighty arm, to do greater things than by any other it can be used to, or than the common course of natural providence doth use it to, so far methinks it is truly miraculous. This is not only agreeable to their doctrine, who take regeneration to be strictly a new creation, and theirs who think that no angel is or can be an efficient cause of it, and theirs who think that by a physical specification it differs from the highest degree of common grace; but it is also agreeable to them that suppose the title of creation to be improper, and them that think an angel may be the instrument of the Holy Ghost in effecting it, and them that think that saving-grace doth differ from common grace, but by a moral specification, and a natural gradation and modality.
So that, in a word, it is the extraordinary gift of the Holy Ghost, for supernatural works, that we must extend the word
miracles' to : but those we deal with, will not take sanctification to be such a confirming, miraculous work ; and, therefore, as to them, we must restrain it to the rest.
2. By Christ's disciples,' we mean, both the apostles, and all those believers besides them, who had these miraculous gifts of the Spirit.
3. By 'obliging' we mean, constituting it our duty, to believe : that is, doing their part toward such an obligation.
4. By the words to believe,' we mean, to believe the Gospel.
5. By those that never saw them,' we mean it of any though in those first ages that never saw them: but specially those in these latter days.
But because the point of obligation is it that needeth most explication; and I told you that miracles do their part towards it, and so not the whole, it will be most necessary that I show you what is their part; and to that end, that I show
you it is that other causes and requisites have herein; and to that end also, that I show you in what order it is that we do in reasoning arise to the christian belief.
Understand, therefore, that the first question in order to be propounded, is neither, which is the true church, nor, whether the Scripture be the word of God. The doctrine is not for the words and writing ; but the book, writing, and words, is for the doctrine; and that for God's glory, and our happiness. It is natural to man, or within the reach of nature itself, to know that there is a God that made him, and ruleth him; and to whom he should chiefly live ; who is his principal efficient, and should be his ultimate, intended end : if any deny this, they will not, I hope, deny that it is natural to man to will happiness in general to himself, that is, he loveth himself. In our natural course of reasoning, therefore, we thus proceed.
1. We inquire, what course a man should take to please God that made him, and to save his soul? or, at least the latter, if he be mindless of the former. In answer to this, it is presently told him by preachers, or the common doctrine of the country, or some other means, that this must be only by Jesus Christ, and in the christian religion ; and, therefore, he must become a Christian, and live as such, if ever he would attain these ends.
2. The next inquiry, then, will be, who is this Christ? And what is this Christian religion, both for faith and life? The answer to this will be, by telling him what Christ is, and hath done, and will do, and what he hath prescribed us to do: in a word, by reciting the creed or christian doctrine in the essentials, and the absolutely necessary parts of the christian practice.
3. The means of acquainting us with this much, that this is de facto the present christian religion, is by tradition of some sort, either by preaching private instruction, showing us the Bible, or other books that do contain the said doctrine.
4. The next inquiry will be, ' How it appears that this religion is of God, and so is true?'
The answer will be, that Christ came down from heaven to