« Prev SECT. IV. We ought not hastily to condemn those… Next »

SECT. IV. We ought not hastily to condemn those who differ from us, as if they were guilty of such a crime, or such unlawful worship, as is inconsistent with eternal life; so that none who admit such persons should be capable of the mercy of God; nor yet, on the other hand, is it lawful for us to profess that we believe what we do not really believe, or to do what, at the same time, we condemn.

THEY who have separated from the church of Rome do no more agree with each other in all points, than they who continue in it; but, according to the judgment of some of the most learned men, they do not differ in any thing that is consistent with that faith which is owing to God, and that obedience which ought to be paid to him. But they object many things to the church of Rome, both in doctrine and worship, which they think are plainly false and unlawful. Whether they judge right in this or no, I shall not now inquire: however, thus much is evident, that, according to the opinion even of that church, it is not lawful for them to profess that they approve of what they do not approve of, nor do they admit any persons to communion with them who profess to dissent from it in such things. However, amongst those that dissent from the church of Rome, there are some famous and learned men,913913   Amongst others is mr. William Chillingworth, in his English book, entitled, The Religion of Protestants, the safe way to Salvation, where he mentions others who also think them as safe. who, though they think it utterly unlawful to join with that church themselves, on the account of those doctrines and that worship in which they differ from it; yet, notwithstanding, they do not think it right to exclude from eternal happiness all those, both learned and unlearned, who live and die in it. They, indeed, who think that there is any thing in them which is contrary to the fundamental principles of Christianity, judge it to be by no means lawful for themselves to give their assent to them, and that it would be the highest crime in them to pretend to consent to what they really condemn, and for which crime, if they should fall into it, and continue 286in it to their death, they believe they should be excluded eternal happiness. But as to such as do sincerely embrace those doctrines, because they believe them to be agreeable to divine revelation, or at least not so repugnant to it as to subvert the faith or holiness of the gospel; whether it he owing to that sort of study which they have employed themselves in from their youth, or whether it ariseth from a defect of knowledge or judgment; such persons as these, I say, they do not presume to exclude from salvation, because they cannot tell how far the mercy of God may extend, with respect to such men as these. There are innumerable circumstances both of time and place, and various dispositions of mind, which are quite unknown to us, which may very much diminish the crimes of wretched men in the sight of God, so as to procure pardon for such, which would be condemned in men of more learning. Wherefore, they look upon it as a part of Christian equity and prudence, al the same time that they condemn the doctrine and the worship, to leave the men to the wise and merciful judgment of God; though they themselves are determined neither to assent to their doctrines, nor to be present at their worship, because they think it absolutely unlawful.

Surely no man can think that, from what has been said, it will follow that any person, who is brought up in a different opinion, and has employed himself in reading the Scriptures in the manner that the reformers do; if he should, contrary to his own conscience, say or do any thing which he thinks unlawful or false, for any present advantage; that any such person, I say, can hope for pardon from God; if he should die with a habit of saying and doing what be himself disapproves of, and would have said and done so, if he had lived longer. There is not at present, and I hope there never will be, any sect, which shall go under the name of Christians, who will allow that such a man can arrive at salvation.

Let hypocrites, therefore, look to themselves, whilst they behave so, as shamefully to despise the light of reason and revelation, to resist the conviction of them, and to look upon the judgment of all Christians whatsoever as nothing. 287Such persons cannot be thought learned men, or such as have thoroughly and maturely considered the thing. There are them that so far despise all theological learning, that they will not so much as attempt it; but without this there can be no judgment at all passed upon the matter. These equally despise that noble philosophy which the great men amongst the Romans of old set such a value upon, as being deduced from the light of nature, in order to indulge those passions which the heathen philosophy would not allow of. Having thus secured themselves from the judgment of past ages, despising every thing in the present, and having little concern for what is to come, they are more like beasts than men endued with reason, which they never make use of. They who dissemble and lie in such a manner as this, ought not to be looked upon as men of any value or account; they ought not to be trusted even in temporal and worldly affairs, because they endeavour to impose upon God and man in a matter of the greatest importance. There are some amongst these who dare to affirm that we ought always to be of the religion that tie state is of, and when that changes, we ought to change also; but it is not at all to be wondered at that these persons should have so ill an opinion of the Christian faith, when they have not so much as the common principles of natural religion in them, nor do they shew any regard to right reason or virtue. What a wretched condition are those kings and states in, who put their confidence in such men as believe neither natural nor revealed religion! Indeed, men who are themselves void of learning; who give no credit to the judgment of any learned men whatsoever; who have no sort of concern for truth, but live in perpetual hypocrisy, are by no means fit to be trusted in any matters whatsoever, not even to such as relate to the public.

Yet these very men, as much despisers as they are of truth and virtue, look upon themselves as better subjects and more ingenious persons than others; though they be neither, and though it be impossible they should be either, whilst they make no distinction betwixt truth and falsehood, virtue and vice, and whilst they are ready to say or any thing that may be of advantage to themselves. All 288such men have renounced a right temper of mind, and every good action; and therefore ought to be despised and avoided by every body.

« Prev SECT. IV. We ought not hastily to condemn those… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection