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for the government of their hearts and lives, and clear resolutions of the material doubts which fre. quently occur in human life, they intangle them in niceries and endlels fcrupulofities, teaching them to fplit hairs in divinity, and how with great art and cunning they may avoid the committing of any fin, and yet come as near to it as pollible. This is a thing of a moit dangerous coniequence to the fouls of men ; and if men be but once encouraged to pass to the utmost bounds of what is lawful, the next step will be into that which is unlawful.
So that unless faith without worl:s will save men, potwithstanding the infallible security which they pretend to give men of a found and right belief, (if it were really as much as they talk of, the salvation of men would still be in a great hazard and uncertainty, fir want of better and lifer dircctions for a good life, ihan are ordinarily to be met with in the casuistical writings of that church ; especially if we confider, that tlie fcriptures are locked up from the people in an rinknown tongue, where the fureft and plainest directions for a good life are molt plentifully to be had; infomuch that a man had better want all the volumes of casuistical divinity that ever were written in the world, than to be without the Bible ; by the diligene fludying of which book alone he may sooner learn the way to heaven, than by all the books in the world willout it.
Fifthly and lastly, This provision which God hath, nade, is, when all is done, as good a security against fatal errors and mistakes in religion, as an infallible church could give, if there were one ; and it is as. good a way to prevent and put an end to controver.. fies in religion, fo far as it is necessary that they should be prevented, and have an end put to them : And these are the two great reasons why an infallible. judge is so importunately, demanded and insisted upon. I shall speak to these distinctly and severally; but because they will require a longer discourse than, the time will allow, I shall not enter upon them at present, but refer them to another opportunity.
Honesty the best preservative against dan
gerous mistakes in religion.
JOHN vii. 17. If any man will do his will, he mall know of the doca
trine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
The third sermon on this text,
Hen I made my entrance into these words, I
proposed from this text, First, To thew that an honest and sincere mind, and a hearty desire and endeavour to do the will of God, is the greatest security and best preservative against dangerous errors and mistakes in inatters of religion.
In the next place, I proceeded to remove an objection, to which my discourse upon this subject might seem liable. Some perhaps might ask, Is every good man then secure from all error and mistake in mat. ters of religion? This is a mighty privilege indeed. But do we not find the contrary in experience ? that an honest heart and a weak head do often meet toge. ther? For answer to this I laid down several propositions.
By the last of which I shewed, that God hath made abundant provision for our security from fatal and dangerous errors in -religion, both by the infallible rule of the holy scripture, and by sufficient means of instruction to help us to understand this rule, and by his infallible promise of aíliiting; us, if with honest minds and a due diligence, we apply." ourselves to the understanding of this rule, ind the :
use of these means. And this, I told you, was in all respects a better security, and more likely to conduct us safe to heaven, than any infallible church whatsoever : and that for five reasons ; four of which I have already treated of, and now proceed to the fifth and last, viz.
Because this provision which I have shewn God: hath made, is both as good a security against fatal errors and mistakes in religion, as an infallible church. could give, if there were one : And it is likewise as good a way to prevent and put an end to controverlies in religion, fo far as it is neceffary they should be -prevented, or have an end put to them. And theseare the two great reasons why an infallible judge is fo importunately demanded and insisted upon. I thall speak to these two points distinály and severally.
First, Because this is as good a fecurity against faial errors and mistakes in religion, as an intallible church could give, if there were one. For an infalo sible church, if there were such an one upon earth, could not infallibly secure particular Christians against errors in faith, any other way than by the definition and declaration of those who are infallible in that church. And there are but three that pretend to it; either the Pope, or a general council, or the. Pope and a general council agreeing in the same definitions. Not the Pope by himself, nor the general council.without the Pope ; because the church which pretends to infallibility is not agreed, that either of these alone is infallible, and therefore their definitions can be no certain, much less infallible foundation of faith; no, not to that church which pretends to infallibility. So that if there be an infallible oracle in that church, it must be the Pope and council in conjunction, or the definition of a council confirmed by the Pope. Now in that case, either the council was infallible in its definitions, before they had the Pope's confirmation, or not. If the council was infallible in its definitions, before they had the Pope's 'confirınation ; then the council alone, and of itself, was infallibie, (which a great part of the church of
Rome deny), and then it needed not the Pope's confirmation to make it infallible : Or elfe a general council is not infallible in its definitions, before they receive the Pope's confirmation; and then the Pope's confirmation cannot make it fo: for that which was not infallibly defined by the council, cannot be made infallible by the Pope's confirmation.
But there is another difficulty yet : It is a maxim generally received, and that even in the Roman church, “ That the definitions of a general council, “ confirmed by the Pope, are not obligatory, unless
they be received by the universal church.” From whence these two great inconveniencies will unavoidably follow,
1. That no man is obliged to believe such definitions, till he certainly know that they are received by the universal church, which how he should cer. tainly, much less infallibly know, I cannot understand ; unleis he either speak with all the Christians in the world, or the representatives of all particular churches return back and meet again in council, to declare that the universal church hath received their definitions ; which I think was never yet done.
2. It will follow, that the definitions of a general council confirmed by the Pope, are not infallible, till they be received by the universal church. For if they were infallible without that, they would be obligatory without it ; becaule an infallible. definition, if we know it to be so, lays an obligation to believe it, whether it be received by the universal church, or not. And if such definitions are not infallible, till they be received by the universal church, they cannot become infallible afterwards ; because if the definitions were not infallible before, they cannot be received as such by the universal church, nor by the mere reception of them, be made to be infallible. definitions, if they were not fo before.
But if we should pass over all these difficulties, there is a greater yet behind, and that is, fuppofing the definitions of general councils confirmed by the Pope to be infallible, particular Christians cannot be
secured infallibly from error without the knowledge of those definitions: And there are but two waysimaginable of conveying this knowledge to them : Either by the living voice of their particular pastors, whom they are implicitly to believe in these matters; but particular pastors are fallible, (as they themselves grant), and therefore their words can neither be an infallible foundation of faith, or an infallible means of conveying it, and it is unreasonable, they fay, for men that own themselves to be fallible, to require an implicit belief to be given to them: or else the knowledge of the definitions of councils must be conveyed to particular Christians by writing, and if so, then there will only be an infallible rule, but . no living infallible judge. And if an infallible rule will serve the turn, we have the scriptures, which we are sure are infallible, and therefore at least as good as any other rule. But they say, that the definitions of councils give us an infallible interpretation of fcripture, and therefore are of greater advantage to us. But do not the definitions of councils sometimes also need explication, that we may know the certain sense of them, without which we cannot know the doctrines defined? Yes certainly ; they need exptica- tion as much as scripture, if there be any difference about the meaning of them; and there have been and still are, great differences among those of their own church about the meaning of them. And if the explications of general councils need themselves to be .explained, then there is nothing got by them, and we are but where we were before : For differences about the meaning of the definitions of general councils, make as great difficulties and uncertainties in faith, as the differences about the meaning of scripture.
Well, but the people have the living voice of their particular pastors, to explain the definitions of coun. cils to them. But this does not help the matter neither, for these two reasons :
1. Because particular pastors have no authority to explain the definitions of general councils. . The council of Trent hath, by express decree, reserved