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“ nable left, but those founds, with their aptnefs to figo
nify it.” When he hath answered this argument, he will have answered his own. In the mean while, this discourse, that he who holds the scriptures to be the rule of faith, must needs by the scriptures mean a book void of sense, &c.; because otherwise, if by scripture he should understand a book that hath a certain fense in it, that sense must be the doctrine of Christ, which is the very thing that this book is to convey to us : I say, this discourse tends only to prove it an absurd thing for any man that holds scripture the means of conveying Christ's doctrine, to understand by the scripture a book that conveys Cbrist's doctrine. This being his own reason put into plain English, I leave the reader to judge whether it be not something short of perfect science and demonstration. Nay, if it were thoroughly examined, I doubt whether it would not fall short of that low pitch of science which he speaks of in his preface; where he tells us, that “the
way of science is to proceed from one piece of sense to 46 another.”
$3. Having premised this, that by the seriptures we znust only mean dead characters that have no sense under them, he proceeds to shew, that these dead characters have not the properties of a rule of faith belonging to them. Which, although it be nothing to the purpose when he hath dhewn it, yet it is very pleasant to observe. by what cross and untoward arguments
about it; of which I will give the reader a taste, by one or two instances,
In the first place, he fhews, that it cannot be evident to us, that “these books were written by men divinely “ infpired; because, till the seeming contradictions in s6 those books are solved, which to do is one of the most “ difficult tasks in the world, they cannot be concluded
to be of God's inditing,” p. 14. Now, how is this an argument against those who by the fcriptures muft mean unfensed letters and characters? I had always thought contradictions had been in the sense of words, not in the letters and characters: but I perceive he hath a peculiar opinion, that the four and twenty letters to contradict one another,
The other instance fhall be in his last argument; whiclz
is this, p. 17. That " the scripture cannot be the rule “ of faith, because those who are to be ruled and guided " by the scripture's letter to faith, cannot be certain of " the true sense of it ;” which is to say, that unsensed letters and characters cannot be the rule of faith, because the rule of faith must have a certain sense ; that is, must not be unsensed letters and characters; which in plain English amounts to thus much, unsensed letters and characters cannot be the rule of faith, that they cannot.
$4. And thus I might trace him through all his pro. perties of the rule of faith, and let the reader see how incomparably he demonstrates the falsehood of this Protestant tenet, as he calls it, that a senseless book may be a rule of faith. But I am weary of purtuing him in these airy and phantastical combats; and shall leave him to fight with his own fancies, and to batter down the cafles which himself hath built. Only I think fit to acquaint him, once for all, with a great secret of the Protestant doctrine, which it seems he hath hitherto been ignorant of, (for I am still more confirmed in my opinion, that he forsook our religion before he understood it), that when they say the scriptures are the rule of faith, or the means whereby Christ's doctrine is conveyed down to them, they mean by the scriptures, books written in such words as do fufficiently express the sense and meaning of Christ's doctrine.
$. 5. And to satisfy him that we are not absurd and unreasonable in fuppofing the scriptures to be such a book, I would beg the favour of him to grant me these four things, or thew reason to the contrary.
1. That whatever can be spoken in plain and intel. ligible words, and such as have a certain fenfe, may be written in the same words.
2. That the same words are as intelligible when they are written, as when they are spoken.
3. That God, if he please, can indite a book in as plain words as any of his creatures. 4.
That we have no reason to think that God affects obscurity, and envies that men should understand him, in those things which are necessary for them to know; and which must have been written to no purpose, if we cannot understand them. St Luke tells Theophilus,
chap. i. 3. 4. that he wrote the history of Christ to him, on purpose to give him a certain knowledge of those things which he writ. But how a book which hath no certain sense, should give a man a certain knowledge of things, is beyond my capacity. St John faith, chap. xx, 31. that he purposely committed several of Christ's miracles to writing, that men might believe on him. But now, had Mr S. been at his elbow, he would have advised him to fpare his labour; and would have given him this good reason for it, because, when he had written his book, no body would be able to find the certain sense of it without oral tradition; and that alone would securely and intelligibly convey both the doctrine of Christ, and the certain knowledge of those miracles which he wrought for the confirmation of it. If these four things be but granted, I see not why, when we say that the scriptures are the means of conveying to us Christ's doctrine, we may not be allowed to understand by the scriptures, a book which doth in plain and intelligible words express to us this doctrine.
SECT. III. Mr S’s exceptions against scripture examined. fi.
ND now, although this might have been a suf
ficient answer to his exceptions against the scrip. tures, as being incapable of the properties of a rule of faith ; because all of them suppose that which is apparently false and absurd, as granted by Protestants, viz. that the scriptures are only a heap of dead letters and infignificant characters, without any sense under them ; and that oral tradition is that only which gives them life and sense : yet, because several of his exceptions pretend to shew, that the true properties of a rule of faith do not at all appertain to the scriptures; therefore I shall give particular answers to them.; and, as I go along, thew, that tradition is liable to all or most of those exceptions, and to far greater than those. $.2. First, Whereas he says, p. 13.
“ It cannot be e“ vident to Protestants from their principles, that the “ books of scripture were originally written by men di
“ vinely inspired;" I will shew him, that it may, and then answer the reasons of this exception.
It is evident, from an universal, constant, and uncontrolled tradition among Christians, not only oral, but written, and from the acknowledgment of the greatest adversaries of our religion, that these books were originally written by the Apostles and Evangelists. And this is not only a Protestant principle, but the principle of all mankind,' “ That an undoubted tradition is sufficient e“ vidence of the antiquity and author of a book,” and all the extrinsical argument that can ordinarily be had of a book written long ago.
Next, it is evident, that the Apostles were men divinely inspired, that is, secured from error and mistake in the writing of this doctrine, from the miracles that were wrought for the confirmation of it; because it is unreafonable to imagine, that the divine power should so remarkably interpose for the confirmation of a doctrine, and give so eminent an attestation to the Apostles to convince the world, that they were inmediately appointed and commissioned by God, and yet not secure them from error in the delivery of it. And that such miracles were wrought, is evident from as credible histories as we have for any of those things which we do most firmly believe. And this is better evidence, that the Apostles were men divinely inspired, than bare oral tradition can furnish us withal; for, setting aside the authentic relation of these matters in books, it is most probable, that oral tradition of itself, and without books, would scarce have preserved the memory of any of those particular miracles of our Saviour and his Apostles which are recorded in scripture. And for the probability of this, I offer these two things to his confideration.
1. No man can deny, that memorable persons have lived, and actions been done in the world innumerable, whereof no history now extant makes any mention.
2. He himself will grant, that our Saviour wrought innumerable more miracles than are recorded in scripture. And now, I challenge him to shew the lingle virtue of oral tradition, by giving an accoant of any of those persons, or their actions, who lived 1500 or 2000 years ago, besides those which are mentioned in books;
or to give a catalogue but of ten of those innumerable miracles wrought by our Saviour, which are not recorded by the Evangelifts, with circumstances as punctual and particular as those are clothed withal. If he can do this, it will be a good evidence, that oral tradition singly, and by itself, can do something ; but if he cannot, it is as plain an evidence, on the contrary, that if those actions of former times, and those miracles of our Saviour and his Apostles which are recorded in books, had never been written, but intrusted solely to oral tradition, we should have heard as little of them at this day, as we do of those that were not written.
§ 3. Now to examine his reasons for this exception : ist, He faith, p. 13. “ It is most manifest, that this cannot be made evident to the vulgar, that scripture
was written by men divinely inspired.” This reason is as easily answered, by saying, It is inost manifest that
But besides saying so, I have shewed how it may be made as evident to the vulgar, as other things which they do most firmly, and upon good grounds, believe. Even the rudest of the vulgar, and those who cannot read, do believe upon very good grounds, that there was such a king as William the Conqueror; and the miracles of Christ and his Apostles are capable of as good evidence as we have for this.
2dly, He says, p. 13. 14. “ This cannot be evident to “ the curious and most speculative searchers, but by so
deep an inspection into the sense of fcripture, as shall “ discover such fecrets that philosophy and human in. “ dustry could never have arrived to :” As if we could not be assured, that any thing were written by men divinely inspired, unless it were above the reach of human understanding; and as if no man could know that this was our Saviour's doctrine, Whatever ye would that men should do unto you, that do you likewise unto them, because every one can understand it. But if there were more mysteries in the scriptures than there are, I hope a man might be satisfied, that they were written by men divinely inspired, without a clear comprehension of all those mysteries. The evidence of the inspiration of any person doth not depend upon the plainness or sublimity of the things revealed to him, but upon the goodness of