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sion of members, from their infancy.- Whereas, Mr. W. from his youth had lived in another part of the country, at seventy miles distance.
Mr. Williams's misrepresentations of the principles and tenets,
delivered in the book which he undertakes to answer.
Mr. W. very greatly misrepresents my opinion, and the principles I maintain in my book, in many respects.
I. He says, (p. 5. d.) “ The whole argument, and indeed the whole controversy, turns upon this single point, viz. What is that evidence, which by divine appointment the church is to have, of the saintship of those who are admitted to the outward privileges of the covenant of grace? Mr. Edwards seems to suppose, this must be the highest evidence a man can give of sincerity; and I apprehend to be the lowest evidence the nature of the thing will admit.”—But this is very strange, since I bad particularly declared in my stating of the question, (p. 5.) that the evidence I insisted on, was some outward manifestation, that ordinarily rendered the thing probable. Which shews, that all I insisted on, was only, that the evidence should amount to probability. And if the nature of the case will admit of some lower kind of evidence than this, or if there be any such thing as a sort of evidence that does not so much as amount to probability, then it is possible that I may have some controversy with him and others about the degree of evidence. Otherwise it is hard to conceive, how he should contrive to make out a controversy with me.
But that the reader may better judge, whether Mr. W. truly represents me as supposing that the evidence which should be insisted on, is the highest evidence a man can give of sincerity, I would here insert an extract of a Letter which I wrote to the Rev. Mr. Peter Clark of Salem-Village, a twelve-month before Mr. W—'s book was published. The original is doubtless in Mr. Clark's hands. In that letter, I declare my sentiments in the following words:
- It does not belong to the controversy between me and my people, bow particular or large the profession should be that is l'equired. I should not choose to be confined to exact limits as to that matter. But rather than contend, I should content my. self with a few words, briefly expressing the cardinal virtues, or acts implied in a hearty compliance with the covenant of grace:
the profession being made (as should appear by inquiry into the person's doctrinal knowledge,) understandingly; if there were an external conversation agreeable thereto. Yea, I should think that such a person, solemnly making such a profession, had a right to be received as the object of a public charity, however he himself might scruple his own conversion, on account of his not remembering the time, not knowing the method of his conversion, or finding so much remaining sin, &c. And (if his own scruples did not hinder, *) I should think a minister or church had no right to debar such a professor, though he should say, he did not think himself converted. For I.call that a profession of godliness, which is a profession of the great things wherein godliness consists, and not a profession of his own opinion of his good estate."
Northampton, May 7, 1750.
In like manner, I explained my opinion, very particularly and expressly before the council that determined my separation from my people, and before the church in a very public manner in the meeting-house, many people being present, near a year before Mr. W.'s book was published. And to make it the more sure, that what I maintained inight be well observed, I afterwards sent in the foregoing extract of my letter to Mr Clark of Salem Village, into the council. And, as I was informed, it was particularly taken notice of in the council, and handed round among them, to be read by them.
The same council, having heard that I had made certain drafts of the covenant, or forms of a public profession of religion, which I stood ready to accept of from the candidates for communion, they, for their further information, sent for them. Accordingly I sent them four distinct drafts or forms, which I had drawn up about a twelvemonth before, (near two years before the publishing of Mr. W.'s book,) as what I stood ready to accept of, (any one of them,) rather than contend and break with my people. The two shortest of those forms were as follows.
One of them was;
" I hope, I do truly find a heart to give up myself wholly to God, according to the tenor of that covenant of grace which
* I added this, because I supposed that such persons as judge themselves unconverted, if of my principles respecting qualifications for communion, would scruple coming, and could not come with a good conscience ; But if they were of Mr. S—d's principles, viz. that unconverted men might lawfully come, neither a man's being of that opinion, nor his judging himself unconverted, would hinder my receiving him who exhibited proper evidence to the church of his being a convert. VOL. IV.
was sealed in my baptism, and to walk in a way of that obedience to all the commandments of God, which the covenant of grace requires, as long as I live.
"I hope, I truly find in my heart a willingness to comply with all the commandments of God, which require me to give up myself wholly to him, and to serve him with my body and my spirit; and do accordingly now promise to walk in a way of obedience to all the commandments of God, as long as I live.”
Now the reader is left to judge, whether I insist, as Mr. W. represents, that persons must not be admitted without the highest evidence a man can give of sincerity.
II. Mr. W. is abundant in suggesting and in insinuating to his readers, that the opinion laid down in my book is, That persons ought not to be admitted to communion without an absolute and peremptory determination in those who admit them, that they are truly godly ; because I suppose it to be necessary, that there should be a positive judgment in their favour.
Here I desire the reader to observe, that the word positive is used in two senses. (1.) Sometimes it is put in opposition to doubtful, or uncertain: and then it signifies the same as certain, peremptory, or assured.
But (2.) The word positive is very often used in a different sense ; not in opposition to doubtful, but in opposition to negative : and so understood, it signifies very much the same as real or actual. Thus, we often speak of a negative good, and a positive good. A negative good is a mere negation or absence of evil; but a positive good is something more,--some real, actual good, instead of evil. So there is a negative charity, and a positive charity. A negative charity is a mere absence of an ill judgment of a man or forbearing to condemn him. Such a charity a man may have towards any stranger he transiently sees in the street, that he never saw or heard any thing of before. A positive charity is something further than merely not condemning, or not judg. ing ill, it implies a good thought of a man. The reader will easily see that the word positive, taken in this sense, is an exceeding different thing from certain or peremptory. A man may have something more than a mere negative charity to wards another, or a mere forbearing to condemn him; he may actually entertain some good thought of him, and yet there may be no proper peremptoriness, no pretence of any certainty in the case.
Now it is in this sense I use the phrase, positive judgment, viz. in opposition to a mere negative charity; as I very plainly express the matter, and particularly and fully explain myself in stating the question. In my inquiry (p.5.) I have the following words: “ By Christian judgment, I intend something further than a kind of mere negative charity, implying that we forbear to censure and condemn a man, because we do not know but that he may be godly, and therefore forbear to proceed on the foot of such a censure or judgment in our treatment of him; as we would kindly entertain a stranger, not knowing but, in so doing, we entertain an angel, or precious saint of God: But I mean a positive judgment, founded on some positive appearance or visibility, some outward manifestation that ordinarily renders the thing probable. There is a difference between suspending our judgment, or forbearing to condemn, or having some hope that possibly the thing may be so, and so hoping the best, and a positive judgment in favour of a person. For having some hope, only implies, that a man is not in utter despair of a thing; though his prevailing opinion may he otherwise, or he may suspend his opinion."
Here, I think, my meaning is very plainly and carefully explained. However, in as much as the word positive is sometimes used for peremptory or certain, Mr. W. catches at the term, and lays fast hold of the advantage he thinks this gives him, and is abundant, all over his book, in representing as though I insisted on a positive judgment in this sense. So he applies the word, referring to my use of it, from time to time. Phus, (p. 69. 6.) “ If there be any thing in this argument, 1 think it must be what I have observed, viz. That a Christian must make a positive judgment and determination, that another man is a saint, and this judgment must have for its ground something which he supposes is, at least ordinarily, a certain evidence of his saintship, and by which gracious sincerity is certainly distinguished from every thing else.” And (p. 141 a.) "The notion of men's being able and fit to determine positively the condition of other men, or the certainty of their gracious state, has a direct tendency to deceive the souls of men.” And thus Mr. W. makes mention of a positive judgment above forty times in his book, with reference to my use of it, and to my declared opinion of its necessity; and every where plainly uses the phrase in that sense, for absolute and peremptory, in oppo. sition to doubtfulness ; continually insinuating, that this is what I professedly insist on. Whereas every act of the judgment whatsoever, is a positive judgment in the sense in which I have fully declared I use it, viz. in opposition to negative; which is no act, but a mere withholding of the act of the judgment, or forbearing any actual judgment.* Mr. W. himself does abun
* Mr. John Glas, in his “Observes upon the original Constitution of the Christian Church”, (p. 55, 56.) says as follows. “You seem to have a great prejudice at what you call positive evidences, and judging upon them in the admissien of church members. And I am at some loss to understand what you mean by them, though I have heard the expression frequently, among people of your opinion, used to express some very ill thing. If you mean by positive evidences, infallible evidences of a thing that none but God infallibly knows, and can assure a man's own conscience of, with respect to a man himself; I think, it would be a very great evil for a man to require such evidence to found his judgment of charity, concerning another man's faith and holiness, or concerning his being an object of brotherly love. And I think, he is bound by the law of Christ to form his judgment in this matter upon less evidence. But if you mean positive evidence in opposition to negative, which is no evidence, I must own, I know not how to form a judgment of charity without some positive evidence. And is not a credible profession something positive ? Is not a credible profes sion of the faith, love, and hope that is in Christ, or of Christianity, a positive evidence, of a man's being an object of brotherly love, which evidence ought to be the ground of my judgment of charity concerning him, that he is a Christian, a Believer in Christ, a brother for whom Christ died? Ifit be otherwise, and if there be no evidence upon which I can charitably judge, that a man is a brother for whom Christ died, then tell me, how I can evidence my love to Jesus Christ, in the labour of love towards my brother, whom I have seen; and my love to God, in my love to them that are begotten of him?
dantly suppose, that there must be a positive judgment in this
He grants the very thing, though he rejects the term. For he holds, there must be such a visibility as makes persons to appear to be real saints. (p. 5. 6.)-He allows, that the moral image of God or Christ must appear, or be supposed to be in them, as the ground and reason of our charity; and that there must be some apprehension, some judgment of mind, of the saintship of persons, for its foundation. (p. 68.c, d, e. & 69. a. 71. d.)
-That they must have such a character appearing in them. (p. 55. e.) - That there must be a judgment founded on moral evidence of gospel-holiness. (p. 139. d.)
III. Mr. W. to make my scheme appear the more ridicu. lous, more than once represents it as my opinion, that in order to persons being admitted into the church, there must be a judg. ment of their being regenerate, founded on such a degree of evi. dence, as that it shall not be liable to be mistaken more than once in ten times. Thus, (p. 63. c.)
Thus, (p. 63. c.) “Mr Edwards himself supposes, in his own scheme, when he has made a positive judg. ment that every one singly whom he admits into the church is regenerate; yet, when taken collectively, it is probable one in ten will be an hypocrite ?" (So, p. 71. 6.) “If any thing be intended to the purpose for which this argument is brought, I conceive, it must be mean, that there must be a positive judg. ment of the real holiness of persons, as is not mistaken more than once in ten times.”—Now, I desire the reader to observe what is the whole ground, on which he makes such a representation. In explaining my opinion, in the beginning of my inquiry, (p. 6.) I desire it might be observed, that I did not suppose we ought to expect any such degree of certainty of the godliness of those who are admitted into the church, as that when the whole number admitted are taken collectively, or considered in the gross,