The truths of Christ and the Ministers of it are alwayes the same.
2 COR. 1. 19.
VVE are now arrived at the last Particular to be considered in this Verse; which is, The Predicate affirmed of the Doctrine preached by Paul and his Associates: and that is, It's not Yea, and Nay, but Yea. The expression hath been explained already. The sense is, That the Doctrine of Christ is certain, constant, and immutable. As also, that such only are to be accounted of, as true Doctors, who do adhere to the same truth. For Calvin saith gravely upon the Text, That this taxeth all versatil and Proteus-like men, who can transform themselves into any shape; preach one time one Doctrine, for their advantage; and then again change, and preach the contrary: or else, for sinfull fear, do at one time assert such Doctrines, as true, and afterwards retract and recant them again: whereas the truth of Christ is like Christ himself, The same yesterday, today, and for ever, Heb. 13. 8. and like God himself, who changeth not: yea, in whom is no shadow of change. So that from the words we may observe,
That it is a proper note of Gods truth, and true preachers thereof, that they*are alwayes the same.
There is no change, no contrariety in their Doctrines. As the Apostle (you heard) expressed it, If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make my self a transgressor, Gal. 2. 18. It is in an heynous manner to transgress, when a Minister is thus contradictory. This Doctrine is the more to be observed, because Stapleton in his Antidotes upon this Text maketh a long harangue, to demonstrate, that Luther, Melanchthon, Zwinglius, Calvin, all the eminent Reformers, cannot be the true Apostles of Christ; because in their writings there was yea and nay; one while they preached such and such things; at another time the clean contrary. Hence he brings a passage out of Zwinglius confessing that he did tempori, not rei scribere, he did write to serve the time, not the matter: that he could not deliver pearl, because for the present auditors like swine would trample it under their feet, and rend him also; especially Melanchthon is instanced in, as a very inconstant man, in whose judgment they could put no confidence. Hence he alledgeth a Synod of the Flaccians, who were rigid Lutherans, that call his Common-places, Jocos communes, and not Locos communes; and much more to this purpose. We finde him triumphing in the incertainty of the Protestants Doctrine; so that although we know what they hold this year, we cannot tell what they will the next, and in the constancy Page 576 of their Popish Religion, which they have adhered unto for many years. To all this we will readily grant, that the truths of Christ are alwayes the same; there cannot be any more new truths, than a new Christ, than a new Bible; and therefore we will grant the Thesis, but deny the Hypothesis, or application of it to Protestants; that wheresoever there is yea and nay, there cannot be the truths of Christ. But that we may throughly understand this point, let us consider these particulars,
First, That we must distinguish between the external administrations, and*formes of Gods worship, and the doctrinalls; between the Diducticalls and the Rituals. For the former, though appointed by God himself, yet we plainly see a great a teration therein. What a vast difference is there between the service and Sacraments of God, in the old, and in the new Testament? There was Circumcision, and the Paschal Lamb; we have Baptism, and the Lords Supper: there were Sacrifices, and many external Rites, and Ceremonies, which when Christ the substance came, they presently vanished, as the blossome falleth when the bud cometh. This great change, with some other Arguments, made the Marcionites of old conclude, that it was not the same God of the Old, and New Testament, but different; but that is absurd. The Church administrations, though by Gods command, are now altered; so that it would be a heynous thing to circumcise children, to offer Sacrifices to God; though once it was the peoples duty. Here you see then, there is a lawfull yea and nay; a time when we might circumcise, and a time when we must not circumcise. And if you say, Doth not this argue inconstancy in God? doth not this contradict that glorious Attribute of his immutability? I answer, No; for God doth here as the Physician with a diseased person, that sometimes administreth one kinde of Physick, and sometimes another; according as the nature of the disease requireth: or, as the husbandman soweth his ground, sometimes with one seed, and sometimes with another. God then was pleased to appoint such a temporary worship, and afterwards to appoint another, which was more suteable to the Church, being now no longer an infant, as the Apostle insinuateth, Gal. 3. 1. As therefore the mother ordereth her childe otherwise, while a childe, than when an adult person; so did God with his Church. But then, if we come to the Doctrinals, we shall finde, that the same truths necessary to salvation were in the Old Testament, as the New; Abraham, David, and all the Godly were justified by faith in Christ, as well as the Believers in the Gospel. This indeed is that which the Socinians pertinaciously deny: they think that the Godly in the Old Testament did not believe in Christ; that this is a peculiar new duty required under the Gospel, and never before, viz. to believe in Christ. But the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews doth admirably open the mysterious signification of those Jewish ceremonies and sacrifices, shewing that Christ was represented therein, and that it was not the blood of Rams and goats, but of Christ, that did take away sin. Hence Abraham is said to see Christs day, and rejoyce. 1 Cor. 10. they are said to drink of the spiritual rock, which was Christ: and Act. 15. 10, 11. Peter and the Councel speaking of the yoke laid upon our fathers, addeth, But we believe, that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved, even as they. The Doctrine then of Jesus Christ, of the Trinity, of eternal Life were in the old Testament as well as the New; only more implicitely and obscurely; the Old Testament being the New hidden and covered; the New being the Old revealed and explained: so that, the Old and New Testament do not contain old and new Doctrine essentially, but gradually; as we say, the old and new moon, not meaning two moons, but distinct discoveries * of light therein.
2. We are to distinguish between progress and growth in the same truth, and Page 577 the alteration or change of truth into errour. And truly this is of great consideration; for this very particular will obviate all the calumnies of the Papist. Let it be granted, that the first Reformers did not did not at first view, see all the truths of the Christian Religion, but that by degrees they had scales fall off from their eyes, and some things that at first they thought true, or tolerable, afterwards they rejected, as false and abominable. And thus Calvin (de scandalis) answereth the Papists, who calumniate us, saying, If you had the spirit of God, why did ye not see all truth presently? Why was it that some things did appear false to you afterwards, which did not so at first? This, saith he, is to envy us proficiency in the truth; and to expect, that the Sun in the morning should shine as gloriously as at noon day. So that it is one thing addere aedificium fundamento, as Austin calleth it, and another thing to make a new Foundation; Thus Lyrinensis, when he made this Objection, To what use are Doctors and Officers of the Church, if so be they must only receive the Doctrine delivered, and not excogitate new by their own wit? He answereth, There is profectus, but not permutatio allowed, a growth, but not a change. The work of the Ministers of the Gospel is not to finde out new, real, fundamental truths, no more than a new Christ, or a new Bible. he that cannot see by one Sun, would not by twenty; and he that will not be convinced by one Bible, would not, if there were more. Yet they are not useless, for these Fundamentals they are dayly to confirm, to explain, to polish, and affectionately to improve for Sanctification more and more: so that, as he saith▪ they must not deliver nova, yet they may nova: not new things, but in a new manner. When a childe groweth up into a man, he still retaineth his humane nature, though there be an increase in his stature; but if this childe should grow into a horse, or a bear, then this would be a change of his species, and his na•u•e: Thus the Church and her Officers they are to grow in more light, in more knowledg, in more faith; but still in the same truth: whereas, if they degenerate into Errors and false Doctrines, then the species is altered: now it is not hony but gall, it is not gold but dross, not meat but poyson: So that if we see eminent men growing out of those errors, and those Superstitions they were once intangled in, you must not call this yea and nay, but a laudable duty: for we see the spirit of God communicating it self by degrees: Even as the Sun doth not presently arise to its vertical point: so neither doth the spirit of God reveal all things at once: It cometh in by degrees, he could perfect our understandings even in this life, as much as they shall be in heaven, so that, we shall no longer know in part: but he is pleased to work gradually, even as he did make the world, not in an instant, but successively. Thus we see he did to the very Apostles, they were under his Instruction and Government a good while, and yet were ignorant in many particulars, till at last he confirmed them from his spirit from above. The Protestants then are not guilty of yea and nay, though they did not at first d•scover all the abominations of Popery. Neither may we charge any particular Minister for yea and nay, if out of error he proceed to truth, if from darkness he attaineth to more light: For, although many Heretical persons may shrowd themselves under the serious name of new light, yet it is plain; that both Pastors and people are to grow in new light gradually, though not specifically. Thus the Apostle Peter, 1 Pet. 1. 19. commendeth the believers, for attending unto the word of God, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, untill the day dawn, and the day-starre arise in their hearts: not as if ever they could come to light enough, that they need not to attend to Scripture any further, Page 578 that they may throw away the Bible as useless, having light enough within them. No, but that donec, that until, is continual and alwayes, as sometimes it is used.
3. We are to distinguish between Yea and Nay indeed, and a seeming yea and nay: between 〈◊〉 constant new Doctrines indeed, and those that are * apparently so. We grant, that such corruptions, such darkness may cover the face of the Church, that the true Doctrines of Christ may seem new, and be condemned for novelllsm; and the Doctor who preached them, be thought to come with his yea and nay. And thus again Luther and Melancthon with many others are condemned for their inconstancy. They were once ours, say the Papists, they did once believe as we believed, worship as we worshipped; but now they are a nay to their yea. This calumny will easily vanish, if you distinguish between new things indeed, and new things appearingly so. The Protestant Doctrine was not new indeed, if you look to the Scripture and Christ, it is old as they are; but then we grant, that if we consider the Chaos, the Church was in at that time, what superstitious abominations did then prevail; we grant, what the Reformers did, all was new, their service new, their Doctrine new; but the iniquity and the corruption of the times made it appear to be so. And indeed Popery is properly the great Novellisme: for the Popish Doctrines, the Popish Worship began to creep in, when the Churches of Christ began to degenerate from their Primitive Institution. The change then that is many times in the face of Religion, which doth so offend many, is not indeed so, but in appearance. Those truths of God were formerly professed in the Church; only an Eclipse did arise, which obscured the light of the Sun. As then the Sun is not changed after an Eclipse, we do not see a new Sun: thus it is also with the truths of Christ; the Reformers do not bring new truths, only the darkness is dispelled, and we see them which were long before. It is with us, as with men, whose heads are distempered; we think, such and such things run round, whereas indeed it is a distemper upon us, and it is a signe that we have been corrupted, when old truths seem new to us.
4. We may therefore truly conclude, that antiquity and consent are inseparable properties of a true Church. That Church which retaineth Doctrines of the * greatest Antiquity, and which doth agree with the Primitive Apostolical Churches, that must needs be a true Church, for truth is alwayes alike. That cannot be true Doctrine in one age which is not in another: though men are apt to be changed by the times they live in, yet Gods truth cannot be. When therefore the Papists bring antiquity, and consent as notes of a true Church, we deny they can, or are to be called notes, because it is not Antiquity barely, but antiqvity in the true Doctrine: nor Consent meerly so, but consent with the Primitive Churches Doctrine. So that True Doctrine is properly the note of the Church; only we add, that Antiquity and Consent with the Primitive times do inseparably follow the true Doctrine. Now the ground of this certainty and equality of the truths of Christ is, because they are Gods truths, Christs truths: if they were the truths of mens making, then they might alter and change as they please, then it might be formed, reformed, and transformed into all the shapes that mens Interests could put them upon; then truth might alter according to the climates, customes, and advantages of men; then truth might be one thing at Page 579Rome, and another thing at Constantinople: then we might say, such things were truth in one age, and ye the contrary truth in another. Popery was truth in Queen Maries dayes, and Protestantisme in Queen Elizabeths. And truly some men are so Atheistical, or self-seeking, that they account truth, as the Apostle said, some did godliness, even outward gain; and therefore, when such an opinion is gainfull, then it is truth, but when not so, then it is Heresie.
Use of Instruction. How odious Instability and Inconstancy is in matter of Religion, whether it be in private Christians, or publick Officers? It plainly discovereth, that not the truth of Christ, but some other uncertain motive prevaileth with thee; either thy profit, or thy applause, or the times, or customes, or the Lawes of the Land, or some other mutable respect doth work upon thee: and if so, then thou canst not but be a reed shaken with every winde of Doctrine. Thou art then but as an Instrument of musick, making no other sound, nor no longer then thou art breathed into. Profit will make thee a Papist, profit will make thee a protestant, profit will make thee an Heretick. How contrary is such a fickle temper to the nature of Faith? which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.
Use 2d of Instruction. How false that position is of some Papists, That the Church may make Articles of Faith; and that the Authority of the Church maketh the Authority of the Scripture, at least towards us? So that the Scriptures would have no more authority then Titus Livius, or Aesops fables, in respect of our duty to believe, were it not for the Churches Authority. No less blasphemous is that other comparison of another Papist, resembling the Scripture to a nose of wax? If so, then no wonder, if they make what truths, and what religions they please; then we may call it, the Popes truth, the Churches truth, and not the truth of God. It is a ridiculous passage of a Papist (Ford against Taylor) saying, that it is probable, the Church will make that Opinion about the immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary to be an Article of Faith. As if the Church could make that necessary to be believed, if we would be saved, that was not alwayes so. Why may she not as well make a new Bible, set up a new Christ, as they establish a new Article of Faith?