« PreviousContinue »
II. No pretence of infallibility is sufficient to autho. rise and warrant the addition of any thing to the Chris ftian doctrine, as necessary to be believed or practised, in order to salvation. After the delivery of the gofpel by the Son of God, and the publication of it to the world by his Apostles, who were commillioned andinspired by him to that purpose, and the confirmation" of all, by the greatest and most unquestionable miracles that ever were, no person whatever that brought any other doctrine, and declared salvation to men upon any other terms than those which are declared in the gospel, was to be credited, what pretence foever he Thould make to a divine commiflion, or an infallible affistance. The Apostle makes a fupposition as high as can be, though we, (says he), or an angel from heaven; preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be an anathema.. If the Apostles themselves, who were divinely commissioned, and infallibly affilted in the preaching of the gospel, Thould afterwards make any addition to it, or declare any other terms of salvation than those which are declared in the gospel, which they had already published to the world, they ought not to be regarded..
And the reason is plain ; because what claim foo" ever any person inay make to infallibility, and what demonstration foever he may give of it, we cannot posafibly believe him, if he contradict himself, and deliyer doétrines which do plainly clalh with one another :For if he fpake true at firit, I cannot believe him der claring the contrary afterwards : And if he did not speak true at firit, I cannot believe him at all; because he can give no greater proof of his divine commission, and infallible affistance and inspiration, than he did at. first.
And the reason is the same, if an- angel from heaven-, should come and preach ·ą. contrary doctrine to' that of tie gospel, he were - not to be believed neither : because he could bring no better credentials of his divine commission and authority than thote had who published the golpel; and, consequently, he ought not to be credited in any thing contrary to what they
had published before. For though a man were never so much difposed to receive a revelation from God, and to submit his faith to it ; yet it is not poflible for any man to believe God against God himself ; that is, to believe two revelations, plainly contradictory to one another, to be from God: and the reason of this is : very obvious, because every man doth first, and more firmly believe this propofition or principle, That contradictions cannot be true, than any revelation what. soever ; for if contradictions may be true, then no revelation from God can signify any thing, because the contrary may be equally true, and so truth and falfehond be all one.
The Apostle indeed only makes a supposition, when he says, though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other doctrine unto you ; but by this supposition he plainly bars any man, or company of men, from adding to the Christian religion any article of faith, or point of practice, as of necessity to falvation, which the gospel hath not made fo; I say, any man, or company of men, whatever authority or infallibility they may lay claim to, because they cannot pretend to a clearer commission, and greater evidence of infallible aslistance, than an Apostle or an Angel from heaven, and yet the text tells us, that would not be a sufficient warrant to preach another gospel. It might indeed bring in quéition that which they had preached before, but could not give credit and authority to any thing plainly con. trary to it, and inconsistent with it.
III. Christians may judge and discern when another sospel is preached, when new articles of faith, or points of practice, not injoined in the gospel, are imposed upon Christians. This the Apoftle fuppofeth every particular church, and for ought I know, every particular Christian, that is duly instructed in the Christian religion; to be a competent judge of, and to be sufficiently able to discern when another gospel is preached, and new terms and conditions, not declared in the gospel, are added to the Christian religion ; for if they be not able to judge of this, the Apostle does in vain caution them against the feduction of those who perverted the
doctrine of Christ, and endeavoured to remove them from him, that had called them by the grace of Chrift, unto another gospel
It may perhaps be said, that there was no need that they should be able to discern and judge of the docErines of those false teachers ;. it was sufficient for them to believe the Apostle concerning the doctrines of thofe feducers,, when he declared to them the falsehood and pernicious consequence of them. But the Apostle fpeaks to them upon another supposition, which does. necessarily. imply, that they were able to discern and judge what doctrines were agreeable to the gospel, and what not ; for he puts the cafe, that if he himself, or any of the Apostles, or an Angel from heaven, should preach to them another doctrine, contrary to that of che gospel, they ought to reject it with deteftation. But this doth neceffarily suppose them able to judge yhen such doctrines were preached ; and consequently Chat all things necessary to be believed and practifed by il. Christians, are clearly and plainly declared in the ofpel; all the doctrines whereof are now contained
the holy scriptures, in which all things necessary to ith, and a good life, are fo plainly delivered, that ay sober and inquisitive person may learn them from hence; and the meanest capacity, by the help and diction of their guides and teachers, may be instructed them. And this is not only the principle of Protestants, at the express and constant doctrine of the ancient thers of the church, whatever the church of Rome,
the maintaining of her usurped authority over the nfciences of men, pretends to the contrary. And this were not so, that men are able to discern and ige, which are the doctrines of the gospel, and what contrary to them; the doctrine of the gospel was in En preached, and the holy scriptures containing that atrine were written to no purpose. Some things in fcripture aré granted to be obfcure I difficult, on purpofe to exercise the study and uiries of those who have leisure and capacity for but all things necessary are fufficiently plain; o
therwise it would be impossible to judge when another gospel is preached, which the Apostle here supposeth the Galatians capable of doing. For if the revelation of the gospel be not sufficiently plain in all things necef sary to be believed and practised, then Christians have no rule whereby to judge what doctrines are agreeable to the gospel, and what not ; for an obscure rule is of no use, that is, in truth, is no rule to those to whom it is obscure.
I proceed to the IVth Observation, which is plain-ly, consequent from those laid down before ; namely, that since the declaration of the gospel, and the confir. mation given to it, there is no authority in the Chriftian church, to impose upon Christians any thing, as of neceflity to falvation, which the gospel hath not made so.
The commission given by our Lord and Saviour to his Apoftles, was to preach the gospel to all nations, or, (as St Matthew. expresses it). to go and teach all nations, to observe all things. whatsoever he had commanded them. And this is that which we call the Gospel, viz, that doctrine which Christ commanded his Apostles to preach and publish to the world ; and if the Apoilles thema selves had exceeded their commission, and added any other points of faith or practice to those which our Saa viour gave them in charge to teach and publish to the world, they had, in so doing, been guilty of that which St Paul here in the text charges the false apostles with, viz. of preaching, another gospel. And if the Apostles had no authority to add any thing to the gospel, much leis can any others pretend to it, fince they have nei. ther so immediate a commission, nor such a miraculous power to give testimony to them, that they are teachers come from God.
Now this doctrine of the gospel, which the Apostles preached to the world, is that which Christians are so often, and so earnestly, by the Apoitles in all their e. piitles, exhorted to continue in, and not to suffer themselves to be fhaken in mind, by every wind of new. doctrine ; becaure that which the Apostles had delivered to them, was the entire. doctrine of the gospel, which was never:
to receive any addition or alteration. This is that which St Peter calls, the holy commandment which was delivered unto them; 2 Pet. ii. 21. It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them, speaking in all probability of those who were seduced by the errors of the Gnosticks, from the purity of the Christian doctrine delivered to them by the Apostles. This likewise St Paul calls the commor. faith, Titus i. 4. and St Jude, ver. 3. the common salvation; that is, the doctrine which contains the common terms of salvation; and the faith which was once delivered to the saints, that is, by the Apostles of our Lord, who published the gospel; once delivered, that is, once for all, so as never afterwards to admit, of any change or alteration. This faith he exhorts Christians earnestly to contend for, against those severa: fects of seducers, which were crept into the Chri^an church, and did endeavour by several arts to pe vert the gospel of Christ, and to deprave the faith delivered by the Apostles.
So that the doctrine of the gospel published by the Apostles, is fixed and unalterable, and there can be no authority in the church to make any change in it, either by taking from it, or adding any thing to it, as necessary to be believed or practifed in order to falvation,
V. It follows likewise from the foregoing observa. tions, that there is no visible judge (how much foever he may pretend to infallibility) to whose determination and decision, in matters of faith and practice necessary to salvation, Christians are bound to submit, without ex. amination whether those things be agreeable to the doctrine of the gospel, or not.
When our Saviour appeared in the world, though he had authority enough to exact belief from men; yet because there was a standing revelation of God made to the Jews, he appeals to that revelation, as well as to his own miracles, for the truth of what he said, and offered himself, and his doctrine to be tried by the a.. greeableness of it to the scriptures of the Old Testa