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“ come?” Again, p. 30. “If God Almighty hath in all “ forts and manners provided his church, that she may
enlighten every man in his way that goeth the way of a man; then let every man consider which is the fit way for himself, and what in other matters of that
way he accounteth evidence. And if there be no in" terest in his soul to make him loth to believe what in “ another matter of the like nature he doth not stick at, " or heavy to practise what he sees clearly enough, L “ fear not his choice.” Once more, directing a man in his search after rational satisfaction in inatters of religion, he hath this paffage, p. 46. “Besides this, he must have “ this care, that he seek what the nature of the subject
can yield; and not as those physicians, who, when " they have promised no less than immortality, can a: “ last only reach to some conservation of health or youth “ in some small degree: fo I could wish the author to “ well affure himself, first that there is poflibly an infal
libility, before he be too earnest to be contented with
nothing lefs. For what if human nature should not “ be capable of so greit a good ? Would he therefore " think it fitting to live without any religion, because he “ could not get such a one as himself desired, thoughz " with more than a man's wish ? Were it not rational “ to fee, whether, among religions, fome one have not "s such notable advantages over the rest, as in reason it
might seem human nature might be contented withal? “ Let him cast his account with the dearest things he “ hath, his own or friends lives, his eitate, his hope of
pofterity, and see upon what terins of advantage he " is ready to venture all these; and then return to reli
gion, and see whether, if he do not venture his foul upon the like, if it be truly reason, or some other not confessed motive, whish withdraws him. For my own
part, as I doubt not of an infallibility, fo I doubt not “ but, setting that aside, there be those excellencies « found on the Catholic party which may force a man
to prefer it, and to venture all he hath upon it, be" fore all other religions and feets in the world. Why " then may not one who, after long searching, findeth
no infallibility, relt himself on the like, suppoling nian's nature affords no better??)
Are not these fair conceflions, which the evidence and force of truth have extorted from these authors ? so that it seems that that which Mr S. calls a civil piece of Atheistry', (Letter to his answerer, p.5.), is advanced in most express words by his best friends; and therefore I hope he will (as. he threatens) “ be smart with them in “ opposition to fo.dainnable and fundamental an error." And whenever he attempts this, I would intreat him to remember, that he hath these two things to prove : 3. That no evidence but demonstration can give a man fufficient asfurance of any thing. 2. That a bare pofsibility that a thing may be otherwise, is a rational cause of doubting, and a wise ground of suspense. Which when he hath proved, I thall not grudge him his infallibility:
Sret. V. That scripture is fufficient to convince the most
acute adversaries, and that it is sufficiently certain.
HE last part of this third discourse endeavours
" That the scripture is not convictive as of the most obstinate and acute adversaries,” As for the obstinate, he knows my mind already. Let us fee why the most acute adversary may not be convinced by fcripture : “ Because, (as he objects, p. 23.), 1. We can
not be certain that this book is God's word, because " of the many strange absurdities and herehes in the o
pen letter as it lies; as that God hath hands and feet, " &c, and becauie of the contradictions in it." To which I have already returned an answer. 2. Because
(as he faith, p.31.) we cannot be certain of the truth “ of the letter in any particular text, that it was not
foilted in, or fome way altered in its fignificativeness ; “ and if it be a negative propofition, that the particle o not was not inserted; if afirmative, nat left out." And if we pretend to be certain of this, he demands our demoration for it, p. 31. But how areasonable this deinand is, I hope I have sufficiently thewn. And to thew it yet farther, I aik hini, Ilow their church knows that the particle net was not left out of any text in which it is not found in their copies? I know he ha'h a ready andwer, viz. by oral tradition. But this according to
him, p. 116.) only reaches to " scripture's letter, fo far
as it is coincident with the main body of Christian “ doctrine;" concerning the relt of scripture, it is impossible (according to his own principles) that they thould have any security that the particle not was not unduly inserted, or left out, by the transcribers. Nay, as to those texts of fcripture which fall in with the main body of Christian doctrine, I demand his demonstration, that the particle not was not unduly inferted or left out, not only in those texts, but also in the oral tradition of the docrines coincident with the sense of those texts. If he fay, it was impotlible any age should conspire to leave out or intert the particle not in the oral tradition; to say I it was that they thould conspire to leave it out of the written text: but then i differ from him thus far, that I do not think this naturally impoflible, so as that it can rigorously be demonstrated; but only morally iin possible, so that no body hath any reaton to doubt of it; which, to a prudent man is as good as a demonftration. Pyrrho himself never advanced any principle of scepticism be. yond this, viz. That men ought to question the credit of all books, concerning which they cannot demonstrate as to every sentence in them, that the particle not was not inferted, if it be affirmative; or left out, if it be negative. If so much be required to free a man from reaionable doubting concerning a book, how happy are they that have attained to infallibility? What he faith (p. 32.) concerning the varie lectiones of fcripture, hath already had a fufficient answer.
§ 2. In his fourth discourse he endeavours to fhew, (p. 33.), that "the scripture is not certain in itself; and, * confequently, not ascertained to us.” 111, “ Nos “ certain, materially considered, as consisting of such " and such characters; because books are liable to be
burnt, torn, bloited, worn out, P. 34. it is not impossible but that any, or all the books in the world, may be burnt: but then we say likewise, that a book lo universally difperfed may eatily be preserved ; though we have no assurance that God will preserve it, in case all men should be so foolish or so carelels as to endezvour to suffer the abolition of it.
seems the fcriptures cannot be a rule of faith, if they be liable to
any external accidents : and this he tells us, (p. 34.),
Though it may seem a remote and impertinent excep“ tion, yet to one who considers the wife dispositions of “ divine providence, it will deserve a deep considera" tion; because the salvation of mankind being the end “ of God's making nature, the means to it should be
more settled, strong, and unalterable, than any other
piece of nature whatever.” But, notwithstanding this wise reason, this exception still seems to me both remote and impertinent : for if this which he calls a reason be a truth, it will froin thence necessarily follow, not only that the doctrine of Christ must be conveyed by such a means as is more.unalterable than the course of nature, but also, by a clear parity of reason, that all the means of our salvation do operate towards the accomplishing of their end with greater certainty than the fire burns, or the sun shines; which they can never do, unless they 0perate more necessarily than any natural causes. How they can do so upon voluntary agents, I desire Mr S, to inform me.
$3. He proceeds by a long harangue to fhew, p. 34. that not only these material characters in themselves “ are corruptible, but in complection with the causes “ actually laid in the world to preserve them entire ; “ because either those causes are material, and then
they are also liable to continual alterations; or fpi“ ritual, that is, the minds of men, and from these we
may with good reason hope for a greater degree of
constancy than from any other piece of nature : which, by the way, is a very strange paradox, that the actions of voluntary agents have a greater certainty and constancy in them than those of natural agents; of which the fall of angels and men, compared with the continuance of the sun and stars in their first state, is a very good evidence. $ 4. But he adds a caution, p. 35.
" that they are perfectly unalterable from their nature, and unerrable, os if due circumstances be observed; that is, if due propo“ fals be made to beget certain knowledge, and due care so used to attend to such proposals.
But who can warrant, that due proposals will always be made to men, and due care used by them? If these be uncertain, where
“ so many
is the constancy and unerrableness he talks so much of ? So that, notwithstanding the constancy of this spiritual cause, the mind of man, of preserving scriptures entire; yet, in order to this, (as he tells us, p. 36.), ó actions are to be done, which are compounded and “ made up of an innumerable multitude of several par“ ticularities to be observed, every of which may be “ mistaken apart, each being a distinct little action in its
single self; such as is the transcribing of a whole book, “ consisting of such myriads of words, single letters, and “ titles or stops; and the several actions of writing over or each of these so thort and cursory, that it prevents
diligence, and exceeds human care, to keep awake, “ and apply distinct attentions to every of these distinct 66 actions.' Mr Rushworth much undoes Mr S. in these minute cavils ; for he tells us, (Dial. 2. $7.), that “ fuppofing an original copy of Christ's words, written “ by one of the Evangelists in the fame language, let him «s have set down every word and syllable; yet men con“ versant in noting the changes of meanings in words, “ will tell us, that divers accents in the pronunciation “ of them, the turning of the speaker's head or body " this or that way, &c. may fo change the sense of the “ words, that they will seem quite different in writing “ from what they were in speaking." I hope that oral and practical tradition hath been careful to preserve all these circumstances, and hath delivered down Christ's doctrine, with all the right traditionary accents, nods, and gestures, necessary for the understanding of it; otherwise the omiffion of these may have so altered the sense of it, that it may be now quite different from what it was at first. But to answer Mr S. we do not pretend to be assu:red, that it is naturally impossible that the scriptures fhould have been corrupted or changed, but only to be fufficiently assured that they have not received any material alteration, from as good arguments as the nature of the subject will bear. But if his reason had not been very short and cursory, he might eafily have reflected, that o. ral tradition is equally liable to all these contingencies : for it doth as much “ prevent diligence, and exceed hu.
man care, to keep awake, and apply distinct attentions “ to the distinct actions of fpeaking, as of writing."