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And I hope he will not deny, that a doctrine orally delivered consists of words, and letters, and accents, and stops, as well as a doctrine written; and that the several actions of speaking are as short and cursory as of writing.
95. 2dly, He tells us, p. 38. “ Scripture, formally « considered as to its significativeness, is also uncer“ tain:” 1.“ Because of the uncertainty of the letter,” ibid. This is already answered. 2.“ Because the certain “ sense of it is not to be arrived to by the vulgar, who “ are destitute of languages and arts," ibid. True, where men are not permitted to have the scriptures in their own language, and understand no other: but where they are allowed the scriptures translated into their own language, they may understand them; all necessary points of faith and practice being sufficiently plain in any translation of the Bible that I know of. And that eminent wits cannot agree about the sense of texts which concern the main points of faith, p.38. hath been spo. ken to already.
$ 6. As for the reverence he pretends to fcripture in the conclusion of his fourth discourse, he might have spa. red that, after all the raillery and rudeness he hath used against it. It is easy to conjecture, both from his principles and his uncivil expreslions concerning them, what his esteem is of those facred oracles. Probably it was requisite in prudence to cast in a few good words concerning the scriptures, for the sake of the more tender and squeamish novices of their religion; or, (as Mr Rushworth's nephew says frankly and openly, Dial. 2. § 14.), “ for the satisfaction of indifferent men, that have “ been brought up in this verbal and apparent respect of “ the scripture ;" who it seems are not yet attained to that degree of Catholic piety and fortitude, as to endure paciently, that the word of God should be reviled or flighted. Besides, that in reference to those whom they hope hereafter to convert, (who might be too much ali. enated from their religion, if he had expressed nothing but contempt towards a book which Protestants and Christians in all ages, till the very dregs of Popery, have been bred up to a high veneration of), it was not much amiss to pass this formal compliment upon the Bible; which the wise of his own religion will easily understand,
and may serve to catch the rest. But let him not deceive hinself, God is not inocked.
SECT. VI. That the properties of a rule of faith do not
belong to oral tradition. $1. Econdly, He comes to shew, p. 41. “ that the
properties of a rule of faith belong to oral “ tradition.” And, first, he gives a tedious explanation of the nature of this oral practical tradition ; which amounts to this, that as, in reference to the civil educa. tion of children, " they are taught their own and on " thers names, to write and read, and exercise their “ trades; fo, in reference to religion, “ the children of “ Christians first hear sounds; afterwards, by degrees,
get dim notions of God, Christ, Saviour, heaven, “ hell, virtue, vice, and by degrees practise what they “ have heard ; they are shewn to say grace, and their
prayers, to hold up their hands, or perhaps eyes, " and to kneel, and other postures. Afterwards they
are acquainted with the creed, ten commandments, " and facraments, some common forms of prayer, and “ other practices of Christianity ; and are directed to “ order their lives accordingly; and are guided in all " this by the actions and carriage of the elder faithful. “ And this goes on by insensible degrees, not by lcaps " from a hundred years to a hundred, but from month
to month, and even less." If this be all that tradition doth, this is nothing but what is done among Protestants, and that with greater advantage ; because we always teach children to say their prayers in a known tongue, so as they may understand them. And we also teach them the creed, and ten commandments, and the sacraments, so many as Christ hath instituted, and no
So that if this be so infallible a way of conveye ing the doctrine of Christianity, we have it among us. And we do over and besides instruct them in the scriptures, which are the authentic instrument whereby Christ's doctrine is conveyed to us. But then we do not suppose, as his hypothesis necessarily inforceth him to do, that the Christian doctrine is equally taught and learned by all; but by some more, by others less per
fectly, according to the different abilities and diligence of parents and teachers, and the various capacities and difpofitions of children: whereas his hypothesis falls, if all, or at least the generality of parents do not instruct their children in the like exactness, and if the generality of children do not receive this doctrine in the same perfection that ic is delivered. For if it be taught or received with any variation, it must necessarily be so convey. ed; and these variations will grow daily. I had thought he would have told us how all parents do teach their children the whole body of Christ's doctrine, and explain to them every part of it in a hundred or a thoufand several expreffions fignifying the same fense; and not have instanced in two set forms, such as the creed, and ten commandments; for, according to Mr White, ( Apology, p. 81.) “ that cannot be a tradition which
is delivered down in set words.”
$ 2. Having thus explained oral tradition, he comes to shew, that the properties of a rule of faith agree to it. I have already shewed, that the true properties of a rule of faith are but two, viz. “ That it be plain and intel“ligible ; and, That it be sufficiently certain.” The first of these, that oral tradition may deliver a doctrine plainly and intelligibly, I grant him. All the difficulty is about the second property, whether we have sufficient affurance that the doctrine delivered down by oral tradition, hath received no corruption or change in its conveyance? And all that he pretends to prove in this dif. course is, That if this rule hath been followed and kept to all along, the Christian doctrine neither hath, nor can have received any change; that is, if the next age after the Apostles did truly, and without any alteration, deliver the Christian doctrine to their immediate succesfors, and they to their heirs, and so on; then, upon this fuppofition, the doctrine of the present traditionary church must be the very fame with that which was delivered to the Apostles. All this is readily granted to him. But that this rule hath always been followed, nay, that it is impossible there should have been any deviation from it, as he pretends, this we deny, not only as untrue, but as one of the most absurd propositions that ever yet pretended to demonstrative evidence.
In which Mr Si's demonstrations and corol
laries are examined.
SECT. I. Confiderations touching his demonftrations in
$ 1. Efore I come to speak particularly to his de.
monstrations, I shall premise these two contiderations: 1. That, according to the principles of the patrons of tradition, no man can, by his private reason, certainly find out the true rule of faith. 2. That, according to Mr S. the way of demonstration is no certain way to find out the rule of faith. If either of these be made out, his demonstrations lose all their force. If the first be made good, then he cannot demonstrate the infallibility of tradition, nor, consequently, that that is the rule of faith. If the second, then the way of demonstration, which he pretends to take, fignifies nothing.
82. 11, No man can, according to the poinciples of the patrons of tradition, by his private reason, certainly find out what is the rule of faith. Supncis a Heathen to be desirous to inform himself of the Christian faith; in order to which, he is inquisitive after some rule by which he may take a measure of it, and come certainly to know what it is : he inquires of Christians what their rule is, and finds them divided about it; fome saying, that the scripture, others, that oral tradition, is the rule. In this case, it is not possible, without a revelation, for this man to find out the rule of faith, but by his own private reason examining and weighing the arguments and pretences of both sides. And when he hath done this, unless he can by his reason demonstrate, that the one is a certain and infallible rule, and the other not so, he hath not (according to Mr S.) found out the rule of faith. But reason can never do this, according to Mr S. For, speaking of demonstrating the certainty of tradition, he tells us, p. 53. that " tradition hath for VOL. III.
“ its basis man's nature ; not according to his intel. “ lectuals, which do but darkly grope in the pursuit of “ science,” &c. And again, speaking how reason brings men to the rule of faith, he uses this comparison, (Append. 2. p. 183.) “ She is like a dim-fighted man, who * used his reason, to find a trusty friend to lead him in “ the twilight, and then relied on his guidance ratio.
nally, without using his own reason at all, about the way
itself." So that, according to him, the certainty of tradition cannot be founded on demonstration, because it is not founded in the intellectual part of man, which only can demonstrate. Besides, if it were founded in the intellectual part, yet that can never be able to demonstrate the certainty of tradition; because that faculty, which is dim-fighted, and does but grope darkly in the pursuit of science, is incapable of framing demonstrations. Nor can any man understand how dimfighted reason should fee clearly to chuse its guide any more than its way; especially if it be considered, what a pretty contradiction it is, to say, that reason, as it is dim-fighted, can see clearly.
But Mr Cressy is not contented to call every man's reason dim-fighted; he ventures a step farther, and calls it hood. winked and blind: for he tells us, (Append. c.6. $ 8.), that “private reason is apparently a most fallible
guide.” And he pities my Lord Falkland's case; because, in the search of the true religion, he did “ betake or himself to the casual conduct of blind, human, natural « reason,” (ibid. 19.) which afterwards ($11.) he calls “ a guide that two persons cannot possibly follow togeS ther; because no two persons that ever followed any « other guide befide authority, did or could think all
things to be reasonable that all others thought fo ; “ and, by consequence, such a guide, that, as long as « he continues in that office, there cannot possibly be any
church any where : which (says he) is an infalliS ble eviction, that this is an imaginary seducing guide ; “ since it is impossible, that that should be a guide ap
pointed for any Christian, vhich neither Christ nor « his Apostles, nor any of their followers, ever mention
ed; yea, which formally destroys one of our twelve articles of the Apostles creed, viz. I believe the Holy