Page images




[ocr errors]

HE subjects of the following treatise,

been considered with the most serious attention, and are laid before the reader on the highest authority, that is to say, on the authority of the holy scriptures.

Nothing less than this ought, or can, determine on the points herein treated, because they concern, not only the present, but future welfare of mankind : these, as taken in connection together, must depend, first, on knowing, and then on doing the will of God. What His will is, can only be known from the several revelations, or discoveries, which it hath gracioully pleased Him to make of it, by men, who spake not of themselves, but as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Pet. i. 21.

To imagine that, without such revelation, mortals can understand, or know the mind and will of God, is an absurdity, even greater than to suppose we can know the thoughts of each other, without any declaration of them either by words or actions. But to admit the necessity of a divine revelation, to receive the scriptures as that revelation, and not to make them the only infallible rule and guide, in all matters which relate to the mind

a 3


to set

and will of God therein revealed, is, so far, to lay aside the revelation of God, to make it void and of none effect, and to place ourselves in no better situation, than if no such discovery of the mind and will of God had ever been vouchsafed us.

Thus we rob God of His honour, by Nighting His word, and thus are people led


the determinations of human wisdom against it, and expose themselves to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, which the folly and superstition of weak men, and the wickedness and craft of desgning men, may happen to invent.

By such means it has been, that so many errors of various kinds have found their way, in all ages, into the church, and have maintained their empire over the minds of men, Long usage has made them venerable the prescriptive power of custom has given them establishment and both these have prevailed on human legislatures, to afford them the awful obligation of their most folemn fanctions.

It cannot want many arguments to prove, that sundry practices, as well as opinions, which are found among the heathen nations, are abhorrent from all our conceptions of propriety, decency, and even humanity itself*.-All these have but one source-They do err, not knowing the scriptures.

Where * I cannot forbear mentioning here that valuable, learned, and excellent work of John Leland, D.D. on the Advantage and Necessity of the Christian Revelationwherein that author hath, with a strength of judgment, and depth of learning and erudition peculiar to himself, so proved his point, as to deserve the thanks of all who





Where revelation is received, yet if it be not adhered to as the only rule of faith and manners, and this unreservedly, the opinions and practices of men will be as wide from the mind and will of God, as those of the Heathen arę.

I might here instance in the opinions and practices of the Pharisees of old, as well as of many nations called Christian, in more modern days, and who are members of that society of professing Christians which insolently and exclusively styles itself—"THE

and CHURCH”—amongst whom the most devout are worshipping a wooden god, which they call a crucifix*, and a breaden god, which they call the host; and, besides these, they worship saints and angels, and many such like things they do. The foundation of all which is still one and the fame-They do err, not knowing the scriptures; for though the Papists know how to set a just value on the scriptures, as well as of those who would wish to do it. This valuable author says, “ It is the mighty advantage of a written revelation, “ that by an impartial consulting it, the deviations from “ it may be detected, and things may again be reduced " to the original standard.” Vol. i. p. 453.

* This invention of the crucifix, or image of Chrif on the cross, is but old heathenism new vamped. Maximus Tyrius, a Platonic philosopher, who was inafter to M. Antoninus, says-" The divine nature stands not in “ need of images or statues ; but the nature and condi" tion of man being very weak, and as far distant from “ the Divinity as heaven is from earth, framed these

signs for itself, and attributed to them the names and " titles of the gods”-and he thinks that the legislators acted wisely in contriving images for the people. See Leland, vol. i. p. 338. The wise men and philosophers pleaded for images as necessary helps to human infirmie ty. Ib. 424.

a 4


[ocr errors]

To prove

have the scriptures, yet they do not adopt them as the only rule of faith and worship. Their fear towards God is taught them by the doctrines and commandments of men*, Is. xxix.13. which take place of the mind and will of God, as revealed in His holy word.

Happy would it be, could we, reformed Protestants, clear ourselves of this charge in all respects !

that we cannot, in some points of the utmost consequence, is the purpose of the following pages, which, while the reader

* Two of the articles in the famous creed of Pope
Pius IV. are as follows:
XIII. I most firmly admit and embrace apoftolical and

ecclefiaftical traditions, and all other observations
and constitutions of the one catholic and apoftolic

XIV. I do admit the holy scriptures in the same sense

that holy Mother Church doth, whose business it is to
judge of the true sense and interpretation of them,
and I will interpret them according to the unani-
mous consent of the fathers.

The Popish canon law frequently affirms that the church is above the scriptures.

Omnis quæ nunc apud nos eft fcripturæ authoritas ab ecçlefiæ authoritate necesario dependet.-“ All the authority « which we attribute to the scriptures, necessarily de“pends on the authority of the church.” Pighius de Hierar. Eccl. Lib. i. c. 2. Eccius, in his Enchiridion de Authoritate Ecclefiæ, maintains-Écclefiam effe fcripturis antiquiorem, & scripturam non efle authenticam, nisi ecclefiæ authoritate.-66 The church is more antient than the “ scriptures, and the scriptures are not authentic, save “ by the authority of the church.”

Hermannus goes farther, and affirms--Scripturas tanțum valere quantum valent Æsopi fabulæ, nifi accederet ecclefiæ teftimonium. ." The scriptures are no more to be va« lued than Æsop's Fables, unless it were for the testi

mony of the church.” See Hift. of Popery, vol. i, P. 214


peruses, I could with him to weigh in the balance of the sanctuary, to lay his Bible before him, and to call every argument, observation, and doctrine, to the strictest and most severe account, before that unerring tribunal. If he shall find any thing that is wrong, or detect any thing that is false, let him freely set it down to the Author's account. But whatever he shall find agreeable to, or clearly proved by, the word of God, let him not listen to the lying testimony of prejudice or vulgar error against it, but treasure it up in his mind, for the direction of his own judgment and conscience, in all situations and conditions of life.

If the judgment be mis-led or mis-informed, the more conscientious a man is, the farther will he be led into error, and the more firmly will he be attached to it; therefore it is well for us to listen to the counsel of the wise man---Prov. iv. 7. “ WISDOM is the

principal thing, therefore get WISDOM; " and with all thy getting get UNDERSTAND


As to differences, or even errors, (if miftakes about indifferent matters can be so called) where mere outward forms are concern and those of human invention, the Author desires to think, and to let think, and wheresoever the scriptures are filent, to be so too. He does not esteem it worth his while to expend a single drop of ink in such controversies. He does not suppose, that, had he lived in the second century, when the Roman and Asiatic Christians quarrelled about the


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »