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XII. The Peace which Christ gives his true Followers
XIV. The same continued
XV. The same continued
RULES OF THE WORD OF GOD,
REQUISITE TO A
COMPLETE STANDING & FULL COMMUNION
VISIBLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
Behold now I have opened my mouth :-My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart.
-Job xxxiii. 2, 3.
Confitebatur [Lutherus] dolorem suum, quod ab ipsis reflorescentis Evangelii Primordiis, quosvis absque Discrimine ad Coenam Dominicam admisisset, quodque Disciplinam, Fratrum Disciplinæ similem, apud suos non constituisset.-Quia objiciebatur, Fratres non habere Ecclesiam apertam ;-Responsum fuit, Sancta dare non Sanctis prohibuisse Christum:-Errorem [in Papatu] corrigi non posse aliter quam ut certa Probatione, nec illa subitanea, Cardium Arcana revelunter, Novitiique diu et caute tum informentur, tum explorentur.
Ratio Discipl. Fratr. Bohem.
My appearing in this public manner on that side of the question, which is defended in the following sheets, will probably be surprising to many; as it is well known, that Mr. STODDARD, so great and eminent a divine, and my venerable predecessor in the pastoral office over the church in Northampton, as well as my own grandfather, publicly and strenuously appeared in opposition to the doctrine here maintained.
However, I hope it will be not taken amiss, that I think as I do, merely because I herein differ from him, though so much my superior, and one whose name and memory 1 am under distinguishing obligations, on every account, to treat with great respect and honour. Especially may I justly expect, that it will not be charged on me as a crime, that 1 do not think in every thing just as he did, since none more than he himself asserted this Scriptural and Protestant maxim, that we ought to call no man on earth Master, or make the authority of the greatest and holiest of mere men the ground of our belief of any doctrine in religion. Certainly we are not obliged to think any man infallible, who himself utterly disclaims infallibility. Very justly Mr. STODDARD observes in his Appeal to the Learned, p. 97. "All Protestants agree, that there is no infallibility at Rome; and I know no body else pretends to any, since the apostles' days." And he insists, in his preface to his sermon on the same subject,-That it argues no want of a due respect in us to our forefathers, for us to examine their opinions. Some of his words in that preface contain a good apology for me, and are worthy to be repeated on this occasion. They are as follows:
"It may possibly be a fault (says Mr. STODDARD) to depart from the ways of our fathers: But it may also be a virtue, and an eminent act of obedience, to depart from them in some things. Men are wont to make a great noise, that we are bringing in innovations, and depart from the old way: But it is beyond me, to find out wherein the iniquity does lie. We may see cause to alter some practices of our fathers, without despising them, without priding ourselves in our wisdom, without apostacy, without abusing the advantages God has given us, without a spirit of compliance with corrupt men, without inclinations to superstition, without making disturbance in the church of God: And there is no reason, that it should be turned as a reproach upon us. Surely it is commendable for us to examine the practices of our fathers; we have no sufficient reason to take practices upon trust from them. Let them have as high a character as belongs to them; yet we may not look upon their principles as oracles. NATHAN himself missed it in his conjecture
about building the house of God. He that believes principles because they affirm them, makes idols of them. And it would be no humility, but baseness of spirit, for us to judge ourselves incapable to examine the principles that have been handed down to us. If we be by any means fit to open the mysteries of the gospel, we are capable to judge of these matters: And it would ill become us, so to indulge ourselves in ease, as to neglect the examination of received principles. If the practices of our fathers in any particulars were mistaken, it is fit they should be rejected; if they be not, they will bear examination. If we be forbidden to examine their practice, that will cut off all hopes of reformation."
Thus, in these very seasonable and apposite sayings, Mr. STODDARD, though dead, yet speaketh: And here (to apply them to my own case) he tells me, that I am not at all blameable, for not taking his principles on trust; that notwithstanding the high character justly belonging to him, I ought not to look on his principles as oracles, as though he could not miss it, as well as NATHAN himself in his conjecture about building the house of God; nay, surely that I am even to be commended, for examining his practice, and judging for myself; that it would ill become me, to do otherwise; that this would be no manifestation of humility, but rather shew a baseness of spirit; that if I be not capable to judge for myself in these matters, I am by no means fit to open the mysteries of the gospel; that if I should believe his principles, because he advanced them, I should be guilty of making him an idol. Also he tells his and my flock, with all others, that it ill becomes them, so to indulge their ease, as to neglect examining received principles and practices; and that it is fit, mistakes in any particulars be rejected: That if in some things I differ in my judgment from him, it would be very unreasonable, on this account to make a great noise, as though I were bringing in innovations, and departing from the old way; that I may see cause to alter some practices of my grandfather and predecessor, without despising him, without priding myself in my wisdom, without apostacy, without despising the advantages God has given me, without inclination to superstition, and without making disturbance in the church of God; in short, that it is beyond him to find out wherein the iniquity of my so doing lies; and that there is no reason why it should be turned as a reproach upon me. Thus, I think, he sufficiently vindicates my conduct in the present case, and warns all with whom I am concerned, not to be at all displeased with me, or to find the least fault with me, merely because I examine for myself, have a judgment of my own, and am for practising in some particulars different from him, how positive soever he was that his judgment and practice were right. It is reasonably hoped and expected, that they who have a great regard to his judgment, will impartially regard his judgment, and hearken to his admonition in these things.
I can seriously declare, that an affectation of making a shew as if I were something wiser than that excellent person, is exceeding distant from me, and very far from having the least influence in my appearing to oppose, in this way of the press, an opinion which he so earnestly maintained and promoted. Sure I am, I have not affected to vary from his judgment, nor in the least been governed by a spirit of contradiction, neither indulged a cavilling humour, in remarking on any of his arguments or expressions.-I have formerly been of his opinion, which I imbibed from his books, even from my childhood, and have in my proceedings conformed to his practice; though never without some difficulties in my view, which I could not solve. Yet, however, a distrust of my own understanding, and deference to the authority of so venerable a man, the seeming strength of some of his arguments, together with the success he had in his ministry, and his great reputation and influence, prevailed for a long time to bear down my scruples.-But the