« ZurückWeiter »
repentance salvation may be had on both sides : though with a difference that keeps papists still on the more uncharitable side. For whereas we conceive a lower degree of repentance (that which they call attrition) if it be true, and effectual, and convert the heart of the penitent, will serve in them : they pretend (even this author which is most charitable towards us) that without contrition there is no hope for us. But, though protestants may not obtain this purchase at so easy a rate as papists; yet (even papists being judges) they may obtain: and, though there is no entrance for them but at the only door of contrition, yet they may enter; heaven is not inaccessible to them. Their errors are no such impenetrable isthmuses between them and salvation, but that contrition may make a way through them. All their schism and heresy is no such fatal poison, but that, if a man join with it the antidote of a general repentance, he may die in it, and live for
Thus much then being acknowledged, I appeal to any indifferent reader, whether C. M. be not by his hyperaspist forsaken in the plain field, and the point in question granted to D. Potter, viz. That protestancy, even without a particular repentance, is not destructive of salvation. So that all the controversy remaining now, is not simply, whether protestancy unrepented destroys salvation? as it was at first proposed, but, whether protestancy in itself (that is, abstracting from ignorance and contrition) destroys salvation ? So that, as a foolish fellow, who gave a knight the lie, desiring withal leave of him to set his knighthood aside, was answered by him, that he would not suffer any thing to be set aside that belonged unto
kim: so might we justly take it amiss, that conceiving, as you do, ignorance and repentance such necessary things for us, you are not more willing to consider us with them, than without them. For my part, such is my charity to you, that con sidering what great necessity you have, as much as any Christian society in the world, that these sanctuaries of ignorance and repentance should always stand open, I can very hardly persuade myself so much, as in my most secret consideration to divest you of these so needful qualifications : but whensoever your errors, superstitions, and impieties come into my mind (and, besides the general bonds of humanity and Christianity, my own particular obligations to many of you, such and so great, that you cannot perish without a part of myself) my only comfort is, amidst these agonies, that the doctrine and practice too of repentance is yet remaining in your church : and that, though you put on a face of confidence of your innocence, in point of doctrine, yet you will be glad to stand in the eye of mercy as well as your fellows, and not be so stout, as to refuse ei, ther God's pardon or the king's.
101 6. But, for the present, protestancy is called to the bar, and though not sentenced by you to death without mercy, yet arraigned of so much natural malignity (if not corrected by ignorance or contrition) as to be in itself destructive of salvation. Which controversy I am content to dispute with you, tying myself to follow the rules prescribed by you in your Preface. Only I am to remember you, that the adding of this limitation [in itself) hath made this a new question; and that this is not the conclusion for which you were charged with want of charity: but that whereas, according to the grounds of your own religion-protestants may die in their supposed errors, either with excusable ignorance, or with contrition; and, if they do so, may be saved-you still are peremp tory
in pronouncing them damned. Which position, supposing your doctrine true, and ours false; as it is far from charity (whose essential character it is, to judge and hope the best, so I believe that I shall clearly evince this new, but more moderate assertion of yours to be far from verity, and that it is
popery, and not protestancy, which in itself destroys salvation.
7. Ad. §. 7 and 8. In your gradation I shall rise so far with you as to grant, that Christ founded a visible church, stored with all helps necessary to salvation, particularly with sufficient means to beget and conserve faith, to maintain unity, and compose schisms, to discover and condemn heresies, and to determine all controversies in religion, which were necessary to be determined. For all these purposes he gave at the beginning (as we may see in the Epistle to the Ephesians) apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and doctors; who by word of mouth taught their contemporaries, and by writings (wrote indeed by some, but approved by all of them) taught their Christian posterity to the world's end, how all these ends, and that which is the end of all these ends, salvation, is to be achieved. And these means the providence of God hath still preserved, and so preserved, that they are sufficient for all these intents. I say sufficient, though, through the malice of men, not always effectual; for that the same means may be sufficient for the compassing
an end, and not effectual, you must not deny, who hold, that God gives to all men sufficient means of salvation, and yet that all are not saved. I said, also, sufficient to determine all controversies, which were necessary to be determined. For, if some controversies
many ages be undetermined, and yet in the meanwhile men be saved ; why should, or how can the church's being furnished with effectual means to determine all controversies in religion, be necessary to salvation; the end itself to which these means are ordained, being, as experience shews, not necessary ? Plain sense will teach every man that the necessity of the means must always be measured by, and can never exceed, the necessity of the end. As if eating be necessary, only that I may live; then certainly, if I have no necessity to live, I have no necessity to eat: if I have no need to be at London, I have no need of a horse to carry me thither: if I have no need to fly, I have no need of wings. Answer me then I pray directly, and categorically; is it necessary that all controversies in religion should be determined ? or, is it not? If it be, why is the question of predetermination, of the immaculate conception, of the pope's indirect power in temporalities, so long undetermined ? If not, what is it but hypocrisy to pretend such great necessity of such effectual means for the achieving that end, which is itself not necessary? Christians therefore have, and shall have, means sufficient (though not always effectual) to determine, not all controversies, but all necessary to be determined. I proceed on farther with you,
and grant that this means to decide controversies in faith and religion, must be endued with an universal in
fallibility in whatsoever it propoundeth for a Divine truth. For if it may be false in any one thing of this naturé, in any thing which God requires men to believe, we can yield unto it but a wavering and fearful assent' in any thing. These grounds therefore I grant very readily, and give you free leave to make your best advantage of them. And yet, to deal truly, I do not perceive how from the denial of any of them it would follow, that faith is opinion; or, from the granting them, that it is not so. But, for my part, whatsoever clamour you have raised against me,
I think no otherwise of the nature of faith, I mean historical faith, than generally both protestants and papists do; for I conceive it an assent to Divine revelations upon the authority of the revealer; which though in' many things it differ from opinion (as commonly the word opinion is understood) yet in some things, I doubt not but
will confess, that it agrees with it. As first, That as opinión is an assent, so is faith also. Secondly, That as opinion, so faith, is always built upon less evidence than that of sense or science; which assertion you not only grant, but mainly contend for, in your sixth chapter. Thirdly and lastly, That as opinion, so faith, admits degrees; and that, as there may be a strong and weak opinion, so there may be a strong and weak faith. These things, if
you will grant (as sure if you be in your right mind you will not deny any of them) I am well contented that this ill-founding word, opinion, should be discarded, and that among the intellectual habits you should seek out some other genus for faith. For I will never contend with any man about words, who grants my meaning.