The former Part, Shewing the Rational Grounds upon which Protestants believe Scrip∣ture to be inspir'd of God, &c.
SCripture is (as it calls it self) a Light, and therefore is best seen in, and by, and of it self, though there be nothing else to shew it. Hence it is, that when we have said as much as we can, to prove its Divine authority, we must •…i I leave it to be seen in its own Light, and to prove it sel•… the Manitestation of Gods mind and will, made to the Page 4 sons of men. And upon due consi∣deration it will appear so, to any that are judicious and impartial. For how can it be prov'd to be what it is by any argument, besides the attestation given it by God, and his Spirit, and the evident tokens of God speaking in it? And so it proves it self, just as a Learned man proves himself a Scholar by his learned Exercises, when he is called to them; or as God proves himself to be what he is, by what he saith and doth.
However, we are put to prove our Principles, and we are contented so to do, as well as we can. I say as well as we can, because all Scho∣lars know that Principles are most hardly prov'd against such, as have impudence enough to deny them. And here I must in order to my in∣tended work, request the Reader to grant me somewhat which seems very reasonable, and (I hope) will be supposed such by all that are in∣different and impartial.
1. That in this Case, I can alledge no rational Arguments, other then Page 5 such as Scripture yields and offers, to prove it self inspired of God; so that my work is to let others see the light wherein Scripture shews it self.
2. I do not in this undertaking charge Papists, as denying in terms the Scripture to be Divinely inspired. For they grant it in a sort, when they say, The Churches Testimony makes it not Authentical and Canonical in it self, but, quoad nos, in respect to us, who cannot otherwise be ascer∣tained of its Divine authority.
3. I hope it will not be expected from me, that I shall prove the Divine authority of Scripture so, as to silence all Gain-sayers, since no∣thing can be so proved as there will not be some to make exceptions. What can be more certain then Gods Existence? And yet how many are there who deny, or question i.? Christ came a Light into the World, and what Christian dare say or think he did not sufficiently prove himself to be (what he was) the promised Messias? yet all he could say or do Page 6 for that purpose, was not enough to satisfie the most of his Country∣men and Kinred, that he was the Lords Christ. All that I can rea∣sonably design, is to shew, that Scripture is a shining Light, that doth sufficiently prove it self to be inspired of God, though many have not eyes to see it.
4. It must be supposed in this Dis∣course, that as there is one living and true God, so this God is to be ho∣noured and adored by his reasonable Creatures, with that service and worship which may become his in∣finite and most excellent Majesty. Hence it cannot be denyed, that there must be some Revelation made by God himself, concerning that way of worship wherein he will have his Creatures to serve him. For who can know what pleases God, but he himself, and they to whom he makes known the good pleasure of his will?
Now supposing some Revelation of Gods will in order to that service which he will accept, and be well Page 7 pleased with, I may ask this Questi∣on, viz. If Scripture be not this Revelation, where is it? And this will lie hard upon all who acknow∣ledge one only true God, that made Heaven and Earth, to shew some other, and better manifestation con∣cerning the will and wayes of God, then what he hath made in his writ∣ten word. But this is to be discuss'd hereafter; and for the present I am to shew how, and wherein Scripture speaks it self the word of God, and by consequence the Rule of Faith.
Rational Grounds upon which Prote∣stants are perswaded, that Scrip∣ture is Divinely inspired.
1. THere is nothing which doth so fully and clearly, so pun∣ctually and perfectly declare the mind of God in all particulars, which concern his Glory, or mans everlast∣ing happiness, as Scripture doth. To enforce this a little; we readily Page 8 grant the law of Nature to be a light shewing us somewhat, yea very much of God, and concerning our Duty towards him. But how imper∣fect and obscure is this light, in com∣parison of that which shines out to us in Scripture? Scripture indeed doth not contradict it. How should it? Both are of God, and one Truth cannot possibly contradict another. Nay further, as Scripture consents to, and concurs with the light of Nature, so it reproves the neglect, and incites to a due improvement of it, as might be shew'd in many particulars, if we were put to it. But how dim and dark is Natures light, as to the way of reconciling the world unto God, when it teaches nothing at all about it? The Hea∣thens had their Offerings and Sacri∣fices to appease their Gods, and in these (for ought any can say to the contrary) they had light from Gods people who had the Divine Oracles. But all those Offerings of theirs were lying vanities, because they had not any the least apprebensions of God Page 9 manifested in the flesh to be a Savi∣our of sinners. And what revelation hath God made of his mind about this great concernment, besides what we have in Scripture? did ever any of the Learned Heathens so much as dream of such a work, as Gods recon∣ciling the world to himself by Jesus Christ? And yet Papists (I hope) will acknowledge with us, that he alone is the Mediatour of propitia∣tion between God and man.
Now how came we and they to know this great mysterie, if we learnt it not from Scripture? And could any but God reveal it to us? And since it is revealed in Scripture, have we not reason to believe, that it was written by the finger of God?
For the only way of purging sin, and sanctifying our sinfull natures; what have any Heathens done by their utmost improvement of their natu∣ral light? They have indeed many of them commended vertue to the skies, and exhorted others to it. But what is that moral excellency and perfection, which the Philosophers Page 10 and learned men of the world have laboured to promote amongst men? Is it not of a far inferiour nature, and quite another thing from that true holiness which is taught in Scripture? For this I refer the Reader to a lear∣ned Discourse of the Divine autho∣rity of Scripture, (not long since printed) and only say, though many Heathens by their natural light disco∣vered many vices, to shun the pra∣ctise of them, and were sober, just, and temperate in comparison of others, yet all this moral righteous∣ness in them, was far short of Gods image, and the Divine nature in those, who are renewed by the Holy Ghost, and as different as a living man, and his statue, or picture, though drawn (as we say) to the life. And to prove this I shall only say, That true holiness consists especially in the inward impressions and dispo∣sitions, which make a man meet for communion with God, and in the in∣clinations, and carriages of the soul towards God immediately, such as meet Moralists never knew. There's Page 11 a fountain and root within, from whence springs all that honesty, and integrity, and purity which appears in the outward conversation, and all is from a mans being ingrafted into Christ, and receiving from him a con∣tinual supply of his Spirit. And this (I hope) Papists will not deny, viz. That all spiritual good is wrought in us by the Spirit of God.
Now this way of holiness being taught us in Scripture, we conclude Scripture to be written with Gods finger, because no other then God could reveal such glorious truths to us. Let it be shew'd us, how these things came to be written where we find them, and who wrote them, if God did not. Once we think it a rational and unquestionable conclusion, That Scripture is given by inspiration of God, because we find in it the only way of our access to, and acceptance with God, and the only way of Puri∣fying us so, as we may be meet for communion with him for ever. And why? Even because God alone could teach us these things, which the Page 12 hearts of men or Angels otherwise could never have conceiv'd.
All this while we grant, that these things were revealed to some men, before they were recorded in the written word. But we expect Papists will not send us to Revelations now adayes: And for any other way of knowing these mysteries, then by Scripture, we know none, and there∣fore resolve it is of God, and cannot be of any other.
How much will this argument be enforc'd, when we further consider, of many other particulars reveal'd in Scripture, which none but God could*possibly know? As that there are three that bear record in heaven. That God was manifested in our fl•…sh, so as the alone Mediatour was God-Man in one Person. Could any creature declare these, if it were not inspir'd, and •…ht of God? Again; How could any Creature come to know, how •…he world was made? or how could man come to know, how him∣self was first made out of the dust? Can the creature remember the time, Page 13 or know the manner of its own Crea∣tion? And where have we these but in Scripture?
You will say, these and the like are * reveal'd in Scripture: But how doth the argument hold good, that the Scripture is of God, because these things are revealed in it?
The argument is good, and cannot * be otherwise accounted by any, that are not professed Antichristians, be∣cause they own these Revelations as Divine, and Heavenly Truths. For (I say again) seeing we have in Scrip∣ture the great concernments of our Eternity., and so many things past finding out by any creature, we must of necessity own and acknowledge God alone to have written this word. Nay Atheists themselves cannot but know that they are dust.
And now I shall enforce this, by shewing further, that Scripture can∣not be the work or invention of any Creature, either Angels, or Men, good or bad. Good men, or Angels would never devise such things, and say they were of God; For that would Page 14 be such a belying God, as we cannot rationally believe them capable of. Wicked men and Devils would never attempt any such thing, as penning & publishing such a Book which tends so much to the exalting of God, and the abasing of themselves. This would have been to destroy, and overthrow all which they labour so much to up∣hold. Hence we make this challenge, who it was that composed this Book (we call the Bible) if God did not?
If any object, that it may be a col∣lection * of many things made up out of the monuments of many ages: We may justly demand, what hands they * were that compiled them, and when, and where they liv'd? If they lived in Moses time, how could they write of the Kings? If in the times of the former Kings, how could they give an account of the latter? If in the times of the latter, how came the dispersed Jews to have so many Co∣pies of the Law of Moses? In a word; how could any man, or men write of so many things done in so many ages, so far distant one from another? or Page 15 how could any man give an account of what was done from the very be∣ginning, and before man was made?
If it be said, that it is the work of many in several ages, we desire to be satisfied, How all should agree so ex∣actly together? and who were they that compiled our Bibles? or how came they all to agree in calling it the Word of God? Mahomet indeed compiled a Book, which is to Turks and others, as the Scripture is to us. For those deluded souls count the Alcoran their Rule of faith and man∣ners. And Mahomet calls himself a great Prophet, and so his followers account of him to this day. But what reasonable man sees not a bundle of fallacies and follies in that Book, which by its contradictions and ridi∣culous relations, confutes it self with∣out more ado?
There are many passages in Scrip∣ture which seem to contradict one * another. There are so, but they seem only contradictions, and are not such * indeed. And who are they which ap∣prehend such contracictions? are they Page 16 not commonly such as are most igno∣rant, or least affected to the Scrip∣ture? But the mutual cons•…ency of all those passages may be soon found out by all that are intelligent, and will use their diligence for that end. And what is there were some passages to us irreconcilable, will it follow, they are such in themselves? Surely the gene∣ral consistency of Scripture with it self might be enough to perswade us, rather to charge our selves with igno∣rance, then to suspect it of any mi∣stake. And here I cannot omit what a learned man hath observed, viz. a majestick kind of security (as he is*pleased to c•…ll it) in the Scriptures, under many 〈◊〉 (yea ma•… s•…m∣ingly bold, and •…urous) contra∣dictions, that y•… either the honour of their truth, nor that unity which they have in, and with themselves, shall (as he saith) at all suffer by. For recon∣ciling those seeming contradictions, it is not my work at present. Only I shall give you one consideration, which I find in the same Author, and it is this, That Scriptures do not stand Page 17 to excuse or purge themselves, as if there were any cause to •…ffect them of any cross•…, or contrariety unto one another. No; They speak from place to place, what they have a mind to say, with that liberty and freedom, as if there were nothing said by them else∣where, that either was like to suffer the least prejudice by it, or else to cast the least prejudice on it. They that have a mind to satisfie themselves further about this consideration, may read his Discourse of the Divine Authority of the Scriptures, Pag. 55, 56, &c.
I shall adde for a further confirma∣tion of Scriptures Divine Authority; That whatever it hath foretold, hath been accordingly fulfilled, and that not as St•…gazers Prognoflications, atrandom and adventure, but punctu∣ally and precisely in every particular circumstance. So the New Testament confirm the Old, by shewing how what was foretold many ages, and some thousands of years before, came to be fulfilled and accomplished in every particular, just as it was fore∣told. Many things (we know) may be Page 18 foreseen in their causes, so, as intel∣ligent and observant men may fore∣tell them, as more then meer sur∣mises or conjectures; and the Devil (probably) can do very much this way. But Scripture foretells those things of which no reason of man can make any probable conjecture, because as they are high and heavenly, so they are purely contingent, depending only on the will and pleasure of God, and therefore the exact performance of those things in all particulars, is a strong evidence to prove it written by the singer of God. And hence it is so often repeated in the New Testa∣ment, [That it might be fulfilled, &c.]
But here is no warrant more then * Scripture, whose authority is the thing that is questioned.
1. We have the consent and testi∣mony * of an ient Heathen writers, who have recorded and hinted many of those particulars. Besides; none of the Heathens ever contradicted those Prophecies, or the fulfilling of them, as (for instance) our Savi∣ours Birth, Death, Resurrection, &c.Page 19 Though questionless they would have done their utmost, had they not been silenced by the notoriety of the e∣vents, every way answerable to the predictions.
2. What need we any more wit∣nesses, when all that Scripture hath foretold, and declared as the counsel and will of God, is alwayes fulfilled every day, as we may see with our eyes. And this serves to confirm the Divine authority of it, That no work of God is contrary to his word, or varies from it in the least, but all his Providences of Mercy and Judge∣ment, in all changes and chances, •…ill answer his promises and threat∣•…ings in Scripture. Yea, the suffer∣ings of Gods Servants shew as clearly is any thing else, the fulfilling of the written Word, since nothing is spo∣•…en of in Scripture more often, fully, or plainly. And here we may chal∣enge the World to shew any parti∣cular passage of providence, which •…utes not exactly with what is reveal'd •…n the Word; and therefore we are confident of this consent between Page 20 the word, and works of God, as a strong evidence in the Case. For how impossible is it that any one, or all men together, should pen a Book so precisely an•…weting to all and eve∣ry thing that happens in the World? What (I pray) hath happened to this ho•…r, whereof an obiesvant and knowing Christian may not say, This is no more then what was foretold, and no other then what God hath said in his word should be? Indeed Atheists and Epicures may dally awhile with Scripture, as they do with God himself, and count such things as these of small considera∣tion. But they of them who are ye•… alive might see, if they shut not their eyes, how Scripture is continually fulfilling in their fellows; and hence we are bold to question them, ye•… and dare them to shew, that Go•… word hath not laid hold on such as they are, just so as is foretold 〈◊〉 Scripture. Oh! That these mis•… would but read, and observe Scrip∣ture! surely then they would discer•… what will be their end, even the same Page 21 as of those that went before them. And though God hath left himself a latitude in all his provid•…ial dispen∣sations, so as we cannot precisely resolve in every particular concern∣ing wicked ones, what shal•… befall them on earth, yet even that latitude is hinted, and what Case is there wherein we are not provided for by some resolution of it in Scripture? To instance yet again; What design hath the Devil been driving on in these last ages of the World, for troubling and di•…bing the Church, or hindring the work of God in and about it, of which there is not a President, or parallel Instance in Scripture? Or what distresses, dan∣gers and sufferings have ever atten∣ded Gods people, of which there are not some, the same, or like, to be found upon record in the written Word, that so all Saints even to the worlds end, through patience, and comfort of the Scriptures, might have Hope? And hence all that fear God have this to encourage them, that their troubles are no more then Page 22 what others before them have under∣gone; and that when 'tis at worst, there will be deliverance and enlarge∣ment, as there hath been alwayes heretofore in the same, or the like Cases. And hence also, they may challenge all those who quarrel Scrip∣tures authority, who, or where is he, that conceiv'd, and contriv'd such a Writing, beside him who alone can foresee, and provide against all events, though never so contingent and casual? Let Atheists then sport themselves as they please, and as long as they can, their time is short, and it will not be long ere they come to know, whether Scripture be the word of God or no Doubtless the continual fulfilling of Scripture in the course of Gods providence, is a singula•… good argument to any sound Christian, who can set his seal to Scripture, and say, This is so, and I know it by what is to be seen every day.
Scripture shews it self the word of God, in the mighty force and effi∣cacy of it upon the hearts of all men. Page 23 Sometimes in casting down, and sometimes again in comforting, and lifting up. Yea strange and wonder∣full have been the effects of it on the godly, and the wicked, as might be shewed by many Instances, but I may not enlarge my self this way, not is there need more then to hint it, as an argument, and leave it to be con∣sidered of by such as are sober and perswadable. All that I shall do more, is only to answer an objection, which is this, viz. That only some * precise and over-nice People so con∣ceit, as if Scripture could do great matters: But others are not bound to a belief of their fancies. For them∣selves, they find no such power it hath to wound, or search their hearts, and therefore they believe no such thing, as some talk of, about the force of Scripture working upon the con∣sciences, and discovering the hearts of men.
They are not Phanaticks only who are so conceited of Scripture. There * are, and have been many too well conceited of themselves, and who Page 24 had little regard either to the Scrip∣ture, or him that (we say) penn'd it with his own finger, which have found by experience the mighty force of it prevailing against, and over them. But I forbear Instances, and shall only argue thus. The corrupti∣on of mans heart and nature running out in so many infinitely various wayes, as it hath and s•…ill doth, and so cunningly hiding it self (as much as possibly) from the eyes of the world, How should the written word meet with it in all, and every of those wayes, (as it doth) if it were not of God, that alone searcheth the hearts? And whether it do, or no, we appeal to the consciences of the most prophane scoffers. What is it (let them speak) that hath many times challenged them for what they have done in secret, when no eye, but that of God, could see them? was it not conscience within them? And could conscience have thus challenged them, if there had not been some Law where on to draw the Indictment? How could any mans Page 25 heart smite him for what no creature knows but himself, if his heart did not know there is a Judgement, and a Soveraign power that will call to an account for the hidden things of darkness? It must be some sense of a supreme Authority, that keeps the heart in awe, and causes it to reflect sadly upon its irregularities in secret; and this sense must arise from some manifestation, which hath been made by the only Law-giver, who search∣eth the hearts. Men are never afraid of men for any thing, which (they are sure) can never be found out, or prov'd against them: But they are afraid of Gods Judgement; which could not be, if there were not some known Law that f•…ighted them with sad expectations; and what Law can that be, other then what we have in Scripture? Now let them speak (if any can) what it was that ever enter'd into their hearts, which the written word did not let them know, as well as they themselves in every circumstance, if they please to con∣sider it, and compare all together, Page 26 And let them shew too (if they can) how the written word should be privy to all their inmost thoughts, if it were not penn'd by him that searcheth the hearts, and reins. The wisest of men could never frame a Law to control more then the overt act. But this Law gives a check to mens inward thoughts and lusts, when no act appears, and spits Hell-fire in their faces for what no creature knows besides themselves.
To discourse it a little farther, where is such another Law, as that of the Decalogue? or who but God could frame a Law (all compriz'd in ten words) to order the hearts and lives of all men in all ages to the worlds end? A Law that dis∣covers and condemns all offences, in thought, word, and deed, and ne∣ver had, nor will have need to be altered in any the least tittle of it. And where do we find this Law? Is it not in Scripture? It is indeed all of it written in every mans hearr, •…nless any please to except one Page 27 Commandment in it. But how doth Scripture explain, and clear up those inbred notions of Religion, and mo∣ral righteousness imprinted in the hearts of men, which otherwise would be very obscure and uncertain, as they have been in all, or most of the Heathens? Though nature teach that there is a God, and he to be served, and worshipped, yet Scrip∣ture alone teaches the right way of Divine Service. And it alone shews us the right way of doing all offices of love to men, so as our charity and righteousness may be more then an outside shew of fair dealing, when the inside is nothing but hypocrisie and deceir. In one word, Scripture alone gives us a Law that commands body and sonl, and therefore we have cause to believe it a Law which God alone bath made. And if any proud and scornfull men shall say, they know no such thing, I can deny it with more truth, then they can affirm it. And affirm what they will not be able to deny, when they shall find it true by wofull experience on Page 28 their death-beds, or before, as others have done.
I could here (to prove Scriptures Divine authority) ask the reason, why such as are most vicious and abomi∣nable in their conversation, contrary to the rule of Reason, care so little for Scripture. If it were the word of a man, or any creature, what need they be afraid, or troubled about it? For what were it more to them, then a Play-book, or a Ro∣mance? certa•…nly 'tis not for no∣thing, that the vilest of men care so little for Scripture read, or open'd, and applyed. No; Scripture searches th•…ir sores even to the bottom, and farther by far, then they have a mind to be discovered to others, or them∣selves. And now let the world be judge, if the v•…st of men be not mostly the greatest enemies to Scrip∣ture. This is enough, if there were no more, to prove Scriptures descent and pedigree (as I may say) to be from above.
Let me adde this to all the rest, That a man may read a philosiphical Page 29 discourse, or any Book that treats of any civil and worldly matters, and n•…ver be tempted, as men common∣ly are about Scripture. What's the reason? and why should it be thus? If I may judge, I must pro•…ess from my heart, I can think of none so probable as this, That Scripture is of God, For certain the Devil is (as I may say) tooth and naile against it; and if it were of men, the Devil would cherish (as much as he could) the belief of it, because it were a lye. But now, when all Books almost are own'd and receiv'd under the names of their respective Authors, it shews. Scripture to be of God, (whose name only it b•…ars) because there is so much ado about the authority of it.
Another beame of light to shew Scriptures Divine authority, is its Antiquity, beyond all Records that make the fairest pretence to it, as, hath been shewed of lare by an emi∣ne•…t Schol•…r in his labours this way. The gray h•…rs (as one saith) which, are upon the hend of Scripture, shew Page 30 it to be the off-spring of the antient of dayes; and this writing hath the pre∣eminency to be in this respect, the first born of all its brethren. What Book dare to compare with it, as to Anti∣quity? And that not only as to the matter, and contents which were in the mind of God from eternity, but as to the writing which now pastes up and down the world, and may be seen, and read of all. Let the world shew, if it can, any Book of so long standing, as the five Books of Moses. Alas! The most antient of all the Antients are but novices in compa∣rison, and how uncertain and con∣fused any of them are in their disco∣veries, is to be seen at large in the learned Author of Orig. S•…cr. above∣said. Hath any given us an account of the worlds Creation and begin∣ing, such as we have in Moses? Surely any that will be at pains to compare all together, will soon per∣ceive the difference, and vote our Bible as most transcendent. To say no more, Unumquodque sapit au∣thorem; and Scripture in this is a Page 31 resemblence of God, who is call'd the antient of dayes. Yea, Scripture is in respect of its contents eternal, * as delivering to us the everlasting counsels of God. What Book ever pretended to such discoveries? Hea∣thens have talkt ridiculously and ab∣surdly enough of the feats, and fa∣mous exploits of some of their dung∣hill Deities: But never any dreamt of their counsels. Whereas Scrip∣ture shews us the only living and true God, not only in his effects and pro∣perties, but also acquaints us with his mind and will, as it was from all Eternity. Once the long standing of Scripture shews, that it bath outstood all tryals, whiles the world hath had so much opportunity to enquire into it, and prove it unsound, and vain, if it had not been far otherwise. For still it retains, and keeps up its repu∣tation, though there have been so many in all ages, that would gladly (if they knew how) have fastened on it absurdity, vanity, or contra∣diction, or any thing else, that their wit, or malice could devise. So we Page 32 see in it, as an experiment, how truth is everlasting, whiles mens opi∣nions vary, and alter much; and as the leaves of trees spring, and flourish awhile, and then fade, and fall to the ground: So a lye is never long liv'd, but as paint, or varnish wears out, or washes off, because it hath no substance to uphold it. But great is the truth, and shall preva•…le, this truth especially, when Heaven and Earth shall fall.
And this argument hath the more force, because that Scripture hath met with so much opposition, and conquered notwithstanding. For what else but an Almighty power co•…ld preserve it, when all the ungo•…ly that ever were, could look upon it no otherwise, then an Engine fram'd to batter, and overthrow all their fleshly, and filthy interests? And that is indeed the designe of Scrip∣ture, to throw down the Kingdome which Satan hath alwaies laboured to set up to himself in the would through the lusts of Men. There are but two parties in the world, whatever Page 33 men may dream, and of these, one is for Gods, and the other for the Devils Kingdome, and command. Now whiles all men are by nature, and of themselves addicted to the De∣vils interest in serving their own lusts, and the most are alwa•…es this way given, there must be more then an ordinary power to preserve that do∣ctrine, which cries down all sinfull interests, and advances only the glo∣ry of Christ in his Kingdome. The greatest work done by the doctrine of Christ, is the sub•…uing of mens hearts and lives to the obedience of the on∣ly Lawgiver. But whiles it is a doing this work, it alwaies meets with ma∣ny and great disadvantages from the world, that makes account to silence it quite, and even swallow it up. And if it be consider'd what contrariety, and enmity is in the hearts of men against this doctrine, and the weak, and con∣temptibie means it had to advance and promote it against that arm of flesh which was listed up against it; who can conclude otherwise, then that God alone was its strength, and Page 34 therein shew'd himself the owner, and author of it? For the Pen-men and first publishers of it, they were most of them of low estate and de∣gree in the world, and had indeed nothing to protect them, more then the shadow of the Almighties wings. And for those who profest the do∣ctrine of Christ in Scripture, were they not for the most part of the same rank and quality? For the Pen-men, they never insinuated them∣selves to curry favour with any by goodly titles, or flatteries, as men commonly do that write by their own instinct. Nor is Scripture com∣posed (as may be observ'd) as if it meant to take men with excellency of speech, or mans wisdom. Only (which is remarkable) there is in it a majesty, and it speaks with a ma∣jestick au•…hority, such as pretends an Author of it more then man. For such as professed the doctrine of Christ in Scripture, what reward had they in the world more then troubles and sufferings, even to greatest ex∣tremity many of them.
Page 35 Now who can look on these, who have been the instruments and means of propagating and promoting the doctrine of Scripture, and not pre∣sently bethink himself of some hid∣den invisible power that upheld them, and the work they were in∣gaged in?
Let it be considered too, that those poor souls who in all ages chose to suffer, rather then forsake the do∣ctrine of Christ taught in Scripture, cannot be rationally suspected as guilty of a perverse spirit, transport∣ing them to maintain what once they had taken up, though with the loss of all that was dear to them. For how unlikely is it, that such a multitude, at so great a distance, both in place and time, should be all so unanimous (and that in cool blood, against ma∣ny temptations and entreaties to fa∣vour themselves) in a deliberate re∣solved laying down lives, and all, for a thing of uncertainty, yea, for any thing less then the matters of their Eternity? Nothing else could provoke, and put them on to en∣counter Page 36 those hard trials of afflicti∣ons, but the faith they had in Scrip∣ture-promises, and the fear of that word which threatens all without ex∣ception. Promises such as no crea∣ture durst to make, and threats of judgement and vengeance, beyond all the power of creatures to inflict. These considerations (and nothing else) could •…way them to hate Fa∣ther, and Mother, and House, and Lands, ye•…, and their own Lives, see∣ing they were not mad men, or such as had cast off all natural affection to themselves, or theirs, but held them clear and precious as their own souls. Nothing for certain could put them upon such h•…zards and adventures, but the impul•…es of that spirit, which spoke and wrote those Scripture-truths as their greatest and only con∣cernments.
And to reason no further; How credible is it, that God should suffer the world to be so long abused, and deceived by a fardle of lyes fathered upon himself? Questionless, if Scrip∣ture be not indeed the very word of Page 37 God, it can be no other then the most pernicious and blasphemous lye, that ever was vented by man or De∣vil. For it calls it self by the name of Gods word, and avouches him the authour of it; and what can be said more false, and blasphemous, if it be •…ot what it pretends to be? And would God suffer such a lye to pass •…urrant so long in the world to his •…ishonour, without checking it?
Some Impostures have prevailed *〈◊〉, and for a long time.
They have, and it is confessed, and Mahomets Alcoran may be an instance. But how came that to get place with •…o many? was it not beaten(as I may •…ay) into mens brains with dint of word? Besides, was it not a doctrine •…hat gain'd it self credit by gratifying •…ens •…ilthy lusts? Avenge your selves (said he to his followers) and take as •…any wiv•…s as you are able to keep. And what hath served to spread, and pro∣pagate other devices and inventions of men, but the craft and subtlety of •…uch as lay in wait to deceive, or the •…uelty of unreasonable men that Page 38 knew the most of the world are won•… to comply with that Religion, which complies most with their ease and fleshly interests? But the doctrine of Christ designs nothing but self de∣niall, and to this it doth most autho∣ritatively call both high and low, rich and poor, none excepted, no not 〈◊〉 the greatest upon earth. Now th•… a doctrine which requires a man wi•… greatest importunity to submit all 〈◊〉 interests and enjoyments to the wi•… of God, and make performance ac∣cordingly, whenever the glory 〈◊〉 God, or the good of men call for it or give occasion of it, should take place and prevaile, and that against all means used for suppressing it, 〈◊〉 such a miracle of Divine providence as we may justly call it a seale which God hath set to assure us of Scripture•… Divine authority. We know well that any doctrine which sutes with and will serve the lusts and interests of men, may easily find entertain∣ment. But it is unconceivable, how a doctrine of denying self, and all things else, even the most pleasing Page 39 to corrupt and sinfull nature, should preserve and propagate it self with∣out the help of such an hand, as is •…ble to subdue all things. Now Scripture was prepared and penn'd •…or no other purpose, but to shew men the way of honouring God with the utmost abasing of themselves, •…nd it is indeed the great Engine •…hat God uses to the pulling down of strong holds in the hearts of men, •…nd whatever is exalted in oppositi∣on to the glory and government of Jesus Christ in the world. And to •…ay no more of this; the word and Spirit of Christ, have subdued man∣kind to the obedience of his name, so far as the world is, or can be justly called and accounted Christian.
It were easie for me to multiply arguments in this kind, as so many evidences of Gods speaking to us in •…he Scriptures. But I shall forbear, •…nd proceed to somewhat that comes nearer to the Question concerning •…he Rule of Faith.
It is well known, that this Que∣stion hath been much disputed be∣tween Page 40 us, and our Adversaries, for many years, and that two things especially have been insisted on by them, to prove the Scripture no competent Rule of Faith, viz. the obscurity, and the imperfection 〈◊〉 it. In this dispute they have labour∣ed to puzzle and plunge us, by put∣ting us to shew, how Scripture prove•… it self to be (what we account it) the Word of God.
To this we may justly think it 〈◊〉 sufficient answer to say, (as one yea many have said long since) tha•… in every profession the Principles a•… indemonstrable, assented to without discourse; and the Scriptures are th•… Principles of Christian Religion, an•… therefore first we must grant them to be the very Word of God; and ther•… say, they contain all points needfull to be known. And since Scripture avoucheth it self to be the word of God, 2 Tim. 3. 16. 2 P•…t. 1. 20, 21 Luke 1. 70. it is rational in us to believe it. Notwithstanding our Ad∣versaries are not satisfied, but insis•… much on this Question, viz. How Page 41 we know, that the Scripture, that saith it is the Word of God, is so in very deed.
To this the Protestants have long since answered,
Here we say not, that the certain∣ty of the Scripture is written in any particular place, or Book of it, but the vertue and power that sheweth it self in every line and leaf of the Bible, proclaimeth it to be the Word of the eternal God; and the sheep of Christ discern the voice and light thereof, as men discern light from darkness, and as children are known by their faces and favours, resem∣bling their parents. As the purity, and perfection of the matter, and many particulars else, some of which I have hinted before, and whoever will see them more fully, may find Page 42 them in a large and learned discourse of the Divine authority of Scripture, which I name the rather, because it is a Book which the vulgar may bet∣ter understand, then many others that handle this question.
Though the grounds I have hinted, and others which I have omitted, induce us strongly to believe the Scriptures Divine authority, and we may count them sufficient to fence us against the cavils of our Adver∣saries, yet it is one thing to answer the arguments of men, and another to satisfie the doubts and fears of our own consciences. Therefore we stand to this, That no man can be effectually perswaded of the Scrip∣tures authority (as he ought to be) in order to a sound and saving belief of the truths therein contained, un∣less he be taught of God by the teach∣ings of his Spirit, which alone teach∣eth to know spiritual things in a spi∣ritual manner. God (we say) is the best witness to his own Word, and his Spirit the best seal that can be put to it. In the particulars fore-mentioned, Page 43 and many others, we see evident tokens of God speaking to us in the Scriptures. But the faith that saves us, must have this foundation, viz. Gods sealing the truth of Scripture by the special grace of his own Spirit to our souls. And when this is done, then is a man fully perswaded, and confident in∣deed, so as he can say, (and swear too if there be need) the doctrine of Christ in Scripture, is that which God hath revealed, to lead and guide me to my happiness in the enjoy∣ment of God for ever. Then, and not before, a man hath comfort and peace in believing, having not only a grant of eternal life, but the great seal of the Kingdom of Heaven put to it. Such a man so assured, and sealed by the Spirit, (unless in a fit of temptation) never troubles him∣self about this Question, Whether Scripture be the Word of God? His trouble is most about his own deceit∣full and unbelieving heart, that he can trust God no better, when he hath so good security for all that is Page 44 needfull in order to his happiness. He never thinks (what some have said) that the Scriptures have been corrupted, and are not what once they were. He knows that Gods Word is pure, and perfect, and is only troubled at the corruption of his own heart. Papists (to shew what good will and respects they have to Scripture) have a long time been quarrelling it, as if some part of the Canon were lost; and some of ours seem to yield somewhat to this, thinking no prejudice to come thereby to it. But others conceive that no part or member of Scripture that ever was Canonical, is lost, bu•… that we have it as whole and com∣pieat as ever it was. Indeed (a•… one faith) if any Book were lost o•… those which were commended to the whole Church, it must argue a strang conspi•…acy of this whole Church i•… carelessness and negligence, such a•… is not lightly incident to this gene∣ration of men. We grant, that some particular Churches, and single per∣sons have doubted some parts o•…Page 45 Scripture, now generally acknow∣ledged, for Canonical. But we deny, that the whole Church hath ever done any such thing. As for the old Testament, who can justly suspect •…he Jews for corrupting them, when •…heir zeal for them, even almost to •…uperstition, hath been so notorious •…n all ages, and is so still even to this •…ay? Our Saviour blamed them •…uch, and often for their vain Tra∣•…itions, but never spake one word •…out their corrupting the Scripture, •…hich (questionless) he would have •…ne (had there been cause) since was a matter of such high concern∣ent. And if any had attempted it, had been impossible for them to complish it, when there were so any Copies dispersed in all places •…d Countries (which were many) •…erein the Jews dwelt. If any •…ereticks had essayed it since the •…w Testament was written, how •…uld one party have observed ano∣•…er, and so preven•…ed the design? •…d to say no more; it is impossible, •…ess we imagine that all and every Page 46 one who had a Bible, should at once, with one consent, in all places o•… the world, resolve to corrupt those anti∣ent Records commended to mankind as the Word of God. To clear this further, (having inserted it here oc∣casionally) The Scriptures have been written in parchment and pape•… which are things perishable, and ic are subject to the injuries of time. But who knows not the difference that is between the Word of God and the paper, and parchment, an•… ink which have been used to preserve and conveigh it to us? Gods Wo•… must and shall stand, when all the•… parchments and paper Records sh•… be no more. And whatever alte•… tion there hath been, we stand to i•… that the Records we have to t•… day, have in them all the mind God necessary to be known in or•… to our salvation. They who ma•… tain a Reli•…ion that cannot be ma•… good by Scriprure, may well quar•… it, as they have cause. But all W•… believe it as they ought, know much efficacy in it, as they will n•…Page 47 easily heed such flim-flams, as •…ome now adayes are b•…zzing into peoples ears. Al•…s! poor souls that have tasted how gracious the Lord is in his Word, have an argument which all the world can never answer to them, whatever it may do to others. These men know, and are sensible of a light within them, and that it is of God, and they heed and attend it. But they know too, that Scripture is a far more glorious light, shewing them the way of life by Faith in a Saviou•… who is the Son of God. And this light shewing the only way of life, they find so to perfect all the natural light in them, as they are the more confirmed in the belief of Scripture-Revelations. For no man ever de∣nyed the principles of Reason and Nature to be the impressions of God, excepting Atheists, of which there are so many now adayes. Hence every civil and sober man considers seriously, how the light of Scripture and Nature agree, and that the one is superadded, not to eclipse, but to clear the other, by a more glorious Page 48 discovery of grace and mercy in a Mediatour, for pardoning and pur∣ging all sin, which else could never have been. He is therefore the more perswaded of Sc•…iptures de∣scent from God, as a light from Heaven, to give a lustre to the more obscure Principles of Nature and Reason within him.
What shall I say? Gods word is known, as his work is known. And how is that? Even because none can do as God doth. He works like himself, so that any man may say, when he looks on Gods work, Here is the finger of God; Dent. 3. 24. Is not every work of God such as no creature can do the like? And such is every word that God hath spoken, as any man that hath reason may say, This is the voice of God, and not of man. Who can thunder with a voice like him? so we may say of Scrip∣ture, who but God could •…eak such things, or in such a manner? Never man spake like this man, said the Offi∣cers who were sent to apprehend Christ, John 7. 46. so say we, Never Page 49 any creature did, or could speak as Scripture. And therefore we believe it to be the Word of God.
Now being thus perswaded, we inferr (what we think will unavoid∣ably follow) that Scripture is the only Rule of faith. For let Papi•… say what they can, the Rule of faith, and manners too, can be no other then that Revelation which God hath made of his mind, and will for that end. What! shall man, or any creature prescribe what we are to be∣lieve concerning the matters of God? It is against all common sence, and reason so to imagine.
But I shall dispute the case in two considerations, whereof one is ta∣ken from the nature and quality of a Rule, the other from the Office, and work of faith.
First, a Rule, as it regulates or him that useth it, so it swaies and commands the things that are regu∣lated by it, that they stand, or fall, are allowed, or rejected as they are conformable to it, or otherwise. And this holds good in every Rule, whe∣ther Page 50 properly or improperly so cal∣led. The standard of all weights, and measures hath (as I may say) an au∣thority to allow, or lay aside all other weights and measures that do not ex∣actly answer to it. And so is Scrip∣ture a Rule of faith, because it shews what is to be believed, and what not. But here I must prevent, what will be objected by Papists, viz. That Scripture is no compleat Rule, * but some things are necessary to be believed, which are not contained in it.
1. That Popery hath many such * things as are not in Scripture, we be∣lieve. But therefore we reject them; because to make Scripture a Rule not compleat, is indeed to make it none at all. Who ever heard of a Rule, that was not usfficient to re∣gulate all things for which it was in∣tended? or if there was devised such a Rule, who can be so unreasonable, as to call or count it so? surely Ma∣sons and Carpenters make use of no Rules but such as will serve to mea∣sure all the work which they take in hand.
Page 51 2. Whereas they say that God hath left some things unwritten to pass from hand to hand by Traditi∣on, who shall believe this? more then what the Jews have said a long time, and for many ages, that Mo∣ses had some commands given him to be written, and others to be de∣livered from Father to Son by word of mouth? Alas! we know what account our Saviour made of their oral and practical Traditions, which he calls vain, and so may we justly account of these. Our Saviour cal∣led the Jews to Search the Scrip∣tures,* and condemned all their Tra∣ditions. And why may not we take the same course and say To the Law, and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them, Isa. 8. 20.
3. Let Popish Traditions give as much evidence for their descent from Heaven, as Scripture doth, and we shall embrace both alike. B•…t in this case we say, as the Jews did in another. We know that God spake unto Moses, But for this fellow, we *Page 52 know not whence he is. We know by the Contents and matter of Scrip∣ture, the Majesty of the dispensati∣on, the power it hath upon consci∣ence, the certain fulfilling of all the Prophecies to a tittle, and many o∣ther tokens, and testim onies of God speaking in it, that it is the Word of God, and no other. When Tradi∣tion can produce such, and the like evidences, we may haply attend it more then we have done. In the mean while, we are at a loss, and cannot believe the written Word of God, and unwritten Word (which Papists count so much of) to be of like authority, because one contra∣dicts the other in many particulars.
To instance; Scripture shews a communion in both kinds so institu∣ted, as is to be seen in all the Evange∣lists, and so administred in the Chur∣ches, 1 Cor. 11. 23, &c. according to the first Institution. But Papists give only bread to the Laity, af•…er the Tradition which they have a while received. Here is a manifest contra∣diction of Scripture by Practical Tradition.
Page 53 And so there is in forbidding Priests marriage, which Scripture al∣lows, as honourable among all men, excepting none, Heb. 13. 4. and taxes the prohibition as a departing from the Faith, &c. 1 Tim. 4. 1, 8.
What should I mention absti∣nence from meats; having publick. Divine Service in an unknown tongue; worshipping God in, and before an Image, and the like? If these do not contradict Scripture, there are no things contradictory to be sound upon earth. Yea, worship∣ping God in an Image, is against the light of nature, if the Apostle speaks truth, Rom. 1. 19, 20, 21, &c. And particularly ver. 25. it is plain, that the Heathens Idolatry was serving the creature with the Crea or.
To return where we were before; we call Scri•…ture a Rule of Faith as it reveals the Truths of God, and com∣mands our belief. For if we had not such a Revelation of Gods will in Scripture, we know not where to look for it. And they who question us about this, should do well to shew us Page 54 another Revelation of Gods mind then what we have in Scripture. For as we believe in God only, so we ac∣knowledge no other to have domi∣nion over our Faith; and hence we can acknowledge no Rule of Faith, but what God himself hath made. For certain, what is the Rule, must be the Law of our belief, and who can make a Law of this nature but God only? And this I leave to be tryed by the Law of Reason, whether any thing can be the Law of Faith, that is not a Law of God? What! shall men, or any creatures prescribe us what we are to believe concern∣ing God? It is unreasonable to ima∣gine it. And then let it be further considered, if the Rule of Faith, and the Law of Faith, be not all one. For it is not possible to prove that to be the Rule of Faith, which doth not command us to believe, prescribe what is to be believed, and secu•…e •…s of the promised good, viz. eternal life upon our believing, as we are commanded.
And this leads us to our second Page 55 Argument, from the Office and work of faith; which is such a be∣lieving God in revealed Truths, as leads us to our bliss. There is a faith that saves not (as all grant) and I need not shew what it is. But we mean a true faith, or a sincere and saving faith, and this being un∣deniable, let it be considered, How any thing can be the Rule of this faith, besides Divine and supernatu∣ral Revelation. But of this we may take more notice hereafter.
In the Interim, we appeal to the consciences of all sober men, whe∣ther we are not rational in making Divine Revelation to be the Rule of Divine Faith. For sure footing to our faith, we hope we have it, where alone it is to be had. And this will appear more plainly, in the dis∣course of the Question, Whether Tradition, the Churches Testimony, or any thing of that nature, is, or can b•… the Rule of Fa•…th.