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xvii. 12.) The word topveia, which we translate fornication, includes all carnal impurity. The abominable lewdness which made part of the heathen worship will account for the worship of idols and whoredom being joined together in the decree of the council. So also they are joined together 1 Cor. vi. 9. and Rev. ii. 14. 20. Idolatry is also styled whoredom by the writers of the Old Testament; and the great powers which spread idolatry in the world were characterised under the image of a great whore; so that nobody is at a loss to understand the meaning of those writers, when they charge the people with going a whoring after other gods. What has been said in few words, the importance of the subject being consi. dered, may show us the foundation and proper bounds of church authority in holy Scripture, and also the true foundation on which our reformation from the church of Rome stands. If that church asks why we have departed from some which it accounts articles of faith, we answer, because they are no part of the faith once delivered to the saints: if we are pressed with the authority of the church which has received them, our answer is, that Christ Jesus was the author and finisher of the faith; to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken: if it be asked why we have discarded much ceremony and discipline, we may, without entering into particular cases, answer that the church of England has as much authority to appoint rules for its members as the church of Rome has; that these have been settled on prudential considerations of the circumstances of England, whose church is a far better judge in this respect than that of Rome. But, secondly; if we are to contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints, where are we to find this faith, and how can we distinguish it from the addition of later ? When our Saviour came into the world, the case of the Jewish church was in this respect the same as ours : the evil had been long growing, and the ancient prophets had taken notice of it, as in Isaialı xxix. 13. : but yet


in our Saviour's time traditions were in such esteem, that the Scribes and Pharisees challenged him to answer this question : why do thy disciples transgress the traditions of the elders ? (Mat. xv. 2.)—the very question this which is put to us by the church of Rome, and the darling point insisted on by their emissaries. But hear our Saviour's answer to it: why do you also transgress the commandments of God by your tradition?-a question hard to be answered, and which the rulers of the church of Rome should consider well, for they are much concerned in it. If that church pretends to have, by oral tradition, doctrines derived originally from the Apostles, the Jewish doctors referred theirs to Moses, from whom, as they supposed, they received them. The Jews had the writings of Moses and the prophets; the church of Rome has those of the Apostles and Evangelists; yet neither allow their own to be a complete rule, but recur to tradition in order to supply the deficiency. Consider how our Saviour treated this pretence of the Jewish church, and it will direct us how to behave in the like case.

He speaks of them as holding doctrines of their own, not of God, (Mark vii. 8. 9.): he shows how their traditions contradicted the law of Moses, and then tells them, you make the word of God of none effect, &c.; plainly considering the written law of Moses as the commandment of God, but the traditions of the elders as the law of men. To Moses and the Prophets, who make up the Scripture of the Jews, our Lord constantly appeals: he bids the Jews search the Scriptures; tells them they err, not knowing the Scriptures; and when he tells them that on the two commandments, of loving God and our neighbor, hang all the law and the prophets, he plainly declared that they contained the whole of their religion ; for if he had considered the traditions as a rule of religion, he must have reduced them also to his general precepts. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, our Saviour has fully determined this point in the person of Abraham. The application

of this case is easily made to our own: we have seen what our Saviour thought of the traditions, what of the law and prophets of the Jewish church. The Christian church has its Apostles and Evangelists, and also too many traditionary doctrines, not founded in holy writ. What are we to do then ? We cannot want better authority than our Saviour's to reject the traditions of men, and to hold fast the doctrine of the Apostles and Prophets of the gospel; that is, contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

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-It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you, that ye

should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

It is at all times the duty of the pastors and ministers of the Christian church to call on the people to be zealous to maintain, and by proper methods to propagate, the faith of the gospel ; but there are seasons in which it is more especially necessary for them to discharge this duty ; seasons which require that the pastors should be vigilant to prevent, and the people careful to avoid, the danger of growing errors and superstition.

Such was the season, and such the occasion of this Epistle. Some very dangerous errors, and some abominable practices, began to show themselves among the members of the church, and there was great reason to apprehend the infection would spread. • Certain men,' it seems, • had crept in unawares— ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.' This it was that made it needful for the Apostle to exhort Christians every where to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.'

If it was needful in the Apostle's times, when the mischief began first to show itself, what must it be in ours, when this evil seems to be at its full growth, and to surround us in different shapes on every side ? Superstition on one hand, and irreligion on the other, have left true Christians a narrow path to walk in : and though reason and reflexion will make men

sometimes sick of the extremes, yet the transition from one extreme to another is much easier, than from either to the truth that lies between them. From popery to no religion, and from no religion to popery, is a ready step; and when a man is tired of either extreme, it requires only a resolution to run away from it as fast as he can, to get soon to the other ; whereas it requires a serious and a steady mind to stop at the right place.

Another difficulty there is, which distinguishes our times from that of the Apostles: St. Jude complains that some corrupt men, teaching perverse doctrines, had mixed with Christian societies; but it was by stealth and unawares they had crept in : the churches themselves were pure and uncorrupt, and professed and taught the true faith of the gospel of Christ. But our case is far otherwise. There are, indeed, in all churches

corrupt members, a calamity common to all times ; but in these latter days the infection has spread so far and so wide, that whole churches are tainted with it. The errors we have to contend with are not such as creep in silently and unawares, but such as are taught by authority, and insisted on as necessary conditions of Christian communion : they are pressed on men by an application of all the promises of the gospel to those who receive them gladly, and of all the threats of the gospel to such as embrace them not. Is it not then now, more than ever, needful to exhort men to 'contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints?'

But it is to little purpose to exhort men to be zealous for the Christian faith unless you can give them some sure and certain mark to know what the right faith is. If you inquire of particular churches, or societies of Christians, which is the true faith, each of them will answer, that the faith professed by them is the true one, and that other societies have fallen into errors and mistakes. In this divided state of things, therefore, no church has a right to be believed on its own word merely, without giving a reason of the faith which is in them; and yet this pretence of authority is the only thing that can be said, and therefore it always is said, to justify the dominion which the church of Rome has usurped over the faith of Christians. With how much better grace might St. Jude have dictated to

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