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be understood generally of the whole scripture, as the other interpretations seem to take it, but particularly of the doctrine of the prophets concerning Christ and the gospel, as appears from the phrase, the prophetic word, and the first verse of the following chapter, where he speaks of false prophets that were among the people of the Jews. So by the day-star I understand Christ himself, who is called the morning star, Rev. xxii. 16. It is true it is here Pharphoros, but there osier ornithes : but, for ought I know, the first of these is, apaz legomenon; and though the words be different, the sense is the same, one thing gets but different names. And Christ is called the day-star or morning-star, which we know are both one thing; because, (1.) As the morning star is the most eminent among the stars, and most lucid, as appears by its shining when the appearance of the sun makes the rest disappear; so there is none like Christ among the sons, Cant. ii. 3. (2.) As the day-star puts an end to the dark night, so doth Christ's arising in the soul put an end to the night of spiritual darkness. Never was the sight of the day-star so refreshful to the weary traveller in the night, as Christ's appearance in and to the soul; only the apostle calls him here rather the day-star than the sun, because he is speaking of his appearance in this life, whereas the full knowledge of him is deferred till his second coming. So the day-dawning is easily understood. And this is expected to rise not absolutely, but comparatively in respect of degrees of fuller manifestation, as ho promises to those that continue in his word, and are his disciples indeed, that they shall know the truth, viz. more fully, John viii. 31, 32.
And that passage, Hos. vi. 3. 'Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord : his going forth is prepared as the morning,' doth excellently serve
' to shew us this truth. So there he hath respect to this further manifestation of Christ which they were afterwards to have : but they are not then to give over the prophetic word; for, as was before noticed, the word until is not always exclusive of the following time, as Psal. ex. 1. 2 Sam. vi. ult.
Now, if the writings of the prophets be more sure than a voice from heaven, and Christians are commended for taking heed to the same; and when the day-star ariseth in the heart, it shows only the same thing more clearly. What place is there left for new revelations against or besides the scriptures?
Secondly, The Papists set the church upon the tribunal : but what that church is, they do not agree among themselves, whether it be the pope, or a council, or both together. However, they assert that there is in the church a visible and infallible judge of controversies in religion. This we deny, and far more that the pope, or a council approved by him, is such a judge. For,
1. The scripture makes no mention of any such judge, in any of the places where the officers of the church are reckoned up, as Rom. xii. 7, 8. 1 Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11. nor any where else. And though negative theology, as they say, is not argumentative, yet that cannot have place here, unless we deny the perfection of the scripture, which we have proved already. A positive institution is requisite here.
2. Our faith must not lean upon the testimony or authority of man, 1 Cor. vii. 23. 'Be not the servants of men,' not bodily but spiritually; 2 Cor. i. 24. 'Not that we have dominion over your faith ;' where the apostle declares, in his own name, and in the name of his fellows, the being of such a judge. But our faith leans on the word of God, Eph. ii. 20. And are built on the foundation of the prophets,' &c.
3. The doctrine of the church should be examined by the scriptures, Acts xvii. 11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.' Now he whose sentence is to be examined by another, cannot be the supreme judge of controversies. See Isa. viii. 20. 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.'
4. Neither Pope nor council, conjunctly nor severally, have such properties as are requisite to constitute a supreme judge in controversies of religion; they have no infallibility, or testimony thereof; yea, they have many ways deceived and been deceived. We may appeal from them, as being bound to the scriptures, as well as others. And the church, be what it will, must not be judge in its
5. Lastly, Here is a controversy in religion, Who is the supreme judge of controversy in religion? Who must decide this, or be supreme judge here?
The church cannot, neither pope nor council so decide it in their own favour. That were absurd. Wherefore the Papists themselves are obliged to make another judge of this controversy; and if so, why not of all ?
Thirdly, The Socinians set up reason to be the supreme judge of controversies in religion, to whose determination we ought to stand, and therein to acquiesce. There is no doubt but we have much use for reason in matters of religion; as, (1.) To perceive and understand the things revealed in the scripture, Matth. xiii. 51. (2.) To collate them one with another, Acts xvii. 11. (8.) To explain the same, Neh. viii. 8. (4.) To argue from the scriptures, Matth. xxi. nit. (5.) To vindicate the truths from objections, Rom. ix, 19, 20.
That it is not the judge nor the rule, that is, that reason ought not to be admitted of itself, and according to its principles, to determine controversies of religion, is what we assert. To illustrate this by an example, the scripture says, These three are one; we say we plainly perceive the scripture says so; and therefore, though our reason cannot comprehend, we will believe it, because it is plain the scripture says so. They say, they cannot believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, and not three gods, because reason is against it; and therefore finding the thing unagreeable to reason, though it were in ever so plain words found in the scripture, they will not believe (as they pretend) it means as the words sound, but will fasten another meaning on the words though never so far fetched. And that it may not be thought that this is the same way that the orthodox go too, in explaining scriptures that are understood figuratively, I shall give an example of that too. The scripture says, Christ is a vine, a door, the bread is his body, &c. We know indeed that this is contrary to reason if expounded literally: but that is not the prime reason why we reject the literal meaning, and on which we build our faith as to the true meaning, as the case is with the Socinians, but because it agrees not with other scriptures to understand it so; which testify that Christ is God and man. Now, that reason is not the supreme judge of controversies in religion, is proved by the following arguments.
1. Reason in an unregenerate man is blind in the matters of God, 1 Cor. ii. 14. 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned ;' Eph. iv. 17, 18. Eph. v. 8. Except. This only respects reason not illustrated by divine revelation. Ans. By that illustration of reason by divine revelation, they understand either subjective or objective illustration. If they understand it of subjective illustration, they quit that article of their religion, wherein they believe that the mind of man is capable of itself, without the illumination of the Spirit, to attain sufficient knowledge of the mind of God revealed in the scripture. If of objective illustration, by the mere revelation of these truths, then it is false that they assert: For the apostle opposes here the natural man to the spiritual man; and therefore by the natural man is understood every unregenerate man, even that has these truths revealed to him ; for, says the apostle, 'they are foolishness unto him.' Now, how can he judge them foolishness if they be not revealed ?
2. Reason is not infallible, and therefore cannot be admitted judge in matters concerning our souls. Reason may be deceived. Rom. iii. 4. and is not this to shake the foundations of religion, and
to pave a way to scepticism and atheism? Except. That is not to be feared where sound reason is admitted judge. But why talk they of sound reason? The adversaries themselves will yield, that reason is unsound in the most part of men. We
that it is not fully sound in the world; for even the best know but in part; darkness remains in some measure on the minds of all men.
3. Reason must be subject to the scripture, and submit itself to be judged by God speaking there, 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. The weapons of our warfare are—mighty—to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations,—and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' Matters of faith are above the sphere of reason; and therefore as sense is not admitted judge in those things that are above it, so neither reason in those things that are above it, 1 Tim. iii. 16.
4. If reason were the supreme judge of controversies, then our faith should be built on ourselves, and the great reason why we believe any principle of religion would be, because it appears so and so to us; which is most absurd. The scripture teaches otherwise, 1 Thess. ii. 13. 'Ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God.' Most plainly does our Lord teach this, John v. 34, I receive not testimony from men," chap. v. 39. 'Search the scriptures.'
Fourthly, The orthodox assert the supreme judge of controversies • in religion to be the Holy Spirit speaking in the scriptures. This is proved by the following arguments.
1. In the Old and New Testaments, the Lord still sends us to this judge. So that we may neither turn to the right hand nor left from what he there speaks, Deut. v. 32. and xvii. 11. 'According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee;' Is. viii. 20. To the law and to the testimony,' &c.; Luke xvi. 29. They have Moses and the prophets ; let them hear them;' John v. 39. • Search the scriptures. Some hereto refer that passage, Matth. xix. 28. * Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' In this sense it must be meant of the doctrine they taught as dictated to them by the Holy Ghost.
2. It was the practice of Christ and his apostles to appeal to the Spirit speaking in the scriptures, Matth. iv. where Christ still answers Satan with that, ' It is written, And so while discoursing with the Sadducees about the resurrection, Matth. xxii. 31, 32. So also in John, chap. v. and x. and Luke xxiv. 44. And so did others, Acts xvii. 11. and xxvi. 22, 23. 2 Pet. i. 19. Acts xv. 15,
16. A careful examination of which passages I recommend to you for your establishment in the truth.
3. To the Spirit of God speaking in the scriptures, and to him only, agree those things that are requisite to constitute one supreme Judge. (1.) We may certainly know that the sentence which he pronounces is true, for he is infallible being God. (2.) We cannot appeal from him, for he is one above whom there is none. (3.) He is no respecter of persons, nor can be biassed in favour of one in preference to another.
Having discussed the doctrinal part of this subject, I shall now conclude with two or three inferences.
Inf. 1. People then should diligently read and study the holy scriptures, in order to their knowing what to believe and what to do. As the scripture is the only rule and test of faith and obedience, let us accomplish a diligent search into it, that we may understand all matters to be believed and practised in order to our salvation, and reject every dictate and every precept, come from what quarter it will, if it be not taught us in the sacred records. We are not to believe any thing to be an article of faith, or a duty that we are to perform, unless it has the sanction of the Spirit of God in the written word, and be enjoined us by that infallible Judge. Let it then be our daily care and principal study to acquaint ourselves with the word of God, and draw from that infallible treasury all our knowledge as to faith and practice.
2. How dangerous must it be to maintain opinions and practices which are evinced to be contrary to the word of God ? How hazardous must be the state of those who hold doctrines contrary to and eversive of the foundations of Christianity ? Many such doctrines are taught and propagated in our day; such as the tenets of Socinians and Arians, who degrade the Son of God to the rank of a mere creature, and deny his supreme Godhead and essential glory, and impugn his satisfaction; the Arminians, who overturn the doctrine of original sin, assert free will, and stickle for the resistibility of grace, and other things eversive of the doctrine of the Bible ; and others who set up creeds, confessions, and covenants of human manufacture, in the place of the infallible oracles of truth.
3. How worthy of reproof are they who make no conscience of reading the scriptures? They seldom look into them, or at most only on a sabbath-day, without giving attention to what they read; and so are grossly ignorant of the first principles of religion.
4. Religion, if it be of the right sort, will be practical religion. A blind obedience, or ignorant obedience, to some of the duties of religion is no better than bodily exercise, which profiteth little.