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REASONABLENESS OF CHRISTIANITY,
A cause that stands in need of falsehoods to support it, and an adversary that will make use of them, deserve nothing but contempt; which I doubt not but every considerate reader thought answer enough to Mr. Edwards's Socinianism unmasked. But since in his late Socinian Creed he says, “I would have answered him if I could,” that the interest of Christianity may not suffer by my silence, nor the contemptibleness of his treatise afford him matter of triumph among those who lay any weight on such boasting, it is fit it should be shown what an arguer he is, and how well he deserves, for his performance, to be dubbed, by himself, “ irrefragable.
Those who, like Mr. Edwards, dare to publish inventions of their own for matters of fact, deserve a name so abhorred, that it finds not room in civil conversation. This secures him from the proper answer, due to his imputations to me, in print, of matters of fact utterly false, which, without any reply of mine, fix upon him that name (which, without a profligate mind, a man cannot expose himself to) till he hath proved them. Till then, he must wear what he has put upon himself. This being a rule, which common justice hath prescribed to the private judgments of mankind, as well as to the public judicatures of courts, that all allegations of facts, brought by contending parties, should be presumed to be false till they are proved.
There are two ways of making a book unanswerable. The one is by the clearness, strength, and fairness of the argumentation. Men who know how to write thus, are above bragging what they have done, or boasting to the world that their adversaries are baffled. Another way to make a book unanswerable, is to lay a stress on matters of fact foreign to the question, as well as to truth; and to stuff it with scurrility and fiction. This hath been always so evident to common sense, that no man, who had any regard to truthjor ingenuity, ever thought matters of fact besides the argument, and stories made at pleasure the way of managing controversies. Which showing only the want of sense and argument, could, if used on both sides, end in nothing but downright railing: and he must always have the better of the cause who has lying and impudence on his side.
The unmasker, in the entrance of his book, sets a great distance between his and my way of writing. I am not sorry that mine differs so much as it does from his. If it were like his, I should think, like his, it wanted the author's commendations. For, in his first paragraph, which is all laid out in his own testimony of his own book, he so earnestly bespeaks an opinion of mastery in politeness, order, coherence, pertinence, strength, seriousness, temper, and all the good qualities requisite in controversy, that I think, since he pleases himself so much with his own good opinion, one in pity ought not to go about to rob him of so considerable an admirer. I shall not, therefore, contest any of those excellencies he ascribes to himself, or faults he blames in me, in the management of the dispute between us, any farther than as particular passages of his book, as I come to examine them, shall suggest unavoidable remarks to me. I think the world does not so much con. cern itself about him or me, that it need be told in that inventory, he has given of his own good parts, in his first paragraph, which of us two has the better hand at “ flourishes, jesting, and common-places;” if I am, as he says, p. 2, troubled with “ angry fits, and passionate ferments, which, though I strive to palliate, are easily discernible,” &c. and he be more laudably ingenuous in the openness of that temper, which he shows in every leaf ; I shall leave to him the entire glory of boasting of it. Whatever we brag of our performances, they will be just as they are, however he may think to add to his by his own encomium on them. The difference in style, order, coherence, good breeding (for all those, amongst others, the unmasker mentions) the reader will observe, whatever I say of them; and at best they are nothing to the question in hand. For though I am a “ tool, pert, childish, starched, impertinent, incoherent, trifling, weak, passionate,” &c. commendations I meet with before I get to the 4th page, besides what follows, as, “ upstart Racovian,"
p. 24; “ Flou. rishing scribbler," p. 41; “ Dissembler,” 106; “ Pe. dantic," 107: I say, although I am all this, and what else he liberally bestows on me in the rest of his book, I may
have truth on my side, and that in the present case serves my turn.
Having thus placed the laurels on his own head, and sung applause to his own performance, he, p. 4, enters, as he thinks, upon his business, which ought to be, as he confesses, p. 3, “ to make good his former charges.” The first whereof he sets down in these words : That “ I unwarrantably crowded all the necessary articles of faith into one, with a design of favouring Socipianism.”
If it may be permitted to the subdued to be so bold with one who is already conqueror, I desire to know, where that proposition is laid down in these terms, as laid to my charge. Whether it be true or false, shall, if he pleases, be hereafter examined: but it is not, at present, the matter in question. There are certain
positions, which he having affirmed, and I denied, are under debate between us : and that the dispute may not run into an endless ramble, by multiplying of new, before the points in contest are decided, those ought first to be brought to an issue.
To go on, therefore, in the order of his Socinian. ism unmasked; (for, p. 3, he has, out of the Mishna, taught me good breeding, “ to answer the first, and so in order") the next thing he has against me is p. 5, which, that the reader may understand the force of, I must inform him, that in p. 105, of his Thoughts concerning the Causes of Atheism, he said, that I “ give this plausible conceit,” as he calls it, “ over and over again, in these formal words,” viz. “ That nothing is required to be believed by any Christian man, but his, that Jesus is the Messiah.' This I denied. To make it good, Socinianism unmasked, p. 5, he thus argues. First, “ It is observable, that this guilty man would be shifting off the indictment, by excepting against the formality of words, as if such were not to be found in his book: but when doth he do this? In the close of it, when this matter was exhausted, and he had nothing else to say,” Vind. p. 113, “ then he bethinks him- . self of his salvo," &c. Answ. As if a falsehood were ever the less a falsehood, because it was not opposed, or would grow into a truth, if it were not taken notice of, before the 38th page of the answer.
I desire him to show me these “ formal words over and over again," in my Reasonableness of Christianity: nor let him hope to evade, by saying I would be " shifting, by excepting against the formality of the words.”
To say, that “ I have, over and over again, those formal words” in my book, is an assertion of a matter of fact; let him produce the words, and justify his allegation, or confess, that this is an untruth published to the world : and since he makes so bold with truth, in a matter visible to every body, let the world be judge, what credit is to be given to his allegations of matters of fact, in things foreign to what I have printed ; and that are not capable of a negative proof. A sam. ple whereof the reader has at the entrance, in his introduction, p. A. 4, and the three or four following pages. Where he affirms to the world, not only what I know to be false; but that every one must see, he could not know to be true. For he pretends to know and deliver my thoughts. And what the character is of one that confidently affirms what he does not know, nobody need be told.
But he adds, “ I had before pleaded to the indictment, and thereby owned it to be true.” This is to make good his promise, p. 3, to keep at a distance from my “ feeble strugglings.” Here this strong arguer must prove, that what is not answered or denied, in the very beginning of a reply, or before the 11th page, “ is owned to be true.” In the mean time, till he does that, I shall desire such of my readers, as think the unmasker's veracity worth examining, to see in my Vindication, from p. 174, &c. wherein is contained what I have said about one article, whether I have owned what he charged me with, on that subject.
This proposition then remains upon him still to be proved, viz.
I. “ That I have, over and over again, these formal
words in my Reasonableness of Christianity, viz.
He goes on, p. 5: “ And indeed he could do no other; for it was the main work he set himself about, to find but one article of faith in all the chapters of the four evangelists, and the Acts of the Apostles;” this is to make good his promise, p. 3, “ To clear his book from those sorry objections and cavils I had raised against it.” Several of my sorry objections and cavils” were to represent to the reader, that a great part of what is said was nothing but suspicions and conjectures ; and such he could not but then own them to be. But now he has rid himself of all his conjectures ; and has raised them up into direct, positive affirmations,