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cannot, how can he reasonably expect that any man in the world should believe it ?
2. T'lat it is not necessary to the true nature of faitli, that we thould be infallibly fecured of the means where. by the Christian doctrine is conveyed to us ; particular. ly of the antiquity and authority of the books of icripture, and that the exprerions in it cannot posibly bear any other fense. And these are thc very things I instance in; in the passage so often mentioned. And to these Mr S. ought to have spoken, if he intended to have confuted that passage. But he was resolved not to speak distinctly, knowing his beit play to be in the dark, and that all his fafety lay in the confusion and obscurity of his talk,
Now, that to have an infallible security in these par. ticulars, is not necessary to the true nature of faith, is evident upon these two accounts; because faith may be without this infallible security, and because, in the particulars mentioned, it is impoffible to be hact.
1. Because faith may be without this infallible fecizrity. He that is so assured of the antiquity and authority of the books of scripture, and of the sense of those texts wherein the doctrines of Christianity are plaiuly delivered, as to see no just cause to doubt thereof, may really affent to those doctrines, though he have no infallible security. And an assent fo grounded I affirm to have the true nature of faith. For what degree of assent, and what security of the means which convey to us the knowledge of Christianity, or necessary to the true nature of faith, is to be estimated from the end of faith, which is, the salvation of mens souls. And whoever is so assured of the authority and sense of scripture, as to believe the doctrine of it, and to live according. ly, shall be saved. And surely such a belief as will fave a inan, hath the true nature of faith, though it be not infallible. And if God have sufficiently provi. ded for the falvation of men of all capacities, it is no such reflcction upon the goodness and wisdom of provi. dence as Mr S. imagines, that he hath not taken care that every man's faith should arrive to the degree of infallibility ; nor does our blessed Saviour, for not having made this provision, deserve “ to be esteemed by all s tle world, not a wise lawgiver, but a mere ignora
and impostor,” as one of his fellow-controvers tists ( Labyrinthus Cantuarienfis, p. 77.) fpeaks with reverence
Besides, this affertion, That infallibility is necessary to the true nature of that assent which we call faitli, is plainly false upon another account also; because faith admits of degrees, but infallibility has none. The scripture speaks of a weak and a strong faith, and of the increase of faith ; but I never heard of a weak and strong infallibility. Infallibility is the highest perfection of the knowing faculty, and consequently the firmelt degree of affent, upon the firmest grounds, and which are known to be so. But will. Mr S. fay; that the highest degree of assent admits of degrees, and is capable of increase ? Infallibility is an absolute impoflibility of being deceived. Now, I desire Mr:S. to lhew me the degrees of absolute impossibility; and if he could do that, and consequently there might be degrees of infallibility, yet I cannot believe that Mr S. would think fit to call any degree of infallibility a weak faith or affent.
2. Because an infallible security in the particulars mentioned, is impossible to be had; I mean in an ordinary way, and without miracle and particular revelation ; because the nature of the thing is incapable of it. The utmost security we have of the antiquity of any book; is human testimony; and all human testimony is fallible, for this plain reason, because all men are fallible. And though Mr S. in defence of his beloved tradition, is pleafed to say, that human testimony in some cases is infallible; yet I think no man before him was ever so hardy, as to maintain, that the testimony of fallible men-is infallible. I grant it to be in many cases certain, that is, such as a considerate man may pru. dently-rely and proceed upon, and hath no just cause to doubt of; and such as none but an obstinate man or a fool can deny. And that thus the learned men of his own church define certainty, Mr S. (if he would but vouchsafe to read such books) might have learned from Melchior Canus *; who, speaking of the firmness of human testimony in some es, (which yet he did not believe to be infallible), defines it thus : “ Those things
De loc. theol. lib. 11. c. 4. Gerta apud homines ea funt, quæ ne. gare fine pervicacia et stultitia non poffunt.
are certain among men, which cannot be denied with
out obftinacy and folly.” I know Mr S. is plealed to say, that certainty and infallibility are all oce; and he is the first man that I know of, that ever find it. And yet perhaps fome body may have been before him in it; for I remember Tully says, That “ there is ncihing in “ foolish, but some philoiopier or other has paid it.” I am fure Mr S.'s own philosopher, Mr White, contradicts him in this most clearly, in his preface to Ruih. worth's dialogues; where, explicating the term wral certainty, he tells us, That " lome understood it by such “ a certainty as makes the cause always work the fame s effect, though it take not avy the absolute polibility “ of working otherwise :” and this, prelently altcr, he tells us, “ought absolutely to be reckoned in the de
grees of true certainty, and the authors considered
as mistaken in underraluing it.” So that, according to Mr White, true certain may consist with a poilitility of the contrary; and consequently Mr S. is mist:zken, in thinking certainty and infallibility to be all one. Nay, I do not find any two of them agreeing among themselves about the notions of infallibility and certainty. Mr White says, That what some call usral cera tainty, is true certainty, though it do not take away a poflibility of the contrary. Mr S. afferts the direct contrary, that moral certainty is only probability, because it does not take away the possibility of the contrary, The Guide in controversies, p. 135. differs from them both, and makes inoral, certain, and infallible, all one. I desire that they would agree these matters among themselves, before they quarrel with us about them.
In brief, then, though moral certainty be sometimes taken for a high degree of probability, which can only produce a doubtful affent, yet it is also frequently used for a firm and undoubted assent to a thing upon such grounds as are fit fully to satisfy a prudent man; and : in this sense I have always used this term. But now in fallibility is an absolute security of the underslanding from all poflibility of mistake in what it believes. And there are but two ways for the understanding to be thus fecured; either by the perfection of its own nature, or by supernatural afbstance. But no human understand.
ing being absolutely secured from poflibility of mistake, by the perfection of its own nature, (which I think all mankind, except Mr S. have hitherto granted), it follows, that no man can be infallible in any thing, but by supernatural assistance. Nor did ever the church of Rome pretend to infallibility upon any other account, as every one knows that hath been conversant in the writings of their learned men. And Mr Crefly, in his answer to Dr Pierce, p. 88.89. hath not the face to contend for any other infallibility but this, That “ the im“ mutable God can actually preserve a mutable crea
ture from actual mutation.” But I can by no means agree with him in what immediately follows, concerniing the omniscience of a creature, " That God, who is “ absolutely omniscient, can teach a rational creature “ all truths necessary or expedient to be known; so that “ though a man may have much ignorance, yet he may st be in a sort omniscient within a determinate fphere." Onniscient within a determinate sphere, is an infinite within a finite fphere; and is not that a very pretty sort of knowing all things, which may consist with an ignorance of many things ? Of all the controvertists I have met with, except Mr S. Mr Cressy is the happiest at these smart and ingenious kind of reafonings.
As to the other particular, of the sense of books, it is likewise plainly impossible that any thing should be delivered in such clear and certain words as are abfolutely incapable of any other sense ; and yet, notwithItanding this, the meaning of them may be fo plain, as that any unprejudiced and reasonable man may certainly understand them. How many definitions and axioms, &c. are there in Euclid, in the sense of which men are universally agreed, and think themselves undoubtedly certain of it? and yet the words in which they are expressed, may posibly bear another sense. The fame: may be said concerning the doctrines and precepts of the holy scriptures; and one great reason why men do not so generally agree in the sense of these as of the 0-' ther, is, because the interests, and lusts, and passions of men are more concerned in the one than the other. But whatever uncertainty there may be in the sense of any text of scripture, oral tradition is so far from affording
as any help in this case, that it is a thousand times more uncertain, and less to be trusted to; especially if we may take that to be the traditionary sense of texts of fcripture, which we meet with in the decretals of their Popes, and the ac:s of some of their councils ; than which never was any thing in thie whole world more absurd and ridiculous ; and whence inay we expect to have the infallible traditicial senie of fcripture, if not from the heads and representatives of their church?
This may abundantly fuffice for the vindication of that paffage which Mr S. makes such a rude clamour about, as if I had therein denied the truth and certain. ty of all religion; but durft never trust the reader with a view of those words of mine upon which he pretended to ground this calumny. But the world understands well enough, that all this was but a shift of Mr S.'s, for the fatisfaction of his own party, and a pitiful art to avoid the vindication of Sure footing, a task he had no mind to undertake.
And yet the main design of this book, which he calls Faith vindicated, &c. is to prove that which I do not believe any man living ever denied, viz. That wat is true is not possible to be false : which, though it be cne of the plainest truths in the world, yet he proves it so foolishly, as would make any man (if it were not evident of itself) to doubt of it. He proves it from logic, and nature, and metaphysics, and ethics, &c. I won. der he did not do it likewise from arithmetic and geo. metry, the principles whereof, he tells us, (Sure fooling, p.93.) are concerned in demonstrating the cere
tainty of oral tradition.” He might also have proceeded to astrology, and palmistry, and chFinistry, and bave shewn how each of those lend their affisance to the evidencing of this truth. For that could not have been more ridiculous, than his argument ( Faith vindic. p. 6. 7.) from the nature of subject, and predicate, and copula in faith-propositions ; because, forsooth, whoever affirms any proposition of faith to be true, affirms it impoflible to be false. Very true. But would any man argue, that what is true is impossible to be false, from the nature of subject, predicate, and copula? for be the