The second Part. Wherein is debated this Que∣stion, viz. Whether Tradition, the Churches Testimony, or any thing besides Scripture, is, or can be a Rule of Faith?
IN this Question Protestants hold the Negative, and say, That Scripture alone is, and Traditi∣on cannot be a Rule of Faith.
And now I must first shew, what Papists mean by Tradition. Not (as they say) the Doctrine delivered, But a delivery down from hand to hand (b•… words, and a const•…t course of frequent and visible actions confor∣mable to those words) of the sense, and faith o•… F•…re-fathers. This they call Oral, or Practical Tradition, and this they would have to be the only Rule of Faith. For they charge Scripture with imperfection, and Page 57 obscurity, and affirm it to be no com∣petent Rule, as being not evident, or certain in it self, and therefore not sufficient to ascertain others. Hence they speak of Scripture, as a Rule re∣gulated by Tradition, which is indeed to say, it is none at all; and this they avouch some of them in express terms before all the world.
Now if we Protestants are once compe•…l'd to let go all Scripture au∣thority in matters of Faith, I know nothing we have to do more, then burn our Bibles, and as fast as we can, turn Roman Catholicks. Papists do not indeed say (as far as I know) that Scripture is not of Divine In∣spiration. But they say plainly, that the doctrine of Scripture cannot be ascertained to us, without Tradition; and so Tradition is the Rule ruling, as i•… a•…lures us what is Canonical Scripture, and what not. Yea, they say expresly, Tradition is a compe∣tent Rule, and Scripture is not. Now in this we cannot yield to them, and we have this argument for our dissent: Tradition by their Page 58 own concession is but a certain way of delivering down the Faith, and can be no other at most, and that it is so much, we cannot yield. But supposing it only, we say, therefore it cannot be the Rule of Faith, for it only delivers down to us the Rule. And if any think this reason weak, let him take notice of this also to back it, that Tradition is but an hu∣mane Testimony, and cannot there∣fore be a Rule of Divine Faith. What! The Faith Divine, and the Testimony received by it humane! What reason is in this, let any reasonable man judge. I need say no more.
Nor will it help in this case to alledge the supernatural assistances of the Holy Ghost. For our argu∣ment is, That our Faith is as the, Testimony received by it. If there∣fore the Testimony be humane, the Faith is such, and where are we then? Is our Faith in God (that must save our souls) only an humane, and not a Divine Faith? who ever heard such things as these? If it be said again, Page 59 That this humane Testimony serves to ascertain us of the doctrine of Christ, even so it cannot be the Rule, for it is of men; and it must be somewhat of God (whatever it be) that is the Rule of Faith in God. F•…r I may justly question in this Case, In whom do we believe to the saving of our souls? Surely no man will say other, then that we believe in God. Well; and if we believe in God, it must be because of some Revelation he hath made of himself, and this can be no other, then his promise in Christ of grace, and pardon to poor sinners. This is the Testimony, or Record, That God hath given to us*eternal life, and this life is in his Son. And this is the Testimony we receive by Faith, and so our Faith is Divine. If we receive the Testimony of men, our Faith is only humane. This (I say again) is our argument, That our Faith being Divine, the Testi∣mony received by it is so also. And therefore we receiving only the Te∣stimony of God by Faith, it cannot be reasonably imagined, that our Page 60 Faith should have its foundation, and sure footing in any thing of man.
But here they ferch in the assi∣stances of the Holy Ghost, but to little purpose, seeing those assistances are yielded us most likely to help us in believing the Word of God, and not the Testimony of men. And may not Protestants more rationally by far say, they believe the Scripture by the perswasions of the holy Ghost, then Papists say, that Tradition re∣ceives incomparable strength by the supernatural assistances of the same holy Ghost? surely if God have, made any Revelation of his minde and will, his Spi•…it most likely will help us to believe it, much rather then a•…y thing else. Hence it is, that we care so little sor Tradition because it is the testimony of men; For we have no faith to save us, but faith in God, and know not how we can have faith in God, but by recei∣ving the Testimony, which he him∣self hath given.
When Papists attribute so much to Tradition, for ascertaining Scrip∣ture, Page 61 we cannot yield to them in it, because we believe that God so speaks to men, as they may know that it is he that speaks. If he do not, it is because he will not, or because he cannot. That he cannot, no man can say without blasphemy. To say he will not, is little better. For he hath not spoken in secret, but open∣ly, and plainly, so as they to whom he hath spoken, have known certain∣ly, it was the Lord that spake to them. And this is indeed the Spirit of Prophecy, not only to decl•…re the will and minde of God, but to ascer∣tain those unto whom it was decla∣red, that it was so. And such is Scripture, vz. a Revelation of Gods will so made, as men may know that God hath spoken. Wherefore though Papists say of Scripture, as the Jews said of our Saviour, Thou bearest re∣cord of thy self, thy record is not true. We answer, as Christ answered for himself, Though it bear record of it self, yet its record is true. For as it was the will of God that men should understand his mind, so he spake in Page 62 such a manner, as they might know it was God that spake, and not man, or any creature. For what can be said or thought more unworthy of God, then that he hath spoken to men but in such a manner, as he can∣not be understood, unless there be some other to ascertain them, it is he that speaks? we can speak to one a∣nother, either by word or writing, so as to know who speaks, as well as what is spoken. But God (it seems to Papists) must have some others to pass their word for him, before he can have any credit with men.
And what is it, that must ascer∣tain us, beyond all further question, that Scripture is the very Word of God? Only Tradition, or the Testi∣mony of the Church in all ages suc∣cessively conveying down the faith once delivered by Christ and his A∣postles.
For the satisfaction of those who need, or desire it; we shall inlarge in our answer, yet not to exceed the bounds of our intended breviy.
1. We acknowledge, That the Page 63 Church is bound to give testimony to Scripture as the Word of God; and that the true Church hath so done in all ages, we Protestants do believe. But we say withall, that the Church is only an outward instrument or means in giving this testimony, and hath no authority (such as Papists plead for) or dominion over our faith. We are so far from making it the Rule of faith, as we stand to affirm, we do not be•…ieve the Scripture be∣cause the Church saith it is the Word of God, but we believe it such for its own and the Spirits testimony, though no men bear witness to it. For what is the Church (make the best of it) but a company of men (more or less) that believe the doctrine of Christ? And where had these men this doctrine? Or how came then by it? Had they it not in Scripture? Christ indeed delivered it by word of mouth, and by his Spirit to his Apostles, and they preached this doctrine. But (I hope) Papists will not say, That the new Testament was not penned by the Evangelists and Page 64 Apostles? or that the next Church received any doctrine, other then is therein recorded? so we are come to the very foundation of the Church, such as is mentioned Ephes. 2. 20. The Church is founded upon Scrip∣ture, and not Scripture upon the Church. Indeed a Church is no∣thing but a company of men, that believe Scripture, and make it the ground work of their Faith. And so is it distinguished from all other societies. The Church did not make or frame the Scripture, but received it made ready to their hands. God had his Secretaries, who wrote his wills and commands, and to the obedience of these men have been called, and such as submitted, and came in, have been the Church in all ages. Hence the Church (we say) hath more need of Scriptures testi∣mony, then Scripture hath of the Churches; and accordingly, Prote∣stants judge of the Church by Scrip∣ture, and not of Scripture by the Church. Questionless, when God shall judge all by the Man whom he Page 65 hath appointed, he will try all Churches and men by his own Laws. And where those Laws are, we leave Papists to enquire? For we know none, but such as we find in Scrip∣ture.
They tell us a very fair tale of the infallibility of Tradition, How im∣possible it is that the first Church, which received the doctrine of Christ from the Apostles, could be so un∣natural, as wittingly to hide it from posterity, and deliver over to the next generation such lyes as would unavoidably damn them.
Now we suppose (as well as they) that all Parents, and Progenitors, have so much natural affection, as not to procure willingly, or witting∣ly the damnation of their Children. But this will not prove (say we) Tradition to be so infallible, as they would have it. For Tradition, or delivering any matter from hand to hand, by word of mouth, is and must be uncertain, yea, and soon fail, if there be not some Records where∣upon to bottom it. And for this we Page 66 desire them to consider, That though in the first ages, God was pleased to let his will be made known from Fa∣ther to Son, after he had once de∣clared and revealed it, yet God did not leave all to Tradition, but ever and anon renewed the Revelations of his will, as occasion required. And this he did, when those Patri∣archs lived ten times so long as any have ordinarily lived for very many ages. And when afterwards Abra∣hams seed was grown into a multi∣tude, it seemed good to the wisdom of God, to have the lively Oracles enrolled and committed to writing. Hence we think it rational to con∣clude, that God thought his will written to be more infallible and certain, then as delivered by word of mouth, from hand to hand. Once we are sure, That whiles the mind of God was delivered without writing it all the world was corrupted, so as all flesh had perverted their way in the times of Noah. They had all of them at first the doctrine, which God revealed to Adam, and how came Page 67 they to be corrupted as they were, if Tradition cannot possibly fail? Or how came the world after the Flood to be filled with Idols, so as Abraham must be called out from the posterity of Shem, whose posterity had the true Religion delivered to them? If Tradition be so faithfull in the de∣livery of what is committed to it; we wonder how true Religion should fail so soon, and that not among a few, but all the world over.
When it is said, That some Here∣ticks have risen from time to time, and these following their own lusts, and humours, and Interests, have perverted, and drawn aside others, we grant it. But we say too, That not a few, or a small party, but mul∣tirules have been corrupted, as once it was, when all the world wondered to see it self Arian. Not to men∣tion the times of Noah, and Elijah, which are famous for a general Apo∣stacy, we ask, How all Israel came to be corrupted after Joshua, and the Judg's that out-lived him? Yea, how the Body of that people were cor∣rupted, Page 68 even while Moses was alive, and upon all'occasions turning them∣selves to Idols? And how came the Jews in our Saviours time to have so many Traditions, not only be∣sides, but contrary to the written Word? Now the force of our argu∣ing lieth in this, That notwithstand∣ing Tradition, and a written Word too, for some thousands of years past, the generality and whole body of people, who had the mind of God revealed to them, have been corrup∣ted and perverted. And when it is thus, what credit is to be given to Tradition? Or what shall the Fa∣thers deliver over to their Children, other then they themselves have re∣ceived, believed, and practised? We cannot enough wonder at Papists ar∣guings in this kind. And therefore desire to be resolved in some parti∣culars, ere we can yield so much to Tradition as they would have us.
1. We would know who these Foref thers were, that have so care∣fully delivered over the doctrine of Christ in all ages. For our Fore∣fathers Page 69 after the flesh, till this and the last age, we know (and are sorry for it) that they were Roman Ca∣tholicks, this land having taken the infection, as much as any other place; and we acknowledge that other Kingdoms and Nations were as they; so as those whom we count our Forefathers after the faith, were for a great while up and down in the world, as they that had not bowed the knee to Baal in Elijahs time. And what then can be inferred from the Tradition of Forefathers? We know there is a pretious promise Isa. 59. 21. that Gods Word and Spirit should continue with his Church and the Churches children, to all generations, as our Saviour promised his Disciples, Mat. 28. 20. to be with them to the end of the world. But observe, the Spirit is promised as well as the Word, because one is unavailable without the other co∣operating with it, Isa. 30. 20, 21. 2 Cor. 2. 16. 2 Cor. 3. 6. and 4. 13. But where is there any promise, that the Word and Spirit shall continue Page 70 with any one people uninterruptedly unto the worlds end? We read, that the word of the kingdom should be taken from the Jews, and so it was, and is not restored to them yet. And in many places where once were famous Christian Churches, there is not to be seen at this day, so much as a relique of Christianity. Witness the Churches of Asia, now possessed by Mahometans. We think it certain and undeniable, that errors and impieties of all sorts, may infect whole Nations of such as have pro∣fessed the doctrine of Christ, and when the infection hath once taken a few, it will spread like a gangrene, till the body be all overrun. So when some have once departed from the faith, others are too apt to follow, and the tares soon outgrow the good seed.
Hence we answer, That we can∣not admit Tradition as an infallible witness, since multitudes, yea, whole Nations have been overspread with errors, and those no small ones. For when a generation is once cor∣rupted Page 71 in their Principles, it is not imaginable to us, how they should teach their children other then what they themselves have learned. So our Forefathers after the flesh, would (we believe) have taught us the same Religion which had been taught them for many ages, i. e. the Popish, or Romish. But we deny them to be our Forefathers, as to our faith.
If any ask us, Who these were? We answer, all they, who in all ages protested against the errors and abuses of the Church of Rome. We know well, that England was Christian be∣fore Austin the Monk came hither. For he found such here, as stoutly withstood his Romish impositions, though it cost them dear. And what if there never had been a Church in England before, or that Church had utterly failed, yet the Church truly Catholick never fails, but God hath had alwayes, and will have to the end, a company that contend for the faith once delivered to the Saints, and desire to worship him in spirit, and in truth. And these we own Page 72 for our Forefathers, as to our faith, and from these we received, what we now profess, and believe accor∣ding to Scripture.
To clear the matter yet further; we say this argument of Tradition supposes what we cannot yield, viz. That the present Church of Rome holds the same faith in all particulars with the Apostolick and Primitive Church, and that the same faith hath been handed down to them in all ages successively to this day. That there was once a famous Church at Rome, we grant, but that the present faith of Rome is the same with that in the Apostles dayes, can never be made good, unless Papists will have the difference of mea's and dayes to be the whole Catholick faith. Let them now prove their faith to be the same with what it was in the Apostles times, and we may then heed this ar∣gument more then now we can. For our parts, we stand to prove (as others before us have done) that there hath been a general departing from the faith; and when the gene∣rality Page 73 are once corrupted in princi∣ples and practises, we know not what they should teach posterity other then what they themselves have learned. Do not Heathens now (as in all former ages) teach their children to worship Idols, as them∣selves have done? And is it so hard to conceive, how the face, yea, whole body of the Church may be overspread by errors and heresies? Who knows not, that one scabbed sheep will infect a whole flock, and how a little leaven will soon leaven the whole lump. We hear of vain conversation received by Tradition from. Forefathers, 1 Pet. 1. 18. And wee know too well, that Children for the most part betake themselves to such courses, as their Fathers have taken before them.
That our Saviour delivered the whole truth to his Apostles, and they to the Churches in those times, we make no question, yea, we think it a sin to question it. But we know, and can shew, how the Churches planted by the Apostles, degenerated quickly. Page 74 and by degrees came to be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ, and his Gospel. And is this strange? Alas! Even in the Apostles times, how were some Churches perverted, in so much as he wonders, Gal. 1. 6. they were so soon removed to another Gospel.
And here I might enlarge in shew∣ing, how by degrees the first Chur∣ches came to be perverted and cor∣rupted: But it lies on our Adversa∣ries to prove their faith, as it is now, to be as it was in the Apostles time. We have said enough to shew how Tradition (which they so much com∣mend and magnifie) may fail, and so prove no infallible Testimony. And who were our Forefathers (from whom we learnt our faith) we have shewed already, and now shall name some of them; viz. The Reformers in the last ages, and Jo. Hu, and Hi•…rome of Prague, and before them Wickliff, and before him the Wal∣denses, and all that protested against the Churches corruptions in all ages upward, as might be shewed, if it Page 75 were pertinent. Jo. Whites Way, p. 336. § 45. & 337. Digress. 48.
2. Tradition being the Testimony of the Church, let Papists first ascer∣tain us, which is the true Church, whose Testimony we must believe. For our parts, we know none upon earth that pretend to Christianity, that do not account themselves the true Church, and that avow not themselves to have the true faith which the Apostles delivered. Now there being so many pretenders, we are at as great a loss wich Tradition, as without it, since all say, they hold the Apostolick faith, and yet ex∣treamly differ one from another, not in few matters, or small, at least some of them. And it is said, and granted on all hands, that there are dissenters, and of these some are ig∣norant, and some obstinate, and some Scepticks, and we know too many professing Christians, who are in their wayes and doings no better then Infidels. Now may not any, or all of these question Tradition, as well as Scripture, upon this pre∣tence, Page 76 that they know not which is the Church, whose Testimony they are obliged to believe?
If it be said (as it hath been by some) that there is no Christian but knows the Church, It may be justly replyed, that there is no Christian, but knows the Scripture as well. For all that own not Scripture, we may justly disown them, as being no Christians. A man may be a Chri∣stian (it is confessed) though he ne∣ver saw a Bible, if he have heard the doctrine of Christ, as many Gentiles (yea, all for ought I know) did in the first times of the Church, when the Gospel was first preached to them by the Apostles. But to be a Christian and not know the doctrine of Christ, is a pure contradiction. Now how we shall know which Church gives the truest testimony to the doctrine of Christ, if not by Scrip∣ture, let Papists resolve us, for we know not what to answer. We think among so many pretenders there will be differences, such as ••••adition will no better reconcile Page 77 then Scripture, and that as Prote∣stants cannot agree about the sense of Scripture, but some interpret it one way, and some another, so they, and others will agree no better about the Church, and its Tradition. For (as I have said) there are many Churches, and those hugely differing in some things, and yet all pretend to the Apostolick faith. Therefore we have need of somewhat to ascer∣tain us of that Church which hath preserved, and delivered down all along the same faith which the Apo∣stles taught. For the true Catholick Church; we believe it hath been faithfull in its testimony to the truth in all ages. But we Protestants can∣not own the Church of Rome as such, though we know there was there one sound part of the Catholick Church, in the Apostles times. Papists indeed pretend, and boast great things of their Church, but what is that to us, who can well distinguish between a Roman-Catholick, and a Catholick Christian.
Here then we Protestants resolve Page 78 to believe the Church for the Scrip∣ture, and not the Scripture for the Church. And yet we allow what that ancient Father saith of himself, That he had not believed Scripture, but for the Church. For we know, that after he came once to learn the Scriptures, he then believed it, not upon account of the Churches autho∣rity, but its own only. The Church (we grant) may at first perswade Infi∣dels to attend and heed the Scripture, as the Word of God, even as the wo∣man perswaded her neighbours to come, and see Christ. But as they, when they had heard him themselves,*believed, not because of her saying, but because of his own word: even so is •…in the case that now is in question. The Church of Christ hath the office of ministry, to hold out the light, that others who are in darkeness may see it. But this will never prove the Church to have such an authority, as Papists plead for, and much less that their Church is the Catholick Church, which only holds the A∣postolick faith. And when they Page 79 have said all they can, they say no more then any Church, never so corrupt, will say for it self, viz. That it hath the doctrine of Christ which the Apostles taught. Hence we say again, that Tradition leaves us at an irrecoverable loss, and that we must have somewhat more certain, then the Churches testimony, which any company (of never so corrupt prin∣ciples) may pretend unto, as well as the Church of Rome.
3. We desire to be satisfied, whe∣ther the doctrine delivered down, be true, because the Church hath deli∣vered it, or that the Church hath delivered it, because it is the truth. For we think the Church ought to re∣ceive and believe the truth only, and to deliver that, and nothing else to be believed by others, and if it recei∣ved other then the truth, it was de∣ceived, and if it delivered other, it was not only deceived, but deceived others also. The Church can make nothing to be true, but what is such before of it self, and all it can do, is to declare the truth which it hath re∣ceived, Page 80 and perswade others to be∣lieve it. Therefore when Papists press us (as they do) about our be∣ing assured of Scripture, we say, that we believe it upon account of its own authority, because it speaks it self the Word of God. For as when a place of trust and honor is conferred upon a person by his Prince, and assured to him under the Great Seal, though the messenger (that brings the Patent) may avow it to be the Princes act, yet that which gives assurance to the person of his inte∣rest in that office and honour, is the Patent it self, and the Seal annext. So we know the voice of God speak∣ing to us in his Word, and even so hath the true Church, in all ages, received Scripture, as the true Word of God, and commended it to others for such, as a Patent sea∣led from Heaven.
4. We desire to know when the Church first resolved the Case in Question, and determined, what is the doctrine of Christ. For the 〈◊〉 and 〈◊〉 Coun∣cils, Page 81 we count them of a latter date, and but of yesterday in comparison. For our part we think (under cor∣rection of better judgments) that the Canon was agreed upon very early, because two eminent ones among the Ancients, •…counted upon * the same number of Canonical Books which we now do; and one of them saith, that the Canonicall authority of the old and new Testa∣ment was confirmed in the Apostles times. And that it was so agreed very early, we have reason to think, because Co•…stantine in the first Ni∣cene Council, would not else have perswaded the Fathers assembled to examine and try all questions and controversies by the Canon of Scrip∣ture. For had it been otherwise, it had been rational to move them, first to resolve what the Canon was. Once we know, the Christian Church had need to be resolved of a Rule of faith, even from the beginning, at least, so soon as the Apostles had departed this life. For if any thing, surely this is of concernment to the Page 82 Church, viz. To have the Rule of faith stated, as the standard, whereby all doctrines are to be weighed and measured. And this (we think) was done, even from the Apostles times, and that upon the determination which they had made; so as there was no such Question of old about the Rule of faith, such as Papists have made of late. That some have que∣stioned the authority of some Books of the New Testament, we know; but we say, they were only some, and not the whole Church. Besides, to question the authority of some few Books, is not to question the autho∣rity of the whole Scripture. And indeed this question was never made, till of latter times, when Papists could no more defend their Tenets by this Rule of faith.
5. We would know how the Church came to know all the myste∣ries of Christian Religion. And this we have reason to question, because Papists make so much of the Churches Testimony, as if Scripture had no au∣thority, as to us at least, without it. Page 83 What•… did the Church devise the whole model of the Christian faith, out of her own heart? No, certainly this will never be said by any that are sober. What then? Questionless she was taught it of God, and in this (I hope) we all agree. Well; And how was she taught it? was it not by the Revelation of Jesus Christ? And where is this Revelati∣on if it be not in Scripture? But I proceed, and say, the Christian Church learnt the doctrine of Christ from Scripture, the Spirit working with the Word. For the Apostles did not in preaching the Gospel, bring to light what had never been heard of, or thought on before: But they only declared to the world, the performance of what God had foretold, and promised in the old Testament, concerning his Son made of a woman, and made under the Law, when once the fulness of time was come. And so the Apostle avows, Acts 26. 22. that his doctrine was no other, then what Moses and the Prophets had signified before. And did not Page 84 Christ come to fulfill the promises made to the Fathers, which promises were recorded in the old Testament? Yea, and Christ himself expounded the Scriptures concerning himself. Luk•… 24. 27. And vers. 25. he up-〈◊〉 he two Disciples with their not 〈◊◊〉 what the Prophets had spoken. 〈◊〉, i•… the Church in all ages, 〈◊◊◊〉 themselves knew the 〈◊〉 of Christ by 〈◊〉, 〈◊◊〉 there is enough to shew us 〈◊〉 is the only Rule of faith.
Once 〈◊〉; If Scripture be not the Rule 〈◊〉, let Papists tell us what it serve •…or. Truly we are so ignorant, as if it be not the Rule of our faith, we know no use of it. And if that be granted, which our Adversaries plead for, why may we not hearken to the Church, and her Tradition, and never look on Scrip∣ture more? For they have of late framed a Rule of faith that is all∣sufficient, and tell us plainly, Scrip∣ture is not so. Surely if we thus let go the Word, and take up Tradition, Page 85 we had best let God go also, and con∣tent our selves with the Church.
But there are some Questions to be answered, and till this be done, we talk to no purpose, whatever we say of Scripture, or against Tradition.
For how know we,
1. Whether the Originals be entire, and the same with those which were first ponned by the Prophets and Apo∣stles?
2. What Books of Scripture are Ca∣nonical, and what not?
3. Whether the Originals are right∣ly translated into the English, and other vulgar languages?
4. Whether they are truly sen•…'d and interpreted, &c. and what not?
These, and such like, are pressed upon us, to enervate the sorce of Scriptures authority, and prove it no Rule of faith. For the Rule of faith (say Papists) must be easie to be understood of all, and it must evi∣dence it self so, as we may be ascer∣tained of it, that it is the Word of God; and how can the vulgar be sure of this, when the wisest, and Page 86 most learned are not well agreed about it? What shall become of the unlearned, and such as make any doubts about these things? And there are many such, whereof some are Ra∣tional, and others Sceptical, and others (no question) are Atheistical to an high degree.
To all these we count our selves bound to answer, and our answer in general is,
I. That if Scripture were never so plain and certain, there will be some doubters and dissenters, and enemies to it also. There are too many who question, and some who deny the Existence of God. Is there no cer∣tainty therefore of Gods Existence? Or hath not God sufficiently shewed himself to be known as he is? so did Christ give evidence enough of him∣self, though the blind Pharisee could nor, or rather would not see him to be what he was. We know, there are many in the world, who are dissenters to the Rules of common honesty and righteousness; and yet they are plain enough, and Papists Page 87 (I am confident) think so. It is abundantly sufficient, if Scripture prove it self so far, as all honest, sober, and uninterested persons may be satisfied. These (I am sure) will be contented with such proofs, as the matter in question will bear. And who, that is reasonable, will ex∣pect arguments in this case, to prove more then a moral certainty, alwayes excepting that inward assurance which a gracious soul hath by the seal of Gods Spirit.
2. We answer, That the Rule may be easie, though all men do not understand it. And such is Scrip∣ture, easie (we say) to be understood by all that will use means for that end. What! do our Adversaries think it may be known by dreaming of it? or shall we think that God hath not sufficiently provided for our souls, because we cannot come to the knowledge of the Truth, and Salva∣tion by it, without pains-taking? This is (to say no more) unreasona∣ble. What can be learnt without using means, and taking pains?
Page 88 3. We may justly look on these Queries about Scripture, as if a man should ask another, How do you know light from darkness, white from black, sowre from sweet? For Scripture gives as clear a discovery of it self, as things white and black, sowre and sweet, shew their taste and colour. But I shall endeavour to answer particulars, as they lye in order.
To the first Question about the Originals we answer.
1. That we know them to be en∣tire, and not defective, and the same with those that were penned by the Prophets and Apostles, as well as any such thing can be known. These Records are very ancient, some of them of some thousand years standing. And must we now prove every particular, as if we had been eye-witnesses? Is it not enough, if we have more certainty of these, then can be had of any o∣thers that bear the same date, or somewhat near? Not to say, that that this Question seems to strike Page 89 at the force of all ancient Records and evidences. For it may be said by any concerned, How are we sure, that these are the Authentick Co∣pies, or transcribed exactly to a let∣ter?
2. We are certainly assured in this Case as well as they that question us, seeing they pretend only to Tradi∣tion for their Security, and we know no certainty of that more then of Scripture.
3. We know the Original Old Testament by the consent of our Bibles, and those which the Jews preserve to this day (as we think) by a speciall providence. What better evidence can there be in such a case then this? They had the ho∣nour to have the lively Oracles committed to them, and we never heard they could be justly blamed for being •…alse to their trust thus far. And these Infidels still retain the old Testament, as it was, though the Christians make use of it to ju∣stifie the Christian faith against them. And if they had attempted any Page 90 alteration, they could never have effected it, as was shewed before. Now while their Copies and ours a∣gree so well together, as we have no difference with them about this, have we not good reason to per∣swade our selves, that our Original Bibles are as at first?
4. We know it by as good evi∣dences, as our Adversaries know it, viz. by the consent of all Ages bearing witness to it. We do not in∣deed plead the authority of the Churches Testimony, as Papists do, nor have we need, seeing the Te∣stimony may be valid through its truth, without any such authority. We give as much as we ought to the Church, when we say, it hath been all along an external instrument or Medium, to declare and testifi•… concerning the doctrine of Christ in Scripture. And so it hath testified the Originals to be as at first.
I have yet more to say for clea∣ring this Question, only I must needs insert, that we cannot think our selves so fairly dealt withall in Page 91 such a question. For we lay our claim by prescription, and there∣fore think our adversaries should ra∣ther prove the contrary by undenia∣ble arguments, then pick quarrels with us by captious questions, such as they can no better answer then we. But we know the design, and shall say no more of it.
5. It is enough, if the Originals be in the matter and substance of them the same as at first. That they may have some alterations as to let∣ters, or words, in the transcribing and printing of them, who que∣stions, since the Transcribers, and Printers had no infallible Spirit that we ever heard of? But this being granted, we have no cause to doubt Scriptures authority any whit the more. What though no Original Copie now extant be so absolutely pure, as no mixture can possibly be found in it, as to words and letters, yet Scripture ceases not to be a suffi∣cient Rule, so long as there is in it no violation, mutilation, or falsi∣fication through the ignorance, neg∣ligence, Page 92 or malice of men, as disa∣bles it for teaching all men what to believe and do, in order to their salvation. For this is it which we contend for, That all the doctrine of Christ necessary to be known unto salvation, we have in our present Bibles, and this doctrine the very same that was delivered by the Pro∣phets and Apostles. It lies still how∣ever on our adversaries to prove any alteration so much as in any words. Hence we say further, that Books made of inke, and parchment, or paper, are things that are perish∣able, yea, and will come to no∣thing. But dare Papists say, that God hath not given his Laws in writing? dare they say, that there never was such a man as Moses, who at Gods command delivered a Law to Israel, and after it was written caused it to be read in the audience of all the people? or dare they say, there never were such men as the Prophets and Apostles, and that they never wrote any such Books, as are now called the holy Scriptures? Page 93 We do not know, and therefore dare not say, that they have hi•…herto said any such thing, and we have so much charity, as to believe they will ne∣ver say it. What mean they then by such quirks, and quibles as these, viz. That we cannot be assured now that the Scriptures are not altered from what they were at first? &c. What thoughts have they of God Almighty? was he not wise enough to foresee what might be objected in after times, so as to provide against it, and prevent all such questions as they now make about the written word? This we know, and they too, that the only wise God thought it best to have the lively Oracles com∣mitted to writing, though he could not but know, that in process of time, there might be some altera∣tion in those writings, and that the outside materials, as parchment, &c. are such as wast and wear out. Yea this way of writing was (as I may say) consecrated at first by the finger of God, who wrote the ten Commandments in two T•…bles of Page 94 sione. And those two tables were soon broken, and the others after∣wards prepared at Gods com∣mand, and kept along time, are yet long since gone, so as none can give any account of them. Notwithstanding we are not to seek of the Ten Commandments, nor (we hope) will any say these are not the same that God wrote at first, or we cannot be sure that they are so. Alas! to argue in this manner is to bring Heaven and Earth together. Then farewell all the credit of all ancient Records, that ever have been preserved in the World. Yea, then let the Scrip∣tures (which are the most ancient Records in the world) go too, up∣on the same account. And this, we think, some would have, or they would no more trouble the world with such frivolous Queries as these. How (say they) can we be sure, that the Originals are the same that were first penned? what pitie it is, that these men stood not by, when God commanded a Law to be writ∣ten Page 95 for his people, and the same to continue unto all genera ions! they could have prompted God, and told him what was to be considered of, viz. That those Books might decay in time, and the Copies be corrupted in the transcribing of them, or they might be lost, and hid aside; (For so they were in Josiahs time, when * one Copy was lighted on by chance, and counted as a Jewel for its rarity.) And that in after ages, there might be much questioning about them, whether they had not under the re∣volutions of many ages been altered, from what they were at first by his appointment. But the only wise God, who certainly could foresee all these things, thought it best to have his Word written, and yet made no extraordinary provision for transcri∣bing them upon occasion, or pre∣venting such questions, as are now made by some. Sure we are, that our Saviour calls the Jews to Scrip∣ture, and they do not excuse them∣selves, by saying, they know not whether they have the Law of Moses,Page 96 as it was first delivered; nay, they confess, that God spake by Moses, and they knew it. And our Saviour pu s the question [whether he were the Ch in] to be proved by Scrip∣ture. * Strange! that the only wise God should not foresee this quarrel mi•…h be made in after ages, which P•…pists make now. For might not the 〈◊〉, the Law of Moses, and the writings of the Prophets, were no Rule of faith and manners to them, because they could not evi∣dence their own certainty, so as to ascertain them. And how could they •…icertain them then, more then us new?
But Tradition is it which must secure all, by its affidavit made to * Scripture.
And what do we then believe in * believing Scripture, the authority of God, or men? If Scriptures autho∣rity, as to us, depends upon the Churches Testimony, in our belief of Scripture, we believe men, and not God; at least, we believe God for the Testimony of men. And what Page 97 kind of faith that is, let them who question us so much about Scripture, resolve us. For the various readings that are in the Originals, we acknow∣ledge them, and think, they happen∣ed much through the mistakes of those who transcribed the Copies from time to time. However they happened (for we stand not much upon it) Papists know, that the Jews Masoreth hath well provided for the Old Testament. And though the New hath very many, we stand to maintain, that all those various readings put together, (let the worst be made of them) can never be im∣proved to prejudice the authority of Scripture in one Article of Faith. For all the written and printed Co∣pies of the Original Bibles, do con∣curre in the whole main doctrine of Christ throughout. And thereupon we challenge Papists to shew any alteration, that clashes with the do∣ctrine first delivered, notwithstanding all the various readings in so great a multitude of Copies.
Hence we conclude, (as a learned Page 98 man hath it)
As for the Originals; we are assu∣red that they are intire, and not de∣fective, as any can be sure of any thing that is of so long standing. And therefore we are bold to think, that they who question us, as they do in this kind, might rather have que∣stioned God himself, for represent∣ing his mind and will in writing, when he could not but foresee that such manner of questions might be put in after-ages, as are made now adayes. None dare say, that God never ordered his will to be written. And seeing it is so ordered by him, why should we question the wise and gracious hand of his providence, in contriving the preservation of these Page 100 antient Records unto all posterity, for whom he intended them? Me∣thinks it were a more direct course for our Adversaries to take, if they would say downright, that God never committed his mind and will to wri∣ting, then now to say (as they do) that no man can be sure that these writings are the same which were at first. For this seems to cast an as∣persion upon God, for taking such a way of representing his mind unto the sons of men, as must leave those of these latter ages of the world, under invincible doubtings about his will, that respects their greatest and only concernments. As for their expedient of Tradition; what doth it other, then resolve all the Divine authority of Scripture, into the au∣thority of men? For they say, Scripture cannot ascertain us con∣cerning it self, nor can any thing else but Tradition, which yet is no more then the Testimony of men: And so the Testimony of God, as to us, must be less then that of men.
Page 101 To the second Querie, we need not say much in way of answering it, seeing the Books accounted by us Apocryphal do sufficiently shew, what account we are bound to make of them, while they confute themselves by their own contents. That the Maccabees are a story of which there is good use, we deny not; and that Ecclesi•…sticus, and the Book of Wis∣dom, &c. contain many and sundry moral instructions, we do not que∣stion, no more then that the like are found in other Books, which yet pre∣tend not to Divine authority. But this proves them not to be Canoni∣cal, as the Church of Rome hath de∣termined. Once the Jewish Church never owned them for part of the Canon, nor were they ever written in their language, as the other parts of the Old 〈◊〉. True, they have been allowed to be read in some Churches, for instruction in manners. But the Christian Church never re∣ceived them into the Canon of Scrip∣ture, nor will it ever be proved, The Romish Church indeed. (for Page 102 what cause she best knows) hath Canonized these Books: But what is that to us, who can as easily distin∣guish in this case, as we can between light and darkness? But we appeal to the Churches Testimony, and say, that the true Christian Church had no other Canonical Books, then what we own for such. There were indeed some who questioned some particular Books of the New Test•…∣ment, but that question continued not long; and if some also gave too much to these Apocryphals, that is not enough to countervail the gene∣ral vote of the whole Church, which alwayes rejected them from having any place in the Canon.
Hence our answer is, that we know what Books are Canonical, by that light and lustre of Divine truth, which shines out, and shews it self in them. And this light is so glorious, as those Atocryphals dare not pre∣tend to it, but rather seem willing to be in a lower form. For this I in∣stance in 2 Mac. 2. 24. where the Author (whoever he was) con∣sesses, Page 103 that he had taken what he wrote, out of Jason of Cyrene, and contracted five Books of his into one Volume; and whoever pleases to read on in that Chapter, may easily perceive that the Spirit of God, (which spake by the holy Prophets) could never frame to speak in such a manner. God in Scripture (as hath been already said) speaks pro imperio, as the only most soveraign Lord, and never makes Apologies for himself to be excused with those to whom he speaks. For why should he, seeing they are all his vassals; his creatures? The distance is so in∣finitely great between him, and them, as it cannot be reasonably imagined, that he should court them, as that Authour doth. For the ma∣ny fictions and tales told in some of those Apocryphals, I •…all not men∣tion them, because they are so well known to such as have perused them, and may be to others, who have a mind to be satisfied.
What need have we then of Tra∣dition to determine in this Case? Page 104 And whoever hath a mind to be fur∣ther satisfied, may find enough in all our Divines, who have maintai∣ned Scriptures authority against our adversaries.
But the great question is about the Scriptures transl•…ted. For our adversaries think, we can never prove them to be the Rule of faith. The Rule (say they) must be cer∣tain, and infallible. But Translations are many and various, and much different, if not in many things contrary to one another. And then how shall the vulgar under∣stand which of them doth indeed de∣clare the mind of God? Or how shall the unlearned be infallibly sure, that this or that Translation doth not erre?
Now to clear our selves in this puzzling question, I say (what Pa∣pists cannot deny) that the whole Canon was at first written in two Languages, which very few in com∣parison for these many Ages have understood, better then our com∣mon people do. But when the Scrip∣ture Page 105 was pen'd, these Languages, viz. Hebrew and Greek, were best known to the Church of any other. Hebrew was the Mother tongue of the Jews, and Greek was a language very fami∣liar to such of them, as were scatte∣red abroad before our Saviours time, and then, seeing they were called Hellenists, or Grecists, for using the Greek Translation of the old Testament by the Seventy. For the Gentiles (unto whom the Gospel came as well as to the Jews) many of them had it for their Mother-Tongue, and others familiarly used it, because the Grecian Monarchy had not long before swayed in all those parts of the World. This I thought good to mention, that it might ap∣pear the more probable, that Gods mind was to have his Word under∣stood by all.
But there were other people, who * understood neither of those Langua∣ges.
There were, and are still such, * and we do not deny it. But this is evident, that God was not pleased Page 106 to cause his Word to be written at first in the Vulgar languages of all Nations. For if he had, we should not be pozed (as now we are) with this Question. However what I have said, and cannot be denied, serves to hint this, That Gods mind was to have his Word understood by those to whom it came, seeing he wrote to the Jews in Hebrew, and to the Grecians in Greek. True, other people could not understand it without a Translation. And what shall we say in this Case? God did not cause the Scripture to be pen∣ned at first in the several Languages of all people and Nations. We must here leave out adversaries to que∣stion God for it, for we cannot de∣ny, That the Scripture was penned at first only in two Laguages, which many could not possibly understand without a miracle, unless it had been translated. Only since it was thus, we hope our adversaries will not say; it ought not to be transla∣ted, seeing there was a necessity for it, in order to the understanding of Page 107 it, which else could never have been without a miracle.
But how shall the vulgar know * whether Translations be according to the Originals? And then how can the Scripture translated be a Rule of faith which must be such as a man may be sure, that there is no errour in it?
This is indeed the Question, * where with they go about to puzzle us. For the Scripture (say they) as translated into the English tongue, cannot be the Rule of faith, because not infallible. And to this we in∣tend * to answer, though others have answered it long ago*. And our an∣swer is, that
1. We know of no infallible Spi∣•…it promised, or given of God for translating Scripture. And this is that which our adversaties think will give the cause wholly on their side. For seeing all Translations are liable to mistakes, the vulgar, and un∣learned can never have a Rule of faith in Scripture, say they. But we shall not quit ou•… claime to Page 108 Scripture for all this. For we can distinguish (as that learned Divine hath) between the doctrine taught in*the Scriptu e, and the means where∣by the doctrine is 〈◊〉 to our capa∣city, as between things, and words. The Divine truth which is the infalli∣ble Word of God, is (say we) the Rule of faith. The Translations are only means to shew it us, and the vessels wherein it is presented to us.
And thus in rigour of speech, we do not count the English, or any o∣ther Translation, no nor the Greek or Hebrew the Rule, because all Language is but a certain form, or manner, or means whereby it co∣meth to us. But because the do∣ctrine is not made known but by words, and languages: Therefore the Scripture translated into English is a Divine authority for faith. So men believe a Divine truth although delivered by humane voice, in p•…eaching; and just so we have the infallible Doctrine of the Scriptute, immediately inspired by the holy Ghost, though by an humane Tran∣slation Page 109 it be manifested to us.
2. But how do we know, that our Translation is right, and accord∣ing to the Originals? Or how can our unlearned people be sure of it? And if they cannot, how can the English Bibles be to them a Rule of Faith?
Sol. Our English Bible (saith our learned White) contains in it two things, viz. The Doctrine, and the Translation. The Doctrine was in∣spired by God, and written by men in∣fallibly assisted by the Holy Ghost. The Translation was done by the mi∣nistry of the Church, and industry of certain men, who th•…ugh they ha•… no supernatural inspiration, yet we know infallibly, they have not erred in the matt•…r, by the same means whereby we know other Truths, and discern other Articles of Chri•…ian Faith; viz. The light of the Doctrine Transl..ted, the testimony of the Spirit, the mini∣stry of the Word, the rul•…s of Art, the knowledge of the Tongues, &c.
Obj. Some Translations have erred, and how shall we be sure Page 110 of this, or that Translation?
Sol. We grant, that some have erred, and any may, unless there were an infallible Spirit to a•…st. What is this to us, who maintain not this or that Translation, but the Scriptures well and faithfully transla∣ted, to be the Rule of Faith? True, our Translations have been altered; but this alteration hath been in words, more then matter. And one and the same sence may be expressed divers wayes. So we may have diffe∣rent Translations, without any error in the matter and Doctrine. Nay further; what if one Translation should differ from another in sence, we are not therefore bound to quit our English Bibles, unless it did ap∣pear that we have not in them the matter and substance of all Ch•…istian Doctrine. And here we require it be shewed and proved, that our va∣rious Translations do not all agree exactly so far, as we have in them all the Articles of Christian Faith, which are necessary to be known and be∣lieved in order to our happiness. Page 111 The differences in all our Translati∣ons are not such, or so many, as that we should need the Churches autho∣rity to assure and settle us. For God openeth the hearts of his people to know his voice from others, whiles the light of Divine truth gives testi∣mony to it self, and receives autho∣rity from no other, as the Sun is seen by its own light, and as we discern sweet from sowre by its own tast.
However (as a learned man hath said) we deny not, that there are di∣vers means whereby our consciences may be assured. Some private, as skill in tongues, learning, labour, prayer, conference, &c. Some publick, as the ministry, which act of the Church is not authority to secure, but ministry to shew us, that which shall secure us; which ministry is founded on the Scrip∣ture it self, in that from thence it fetcheth the Reasons that may p•…r∣swade us, and sh•…weth the light that doth infallibly assure us. And the difference between these two is this, That the Spirit is an inward means, the teaching of the Church an outward. Page 112 The Spirit Secureth us by kis own au∣thority, the Church directeth us by her ministry. The Spirit hath light in it self, the Church borroweth hers from the Scripture. For certain, God ne∣ver since his people had his Laws written to them, hath left them without a ministry, and this is the great work of that ministry, to cause the people to understand the Laws of God. And how this can be done amongst our vulgar, unless by tran∣slating the Scripture, let them shew, that can, for we cannot.
Whereas our Adversaries take oc∣casion hence to quarrel Scripture, as no competent Rule of faith, be∣cause the unlearned vulgar want a Rule, and can have no other then a Bible translated, which is liable to many and great mistakes; we may justly question them about their Translations: For they know, there is a Latine Translation (not the Ori∣ginal for certain) which is with them commended as authentical, to say no more. Only we desire them first to answer for themselves. However we Page 113 may justly marvel, that they send us to Tradition, for our assurance about Translations, seeing our present Eng∣lish Translations are of no such an∣tient date, as we need to enquire much, what our Fathers thought of them. They are best known and dis∣cerned by those who best understand the Originals, and have the most helps and means which God hath al∣lowed for such a work, as Transla∣ting the Scriptures. And for these we may without ostentation say, that we have as good, and as many, as they have, and the Translations we have are approved of by our Church, though not by theirs. If the Papists would, or could prove that the Scrip∣tures ought not to be translated at all, or else help us to a Translation absolutely answerable to the Origi∣nals, and give us good security for it, they should do both us and them∣selves a good piece of service. But there is an absolute necessity of Tran∣slations, unless we knew of any ex∣traordinary and miraculous way of bringing our people to understand the Page 114 will of God in his written Word. And what then is to be done? or what can we do in order to the sal∣vation of poor souls? There are some perhaps, who can resolve this otherwise then we dare, and say, Let them alone to be as ignorant as may be, and believe only, as the Church believes, right or wrong. But for our part, we are of the mind, that our people will never grope out the way to Heaven, while they are blindfolded, nor can we be perswaded, that ignorance is the mother of devotion, though we know it is the mother of superstiti∣on. God 〈◊〉 m•…n from darkness u•…to light, when he turns them from the power of Satan 〈◊〉 himself, Act. 26. 18 and why came our Saviour a ligh•… into the world, if we may go to Heaven as blind as we are born? what have we to do while we are here •…pon earth, more then to get grace and knowledge, and grow in it more and more? Heaven is called the inheritance of the Saints in light, and Hell is called utter darkness.
Page 115 To say no more of this; we have the Scriptures translated into Eng∣lish, because the greatest number of our people (whose souls are as pre∣cious as others) cannot otherwise understand them without a miracle. And we use the best means we have left us, to make our people know Gods mind and will in 〈◊〉 written Word. And for Tradition; we know no use of it, unless i•… be fi•…st resolved beyond all exception, that we must believe as the Church be∣lieves, whatever the Scripture saith.
What hath been said already in answer to the former Queries, may serve in part for the 〈◊〉 hand last Q•…ery, about the sence and inter∣pretation of Scripture. However we shall say what we th•…nk, about the letter of Scripture not senc'd, and to be senc'd.
Now the sence of 〈◊〉, that Scripture hath words and 〈◊〉, is the Rule of faith, and they read it, as any m•…n reads his friends, or correspondents letters to know his mind in them, or as Factou•…s Page 116 beyond sea come to know their Merchants orders, given them in and by their letters. Sometimes a difference arises amongst these, and •…hen what can a Factour do to clear himself more, then to produce his Merchants le•…ters, and say, Here is the order you gave me, and I have followed it? so do we, when we are questioned about our faith; we know no other answer but this, that we have orders given us in Scripture to believe so and so, and not otherwise. We cannot in this case abstract the le•…ter from the sence. Scholars indeed, in their contemplations, may make such abstractions. But what have we to do with them in practical use, or a∣bout moral actions? for in such ca∣ses, we must (as all sober men do) take words, and sence together, Words and letters (as far as we e∣ver learnt) serve only to signifi•… mens sence, and meaning. And so doth the letter of Scripture signi∣fie Gods mind and meaning in i•…. And so we produce them in any mat∣ter Page 117 of question, as men do their written evidences in a trial at Law. Would it be allowed in such a case, that a Lawyer (if any such could possibly be found) should evade a full, and clear evidence, by abstra∣cting the letter from the sence? all men of common reason know, that written evidences are intended to shew mens sence and meaning, and that the letter and the sence cannot be separated, though every puny Sophister can distinguish them.
In this distinguishing between the letter, and sence of Scripture, and saying that Protestants have only the letter of Scripture for their Rule, we can guess at no design but this, that 〈◊〉 would have us run as far as Rome, to fetch the sence of Scripture thence. And then we may have it sen•…'d as it hath been heretofore by some of them. For instance; •…e∣hold here are two swords, L•…ke 22. 38. that is, the Pope hath the power of the spi•…itual and temporal sword. Then •…ast put all things under his f•…et, "〈◊〉 and 〈◊〉, and the beasts of Page 118 the fi 〈◊〉, P•…l. 8. 6, 7. and this is ap∣plied to Christ, Heb. 2. but the Ro∣man sense is, that all things are sub∣ject to the Pope. By catte•…, they will have us understand men on Earth; by the fishes in the sea, the souls in Purgatory; and the birds are the blessed souls in Heaven. Or as they all seem to sence that command of Christ, Drink ye all of this, Drink ye not not all of this. These seem fo•… certain to make neither the letter, nor the sence of Scripture to be the Rule, b•…t some•…hat else.
But the letter cannot be a Rule * (say they) seeing the letter speaks things otherwise then they ought to be understood. For the letter attri∣butes hands and seet, 〈◊〉. to 〈◊〉 which must not be so much as imagi∣ned, seeing he is a 〈◊〉.
We need not for all this be behol∣den * to Tradition, o•… seek for the sence of Scripture from the Church of Rome. Our reason (if we had no other thing to help us) will reach us▪ that God hath no limbs, nor sences as we men have, and therefore we Page 119 abhor to make any representations of God in any bodily shape, as know∣ing it unreasonable to represent God by the similitude of any creature. What reasonable man can be igne∣rant, that Gods hands 〈◊〉 his power, and his eyes, his providence, &c. and that such expressions are made use of by the Holy Ghost, in a way of condescention to our in•…r∣mity? To say no more, these rea∣sonings are no better then 〈◊〉, and are best 〈◊〉 by taking least notice o•… them.
For giving the sence of Scripture, we have the ministry, which is an ordinance of God appointed for that end. So 〈◊〉 el had a Law, and Priests to give the sence of it, Malac. 2. 7. and we have a precedent recorded, N•…hem. 8. 8. and we think, that Pa∣pists meaning is, the people should seek the sence of Scripture at the P•…iests lips, seeing they allow theirs to have no Bibles. But what need they make such ado about this? are they, or can they be ignorant, that all the great necessary truths of the Page 120 Gospel are set down so plainly in Scripture, as no man can miss of the true sence, if he do but read them with deliberation? there is no Tran∣slation but hath all these, and no man in his sences can be ignorant of them, if he will but read the Bible. And this is the love and kindness of God to us, to give us a plain and an easie Rule. What though some things are hard to exercise our diligence, yet all the necessary saving doctrine of Christ is open and obvious to such as are willing to understand and to use means for that end. Thus God hath written Laws, as men do for such as are concerned, and both the Laws of God and man may be under∣stood by all, if they will do what is their duty in order to it. There are Records of mens Laws, which we may call the Originals, and there are Statute-B oks printed for men to read, and know the Laws. And therefore all that transgress these Laws, are questioned and punished, though there are many that cannot read them, because they know not a Page 121 letter. For it is justly and reasona∣bly presu•…ed, that all that have a mind, may come to know the Laws so much as concerns them. And so may our people (say we) come to know the Laws of God in Scripture, if they are willing to it. Therefore such Queries about the sence of Scrip∣ture, &c. are no better then quib∣bles. They that b•…sie themselves to trouble us with such captious Questi∣ons, might do well to bestow their pains about some others, who may give them more thanks, then we can, for their labour. I mean our unto∣wardly people, who are some of them sometimes tryed for their lives, being indicted upon the Laws and Statutes of our Land. Let them prompt these poor wretches to plead, that the Laws are no Rule for them to walk by, seeing they never could read them, nor perhaps ever saw a Statute-Book, and they cannot be sure, the printed Sta•…utes are the same word for word with the original Records; nor can they be sure what is the sence of the Laws, for Lawyers are sometimes Page 122 divided in their opinions about it. O! what a brave piece of service this would be counted by some, thus to make void all the Laws of the Land! But the Laws of England must not be laid down upon such pre•…ences, and (we hope) the L•…ws of God in Sc•…ip∣ture shall not be made void upon no better grounds.
For our vulgar; they have as many advantages to know the Rule of •…aith in Scripture, as they have to know the Laws of the Land, and no •…ber man can say, or think otherwise. For as we have such as are studied and un∣derstanding in the Laws of England, so we have such as are by office bound to cause others to know the Laws of God. And thus hath God provided in all ages of the Church, that his peo∣ple may not perish for lack of know∣ledge. True; the Priests may, as once they did, M•…l c. 2. 8. depart out of the war, and cause m•…ny to stumb•…e at the Law. And when it is thus, no marvel if Tradition in the Church be not so 〈◊〉 a witness of the saith of Forefathers, seeing mostly, as is Page 123 the P•…iest, so are the people. How∣ever this hath been Gods ordinary way for teaching his people, and Gods Ordinance is not the worse for mans abuse. His Laws are plain and easie to be known by such as are wil∣ling, and will use means to learn them, because he hath appointed Officers to teach the good knowledge of his wayes and wills. Hence we may justly say of these exceptions, that they are to small purpose, and whoever weighs the argument, will find it to strike almost directly at the dealings of God, in declaring and dis∣pensing the knowledge of his will. For this is confessed, and cannot be reasonably denied, that Scripture was penned by the Holy Ghost, not in the several languages of all people, but in two only, which few now adayes in comp•…on do understand. Hence there is a necessity of transla∣ting and in•…erpreting Scripture, and for this purpose God hath given gifts to men, and these gifts we use as we ought to do. What need our Adver∣saries quarrel us about what we can∣not Page 124 help? but we know what lies at bottom. They would fain have us go down to them to sharpen our shares and our coulters, &c. which we are not willing to do, so long as we have Smiths enough at home to make us Swords and Spears.
I shall now conclude our answers, with that which we count the Pillar of our hopes, and (as I may say) the Sure-footing of our faith in Scripture. We do indeed make the Scriptures our only Rule, and believe that in them alone is prescribed to us, what∣ever God would have us to know and do in order to our salvation. And in this our faith we own the Divine au∣thority, whereof we see so many evi∣dent tokens in the Scriptures them∣selves. But yet we say, that as God only is a competent witness of him∣self speaking to us in his Word, so his Word is never well rooted in our hearts, till it be sealed to us by the in∣ward Testimony of his Spirit, that Spirit which spake by the Prophets pier•…ing our hearts, and perswading us, that what God commanded hath Page 125 been faithfully delivered to us accor∣dingly. And this promise we have, Isa. 59. 21. not his Word only, but his Spirit also to seal it upon the soul of every true believer. To this seal of the Spirit we owe all that acquies∣cency we have in Scripture. For when we are therewith enlightned and enlivened, we do no more trust our own, or others judgement, but are carried up above whatever is of man, and so we resolve beyond all doubtings and fears, that Scripture is of God alone. Then we look no more after proofs, or probabilities, but submit our reason and all we have. to that authority which we dare not any longer to deny, or dispute. For then we have an inward lively sense of God speaking in Scripture, and are effectually drawn wittingly and willingly to submit to our Master in Heaven. So we account (as we have reason) that only to be faith unfeigned, which God by his Spirit seals upon our hearts, in our hearing and reading the Scriptures.
But this may seem strange doctrine Page 126 to such as know nothing of these matters by experience. Therefore I shall discourse it a little, that I may (if possible) make it manifest even to reason.
The question between us and our Adversaries is about the Rule of faith. This faith (i•… is granted) is such as leads us to our bliss. Hence we Pro∣testants conclude, that this faith can∣not be wrought in us but by the Spirit of God, which alone worketh all spi∣ri•…ual good. And this al•…o, that the Spirit of God works it (ordinarily at least) by the Word, as its most pro∣per instrument. Will any put us to prove this? surely they must have too much of the A•…heist that question it. For how was all the world converted to the faith of Christ? was it not by the preaching of Christs Word, and his Spirit opening their hearts to re∣ceive it in the power of it? did not Christ and his Apostles open and ex∣pound the Old Teslament to confirm the truths of the Gospel? Luke 24. 27. Acts 26. 22. and did not the Spirit work that faith whereby thou∣sands Page 127 believed that truth?
But this is Sc•…ipture, and it must not be allowed (if our Adversaries be judges) to give evidence for us in this Case.
We shall therefore require them to shew, what service Tradition did when Christ and his Apostles p•…each∣ed the Gospel. We hope, they (viz. Christ and his Apostles) were assured some other way, that the Old Testa∣ment was the Word of God. And if they made use of it to open the blind eyes; we may be excused for saying, that God works faith in man by his Word, as the most usual Instru∣ment. And if this also be questioned, let Papists shew, how faith, which saves our souls, is, or can be wrought by their O•…al, or Practical Tradition. We know well, that children are apt enough to take up what they see, or hear their Progen•…tors do, or say be∣fore them. And so they commonly p ofess the Religion (whatever it be) which they find ready to their hands. Yea, it is with many, the great argu∣ment for their Religion, that their Page 128 Forefathers were so minded. But what is all this to the bringing us un∣to a sound believing on our Lord Je∣sus Christ, to the saving of our souls? we believe Scripture to be the Word of God, because it is the witness which God hath given of himself. Nor do we know any other way of receiving any Testimony, nor our Adversaries neither, as we think. We know too, that a man may believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God, and yet be far enough from that faith which will bring him to his happiness. The De∣vil (it is said) cited and urged Scrip∣ture, * as Gods Word, though to a very bad purpose. Certainly, that faith which brings men to their happiness, is somewhat more then a bare belief of Scripture-Truth. It is indeed a receiving of Christ offered in the Promises, such as causes us to account all but loss and dung for Christ. And for this purpose, God shines in our hearts to give the light of the know∣ledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 4. 6.
Now it almost amazeth us, to hear Page 129 of such a faith wrought by Tradition. What! hath God no Word at all, or hath he given no testimony nor wit∣ness of himself, and his will, beside the testimony of men? what need is there of Scripture if this strange do∣ctrine take place? For (say our Adversaries) Tradition is the only Rule of faith, and it hath admirable strength by the supernatural assistances of the Holy Ghost. Nay further, we must be all Fanaticks, if we hold to Scripture, and let go Tradition. But this needs no answer with those who believe that God hath a Word of his own to be a witness of his will. And shall we be perswaded, that the Testi∣mony of men is greater then that of God? there may be (we grant, and question nor) some force of Tradi∣tion for the descent of the main body of Christs doctrine. But what is this to the purpose, unless it be proved, that the Testimony of men is the power of God to salvation, whiles by it, and not by his Word, he brings men to believe? Alas! what faith do our Adversaries count upon!
Page 130 Do they dream of being saved on∣ly by a certain perswasion, that the doctrine of Christ is a truth, and no lye? If they do, let them keep their faith to themselves. We count upon somewhat else, which (we are sure) can never be effectually wrought in us b•…t by the Word, and Spirit of God. And yet we do not yield to them, that we can be no other way ascertained of the doctrine o•… Christ as true, then by Tradition. For we believe the Testimony of God speak∣ing to us in Scripture, and shall (I hope) while we live, account of it more then Tradition, or any Testi∣mony of men.
I shall now add somewhat as an Answer in general to all, and every one of the former Exceptions, or a∣ny others of the same, or like kind.
We s•…y, that there is one onely Rule of Faith and manners, and that is the Divine truth, or the Doctrine of Christ, which is summed up into these two general heads, viz. Faith and Obed•…ence, or faith and holiness, according to what God hath decla∣red, Page 131 as his mind and will. What he promises, we are to believe; and when he commands we are to obey. And in both we fulfill the will of God, a•…d walk in the ways of eternal life. This Divine truth we never found any where, but in the Scripture, and if our adversari•…s have made any other discovery, we think it their duty, to acquaint us with it. That the Son of God was made man, died, and ro•…e again, &c. for our redemption, all Christians acknowledge; as also, that all who hope for salvation by Christ Jesus must deny all ungod∣liness and worldly lusts, and live so∣berly, •…ighteously and godly in this present world. And this to know and do is eternal life, and if our ad∣versaries, or any before the•…, ever knew this doctrine otherwise then by Scripture, we are willing to lea•…n. For their Traditions (as they signi∣fie R•…straditas) we have nothing to do with them. For the question put to us, is only this, how we are, or can be ascertained of Scripture, that it hath delivered over to us the Do∣ctrine Page 132 of Christ? and this question drawn out into many and several Queries, we have answered already, and now give this as an answer to all of them or any the like. And this we do, not for the sake of such as are more knowing, and better grounded in the faith, but only for the bene∣fit of poor souls, who through want and weakness of understanding, may be puzzled with such questions.
Now to these we say again, that we hold nothing for a Rule of faith but the Divine truth, which teaches the way of salvation by Christ. For Originals, or translations of Scrip∣ture, we know there was a time, when there was neither of them. And yet there was ever, since God had a Church upon earth, a revela∣tion of the doctrine of Christ. Hence this Doctrine must be the Rule, un∣less we will say the people of God had no Rule of faith for two thou∣sand years, and more. For what∣ever God reveals as his mind, that we must heed to believe, and obey. There may be a difference, and hath Page 133 been in the manner of Revelation, but the Divine truth revealed was alwaies the same, viz. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to day, and for ever. Heb. 13. 8. There is no other name given under Heaven, whereby men can be saved, Act. 4. 12. This we believe, as all Gods people have done from the beginning, and this doctrine of Christ (which we find no where but in the holy Scriptures) is the Rule, and Law, and founda∣tion of our faith. So the Rule is, and hath been always the same; though the way and manner of revea∣ling it hath been various, according to the will and pleasure of God, and that at first more ob•…cure, and after more and more clear, till the Sun of righteousness arose. And of this doctrine revealed no Christian (we suppose) hath ever made question. What need is there then of such cap∣tious Queries about the Originals and Translations? or about the letter and sence of Scripture? We are sure, that all Originals and Transla∣tions offer and hold forth the do∣ctrine Page 134 of Christ, and whatever the letter be, this is the sence, that Christ is the only salvation of God.
And is there indeed no way of assuring this to us, but Tradition, or the Churches Testimony, as it hath been given in all ages? This •…as hath been said) is to confirm the Testimo∣ny of God, by that of men. And if our Faith be grounded only on the Translation. (English, or other) our foundation is the knowledge, skill, and faithfulness of men, and they that cannot read (as some, we are sure, cannot) must have no foun∣dation at all. But he that hath the truth of God concerning the salvati∣on of men by Jesus Christ, whether in the Originals, or Translations, or whetesoever, hath a sure foundation, viz. the unchangeable counsel of God which never fails. As for the Translations, or the Originals; though the truth of God contained in them be the Rule, yet neither of them is any part of it. For they are only means to conveigh and deliver over to men the Divine truth, which Page 135 is the only Rule. And this we have (I say again) in all Originals and Translations; and whatever sences have been made of scripture by any, all agree unanimously in the doctrine of salvation by Christ. What need we then be questioned about that, which no Christian ever made Que∣stion of? If there be any such as doubt, whether men are saved by Christ only, or whether they who are saved by him, must walk in love, and shew their love by keeping his Com∣mandments, we desire to have no∣thing to do with them, as not deser∣ving the name of Christians. And whether we can be assured of this do∣ctrine in no other way then by Tradi∣tion, I shall now leave to be judged by such as will impartially weigh what hath been said.
I have now done arguing and an∣swering, and shall only advise such, as are by their profession Protestants, that they would seriously bethink themselves, how they may hold fast the profession of their faith, without wavering, unto the end.
Page 136 The advice I offer them, is,
1. That they labour much, and earnestly to understand the mind and meaning of God in his written Word. And good reason there is for it: Gods Word is his last Will and Testament, by which alone we come to know, what Inheritance there is laid up for us in Heaven, and what Legacies he hath bequeath'd us for our livelihood and subsistence to all Eternity. Scripture is (as I may call it) the Charter by which we have and hold all the Liberties and Privi∣ledges which are freely conferr'd and bestowed on us, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; as also, all the Laws and Orders we are bound to ob∣serve, as we are Citizens of the New and Heavenly Jerusalem. What should Christians then do other, then read over their Fathers Will, and study exactly in every particular what concerns them in order to their everlasting happiness. The Letter, and the sence, the History, and the mysterie, every part and particle should be in our hea•…ts and heads, Page 137 so as we may have them (as we say) at our fingers ends.
If any ask, How shall this be? I answer, That I intend no direction to those who know better then my self, what is to be done for that end, nor yet for those who are more knowing, or of better estates and abi∣lities. For these have many and great advantages to understand the Scrip∣tures, by improving the labours of those learned ones that have made it their work and business to clear the more obscure and difficult passages in them. My only aim is, to help those poor souls, who want the help of lar∣ger Commentaries, Annotations, or Paraphrases, &c. and have no means to procure them, or if they had, are no way capacitated to use them. I mean such as can hardly read our English Bibles, and others (too ma∣ny) who cannot do so much. For these, as well as others, are con∣cern'd to enquire after the knowledge of Gods will in his Word, and these are therefore to read it, or hear it read to them, in such a manner, as to Page 138 understand what they read and hear. And this (I am confident) they may be enabled to do in some good mea∣sure, by following the directions en∣suing.
1. Let them be first, and most in studying those Scriptures, which are plainest and most easie to be under∣stood; viz. The New Testament, wherein the Evangelists and Apostles speak to them, as to children, easily and plainly, in all points of saith and manners, whiles they declare more familiarly, according to the dispen∣sation of Gospel-•…mes, how all the P•…ophecies and Promises of the Old Testament concerning Christ, and his Kingdom, are accomplished and ful∣filled to a •…ittle, so as there is to be expected no other manifestation, till his coming to 〈◊〉 all •…he world in righteouiness. The Old Testament (which shews what were the cispen•…a∣tions of Gods grace towards his peo∣ple, till Christs coming in the fle•…h) must also be read in its order, and heeded too, if there were no other reason, for this, that we may be the Page 139 more confirm'd in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, seeing he only from the beginning hath been pro∣mised and offered to mankind, as the only name under Heaven whereby we must be saved. For this is easie to be seen by all, who will open their eyes, That all the Histories of the Old Testament, the Books of Moses, and all the Laws and Ordinances by his hand delivered to Israel, as also the Psalms, and all the Prophets in every leaf and line of them, speak nothing but Christ, and the great things of God to be accomplished in and by him, unto the end of all things. They must therefore read both, com∣paring the one with the other, so as to observe, how all that was foretold and promised, is fulfilled and per∣formed in these last dayes.
2ly. In reading both the Old and New Testament, let them take most notice of those places and passages, which more plainly and fully lay be∣fore them the main points and Arti∣cles of the Christian Faith, such as we may call the Pillars of the Chri∣stian Page 140 Church, built upon the only foundation Jesus Christ. And those I shall reduce to these three or four Heads.
1. The Fall of all Mankind, with the wofull extreme corruption, and depravation of our nature so perver∣ted, as we are of our selves in every thing contrary to God, and his will, Enemies to all that is good, and in∣clin'd to nothing but evil.
2. The only all-sufficient remedy prepar'd for that malady, which was in it self desperate, and past all cure, or hope, viz. The fullness of Christ mighty to save, and the way of faith in applying him to our selves, for the pardon of all sin by his satisfaction and merit, and the purging of it by the efficacy of his grace and spirit.
3. The many and great obligations laid upon us by that grace, which hath appeared, and bringeth salvation; to deny all ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, so to answer the condition of the Gospel-Covenant in serving him, who is our only Redeemer.
Page 141 4. The providences of God, dis∣posing of his people in all their wayes here upon earth, together with the Crown of righteousness laid up for them in Heaven, when they shall have run out their race, to receive the end of their faith.
Now who can look into Scripture, and not see all these clearly presen∣ted to his view? For what so plain to be read there, as Gods mercy through the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the recovery of faln man out of sin and misery, and the duty unto which he is oblig'd upon that ac∣count? What need any be troubled at Scriptures difficulty? Can any read, or hear these read, as they are there set down, and make the answer which the Eunuch made to Philip,* asking him, If he understood what he read? And who is there that un∣derstands and believes these things with all his heart, that shall not be saved in the day of Christ? Here then (I say again) let them labour to be rooted and grounded in the know∣ledge and belief of these things, Page 142 which they may run and read in Scripture, and till they are so stabli∣shed, let them look no further. Yet is it not my mind, they should never look further. I would only have them begin with these, and so lay a sure foundation, and then build upon it by making a more strict inquirie in∣to all, and every Particle of it, so as their hearts may be comforted, being*knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of under∣standing, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ. Or (as the same A∣postle hath it) To be filled with the*knowledge of his will in all wisdome, and spiritual understanding, that they may walk worthy of his calling, to all pleasing, being fruit full in every good work, and increasing in the know∣ledge of God.
3ly. Let them read, and read a∣gain, over and over as often as possible, though they alwaies meet with some things hard to be under∣stood. For some, yea many things in Scripture are such, and yet it is Page 143 not upon that account no Rule of Faith to the meanest Christian, and of the lowest form in Christs School. Yea we are justly confident to chal∣lange our Adversaries, and put them to name one Article of our Faith, which the Scripture teacheth not as plainly, as any man can wish, or as they themselves can devise to speak it. Now these being so easily un∣derstood at first sight without an In∣terpreter, our often reading them (in so many places repeated) serves, as to help our memories, and con∣firm us the more in our belief, so to quicken us the more to our duty, in walking more answerably unto those great things of God. But there is somewhat more in it, and this they shall know that will be at pains to make a tryal, that often reading of these is a singular help to understand those which are more hard to be un∣derstood. For what is somewhere spo∣ken more obscurely, is in other places spoken more plainly; and the plai•… places, well remembred, will be as a Commentarie upon the more dark, Page 144 and difficult. And for this purpose, let it be considered, that Scripture is difficult to none so much, as to those, who are greatest strangers to it, and seldome take a Bible into their hands to read in it with any attention, whereas many (and I wish there were more) who can only read it, and use such small helps, as God mi∣nisters to them, while they are con∣cionable in what is their duty, are able to prove, and justifie the main grounds, and articles of their faith out of the word of God against any that question them. What if some things be difficult, so long as these which are absolutely necessary be plain, and easy? all are not bound to the same degree, and measure of knowledge, and this (I hope) no sober man will question, I am now perswading those of the meanest, and lowest ranck to study what (I say again) they may sufficiently under∣stand, though they have none to guide them. And let them be still pressing forward and prying further, to discover as much, as may be seen, Page 145 and known. For why hath God re∣veal'd his will, but that we should ac∣quaint our selves with it? Let the word*of Christ dwell in you richly, &c. i. e. plentifully, abundantly. He means, It should not lodge as a stranger for a night, but abide with them, and they to give it rich and liberal enter∣tainment, and make it their familiar, by frequent reading, hearing, medi∣tating upon, and conferring about the Scriptures. And they who take this course, will soon find by experi∣ence, the improvement made by it. The often reviewing of any thing (as all men know) is a great help to see more in it, then ever we saw before. Now Scripture deserves (as I may say) to be much and often look•… upon, if it were only for this, that it is the Word of the great God. But there is somewhat else: Scrip∣ture resembles its Author in this, that as he is unsearchable, never to be known by any of his Creatures, or all of them, as he is in himself, so neither can it be sought into so far, as there will not still remain some∣thing Page 146 that requires a further search. He that digs the deepest into this Mine, shall ever find new veins, such as were never discover'd before; yea, and when we have made the utmost search, the wisest of us must leave the world, signing some Texts with a Non l•…quet; In these we could never be resolv'd. Men have been in the discoveries of Natures mysteries ever since the Creation, and yet there is much that needs a further enquiry, yea somewhat (if not very much) that will never (I doubt) be found out by any. But however it be in Nature; we may reasonably con∣ceive, that in supernatural Revelati∣ons, we can never stretch our selves so far, as to reach the utmost. All that is necessary to be known in or∣der to our salvation, is easie enough to such as are willing to understand, and therefore ignorance can be no excuse. But all things in Scripture are not of the like necessity, and therefore we may think (I hope) without prejudice, that as Gods Spirit hath written some things more Page 147 darkly to exercise our diligence, so he hath written some also to humble us, and make us know our selves. And what of all this? Scripture is still a plain and compleat Rule, fit for any that will make use of it, even such as can only read it, and their read∣ing it will help them to understand enough, if they be serious, and atten∣tive in it, though I would have them neglect no other means offer'd them, viz. Meditation, Conference, &c. And unto all, let them adde servent Prayer, never opening the Bible without putting up to God that which was Davids great request, Psal. 119. 18. Lord open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law.
4ly. Let them not bring their own sence to Scripture, but fetch the sence of it from out of it self, be∣cause (as one saith) the Divine Scripture contains the whole and firm Rule of Faith, and so its authority must sway us to take up that which it I yes down, and nothing else. They take a wrong coarse therefore, who Page 148 first entertain, and harbour a conceit, or opinion of their own, upon some base or by-respects, and then search, and rack, and torture Scripture, to make it speak what they have a mind to, which is in a manner to make God a lyar, in wresting his Word to justifie and avouch the groundless conceits and fancies of mens decei∣ved hearts. The only right way to know the sence and meaning of Scripture in any doubtfull Case, is to bring hearts as pure as white paper, apt to receive, and rest in the deter∣minations of it, whatever they be, though never so contrary to our de∣signs.
Q•…. But what shall we do to know the true and right determination, as Scripture gives it, especially when many, as knowing as our selves, can∣not agree about it?
Sol. 1. It is altogether impossible for some men to understand aright the mind of God in Scripture, be∣cause they enquire after it, with a mind resolv'd to hold what they have once taken up, whatever it be. Such Page 149 are all that are wise in their own eyes, and wilfull in their own wayes, wedded to their wills, and abandon'd to their filthy and fleshly Interests. Such as these are constant and ordi∣nary in works and wayes of ungodli∣ness and unrighteousness, notwith∣standing Scripture-commands are so expresly and clearly against them. What can be more plain, then the 6th. 7th. 8th. and 9th. Command∣ments, and yet how many make a constant trade (as I may say) of un∣cleaness and cruelty, oppression, de∣ceit and falshood? These might easi∣ly know Gods mind, if they had a mind to it. But they are Rebels against the light, resolv'd to serve their lusts, and have their wills, whatever God hath said to the con∣trary. And till these come to be of another mind, I am sure, they can never understand the mind of God in his Word, as he intended it.
2. To be resolv'd aright in all practical Questions and Cases, we must first resolve to renounce and abandon our own wills and affecti∣ons, Page 150 our lusts and interests, as the Apostles advise, Jac. 1. 22. 1 Pet. 2.1. No paper thats besmear'd, or blot∣ted, can be good to write upon: The unlearned and unstable (such as all are, who are swayed by their own lusts) will pervert all Scripture to their own destruction, as the Apostle hath it, 2 Pet. 3. 16.
Q•…. But what must there be?
Sol. An honest upright heart, dis∣pos'd and resolv'd to do all the wills of God, unto whose obedience it is sabdued by the power of his grace and spirit. New born babes desire * to feed on that which bred them: Now by the word of Truth they were begotten, and that the Apostle Peter calls milk, exhorting Christi∣ans, * after they are new born, to de∣sire it, as little Infants do milk, to grow thereby. And lest they might think he meant, they should be al∣wayes children, he calls it *reasona∣ble sincere milk, to shew, they should be in understanding men, as well as in malice children. An ho∣nest heart can never miss the mark, Page 151 because it aims at nothing but to know, and do the will of God: For such a one hath the promise of God for his security. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and*he will shew them his Covenant: And vers. 12. Him shall he teach in the way that he shall chuse. Let none there∣fore that are truly honest, and sound at heart, fear or doubt lest they should mistake their way, so long as God un∣dertakes to be their guide. The Word is, as God himself, a light, and often * so called; and how can he go astray, that hath God and his Word to lead him? Yea, the entrance of thy words*is light, it giveth understanding unto the simple, saith the Psalmist Even the veriest Idiots may here learn at first sight, what the wilest of the world without grace will never attain unto. And what if such poor souls should never understand all Scrip∣ture-Passages, so as to satisfie them∣selves about the true sence and meaning of them! Surely there's no hutt, nor hazard, so long as they are sure to be taught of God Page 152 in all the concernments of their souls.
To close up this; Read (I say) with an intention and resolution to practice all that appears to be duty, and remember well those words of our Saviour, Joh. 7. 17. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. For to*him that hath, (i. e. that improves what he hath) shall more be given, and he shall have abundance. And thus (as one saith) they want no gists for understanding the Text, that have, and use the Text it self, in that all Exposition is to be fetched out of it.
I shall adde to the foregoing Di∣rection this one word, viz. That they who are honest, be also humble, be∣cause to such only is the promise of grace made, Jac. 4. 6. 1 Pet. 5. 5. The meek will he guide in judgement, and the meek will he teach his way, Psal. 25. 9. He that is wise in his own conceit, cannot hope to be wiser through the teachings of the Spirit, because God resisteth the proud, or he scorneth the scorn•…rs. He is not *Page 153 with them, but against them, and is so far from giving them more, as he takes away from them even that which they have.
5ly. Let their delight be in Gods Word, to meditate and muse often and seriously upon what they have read and heard. This was Davids constant practice, as is to be seen by his professing it so often in the Psalms. And Psal. 1. 2. he gives it, as the character of a Blessed man, and one that's truly godly. Who∣ever delights in any thing, cannot but often think of it, yea, and take any occasion that's offered, to speak of it, because his heart is full of it. And this often thinking, and speak∣ing of the Word, causes us both to understand it, and also to be more affected with it. Reading, and hear∣ing, is as taking in meat; Meditati∣on is as concoction and digestion, without which we shall never grow, or gather strength. There are many that read the Scripture, and can dis∣course of it, as being no strangers to it; and yet they are great strangers Page 154 to it all the while. And why? Be∣cause it is not in their hearts, to love and delight in it, as David did. They have a conceit of it, as somewhat worthy of some discourse now and then, when they have little else to do, or when company, or some acci∣dent gives them an occasion. But a professed Christian should be as David, so affected alwayes, as to say, O how love I thy law! It is my medi∣tation*all the day. And again; Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. So the Word, thus hid, and laid up in the heart, would be at home, alwayes at hand to answer those bad neighbours that will be alwayes about our doors, to creep in, whenever there is an op∣portunity, yea and thrust them out, when they are urgent, as troublesom, unwelcom guests, and shut the door upon them. So much is clearly im∣plied in the place next abovecited. The Word in the heart, as in a place of constant residence, is a Barricado against all the assaults and insinuati∣ons of sin, and Satan; and our Savi∣our Page 155 gave a sufficient proof and expe∣riment of it, when he was tempted of the Devil, Mat. 4. Search the Word therefore, so as to get it into thy heart, that it may lodge there, to be as a guard about thee, and whoever reads, or hears it with any other in∣tention, I dare warrant him, shall ne∣ver thrive in his soul by it. He may perhaps know much of the letter, and sence also, and be able to argue from it, so as to puzzle others about some difficult passages in it, but will never know any thing of it, so as he ought to know. For God hath given us his Word, as a choice Jewel, wor∣thy of the best Cabinet we can find to lay it in, viz. The secret of our hearts, or the inmost closet of our souls. Our outward senses, our tongues, our understandings, our memories will give no entertain∣ment to such a guest as the Word, which saith as God himself, Give me thy heart, there's nothing else will con∣t nt me. There's never a room be∣sides in our houses, where the Devil hath not a through-fare: Only the Page 156 heart fill'd and fenc'd with the Word laid up in it, is an impregnable Fort, which Satan may assault, but can ne∣ver enter.
6ly. Let them study the Scrip∣tures, and their own hearts together, so as to observe, how they suit one with the other, and how they clash, or accord together. Scripture is (we say) the only Rule, not of faith only, but of manners also, and by it alone we are to examine and try all the workings of our whole man, bo∣dies and souls, our thoughts and fan∣cies, our affections, purposes, and re∣solutions; whatever we design, or take in hand, all must be done by Rule, and there's no other Rule ap∣pointed of God for the regulating of our wayes and walkings, but his writ∣ten Word. Let us then do as Work∣men, that have their Square, or some other Rule alwayes by them, and ever and anon are measuring and examining how their work answers, and agrees with it. Now our work; in order to our Eternity, being of in∣finitely more consequence, we have Page 157 more need to be alwayes measuring, that we go not beyond, or beside the line. This do therefore when you read, and study Scripture, viz. Apply it to the frame of your spirits, and the course of your lives, by a serious questioning your consciences, as in the presence of God, to this purpose, or somewhat like, viz. Did I this or that according to this Rule? Did I consult God, and his Word, when I undertook such a business? Is the way I am now in, answerable to what God hath commanded? Do not I in such a design or undertaking, clash with some Commandment or other? O! that so many loose and vitious persons as are now adayes, would be perswaded to sit down, and seriously question themselves, whether their uncleanness, excess, revellings and riotings, cursed O•…ths and blasphe∣mies, and many other horrid Impie∣ties, be agreeable to the Rule of Gods Word! But I must let them alone, and leave them till the time come, when they'le be made to know, that Gods Word is such a Rule, as will Page 158 over-rule, yea and run them down so as they shall never rise more to contradict it, as now they do. For such as are more civil and sober; so as to read the Scripture sometimes (which those other likely seldome or never do) I heartily wish, they will henceforward observe, what hath been said before, and lay their lives to the Rule and Line, which (I hope) they will do, if they heartily believe the word of God to be that Law, by which they and all mankind shall one day be judg'd, and tri'd. How e•se can they hope to stand, and abide the trial? And when shall they do this work of searching and trying their hearts and ways, if they set not about it now, when they have nothinh else to do, but to frame their works, and do∣ings unto that which God hath laid out to lead, and guide them to their happiness?
7ly. Let them in reading observe, and attend chiefly those things, which are often inculcated, and most in∣sisted upon in Scripture. If any shall Page 159 ask why, I answer, Because those (to be sure) are matters of greatest concernment. 'Tis a great vanity (specially in men of weak parts, and small gifts) to pry, and pore much (as some will do) upon such passa∣ges, as have difficulty enough in them to poze, and puzzle the wisest. And their vanity (to say no worse) is the more, because those difficult pa∣ssages have, for the most part, no∣thing in them but what we may be safely ignorant of. And yet some things of greatest concernment may be more obscurely in some places de∣livered, But still I affirm confidently, they are otherwhere express'd more fully, and plainly, so as no man of common sence can doubt or make a∣ny question about them.
And if any shall object against what I have said, that we may be safely ignorant of some things declar'd in Scripture, I answer, That in this I am (if I mistake not) of the same mind with all Divines in the world, who hold some things to be of the foun∣dation, so as they are necessary to be Page 160 known, and believ'd in order to sal∣vation, and others only superstru∣ctive, such as ignorance or errour about them, is not in it self damna∣ble. Who can rationally suppose, that '•…is of the same consequence, to know every passage of Scripture-Hi∣story, as to know, and believe that Jesus Christ died for our Sins and rose again for our Justication? No question the Lord (who never did any thing in vain) would never have reveal'd, and recorded any the smallest matter, but that there was a cause. But thereupon 'twill never follow, that all things reveal'd do alike concern us. To instance; That the dead shall rise again, and come to Judgement, is (as I take it) a fundamental Article of our Faith: But that the dead in Christ shall rise first, before they, who shall be found alive at the last day, shall * be changed, is not (I think) of so much consequence, though this also is a truth of Divine Revelation, and therefore to be believed. If the dead be not raised, our faith is vain. Page 161 1. Cor. 15. But so long as we believe the Resurrection, I suppose, we may be saved, though we should not know the order that will be in raising the dead, and changing them who will be then alive. All this howe∣ver must be so understood and inter∣preted, as I intend it, not to allow, or countenance any wilfull neglect, or affected ignorance of any Scrip∣ture-Truths, but only to salve the Consciences of such, as cannot after all their most carefull enquiry, come to know all the mind of God in eve∣ry particular, as Scripture hath it. Can any man reasonably think, we are bound to mind, and remember every descent in all the Genealogies, as we are to have in mind the Birth, Death, Resurrection, and Ascenti∣on of our Lord Jesus Christ? who knows not the d•…fference, that hath bee among the most learned, and still is, in reconciling the Genealogy of our Saviour, as it is with some difference recorded in two Evange∣lists? And are there not (think we) many in Heaven, who never much Page 162 studied Christs Pedigree, after the flesh? To return therefore where we left; I say again, observe those things especially, which are most in∣sisted on, because those are of most concernment, and the Holy Ghost often repeats them for this reason, that we may the better mind, and remember them. We know, and believe, that in some one or more Books of Scripture there is revealed so much of Gods mind and will, as is necessary to be known in order to Salvation. And yet it pleased the Lord to give us his mind in other Books of Scripture, about the same things, and many others besides, that the joynt consent of many might the more confirm our faith, and we might in that which so much concerns our Souls, have full mea∣sure pressed down, and running o∣ver. Witness the Evangelists all re∣cording the History of our Saviour with some variety, though no con∣tradiction in the least. As also Pauls Epistles so often repeating the doctrine of Salvation by Christ a∣lone, Page 163 through faith in his blood, and the duties of all Christians in all their Relations. Now (I say a∣gain) observe, and attend those things, as being of greatest con∣cernment, and others also in their order; For in so doing, we shall be sure to know so much as we need to do.
In a word; Read attentively, and that as often as may be, with all humility, and an earnest sincere de∣sire to know the will of God in or∣der to your doing it, alwayes beg∣ging the assistance of his grace and spirit, who alone teaches us to 〈◊〉. Then will your own experience convince you, against all the rea∣sonings of corrupt minds, that there is a clear light in Scripture, such as may easily be seen of all, whose eyes the God of this World hath not blinded, lest the light of the glori∣ous Gospel of Christ should shine unto them.
3. Not to rest themselves satisfi∣ed in a notional knowledge of 〈◊〉 re-truths, 〈◊〉 to labour for, and ne∣ver Page 164 leave till they come to that which is practical and experimental. For then men are indeed grounded and established in the truth, when they have tasted of it so, as to know it by experience. Then they believe Scrip∣ture to be the Divine truth, as a man believes snow to be white, because he sees it, or honey to be sweet, be∣cause he hath tasted of it. Labour (I say) to set your [Probatum cst] to every Gospel-truth, that you may be able to say out of your own experi∣ence, this is the truth of Christ, and cannot be otherwise. Then you may reason as that woman did, Joh. 4. 29. Come see a man that hath told me all things that ever I did; Is not this the Christ? So you may say, here is doctrine that hath discovered me, as nothing else could have done. Can this be any other then the Word of God? there is nothing in it, but what I am certainly assured of, by what I know, and have found, and felt in my self. Surely God who is infinitely good, could ne∣ver produce out of himself, such Page 165 an unclean thing, as I am by nature. And that I am now altogether corrupted so, as in me dwelleth no good thing, I know by experience. Hence I cannot in the least question, what Scripture hath revealed con∣cerning the fall of man from that estate of holiness wherein God first made him. For I am sure of it, be∣cause I find my natural and sinfull condition discovered to me in Scrip∣ture, just as I have felt in my self, and so laid open as I could never express it, yea or have imagined it. And so is all that I read of the womans seed [Christ] and all the graces of Christ revealed in me, as that my heart is now the counterpart (as it were) of that act of pardon drawn with Gods own hand, and recorded in the Scrip∣tures of truth. For the wayes of Gods Commandments; I now find they are not grievous, but all pleasant, easie, and plain, as scripture makes them. I care no•… for the reasonings of men, so long as I know the truths of God by what I find and feel in my self.
Page 166 And for a motive take this, viz. Thou canst never be well rooted in the faith otherwise. Let the head be never so full fraught with know∣ledge, so long as the heart is not sea∣soned with grace, a man is capable of being overcome by such argu∣ments, as will be suggested from worldly and sleshly Interests. He that loves any thing better then Christ, what ever be his present pro∣fession, or resolution, may be dis∣swaded from following him, when he comes to tempted with fears, or favours from the world. Only he who hath learnt Christ as the truth is in him, to put off the old, and put on the new man is impregnable in all assaults, having the root of the matter in him, such as will never quaile, or die right away. Many a Demas hath fallen off, having loved this present world, and no argu∣ments will make a man invincible to all temptations, but an unfeigned saith that is alway attended with a good conscience. This, and no∣thing else can give a man Sure-foot∣ing Page 167 in his Christianity. There is many a great Scholar, who can dis∣pute the truth against all gainsayers, and never be moved, or shaken, be∣cause he is throughly studied in the grounds of it, and understands the deceits and fallacies of all who are o∣therwise minded. But so long as his heart is not right with God, he is but as a tree with a great top, that may soon be turned up by the roots, if there come a great tempest or blast of temptation from worldly Interest, either to fright or flatter him out of his Religion. Hence I say again, never think your selves well ground∣ed in your Christianity, t•…ll you have studied the Scriptures, and your own hearts together, and found by expe∣rience that you are transformed by the renewing of your minds into that doctrine which is therein deli∣vered to you.
3. And when you have found out the Divine truth in Scripture, by your experimental feeling of the grace and power in it, labour to hold it fast, and by no means let it Page 168 go. Buy the truth, and sell it not;*but contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints. If any now question, how this is to be done? my advice is; 1 To order all your ways and doings exactly according as you find the Rule of them laid down in Scrip∣ture. For it is not the profession, or forme, but the power of god∣liness (as I said before) that will will keep you stedfast unto the end. Now Loosness and Carelesness in your ways and walkings will expose you to temptations, and not only so, but they will also loosen and un∣rivet your souls from cleaving so close to the truth, as you have formerly done. You will find by wofull ex∣perience, that any indulgence to worldly Interests, and fleshly lusts, will much weaken your wonted affe∣ctions to the truths of Christ, and if there be a continuance of that in∣dulgence, it will eat out all the life and heart of your Religion, so as you will never suffer, or venture much for that which you love no better. So long as your hearts are kept Page 169 warm in the love of the truth, so long only you are stedfast, and un∣moveable in the profession of it. There are many Protestants (so called) who know little (the more pitty) of what they profess. And there are too many who (whatever they profess, or know) are vitious and abominable in their lives and conversations. For these, we must leave them to the mercy of God, in hope, that yet their eyes may be opened, and their hearts turned. But we cannot reasonably expect, that such should be constant in their profession, if once they meet with a strong temptation. Alas! how should they, who know, and love the truth no better? Yea, though men may perswade themselves and others in a calme, what courage and reso∣lution they have, and will be ready to shew in a storm, yet if there be not sincerity and real mortifica∣tion of all lusts constantly endeavou∣red and exercised, their hearts will deceive them, when they are most confident of them. Any prevailing Page 170 Interest in a Soul is as a strong biass in a boule. A man may aim to cast the boule so, as it shall run in a right line to the mark, but the biass will never suffer it to run, as is intended. And so it will prove by every one whose heart hath a biass in it. For it will turn aside (ere it come half way home) whither its Interest carries it. Sirs, it is no small mat∣ter to abide by a mans profession and Religion, when he is put to it by any great tryal, whether of persecu∣tion, or promotion. Nay how can it be at all, unless the Interest of Christ, and the allurements of his love are such, as will counterpoyse all that is laid into the ballance a∣gainst them? Will any man in cool blood venture life and all, unless there be somewhat of far more worth to countervaile the loss? this therefore must be in order to our stedfastness in the faith, viz. A constant exercise of practical godli∣ness for keeping up a good understan∣ding and correspondence between God and our Souls, that we may be Page 171 so warmed with continual influences from Heaven, as to say with the A∣postle, 2. Cor. 5. 14. That the love of Christ constraineth us.
2. I advise yet far•…her; that in our greatest inlargements we walk humbly with God, as knowing that his power alone is all the strength whereby we are enabled to stand. Peters pre•…umptuous confidence in his own strength, wrought nothing but repentance for his sainting in an evil day. By his own strength shall*no man prevail. And therefore the Apostle exhorts, to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, Eph. 6. 10. and to put on the whole armour of God that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil, v, II. It is God alone that keeps the feet of his Saints, 1 Sam. 2. 9.
Page 172 There need no motives (I hope) to perswade. However consider,
1. What we have believed. Not cunningly devised fables, but a sure Word of Prophecy, such as the Apo∣stle * seems to prefer (if the compa∣rative be senc'd according to the let∣ter) before visions and immediate Revelations: Or he might so call them, because the Prophecies might be more sure to the godly Jews through long use and acquaintance. We know the Jews at Berea examined Pauls doctrine by the Scriptures, and are not taxed, but commended for it. And if an Angel from heaven should preach any other doctrine, then what we have in Scripture, we have no reason to believe it. Those bles∣sed Spirits indeed never did it, nor ever will. But we make the suppo∣sition, which the Apostle doth, Gal. 1. for the more Emphasis. For Scrip∣ture-truths, they are of long stand∣ing, and approved by their abiding the test and triall of so many ages. Christ and his Apostles made the old Testament the Standard of their Page 173 doctrine, and appealed to it for the proof of all they preacht to the peo∣ple. Moses and the Prophets are more to be heeded, then if a man rose from the dead, Luk. 16. 31. And they who hear not the one, will ne∣ver regard the other, if our Saviour said true. Was it ever heard that a∣ny doctrine so much as pretended to Scriptures antiquity? Or is it possible that any thing but certain truth should outstand the siftings and win∣nowings of so many ages, specially when it hath had so many professed enemies? Shall we now call in que∣stion what was never questioned be∣fore? Have not all Christians (who deserved that name) unanimously agreed in believing the faith and truth delivered in Scripture? or do Protestants now believe any thing that was not believed by all Saints ever since any part of Scripture was penned? we believe on the Son of God who gave himself a ransome for all. And this Doctrine we have in Mos•…s, who was the first penman of Scripture, and (as our Saviour saith) *Page 174 wrote of him. Must we now call in question all that Moses, and the Prophets, and the Apostles have written, yea, and cry it down as no Rule of faith? then farewell all our Christianity, and the Christian Reli∣gion at once. For where have we learnt all the mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, &c. 1 Tim. 3. fin. Who, or what hath given us to know, what have been all the Trans∣actions of God with the sons of men, in order to eternal life from the beginning? Will our Adversa∣ries say roundly once for all, that the doctrine of Scripture is not the doctrine of Christ? Let them speak out, if they have a mind to say so, and then we know what to answer them. But if they will not avow this, (as indeed they have not yet in plain terms) we have this to say for our selves, that we believe, what they deny not to be the truth of God, and the doctrine of Christ. That we cannot be assured of this otherwise then by Tradition, hath Page 175 been already answered, and no more needs to be said about it. For mens Tradition, we know it will serve (nothing better) to usher in and establish mens Inventions. But shall we renounce our own Reason so far, as to appeal to men (who are all lyars) for the truth of what is spo∣ken by him that cannot lye? Oh! consider and remember, that in be∣lieving Scripture, we believe not Prophecies, or Prodigies, not heard of till yesterday. No; we believe the everlasting Gospel, and the good old way to rest and peace. The very doctrine of practical godliness, and moral righteousness, taught us in Scripture, is such as we cannot but assent unto it, as agreeing with, and approved by our natural light, so as we must forfeit out Reason, ere we can be perswaded to question Scrip∣tures authority. Read but the Pro∣phets, and the Psalms, and the Pro∣verbs, and Pauls Epistles, or other parts of Scripture, and consider the precepts of sobriety, temperance, righteousness, justice and truth, Page 176 which are there so many; and will not our consciences say, these are all of God, and we know they are Di∣vine by the natural light which is in us? Who could have cleared up the inbred notions and impressions that are upon all mens hearts, so as they are cleared in Scripture, but that light in which alone we see light? for the mysterie of Godliness; we know it is altogether of supernatural Divine Revelation, and being such, what need is there, or can there be of any mens or Churches authority to confirm it? To say no more, let Reason judge and determine, whether the faith of men can autho∣ritatively confirm the faith of God. And yet it must, if we cannot be ascertained of the one without the other; yea, and our faith in Gods testimony must be resolved into the testimony of men, as yielding to us the greatest certainty, beyond all doubt or question. Consider, I say, what we have believed, viz. the an∣tient, yea, eternal Word of the ever∣living God, and this Word alwayes Page 177 one and the same as God is, only at sundry times, and in divers manners, it was spoken to the Fathers, by the Prophets, and in these last times to us by the Son himself, and such as he hath sent.
2. Consider, that in believing the testimony of God in his written Word, we believe and receive the faith of our Forefathers, who suffered for their close adhering to Scriptures doctrine, and could not be parted from it, but rather chose to part with their lives for it. And herein they approved themselves the genuine and kindly issue of all the antient Martyrs, who loved not their lives unto the death for the testimony of Jesus. We should too much wrong our selves, and the cause of Christi∣an Religion to yield that, which our Adversaries will never be able by dint of argument, to force from us, viz. That we are upstarts, newly s•…rung out of the ashes of our late Reformers. They were (as we call them) Reformers, that repaired the desolations which had been made in Page 178 many ages, and did not coin a new faith never before heard of. We are not Calvinists, or Lutherans, (though so miscalled by some) but Christians, as Luther, Calvin, and others were in the last age. And they and all others of the same pro∣fession, stood to maintain their do∣ctrine, as the faith of Forefathers, all along from the beginning of the Gospel. And our Adversaries are not ignorant, that this hath been held and sufficiently made good by the vote and testimony of the most antient Fathers, unto whom our Learned have appealed as unto Judges in this Cause. But our faith is not in the Fathers never so antient or learned, but in our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we have learnt to count and call our Father and Ma∣ster, as being the only Lawgiver. Only we appeal to the Fathers thus far, as to produce them for our wit∣nesses, and know we have reason to alledge their testimony, because they owned the same doctrine of Christ, which we now do. And though the Page 179 appellation of Protestants was occa∣sioned in the last age by the Prote∣station made against the Interim, yet these were but successors to those, who had for many ages before pro∣tested against the additions and in∣ventions of men, besides the Rule of faith. We can therefore plead Antiquity and Succession, as well as others, and better too, unless they could prove better then they have done yet, that their Faith is the same that was delivered by the Apostles. For this is it which we build our faith upon, and by this are we confirmed in it, viz. That we profess the same truths, which the Apostles received from Christ, and delivered unto the first Christian Churches. Hence we say, when we are told, that the Te∣nets of our Adversaries (wherein they differ from us) have been re∣ceived for many ages, that they are not so old as the Apostles. Besides we know, that custome besides or*against truth, is but an old errour: And whatso•…ver is against truth, is an Heresie, though never so old: Truth Page 180 is older then errour, and good was be∣fore any evil. And so we consent, that what was first, was best. But that our Adversaries Tenets are such, we deny, and say, they were not from the beginning, though some of them were taken up early enough, and too soon, as (we know) it was not long ere sin got into the world, and yet it was after God had made men righte∣ous. Our Saviour, Matth. 5. cor∣rects many things that had been long received, and went for currant, by opposing his Word against them, [But I say unto you] It is abundantly enough to justifie us in what we hold, that we find our faith in Scripture, and this our Adversaries know very well, and therefore we need not marvel, that they are so busie in raising doubts and questions about its Divine authority. For let us once let Scripture go (as some would have us) our faith is gone also. Were it not for Scripture, I know nothing to hinder, why every man may not coine a faith to himself, and say it is the doctrine of Christ. Page 181 Yea, deny Christ and all Christianity. For what have we to prove it besides the Scripture? or how can we dis∣prove any damnable doctrines and devices of men without it? O! let us never think of turning from the good old way, wherein we follow all those Champions, whom nothing could perswade to part with it.
3. Consider what, and how much we loose, if we hold not fast this ground of our confidence stedfast unto the end. It is not for nothing, that our adversaries press and urge us so much this way. They tell us plain∣ly, that let go this and all is gone. And they say truly in it. For our faith hath no Sure footing, if Scrip∣tures authority be such as they would make it. We have separated from them for many years past, and the true reason and ground of our sepa∣ration was, that they held and pra∣ctised so many things contrary to Scripture, and would not yield to lay them aside. Hereupon we resolved to communicate no longer with them, because we could not admit Page 182 what we judged sinfull, as being a∣gainst, or beside that which we count the only Rule.
This (I say) hath been and still is the quarrel between us; For if it be observed, in our differences with them, we still are on the negative part. And why so? Surely, because our differences are about such things as they hold besides and against Scrip∣ture. For in these we are bound to deny what they affirm. I say again bound, sub poenâ of loosing all our profession, so far as we are Prote∣stants in opposition to Papists. And this let any man that is sober and in∣telligent judge of. For let Oral and Practical Tradition (as they call it) be the only Rule of faith, what is be∣come of Scripture? may I not justly ask, whether it be something, or a meer empty nothing? what can it be (at best) more then a Cipher, which (we know) in numbering stands for nothing, unless a figure be put to it? Tradition (say they) is that, and that only, which can ascertain us, that this is the very do∣ctrine Page 183 of Christ which we believe. And then what is Scripture more then a dead letter? and Tradition is it which gives Spirit and life to it. And where are we then? even where our adversaries would have us to be. Then we must go to the Church for our faith, and take that for the truth, which hath been delivered down for many ages whatever it be, right or wrong. The Church (say they) cannot erre. And so say we. But they, and we are not agreed for all this. For they mean no other Church, then their own, and this (say they) hath the true faith which from the A∣postles was delivered at first, and hath been conveighed down succes∣fively in all ages, and it now rests only among Roman Catholicks. God hath and ever had (say we) a Church, or society of men on earth, who did not, indeed could not (be∣cause of Gods promise) erre in any thing necessary to to be known and believed in order to salvation. But we cannot admit their Church, and this to be all one. God hath made Page 184 a promise to his Church that he will be with it to the end of the world, and this Church shall be led into all necessary saving truths. But let our adversaries shew us (if they can) one promise of God made to any ge∣neration of men after the flesh, such as was made to Abrahams seed, and was made good to them untill the promised seed came. Israel so long continued to be Gods people, be∣cause of his promise. But God hath no one people of one stock and kin∣dred ever since, unto which he hath made any such promise. For many, who were once a people to God, afterwards became none, and they who yet are none, are in a capacity to be Gods people, and shall be such, when he pleases to call them. Hence we count nothing of any arguments drawn from personal and lineal suc∣cession, but look only after successi∣on in doctrine. And this we have reason to do, seeing the Heavenly inheritance is entayled only upon those who know, and obey the truth. And where is this truth, if not in Page 185 Scripture? and if we once let go Scriptures verdict in the Cause, must we not stand, or fall according to the sentence of the Church? and what Church can pretend to more then the Church of Rome will pretend unto? but let Scripture be judge in the Case, and it will soon appear, that all is but a vain and empty pretence. And why should we not appeal to it alone, and leave it to umpire the differen∣ces? Our adversaries never durst say as yet (for ought I have known) that it is not the Word of God, though some of them have spoken most un∣worthily of it, and reproached it so, as none would (I think) do, that seriously believed it to be indeed the Word of God. However they say not in terms, that it is not the Word of God, though that will be the con∣sequence of what they say, and that (we think) unavoidable, if all things be duly considered. Surely to us it must be so. For if it hath no credit as to us, without a Certificate under the hands of men, it deserves no credit at all (such as we must give Page 186 to it) as a Rule of faith, and the ground work of all our hopes. And this is rational, because then we need not go to Scripture, since there is somewhat else that is more to be credited, then it. For no man that is reasonable can be ignorant, that what makes any thing to be what it is, must be more such, if not formally, yet virtually, or eminently. And our adversaries take it so, and therefore say plainly, that Scripture for many reasons is no competent Rule of faith, but Tradition doth the work that is needfull to be done, and is a Rule in every respect compleat.
Now let this be granted, and then look about, and see what follows. They say and think, (though not tru∣ly) that they have Tradition by the forepart, viz. that all the first ages of the Christian Church held as they do now. And for the hinder end, they h•…ve it fast enough, as we all know. For we must grant, what we cannot (without impudence) deny, 〈◊◊◊〉 of these parts of the 〈◊◊◊〉 ward, for ma∣ny Page 187 of the latter ages. And we do not wonder at it, because it is no more then what Scripture hath fore∣told. And now if Scripture be thus laid by, what will become of all that faith which we have, other then what Papists have? or how can we refuse whatever they shall impose by their Tradition? And shall it be ever said, that we have made a separation so long, and now turn back again upon no other ground then this, viz. that Tradition is the Rule of Faith, and Scripture is every way unfit for such a work? what is this, but to cast dirt in the faces of all that went before us, and hazarded all to vindicate and ob•…ain that liberty, which the written Word, so long suppressed, hath since had amongst us? For this was the rise and root of all the disorders and distempers that ever have been since the Apostles times unto this day, viz. that men have not contented them∣selves with a Rule of Gods making, but (in the pride of their hearts) would frame Laws unto themselves. And this began in the Apostles times, Page 188 by the workings of Satan in the false Apostles, who would then keep up the antient Laws of God (intended only till the time of Reformation) when according to his will they ought to be laid aside. This (I say) we may justly suspect to have given the first occasion to others afterwards of devising many things besides the on∣ly Rule. And so it is come to pass by many degrees at last, that Scrip∣ture is no Rule at all, if some men may be credited in what they say.
And now let us consider what we have been adoing for an hundred years and more. Have we all this while believed in vain? And have all those who are gone to another world before our eyes, died without hope? What! have we been in a sweet dream so long, and could ne∣ver be awakened till now? Are we now to seek of a Rule of faith? In∣deed we have then believed to small purpose, and so have many others whom we have hitherto thought to be with the Lord. What! have we never received any fruits of the Spi∣rit, Page 189 such as have been a seal to the truths of the written Word, so as we can say, we know what and whom we have believed? were our eyes never opened, nor our hearts ever humbled or melted? If they have been, then consider, what doctrine hath been preached to us, and by what means we came to be what we are. And have we not enough for all intents and purposes? we have Jesus Christ evidently set forth to us in Scripture, and no where else. And have we need of any other Sa∣viour? we have the way of holiness in Scripture, as no where else, and can we go to heaven in any other way? Are we in danger of perishing by believing in Christ alone? or will the denyal of our selves, and all un∣godliness and worldly lusts (as Scrip∣ture commands, and requires) ha∣zard our souls? Nay will not faith in Christ alone, such faith (I mean) as works by love, save us? then what will become of me, and others who never yet learnt any other way of salvation, and resolve (through Gods Page 190 help and grace) never to think of any other?
But I shall say no more, when I have related one story. Darbishire (Benners kinsman) said to Hawkes (the Martyr) You will have nothing, but your pretty Gods Book. No, (said Hawkes) and is not that enough for my salvation? Yes, (said the other) but not for your instruction. Then (said Hawkes) God send me the sal∣vation, and take you the instruction. And of his mind am I, and many others too, I hope. If Scripture be not sufficient to shew and assure us, what we are to believe and do in or∣der to our salvation, (as some would perswade us) we are resolved, how∣ever to leave our souls to Gods free mercy, as it is revealed therein, and leave others, that have a mind, to take all the Instruction, that is to be had by Tradition.