Page images

knowledge the articles contained in the Apostles creed to be sufficiently delivered in fcripture : and if any profeffions differ about the meaning of plain texts, that is not an argument that plain texts are obscure, but that some men are perverse. And if those professions damn and persecute one another about the meaning of obscure texts, the scripture is not in fault, but those that do so.

§ 2. Andwhereas he pretends, P: 25. 26. 27. that “ the scripture is not able to satisfy sceptical diffenters “ and rational doubters, because nothing under a de.. s monstration can satisfy such persons so well concern

ing the incorruptedness of originals, the faithfulness of translations, &c; but that fearching and sincere “ wits may still maintain their ground of suspense with: a Might it not be otherwise ?>

This hath been an. swered already, partly by thewing, that the scripture was not intended to satisfy sceptics, and that a demonstration is not sufficient to give satisfaction to them; and partly by shewing, that rational doubters may have as much satisfaction concerning those matters, as the nature of the thing will bear : and he is not a rational doubter that desires more.

But, that he may see the unreasonableness of this difcourse, I shall briefly shew him, that all mankind do, in matters of this nature, accept of such evidence as falls short of demonstration ? and that his great friends and masters, from whom he hath taken the main grounds of his book, though he manageth them to less advantage, do frequently acknowledge, that it is reasonable for men to acquiesce in such assurance as falls thort of infallibili. ty, and such evidence as is less than demonstration. Do not mankind think themselves sufficiently affured of the antiquity and authors of several books, for which they have not demonstrative evidence? Doth not Aristotle fay, that things of a moral and civil nature, and matters of fact done long ago, are incapable of demonstration ; and that it is madness to expect it for things of this nature ? Are there no passages in books fo plain, that a man may be sufficiently satisfied, that this, and no other, is the certain sense of them? If there be none, can arry thing be spoken in plainer words than it may be written? If it cannot, how can we be satisfied of the certain sense


of any

doctrine orally delivered? And if we cannot be so satisfied, where is the certainty of oral tradition ? But if books may be written fo plainly as that we may be abundantly satisfied, that this is the certain sense of such and fuch passages, then we may reasonably reft fa. tisfied in evidence for these matters short of demonstration. For was ever the sense of any words so plain as that there did not remain this ground of suspense, that those words might be capable of another sense ? Mr Rushworth (Dialog. 2. $ 7.) says, that " disputative “s scholars do find means daily to explicate the plainest " words of an author to a quite different sense.” And that the world might be furnished with an advantageous instance of the pollibility of this, Raynaudus, (De bonis et malis libris), a writer of their own, hath made a wanton experiment upon the Apostles creed; and, by a sini.. ster, but possible interpretation, hath made every article of it heresy and blafphemy, on purpose to thew, that the plainest words are not free from ambiguity. But may, be Mr S. can outdo the Apostles, and can deliver the Christian doctrine fo clearly, that he can demonstrate it impossible for any man to put any other sense upon any of his words than that which he intended. I do not know what may be done : but, if Mr S. doth this, he must both amend his style, and his way of demonstration.

Is Mr S. sufficiently assured, that there is such a part of the world as America ? and can he demonstrate this to any man without carrying him thither? Can he shew, by any necessary argument, that it is naturally impoffible that all the relations concerning that place should be false? When his demonstrations have done their utmost, cannot a searching and sincere wit at least maintain “ his ground of fufpenfe with a Might it not be otherwise ? ” p. 27.; and with an Is it not poflible, that all men may be liars, or that a company of travellers may have made use of their privilege, to abuse the world by false reports, and to put a trick upon mankind ? that all those who pretend to go thither, and bring their commodities from thence, may go to some other parts of the world, and taking pleasure in abusing others, in the same manner as they have been imposed upon



themselves, may say they have been at America ? Who can tell but all this may be fo? And yet I suppose, notwithstanding the possibility of this, no man in his wits is now possessed with so incredible a folly as to doubt whether there be such a place. The case is the very fame as to the certainty of an ancient book, and of the sense of plain expreslions. We have no demonstration for these things; and we expect none, because we know the things are not capable of it. We are not infallibly certain, that any book is so ancient as it pretends to be, or that it was written by him whose name it bears, or that this is the sense of such and such pallages in it. It is possible all this may be otherwise ; that is, it implies no contradice tion : but we are very well assured that it is not ; nor hath any prudent man any just cause to make the least doubt of it. For a bare poflibility, that a thing may be, or not be, is no just cause of doubting whether a thing be or not. It is possible all the people of France may die this night; but I hope the poflibility of this doth not incline any man in the least to think it will be fo. It is poflible the sun may not rise to-morrow morning; and yet, for all this, I suppose that no man hath the least doubt but that it will.

$ 3. But because this principle, viz. “ That in mat“ ters of religion a man cannot be reafonably satisfied with any thing less than that infallible assurance which “ is wrought by demonstration," is the main pillar of Mr S.'s book; therefore, beside what hath been already said, to shew the unreasonableness of this principle, I shall take a little pains to manifest to him, how much he is contradicted in this by the chief of his brethren of the tradition, viz. Mr Rushworth, Dr Holden, Mr Cressy, and Mr White ; who, besides Mr S. and one I. B. are, so far as I can learn, all the public patrons that ever this hypothesis of oral tradition hath had in tlre world : and if Mr White, as I have reason to believe, was the author of those dialogues which pass under Rush. worth's name, the number of them is yet less. Now, if I can fhew, that this principle, esteemed by Mr S. so fundamental to this hypothesis, is plainly contradicted by the principal afferters of oral tradition, I shall hereby gain one of these two things; either that these


[ocr errors]

trons of oral traditions were ignorant of the true foundation of their own hypothesis, or that this principle is not necessary for the support of it. Not that I would be so understood as if I did deny, that these very persons do sometimes speak very big words of the necessity of infallibility. But if it be their pleasure to contradict themselves, as I have no reason to be displeased, fo neither to be concerned for it; but Thall leave it to Mr S. to reconcile them first to themselves : and then, if it pleases, afterwards to himself.

§ 4. I begin with Mr Rushworth, of immortal memo. ry, for that noble attempt of his, to persuade the world, that, notwithstanding he was the first inventor of this hypothesis of oral tradition, yet he could prove, that the church had in all ages owned it, and proceeded upon it. as her only rule of faith. He, in his third dialogue, 3. and 4. when his nephew objects to him, " That perhaps “ a Protestant would say, that all his foregoing discourse

was but probability and likelihood; and therefore,

to hazard a man's estate upon peradventures, were “ fomething hard, and not very rationally done,” replies thus to him : What security do your inerchants,

your statesmen, your foldiers, those that go to law,

nay, even those that till your grounds, and work for “ their livings; what fecurity, I say, do all these go

upon? Is it greater than the security which these

grounds afford? Surely no; and yet no man esteems 66 them foolish. All human affairs are hazardous, and " have some adventure in them: and therefore he who “ requires evident certainty only in matters of religion, “ discovers in himself a less nind to the goods promised " in the next life, than to these which he seeks here in " this world upon weaker assurance. Howsoever, the

greatest evidence that can be to him that is not ca

pable of convincing demonftrations, which the great« est part of mankind fall short of, is but conjectural." So that, according to Mr Rushworth, it is not reason and discretion, but want of love to God and religion, which makes men require greater evidence for matters of religion than for human affairs; which yet, he tells us,

are hazardous, and have some adventure in them," and consequently are not capable of demonstration,


66 do

Besides, if demonstrative evidence be an eflential pro. perty of the rule of faith, as Mr S. affirms, then this rule cannot, according to Mr Rushworth, be of any use to the greatest part of mankind, because they are not capable of convincing demonstrations. Again, “ but confider (says he, ibid. $ 6.) how unequal and

unjust a condition it is, that the claim of the pre“ fent church shall not be heard, unless the can con“ fute all the peradventures that wit may invent, and "o folve

the arguments which the infinite variety of s time, place, and occasions, may have given way un

to; and then you will see how unreasonable an ad.

versary he is, who will not be content with any sa"s tisfaction but fich as man's nature scarcely affords.” And is it not equally unjust in Mr S. not to let fcripture's claiin be heard, unless we can confute every peradven. ture, and Might it not be otherwise, that wit may invent? See, then, how unreasonable an adversary Mr S. is, who will not be content with any satisfaction but such as, according to Mr Rushworth, man's nature scarcely affords.

Dr Holden (I confess) states the matter somewhat cautiously, when he tells us, 1. 1.c. 1. that “ it shall “ fuffice for the present to determine, that the wisdom “ of the Creator hath afforded us such an assurance, e

specially of truths necefiary to salvation, as is suita“ ble to our nature, and best fitted for the safe conduct “ of our lives in moral and religious affairs.” But if we interpret these general expressions by the passages I before cited out of Mr Rushworth, (as in reason we may, since the Doctor is beholden to him for the best part of his book) then nothing can make more against Mr S.'s principle.

§ 5. Mir Cressy, in his Exomologefis, c. 19. § 5. says, that “ such teachers as approached nearest to the foun“ tain of truth, Christ and his Apostles, had means of “ informing themselves in apostolical tradition incom

parably beyond us.” Mr S. may do well to shew what those means were, which are so incomparably beyond his infallibility and demonstration. The fame author (c. 32. § 4.) does very much applaud Stapleton's determination of the question concerning the church's


« PreviousContinue »