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cording to their principles, we cannot know, either which are the true books of scripture, or what is the true sense of fcripture, but from the authority and infallible declaration of that church. And if so, then the infallibility of the church must be first known, and proved, before we can either know the scriptures, or the sense of them; and yet till we know the scriptures, and the sense of them, nothing can be proved by them. Now to pretend to prove the infallibility of their church by fcripture, and at the same time to declare, that which are the true books of scripture, and what is the true sense of them, can only be proved by the infallible authority of their church, is a plain and shameful circle, out of which there is no way to escape; and consequently that God hath appointed an infallible church is impossible, according to their principles, ever to be proved from scripture; and the thing is capable of no other proof. For that God will infallibly afliit any society of men, is not to be known but by divine revelation. So that unless they can prove it by some other revelation than that of scripture, (which they do not pretend to), the thing is not to be proved at all. Yes, they say, by the notes and marks of the true church ; but what those marks are, must either be known from scripture, or fome other divine revelation, and then the same difficulty returns ; besides that one of the most essential marks of the true church must be the profession of the true faith; and then it must first be known which is the true faith, before we can know which is the true church ; and yet they say, that no man can learn the true faith, but from the true church; and this runs them unavoidably into another circle as shame. ful as the other. So that which way soever they go to prove an infallible church, they are fhut up in a plain circle, and must either prove the feriptures by the church, and the church by the scriptures, or the true church by the true faith, and the true faith by the true church.
Secondly, This provision and security which I have mentioned, is more human, better accommodated and kiited to the nature of man; because it doth
not suppose and need a standing and perpetual miracle, as the other way of an infallible church doth, All inspiration is fupernatural and miraculous, and this infallible assistance which the church of Rome claims to herself, must either be such as the Apostles had, which was by immediate inspiration, or fomething equal to it, and alike fupernatural: but God does not work miracles without need, or continue them when there is no occasion for them. When God delivered the law to the people of Israel, it was accompanied with miracles, and the prophets which he sent to them from time to time, had an immediate inspiration ; but their supreme judicature, or their general council, which they call the Sanhedrim, was not infallibly assisted in the expounding of the law, when doubts and difficulties arose about it ; no, nor in judging of true and false prophets ; but they determined this and all other emergent cases by the standing revelation and rule of their written law; and that they were not infallibly affifted, is evident, from the great errors they fell into, in making void the commandments of God by their traditions, and in their rejecting and crucifying the true Messias and the Son of God.
In like manner the Apostles and first teachers of the Christian religion were immediately inspired, and miraculously aslifted in the publishing of the Christian doctrine, and for the speedy and more effectual propagating and planting of it in the world, in despite of the violent prejudices that were against it, and the fierce opposition that was made to it. But when this was done, this miraculous and extraordinary alitance ceased, and God left the Christian religion to be preserved and continued by more human and ordinary ways; the doctrines of it being committed to writing for a standing rule of faith and practice in all ages, and an order of men appointed to inftruet people in those doctrines, with a promise to secure both teachers and people, that sincerely defire to know and do the will of God, from all fatal errors any mistakes about things necessary to their eternal salvation : and this is a provision more like
ly to be made by God, and better suited to the nature of man, than the perpetual and needless miracle of an inspired, or any otherwise infallible church.
Thirdly, This way is likewise more agreeable to the nature of religion, and the virtue of faith. The design of an infallible church is to secure all that continue in the communion of it, against all poflibility of error in matters of faith. The question now is not, whether an infallible church would do this? but whe. ther that church which arrogates infallibility to itseli does not pretend to do this ? And if they could do it, it would not be agreeable to the nature of religion, and the virtue of faith. For faith, which is the prin. ciple of all religious actions, would be no virtue, if it were necessary. A true and right belief can be no virtue, where a man is infallibly secured against error. There is the same reason of virtuous and crimi. nal actions; and as there can be no crime or fault in doing what a man cannot help, so neither can there be any virtue. All virtuous actions are matter of praise and commendation; and therefore it can be no virtue in any man, because it deserves no commendation, to believe and own that the fun shines at noonday, when he fees it do fo. No more would it be a virtue in any man, and deserve praise, to believe aright, who is in a church wherein he is infallibly se. cured against all errors in matters of faith. Make any thing necessary, and impoflible to be otherwise, and the doing of it ceases to be a virtue. God hath so framed religion, and the evidence of truth, and the means of coming to the knowledge of it, as to be a sufficient security to men of honest minds and teachable tempers, against all fatal and final mistakes concerning things necessary to salvation ; but not fo, that every man that is of such a church, should be infallibly secured against all errors in matters of faith; and this on purpose to try the virtue and difpofition of men, whether they will be at the pains to search for truth, and when it is propołed to them with sufficient evidence, though not by an infallible hand, they will receive it in the love of it, that they may be saved. VOL, V.
Fourthly, This is as much security against errors in matters of faith, as God hath provided against fin and vice in matters of practice ; and since a right belief is only in order to a good life, a man would be hard put to it, to give a wise reason why God should take greater care for the infallible security of mens faith, than of their obedience. The reason pretended why God should make such infallible provision for a right faith is, for the better security of mens eternal falvation and happiness. Now the virtues of a good life have a more direct and immediate influence upon that, than the most orthodox belief. The end of the commandrient (i. e. of the declaration of the gospel) is charity. In the Christian religion, that which mainly avails to our justification and salvation is, a faith that worketh by charity, and the keeping of the commandinents of God. He that heareth these sayings of guine, and doth them, (faith our blessed Lord), I will liken him to a wise man, that built his house upon a rock; and again, not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, Yi. e, makes profession of faith in me), shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my father which is in heaven; and again, if ye know these things, happy are je if ye do them. And the Apostlc St Peter exhorts Christians, to add to their faith, knowledge, and virtue, and godliness, and brotherly kindness, and charity ; that fo an abun. dant entrance may be ministred to them, into the everlafting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Chrift. So that the virtues of a good life have the greatest influence upon our salvation, and the main stress of Christianity is io be laid there. And therefore whatever reason can be assigned, why God should provide for the infallible security of our faith, is much stronger, why an equal provision should be made to secure holiness, and obedience of life; because withqut this, faith cannot infallibly attain its end, which is, ihe Salvation of our souls. But this, it is granted, God hath not done, and experience thews it; and therefore it is unreasonable to suppose that he hath done the other. It is sufficient, that in both kinds
he hath done that which is sufficient to make us ca: pable of happiness, if we be not wanting to ourfelves ; the rest he hath left to the sincerity of our endeavours, expecting that we on our part should work out our salvation with
fear and trembling, and give all diligence to make our calling and election sure. And if God hath made fuch provision by the gospel for all that enjoy the light and advantage of it, that none can miscarry without their own fault, then both his goodness and wisdom are fufficiently acquitted, without an infallible guide and judge in matters of faith ; and that irreverent way of arguing in the Canon law might well have been spared, that of necessity there must be an infallible judge of controversies in religion ; aliter Dominus non videretur fuisse discretus; otherwise God would not seem to have ordered matters discreetly:
But what infallible security soever they have in the church of Rome, as to matters of faith, they are certainly the worst provided of wholesome and safe di. rections for the consciences and lives of men, of any church in the world. No religion that I know of in the world ever had such lewd and scandalous casuilts. Witness the moral divinity of the Jesuits, which hathbeen so exposed to the world, not only by those of our religion, but by their own writers also. . Nor is. this mischief only confined to that order; their ca. suists in general, and even the more ancient of thenr;'; who writ before the order of Jesuits appeared in the world, have given such a liberty and loose to great! immorality in several kinds, as is infinitely to the re. proach of the best and purest religion in the world, Insomuch that Şir Thomas More himself, who was a great zealot for that religion, could not forbear' to make a loud complaint of it, and to pass this severe censuré upon the generality of their casuists : “ That " their great business seemed to be, not to keep men 66 from fin, but to teach them quàm propè ad pecca
tum liceat accedere fine peccato ; how near to sin " they might lawfully come without finning." In the mean time, the consciences of men are like to be well directed, when instead of giving men plain rules D 2