« PreviousContinue »
idolaters and Mahometans, and do daily decrease. What thinks Mr S. of all this? Have those Christian nations which are turned Mahometans and Pagans, failed in their faith or not? If they have, I expect from him clear in. stances of more that have failed in propagating their kind,
8 7. But besides those who have totally apoftatized froin Christianity, hath not the whole Greek church, with the Jacobites and Nestorians, and all those other feits which agree with and depend upon there, and which, taken together, are manifoldly greater than the Romain church; I say, have not all these renounced tradizion for several ages? And here, in Europe, hath rot a great part of Poland, Hungary, both Germanies, France, and Switzerland; have not the kingdoms of Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and a conliderable part of Ireland!, in Mr S.'s opinion, deferted tradition? If I thould onca fee a whole nation fail, because no body would marry, and contribute to the propagation of mankind, and Thould find this sullen humour to prevail in several nations, and to overspread vait parts of the world, I thould then in good earnest think it postible for mankind to fail; unless I could thew it impoble for other nations to do that which I see fome to hirve done, who were e. very whit as unlikely to have done it. So that whatever cante le ailgns of heresy, as pride, ambition, luit, (pe 67.) or any other vice or interest, if there can take place in whole nations, and make thein renounce tradition, then where is the "efficacy of the clues to preferve “ faith indeficiently entire in any ?” for the demonstration holds a; firongly for all Chriitians as for any.
9 8. Secondly, From the grounds it would follow, that no Chriitian can live wickedly; because the end of faith being a good life, the arguments of hope and fear mit in all reason be as powerful and efficacious causes of a good life, as of a true belief. And that his demon. stration proves the one as much is the other, will be e. vident from his own reasoning : for he argues in this manner, p. 62. “ Good is the proper object of the will. “ Good proposed makes the will to defire that good, and
consequently the known means to obtain it. Now, “ infinite goods and harms sufficiently proposed, are of 66 tlicir own nature incon arabiy more powerful causes Vol.lil. Ff
s to carry the will, than temporal ones. Since, then, “ when two causes are counterpoised, the lesser, when " it comes to execution, is no cause as to the subsist" ence of that effect; it follows, that there is no cause
to move the wills of a world of believers to be will.
ing to do that which they judge would lose themselves “ and their pofterity infinite goods, and bring them insc finite harm, &c. in case a sufficient proposal or appli66 cation be not wanting :” which he tells us, p. 65. is not wanting; because " Christianity urged to execu. « tion, gives its followers a new life and a new nature; " than which a nearer application cannot be imagined.” Doth not this argument extend to the lives of Christians as well as their belief? So that we may as well infer from these grounds, that it is impossible that those who profess Christianity should live contrary to it, as that they should fail to deliver down the doctrine of Christ; because whatever can be an inducement and temptation to any man to contradict this doctrine by his practice, may equally prevail upon him to falfify it. For why Should men make any more fcruple of damning themselves and their posterity, by teaching them false doc. trines, than by living wicked lives? which are equally pernicious with heretical doctrines, not only upon account of the bad influence which such examples of fathers and teachers are like to have upon their scholars ; but likewise they are one of the strongest arguments in the world to persuade them, that their teachers do not themselves believe that religion which they teach ; for, if they did, they would live according to it. Why should any mian think, that those arguments of hope and fear which will not prevail upon the generality of Christians to make them live holy lives, should be so necessarily efficacious to make them so much concerned for the preservation of a right belief? Nay, we have great reason to believe, that such persons will endeavour, as much as may be, to bend and accommodate their belief to their lives. And this is the true source of those innovations in faith for which we challenge the church of Rome; which any man may easily discern, who will but consider how all their new doctrines are fitted to a fecular interest, and the gratifying of that inordinate ap
petite after riches and dominion which reigns in the court of Rome, and in the upper part of the clergy of that church.
SECT. IV. The second answer to his demonstration. $1. Econdly, The main grounds of his demonstra
tion are apparently false. For, 11, This demonftration supposeth, that the generali ty of Christian parents, in all ages, perfectly understood the doctrine of Christ, and did not mistake any part of it; that they remembered it perfectly, and that they
faithful and diligent to instruét their children in it: which is as contrary to experience, as that the generality of Christians are knowing and honest. It supposeth likewise, that this doctrine, and every substantial part of it, was received and remembered by the generality of children as it was taught, and was understood perfectly by them without the least material mistake. So he tells us, p. 53. that “the substance of faith comes clad in “ such plain matters of fact, that the most stupid man
living cannot possibly be ignorant of it.” But whether this be reasonable to be supposed or no, may easily be determined, not only from every man's own experience of the world, but from a more advantageous instance of the experience of the first age of Christianity. Was there ever a more knowing and diligent teacher of this doctrine than our Saviour! and yet his disciples fell into many mistakes concerning it: so that, in order to the certain propagating of it, the wisdom of God thought it requisite to endue even those who had learned this doce trine from himself, with an infallible spirit, by which they might be led into all truth, and secured from error and mistake ; which had been unnecessary, had it been impoflible for them to mistake this doctrine. The Apostles, who taught the world by an infallible fpirit, and with infinitely more advantage than ordinary parents can teach their children; yet in all the churches which they planted, they found Christians very apt to mistake and pervert their doctrine, as appears by their frequent com. plaints in most of their epistles. Nay, the Apostle chargeth the generality of the Hebrews with such a degree of Ff 2
dulness and stupidity, that after fitting time and means of instruction, they were still ignorant of the very principles of Christianity. So he tells them, chap. v. 11. 12. that when for the time they ought to be teachers of others, they had need that one should teach them again which be the first principles of the oracles of God. And St Hierom (advers. Lucifer.) tells us, that “ the primitive churches were “ tainted with many gross errors, whilst the Apostles
were alive, and the blood of Christ yet warm in Ju“ dea.” But it may be there have been better teachers fince, and children are more apt to learn now then men were then. Who knows how the world
may be changed? § 2. 2dly, This demonstration supposeth the hopes and fears which Christian religion applies to mens minds, to be certain and necessary causes of actual will in men, to adhere to the doctrine of Christ; and consequently, that they must necessarily adhere to it. That he fuppofeth them to be necessary, I have his own word for it; for he tells us, p. 74. that “ he hath endeavoured to “ demonstrate the indefectibleness of tradition, as the “ proper and neceffary effect of those causes which pre" serve and continue tradition on foot ;” and what those causes are, he told us before, p. 60. that “ they " are hopes and fears strongly applied.” But I hope, that the indefectibleness of tradition cannot be a necessary effect of the strong application of those hopes and fears, unless those hopes and fears be a necessary cause of that effect. And indeed this is sufficiently implied in his saying, that “ they are the causes of actual will in « Christians to adhere to tradition.” For if these causes of actual will be constant (as he must suppose) then they are certain, and necessary, and infallible causes of adhering to this doctrine : for whatever is in act, is ne. ceffary while it is so; and if it be constantly in act, the effect is always necessary. But what a wild supposition is this, that moral motives and arguments working upon a free principle, the will of man, do necessarily produce their effect? Is it necessary, that the hopes of hea. ven and the fears of hell should keep Christians conItant to the doctrine of Christ and is it not as necesa fary, that these arguments fhould prevail upon them to the practice of it? It is in vain to go about to demon.
strate, that all men must be good, who have sufficient arguments propounded to them, when experience tells us the contrary. Nay, it is in reason impossible, that moral arguments should be of a necessary and infallible efficacy ; because they are always propounded to a free agent, who may chuse whether he will yield to them or not. Indeed it is always reasonable, that men should yield to them; and if they be reasonable, they will : but fo long as they are free, it can never be infallibly certain . that they will. And if men be not free, it is no virtue. at all in them to be wrought upon by these arguments. For what virtue can it be in any man, to entertain the Christian doctrine, and adhere to it, and live accordingly, if he does all this necessarily; that is, whether he will or no; and can no more chuse whether he will do so or not, than whether he will see the light when the sun. Shines upon
his open eyes, or whether he will hear a found when all the bells in the town are ringing in his · ears; or (to ufe Mr S.'s own fimilitudes, p. 53.) whether he will “ feel heat, cold, pain, pleasure, or any other “ material quality that affects his senses ?” We fee : then how unreasonable his fuppofitions are; and yet, without these grounds, his demonstration falls : for, if it be poflible that Christians may mistake or forget the doctrine of Christ, or any part of it, or be defective in diligence to instruct others in it; or if it be possible that the will of man, which is free, may not be necessarily and infallibly swayed by the arguments of hope and fear : then it is possible that tradition may fail. And is not this a good demonstration, which supports itself upon such principles, as do directly affront the constant experienc: and the clearest reason of mankind ?
§ 3. And here I cannot but take notice, how inconsiste ent he is to himself in laying the grounds of traditions certainty. In one part of his book he tells us, p. 53. · that “ tradition hath for its bafis the best nature in the "s universe, that is, .man's; not according to his moral
part, defectible by reafon of original corruption; nor yet his intellectuals, darkly groping in the pursuit of: science, &c. but according to those faculties in him,
perfectly and necessarily subject to the operations and os Itrokes of nature, that is, his eyes, ears, handling,