CHAP. XIII. Our Adversary his foul and greater Circle commit∣ted, pretending to rid his claim to infallibility from the censure of a Circle. His many absurdi∣ties, and great ignorance in the pursuit of this at∣tempt discovered. A better resolution of Faith proposed according to Protestant Principles.
I accused our Adversaries of a Circle commit∣ted in their pretence to Infallibility, because they prove it by Scripture, and the Infallibility of Scripture they prove by the infallibility of their Church, which is to go still round in a Circle. Mr. I. S. to wind himself out of this Circle, presents to us a resolution of his Faith, containing in it a greater Circle, or many Circles together. Having premised some trivial notions to ching the obscurity of Faith, and evidence of credibility required to the assent of it, he falls on extolling the power and aptness of Miracles to beget such credibility, reducing all to the ad∣vantage of the Roman Church, authorized with Miracles, as he pretends: and from page 180. he enters into his resolution of Faith thus.
Page 78 Here I am to doubt whether this be the same man that spoke to us a little before, p. 177. and more at large, p. 102. extolling the force of Miracles to beget an evidence of Credibility in the proposer of divine Verities; or another of his Auxiliaries, that came in his place to carry on the work, without regard to what the former said. But whoever he be, let us see how he disputes against Miracles: If the Miracles be absolutely evident, says he, they can be no motive of Faith, which is of its own nature obscure: and if they be but morally evi∣dent Miracles, they can not be the motive, because the motive of Faith must be infallible. How blind is the attemt of this Man against Miracles? how destructive of his own purpose? How absurd and ridiculous his argument against Miracles, I have declared above in Chap. 9. whither I remitt the Reader. Now let us see this mysterious work of our Adversary go on. Having excluded Mi∣racles from ascertaining us of the credibility of the Church proposing doctrines to us, he tells us how we must answer that question, Why I be∣leive that God speaks by the Church: and it must be thus, because the Church, by which God speaks, says that God speaks by her, and I am obliged to be∣leive be speaks by her, because he doth credit her with so many Miracles, and supernatural marks, which makes it evidently credible, that he doth speak by her. If it be the same Man that wrote the whole page, it cannot but appear a wonder, that having em∣ployed his skill a few lines before, in weakning the force of Miracles to ground the infallibility of the Church on, he should now take up the same Miracles for his ultimate reason of beleiving in the Page 79Church. As a nice Man, who throwing away the paring of his apple, and checking his compa∣nion for eating his without paring, fell immediatly after upon eating the paring he threw away.
To cast a patch upon this foul breach of cohe∣rence in reasoning, our Adversary shuffles in a distinction betwixt the motive of our act of Faith, and the motive of our obligation of beleiving, which indeed is nothing else at the present then Culicem excoriare, to flay a flea, after much ado to do nothing. The present question immediatly proposed is, why am I to beleive that God speaks by the Church? the only reason he gives for be∣leiving in the Church, is Miracles. What needs that distinction of motive to my beleif, and mo∣tive to my acknowledgment of obligation to be∣leive? the same reason that makes me beleive, intimates to me my obligation of beleiving. The primitive Christians who heard the Apostles preach, and saw their Miracles, knew nothing of these distinctions. Seing those Servants of God confirm their doctrine with Miracles, they beleived God spake by them, and for the same reason or motive thought themselves obliged to beleive them. If we have the same Faith that the primitive Christians of Jerusalem and Antioch had, as Mr. I. S. says, p. 183. why shall not we go the same way to beleive as they did?
But our Adversary is upon a design of impo∣sing upon us a Faith which the Apostles did not teach, which he discovers clearly (tho hap∣pily not so much to his own knowledg) p. 184. in those remarkable words: The cheif and last mo∣tive, whereupon our Faith must rest, is the Word of Page 80God speaking to us by the Church. The Church, I say, by which God actually in this present Age speaks unto us; for we do not beleive because God did speak in the first, second or third Age by the Church, &c. Here you see, Reader, a plain Confession of the great guilt of the Roman Church, de∣serving the most severe resentment of all true Christians, that glorious, truly Catholic, A∣postolic and holy Church of the primitive Ages excluded from the office of being Mistress of our beleif, and the Church of this corrupt Age, go∣verned by the most corrupt Court in the World (if we are to beleive them that are best acquaint∣ed with it) that of Rome, substituted in her place: And as this is proposed by our Adver∣sary without any proof, so it ought to be re∣jected by all true Christians with indignation.
Only I will reflect upon the inconsequence of the Man, and how farr he is from his pur∣pose of ridding himself from a Circle in resolv∣ing his Faith. All that great Labyrinth he works from p. 176. to p. 184. in order to declare his procedure to each act of Faith, and able to puzzle the best understanding, will certainly be requisite in his opinion to proceed to this last act of Faith, which he will have to be the guide of all others, that the Roman Church of this Age is infallible in teaching what we ought to beleive. This being, as he says, an act of divine Faith, I mean, that the Pope with a Generall Council, such as that of Trent, is infallible in proposing matters of Faith, how shall he go a∣bout to resolve his Faith upon this particular point? Certainly thus, according to his former Page 81discourse: I beleive that the present Church go∣verned by the Pope of Rome in the Councill of Trent is infallible, and God speaks by her, because the Church by which God speaks, says, that God speaks by her, and I am obliged to beleive that God speaks by her, because he credits her by so many Miracles, and supernaturall marks, which makes it evidently credible that he doth speak by her. These are Mr. I. S. his own words, and his Confes∣sion of Faith set down in the 181. page of his Book. And while the Reader reckons how many Circles he committs here, endeavouring to rid himself of one, I ask of him where be those Miracles wrought by the Fathers of the Coun∣cill of Trent, and the Popes moderating in it, to breed in me an evidence of credibility that God spake by their mouth, as the Christians of Jerusalem and Antioch saw the Apostles work for believing that God spake by them; being he says I must take the objects of Faith upon credit of the present Church, and that credit must be grounded upon Miracles and super∣naturall marks appearing for it? Will he have us prefer his forg'd Miracles in favour of his new∣coin'd-Faith, to those wrought by the Apostles in confirmation of the Faith preached by them? Turn, Reader, to what I said to this purpose in the 9. Chapter of this Treatise.
The more I consider this resolution of Mr. I. S. his Faith, the less I find in it of resolution, and the more Circles and obscurities. Now I enquire of him further, why doth he exclude the Church of the first, second, and third Age from the office of declaring Gods will and word to us? Page 82He answers, because the declarations of that an∣cient Church are known to us onely by tradition, and tradition, says he, is not the motive, but the Rule of our belief. All this he must say of the Council of Trent, or the Church represented in it of this Age; that alone, and not the Pope out of it, must be in his doctrine our infallible Teacher. Now further, Is not the doctrin of the Council of Trent proposed to us as a Rule of our Faith of equal value and autority with the written word of God, both proceeding from the Holy Ghost? they say it is: Is not more∣over that doctrine known to us only by tradi∣tion? certainly it is. I have no notice of it, nor can I have but by relation of others, and they of no more credit with me, but rather of far less, then those Venerable Writers that relate to us the doctrine of the primitive Church. Are there not Controversies dayly, and endless about the sense and meaning of the Councill of Trent, as well as about the more ancient Councils? witness the dismall broyls betwixt Jesuists, Jansenists, and Dominicans. Where is now Mr. I. S. his living infallible Judg? The Councill of Trent, and the Popes governing it, are dead and gon. The Pope now living, or any Councill he can congregate, less than a ge∣neral one, is not an infallible Judg. Who then will ascertain him? will he have a generall Coun∣cill congregated for the resolution of his Faith in every doubt that comes into his head?
How shall we be sure that Pope Innocent and Alexander did not err in their definition of the great debate with the Jansenists? Their definition Page 83not being in a general Council cannot be to us a warrant of security in Mr. I. S. his opinion. The Jansenists will triumph at this: and will that please them at Rome, and Paris? while Mr. I. S. agrees with them upon this particular, I ask further. Tho a General Council were con∣gregated now to that effect, such as that of Trent, to ascertain us of the Articles defined against Jansenius, how shall I be sure that God speaks by such a Council, or the Church represented in it? thus in Mr. I. S. his dialect: because the Church by which God speaks says that God speaks by her, because he doth credit her by so many Miracles and supernatural marks, which makes it evidently credible, that he doth speak by her. Well, and where be those Miracles and supernatural marks assisting this Council present, to ascertain us that God speaks by it? are you sure to find them at hand when the Council is joined? likely you are upon the experience of coining Miracles, when occasion requires it.
By this, Reader, you may see how little Mr. I. S. hath don, after so much ado, to resolve his Faith without a Circle. How rash his assu∣rance was, that Protestants will never resolve theirs without such a fault, I will now shew briefly. The Faith of Protestants is that contain'd in Canonical Scripture, as he often supposes; my Faith touching each point of those contained in Scripture, I resolve thus. I believe the Son of God was made Man, because I find it written in the holy Scripture. I believe what is written in the holy Scripture, because it is the infallible Word of God. And I believe it is the Word of Page 84God because the Apostles preaching it did con∣firm it with such Miracles and Wonders as only God could work. And finally that the Apostles did deliver the Doctrine contained in Scripture, and did confirm it with Miracles, I beleive in force of universal tradition, according to that celebrated notion of it, delivered by Vincentius Lyrinensis, quod ubique, quod semper, quod apud omnes est creditum; what was alwaies, in all places, and by all Christians received and believed, is to be taken for Universal and Apostolical Tra∣dition. This common consent of Christians making up universal Tradition we have in what is unanimously delivered by the ancient Fathers, and declared in the first general Councils of those more holy and sincere primitive times. Thither I go to take up my belief, as to streams immediatly proceeding from the Fountain of Grace, with more pleasure and satisfaction, then to the muddy Waters of doctrine delivered by the Church of Rome of this corrupt Age, past through so many hands defiled with ambition, avarice, and other earthly passions repugnant to sincerity: of which we have too much assu∣rance.