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“ rive certainly at Christ's sense, as far as the letter con
cerns the body of Christian doctrine preached at first,
or points requisite to salvation.” So that whatever he may attribute to scripture for fashion's fake, and to avoid calumny with the vulgar, as he says very ingenuously in his explication of the 15th corollary ; nevertheless it is plain, that, according to his own hypothesis, he cannot but look upon it as perfectly useless and pernicious. That it is altogether useless according to his hypothefis, is plain; for the main body of Christian doctrine is securely conveyed to us without it; and it can give no kind of confirmation to it, because it receives all its confirmation from it; only the church is ever and anon put to a great deal of trouble to correct the alteration of the outward letter, by tradition, and sense written in their hearts. And as for all other parts of scripture, which are not coincident with the main body of Christian doctrine, we can have no certainty, either that the outward letter is true, nor, if we could, can we poffibly arrive at any certain sense of them. And that it is intolerably pernicious according to his hypothesis, is plain; because “ every filly and upstart heresy fathers " itself upon it,” p. 40. and when men leave tradition, as he supposeth all heretics do, the scripture is the most dangerous engine that could have been invented; being to such persons only waxen-natured words, not sen“ sed, nor having any certain interpreter ; but fit to be " played upon diversely by quirks of wit; that is, apt to “ blunder and confound, but to clear little or nothing.” p.68. And indeed, if his hypothesis were true, the scriptures might well delerve all the contemptuous language which he useth against them; and Mr White's comparison of them with Lilly's almanack, ! Apology for tradition, p. 165.) would not only be pardonable, but proper; and, unless he added it out of prudence, and for the people's fake, whom he may think too superstitiously con. ceited of those books, he might have spared that cold excuse which he makes for using this similitude, that“ it
was agreeable rather to the iinpertinency of the ob
jection, than the dignity of the subject.” Certain it is, if these men are true to their own principles, that notwithstanding the high reverence and esteem pretended to
·be borne by them and their church to the scriptures, they must heartily despise them, and with them out of the way; and even look upon it as a great overfight of the divine Providence, to trouble his church with a book, which, if the discourse be of any consequence, can stand Catholics in no stead at all, and is fo dangerous and mifchievous a weapon in the hands of heretics.
Sect. IIf. The Protestant doctrine concerning tke rule of
faith. § 1.
Aving thus taken a view of his opinion, and dition, and how little to the scriptures; before I assail his hypothesis, I fhall lay down the Protestant rule of faith not that so much is necessary for the answering of his book, but that he may have no colour of objection, that I proceed altogether in the destructive way, and overthrow his principle, as he calls it, without substituting another in its room. The opinion then of the Protestants concerning the rule of faith, is this in general, That those books which we call the holy Scriptures, are the means whereby the Christian doctrine hath been brought down to us. And that he may now clearly understand this, together with the grounds of it, which in reason he ought to have done before he had forsaken us, I shall declare ät more particularly in these following propofitions.
§ 2. if, That the doctrine of Christian religion was by Chrix delivered to the Apostles, and by them firft preached to the world, and afterwards by them committed to writing; which writings, or books, have been transmitted from one age to another down to us. So far I take to be granted by our present adversaries. That the Christian doctrine was by Chris delivered to the Apostles, and by,them publifhed to the world, is part of their own hypothesis. That this doctrine was afterwards by the Apostles committed to writing, he also grants, corol. 29. p. 117. “ It is certain the Apostles taught the: “ fame doctrine they writ;" and if fo, it must be as certain, that they writ the fame doétrine which they taught. I know it is the general tenet of the Papists, that the Icriptures do not contain the entire body of Christian
doctrine ; but that besides the doctrines contained in fcripture, there are also others brought down to us by oral or unwritten tradition. But Mr S. who supposeth the whole doctrine of Christian religion to be certainly conveyed down to us folely by oral tradition, doth not any where, that I remember, deny, that all the same doc. trine is contained in the scriptures; only he denies the feriptures to be a means sufficient to convey this doctrine to us with certainty, so that we can by them be infallibly assured what is Chrilt's doctrine, and what not. Nay, he seems in that paffage I last cited, to grant this, in faying, that the Apostles did both teach and write the fame doctrine. I am sure Mr White, whom he follows very closely throughout his whole book, does not deny this in his Apology for Tradition, where he faith, p. 171. that “ it is not the Catholic position, That all its doctrines 6. are not contained in the scriptures.” And that those writings or books which we call the holy scriptures, have been transmitted down to us, is uaqueltionable matter of fact, and granted universally by the Papists, as to all thofe books which are owned by Protestants for. cananical.
$ 3. zdly, That the way of writing is a fufficient means to convey a doctrine to the knowledge of those who live in times very remote from the age of its fir delivery. According to his hypothesis, there is no pof. sible way of conveying a doétrine with certainty and fe, curity besides that of oral tradition : the falsehood of which will sufficiently appear, when I fhall have shewn, that the true properties of a rule of faith do agree to the scriptures, and not to oral tradition. In the mean time, I shall only offer this to his consideration, that whatever can be orally delivered in plain and intelligible words, may be written in the same words; and that a writing or book which is public, and in every one's hand, may be conveyed down with at least as much certainty and security, and with as little danger of alteration, as an oral tradition : and if fo, I understand not what can render it impoflible for a book to convey down a doctrine to the knowledge of after ages. Besides, if he had. looked well about him, he could not but have apprehended some little inconvenience in making that an ef
fential part of his hypothesis, which is contradicted by plain and constant experience: for that any kind of doc. trine may be fufficiently conveyed by books to the knowledge of after ages, provided those books be but written intelligibly, and preserved from change and corruption in the conveyance, (both which I shall be so bold as to suppofe poflible) is as little doubted by the generality of mankind, as that there are books. And, surely we Christians cannot think it impossible to convey a doctrine to posterity by books, when we consider that God himfelf pitched upon
for conveyance of the doctrine of the Jewish religion to after ages : because it is not likely that fo wise an agent should pitch upon a means whereby it was impossible he should attain his end.
§ 4. 3aly, That the books of scripture are sufficiently plain as to all things necessary to be believed and practised. He that denies this, ought in reason to instance in some necessary point of faith, or matter of practice, which is not in some place of scripture or other plainly delivered. For it is not a sufficient objection to say, p.38. 39. That the greatest wits among the Protestants differ about the sense of those texts wherein the generality of tliem suppose the divinity of Christ to be plainly and clearly expressed: because, if nothing were to be accounted fufficiently plain, but what is impossible a great wit should be able to wrest to any other sense, not only the scriptures, but all other books, and, which is worst of all to him that makes this objection, all oral tradition would fall into uncertainty. Doth the traditionary church pretend, that the doctrine of Christ's divinity is conveyed down to her by oral tradition more plainly than it is expressed in scripture? I would fain know what plainer words. The ever used to express this point of faith by, than what the scripture useth; which expressly calls him God, the true God, God over all blelled for evernore. If it be faid, That these who deny the divinity of Christ have been able to evade those and all other texts, of .fcripture, but they could never elude the definitions of
the church in that matter ; it is easily answered, That the same arts would equally have eluded both : but there was no reason why they should trouble themselves
so much about the latter; for why should they be folicitous to wrest the definitions of councils, and conform them to their own opinion, who had no regard to the church's authority? If those great wits, as he calls them, had believed the sayings of scripture to be of no greater authority than the definitions of councils, they would have answered texts of scripture as they have done the definitions of councils : not by endeavouring to interpret them to another fense; but by downright deny. ing their authority. So that it seems that oral tradition is liable to the fame inconvenience with the written as to this particular.
§ 5. And of this I shall give him a plain instance in two great wits of their church, the present Pope and Mr White, the one, the head of the traditionary church, as Mr S. calls it; the other, the great master of the traditionary doctrine. These two great wits, the Pope and Mr White, notwithstanding the plainness of oral tradition, and the impoflibility of being ignorant of it, or mistaking it, have yet been fo unhappy as to differ a: bout several points of faith ; insomuch that Mr White is unkindly censured for it at Rome; and perhaps here, in England, the Pope speeds no better. However, the difference continues still so wide, that Mr White hath thought fit to disobey the summons of his chief pastor ; and, like a prudent man, rather to write against him here, out of harm's way, than to venture the infallibi. lity of plain oral tradition for the doctrines he maintains, against a practical tradition which they have at Rome, of killing heretics.
Methinks Mr S. might have fpared his brags, p. 54. that he “ hath evinced from clear reason, that it is far
more pollible to make a man not to be, than not to “ know what is rivetted into his soul by so oft repeated "s sensations, (as the Christian faith is by oral and prac. " tical tradition); and that it exceeds all the power of
nature, abstracting from the cases of madness and vi. " olent disease, to blot knowledge, thus fixed, out of " the soul of one single believer; insomuch that sooner
may all mankind perish, than the regulative virtue “ of tradition miscarry; nay, sooner may the finews of entire nature, by overftraining, crack, and she lose