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öp 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. Williams represents, that persons must not be admitted with: out the highest evidence a man can give of sincerity.
IÍ. Mr. Williams is abundant in suggesting and 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 atid peremptory deiermination in ihose who admit them, that they are truly godly ; because I suppose it to be necessary, that there should be a positive judgment in their favor.
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 cerrdin, freremptory, or assåred. But (2.) The word positive is very often used in a very 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 negai tive good is a mere negation or absence of evil. But a positive good is something more, it is 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 arr ill judgment of a man, or forbearing to condemn him. Such a charily 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 tiot judging ill of a man ; 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 pied remptory. A man may have something more than a mere negative charity towards 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 prefence 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 my. self in slating the question. In my Inquiry, (p. 5.) I have the following words : “ By Christian judgment I intend some. thing 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 favor of a person. For a having some hope, only implies, that a man is not in utter despair of a thing ; though his preyailing opinion may be otherwise, or he may suspend his opinion.”
Here I think, my meaning is very plainly and carefully explained. However, inasmuch as the word positive is sometimes used for peremptory or certain, Mr. Williams 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 applics the word, referring to my use of it, from time. to time. Thus, p. 69. “ If there be any thing in this argument, I 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 be 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. “ The notion of men's being able and fil to determine positively the condition of other men, or thre certainty of their gracious state, has a direct tendency to deVOL. I.
ceive the souls of men.” And thus Mr. Williams 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 the necessity of it ; and every where plainly uses the phrase in that sense, for absolute and peremptory, in opposition 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. Williams himself does abundantly suppose, that there must be a positive judgment in this sense : He grants the very thing, though he rejects the term : For he holds,there must be such a "visibil- . ity as makes persons to appear to be real saints.” p. 5.He allows, that the moral image of God or Christ must appear or be supposed to be in them, as the ground and rea
* 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 admission 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 cvidences, 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 bretherly 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 profession 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 belicver in Christ, a brother for whom Christ died ? If it 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 labor of love towards my brother, whom I have seen ; 'and my love to God, in my love to chem that are begotten of him."
son of our charity ; and that there must be some apprehension, some judgment of mind, of ihe saintship of persons, for its foundation, p. 68, and 69, and 71.... That they must have such a character appearing in them, p. 55.- That there must be a judgment founded on a moral Evidence of gospel holiness,” p. 139.
III. Mr. Williams to make my scheme appear the more ridiculous, does more than once represent it as my opinion, that in order to persons being admitted into the church, there must be a judgment of their being regenerate, founded on such a degree of evidence, as that it shall not be liable to be mistaken more than once in ten times. Thus, p. 63. “ Mr. Edwards himself supposes, in his own scheme, when he has made a positive judgment 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. “If any thing be intended to the purpose for which this argument is brought, I conceive it must mean, that there must be such a positive judgment 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 desired 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, we should have any reason to suppose every one to be truly godly; though we might have charity for each one that was admitted, taken singly, and by himself. And to shew, that such a thing was possible, I endeavored to illustrate it by a comparison, or supposed case of probability of ten to one in the example of certain stones, with such probable marks of a diamond, as by experience had been found not to fail more than once in ten times. In which case, if a particular stone were found with those marks, there would be a probability of ten to one, with respect to that stone, singly taken, that it was genuine : But if ten such were taken together, there would not be the same probability that every one of them was so ; but in this case, it is as likely as not, that some one in the ten is spurious. Now it is so apparent, that this particular degree of probability of ten to one is mentioned only as a supposed case, for illustration, and because, in a particular example, some number or other must be mentioned, that it would have been an affront to the sense of my readers to have added any caution, that he should not understand me otherwise. However, Mr. Williams has laid hold on this, as a good handle by which he might exhibit my scheme to the world in a ridiculous light ; as though I had declared it my real opinion, that there must be the probability, of just ten to one, of true godliness, in order to persons' admission into the church. He might with as much appearance of sense and justice, have as. serted concerning all the supposed cases in books of arithmetic, that the authors intend these cases should be understood as real facts, and that they have written their books, with all the sums and numbers in them, as books of history; and if ary cases mentioned there only as examples of the several rules, are unlikely to be true accounts of fact, therefore have charged the authors with writing a false and absurd history.
IV. Another thing, yet further from what is honorable in Mr. Williams is this ; that whereas I said as above, that there ought to be a prevailing opinion concerning those that are admitted, taken singly, or by themselves, that they are truly godly or gracious, though when we look on the whole number in the gross, we are far from determining that every one is a true saint, and that not one of the judgments we have passed, has been mistaken ; Mr. Williams, because I used the phrase singly taken, has laid hold on the expression and from thence has taken occasion to insinuate to his readers, as if my, scheme were so very extravagant, that according to this, when a great multitude are admitted, their admitters must be confident of EVERY ONE's being regenerated. Hence he observes, (p. 98.) 6. There is no appearance, that John made a positive judgment that every one of these people were regenerated.” Plainly using the expression as a very strong one ; leading the reader to suppose, I insist the evidence shall be so clear, that when