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SER M. perish everlastingly.” And again, “ This V.
" is the Catholic Faith, which except a “ Man believe faithfully, He cannot be
saved.” These are to be understood, like some other general Propositions, with proper Reserves, to foften and qualify the seeming Harshness of them. The Necessity of believing these Truths is only a general Necessity, like that of Baptism. And since the Church of England declares Baptism itself to be only generally necessary to Salvation (charitably leaving Room for particular Cases, such as may reasonably be excepted) She ought to be understood in the same Sense, when She pronounces the same Necessity, though on another Subject. Our Saviour says expressly, that except & Man be born of Water, and the Spirit, He cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. This is a general Proposition, like those in the Creed: Yet no one, except the Papists, ever interpreted it in so rigid and narrow a Sense, as that Infants, who died before Baptism could be had, should perish for the Want of it. If Disbelief proceeds from Perverseness of Will; Perverseness of Will is a great Crime ; and all Crimes, without Repentance, are damnable : But if it does not proceed from Perverseness of Will, if it arises from Incapacity, or Want of the necessary Means of Instruction ; such Want of Faith is involuntary, and what is invo
luntary cannot be sinful.
But it was SER M. foreign to the Design of the Creed to take Notice of this Restriction in this particular Case, which is applicable to all Cases in general, whether of Belief or Practice.
Supposing any Man should assert, that all Perfecutors, if impenitent, should be punished hereafter; the Affertion, I suppose, would scarce be thought too harsh even by Men of
great Moderation ; yet even here, a Distinction is to be made between those who offend of malicious Wickedness, and those who do it in the Simplicity of their Hearts, Persecution may be either the Result of a wicked Heart ; or it may be the Product of an over-heated and distempered Brain; and in this Cafe
become the Object of God's Mercy. However the Doctrine, that Perfecutors, as well as other Criminals, are obnoxious to the divine Displeasure, may be laid down in general Terms, without clogging it with particular Exceptions. Cases of unconquerable Prejudices, and unavoidable Ignorance, like Cases of Necessity, are always implied; and therefore need not be particularly pointed out. It is thus the Scriptures have inculcated Obedience in general to those that are set over us ; without specifying those extraordinary and critical Cases, which might warrant Resistance, and make a Change of Government necessary: because
Ser m. such a Specification was needless. People
aggrieved are rather apt to imagine such a Crisis, when there is none, than not to find out, when it really is.
Those who condemn the Creed for not excepting Cases where Unbelief could not be helped, might, with more Justice perhaps, have found Fault with such an Exception as a ridiculous, as well as a needless Singularity, without any Precedent to countenance it in any Body of Laws: where utter Inability is always understood of Course to be a sufficient Excuse; and, when it can be made to appear, always pardoned, Nay, they might perhaps have objected, that we can scarce make an Overture or Promise, however seemingly absolute, wherein some necessary Conditions, which would be trifling to mention expressly, are not of Course supposed ; upon a Failure of which we are discharged from the Performance of it. Such is the Nature of Man, ever prone to cavil and find Fault! We think we have Reason to be uneasy, unless we have Things exactly our own Way; and when we have them our own Way, we are uneasy still, and that not without Reason. It is likewise to be observed, 'that the condemning Sentences do not extend to every minute Particular in the Creed; they only are pointed against those, who obstinately deny the Substance of the
Christian Faith, and particularly that Fa-Serm. ther, Son, and Holy Ghoft, though diftinet, are so united, so inseparable, that they may be faid to be One God; just as God is in Heaven, on Earth, and every where else; yet Being in Heaven, Being on Earth, and Being every where else is One Essence, be'cause undivided. Divine Being in Heaven is God, Divine Being on Earth is God, and Divine Being every where else is so too; and yet not Three Gods but One God. The common People have nothing to do with minute Appendages, and Technical Terms, which were designed as so many Fences against Metaphysical Subtilties, and artful Evasions. The Creed is only the common Doctrine of the Trinity and Incarnation guarded : and they who believe those fundamental Articles, virtually believe every Thing else, which was put in to save and secure those fundamental Articles.
Some Medium there ought to be bem tween absolutely condemning those, who differ from us even in concerning Points; and, on the other Hand, representing the most concerning Points so very doubts ful, and so much to be said for and against them, that we cannot be morally certain, that we are in the Right ; and therefore we ought to be charitable to those who are of another Opinion. Thus fome Men with a Design, or Pretence of pro
S er m. moting Charity, are introdacing Scepti
cism ; the worst Kind of Uncharitableness. For it is uncharitable to the last Degree (though they may not design it) to unsettle the Minds of well-meaning People ; to beget in them Doubts and Scruples, and (what is the Consequence of those Scruples) Uneasiness, as to Points of the last Importance. On the contrary it may, I think, be proved, that Men may explain away any Moral Precept, however clearly exprelsed, by the same wretched Subterfuges, and unnatural Constructions, by which some have endeavoured to darken the Texts of Scripture relating to the Redemption and the Trinity. And perhaps it would be hard to give an Instance of any Christian of found Sense, who erred fundamentally in these Points, but either He was misled into His Error by Metaphysical Abstractions ; by flying out into that mighty Void, where Knowledge ends, and Ignorance begins ; and reasoning, or rather imagining, on certain Points, where, to reason rightly, is to submit our Reason to God's Revealed Will: or He was an Admirer and implicit Follower of some Metaphysical Refiner. If Words are capable of any fixed and determined Meaning, those are so, as much as any other, in which these Doctrines are conveyed : But if Words are not capable fixed Sense, it is to no Purpose to