Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

truth, such as desire, above all things, to know God's will and to do it, may, without any fault at all, some go one way and some another, and some (and those as good men as either of the former) suspend their judgment, and expect some Elias to solve doubts, and reconcile repugnances. Now in all such questions one side or other (whichsoever it is) holds that which indeed is opposite to the sense of the Scripture which God intended; for it is impossible that God should intend contradictions. But then this intended sense is not so fully declared, but that they which oppose it, may verily believe that they indeed maintain it, and have great shew of reason to induce them to believe so; and therefore are not to be damned, as men opposing that which they either know to be a truth delivered in Scripture, or have no probable reason to believe the contrary; but rather, in charity, to be acquitted and absolved, as men who endeavour to find the truth, but fail of it through human frailty.

This ground being laid, the answer to your ensuing interrogatories, which you

conceive impossible, is very obvious and easy.

14. To the first: Whether it be not in any man a grievous sin to deny any one truth contained in Holy Writ? I answer-Yes, if he knew it to be so, or have no probable reason to doubt of it; otherwise not.

15. To the second: Whether there be in such denial any dictinction between fundamental and not fundamental, sufficient to excuse from heresy ? I answer-Yes, there is such a distinction. But the reason is, because these points, either in themselves, or by accident, are fundamental, which are

1

evidently contained in Scripture, to him that knows them to be so: those not fundamental, which are there-hence deducible, but probably only, not evi. dently.

16. “To the third: Whether it be not impertinent, tó allege the Creed, as containing all fundamental points of faith, as if believing it alone we were at liberty to deny all other points of Scripture? I answer, it was never alleged to any such purpose; but only as a sufficient, or rather more than a sufficient, summary of those points of faith, which were of necessity to be believed actually and explicitly; and that only of such, which were merely and purely credenda, and not agenda.

17. To the fourth, drawn as a corollary from the former : Whether this be not to say, that, of persons contrary in belief, one part only can be saved ? I answer, by no means: for they may differ about points not contained in Scripture. They may differ about the sense of some ambiguous text of Scripture: they may differ about some doctrines, for and against which scriptures may be alleged with so great probability, as may justly excuse either part from heresy, and a self-condemning obstinacy. And, therefore, though D. Potter do not take it ill, that you believe yourselves may be saved in your religion, yet notwithstanding all that hath yet been pretended to the contrary, he may justly condemn you, and that out of your own principles, of uncharitable presumption, for af, firming, as you do, that—no man can be saved out of it.

[blocks in formation]

CHAP. II.

[ocr errors]

“Of

What is that means, whereby the revealed truths of

God are conveyed to our understanding, and which must determine controversies in faith and religion?

our estimation, respect, and reverence to Holy Scripture, even protestants themselves do in fact give testimony, while they possess it from us, and take it upon the integrity of our custody. . No cause imaginable could avert our will from giving the function of supreme and sole judge to Holy Writ, if both the thing were not impossible in itself, and if both reason and experience did not convince our understanding, that, by this assertion, contentions are increased, and not ended. We acknowledge Holy Scripture to be a most perfect rule, forasmuch as a writing can be a rule:: we only deny, that it excludes either Divine tradition, though it be unwritten, or an external judge to keep, to propose, to interpret it in a true, orthodox, and catholic sense. Every single book, every chapter, yea, every period of Holy Scripture is, infallibly true, and wants no due perfection. But must we therefore infer; that all other books of Scripture are to be excluded, lest, by addition of them, we may seem to derogate from the perfection of the former? When the first books of the Old and New Testament were written, they did not exclude unwritten traditions, nor the authority of the church to decide controversies : and who

hath then so altered their nature, and filled them with such jealousies, as that now they cannot agree for fear of mutual disparagement? What greater wrong is it for the written word to be compartner now with the unwritten, than for the unwritten, which was once alone, to be afterward joined with the written ? Who ever heard, that, to commend the fidelity of a keeper, were to disauthorize the thing committed to his custody? Or that, to extol the integrity and knowledge, and to avouch the necessity of a judge in suits of law, were to deny perfection in the law ? Are there not in commonwealths, besides the laws, written and unwritten customs, judges appointed to declare both the one and the other as several occasions may require ?

2. “That the Scripture alone cannot be judge in controversies of faith, we gather it very clearly from the quality of a writing in general; from the nature of Holy Writ in particular, which must be believed as true and infallible; from the editions and translations of it; from the difficulty to understand it without hazard of error; from the incon. veniences that must follow upon the ascribing of sole judicature to it; and, finally, from the confessions of our adversaries. And, on the other side, all these difficulties ceasing, and all other qualities requisite to a judge concurring in the visible church of Christ our Lord, we must conclude, that she it is to whom, in doubts concerning faith and religion, all Christians ought to have recourse...

3. " The name, notion, nature, and properties of a judge cannot in common reason agree to any mere writing, which, be it otherwise in its kind, never so highly qualified with sanctity and infalli

bility, yet it must ever be, as all writings are, deaf, dumb, and inanimate. By a judge, all wise men understand a person endued with life and reason, able to hear, to examine, to declare his mind to the disagreeing parties, in such sort, as that each one may know whether the sentence be in favour of his cause, or against his pretence; and he must be appliable, and able to do all this, as the diversity of controversies, persons, occasions, and circumstances may require. There is a great and plain distinction between a judge and a rule: for, as in a kingdom, the judge has his rule to follow, which are the received laws and customs; so are they not fit or able to declare, or be judges to themselves, but that office must belong to a living judge. The Holy Scripture may be and is a rule, but cannot be a judge, because it being always the same, cannot declare itself any one time, or upon any one occasion, more particularly than upon any other; and let it be read over an hundred times, it will be still the same, and no more fit alone to terminate controversies in faith, than the law would be to end suits, if it were given over to the fancy and gloss of every single man.

4. “This difference betwixt a judge and a rule, D. Potter perceived, when, more than once having stiled the Scripture a judge, by way of correcting that term, he adds—or rather a rule; because he knew, that an inanimate writing could not be a judge. From hence also it was, that though protestants in their beginning affirmed Scripture alone to be the judge of controversies; yet, upon a more advised reflection, they changed the phrase, ånd said, that not Scripture but the Holy Ghost speaking in Scripture, is judge in controversies: a dif

« ZurückWeiter »