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33. Error (1698)

Section 1 (of 1)

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The great division amongst Christians is about Opinions. Every sect has its set of them and that is called Orthodoxie. And he who professes his assent to them though with an implicit faith and without examining he is Orthodox and in the way to Salvation. But if he examines and thereupon questions any one of them, he is presently suspected of Heresie and if he oppose them or hold the contrary he is presently condemnd as in a damnable Error and the sure way to perdition. Of this one may say that there is nor can be noething more wrong. For he that Examins and upon a fair examination imbraces an error for a truth, has done his duty more than he who imbraces the profession (for the truths them selves he does not imbrace) of the Truth without haveing examined whether it be true or noe. And he that has done his duty according to the best of his ability is certainly more in the way to heaven than he that has done noething of it· For if it be our duty to search after truth he certainly that has searchd after it, though he has not found it in some parts has paid a more acceptable obedience to the will of his master than he that has not searchd at all, but professes to have found truth when he has neither searchd nor found it. For he that takes up the opinions of any church in the Lump without examining them has truly neither searchd after nor found truth but has only found those that he thinks have found truth, and soe receives what they say with an implicit faith and soe pays them the homage that is due only to him who cannot be deceivd nor deceive. In this way the several Churches (in which as one may observe opinions are preferd to life and Orthodoxie is that which they are concerned for and not morals) put the termes of Salvation on that which the author of our Salvation does not put them in. The beleiveing of a collection of certain propositions which are called and esteemd Fundamental articles because it has pleasd the compilers to put them into their Confession of faith, is made the condition of Salvation. But this beleiveing is not in truth beleiveing but a profession to beleive for it is enough to joyn with those who make the same profession; and ignorance or disbeleif of some of those articles is well enough borne and a man is Orthodox enough and without any suspition till he begins to examin. As soon as it is perceived that he quits the implicit faith expected though disowned by the church, his Orthodoxie is presently questioned and he is marked out for a Heretick. In this way of an implicit faith I doe not deny but a man who beleives in God the father almighty and that Jesus Christ is his only son our Lord may be saved: because many of the articles of every sect are such as a man may be saved without the explicit. beleif of· But how the several Churches who place salvation in noe lesse than a knowledge and beleife of their several confessions can content them selves with such an implicit faith in any of their members I must owne I doe not see. The truth is we cannot be saved without performeing some thing which is the explicit beleiveing of what god in the gospel has made absolutely necessary to salvation to be explicitly beleived, and sincerely to obey what he has there commanded. To a man who beleives in Jesus Christ that he is sent from God to be the Saviour of the world· The first step to Orthodoxie is a sincere obedience to his law. Objection.But tis an ignorant day labourer that cannot soe much as read and how can he study the Gospel and become Orthodox that way? Answer. A plough man that can not read is not soe ignorant but he has a conscience and knows in those few cases which concerne his owne actions what is right and what is wrong. let him sincerly obey this light of nature. it is the transcript of the moral law in the Gospel, and this, even though there be errors in it will lead him into all the truths in the Gospel that are necessary for him to know. For he that in earnest beleives Jesus Christ to be sent from god to be his Lord and ruler and does sincerly and unfeignedly sets upon a good life as far as he know<s> his dutys; and where he is in doubt in any matter that concerns himself cannot faile to enquire of those better skild in Christ’s law to tell him what his Lord and master has commanded in the case and desire to have his law read to him concerneing that duty which he finds himself concerned in for the regulation of his own actions. For as for other mens actions what is right and wrong as to them that he is not concerned to know; his businesse is to live well him self and doe what is his particular duty. This is knowled<g> and Orthodoxie enough for him which will be sure to bring him to salvation, an Orthodoxie which noebody can misse who in earnest resolves to lead a good life. And therefor I lay it downe as a principle of Christianity that the right and only way to Saveing Orthodoxie is the sincere and steady purpose of a good life. Ignorant of many things conteined in the Holy Scriptures we are all. Errors also concerneing doctrines beleived in scripture we have all of us not a few. these therefor can not be damnable if any shall be saved. And if they are dangerous tis certain the ignorant and illiterate are safest for they have the fewest Errors that trouble not themselves with speculations above their capacitys or beside their concerne. A good life in obedience to the law of Christ their Lord is their indespensable businesse, and if they informe themselves concerning that as far as their particular dutys lead them to enquire and oblige them to know, they have Orthodoxie enough, and will not be condemned for ignorance in those speculations which they had neither parts, opportunity nor leisure to know. Here we may see the difference between the Orthodoxie required by Christianity and the Orthodoxie required by the several sects or as they are called Churches of Christians. The one is explicitly to beleive what is indispensably required to be beleived as absolutely necessary to Salvation, and to know and beleive the other doctrines of faith deliverd in the word of god as a man has opportunity helps and parts: but to informe him self in the rules and measures of his owne duty as far as his actions are concerned and to pay a sincere obedience to them. But the other viz. the Orthodoxie as required by the several sects is a profession of beleiveing the whole bundle of their respective articles set down in each churches Systeme, without knoweing the rules of every ones particular dutys or requireing a sincere or strict obedience to them. For they are speculative opinions, confessions of faith that are insisted on in the several communions: they must be owned and subscribed to but the precepts and rules of morality and the observance of them I doe not remember there is much notice taken of, or any great stir made about a collection or observance of them in any of the termes of Church communion. But it is also to be observed that this is much better fitted to get and retein church members than the other ways, and is much more suited to that end, as much as it is easier to make profession of beleiveing a certain collection of opinions that one never perhaps soe much as read and several whereof one could not perhaps understand if one did read and study (For noe more is required than a profession to beleive them expressed in an acquiescence that suffers one not to question or contradict any of them), Than it is to practise the dutys of a good life in a sincere obedience to those precepts of the gospel wherein his actions are concerned. precepts not hard to be known by those who are willing and ready to obey them. JL

Diplomatic

Error

The great division amongst Christians is about Opinions. Every sect has its set of them and that is called Orthodoxie. And he who professes his assent to them though with an implicit faith and without examining he is Orthodox and in the way to Salvation. But if he examines and thereupon questions any one of them, he is presently suspected of Heresie and if he oppose them or hold the contrary he is presently condemnd as in a damnable Error and the sure way to perdition. Of this one may say that there is nor can be noething more wrong. For he that Examins and upon a fair examination imbraces an error for a truth, has done his duty more than he who imbraces the profession (for the truths them selves he does not imbrace) of the Truth without haveing examined whether it be true or noe. And he that has done his duty according to the best of his ability is certainly more in the way to heaven than he that has done noething of it· For if it be our duty to search after truth he certainly that has searchd after it, though he has not found it in some parts has paid a more acceptable obedience to the will of his master than he that has not searchd at all, but professes to have found truth when he has neither searchd nor found it. For he that takes up the opinions of any church in the Lump without examining them has truly neither searchd after nor found truth but has only found those that he thinks have found truth, and soe receives what they say with an implicit faith and soe pays them the homage that is due only to god almighty him who cannot be deceivd nor deceive. In this way the several Churches (in which as Orthodoxie is preferd to Morals one may observe opinions are preferd to life and Orthodoxie is that which they are concerned for and not morals) put the termes of Salvation on that which the author of our Salvation does not put them in. The beleiveing of certain pr<opositions> a collection of certain propositions which are called and esteemd Fundamental articles because it has pleasd the compilers to put them into their Confession of faith, is made the condition of Salvation. But this beleiveing is not in truth beleiveing but a profession to beleive for it is enough to joyn with those who make the same profession; and ignorance or disbeleif of some of those articles is well enough borne and a man is Orthodox enough and without any suspition till he begins to examin. As soon as it is perceived that he quits the implicit faith expected though disowned by the church, his Orthodoxie is presently questioned and he is marked out for a Heretick. In this way of an implicit faith I doe not deny but a man who beleives in God the father almighty and that Jesus Christ is his only son our Lord may be saved: because many of the articles of every sect are such as a man may be saved without the actual explicit. beleif of· But how the several Churches who place salvation in noe lesse than in a knowledge and beleife of their several .. confessions can content them selves with such an implicit faith in any of their members I must owne I doe not see. The truth is we cannot be saved without .. performeing some thing which is the explicit beleiveing of what god in the gospel abso<lutely> has made absolutely necessary to salvation to be explicitly beleived, and sincerely to obey what he has there commanded. But To a man who beleives in Jesus Christ that he is sent from God to be the Saviour of the world· The first step to Orthodoxie. is a sincere obedience to his law. Objection.But tis an ignorant day labourer that cannot soe much as read and how can he study the Gospel and become Orthodox that way? Answer. A plough man that can not read is not soe ignorant but he has a conscience and knows in those few cases which concerne his owne few actions what is right and what is wrong. let him sincerly obey this light of nature. it is the transcript of the moral law in the Gospel, and this, even though there be errors in it .. will lead .. him into all the truths in the Gospel that are necessary for him to know. For he that in earnest beleives Jesus Christ to be sent from god to be their his Lord and ruler and does sincerly and unfeignedly .sets upon a good life as far as they he know<s> their his dutys; and where they are he is in doubt in any matter that concerns him themsel vf es cannot faile to enquire of those better skild in his Christ’s law to tell them him what their his Lord and master has commanded in the case and desire to have his law read to him concerneing that duty which he finds himself concerned in for the regulation of

321

his own actions. For as for other mens actions what is right and wrong as to them that he is not concerned to know; his businesse is to live well him self and doe what is his particular duty. This is knowled<g> and Orthodoxie enough for him and which will be sure to bring him to salvation, and an Orthodoxie which noebody can misse who in earnest resolves to lead a good life. And therefor I lay it downe as a principle of Christianity that the right and only way to Saveing Orthodoxie is the sincere and steady purpose of a good life. Ignorant of many things conteined in the Holy Scriptures we are all. Errors also concerneing doctrines beleived in scripture we have all of us not a few. these therefor can not be damnable if any shall be saved. And if they are dangerous tis certain the ignorant and illiterate are safest for they have the fewest Errors that trouble th. not themselves with speculations above their capacitys or beside their concerne. A good life in obedience to the law of Christ their Lord is their indespensable businesse, and if they informe themselves concerning that as far as their particular dutys lead them to enquire and oblige them to know, they have Orthodoxie enough, and will not be condemned for ignorance in those speculations which they had neither parts, opportunity nor leisure to know. Here we may see the difference between the Orthodoxie required by the Gospell Christianity and the Orthodoxie required by the several sects or as they are called Churches of Christians. The one is explicitly to beleive only what is absolutely necessary indispensably required to be beleived as absolutely necessary to Salvation, and to beleive know and beleive the other doctrines of faith deliverd in the word of god as a man has opportunity helps and parts: The other is barely but to informe him self in the rules and measures of his owne duty as far as his actions are concerned and to pay a sincere obedience to them. But the other viz. the Orthodoxie as required by the several sects is a profession of beleiveing the whole bundle of their respective articles set down in each churches Systeme, without knoweing the rules of every ones particular dutys or requireing a sincere or strict obedience to them. For they are speculative opinions, confessions of faith that are insisted on in the several chu<rches> communions: they must be owned and subscribed to but the precepts and rules of morality and the observance of them I doe not remember there is much notice taken of, or any great stir made about a collection of them or observance of them in any of the termes of Church communion. But it is also to be observed that this is much better fitted to get and retein church members & than the other ways, and is much more suited to that end, as much as it is easier to make profession of beleiveing a certain collection of opinions that one never perhaps soe much as read and several whereof one could not perhaps understand if one did read and study (For noe more is required than a profession to beleive them expressed in an acquiescence that suffers one not to question or contradict any of them), Than it is to practise the dutys of a good life in a sincere obedience to those rules precepts of the gospel wherein his actions are concerned. precepts not hard to be known by those who are willing and ready to obey them. JL


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See also the ‘Conduct’, par. 98: ‘The first is of those who seldom reason at all but doe and thinke according to the example of others whether parents neighbours minister or who else they are pleased to make choise of to have an implicit faith in for the saveing of them selves the pains and trouble of thinkeing and examining for themselves.
See also the ‘Conduct’, par. 67: ‘For what one of an hundred of the zealous bigots in all partys ever examined the tenets he is soe stiff in? or ever thought it his businesse or duty soe to do? It is suspected of Lukewarmnesse to suppose it necessary and a tendency to Apostacy to goe about it…’
Cf. Locke, Essay, I.1.6, p.46: ‘Our Business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our Conduct.’
See also the ‘Conduct’: ‘Men therefor cannot be excused from understanding the words and frameing the general notions relateing to religion right. The one day of seven besides other days of rest in the Christian world allows time enough for this…’
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