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fengers, that he either forgets or mistakes something in it; it is ten thousand to one, that the first hundred do agree
in it; it is a million to one, that the next fucceflion do not all deliver it truly; for if any one of the first hundred mistook or forgot any thing, it is then impoffible that he that received it from him should deliver it right ; and so the farther it goes, the greater change it is liable to. Yet, after all this, I do not say but it may be demonstrated, in Mr S's way, to have more of certainty in it than the original letter.
$9. 3dly, We allow, that the doctrine of Christian religion hath in all ages been preached to the people by the pastors of the church, and taught by Christian parents to their children : but with great difference ; by fome more plainly, and truly, and perfectly ; by others with less care and exactness, according to the different degrees of ability and integrity in paftors or parents ; and likewise with very different success, according to the different capacities and dispositions of the learners. We allow likewise, that there hath been a constant course of visible actions, conformable, in some measure, to the principles of Christianity ; but then we say, that those outward acts and circumstances of religion may have undergone great variations, and received great change, by addition to them, and defalcation from them in several ages. That this not only is poffible, but hath actually happened, I shall shew when I come to answer his demonftrations. Now, that several of the main doctrines of faith contained in the scripture, and actions therein commanded, have been taught and practised by Christians in all ages, (as the articles fummed up in the Apostles creed, the use of the two facraments), is a good evidence fo far, that the fcriptures contain the doctrine of Christian religion. But then, if we confider how we come to know that such points of faith have been taught, and such external actions practised in all ages, it is not enough to say, there is a present multitude of Christians. that profefs to have received such doétrines as ever believed and practised, and from hence to infer that they were so ; the inconsequence of which argument I shall have a better occasion to shew afterwards : but he that will prove this to any man's fatisfaction, must make it
evident from the best monuments and records of several ages, that is, from the most authentic books of those times, that such doctrines have in all thofe ages been constantly and universally taught and practised. But then, if, from those records of former times, it appear, that other doctrines, not contained in the scriptures, were not taught and practised universally in all ages, but have crept in by degrees, soine in one age, and some in another, according as ignorance and fuperftition in the people, ambition and interest in the chief pastors of the church, have ministered occasion and opportunity : and that the innovators of these doctrines and practices have all along pretended to confirm them out of scripture, as the acknowledged rule of faith ; and have like. wise acknowledged the books of scripture to have defcended without any material corruption or alteration, (all which will sufficiently appear in the process of my discourse), then cannot the oral and practical tradition of the present church concerning any doctrine, as ever believed and practised, which hath no real foundation in scripture, be any argument against these books, as if they did not fully and clearly contain the Christian doctrine. And to lay the scripture is to be interpreted by oral and practical tradition, is no more reasonable, than it would be to interpret the ancient books of the law by the present practice of it; which every one that compares things fairly together, muft acknowledge to be full of deviations from the ancient law.
Sect. V. How much Mr S. attributes to his rule of
faith more than Protestant to theirs. $1. Secondly, OW much more he attributes to
his rule of faith than we think fit to attribute to ours.
ist, We do not say, that it is impossible, in the nature of the thing, that this rule should fail ; that is, either that these books should cease to descend, or fhould be corrupted. This we do not attribute to them, because there is no need we fhould. We believe the providence of God w take care of them, and secure them from being either loft or materially corrupted; yet we think it
very possible, that all the books in the world
be burnt, or otherwise destroyed. All that we affirm concerning our rule of faith, is, that it is abundantly fufficient, if men be not wanting to themselves, to convey the Christian doctrine to all successive ages ; and we think him very unreasonable that expects that God should do more than what is abundantly enough for the perpe . tuating of Christian religion in the world.
$ 2. 2dly, Nor do we fay, that that certainty and afsurance which we have that these books are the same that were written by the Apostles, is a first and self evident principle; but only that it is a truth capable of e. vidence sufficient, and as much as we can have for a thing of that nature. Mr S. may, if he please, fay, that tradition's certainty is a first and self-evident principle; but then he that says this, thould take heed how he takes upon him to demonstrate it. Aristotle was so wise as never to demonstrate first principles; for which he gives this very good reason, because they cannot be demon. strated. And most prudent men are of opinion, that a felf-evident principle, of all the things in the world, should not be demonstrated, because it needs not; for to what purpose should a man write a book to prove that which every man must assent to without any proof, fo foon as it is propounded to him ? I have always taken a selfevident principle to be such a proposition, as having in itself sufficient evidence of its own truth, and not needing to be made evident by any thing else. If I be herein mistaken, I desire Mr S. to inform me better.
$ 3. So that the true state of the controversy between us, is, Whether oral and practical tradition, in oppofi. tion to writing and books, be the only way and means whereby the doctrine of Christ can with certainty and fecurity be conveyed down to us, who live at this distance from the age of Christ and his Apostles? This he af
and the Protestants deny, not only that it is the sole means, but that it is sufficient for the certain conveyance of this doctrine; and withal affirm, that this doétrine hath been conveyed down to us by the books of holy scripture, as the proper measure and standard of our religion : but then they do not exclude oral tradition from being one means of conveying to us the certain
knowledge of these books ; nor do they exclude the au. thentic records of former ages, nor the constant teaching and practice of this doctrine, from being subordinate means and helps of conveying it from one age to ano. ther ; nay, so far are they from excluding these concurrent means, that they suppose them always to have been used, and to have been of great advantage for the propagating and explaining of this doctrine, so far as they have been truly subordinate to, and regulated by these facred oracles, the holy scriptures, which, they fay, do truly and fully contain that doctrine which Christ deli. vered to his Apostles, and they preached to the world. To illustrate this by an instance : suppose there were a controversy now on foot, how men might come to know what was the true art of logic which Aristotle taught his scholars; and some should be of opinion, that the only way to know this would be by oral tradition from his scholars; which we might easily understand, by consulting those of the present age who learned it from those who received it from them, who at last had it from Aristotle himself: but others should think it the surest way to study his Organon, a book acknowledged by all his scholars to have been written by himself, and to contain that doctrine which he taught them. They who take this latter course, suppose the authority of oral tradition for the conveying to them the knowledge of this book ; and do suppose this doctrine to have been taught and practised in all ages, and a great many books to have been written by way of comment and explication of this doctrine ; and that these have been good helps of pro. moting the knowledge of it. And they may well enough fuppofe all this, and yet be of opinion, that the truelt measure and standard of Aristotle's doctrine book; and that it would be a fond thing in any man, by forcing an interpretation upon his book, either contrary to, or very foreign and remote from the obvious sense of his words, to go about to reconcile this book with that method of difputing which is used by the professed Aristotelians of the present age, and with all that scholastic jargon which Mr S. learned at Lisbon, and has made him so great a man in the science of controversy, as even to enable him to demonstraté first and self-evi.
dent principles : A trick not to be learned out of Aristotle's Organon. The application is so easy, that I need not make it.
Concerning the properties of the rule of
faith; and whether they agree solely to oral tradition.
so we might not quarrel in the dark, and dispute about we know not what, I come now to grapple more closely with his book. And the main foundations of his dilcourse may be reduced to these three heads.
1. That the essential properties of such a way and means as can with certainty and security convey down to us the doctrine of Christ, belong solely to oral tradition. This he endeavours to prove in his five first discourses,
2. That it is impossible that this way of oral tradition should fail. And this he pretends to prove in his four last discourses.
3. That oral tradition hath been generally reputed by Christians in all ages the sole way and means of conveying down to them the doctrine of Christ. And this he attempts to sew in his last chapter, which he calls, The consent of authority to the substance of the foregoing discour. Jes. If he make good these three things, he hath acquitted himfelf well in his undertaking : but whether he hath made them good or not, is now to be examined.
§ 2. First, Whether the essential properties of such a way and means as can with certainty and security convey down to us the knowledge of Christ's doctrine, bea long solely to oral tradition?
The true way to measure the effential properties of this or that means, is, by considering its fufficiency for its end : for whatsoever is necessary to make any means