Page images
PDF
EPUB

strating its certainty. Arithmetic lends her number“ ing and multiplying faculty, to scan the vast number of “ teltifiers : Geometry her proportions, to fhew a kind “ of infinite strength of certitude in Christian tradition, “ above those attestations which breed certainty in hu“ man affairs : Logic her skill, to frame and make us “ see the connections it has with the principles of our “ understanding : Nature, her laws of motion and ac« tion: Morality, her first principle, That nothing is “ done gratis by a cognoscitive nature; and that the “ body of traditionary doctrine is most conformable to

practical reason : Historical prudence clears the im

possiblity of an undiscernible revolt from points fo de“ Icended, and held so facred : Politics shew this to be “ the best way imaginable to convey down such a law

as it concerns every man to be skilful in : Metaphy“ fics engage the effences of things, and the very no“ tion of being, which fixes every truth; fo establishing “ the scientifical knowledge which springs from each

particular nature, by their first causes or reasons, ex

empt from changes or motion : Divinity demonstra“ teth it molt worthy God, and most conducive to bring mankind to bliss : Lastly, Controversy evidences the “ total uncertainty of any thing concerning faith, if this

can be uncertain ; and makes use of all the rest, to “ establish the certainty of this first principle.” p. 93. A very fit conclusion for such demonstrations as went before. It is well Mr S. writes to none but intelligent readers ; for were it not a thousand pities, that so manly, and folid, and convincing a discourse as this should be cast away upon fools ?

SECT. XII. Mr S.'s corollaries considered. $". A

S for his corollaries, supposing them to be rightof necessity fall with them; for they signify nothing, but upon this fuppofition, that his foregoing discourses are true. And yet this being granted, it were easy to fhew that most of them are grossly faulty. For, first, several of them are plainly coincident. The second, viz. “ None can with right pretend to be a church, but the VOL. III. LI

“ followers

d f f

“ followers of tradition,” is the very fame in sense with the 11th, viz. “ No company of men hang together “ like a body of a Christian commonwealth or church, “ but that which adheres to tradition.” So likewise the 12th and 14th are contained in the 15th; the 16th and 17th, in the 19th; the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th, in the 21st; and the 32d and 34th, in the 31st. Secondly, Divers of them are manifestly absurd; as the 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th ; the sum of which is, That there is " no arguing against tradition from

scripture, or the authority of the church, or fathers “ and councils, or from history and testimonial writings,

or from contrary tradition, or reason, or any inftan.

ces whatsoever ;" which is as much as to say, If this proposition be true, “ That tradition is certain,” then it cannot, by any kind of argument, be proved to be false. But is this any peculiar confectary from the truth of this proposition? Doth not the same follow from every proposition, That if it be true, it cannot be proved to be false ? Yet no man was ever yet so frivolous, as to draw such a consequence from the supposed truth of any proposition. His 23d also is fingularly absurd, That * there is no possibility of arguing at all against tradition rightly understood, or the living voice of the Ca“ tholic church, with any shew of reason.” These are large words.

It might have contented a reasonable man to have said, that no good argument could be brought against it; but he is jealous of his hypothesis, and can never think it safe till it be shot-free. Nor will that content him; but it must be also impossible for any one to make a shew of shooting at it. This were, I confess, a peculiar privilege of Mr S.'s discourses above other mens, if they were, as he says, by evidence of demonstration fo secured, that not only no substantial argument could be brought against them, but that even the most subtile schoolman of them all should not be able to come near them with so much as a Videtur quod non. But it may be, he means no more by this corollary, than what he said in the 18th, viz. That “

no folid argu“ ment from reason can be brought against tradition.” If so, then the sense of his 23d corollary must be this, That there is no possibility of arguing at all against tra.

dition with any solid shew, or substantial shadow of reafon; which would be a little inconvenient. I will instance but in one more, his 40th ; which is this, “ The " knowledge of tradition's certainty is the first know“ ledge or principle in controversial divinity, i.e. with“ out which nothing is known or knowable in that sci“ ence:” which is to infer, that because he hath with much pains proved the certainty of tradition, therefore it is self-evident, i. e. needed no proof. Nay, it is to conclude the present matter in controversy, and that which is the main debate of his book, to be the first principle in controversial divinity, i. e. fuch a propofition as every one ought to grant before he can have any right to dispute about it. This is a very prudent course, to make begging the question the first principle in controversy ; which would it but be granted, I am very much of his mind, that the method he takes would be the best way to make controversy a science ; 'because he that should have the luck or boldness to beg first, would have it in his power to make what lie pleased certain.

§ 2. Were it worth while, I might farther pursue the absurdities of his corollaries; for they are not so terrible as he makes shew of, by his telling Dr Causabon, p. 330. that “ Sure footing, and its corollaries, may put him out “ of his wits :” which though intended for an affront to the Doctor, yet it may be mollified with a good interpretation ; for if the reading of wild and fantastical stuff be apt to disorder a very learned head, then so far Mr S's saying may have truth in it.

It remains only that I requite his 41st corollary, not with an equal number, but with two or three natural confectaries from the doctrine of his book.

1. No man can certainly understand the meaning of any book whatsoever, any farther than the contents of it are made known to us by a concurrent oral tradition : for the arguments whereby he and Mr Rushworth endeavour to prove it impossible without tradition to attain to the certain sense of scripture, do equally extend to all other books.

2. The memory of matters of fact done long ago may be better preserved by general rumour, than by public records : for this is the plain English of that assertion, L 1:2

That

[ocr errors]

That oral tradition is a better and more secure way of conveyance than writing.

3. That the generality of Papists are no Chriftians : for if, as he affirms, tradition be the fole rule of faith, and those who disown this rule be ipfo facto cut off from the root of faith, i. e. unchristianed ; and if, as I have fhewn, the generality of Papists do disown this rule, then it is plain that they are no Christians,

PART

IV.

Testimonies concerning the rule of faith.

SECT. I. Mr Si's testimonies examined.

$1.Tethering is note-book learning, which, he tells

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

us, p. 337. he is not much a friend to :" and there is no kindness loft ; for it is as a little friend to him, and his cause, as he can be to it. I shall first examine the authorities he brings for tradition; and then produce exprels testimonies in behalf of scripture. In both which I shall be very brief; in the one, because his teftimonies require no long answer; in the other, becaufe it would be to little purpose to trouble Mr S. with many fathers; who, for ought appears by his book, is acquainted with none but Father White; as I shall shew hereafter. By the way, I cannot much blame him for the course he uses to take with other mens testimonies ; because it is the only way that a man in his circumftances can take : otherwise nothing can be in itself more unreasonable, than to pretend to answer testimanies by ranking them under lo many faulty heads; and having so done, magisterially to require his adversary to vindicate them, by Thewing that they do not fall under some of those heads, though he have not said one word against any of them particularly : nay, though he have not so much as recited any one of them; for then the trick would be spoiled, and his Catholic reader, who perhaps may believe him in the general, might fee rea. Ion not to do so, if he should descend to particulars ;

a

which, as he well observes, p. 161. would make his “ discourse to look with a contingent face.”

82. I begin with his three authorities from fcripture; which when I consider, I see no reason why he, of all men, should find fault with my Lord Bishop of Down's dissuasive, p. 320. for being fo“ thin and flight in scrip“ ture citations.” Nor do I see how he will answer it to Mr Ruthworth, for transgreffing that prudent rule of his, (Dial. 2. § 14.), viz. That " the Catholic should “ never undertake to convince his adversary out of

fcripture," &c. For which he gives this substantial reason, ib. “ Because this were to itrengthen his oppo. " nent in his own ground and principle, viz. That all is to be proved out of seripture ;' which he tells us presently after is no more fit to convince, than är beetle is to cut withal ;” meaning it perhaps of texts fo applied as these which follow. This mall be to you a direct way, so that fools cannot err in it, H. xxxv. 8. This is my covenant with them, saith the Lord, My spirit which is in thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart from thy wouth, and from the mouth of thy feed, and from the mouth of the feed's feed, from henceforth for ever, Il. lix. 27. I will give my law in their bowels, and in their hearts will I write it. Jero xxxi. 33. From which texts if Mr S. can prove tradition to be the only rule of faith, any better than the philosophers ftone, or the longitude, may be proved from the first chapter of Genefis, I am content they should pass for valid testimonies ; though I might require of him, by his own law, before these texts can fignify any thing to his purpose, to demonstrate that this is the traditionary sense of these texts, and that it hath been universally in all ages received by the church under that notion; and then to thew how it comes to pass that so many of the fathers, and of their own commentators, have interpreted them to another sense ; and, lastly, to thew how fcripture, which has no certain fense but from tradition, and of the sense whereof tradition cannot assure us, unless it be the rule of faith ; I say, how fcripture can prove tradition to be the rule of faith, which can prove nothing at all, unless tradition be first proved to be the rule of faith. This I take

« PreviousContinue »