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eternal exclusion from the beatific vision of God. This exclusion seems to be the only punishment to which we can now conceive a pure spirit liable. And according as all intelligent beings are at a less or greater distance from this fountain of all happiness, so they are necessarily more or less miserable or happy.
3. That one part of those punishments will be by fire, than which we have not any revelation more express and positive. And as it is an instance of great goodness in God, that the joys of heaven are represented to us, under figurative images of light, and glory, and a kingdom, and that the substance shall exceed the utmost of our conceptions : so it is an argument of his strict justice, that future punishments are more literally threatened and foretold.
4. "The Eternity of these punishments is revealed as plainly as words can express it. And the difficulty of that question, “ What proportion endless torments can bear to momentary sins,” is quite removed by considering, that the punishments denounced are not sanctions entirely arbitrary, but are withal so many previous warnings or declarations of the natural tendency of sin itself
. So that an unre. penting sinner must be miserable in another life by a necessity of nature. Therefore he is not capable of mercy; since there never can be an alteration of his condition, without such a change of the whole man, as would put the natural and settled order of the creation out of course.”
Doubtless this eminent man (whose books on the Human Understanding, and on Divine Analogy, I would earnestly recommend to all who either in whole or in part deny the Christian Revelation,) grounded his judgment both of the nature and duration of future punishments on these and the like passages of Scripture.
• If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful locking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses's law died without mercy: of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God ? - For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.' Heb. x. 26_31.
And let not any, who live and die in their sins, vainly hope to escape his vengeance. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment— The Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.' (2 Pet. ii. 4-9.) In that day, peculiarly styled • The Day of the Lord, they that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake: some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt.' (Dan. xii. 2.) Among the latter will all those be found, who are now by their obstinate impenitence, "treasuring up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God: who will then render indignation and wrath, tribulation
and anguish upon every soul of man that doth evil.' (Rom. q. 5-9.) He bath declared the very sentence which he will then pronounce on all the workers of iniquity, Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels.' (Matt. xxv. 41.). And in that hour it will be executed : being cast into outward darkness, where is wailing and gnashing of teeth,' (ver. 30.) they will be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.' (2 Thess. i. 9.) A punishment not only without end, but likewise without intermission. For when once they are cast into that furnace of fire,' that lake of fire burning with brimstone, the worm' gnawing their soul dieth not, and the fire’ tormenting their body is not quenched.' So that “they have no rest day or night; but the smoke of their torment ascendeth
up for ever and ever.' Now thus much cannot be denied, that these texts speak as if there were really such a place as hell, as if there were a real fire there, and as if it would remain for ever. I would then ask but one plain question. If the case is not so, why did God speak as if it was? Say you, “ To affright men from sin ?". What, by guile? ? By dissimulation ? By hanging out false colours ? Can you possibly ascribe this to the God of truth? Can you believe it of him? Can you conceive the Most High dressing up a scare-crow, as we do to fright children? Far be it from him. If there be then any such fraud in the Bible, the Bible is not of God. And, indeed, this must be the result of all : if there be no unquenchable fire, no everlasting burnings, there is no dependence on those writings, wherein they are so expressly asserted, nor on the eternity of heaven, any more than of hell. So that if we give up the one, we must give up the other. No hell, no heaven, no revelation !
In vain you strive to supply the place of this, by putting purgatory in its room; by saying, “ 'These virtues must have their perfect work in you, if not before, yet certainly after death, (Sp. of Love, P. II. p. 232.) Every thing else must be taken from you by fire, either here or hereafter.” (ibid.) Poor, broken reed ! Nothing will “be taken from you" by that fire which is prepared for the Devil and his angels,' but all rest, all joy, all comfort, all hope. For the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.'
I have now, Sir, delivered my own soul. And I have used great plainness of speech ; such as I could not have prevailed on myself to use to one whom I so much respect, on any other occasion.
O that your latter works may be more and greater than your first ! Surely they would, if you could ever be persuaded to study, instead of the writings of Tauler and Behmen, those of St. Paul, James, Peter, and John; to spew out of your mouth and out of your heart that vain philosophy, and speak neither higher nor lower things, neither more nor less than the Oracles of God: to renounce, despise, abhor all the high flown bombast, all the unintelligible jargon of the mystics, and come back to the plain religion of the Bible, We love him because he first loved us.
LONDON, Jan. 6, 1756.
REV. MR. TOOGOOD,
OCCASIONED BY HIS
DISSENT FROM THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND FULLY
IF you fairly represent Mr. White's arguments, they are liable to much exception. But whether they are or not, your answers to them are far from unexceptionable. To the manner of the whole I object; you are not serious: you do not write as did those excellent men, Mr. Baxter, Mr. Howe, Dr. Calamy, who seem always to speak not laughing but weeping. To the matter I object, That if your argument hold, as it is proposed in your very titlepage, if “a dissent from our church be the genuine consequence of the allegiance due to Christ,” then all who do not dissent, have renounced that allegiance, and are in a state of damnation !
I have not leisure to consider all that you advance, in proof of this severe sentence. I can only at present examine your main argument, which indeed contains the strength of your cause. “ My separation from the Church of England," you say, “is a debt I owe to God, and an act of allegiance due to Christ, the only Lawgiver in the church." p. 2.
Again, “ The controversy turns upon one single point, Has the church power to decree rites and ceremonies ? If it has this power, then all the objections of the Dissenters, about kneeling at the Lord's Supper, and the like are impertinent; if it has no power at all of this kind, yea, if Christ the great Lawgiver and King of the church, hath expressly commanded, that no power of this kind shall ever be claimed or ever be yielded by any of his followers: then the dissenters will have honour before God for protesting against such usurpation.” p. 3.
I join issue on this single point : “ If Christ hath expressly commanded, that no power of this kind shall ever be claimed, or ever yielded by any of his followers :" Then are all who yield it, all churchmen, in a state of damnation, as much as those who deny the Lord that bought them.' But if Christ hath not expressly commanded this, we may go to church, and yet not go to hell.
To the point then. The power I speak of is, a power of decreeing rites and ceremonies, of appointing such circumstantials (suppose) of public worship as are in themselves purely indifferent, being no way determined in Scripture.
And the question is, “ Hath Christ expressly commanded, that this power shall never be claimed, nor ever yielded by any of his followers ?” This I deny. How do you prove it?
Why thus. “ If the Church of England has this power, so has the Church of Rome.” (p. 4.) Allowed. But this is not to the purpose. I want “ the express command of Christ.”
You say, “Secondly, The persons who have this power in England, are not the ciergy, but the parliament.” (p. 8, 9.) Perhaps so. But this also strikes wide. Where is the "
express com. mand of Christ ?"
You ask, “ Thirdly, How came the civil magistrate by this power ? (p. 11.) Christ commands us to call no man on earth father and master,' that is, to acknowledge no authority of any in matters of religion.” (p. 12.) At length we are come to the express command, which, according to your interpretation, is express cnough : “ That is, acknowledge no authority of any in matters of religion :” own no power in any to appoint any circumstances of public worship, any thing pertaining to decency and order. But this interpretation is not allowed. It is the very point in question.
We allow, Christ does here expressly command to acknowledge no such authority of any, as the Jews paid their Rabbies, whom they usually styled, either fathers or masters : implicitly believing all they affirmed, and obeying all they enjoined. But we deny, that he expressly commands, to acknowledge no authority of governors, in things purely indifferent, whether they relate to the worship of God, or other matters.
You attempt to prove it by the following words, One is your Master' and Lawgiver, even Christ : 'and all ye are brethren ;' (Matt. xxiii. 8, 9 ;) “all Christians; having no dominion over one another.” True : no such dominion as their Rabbies claimed: but in all things indifferent, Christian Magistrates have dominion. As to your inserting, and Lawgiver, in the preceding clause, you have no authority from the text: for it is not plain, that our Lord is here speaking of himself in that capacity. Aiderrados, the word here rendered master, you well know, conveys no such idea.
It should rather have been translated, teacher. And indeed the whole text primarily relates to doctrines.
But you cite another text: "The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them : but it shall not be so among you:' (Matt. xx. 25.) Very good : that is, Christian pastors, shall not exercise such dominion over their flocks, as Heathen princes do over their subjects. Most sure : but without any violation of this, they may appoint how things shall be done decently and in order,
" But Christ is the sole Lawgiver, Judge, and Sovereign in his church.” (p. 12.) He is, the sole Sovereign, Judge, and Lawgiver. But it does not follow (what you continually infer) that there are no subordinate judges therein: nor, that there are none who have power, to make regulations therein in subordination to him. King George is sovereign, judge, and lawgiver, in these realms. But are there no subordinate judges ? Nay, are there not many who have power to make rules or laws in their own little communities ? And how does this “invade his authority and throne?" Not at all; unless they contradict the laws of his kingdom.
“However, he alone has authority to fix the terms of communion for his followers or church. (ibid.) And the terms he has fixed no men on earth have authority to set aside or altep.” This I allow (although it is another question) none has authority to exclude from the church of Christ, those who comply with the terms which Christ has fixed. But, not to admit into the society called The Church of England, or, not to administer the Lord's Supper to them, is not the same thing with “excluding men from the church of Christ :" unless this society be The whole church of Christ, which neither you nor I will affirm. This society therefore may scruple to receive those as members, who do not observe her rules in things indifferent, without pretending “ to set aside or alter the terms which Christ has fixed” for admission into the Christian church : and yet without “lording it over God's heritage, or usurping Christ's throne.” Nor does all the allegiance we owe him," at all hinder our obeying them that have the rule over us, in things of a purely indifferent nature. Rather, our allegiance to him, requires our obedience to them. In being « their servants” thus far we are " Christ's servants." We obey his general command, by obeying our governors in particular instances.
Hitherto you have produced no express command of Christ to the contrary. Nor do you attempt to show any such, but strike off from the question for the twelve or fourteen pages following. But after these you say, (p. 26,) The subjects of Christ are expressly commanded to receive nothing as parts of religion, which are only commandments of men.” (Matt. xv. 9.) We grant it: but this is not a command, not to obey those who have the rule over us.' And we must obey them in things indifferent, or not at all. For in things which God hath forbidden, should such be enjoined, we dare not obey. Nor need they enjoin what God hath commanded.
Upon the whole we agree, that Christ is the only supreme Judge and Lawgiver in the church : I may add, and in the world : for there is no power,' no secular power, but of God: of God who • was manifested in the flesh, who is over all, blessed for ever.' But we do not at all agree in the inference which you would draw therefrom, namely, that there is no subordinate judge or lawgiver in the church. You may just as well infer, That there is no subordinate judge or lawgiver in the world. Yea there is, both in the one and the other.