« السابقةمتابعة »
the natural ground of objections, but not of destroying any truth, otherwife well established. For all fcience whatever is attended with difficulties, and objections may be raised against the clearest and most demonstrable truths. The being of God, and his perfections, the creation of the world, the conftitution of nature, the ways of Providence, and any the best and most useful knowledge we can gain, is attended with difficulties, and confequently liable to objections. Let it be well obferved, those difficulties arife not from the things themfelves, but from the imperfection of our minds. In the things themselves there are no difficulties, nor any ground for objection; the difficulties are in the narrowness of our understandings, which find a great difficulty in comprehending many things relating even to the most certain and undoubted truths. And, with regard to the Scriptures, I myself have had large experience of this. Many things which at firft, and for fome time, appeared to me very obfcure, unaccountable, and inconfiftent, by patient application, and a closer attention, have fhone out unclouded into the plaineft and clearest truths. By this I am convinced, that all remaining difficulties are not fo in themfelves, but only fo with refpect to the imperfection of my mind. And upon the whole, you may be very fure, when you hear any objection advanced against the Scriptures, that the objection, in truth and reality, lies against the objector himself, as he either cannot, or will not, fee the truth as it ftands in the word of God.
But you may fay-Why fhould God put into his word things to us difficult and obfcure? I anfwer-To exercife our diligence, and to try our integrity. I have faid fo much to convince you of the vanity and folly of Deifm, and to guard you against any bad impreffions from that quarter, which may prove of very fatal confequence. A little of this leaven may do a great deal of harm, as it creates an indifference to Divine knowledge, to the inftructions and counfels of our heavenly Father; as it takes us off from the ftudy of the Scriptures, robs us of the beft guide of our actions, the most powerful motives to all virtue, the strongest confolations in every day of affliction; and at laft exposes to the righteous judgment of God, for the neglect and contempt of the best of bleffings he ever beftowed upon the world.
We have the strongest reafon to be fully fatisfied of the fufficiency of Scripture, as perfectly able to make us wife unto falvation. The Papift will own the Scriptures to be the word of God, and a true rule of faith, but not a fufficient rule. The only fufficient rule of faith he will tell you, is the church of ROME, which infallibly understands and propounds what the Chriftian world is to believe and do, in order to eternal falvation; and therefore you ought implicitly to fubmit your understanding and confcience to her direction and decifions; and doing fo, you have no need to confult the Scriptures, being already provided with a living infallible guide. But if the Scriptures are a true rule of faith, then are they a fufficient rule to all forts and degrees of perfons, for they expressly affirm their own fufficiency in this extenfive fenfe.
That nothing but Scripture is a fufficient ground to build our faith and practice upon, as Chriftians, will clearly appear to any confiderate perfon. All befides is uncertainty and confufion. You have Popes against Popes, councils against councils, fathers against fathers,
one age against the church of another age; and tradition paffing through hands fo uncertain and inconfiftent, muft of neceflity lofe all force of evidence. Only upon the rock of Scripture can we find any reft for the fole of our feet; and there we have a firm foundation, and a fure infallible guide, which we may with the greateft certainty and fteadfastness oppose to the authority of the church of ROME.
Whatever may be pretended to gain that church the credit of a guide, all that, and much more, may be faid for the Scriptures. Has the church of ROME been ancient? The Scriptures are more ancient. Is that church a means to keep Chriftians in unity? So is the Scriptures to preferve unity of belief in things neceffary and plainly revealed, and in unity of charity in other matters. Following the Scriptures, we fhall follow that which must be true, if the church of ROME be true, for the owns the truth of Scripture. Whereas, if we follow that church, we follow that which, if the Scriptures be true, may be falfe; nay, which, if the Scriptures be true, muft be falfe, because the Scriptures teftify against it. We have God's exprefs command to follow the Scriptures, and no intimation or colour of any prohibition; but to believe in the church of ROME we have no command at all, much less an express command; nay, on the contrary, we have a general prohibition in these words, Call no man mafter upon earth.
Following the Scriptures, we fhall embrace a religion which, being contrary to flesh and blood, without any affiftance from worldly power, wifdom, or policy, nay, against all the power and policy of the world, prevailed and spread itfelf in a fhort time over a very great part of the world. Whereas it is apparent the church of RoME has got, and ftill maintains her authority over men's confciences, by counterfeiting false miracles, forging falfe hiftories, corrupting the monuments of former times, by wars, by perfecutions, by maffacres, by treafons, by rebellions; in fhort, by all manner of carnal unjustifiable means, whether violent or fraudulent.
Following the Scriptures, we fhall believe a religion the first preachers and profeffors whereof could certainly have no worldly ends; could neither project nor promise to themselves by it any of the profits, honours, or pleafures of this world, but rather the contrary, even all the hardships the world could lay upon them. On the other hand, the head of the church of ROME, the pretended vicar of Chrift, fucceffor of the Apostles, and guide of faith, it is palpably evident, makes the Popish religion the inftrument of his ambition, to gratify the luft of dominion, by fubjecting the confciences of all mankind to his authority, and all nations to his jurifdiction. Befides, it is evident to any man who has but half an eye, that most of those doctrines which the Romish church addeth to the Scriptures, are, one way or other, calculated to promote the honour or temporal profit of the teachers of them.
Following the Scriptures only, we fhall embrace a religion of perfect fimplicity and purity; confifting, in a manner, wholly in the worship of God in fpirit and truth, and in fincere obedience to his will. Whereas the Roman church, and doctrine, is loaded with an infinity of weak, childish, ridiculous fuperftitions and ceremonies, and the moft grofs and manifeft idolatry. If we follow the Scriptures, we must not promise our
selves falvation without forfaking effectually, and mortifying all vices, and practifing fincerely all Chriftian virtues, which our reafon tells us is the only way in which we can fecure the favour of God, and our own happiness. But the church of ROME opens an eafier and broader way to heaven, and, though a man continues all his life long in a courfe of fin, gives him affurances he may be let into heaven by a back gate, even by an act of attrition, at the hour of death, if it be joined with confeffion to a priest, or by an act of contrition without it.
Juft and perfect are the precepts of piety and humility, of innocence and patience, of good nefs, temperance, fobriety, juftice, meeknefs, fortitude, and conftancy, contempt of the world, the love of God, and of mankind; in a word, of all virtues, and against all vices, which the Scriptures oblige us to obferve and obey, as ever we hope to fee God in his heavenly kingdom; which, if they were generally obeyed, could not but make the world generally happy; and the goodness of them alone is fufficient to make any wife and good man believe that the religion which obliges to them, comes from God, the fountain of all goodness. The church of ROME enervates, and in a manner diffolves and abrogates, many of the holy precepts of the Gofpel, by teaching men that they are not laws for all Chriftians, but counfels of perfection, and matters of fupererogation, which a man fhould do well if he obferves, but shall not fin if he doth not obferve them; that they are for those who aim at high places in heaven; but if a man will be content with an inferior fituation there, especially if he be content to tafte of purgatory in the way, he need not incumber his thoughts at prefent with many of the rules of the Gofpel. Not to fay, that the Romish church manifeftly foments a fpirit of uncharitablenefs and cruelty to all mankind, not of her profeffion. Therefore the religion of this church is far from being fo holy or fo good as the doctrine of Chrift delivered in the Scriptures, and confequently cannot come from the fame fountain of holiness and good
Following the church of ROME for our guide, we fhall only follow a combination of deluded men, who have fast closed their eyes, and are not at liberty to open them, or to examine and confider whether they are in the right or no. For that Papifts have no liberty of judgement is manifeft, because they reckon it a mortal fin to doubt of any part of their doctrine. Whence it follows, that feeing every man must refolve that he will never commit mortal fin, he muft never examine the grounds of Popery at all, for fear he should be moved to doubt; or if he do examine, he muft before refolve that no evidence, not even of Scripture, no motives, be they ever fo ftrong, fhall move him to doubt, left he should fall into mortal fin.
Seeing this is the condition of all who are esteemed good Catholics, who can deny that they are a fet of men unwilling and afraid to underftand, that have eyes to fee and will not, that have not the love of the truth, but are given over to ftrong delufion? And therefore, in following fuch a church, and fuch guides, we fhall only follow the blind, and with them fall into the ditch. If we follow the Scriptures, we shall follow only the truth; we fhall follow a guide which exhorts us to keep our eyes always open to the truth, to try all things, and to hold faft only
that which is good; to try every spirit, and to bring every doctrine to the teft of God's pure and holy word. And thus we are at liberty to review the ground upon which we ftand, to correct any error, and to improve our minds in the knowledge and love of the truth.
In thefe and feveral other refpects, the fufficiency of Scripture to guide us in the way of life and falvation, is evidently feen, and how foolish and unfafe it is to for fake this heavenly guide, and follow the delufions of the church of ROME. But then, the greater the evidence that Scripture is a perfect guide to eternal life, the greater muft our obligations be to ufe it faithfully as fuch,
Let us be much in reading the Scriptures, and think and judge freely. By judging freely, I do not mean rafhly and at random; we must judge of the Scriptures with all poffible care and caution; but judge freely, without regard to the authority of any perfon, party, or church whatsoever. We are made by our gracious Creator for the knowledge of the truth; not to be the dupes of custom or authority, not blindly to follow the dictates, decrees, and conftitutions of weak and ambitious men; but to employ our minds generously in the fearch and knowledge of the truth. Chriftianity calls us to the nobleft exercise of our underftanding; and we lofe the benefit of it, if we do not think seriously, and judge freely.
There is no other way of having our minds established, and well feafoned with the principles of our religion. In this way we fhall fee the glory and excellency of the holy Scriptures; thus we shall feel the power of God's word upon our hearts; thus our understandings will gradually be enlightened with Divine knowledge, and. to our unspeakable comfort, grow up into Jefus Chrift, and gain the happiness of the man who, forfaking all impiety, and every falfe way, delights himself in the law of the Lord, and daily meditates therein. Such a one is under the special bleffing of heaven, and, like a tree planted in a fruitful foil, fhall grow and flourish, and rife infinitely higher than all the honours, wealth, and enjoyments of this world; he fall rife to immortality, and there find all the glorious fruits of a life of piety, and the full accomplishment of the magnificent promifes which here on earth he with pleasure perused in the word of God.
This is what I have to offer on this important fubject. Whatever the refult may be, with regard to others, this one point is fufficiently fecured -I have fatisfied my confcience by difcharging what I efteem an incumbent duty and I have done it in the faithfulnefs and integrity of my heart, according to the wifdom God has given me.