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P. thinks my "view of things, after all, opens a wide door to licentiousness; (60.) but that if we were to admit what he accounts opposite sentiments, it would be the most likely way to put a stop to real and practical Antinomianism." (51.) I reply as before, surely he cannot complain that the universal extent of Christ's death, with other kindred sentiments, are not generally embraced; and will he pretend to say, that real and practical Antinomianism has been thereby rooted up? Since the body of the church of England have embraced those principles, have they been better friends to the law of God than before? and has a holy life and conversation been gradually encreasing amongst them as the old Calvinistic doctrines have fallen into disrepute?-Farther, do the body of those protestant dissenters who reject what are commonly called the Calvinistic doctrines, discover more regard to holiness of life than the body of those who embrace them? God forbid that we should any of us boast; by the grace of God we are what we are; and we have all defects enough to cover our faces with shame and confusion! But without invidious reflections, without impeaching the character of any man, or body of men, I am inclined to think if such a comparison were made, it would fail of proving the point which P. proposes. It is a well-known fact, that many who deny the law of God to be a rule of life, do at the same time maintain the universal extent of Christ's death.
P. seems to have written with the benevolent design of bringing me and others over to his senti
ments; and I thank him for his friendly intention. Could I see evidence on his side, I hope I should embrace his invitation. But it is a presumptive argument with me that his views of things must be some how or other very distant from the truth, or they could not abound with such manifest inconsistencies. A scheme that requires us to maintain that we are saved wholly by grace, and yet so far as we differ from others, it is not the Spirit of God, but we ourselves that cause the difference-that to be born in sin is the same thing as to be born blameless, or in other words, free from it—that if vice is so predominant, that there is no virtue to oppose it, or not virtue sufficient to overcome it, then it ceases to be vice any longer-that God is obliged to give us grace; or, in other words, we may demand that of him to which we can lay no claim, or else insist upon it that we are not accountable beings-that God so loved mankind as to give his Son to die, not however, to save them from sin; but to deliver them from a blameless condition, put them into a capacity of being blame-worthy, and thus expose them to the danger of everlasting destruction-A scheme, I say, that requires us to maintain such inconsistencies as these, must be, some how or other, fundamentally wrong. What others may think I cannot tell, but for my part, I must with-hold my assent till more substantial and consistent evidence is produced.
If I have not taken notice of every particular argument and text of scripture advanced by P. I hope
I shall be allowed to have selected such as were of the greatest force, and by which the main pillars of his system are supported.
If I have in any instance mistaken his meaning, I hope he will excuse it. I can say I have taken pains to understand him. But whether I have always hit upon his meaning or not, and whether the consequences which I have pointed out as arising from his sentiments be just or not; I can unite with him in appealing to "the searcher of hearts, that misrepresentation has in no one instance been my
As I did not engage in controversy from any love I had to the thing itself, so I have no mind to continue it any farther than some good end may be answered by it. Whether what I have written already tends to that end, it becomes not me to decide; but supposing it does, there is a point in all controversies, beyond which they are unprofitable and tedious. When we have stated the body of an argument, and attempted an answer to the main objections, the most profitable part of the work is done. Whatever is attempted afterwards must either consist of little personalities, with which the reader has no concern; or at best it will respect the minutia of things, in which case it seldom has a tendency to edification. To this I may add, though I see no reason at present to repent of having engaged in this controversy, and were it to do again should probably do the same; yet it never was my intention to engage in a controversy for life. Every person employed in the ministry of
the gospel has other things upon his hands of equal importance. If therefore any or all of my opponents should think proper to write again, the press is open: but unless something very extraordinary should appear, they must not conclude that I esteem their performances unanswerable though, I should read them without making any farther reply. The last word is no object with me; the main arguments on all sides of the controversy I suppose are before the public, let them judge of their weight and importance.
A reflection or two shall conclude the whole. However firmly any of the parties engaged in this controversy may be persuaded of the goodness of his cause, let us all beware of idolizing a sentiment. This is a temptation to which controversialists are particularly liable. There is a lovely proportion in divine truth: if one part of it is insisted on to the neglect of another, the beauty of the whole is defaced; and the ill effects of such a partial distribution will be visible in the spirit, if not in the conduct of those who admire it.
Farther, Whatever difficulties there may be in finding out truth, and whatever mistakes may attend any of us in this controversy, (as it is very probable we are each mistaken in some things;) yet let us ever remember, truth itself is of the greatest importance.. It is very common for persons when they find a subject much disputed, especially if it is by those whom they account good men, immediately to conclude that it must be a subject of but little consequence, a mere matter of speculation. Religious controversies upon
such persons have a very ill effect: for finding a difficulty attending the coming at truth, and at the same time a disposition to neglect it, and pursue other things; they readily avail themselves of what appears to them a plausible excuse, lay aside the enquiry, and sit down and indulge a spirit of scepticism. True it is that such variety of opinions ought to make us very diffident of ourselves, and teach us to exercise a christian forbearance towards those who differ from us. It should teach us to know and feel what an inspired apostle acknowledged, that here we see but in part, and are at best but in a state of childhood. But if all disputed subjects are to be reckoned matters of mere speculation, we shall have nothing left in religion of any real use. Nor shall we stop here: if the same method of judging of the importance of things were adopted respecting the various. opinions in useful science, the world would presently be in a state of stagnation. What a variety of opinions are there, for instance, concerning the best modes of agriculture; but if any person were to imagine from hence that agriculture itself must be a matter of no importance, and that all those articles therein which have come under dispute must be matters of mere idle speculation, what a great mistake would he be under. And if a great number were to imbibe the same spirit, and seeing there were so many opinions, resolve to pay no attention to any of them, and to live in the total neglect of all business, how absurd must such a conduct appear, and how pernicious must be the consequences! But a neglect