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THE following Queries were drawn up, a few years ago, at the request of friends; when I had not the least apprehension of their ever appearing in print, as might be guessed from the negligence of the style and composition. The occasion of them was this. A Clergyman in the country, well esteemed in the neighbourhood where he lived, had unhappily fallen in with Dr. Clarke's notions of the Trinity; and began to espouse them in a more open and unguarded manner than the Doctor himself had done. This gave some uneasiness to the Clergy in those parts, who could not but be deeply concerned to find a fundamental article of religion called in question; and that too by one of their own order, and whom they had a true concern and value for. It was presumed, that a sincere and ingenuous man (as he appeared to be) might, upon proper application, be inclinable to alter his opinion; and that the most probable way to bring him to a sense of his mistake, was to put him to defend it so long, till he might perhaps see reason to believe that it was not defensible. With these thoughts, I was prevailed upon to draw up a few Queries, (the same that appear now, excepting only some slight verbal alterations,) and when I had done, gave them to a common friend to convey to him. I was the more inclined to it, for my own instruction and improvement, in so momentous and important an article: besides that I had long been of opinion, that no method could be more proper for the training up one's mind to a true and sound judgment of things, than that of private conference in writing; exchanging papers, making answers, replies, and rejoinders, till an argument should be exhausted on
both sides, and a controversy at length brought to a point. In that private way, (if it can be private,) a man writes with easiness and freedom; is in no pain about any innocent slips or mistakes; is under little or no temptation to persist obstinately in an error, (the bane of all public controversy,) but concerned only to find out the truth, which, on what side soever it appears, is always victory to every honest mind.
I had not long gone on with my correspondent, before I found all my measures broken, and my hopes entirely frustrated. He had sent me, in manuscript, an Answer to my Queries; which Answer I received, and read with due care; promised him immediately a reply; and soon after prepared and finished it, and conveyed it safe to his hands. Then it was, and not till then, that he discovered to me what he had been doing; signifying, by letter, how he had been over-persuaded to commit his Answer, with my Queries, to the press; that they had been there some time, and could not now be recalled; that I must follow him thither, if I intended any thing further; and must adapt my public Defence to his public Answer, now altered and improved, from what it had been in the manuscript which had been sent me. This news surprised me a little at the first; and sorry I was to find my correspondent so extremely desirous of instructing others, instead of taking the most prudent and considerate method of informing himself. As he had left me no choice, but either to follow him to the press, or to desist, I chose what I thought most proper at that time; leaving him to instruct the public as he pleased, designing myself to keep out of public controversy; or, at least, not designing the contrary. But, at length, considering that copies of my Defence were got abroad into several hands, and might perhaps, some time or other, steal into the press without my knowledge; and considering further, that this controversy now began to grow warm, and that it became every honest man, according to the measure of his abilities, to bear his testimony in so good a cause; I thought it best to revise my papers, to
give them my last hand, and to send them abroad into the world; where they must stand or fall, (as I desire they should,) according as they are found to have more or less truth or weight in them.
Dr. Clarke has lately published a second edition of his Scripture Doctrine: where, I perceive, he has made several additions and alterations, but has neither retracted nor defended those parts, which Mr. Nelson's learned friend had judiciously replied to, in his True Scripture Doctrine Continued. I hope, impartial readers will take care to read one along with the other.
One thing I must observe, for the Doctor's honour, that in his new edition he has left out these words of his former Introduction: "It is plain that every person may
reasonably agree to such forms, whenever he can in any "sense at all reconcile them with Scripture." I hope, none hereafter will pretend to make use of the Doctor's authority, for subscribing to forms which they believe not according to the true and proper sense of the words, and the known intent of the imposers and compilers. Such prevarication is in itself a bad thing, and would, in time, have a very ill influence on the morals of a nation. If either state oaths on the one hand, or Church subscriptions on the other, once come to be made light of, and subtilties be invented to defend or palliate such gross insincerity ; we may bid farewell to principles, and religion will be little else but disguised Atheism.
The learned Doctor, in his Introduction, has inserted, by way of note, a long quotation out of Mr. Nelson's Life of Bishop Bull. He can hardly be presumed to intend any parallel between Bishop Bull's case and his own: and yet readers may be apt so to take it, since the Doctor has not guarded against it, and since otherwise it will not be easy to make out the pertinence of it. The Doctor has undoubtedly some meaning in it, though I will not presume to guess what. He a observes, "That there is an "6 exact account given, what method that learned writer Introduction, p. 25, 26.
"(Bishop Bull) took to explain the doctrine of justifica“tion, (viz. the very same and only method which ought "to be taken in explaining all other doctrines whatso→ "ever,) how zealously he was accused by many syste→ "matical Divines, as departing from the doctrine and "articles of the Church, in what he had done; how "learnedly and effectually he defended himself against all "his adversaries; and how successful at length his expli❝cation was, it being after some years almost universally "received." This account is true, but defective; and may want a supplement for the benefit of common readers, who may wish to know what that excellent method of Bishop Bull's was, by means of which his explication proved so successful, and came at length to be almost universally received. It was as follows.
1. In the first place, his way was to examine carefully into Scripture, more than into the nature and reason of the thing abstractedly considered. He pitched upon such texts as were pertinent and close to the point; did not choose them according to the sound only, but their real sense, which he explained justly and naturally, without any wresting or straining. He neither neglected nor dissembled the utmost force of any texts which seemed to make against him; but proposed them fairly, and answered them solidly; without any artificial illusions, or any subtile or surprising glosses.
2. In the next place, however cogent and forcible his reasonings from Scripture appeared to be, yet he modestly declined being confident of them, unless he could find them likewise supported by the general verdict of the primitive Church; for which he always expressed a moșt religious regard and veneration: believing it easier for himself to err in interpreting Scripture, than for the universal Church to have erred from the beginning. To pass by many other instances of his sincere and great regard to antiquity, I shall here mention one only. Heb tells Dr.
Bull. Apolog, contr. Tull. p. 7.