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or without, so it is infallible. But to carry the supposition farther. Put the case, that the whole present age assembled in a general council, should declare that such a point was delivered to them; yet, according to Mr S. we cannot safely rely upon this, unless we knew certainly, that those whom they relied on “ had secure “ grounds, and not hare hearsay, for what they deli“ vered ; and that they were not contradicted within “ the space of 1500 years by any of those that are dead;" which it is impoffibie for any one now to know.
But to show how inconsistent he is with himself in these matters, I will present the reader with a passage or two in another part of his book, where he endeavours to prove, that men may safely rely on a general and uncontrolled tradition. He tells us, p. 49. that “the
common course of human conversation makes it mad. - nels, not to believe great multitudes of knowers, if
no possible conliderations can awaken in our reason
a doubt that they conspire to deceive us.” little after, ibid. “ Nor can any, unless their brains rove
wildly, or be unsettled even to the degree of madness, suspect deceit, where such multitudes agree unani
mously in a matter of fact.” Now, if men be but fupposed to write, as well as to speak, what they know, and to agree in their writings about matter of fact ; then it will be the same “madness, not to believe mul. “ titudes of hislorians, where no possible consideration
can awaken in our reason a.doubt that they have conspired to deceive us ; and mens brains must rove
wildly, and be unsettled even to the degree of frenzy, 66 who suspect deceit where such multitudes unanimous
ly agree in a matter of fact.” And this seems to be the great unhappiness of Mr S.'s demonstrations, that they proceed upon contradictory principles; fo that, in order to the demonstrating of the uncertainty of books and writings, he must suppose all those principles to be uncertain, which he takes to be felf-evident and unquestionable, when he is to demonstrate the infallibility of oral tradition.
§ 13. 2dly, He tells us, p. 18. “ The providence of ** God is no fecurity against those contingencies the
fcriptures are subject to ; because we cannot be cer« tain of divine providence, or aflistance to his church, " but by letter of scripture ; therefore that must first be
proved certain, before we mention the church, or " God's aslistance to her :" As if we pretended there were any promise in fcripture, that God would preferve the letter of it entire and uncorrupted, or as if we could not otherwise be assured of it; as if the light of natural reason could not assure us of God's providence in general, and of his more especial care of those things which are of greatest concernment to us; such as this is, that a book containing the method and the terms of salvation should be preserved from any material corruption. He might as well have said, that without the letter of feripture we cannot know that there is a God.
$ 14. 3dly, "Nor (says he, p. 18. 19.) can testimo66 nies of councils and fathers be sufficient interpreters " of scripture.” We do not say they are. Our principle is, That the scripture doth sufficiently interpret itself, that is, is plain to all capacities, in things ncccffary to be believed and practised. And the general consent of fathers in this doctrine of the fufficient plainness of scripture (which I shall afterwards thew) is a good evidence against them. As for obscure and more doubtful texts, we acknowledge the comments of the fathers to be a good help, but no certain rule of interpretation: And that the Papists think so as well as we, is plain ; inasmuch as they acknowledge the fathers to differ a mong themselves in the interpretation of several texts : and nothing is more familiar in all Popish commentators, than to differ from the ancient fathers about the sense of fcripture. And as for councils, Dr Holden and Mr Creffy (as I said before) do not think it neceffary to believe that always to be the true sense of texts which councils give of them, when they bring them to confirm points of faith. Nay, if any controversy arise about the sense of any text of fcripture, it is impossible, according to Mr Rushworth's principles, for a council to decide either that, or any other controversy : for (Dial, 2. $. 8.) he makes it his business to prove, that controversies cannot be decided by words: and if this be so,, then they cannot be decided at all, unless he can prove, C C 2.
that they may be decided without words, and consequently that councils may do their work best in the Quakers way, by filent meetings.
§ 15. 4thly, “Nor can (lays.he, p. 20. 21.) the clearness of scripture, as to fundamentals, be any help against these defects.” Why not?
Because a certain catalogue of fundamentals was never given and agreed to by sufficient authority ; “ and yet without this all goes to wreck.” I hope not, so long as we are sure. that God would make nothing necessary to be believed but what he hath made plain; and so long as men do beiieve all things that are plainly revealed, (which is every one's fault if he do not), men may do well enough without a precise catalogue. But suppose we fay, that the articles of the Apostles creed contain all necessary matters of fimple belief, what hath Mr S. to say against this? I am sure the Roman catechifin, set forth by the decree of the council of Trent, says (præfat.) as much as this comes to; viz. “ That " the Apostles having received a command to preach “ the gospel to every creature, thought fit to compose
a form of Christian faith, namely to this end, that " they might all think and speak the same things, and es that there might be no schisms among those whom
they had called to the unity of faith; but that “ they might all be perfect in the same fense and the “ fame opinion : and this profession of the Christian es faith and hope, fo framed by them, the Apostles 5. called the symbol or creed.” Now, how this end of bringing men to unity of faith, and making them perfectly of the same sense and opinion, could probably be attained by means of the creed, if it did not contain all necessary. points of simple belief, I can by no means understand. Besides, a certain catalogue of fundamentals is as necessary for them as for us ; and when Mr S. gives in his, ours is ready. Mr Chillingworth had a great desire to have seen Mr Knott's catalogue of fundamentals, and challenged him to produce it; and offered him very fairly, that whenever he might with one hand receive his, he would with the other deliver his own; but Mr Knott, though he still perfisted in the fame demand, could never be prevailed with to bring
forth his own, but kept it for a secret to his dying day. But, to put a final stop to this canting demand of a catalogue of fundamentals, which yet I perceive I shall never be able to do, because it is one of those expletive to: pics which Popish writers, especially those of the lowell form, do generally make use of to help out a book; however, to do what I can towards the stopping of it, I defire Mr S, to anfwer the reasons whereby his friend Dr. Holden ( Analys. fid. 1. 1. c. 4.) shews the unreasonableness of this demand; and likewise endeavours to prove, that such a catalogue would not only be useless and pernicious, if it could be given, but that it is manifestly im. possible to give such a precise catalogue.
2. He asks, p. 21. Is it a fundamental, that Christ s is God? If so, whether this be clearer in scripture, ss than that God hath hands, feet,” &c.? To which I answer by another question, Is it clear, that there are figures in fcripture, and that many things are spoken af. ter the manner of men, and by way of condefcenfion and accommodation to our capacities; and that custom and common sense teacheth men to distinguish between things · figuratively and properly spoken? If fo, why cannot e. very one easily understand, that when the scripture faith, God hath bands and feet, and that Christ is the vine, and the door, these are not to be taken properly, as we take this proposition, that “ Christ is God;" in which no man hath
any reason to suspect a figure ? When Mr S. tells us, that “ he percheth upon the specifical nature of
things,” would it not offend him, if any one thould be so filly as to conclude from hence, that Mr S. believed himself to be a bird, and nature a perch? And yet not only the scriptures, but all fober writers, are free from such forced and phantastical metaphors. I remember, that Origen (1. 4.) taxeth Celius's wilful ignorance, in finding fault with the scriptures, for "attributing to 66 God human affections, as anger, &c.;” and tells him, " that any one who had a mind to understand the scrip
tures, might easily fee, that such expresfions were ac- . « commodated to us, and accordingly to be understood; " and that no man that will but compare these expres" fions with other passages of scripture, need to fail of: " the true sente of them.” But, according to Mr S.,
Origen was to blame to find fault with Celsus, for thinko ing that the scripture did really attribute human affections to God.; for how could he think otherwise, when: “ the most fundamental point is not clearer in scripture, " than that God hath hands, feet, &c.?” How could Origen. in reason expect from Celfus, (though never fo great a philosopher), that he should be able, without the help of oral tradition, to distinguish between what is spoken literally, and what by a certain scheme of speech? Theodoret (Hæret. fabul. 1. 4.) tells us of one Audæus,. who held that God had a human shape and bodily members ; but he does not say, that the reason of this error: was because he made fcripture the rule of his faith, but. expressly because “ he was a fool, and did foolishly un« derstand those things which the divine scriptures speak
by way of condescension.” So that although Mr S. is pleased to make this wise objection, yet it seems, according to Theodoret, that men do not mistake. such, texts, either for, want of oral tradition, or of sufficient: clearness in the scriptures, but for want of common rea. son and sense. And if Mr S. know of any rule of faith. that is fecure from all poflibility of being mistaken by foolish and perverse men, I would be glad to be acquainto ed with it, and with him for its fake,
Seet, IV. That scripture is a fufficient rule to the un
learned, and to the most rational doubters. S1.TN his next discourse, he endeavours to shew, that
tionally in receiving the scripture for the word of God, and relying upon it as a certain rule; because they are not capable of satisfaction concerning these matters. But I have already shewn, that they are, and shall not repeat. the same over again. And whereas he says, p. 24. That • several professions all pretend to scripture, and yet. “ differ, and damn, and persecute one another, about: " these differences;” the answer is easy : That they all, pretend to fcripture, is an argument that they all acknowledge it to be the word of God, and the rule of faith; and that they are generally agreed about the sense of those plain texts which contain the fundamental points. of faith, is evident, in that those several professions ac