« ZurückWeiter »
is there delivered, is infallibly True; yet because there is contained in those Writings great Variety of things, and many occasional Doctrines and decisions of controversies, which though all equally true, yet are not all equally necessary to be known and understood by all Christians of all capacities ; therefore the Church from the Beginning, has out of Scripture selected those plain fundamental Doctrines, which were delivered as of necessity to be known and understood by all Christians whatsoever. And These, all persons were taught in their Baptismal Creed : Which was therefore usually called, the Rule of Faith: Not that itself was of any Authority, any otherwise than as it expressed the Sense of Scripture ; but that it was agreed to be such an Extract of the Rule of Truth, as contained all the things immediately, fundamentally, and universally necessary to be understood and believed distinctly by every Christian.
As in process of time men grew less pious, and more contentious; fo in the several Churches they inlarged their Creeds, and Confessions of Faith; and grew more minute, in determining unnecessary Controversies; and made more and more things explicitly necessary to be understood; and (under pretence of explaining authoritatively, ) 'imposed things
much harder to be understood than the Scripture itself; and became more uncharitable in their Censures; and the farther they departed from the Fountain of CatholickUnity, the Apoftolical Form of found words, the more uncertain and unintelligible their Definitions grew ; and good men found no where to rest the Sole of their Foot, but in having recourse to the original words of Christ himself and of the Spirit of Truth, in which the Wisdom of God had thought fit to express itself.
For, Matters of Speculation indeed, of Philosophy, or Art; things of humane invention, experience, or disquisition; improve generally from small beginnings, to greater and greater Certainty, and arrive at Perfection by degrees: But matters of Revelation and divine Testimony, are on the contrary complete at first, and Chriftian Religion, was most perfect at the Beginning; and the words of God, are the most proper significations of his Will, and adequate expressions of his own Intention; and the Forms of Worship set down in Scripture, by way either of Precept or Example, are the best and most unexceptionable Manner of serving him.
In the days of the Apostles therefore, Christianity was perfect; and continued for some Ages, in a tolerable Simplicity,
and Purity of Faith and Manners ; supported by singular Holiness of Life, by Charity in matters of Form and Opinions, and by the extraordinary Guidance of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Peace, Holiness and Love. Bur needless Contentions, soon began to arise ; and Faith became more intricate ; and Charity diminished; and Humane Authority and Temporal Power increased ; and the Regards of This Life grew greater, and of the Next Life less; and Religion decayed continually more and more, till at last (according to the Predictions of the Apostles) it was swallowed up in the great Apostacy. Out of which, it began to recover at the Reformation; when the Do&trine of Christ and his Apostles was again declared to be the Only Rule of Truth, in which were clearly contained all things necessary to Faith and Manners. And had That Declaration constantly been adhered to, and Humane Authority in Matters of Faith been disclaimed in Deeds as well as in Words; there had been, possibly, no more Schisms in the Church of God; nor Divisions, of any considerable moment, among Protestants.
But though Contentions and Uncharitableness have prevailed in Practice, yet (thanks be to God) the Root of Unity
has continued amongst us; and the Scripture hath universally been declared to be the only Rule of Truth, a sufficient Guide both in Faith and Pratice ; And Those who differ in opinion, have done so only because each party has thought their own opinion founded in Scripture ; And men are required to receive things for no other cause and upon no other authority, than hecause they are found (and confequently in no other sense than wherein they are found) in the Holy Scriptures. Wherefore in any Question of Controversy in a Matter of Faith, Protestants are obliged (for the deciding of it) to have recourse to no other Authority whatsoever, but to that of Scripture only.
The incomparable Arch-Bishop Tillotfon, has made This sufficiently appear, in his Rule of Faith; particularly, Part 1, Seit. 3; and Part IV, Sect. 2.
And the very learned and judicious BP Wake: l'chuse rather ( saith he in the Name of every Christian,) to regulate my Faith by what God hath delivered, than by what Man hath defined. Comment. on Ch. Catech. pag. 21.
And the excellent Mr Chillingworth : By the Religion of Protestants (faith he,)
I do not understand the Doctrine of Luther, or Calvin, or Melanahon nor the Cons
fesion of Augusta, or Geneva ; nor the Catechism of Heidelberg ; nor the Articles of the Church of England ; no, nor the Harmony of Protestant Confessions : but That wherein they all agree, and
which they all subscribe with a greater Harmowy, as a perfeet Rule of their Faith and Actions ; that is, the Bible. "The Bible, I say, the BIBLE only, is the Religion of Protestants. Whatsoever else they believe besides it, and the plain, irrefragable, indubitable consequences of it; well may tbey hold it as a Matter of Opinion : But as Matter of Faith and Religion, neither can they, with coherence to their own grounds, believe it themselves ; nor require the belief of it of others, without most high and most schismatical presumption. I, for my part, after a long and (as I verily believe and hope) impartial Search of the true way to eternal Happiness, do profess plainly, that I cannot find any rest for the fole of my foot, but upon this Rock only. I see plainly and with mine own eyes, that there are Popes against Popes, Councils against Councils, fome Fathers against others, the fame Fathers against themselves, a Consent of Fathers of one age against a Consent of Fathers of another age, the Church of one .age against the