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themselves fo much about the latter; for why hould they be folicitous to wrest the definitions of councils, and conform them to their own opinion, who had no regard to the church's authority? if those great wits, as he calls them, had believed the sayings of scripture to be of no greater authority than the definitions of councils, they would have answered texts of fcripture as they have done the definitions of councils ; not by endeavouring to interpret them to another fense, but by downright denying their authority. So that it seems that oral tradition is liable to the fame inconvenience with the written as to this particular.

$ 5. And of this I shall give him a plain instance in two great wits of their church, the present Pope and Mr. White; the one, the head of the traditionary church, as Mr. S. calls it; the other, the great master of the traditionary doctrine. These two great wits, the Pope and Mr. White, notwithstanding the plainness of oral tradition, and the impoffibility of being ignorant of it, or mistaking it, have yet been fo unhappy as to differ about several points of faith; insomuch that Mr. White is unkindly censured for it at Rome; and perhaps here, in England, the Pope speeds no better. However, the difference continues ftill so wide, that Mr. White hath thought fit to disobey the summons of his chief paftor; and, like a prudent man, rather to write againft him here, out of harm's way, than to venture the infallibidity of plain oral tradition for the doctrines he maintains, against a practical tradition which they have at Rome, of killing hereticks.

Methinks Mr. S. might have spared his brags, p. 54. that he “hath evinced from clear reason, that it is far

more possible to make a man not to be, than not

to know what is riveted into his foul by so oft re“ peated fenfations, (as the Christian faith' is by oral “ and practical tradition); "and that it exceeds all the

power of nature, abftracting from the cases of mad“ ness and violent disease, to blot knowledge, thus fix "ed, out of the soul of one single believer ; infomuch " that sooner may all mankind perish, than the regula“ tive virtue of tradition miscarry; nay, sooner mayo “ the finews of entire nature, by overstraining, crack,

« and she lose all her activity and motion, that is, “ herself, than one single part of that innumerable mul“ titude which integrate the vast teftification which we “ call tradition, can possibly be violated ;” when after he hath told us, p. 116. that “ the city of Rome was “ blessed with more vigorous causes to imprint Christ's “ doctrine at first, and recommend it to the next age, “than were found any where else; and consequently, “ that the stream of tradition, in its source and first

putting into motion, was more particularly vigorous " there than in any other sec; and that the chief pastor of that see hath a pariicular title to infallibility built

upon tradition, above any other paftor whatsoever : not to dilate on the particular assistances to that Bi

shop, springing out of his divinely constituted office:” wnen, I say, after all this quaint reasoning and rumbling rhetorick, about the infallibility of oral tradition, and the particular infallibility of the Bishop of Rome, built on tradition, we cannot but remember, that this great oracle of oral tradition the Pope, and this great master of it Mr. White, who is so peculiarly skilled in the rule of faith, have so manifestly declared themselves to differ in points of faith. For that the Pope, and his congregation general at Rome, have condemned all his books, for this reason, because they contain several

propositions manifestly heretical,” (Mr. Wh. exetafis, p.9.), is a sign, that these two great wits do not very well hit it in matters of faith; and either that they do not both agree in the same rule of faith, or that one of them does not rightly understand it, or not follow it. And now, why may not that which Mr. S. unjustly says concerning the use of fcripture, p. 39. be upon this account justly applied to the business of oral tradition? “ If

we see two such eminent wits among the Papists, “ (the Pope and Mr. White), making use of the self“fame, and, as they conceive, the best advantages " their rule of faith gives them, and availing themselves " the best they can, by acquired skill, yet differ about

matters of faith; what certainty can we undertakingly promise to weaker heads, that is, to the generality of the Papists,” in whoin the governors of the church


do professedly cherish ignorance for the increasing of their devotion ?

$ 6. 4thly, We have sufficient assurance that the books of scripture are conveyed down to us without any mate

rial corruption or alteration. And he that denies this, must either reject the authority of all books, because we cannot be certain whether they be the same now that they were at first : or else give some probable reason why these should be more liable to corruption than others. But any man that considers things, will easily find, that it is much more improbable that these books thould have been either wilfully or involuntarily corrupted in any thing material to faith or a good life, than any other books in the world, whether we consider the peculiar providence of God engaged for the preservation of them, or the peculiar circumstances of these books. If they were written by men divinely inspired, and are of use to Christians, as is acknowledged, at least in words, on all hands; nothing is more credible, than that the same divine providence which took care for the publishing of them, would likewise be concerned to preserve them

entire. And if we consider the peculiar circumstances of these books, we shall find it morally impossible that they should have been materially corrupted; because, being of universal and mighty concernment, and at first diffused into many hands, and soon after translated into most languages, and most passages in them cited in books now extant, and all these now agreeing in all matters of importance, we have as great assurance as can be had concerning any thing of this nature, that they have not suffered any material alteration; and far greater than any man can have concerning the incorruption of their oral tradition ; as I shall shew when I come to answer the thing which he calls demonstration.

§ 7: 5thly, That de facto the scripture hath been acknowledged by all Christians, in former ages, to be the means whereby the doctrine of Christ hath, with greatest certainty, been conveyed to them. One good evidence of this is, that the primitive adversaries of Christian religion did always look upon the scripture as the standard and measure of the Christian doctrine ; and, in all their writing against Christianity, took that for granted to be


the Christian faith which was contained in those books; there having not as yet any philosopher risen up, whó had demonstrated to the world, that a doctrine could not, with fufficient certainty and clearness, be conveyed by writing from one age to another. But how absurd had this method of confuting Christian religion been, if it had been then the publick profession of Christians, that the scriptures were not the rule of their faith? How easy had it been for the fathers, who apologized for and defended Christian religion, to have told them, they took a wrong measure of their doctrine ? for it was not the principle of Christians, that their faith was conveyed to them by the scriptures, and therefore it was a fond undertaking to attack their religion that way : but if they would effectually argue against it, they ought to inquire what that doctrine was which was orally delivered from father to fon, without which the scriptures could fignify no more to them than an unknown cypher without a key; being of themselves, without the light of oral tradition, only a heap of unintelligible words, " unsensed chara

cters,” and “ ink variously figured in a book ;” and therefore it was a gross miltake in them to think they could understand the Christian religion, like their own philosophy, by reading of those books, or confute it by confuting them. Thus the fathers might have defended their religion ; nay, they ought in all reason to have taken this course, and to have appealed from those dead senseless books, to the “ true rule of faith, the living “ voice of the church essential:" . But doth Mr. S. find any thing to this purpose in the apologies of the fathers ? If he hath discovered any such matter, he might do well to acquaint the world with it, and make them wiser. In the mean time, I shall inform him what I have found, that the fathers never except against that method, but appeal frequently from the sanderous reports and misrepresentations which were made of their doctrine, to the books of scripture, as the true standard of it.

$ 8. Another evidence that Christians, in all ages since the Apostles times, have owned the scriptures for the rule of their faith, is, that the fathers, in their homilies, did use constantly to declare to the people what they were to believe, and what they were to practise, out


of the scriptures; which had been most absurd and senseless, had they believed, not the scriptures, but something elle, to have been the rule of faith and manners. For what could tend more to the seducing of the people from Mr. S.'s supposed rule of faith, oral tradition, than to make a daily practice of declaring and confirming the doctrines of the Christian faith from the scriptures ? Had the ancient fathers been right for Mr. S.'s way, they would not have built their doctrine upon scripture, perhaps not have mentioned it, for fear of giving the people an occasion to grow familiar with so dangerous a book; but rather, as their more prudent pofterity have done, would have locked it up from the people in an unknown tongue, and have set open the stores of good wholsome traditions; and, instead of telling them, as they do most frequently, “ Thus faith the scripture,"? would only have told them, “ This is the voice of the “ essential church ; thus it hath been delivered down by " hand to us from our forefathers.”

$9. I might add for a third evidence, the great malice of the enemies and persecutors of Christianity against this book, and their cruel endeavours to extort it out of the hands of Christians, and destroy it out of the world, that by this means they might extirpate Christianity : for it seems they thought that the abolishing of this book would have been the ruin of that religion. But, according to Mr. S.'s opinion, their malice wanted wit: for, had all the Bibles in the world been burnt, Christian religion would nevertheless have been entirely preserved, and safely transmitted down to us by sense written in mens hearts, with the good help of Mr. S.'s demonstrations. Nay, their church would have been a great gainer by it: for this occasion and parent of all heresy, the scripture, being once out of the way, she might have had all in her own hands; and, by leading the people in the safe paths of tradition, and consequently of science, might have made them wise enough to obey, Well ; . but fuppose the persecutors of Christianity mistook themselves in their design, how came the Christians in those days to be sootenacious of this book, that rather than deliver it, they would yield up theinfelves to torments and death ? And why did they look upon those VOL.III.



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