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MR. WALL'S HISTORY
HEATS among Christians inconsistent with their profession, and a great dishonour to Christianity-This reflection occasioned by a letter the author received, very unbecoming the character of his friend that sent it-The author endeavours to find an excuse for his friend-We are generally more subject to passion in matters of religion, than in other things-His friend's great respect to the power of the Church of England, which he thinks to be the best constituted national church in the world, some sort of excuse for him-We have no infallible judge on earth-Nothing can excuse unreasonable excesses of any kind-Hard names, &c., no real prejudice to our cause-Mr. Wall's moderation only pretended-The antipædobaptists hearty friends to the present government-Those who make the greatest outcries of the church's danger, known to be her greatest enemies-Persecution for religion directly contrary to our Saviour's doctrine and example-Arguments from Scripture the proper means to convince men—The antipædobaptists open to instruction-Mr. Wall's history not so formidable as is pretended-He is not much to be depended on-His real aim and design was only to establish the baptism of infants; as appears by considering his pretence from Justin Martyr-Another from St. Cyprian-Another
WALL, VOL. III.
from the Apostolical Constitutions-He takes all occasions to blacken the antipædobaptists; disguising his designs with pretences to moderation-This charge not inconsistent with charity-Learned men are best able to judge of mattersMr. Wall endeavours to possess his readers with an opinion of his learning, by several needless digressions, on the Decretal Epistles: on the history of Pelagianism; and, in this, on the lawfulness of oaths, and possessing riches: on the virginity of our Lord's mother: on the Socinians, and the tritheism they charge on the Fathers-This a subject too difficult for Mr. Wall-His ridiculous reflection on Mr. Stennett noted-Another artifice to gain reputation, by quarrelling with several of the greatest men for learning, &c.: as archbishop Tillotson, bishop Burnet, Rigaltius, Gregory Nazianzen, father and son, St. Chrysostom, Mr. Le Clerc― Difference in opinion no warrant to dispense with the rules of charity-Moral virtues more acceptable to God than speculative notions-Mr. Le Clerc no Arian, Photinian, or Socinian-Mr. Wall also quarrels with Grotius-The sense of a passage in St. Gregory set right, which Mr. Wall had misrepresented-The sense of a canon of the Neocæsarean council rescued from the force Mr. Wall put upon it: as also, the words of Zonaras and Balsamon, in relation thereto—St. Austin and Pelagius speak of the end, not of the subjects of baptism-He that takes so much liberty with such men, will take more, in all probability, with the antipædobaptistsMr. Wall has not acted the part of a faithful historian towards us-He several times, on no ground at all, takes for granted some things, merely because they favour his design -And charges the antipædobaptists with whatever he has heard any one among them to have believed or said.
ONE would think it impossible, when we consider the perfect charity and moderation which Christianity every where recommends, to find its professors so overcome with bitterness and heat. It is a great reflection on our holy religion, and
nothing hardly can expose it to jest and banter more than these animosities and violent divisions, which reign among those who make the highest pretences of affection to it; who after having magnified it to others, and endeavoured to convince them of its excellence and truth, so foully contradict its piety and goodness in their actions, which are so directly opposite to that divine Spirit which breathed it forth : which discovers they have no such great opinion of it themselves, and gives the enemies of our faith but too much colour to cry it down as an imposture, and an invention of state, to frighten children and fools into subjection and slavery. Rage and fury are inconsistent with Christianity; and where these govern, that can find no place: for, what agreement can there be between a persecuting temper, and the peaceful Spirit of Christ our Lord? What communion hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial? &c. 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. And accordingly it is to be observed, no party encourages this fiery zeal so much, as the most antichristian of all churches, viz. that of Rome.
You will easily apprehend, sir, the occasion of these Reflections; for, give me leave to tell you, nothing could be more unbecoming your character, either as a Christian or a learned man, than the letter you sent me. I should never have expected it from one of but tolerable sense and candour; and much less from you, who are a person of uncommon abilities, and a liberal education.
I cannot tell how to express the surprise I was in, that you, of all my friends, should dip your pen so deep in gall, and treat us with so much seeming ill-nature; and I was the more concerned, because
I could think of nothing which might excuse you. It is, indeed, what I never observed in you before, during our long acquaintance; but this only increases the present wonder: and I cannot imagine what provocation you had to it now, unless, perhaps, something extraordinary had chafed you; and turning your thoughts, in the commotion, upon the unhappy difference between us, you were betrayed into this warmth unawares.
And it is our misfortune, indeed, that in matters of religion, where we should shew the least, we generally have the greatest passion: here our nature is more apt to take fire; and we think it justifiable too, or rather our duty; cheating ourselves with false pretences to a zeal for God and religion: for all things that are comprehended under that venerable name, justly make a deep impression on our souls, and touch their most sensible part. From these considerations, I should be glad to frame an excuse for you; and to give it the greater weight, I add further on your behalf, that not being a divine, you have not made it your business to examine the controversy thoroughly, but have taken it on trust from the clergy, as I fear they do too often from one another.
This, I own, is but an indifferent plea; yet I am willing it should pass with myself, for I would fain find something which might be stretched into an excuse for a person I so much esteem. And, indeed, to one that knows you, it will not seem altogether unlikely that this was the cause. The deference and respect you pay to the Church of England, and its governors and customs, is undoubtedly very commendable, and no small argument of a devout mind: