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whereby the knowledge of Christ's doctrine is conveyed to us ? So that although oral tradition be the means whereby we come to know, that these are the books of scripture ; yet these books are the next and immediate means whereby we come to know, what is Christ's doctrine, and consequently what we are to believe.
$ 8. Nor doth this concession make oral tradition to be the rule of faith by a parity of reason; as if, because we acknowledge that oral tradition alone can with competent certainty transmit a book to after ages, we must therefore grant that it can with as much certainty convey a doctrine consisting of several articles of faith, (nay, very many, as Mr. White acknowledges, Rufhw. dial. 4. 9.9.), and many laws and precepts of life : so because oral tradition fufficiently affures us, that this is magna charta, and that the statute-book, in which are contain: ed those laws which it concerns every man to be skilful in; therefore, by like parity of reason, it must follow, that tradition itself is better than a book, even the best way imaginable, to convey down such laws to us. Mr. S. faith expressly it is, p.23.; 'but how truly, I appeal to experience, and the wisdom of all lawgivers, who seem to think otherwise. Tradition is already defined to us,
a delivery down from hand to hand of the sense and « faith of forefathers,” i. c. of the gospel or message of Christ. Now, suppose any oral message, consisting of an hundred particularities, were to be delivered to an hundred several persons of different degrees of understanding and memory, by them to be conveyed to an hundred more, who were to convey it to others, and so onwards to a hundred descents; is it probable, this message, with all the particularities of it, would be as truly conveyed through so many mouths, as if it were written down in so many letters, concerning which every bearer should need to say no more than this, that it was delivered to him as a letter written by him whose name was subscribed to it? I think it not probable, though the mens lives were concerned every one for the faithful delivery of his errand or letter: for the letter is a message which no man can mistake in, unless he will; but the errand so difficult, and perplexed with its multitude of particulars, that it is an equal wager against every one of the mel
fengers, that he either forgets or mistakes something in it; it is ten thousand to one, that the first hundred do not all agree in it; it is a million to one, that the next fuccession do not all deliver it truly; for if any one of the first hundred mistook or forgot any thing, it is then impossible that he that received it from him should deliver it right; and so the farther it
goes, change it is liable to. Yet, after all this, I do not say but it may be demonstrated, in Mr. S.'s way, to have more of certainty in it than the original letter.
$9. 3 lly, We allow, that the doctrine of Christian religion hath in all ages been preached to the people by the pastors of the church, and taught by Christian parents to their children: but with great difference; by some more plainly, and truly, and perfectly; by others with less care and exactness, according to the different degrees of ability and integrity in pastors or parents ; and likewise with very different success, accordi..g to the different capacities and dispositions of the learners. We allow likewise, that there hath been a constant course of visible actions, conformable, in some measure, to the principles of Christianity; but then we fay, that those outward acts and circuinstances of religion may have undergone great variations, and received great change, by addition to them, and defalcation from them in several ages. That this not only is poslible, but hath actually happened, I shall shew when I come to answer his des monstrations. Now, that several of the main doctrines of faith contained in the scripture, and actions therein commanded, have been taught and practised by Christians in all ages, (as the articles summed up in the Apoitles creed, the use of the two facraments), is a good evidence so far, that the scriptures contain the doctrine of Christian religion. But then, if we consider how we come to know that such points of faith have been taught, and such external actions practised in all ages, it is not enough to say, there is a present multitude of Christians that profess to have received such doctrines as ever believed and practised, and from hence to infer that they were so ; the inconfequence of which argument I shall have a better occasion to shew afterwards : but he that will prove this to any man's fatisfaction, must make it evident from the best monuments and records of several ages, that is, from the most authentick books of those times, that such doctrines have in all those ages been constantly and universally taught and practised. ' But then, if, from those records of former times, it appear, that other doctrines, not contained in the scriptures, were not taught and practised universally in all ages, but have crept in by degrees, fome in one age, and some in another, according
as ignorance and superstition in the people, ambition and interest in the chief pastors of the church, have ministered occasion and opportunity; and that the innovators of these doctrines and practices have all along pretended to confirm them out of scripture, as the acknowledged rule of faith; and have likewise acknowledged the books of scripture to have descended without
any material corruption or alteration, (all which will sufficiently appear in the process of my discourse); then cannot the oral and practical tradition of the present church concerning aný doctrine, as ever believed and practised, which hath no real foundation in scripture, be any argument against these books, as if they did not fully and clearly contain the Christian doctrine. And to say the scripture is to be interpreted by oral and practical tradition, is no more reasonable, than it would be to interpret the ancient books of the law by the present practice of it; which every one that compares things fairlý together, must acknowledge to be full of deviations fron the ancient law.
ŠE cT. V. How much Mr. S. attributes to his rule of
faith more than Protestants to theirs. $1. Secondly, How much more he attributes to his
tribute to ours. It, We do not fay, that it is impossible in the nature of the thing that this rule should fail; that is, either that these books should cease to descend, or should be corrupted. This we do not attribute to them, becauss there is no need we should. We believe the providence of God will take care of them, and secure them from bea ing either lost or materially corrupted; yet we think it very possible, that all the books in the world may be burnt, or otherwise destroyed. All that we affirm concerning our rule of faith, is, that it is abundantly sufficient, if men be not wanting to themselves, to convey the Christian doctrine to all successive ages; and we think him very unreasonable that expects that God should do more than what is abundantly enough, for the perpetuating of Christian religion in the world.
8 2. 2dly, Nor do we say, that that certainty and afsurance which we have that these books are the same that were written by the Apostles, is a first and self-evident principle; but only that it is a truth capable of evidence sufficient, and as much as we can have for a thing of that nature.
Mr. S. may, if he please, fay, that tradition's certainty is a first and self-evident principle; but then he that says this, should take heed how he takes upon him to demonstrate it. Aristotle was so wise, as never to demonstrate first principles; for which he gives this very good reason, because they cannot be demonstrated. And most prudent men are of opinion, that a felfevident principle of all things in the world should not be demonstrated, because it needs not: for to what purpose Thould a man write a book to prove that which every man must assent to without any proof, so soon as it is propounded to him? I have always taken a self-evident principle to be such a propofition, as having in itself sufficient evidence of its own truth, and not needing to be made evident by any thing else. If I be herein mistaken, I desire Mr. S. to inform me better.
$ 3, So that the true state of the controversy between us, is, whether oral and practical tradition, in opposition to writing and books, be the only way and means whereby the doctrine of Christ can with certainty and security be conveyed down to us, who live at this distance from the age of Christ and his Apostles ? This he affirms; and the Protestants deny, not only that it is the sole means, but that it is sufficient for the certain conveyance of this doctrine ; and withal affirm, that this doctrine hath been conveyed down to us by the books of holy scripture, as the proper measure and standard of our religion : but, then they do not exclude oral tradition from being one means of conveying to us the certain
knowledge of these books; nor do they exclude the authentick records of former ages, nor the constant teaching and practice of this doctrine, from being fubordinate means and helps of conveying it from one age to another; nay, so far are they from excluding these concurrent means, that they suppose them always to have been used, and to have been of great advantage for the propagating and explaining of this doctrine, so far as they have been truly subordinate to, and regulated by these facred oracles, the holy fcriptures, which, they say, do truly and fully contain that doctrine which Christ delivered to his Apostles, and they preached to the world. To illustrate this by an instance : Suppose there were a controversy now on foot, how men might come to know what was the true art of logick which Aristotle taught his scholars; and fome should be of opinion, that the only way to know this would be by oral tradition from his scholars; which we might easily understand, by consulting those of the present age who learned it from those who received it from them, who at last had it from Aristotle himself: but others should think it the furest way to study his Organon, a book acknowledged by all his scholars to have been written by himself, and to contain that doctrine which he taught them. They who take this latter course, suppose the authority of oral tradition for the conveying to them the knowledge of this book ; and do suppose this doctrine to have been taught and practised in all ages, and a great many books to have been written by way of comment and explication of this doctrine ; and that these have been good helps of promoting the knowledge of it. And they may well enough fuppofe all this, and yet be of opinion, that the truelt measure and standard of Aristotle's doctrine is his own book; and that it would be a fond thing in any man, by forcing an interpretation upon his book, either contrary to, or very foreign and remote from the obvious fense of his words, to go about to reconcile this book with that method of disputing which is used by the professed Aristotelians of the present age, and with all that scholastick jargon which Mr. S. learned at Lisbon, and has made him great a man in the science of controverfy, as even to enable him to demonstrate first and self