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lian, (and some other ancient, as well as modern cri. ticks) gives us the word Logos: and the divine reason is one in all; that lamp of God, which lights our candle, and enlightens our darkness, and is the measure and test of our knowledge.
So that whereas fome people excuse their embracing of that religion, by urging the certainty that is in it, I do say, it is but a presumption. For a man can never be certain of that, about which he has not the liberty of examining, understanding, or judging: confident, I confess, he may be; but that's quite another thing than being certain.
Yet I must never deny, but that every Christian ought to believe as the church believes, provided the church be true : but the question is, which is that true church? And when that is answered, as a man may unlawfully execute a lawful sentence, so he may falsly believe as the true church believes : for if I believe what foe believes, only because me believes it, and not because I am convinced in my understanding and conscience of the truth of what the believes, my faith is false, though hers be true : I say, it is not true to me i I have no evidence of it,
What is this church, or congregation rather (as worthy Tindal every-where translates it) but " a company I of people agreed together in the sincere profession
and obedience of the gospel of Christ. Now look, what inducement they severally had to believe and embrace the gospel, and unite into fellowship, that we must have to join with them : for: as they made not one another an infallible authority to one another, upon which they first embraced the gospel, neither are we to ground our belief thereof upon their authority jointly: but as they had a rule to believe and commune, lo muft we have the same rule to embrace their communion. So that the church cannot properly be the rule of my faith, who have the same faith, and object for my faith, that she has. I argue thus,
I must believe as the church believes; that is, I must have the same faith the church has :-then I must
have the same rule; because the church can be no more the rule of that faith, than she can be that faitb of which some would make her the rule. If then the church has faith, and that faith have a rule, and that she can no more be the rule of her own faith, than she can be that faith itself; it follows she cannot be the rule of the faith of her members, because those members have the same faith, and make up this church, For that which is the rule of the congregation's faith in general, must reasonably be the rule of every member's faith that makes up that congregation; and, consequently, of every member that may hereafter adhere to it. So that to talk of believing as the church believes, to flourish upon that self-denial and humility which takes all upon trust, and revile those with the bitterest invectives that are modestly scrupulous, and act the Bereans for their souls (who think that easiness of nature and condescension may be better used, and in this occasion is ill placed and dangerous) is to put the knife to the throat of Proteftancy, and, what in them lies, to sacrifice it to implicit faith and blind obedience. For it cannot be denied, but that the great foundation of our Protestant religion is, the
Divine authority of the scriptures from without us, and the testimony and illumination of the holy spirit (within us.' .
Upon this foot the first reformers stood, and made and maintained their separation from Rome, and freely offered up their innocent lives in confirmation. With good cause, therefore, it is the general consent of all Jound Protestant writers, « That neither traditions,
councils, nor canons of any visible church, much « less the edicts of any civil sessions or jurisdiction,
but the scriptures only, interpreted by the holy spirit (in us, give the final determination in matters of ( religion, and that only in the conscience of every
Christian to himself.' Which protestation, made by the first publick reformers against the imperial edicts of Charles the fifth, imposing church traditions without fçripture authority, gave first beginning to the
rand her traditily believed, of more forence, or con mily, is
name of Protestant, and with that name hath ever been received this doctrine, which prefers the divine authority of the scripture and spirit, to that of the church and her traditions. And if the church is not sufficient to be implicitly believed, (as we hold it is not what can there else be named, of more force with us, but the Divine illumination in the conscience, or conscience in the bed sense of the word ; than which, God only is greater ? But if any man shall pretend that the scripture judges, according to his conceptions or conscience, for other men, and that they must take their religious measures by the line of his direction; such a person makes himself greater than either church, fcripture, or conscience. And, pray, let us consider if in any thing the Pope is by our Protestant divinity fo justly resembled to antichrist, as in assuming infallibility over confcience and fcripture, to determine as he thinks fit; and so, in effect, to give the law to God, scripture, magistrates and conscience. To this Protestants have, without scruple, applied that to the Thessalonians, « Sitting in the temple of God, exalting himself above « all that is called God.”
To check this exorbitancy the apostle Paul demands, « Who art thou that judgeth another's fer« vant ? To his own Lord he stands or falls ?” Which showeth with great evidence, that Christians of all sizes, great and small, are but brethren ; and, consequently; all superiority, lordship and imposition are excluded : but if there be a difference, it is in this, that, as Christ 'taught, “ he that is greatest is to be « servant to the rest :" but what is more opposite to a Servant than a lord; and to service, than injunétion and impofition, and that on penalties too? Here it is that Christ is Lord and law-giver, who is only king of this inward kingdom of the foul. And it is to be noted, that the apostle did not write this to a private brother, or in some special case, but to the church, as a general and standing truth; and therefore now as authentick : John iii. 20. ' 2 Theft. ü. 4. Rom. xiv. 4.
and proper as then. And if this be true, I cannot see + how any, or even the most part of the church, that are
still but brethren to the rest, of one voluntary commuE nion and profession, can with any fhew of reason im
pose upon them, and escape the reproof of this scripture: for all societies are to govern themselves accord ing to their inftitution, and first principles of union. Where there is violence upon this part, tyranny, and not order, is introduced. Now since persuasion and conpietion began all true Christian focieties, they must uphold themselves upon the same free bottom, or they turn anti-cbriftians. I beseech you, here, let us examine ourselves faithfully, and I am persuaded that fomething of this will yet appear among some of us, who shew great reverence to that free name,
But to make good their unreasonable conceit of church-authority, they object Christ's words ; " Go
tell the church ;” that is, say they, The church is " the rule and guide of faith; whatever the church
agrees upon, and requireth your assent to and faith «in, that you must necessarily believe and submit to." But though, as before, it is confessed, in a sense, we must believe as the true church believes; yet not be cause pe so believes, but for the same reasons that she herself did and does so believe ; in that none can truly believe as she believes, but muit do so upon the same principles and motives, for which they believed that first made up that Christian church. To talk of being the rule and guide in point of faith, is to contradict scripture, and justle Christ out of his office, which is peculiar to him. He is given to his church an bead," that is, a counsellor, a ruler, a judge, and is called a lawgiver; and, says the apostle, « If any « man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his ; and “ the children of God are led by the spirit of God.” And he was - wisdom and righteousness” to the church apoftolick, and is so to his own church all the world over. Besides, it is absurd that the church can
: Ifa. ix. 6. Rom. viii. 9. 14.
be the rule and guide of faith; for, as such, she must be ber own rule and guide; the faith of the members being that of the church; which cannot be.
But what then can be the meaning of Christ's words, 66 Go tell the church ?” Very well. I answer, it is not about faith, but injury, that Christ speaks; and the place explains itself, which is this : * « Moreover, « if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell « him his fault, between thee and him alone.” Here is wrong, not religion ; injustice, not faith or conscience concerned, as some would have it, to maintain their church-power. “ If he shall hear thee, thou hast “ gained thy brother, but if he will not hear thee, " then take with thee one or two more, that in the " mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be 1 established ; and if he shall neglect to hear them, u tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the «« church, let him be unto thee as án heathen man and " a publican. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye « shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and « whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed « in heaven," &c. The matter and manner of which passage, delivered by Christ, shews that he intended not to set up . Church power about faith and worship, unto which all must bow, even without, if not against, conviction. The words trespass and fault, prove abundantly that he meant private and personal injuries; and that not only from the common and undeniable fignification and use of the words trespass and fault, but from the way Christ directs and commands for accommodation, viz. "That the person wronged, • speak to him that commits an injury alone : if that I will not do, that he take one or two with him :' but no man can think that if it related to faith and worhip, I ought to receive the judgment of one, or two, or three, for a sufficient rule. This has not been the practice, at least not the principle, of the most degenerated church since the primitive times; for moft, if not all, agree, “ That nothing lower than the church
% Mat. xvii. 15, 16, 17, 18.