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gathering and governing of those churches, which should be planted by them; these seem to be intended by that expression, and not those doctrines which the Papists transmit by oral traditions ; such as the use of oil and spittle, together with water in baptism, and the sign of the cross therein ; the baptism of bells, the lighting up of candles in churches at noonday: nor that of purgatory, or praying for the dead, or giving divine adoration to images or relics, which are altogether unscriptural, and such as he would not have, at any time, communicated unto them.
(3.) Those words of our Saviour, It is more blessed to give than to receive, though they are not contained in one distinct proposition, or in express words in the gospels, yet he therein exhorts his people to give to him that asketh; and speaks of the blessing that attends this duty, that they might be, that is, approve themselves to be the children of their Father, Mat. v. 42. compared with 45. and exhorts them to hospitality to the poor, and adds a blessing to it, Luke xiv. 12, 13, 14. Or, suppose the apostle refers to a saying frequently used by our Saviour, which might then be remembered by some who had conversed with him, this is no sufficient warrant for any one to advance doctrines contrary to those our Saviour delivered, under a pretence of having received them by unwritten tradition.
2. This doctrine is farther defended from the words of the apostle, in 1 Tim. vi. 20. where he advises Timothy to keep that which was committed to his trust, viz. those traditions which he was to remember and communicate to others: and also the advice which he gives to the church, To hold the traditions which they had been taught, either by word or by his epistle, 2 Thess. ii. 15. the former respects, say they, unwritten traditions, the latter is inspired writings.
Answ. That which was committed to Timothy to keep, was either the form of sound words, or the gospel, which he was to Rold fast, 2 Tim. i. 13. or the ministry which he had received of the Lord, or those gifts and graces which were communicated to him, to fit him for public service. And as for those tradi. tions which he speaks of in the other scripture, the meaning is only this: that they should remember not only the doctrines they had received from him, which were contained in his inspired epistles, but those which were agreeable to scripture, that he had imparted in the exercise of his public ministry; the former were to be depended upon as an infallible rule of faith, the latter to be retained and improved as agreeable thereunto, and
3. They farther add, that it was by this means that God instructed his church for above two thousand years before the Scripture, was committed to writing.
Answ. To this it may be replied, that God communicated
his mind and will to them, during that interval, in an extraordinary manner, as has been before observed, page 52, 53. which cannot be said of any of those traditions which are pleaded for by them.
4. It is farther argued, that the book of the law was formerly lost in Josiah's time; for it is said, that when it was found, and a part of it read to him, he rent his clothes, and was astonished, as though he had never read it before,' 2 Kings xxii. 8. to 11. yet he being a good man, was well instructed in the doctrines of religion; therefore this must have been by tradition.
Answ. To this it may be answered, that the book, which was then found, was doubtless, an original manuscript of Scripture, either of all the books of Moses or Deuteronomy in particular, but it is not to be supposed that he had never read it before; for a person may be affected at one time in reading that portion of scripture, which he has often read without its having the like effect upon him ; and doubtless, there were many copies of scripture transcribed, by which he was made acquainted with the doctrines of religion, without learning them from uncertain traditions.
5. They farther allege, that some books of scripture are lost, and therefore it is necessary that they should be supplied this way; the instances they give of this are some books referred to in scripture, viz. the book of the wars of the Lord, Numb. xxi. 14. and another going under the name of Jasher, 2 Sam. i. 18. compared with Josh. X. 13. and another called the book of the acts of Solomon, 1 Kings xi. 41. and also his Songs and Proverbs, and the account he gives of trees, plants, beasts, fowls, creeping things, and fishes, 1 Kings, iv. 32. 33. There are also other books said to be written by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, i Chron. xxix. 29. the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the visions of Iddo the seer, 2 Chron. ix. 29. and Jeremiah's lamentation for Josiah, is said to be written in the books of the Lamentations, 2 Chron. xxxv. 25. whereas there is no mention of Josiah in the book of scripture, which goes under that name; therefore they suppose that there was some other book so called, which was written by that prophet, but is now lost.
Answ. 1. As to the argument in general, that some books of scripture are lost, suppose we should take it for granted that they are so, must this loss be supplied by traditions, pretended to be divine, though without sufficient proof: however, I am not willing to make this concession, though, indeed, some Protestant divines have done it, as thinking it equally supposable, that some books, written by divine inspiration, might be lost, as well as many words spoke by the same inspiration : but even these constantly maintain that whatever inspired writings may have been lost, yet there is no doctrine necessary to the edifica
tion of the church, in what immediately relates to salvation, but what is contained in those writings, which are preserved, by the care and goodness of providence, to this day; but, without giving into this concession, I would rather adhere to the more commonly received opinion, that no book designed to be a part of the canon of scripture is lost, though many uniitspired writings have perished; and therefore as to those books but now mentioned, they refer to some books of scripture, in which we have no mention of the inspired writers thereof, which, as is more than probable, were wrote by some noted prophet that flourished in the church at that time, which their respective histories refer to; therefore some suppose that the books of Nathan and Gad, or Iddo, refer to those of Kings or Chronicles, which are not lost. But since this is only a probable conjecture, we pass it over, and add, that it is not unreasonable to suppose that the books said to be written by them, as also those of Solomon, that are not contained in scripture, were not written by divine inspiration, which is not only a safe but sufficient answer to the objection. As for Jeremiah's lamentation for Josiah, it is probable that the book of scripture, which goes under that name, was written on the occasion of Josiah's death, in which, though he doth not mention the name of that good king, yet he laments the desolating judgments which were to follow soon after it.
Moreover, the Papists pretend, that some part of the New Testament is lost; particularly the epistle from Laodicea, mentioned in Col. iv. 16. and one writen to the Corinthians, not to company with fornicators, 1 Cor. v. 9. and another mentioned, 2 Cor. vii. 8. by which he made them sorry.
Answ. 1. As to the epistle from Laodicea that was probably one of his inspired epistles, written'by him when at Laodicea, and not directed, as is pretended, to the Laodiceans,
2. As to that epistle, which he is supposed to have written to the Corinthians, it is not expressly said that it was another epistle he had wrote to them; but it is plainly intimated, ver. 12. that he refers to the epistle, which he was then writing to them; a part of which related to that subject, as this chapter, in particular does,
3. As to the letter, which he wrote to them, which made them sorry, it is not necessary to suppose that it was written by divine inspiration ; for as every thing he delivered by word of mouth, was not by the extraordinary afflatus of the Holy Ghost, why may we not suppose that there were several epistles written by him to the churches, some to comfort, others to admonish, reprove, or make them sorry, besides those that he was inspired to write ?
Having considered the arguments brought to prove that some Vol. I.
books of scripture are lost, we shall now prove, on the other hand, that we have the canon thereof compleat and entire. Some think this is sufficiently evident from what our Saviour says, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot, or tittle shall not pass from the law, Mat. v. 18. and it is easier for heaven and carth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail
, Luke xvi. 17. If God will take care of every jot and tittle of scripture, will he not take care that no whole book, designed to be a part of the tule of faith, should be entirely lost? It is objected, indeed, to this, that our Saviour hereby intends principally the doctrines or precepts contained in the law ; but if the subject matter thereof shall not be lost, surely the scripture that contains it shall be preserved entire.
But this will more evidently appear, if we consider that the books of the Old Testament were compleat in our Saviour's time; for it is said, That beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself, Luke xxiv. 27. and this may also be proved from what the apostle says, Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, Rom. xv. 4. now it is impossible that they should be written for our learning if they
To this it may be added, that the goodness of God, and the care of his providence, with respect to this church, farther evinces this truth; for if he gave them ground to conclude that he would be with them always, even to the end of the world, Matth. xxviii. 20. surely this argues, that he would preserve the rule he had given them to walk by, from all the injuries of time, so that it should not be lost to the end of the world.
Again, the Jews were the keepers of the oracles of God, Rom. iii. 2. now they are not reproved by our Saviour, or the apostle Paul, for any unfaithfulness in not preserving them entire; and certainly our Saviour, when he reproves them for making void the law by their traditions, and threatens those that should add to or take from it, if he had found them faulty, in not having faithfully preserved all the scriptures committed to them, he would have severely reproved them for this great breach of trust.
Object. It is objected against the scriptures being a perfect rule of faith, that they are in several places corrupted, viz. that the Old Testament was so by the Jews, out of malice against our Saviour, and the Christian religion, that they might conceal, or pervert to another sense, some prophecies relating to the Messiah, and the gospel-state. And as for the New Testament, they pretend that it was corrupted by some heretics, in defence of their perverse doctrines.
Answ. 1. As to the Old Testament, it is very improbable
and unreasonable to suppose that it was corrupted by the Jews. For,
(1.) Before our Saviour's time, no valuable end could be answered thereby; for then they expected the Messiah to come, according to what was foretold by the prophets, and understood their predictions in a true sense.
(2.) After he was come, and Christianity took place in the world, though malice might have prompted them to it, yet they would not do it, because they had always been trained up in this notion, that it was the vilest crime to add to, take from, or alter it: so that one of their own writers* says concerning them, that they would rather die an hundred deaths, than suffer the law to be changed in any instance; yea, they have such a veneration for the law, that if, by any accident, part of it should fall to the ground, they would proclaim a fast as fearing lest, for this, God would destroy the whole world, and reduce it to its first chaos : and can any one think, that, under any pretence whatever, they would designedly corrupt the Old Testament? Yea, they were so far from doing it, that they took the greatest care, even to superstition, to prevent its being corrupted, through inadvertency, and accordingly numbered not only the books and sections, but even the words and letters, that not a single letter might be added to, or taken from it.
(3.) If they had any inclination to do this, out of malice against Christianity, it would have been to no purpose, after our Saviour's time ; for it was then translated into Greek, and this translation was in the hands of almost all Christians; so that the fallacy would soon have been detected. And if they had corrupted some copies of the Hebrew Bible, they could not have corrupted or altered them all; therefore to attempt any thing of this kind, would have been to expose themselves to no purpose.
(4.) It would not have been for their own advantage to per, vert it; for, in altering the texts that make for Christianity, they would (especially if the fraud should have been detected) have weakened their own cause so far, that the reputation of scripture being hereby lost, they could not have made use of it to that advantage, to prove their own religion from it.
But, notwithstanding all this out-cry of the scriptures being perverted, they pretend to give no proof hereof, except in two or three words, which do not much affect the cause of Christi, anity; whereas, if the Jews had designed to pervert it, why did they not alter the fifty-third of Isaiah, and many other scrip
* Vid. Philo. Jud. de Vit. Mosis ; &eimd. citat. ab Euseb.in Prep. Erang. l. zti. c.6. & Joseph. contr. App. I. ii.