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that necessary controversies may be and are decided: and, if they be not ended, this is not through defect of the rule, but through the default of men. And, for those that cannot thus be ended, it is not necessary they should be ended: for, if God did require the ending of them, he would have provided some certain means for the ending of them. And to your third, I say, that your pretence of using these means is but hypocritical ; for you use them with prejudice, and with a settled resolution not to believe any thing which these means happily may suggest into you, if it any way cross your preconceived persuasion of your church's infallibílity. You give not yourselves liberty of judgment in the use of them, nor suffer yourselves to be led by them to the truth, to which they would lead you, would you but be as willing to believe this consequence—our church doth oppose Scripture, therefore it doth err, therefore it is not infallible; as you are resolute to believe this—the church is infallible, therefore it doth not err, and therefore it doth not oppose Scripture, though it seem to do so never so plainly. . 157. You pray, but it is not that God would bring you to the true religion, but that he would confirm you in your own.
You confer places, but it is that you may confirm, or colour over with plausible disguises your erroneous doctrines; not that you may judge of them, and forsake them, if there be reason for it. You consult the origi- . nals, but you' regard them not when they make against your doctrine or translation.
158. You add, not only the authority, but the infallibility, not of God's church, but of the Ro-, man, a very corrupt and degenerous part of it:
whereof Dr. Potter never confessed, that it cannot err damnably. And which being a company made up of particular men, can afford you no help, but the industry, learning, and wit of prin vate men: and, that these helps may not help you out of your error, tell you, that you must make
, use of none of all these to discover any error in the church, but only to maintain her impossibility of erring. And, lastly, Dr. Potter assures himself, that your doctrines and practices are damnable enough in themselves; only he hopes (and spes est rei incertæ nomen) he hopes, I say, that the truths which you retain, especially the necessity of repentance and faith in Christ, will be as an antidote to you against the errors which you maintain; and that your superstruction may burn, yet they amongst you qui sequuntur Absolonem in simplicitate cordis, may be saved, “yet so as by fire.” Yet his thinking so is no reason for you or me to think so, unless you suppose him infallible; and, if you do, why do you write against him?
159. Notwithstanding, though not for these reasons, yet for others, I conceive this doctrine not fundamental; because, if a man should believe Christian religion wholly, and entirely, and live according to it, such a man, though he should not know or not believe the Scripture to be a rule of faith, no, nor to be the word of God, my opinion is, he may be saved; and my reason is, because he performs the entire condition of the new coyenant, which is, that we believe the matter of the gospel, and not that it is contained in these or these books. So that the books of Scripture are not so much the objects of our faith, as the instruments of conveying it to our understanding; and not so much of the being of the Christian dactrine às requisite to the well-being of it. Irenæus tells us (as M. K. acknowledgeth) of some barbarous nations—that believed the doctrines of Christ, and yet believed not the Scripture to be the word of God; for they never heard of it, and faith comes by hearing.–But these barbarous people might be saved ; therefore men might be saved without believing the Scripture to be the word of God; much more without believing it to be a rule, and a perfect rule of faith. Neither doubt I, but if the books of Scripture had been proposed to them by the other parts of the church, where they had been before received, and had been doubted of, or even rejected by those barbarous nations, but still by the bare belief and practice of Christianity they might be saved; God requiring of us, under pain of damnation, only to believe the verities therein contained, and not the Divine authority of the books wherein they are contained. Not but that it were now very strange and unreasona. ble, if a man should believe the matter of these books, and not the authority of the books; and therefore, if a man should profess the not-believing of these, I should have reason to fear he did not believe that. But there is not always an equal necessity for the belief of those things, for the belief whereof there is an equal reason.
We have, I believe, as great reason to believe there was such a man as Henry the Eighth, King of England, as that Jesus Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate: yet this is necessary to be believed, and that is not so. So that if any man-should
, doubt of or disbelieve that, it were most unreasonably done of him, yet it were no mortal sin,
mor no sin at all; God having no where commanded men under pain of damnation to believe all which reason induceth them to believe. Therefore as an executor, that should perform the whole will of the dead, should fully satisfy the law, though he did not believe that parchment to be his written will which indeed is so; so I believe,
' that he, who believes all the particular doctrines which integrate Christianity, and lives according to them, should be saved, though he neither believed nor knew that the gospels were written by the evangelists, or the epistles by the apostles.
160. This discourse, whether it be rational and concluding or no, I submit to better judgment; but sure I am, that the corollary, which you draw from this position, that this point is not fundamental, is very inconsequent; that is, that we are uncertain of the truth of it, because we say, the whole church, much more particular churches and private men, may err in points not fundamental. A pretty sophism, depending upon this 'principle, that whosoever possibly may err, he cannot be certain that he doth not err! And upon this ground, what shall hinder me from concluding, that seeing you also hold, that neither particular churches, nor private men, are infallible even in fundamentals, that even the fundamentals of Christianity remain to you uncertain ? A judge may possibly err in judgment; can be therefore never have assurance that he hath judged right? A traveller may possibly mistake his way; must I therefore be doubtful whether I am in the 'right way from my hall to my chamber? Or can our London carrier have no certainty, in the middle of the day, when he is sober and in his wits, that he is in the way to London? These you see are right worthy consequences, and yet they are as like your own, as an egg to an egg, or milk to milk.
161. And, for the self-same reason (you say) we are not certain, that the church is not judge of controversies.--But now this self-same appears to be no reason; and therefore, for all this, we may be certain enough that the church is no judge of controversies. The ground of this sophism is very like the former, viz. that we can be certain of the falsehood of no propositions, but those only which are damnable errors. But I pray, good Sir, give me your opinion of these: the snow is black, the fire is cold, that M. Knot is archbishop of Toledo, that the whole is not greater than a part of the whole, that twice two make not four: in your opinion, good Sir, are these damnable heresies, or, because they are not so, have we no certainty of the falsehood of them? I beseech
you, Sir, to consider seriously, with what strange captions
about to delude your king and your country; and if you be convinced they are so, give glory to God, and let the world know it by your deserting that religion, which stands upon
such deceitful foundations. 162. Besides (you say) among public conclusions defended in Oxford the year 1663, to the questions, Whether the church have authority to determine controversies of faith? and to interpret Holy Scripture? The answer to both is affirmative. But what now if I should tell you, that in the
year 1632, among public conclusions defended in Doway, one was—that God predeterminates men to all their actions, good, bad, and indifferent? will you think yourself obliged to be of this opi