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fufficient for the obtaining its end, is to be reputed an essential property
of that means,
and nothing elle. Now, because the end we are speaking of is the conveyance of the knowledge of Christ's doctrine to all those who are concerned to know it, in such a manner as they may be sufficiently certain and secure, that it hath received no change or corruption from what it was when it was first delivered; from hence it appears, that the means to this end must have these two properties : 1. It must be fufficiently plain and intelligible; 2. It must be fuffciently certain to us ; that is, such as we may be fully satisfied concerning it, that it hath received no corruption or alteration. If it have these two conditions, it is sufficient for its end : but if it want either of them, it must necessarily fall short of its end : for if it be not plain and intelligible, it cannot convey this doctrine to our knowledge; if it be not certain, we cannot be allured, that the
doctrine which it brings down to us for the doctrine of Christ, is really such.
§ 3. I know he assigns more properties of this means, which he calls the rule of fuith; but upon examination it will appear, that they either fall in with these two, or do not at all belong to it. As,
ist, That “ it must be plain and self-evident to all,
as to its existence," P.II. Nothing can be more frivolous than to make this a property of any thing; because whosoever inquires into the properties of a thing, is supposed to be already fatisfied that the thing is. 2dly, That it be
"' evidenceable as to its ruling power,” p. 11.; that is, as he explains himself, “ that
men be capable of knowing that it deserves to be re“ lied on as a rule," p. 3. By which he must either understand the certainty of it; and then it falls in with the second property I mentioned, and is the same with the sixth which he lays down : or else he means more generally, that it is the property of a rule, that men be capable of knowing that it hath the properties of a rule; for I understand not how a man can know, that any thing deserves to be relied on as a rule, otherwise than by knowing it'hath the properties of a rule, that is, that it is sufficient for its end. But at this rate a man may multiply the properties of things without end, if the eVol. III.
vidence of a thing, as to its existence, be one property; and then, that we be capable of knowing that it is such a thing, be another.
$ 4. 3dly, That it be “ apt to settle and justify un“ doubling persons,” p. 12. What he means here by settling undoubting persons, I am not able, on the sudden, to comprehend; because I understand not what unfettles a man besides doubting : for if a man be but so well fatisfied about any thing as to have no doubt concerning it, I do not easily apprehend how he can be settled better; that is, how his mind can be more at rest than not to doubt. But if by undoubting persons he means those who do not doubt for the present, but afterwards may doubt, then I perceive what he means by apt to settle undoubting persons, viz. apt to settle persons when they do doubt, that is, when they are not undoubting persons. As for justifying undoubting perfons, if he means, that whosoever fecurely relies on this rule, ought of right to be acquitted, as acting rationally in so doing; this is plainly consequent upon the two properties I have laid down: for if the means of conveying Christ's doctrine be fufficiently plain and certain, every man that relies upon it is justified in so doing, because he trusts a means which is sufficient for its end.
§ 5. 4thly, That it be " apt to satisfy fully the most
sceptical dissenters and rational doubters,” P.. 12. For its aptitude to satisfy rational doubters, that plainly follows from the fufficient certainty of it; but why it should be a necessary property of a rule of faith, 'to be apt to fatisfy the most sceptical dissenter, I can no more divine, than I can why he should call a dissenter fceptical, which are repugnant terms : for a sceptic is one who neither assents to any thing, nor dissents ; but is in a perpetual suspense, because he looks upon every opinion as balanced by a contrary opinion of equal probability, without any inclination of the scales either way. But if by the most sceptical disenter he means only a sceptic, one that doth not believe the doctrine of Christ, nor any thing else, then I would fain know what that is which in reason is apt fully to satisfy such a person. If any thing will, sure a demonstration will : but there is no aptitude at all in a demonstration, to satisfy him who
doubts whether there be any such thing as a demonstration, and likewise questions the certainty of all those principles from whence any conclufion can be demon. strated. And those who are most sceptical, profess to doubt of all this.
§ 6. 5thly, That it be “ apt to convince the most ob“ stinate and acute adversary," P. 11. 12. If the rule be plain and certain, the most acute adversary may be convinced by it if he will; that is, if he be not obstinate: but if he be obstinate, that is, such a one as will not be convinced, but will persist in his error, in despite of all evidence that can be offered him, then I inust profess, that I do not know any kind of evidence that is apt to convince that man who will not be convinced by any reason that can be propounded to him. And that he ought not to have expected this from any rule of faith, though never fo self evident, he might have learned from the fame author, in whom he may find his chief properties of the rule of faith, if he had but had the patience to have considered his explication of them : I mean Dr Holden, who lays down the second property of the rule of faith, or, as he calls it, “ the means whereby we come
to the knowledge of revealed truth,” in these words, ( Analys. fid. l. 1.6.3.) “ Another (viz. condition of this
means, &c.) is, That it be apt of its own nature to “ afford the greatest, true, and rational certainty, to all
without exception, to whom the knowledge of “ it shall come ; provided they be furnished with the
faculty of reason, and have their minds purified from “ all passion and lust, which do (as he tells us, cap. 6.) “ often hinder the most fagacious persons from under
standing the most evident and manifest truth.” Now, I suppose obftinacy to be the effect of passion and lust.
If Mr S. mean, that the rule of faith must be apt to conquer obstinacy, and make men lay it afide, I cannot understand this neither; unless he mean, that the rule of faith must be a cudgel, which the traditionary church have been good at, and may use it again when occasion ferves : for none but they have a title to it account; as Mr S. tells
But, setting this aside, I do not know any thing else that is apt to con: quer obstinacy; not the clearest reason, or the strongest A a 2
upon a church
demonstration ; for that, I am sure, is no wise fitted to combat a wilful and unreasonable humour with any probability of success. And if any one doubt of this, if he will but make trial, he may easily be convinced by experience, how unapt obstinate persons are to be convinced by reason. I do not know any thing that ever carried greater evidence than the doctrine of Christ, preached by himself and his Apostles to the obstinate Jews, and confirmed by multitudes of unquestionable miracles ; and yet we do not find, by the success of it, that it was so very apt to convince those that were obstinate. And no man can judge of the aptitude of a means to an end, otherwise than by the usual and frequent success of is when it is applied, Nor do I think that the doctrine of the gospel was ever intended for that purpose God hath provided no remedy for the wilful and perverse ; but he hath done that which is sufficient for the fatisfying and winning over of those who are teachable, and willing to learn. And such a disposition supposeth a man to have Jaid afide both scepticism and obstinacy.
§ 7. 6thly, That it be " certain itlelf,” p. 12. 7thly, That it be “ absolutely ascertainable to us, p.
These two are comprehended in the second property I laid down ; so that I have nothing to say againit them, but that the last looks very like a contradiction, solutely ascertainable to us.;” which is to say,
" with respect to us, without respect to us ;" for absolutely seems to exclude respect, and to us implies it.
Having thus shewn, that the seven properties he mentions are either coincident with those two I have laid down, or consequent upon them, or absurd and impertinent; it remains, that the true properties of a rule of faith are those two which I first named, and no more.
Sect. II, That the properties of a rule of faith belong to fcripture.
ET us now see how he endeavours to shew, that L
these properties agree folely to oral tradition. He tells us, there are but two pretenders to this title of
being the rule of faith, scripture, and oral tradition : these properties do not belong to fcripture, and they do to orał tradition; therefore folely to it. A very good argument, if he can prove these two things : “ That these “ two properties do not belong to scripture, and that " they do to oral tradition.”
§ 2. In order to the proving of the first, that these properties do not belong to fcripture, he premileth this note, p. 13.
6- That we cannot by the scriptures mean - the sense of them; but the book, that is, such or such 6 characters not yet sensed or interpreted.” But why can we not by the scriptures mean the sense of them ? He gives this clear and admirable reason, Because the sense of the scripture is “ the things to be known ; and these
we confess are the very points of faith of which the rule “ of faith is to ascertain us.” Which is just as if a man fhould reason thus : Those who fay the statute-book can. convey to them the knowledge of the statute-law, cannot by the statute-book mean the sense of it, but the book; that is, such or such characters not yet fensed or interpreted; because the sense of the statute-book is the. thing to be known, and these are the very laws, the knowledge whereof is to be conveyed to them by this. book. Which is to say, that a book cannot convey to a man the knowledge of any matter; because, if it did, it would convey to him the thing to be known. But that he may farther fee what excellent reasoning this is, I shall apply this paragraph to oral tradition ; for the argument holds every whit as well concerning that: “To :
speak to them in their own language, who say that “ oral tradition is the rule, we mult premile this note, “ that they cannot mean by oral tradition the sense of " it, that is, the things to be known : for those they “confess are the very points of faith of which the rule of 66 faith is to ascertain to us. When they say. then, that “ oral tradition is the rule of faith, they can only mean. “ by oral tradition the words wherein it is delivered,
not yet fensed or interpreted, but as yet to be sensed;. " that is, such or such sounds, with their aptness to figni
fy to them asfuredly God's mind, or ascertain them of " their faith : for, abftracting from the sense and actual “ fignification of those words, there is nothing imagi
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