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Chrif is head, the redeemed, regenerated church of Christ, is quite another thing than to be of any visible society whatever ; for in all such communions there are but too many that have no true title to Christianity. If, then, that immaculate church, of which Christ is head, be made up only of holy and regenerated fouls throughout the societies of Christians, this will administer but little comfort to those, that presume upon their being within the pale of the visible church, that are without the pale of virtue and holiness.
But to proceed to those scriptures that are irreconcileable to implicit faith and blind obedience : “ He that « believeth, hath the witness in himself,” I John v. 10. This general rule respects no persons: it is the result of the Holy Ghost to all believers. Such have no need i to go to Rome, nor Winifred's Well, to the brines of saints, the priests, nor the church,' for a proof of their faith. They have an evidence nearer home: they have the witness of their faith, and the reason of their hope, in themselves.
It is true, this is a private judge; but (as it happens) it is one of the Holy Ghost's setting up; of all things, Í confess, most destructive to papacy, no doubt; for there is a judge in every man, that sincerely believes, to whom he must stand or fall in this and the other world. For, saith the apostle, “ If our heart condemn us, God sc is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things : « beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have " we confidence towards God,” i John iii. 20, 21. That is, " The witness in ourselves discharges us.' « The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits, that we 66 are the children of God;" Rom. viii. 16. and sons of the true church: not the that hath fatted herself with the flesh of the saints, and died her garments in the blood of martyrs, who hath merchandized in the souls of men; but of that church which is crowned with stars, and cloathed with the sun, and has the moon under her feet. A church of light and knowledge, of understanding and truth, and not of implicit faith and blind obedience : one that tramples... upon all sublunary
glory; and not the that makes her pretences to religion a decoy to catch the empire of the world.
Of like tendency is that notable passage of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. « Examine as yourselves, whether ye be in faith ; prove your own 6 selves: know ye not your own felves, how that " Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?". Here is not a word of the Pope, nor an external judge! no human inquisition or authority. “ Examine youros selves, whether ye be in the faith? Prove your own 6 selves :" but which way shall we do this? By Chrift, who is the great light, that shines in our hearts, to give us the knowledge of God and ourselves : « He that o believes in him, has the witness in himself;" he is no reprobate ; his heart condemns him not.
To which I will add another passage to the same purpose, in his epiftle to the Galatians, Gal. vi. 4, 5. « But let every man prove his own work; then shall " he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in anooc ther: for every man shall bear his own burden." Here every man is enjoined to turn inquisitor upon himself; and the reason rendered shews the justice of the thing; I because my rejoicing must be in myself • alone, and not in another, I stand and fall to no "man ; such as I fow, I must reap at the hand of God,' if Paul say true. Mens pardons are vain, and their indulgencies fictitious; “ For every man shall bear his 6 own burden, in that great day of the Lord.” It cannot therefore be reasonably thought that another man should have the keeping of my understanding at my eternal cost and charge; or that I must entirely depend upon the judgment of a man, or men, who erring, (and thereby causing men to err) cannot be damned for me, but I must pay their reckoning at the hazard of my own damnation.
I am not unacquainted with the great objection that is made by Roman Catholicks, and some Protestants too, high church-men perhaps, that love the treason, but hate the traitor; that like this part of popery, but hate the pope, viz. 5 There are doubts in fcripture, even
( about about the most important points of faith: somebody (must guide the weak; there must be some one ulti
mate, external, and visible judge to appeal to, who I must determine and conclude all persons, as to their - doubts and apprehensions concerning the interpreta
tion of fcripture; otherwise so many men, so many minds; the church would be filled with controversy " and confusion.'
I answer, That the scriptures are made more doubtful than they are, by such as would fain preserve to themselves the umpirage and judgeship of their meaning. I deny it, in point of fact, that man's duty is not most plainly expressed in all that concerns eternal falvation. But it is very strange, that when God intends nothing more by the scriptures, than to reach the capacities of men as to things on which their eternal salvation depends, that no book, if such men say true, should be so obscure, or subject to so many various, nay, contradictory, constructions. Name me one author, Heathen, Gew, or Christian, that ever wrote with that obscurity and seeming inconsistency, which some gladly pretend to find in the holy scripture, that they might have the use and keeping of them from the vulgar, and make their own ends by it. Is, then, every body's book to be understood but God's? Was that writ not to be understood ? In short, one of these two things must be true; · Either that God intended not to be un
derstood, or to be understood, in what he commandred to be written.' If he resolved not to be understood, it had been better there had been nothing writ; for then there had been no doubts about the meaning of it: but if it was his purpose to be understood of men, it must be supposed that what he caused to be written, was plain enough for men to understand, or he missed his own aim and end, and writ it to no purpose; which were too low and absurd a thought of the infinite good. ness and wisdom.
If it should be told me, That it is not denied but (that the scriptures may be understood by some body, but not by every body; for that the great, visible
judge must needs understand them, because it be
longs to his office to resolve those doubts, and deterI mine those controversies that may arise about under
standing them; but not every one that reads them.'
Ans. I must also say, that this is not true in fact : for it is ridiculous to imagine, that Luke did not make Theophilus his own judge in the reading of what he writ to him; or that the apostles, in writing to the several churches, as Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, &c. to whom they directed their epistles, did not intend that they should understand what they writ; or that they erected any such officer in the church, as an expounder of their epistles to the asseinbly to be necessarily believed. For we know, in those days, the people made the church; they were the rangós, the clergy, however it came about that it be now engrossed into fewer hands; as you may see in the Greek of Peter, 1 Pet. v. 4. Muda wa ncleexuprevovles Tūv xańswv; which rangov, is translated beritage in all our Bibles. But this is as if the priests only were the Lord's heritage, which cannot be, for a reason obvious to all; namely, that they have long reigned as lords over God's heritage, or clergy, forbid expresy by Peter; therefore not the heritage and clergy over which they so rule like lords; by no means. I will say no more but this, it is no convincing proof to me of their humility. But to shut up this argument about the difficulty of understanding the scripture, and pretended necessity of a visible judge; I say,
Whatsoever may be Spoken, may be written:' Or thus " Whatsoever a visible judge can now say, the holy openmen, by God's direction, might have written: and what an omniscient and oinnipotent God did know, shd could do, for man's salvation, an omnibenevolent God, that tells us, “ He delights not in the death of " one foul, but rather that he should be saved,” would certainly have done for man. And because God is an omnibenevolent, as omniscient and omnipotent, we must conclude he has done it: and it is great presumption, and a mean shelter to ignorance or ambition,
( Whatlochy God's and oinnipote
to raise a credit to human devices, by beating down the true value of the scriptures.
"They are dark: What follows ? They must not be read. What follows then? Why then such teachers may do as they list with the people. But did the Pharisees, with their broad phylacteries, know God's mind better than the prophets? Or could they deliver it clearer? No such matter: it is by the same strange figure, that the schoolmen know the mind of Christ better than the apostles; and that the Council of Trent can declare faith more clearly than the Holy Ghost in the scripture hath done: and yet this is the English of their doctrine, that hold to us those lights to read the scripture by: and that would have us search their ca. nons and decrees, to find out the mind of the Holy Ghost in scripture.
The confusions that are pretended to follow such an inquiry, are but the wretched arts of selfish men, .as much as in them lies, to keep light and truth out of the world. When the net was cast into the sea, there came some good, some bad filh; it was not the fiberman's fault they were no better. Enquiry is not to be blamed, for the ill use weak, or worse men, make of it. The Bereans might not all believe, though they might all search; for men do not enquire with equal wisdom, love, and good desire. « Some feek and «« find not, some ask and receive not;" James iv. 3. Must none therefore ask or seek after that which is good? Or, because some ask or seek amiss, will it follow that the thing itself is naught? If superstition, error, idolatry, and spiritual tyranny be detected, and truth discovered, will it not more than make amends for all that weakness and folly some men have brought forth by the liberty of such an enquiry? The enemies of light may be as rhetorical as they please upon the excess or presumption of fome, bolder than wise, and more zealous than knowing; but if they had nothing to lose by the discovery, they would never be the enemies of a Christian search. It is to be feared, such get that obedience and subjection by a blind devotion,