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being the rule of faith, scripture, and oral tradition : these properties do not belong to scripture, and they do to oral tradition ; therefore folely to it. A very good argument, if he can prove these two things : That " these two properties do not belong to scripture, and " that they do to oral tradition.”
$ 2. In order to the proving of the first, that these properties do not belong to fcripture, he prem feth this note, p. 13. “ That we cannot by the scriptures mean the sense of them; but the book, that is, such or such
characters not yet fensed or interpreted.” But why can we not by the scriptures mean the sense of them? He gives this clear and admirable reason, Because the sense of the scripture is “ the things to be known; and these we “confess are the very points of faith of which the rule " of faith is to ascertain us.” Which is just as if a man should reason thus : Those who say the statute-book can convey to them the knowledge of the statute-law, cannot by the statute-book mean the sense of it, but the book; that is, such or such characters not yet sensed or interpreted; because the sense of the statute-book is the thing to be known, and these are the very laws, the knowledge whereof is to be conveyed to them by this book. Which is to say, that a book cannot convey to a man the knowledge of any matter ; because, if it did, it would convey to him the thing to be known. But that he may farther fee what excellent reasoning this is, I shall apply this paragraph to oral tradition ; for the argument holds every whit as well concerning that: To
speak to them in their own language, who say that “ oral tradition is the rule, we must premise this note, " that they cannot mean by oral tradition the sense of “ it, that is, the things to be known; for those they “ confess are the very points of faith of which the rule of « faith is to ascertain us. When they say then, that oc ral tradition is the rule of faith, they can only mean “ by oral tradition the words wherein it is delivered, “ not yet fensed or interpreted, but as yet to be sensed; " that is, such or such sounds, with their aptness to figni“ fy to them assuredly God's mind, or ascertain them of " their faith : for, abstracting from the sense and actual “ fignification of those words, there is nothing imagi
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“nable left, but those sounds, with their aptness to fi
gnify it.” When he hath answered this argument, he will have answered his own. In the mean while, this discourse, that he who holds the scriptures to be the rule of faith, must needs by the scriptures mean a book void of sense, &c.; because otherwise, if by scripture he should understand a book that hath a certain sense in it, that sense must be the doctrine of Christ, which is the very thing that this book is to convey to us : I say, this discourse tends only to prove it an absurd thing, for any man that holds fcripture the means of conveying Christ's doctrine, to understand by the scripture a book that conveys Christ's doctrine. This being his own reason, put into plain English, I leave the reader to judge whether it be not something thort of perfect science and demonItration. Nay, if it were thoroughly examined, I doubt whether it would not fall short of that low pitch of science which he speaks of in his preface; where he tells us, that“ the way of science is to proceed from one piece 66 of sense to another.”
$ 3. Having premised this, that by the scriptures we mult only mean dead characters that have no sense under them, he proceeds to shew, that these dead characters have not the properties of a rule of faith belonging to them. Which, although it be nothing to the purpose when he hath shewn it; yet it is very pleasant to observe by what cross and untoward arguments he goes about it: of which I will give the reader a taste, by one or two instances.
In the first place, he shews, that it cannot be evident to us, that “these books were written by men divinely * inspired; because, till the seeming contradictions in “ those books are folved, which to do, is one of the most " difficult tasks in the world, they cannot be concluded “ to be of God's inditing," p. 14. Now, how is this an argument against those who by the scriptures must mean unsensed letters and characters? I had always thought contradictions had been in the sense of words, not in the letters and characters; but I perceive he hath a peculiar opinion, that the four and twenty letters do contradict one another. The other instance shall be in his last argument; which is this, p. 17. That “ the scripture cannot be the “ rule o' faith, because those who are to be ruled and “ guided by the scripture's letter to faith, cannot be cer“ tain of the true sense of it :” which is to say, that ansensed letters and characters cannot be the rule of faith, because the rule of faith must have a certain sense ; that is, must not be unfensed letters and characters : which in plain English amounts to thus much, unsensed letters and characters cannot be the rule of faith, that they cannot.
4. And thus I might trace him through all his properties of the rule of faith, and let the reader see how incomparably he demonstrates the falfhood of this Protestant tenet, as he calls it, that a senseless book may be a rule of faith. But I am weary of pursuing him in these airy and phantastical combats ; and shall leave him to fight with his own fancies, and to batter down the castles which himself hath built. Only I think fit to acquaint him, once for all, with a great secret of the Protestant doctrine, which it seems he hath hitherto been ignorant of, (for I am still more confirmed in my opinion, that he forsook our religion before he understood it), that when they say the scriptures are the rule of faith, or the means whereby Christ's doctrine is conveyed down to them, they mean by the scriptures, books written in such words as do fufficiently express the sense and meaning of Christ's doctrine.
$ 5. And to satisfy him that we are not absurd and un. reasonable in fuppoling the scriptures to be such a book, I would beg the favour of him to grant me these four things, or shew reason to the contrary.
1. That whatever can be spoken in plain and intelligible words, and such as have a certain sense, may be written in the same words.
2. That the same words are as intelligible when they are written, as when they are spoken.
3. That God, if he please, can indite a book in as plain words as any of his creatures:
4. That we have no reason to think that God affects obscurity, and envies that men should understand him, in those things which are necessary for them to know; and which must have been written to no no purpose, if
we cannot understand them. St. Luke tells Theophilus, chap. i. 3. 4. that he wrote the history of Chrilt to him, on purpose to give him a certain knowledge of those things which he writ. But how a book which hath no certain sense, should give a man certain knowledge of things, is beyond my capacity. St. John faith, chap.xx. 31. that he purposely committed several of Christ's miracles to writing, that men might believe on him. But now, had Mr. S. been at his elbow, he would have advised him spare his labour ; and would have given him this good reason for it, Because, when he had written his book, no body would be able to find the certain sense of it without oral tradition ; and that alone would securely and intelligibly convey both the doctrine of Christ, and the certain knowledge of those miracles which he wrought for the confirmation of it. If these four things be but granted, I see not why, when we say that the scriptures are the means of conveying to us Christ's doctrine, we may not be allowed to understand by the scriptures, a book which doth in plain and intelligible words express to us this doctrine.
SECT. III. Mr. S.'s exceptions against fcripture exa
mined. $1. AND now, although this might have been a fuffi
cient answer to his exceptions against the fcriptures, as being incapable of the properties of a rule of faith ; because all of them suppose that which is apparently false and absurd, as granted by Protestants, viz. that the scriptures are only a heap of dead letters and insignificant characters, without any sense under them; and that oral tradition is that only which gives them life and sense : yet, because several of his exceptions pretend to shew, that the true properties of a rule of faith do not at all appertain to the scriptures; therefore I shall give particular answers to them; and, as I go along, Thew, that tradition is liable to all or most of those exceptions, and to far greater than those.
$ 2. First, Whereas he says, p. 13. “It cannot be e66 vident to Protestants from their principles, that the « books of scripture were originally written by men di
“ vinely inspired;" I will shew him, that it may, and then answer the reasons of this exception.
It is evident, from an universal, constant, and uncontrolled tradition among Christians, not only oral, but written, and from the acknowledgment of the greatest adversaries of our religion, that these books were originally written by the Apostles and Evangelists. And this is not only a Protestant principle, but the principle of all mankind, “ That an undoubted tradition is sufficient “ evidence of the antiquity and author of a book," and all the extrinsical argument that can ordinarily be had of a book written long ago.
Next, it is evident, that the Apostles were men divinely inspired, that is, secured from error and mistake in the writing of this doctrine, from the miracles that were wrought for the confirmation of it; because it is unreasonable to imagine, that the divine power should fo remarkably interpose for the confirmation of a doctrine, and give so eminent an attestation to the Apostles to convince the world, that they were immediately appointed and commissioned by God, and yet not secure them from error in the delivery of it. And that such miracles were wrought, is evident from as credible histories as we have for any of those things which we do moft firmly believe. And this is better evidence, that the Apostles were men divinely inspired, than bare oral tradition can furnish us withal : for setting aside the authentick relation of these matters in books, it is most probable, that oral tradition of itself, and without books, would scarce have preserved the memory
any of those particular miracles of our Saviour and his Apostles which are recorded in scripture. And for the probability of this, I offer these two things to his consideration.
1. No man can deny, that memorable persons have lived, and actions been done in the world innumerable, whereof no history now extant makes any mention.
2. He himself will grant, that our Saviour wrought innumerable more miracles than are recorded in scripture. And now I challenge him to thew the single virtue of oral tradition, by giving an account of any of those perfons, or their actions, who lived 1500 or 2000 years ago, besides those which are mentioned in books; or to