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acted the utmost farthing of the reckoning from his old pastor; first began the fray: which as it became the perplexity of church and state for some ages, so it raged to blood; and those that had been persecuted like sheep by the heathen not long before, turned wolves against each other, and made sport for the infidels, doing their work to their own destruction. Nay, so much more Christian was Themiftius the philosopher, that he, in his oration, called CONSUL, commended the emperor Jovianus for his moderation, and advised him to give that liberty of conscience, which professed Christians refused to allow each other; who seemed to think they never did God better service, than in facrificing one another for religion, even as soon as ever they had escaped the heathen's shambles.
Did we duly reflect upon the unnatural heats, divifions, and excommunications among them, the many councils that were called, the strong and tedious des bates held, the translations of sees, the anathemas, the banishments, wars, fackings, fires and bloodshed that followed this unnatural division, that sprang from so nice a controversy, one would verily believe no less, than that religion itself had been in the utinost hazard; that Judaisin or Paganism were over-running Chriftianity; and not that all this ftir had been made about an Iota. For the whole question was, whether Homoufia, or Homoioufia, should be received for faith? In which the difference is but the single letter I: certains ly, we must do violence to our understanding, if we can think that these men were followers of that Jesus that “ loved his enemies, and gave his blood for the 66 world,” who hated their brethren, and shed one another's blood for opinions : the heathen philosophers never were so barbarous to one another, but maintained a better understanding and behaviour in their differences.
But how easily might all these confusions have been prevented, if their faith about Christ had been delivered in the words of the scripture; since all sides pretend to believe the text ? and why should any man pre
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fume to be wiser, or plainer in matters of faith, than the Holy Ghost? It is strange, that God and Christ should be wanting to express or discover their own mind; or that the words used by the Holy Ghost should have that shortness, ambiguity, or obliquity in them, that our frail capacities should be needed to make them more easy, proper and intelligible. But that we should scarcely deliver any one article of faith in fcripture-terms, and yet make such acts the · Rule and · bond of Christian cominunion,' is, in my judgment, an offence heinous against God and holy scripture, and very injurious to Christian charity and fellowship. Who can express any man's mind so fully, as himself? And shall we allow that liberty to ourselves, and refuse it to God ? « The scriptures came not in old time,” said the apostle Peter, « by the will of man; but holy « men of God fpake, as they were moved by the “ Holy Ghost.” Who can speak better, or express the mind of the Holy Ghost plainer, than the Holy Ghol? The scripture is the great record of truth, that which all these parties in controversy agree to be the de
clared mind and will of God, and they unanimously say, it ought to be believed and professed as such. If this be true, in what language can we so safely and properly declare our belief of those truths, as in the very language of the scripture?
And I cannot see how those persons can be excused in the day of God's judgment, who make men heterodox or heretical, for refusing to subscribe their articles of faith that are not in fcripture-terms, who in the same time offer to declare their belief of God, Christ, fpirit, man's lapse or fall, repentance, sanctification, justification, salvation, resurrection, and eternal recompense, in the language of holy scripture? I must say it is preposterous, and a contradiction, that those who desire to deliver their faith of truth, in the language of truth, shall not be reputed true believers, nor their faith admitted. This were to say, that therefore their faith is not to be received, because it is declared in the language of that very truth, which is the object of that
faith, for which it ought to be received, and which is, on all hands, concluded to be our duty to believe.* It seems then, we must not express our belief of God in his words, but our own; nor is the scripture a creed plain or proper enough to declare a true believer, or an orthodox Christian, without our glosses.
Are not things come to a fad pass, that to refuse any other terms than those the Holy Ghost has given us, and which are confessed to be the rule or form of r sound words,' is to expose a man to the censure of being unfound in the faith, and unfit for Christian communion ? Will nothing do but man's comment instead of God's text? His consequences and conclusions, in the room of sacred revelation? I cannot see how any man can be obliged to receive, or believe, revealed truths in any other language than that of the revelation itself; especially if those, that vary the expression, have not the same spirit to lead them in doing so, or that it appears not to me that they have the guidance of that holy spirit. If the Holy Ghost had left doubts in scripture, which is yet irreverent to believe, I see not how men can resolve them ; it is the work of that Spirit. And since men are so apt to err, doubts are better left in scripture, than made or left by us. But it is to cross that order of prudence and wisdom among men, who chuse to conform their expresions to the thing they believe. If an honest man hath related a story to me, of something he hath seen, and I am to declare my faith about it, if I believe the fact, I will chuse to deliver it in the terms of the relator, as being nearest to the truth.
Suppose a father, dying, makes his last will and testament, and, as he thinks, so plain, that there can be no mistake made by the executors, but what is wilful: if they, instead of proving this will, and acting according to the plainness of it, turn commentators, make more difficulties than they find, and perplex the whole matter, to the children and legatees, and send them to the law for right; will we not esteem such executors ill men, and justify those persons concerned
explanation, c., and taken to blessed will, bivered to
in their refusal of their paraphrase? « God hath, at « sundry times, and in diverse manners,” by his prophets, his beloved Son, and his apostles, a delivered to the world a declaration of his blessed will; but some have claimed, and taken to themselves, the keeping, explanation, and use of it, so as those that chuse to be concluded by the letter and text of Christ's testament, in its most important points, expose themselves to great prejudice for so doing; for they are excommunicated from all other share in it, than the punishment of the breakers of it; which is part of their anathema, who, of all others, are most guilty of adding, or diminishing, by undertaking to determine, for others as well as themselves, the mind and intention of the Holy Ghost in it.
But if it be true, as - true it is, that few have writ of the divine authority of scripture, who do not affirm that the very penmen of it were not only inspired by the Holy Ghost, but so extraordinarily acted by him, as that they were wholly asleep to their own will, desires or affections, like people taken out of themselves, and purely passive, “ as clay in the hands of the pot- ter," to the revelation, will, and motion of the spirit ; and for this end, that nothing, delivered by them, might have the least possibility of mistake, error, or imperfection, but be a complete declaration of the s will of God to men;" I cannot see which way such men excuse themselves from great presumption, that will, notwithstanding, have the wording of creeds of communion, and reject that declaration of faith as insufficient, which is delivered in the very terms of the Holy Ghost; and deny those persons to be members of Christ's church, that in conscience refuse to subscribe any other draught than that the Lord has given them.
Two things oppose themselves to this practice : the glory of God, and the honour of the scripture; in that it naturally draws people from the regard due,
* Heb. i. 1.
to God and the scripture, and begets too much refpect for men and their tradition. This was the difficulty Christ met with, and complained of, in his time; they had set up so many rabbies to teach them religion, that the Lord of the true religion could hardly find place amongst them. And what did they do? " They taught for doctrines the traditions of men :". they gave their own and their predecessors apprehensions, constructions, and paraphrases upon scripture, for the mind and will of God, the rule of the people's faith. They were near at this pass in the church of Corinth, when they cried out, “ I am for Paul, I am " for Apollos, and I am for Cephas,” though they had not the same temptation.
And that which followed then, ever will follow in the like case, and that is, distraction; which is the contrary to the second thing that opposeth itself to this practice, and that is, the concord of Christians. For the sake of peace consider it : « Lo here, and lo there, s always followed ; one of this mind, and another of " that : as many sects, as great men to make and head " them. This was the case of the Jews; and yet I do not hear that they devoured one another about their opinions and commentaries upon scripture; but the. Christians have done both; divided and persecuted too. First, they have divided, and that mostly upon the score of opinions about religion. They have not been contented with the expressions of the Holy Ghost; they liked their own better. And when they were set up, in the room of scripture, and in the name of scripture, submission was required, upon pain of worldly punishments. This dissatisfied curiosity, this un. warrantable, what shall I say? This wanton search, has cost Christendom dear, and poor England dearest
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· I design not to grate upon any, or to revive old stories, or search old wounds, or give the least just occasion of displeasure to those that are in present power ; yet I must needs say, that opinion, on one side or the other, has been the cause of much of that.