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for thinking that the scripture did really attribute human affections to God; for how could he think otherwise, when “ the most fundamental point is not clearer in fcripture, “ than that God hath hands, feet, &c.?” How could origen in reason expect from Celfus, (though never so great a philofopher), that he should be able, without the help of oral tradition, to distinguish between what is spoken literally, and what by a certain scheme of fpeech ? 'Theodoret (Heret. fabul 1.4.) tells us of one Audæus, who held that God had a human shape and bodily members; but he does not say, that the reason of this error was because he made scripture the rule of his faith, but expressly because “he was a fool, and did foolishly understand s those things which the divine fcriptures speak by way “ of condescension.” So that although Mr. S. is plea-: sed to make this wife objection, yet it seems, according to Theodoret, that men do not mistake such texts, either for want of oral tradition, or of sufficient clearness in the scriptures, but for want of common reason and fenfe. And if Mr. S. know of any rule of faith that is secure from all poflibility of being mistaken by foolish and perverse men, I would be glad to be acquainted with it, and with him for its fake.
SECT. IV. That scripture is a fufficient rule to the un
learned, and to the most rational doubters. $1. IN N his next discourse, he endeavours to shew, that
unlearned persons cannot be justified as acting rationally in receiving the scripture for the word of God, and relying upon it as a certain rule; because they are not capable of fatisfaction concerning these matters. But I have already shewn that they are, and shall not repeat the same over again. And whereas he says, p.24, That “ several professions all pretend to fcripture, and
yet differ, and damn, and persecute one another a* bout these differences ; » the answer is easy : That they all pretend to scripture, is an argument that they all acknowledge it to be the word of God, and the rule of faith ; and that they are generally agreed about the sense of those plain texts which contain the fundamental points of faith, is evident, in that those several profef
sions acknowledge the articles contained in the Apostles creed to be sufficiently delivered in fcripture : and if any professions differ about the meaning of plain texts, that is noi an argument that plain texts are obscure, but that some men are perverse. And if those professions damn and perfecute one another about the meaning of obscure texts, the fcripture is not in fault, but those that do fo.
§ 2. And whereas he pretends, p.25. 26. 27. that “the scripture is not able to satisfy sceptical dissenters " and rational doubters, because nothing under a de“ monstration can satisfy such persons fo well concern“ ing the incorruptedness of originals, the faithfulness of " translations, &c. but that searching and sincere wits,
may still maintain their ground of fufpence with a Might it not be otherwise?” This hath been answered already, partly by shewing, that the scripture was not intended to satisfy scepticks, and that a demonstration is not sufficient to give fatisfaction to them; and partly, by shewing, that rational doubters may have as much satisfaction concerning those matters, as the nature of the thing will bear : and he is not a rational doubter that defires more.
But, that he may see the unreasonableness of this difcourse, I shall briefly shew him, that all mankind do, in matters of this nature, accept of fuch evidence as falis short of demonstration, and that his great friends and masters, from whom he hath taken the main grounds of his book, though he nianageth them to less advantage, do frequently acknowledge, that it is reasonable for men to acquiefce in such assurance as falls short of infallibility, and such evidence as is less than demonstration. Do not mankind think themselves sufficiently af. fured of the antiquity and authors of several books for which they have not demonstrative evidence? Doth not Aristotle say, that things of a moral and civil nature, and matters of faet done long ago, are incapable of demonstration; and that it is madness to expect it for things of this nature ? Are there no passages in books so plain, that a man may be fufficiently satisfied, that this and no other is the certain fenfe of them? If there be nonc, can any thing be spoken in plainer words than written ? If it cannot, how can we be satisfied
of the certain sense of any doctrine orally delivered ? And, if we cannot be so satisfied, where is the certainty of oral tradition ? But if books may be written fo plainly as that we may be abundantly satisfied, that this is the certain sense of such and such passages, then we may reasonably rest satisfied in evidence for these matters short of demonstration. For was ever the lense of any words so plain as that there did not remain this ground of suspence, that those words might be capable of another sense ? Mr. Rushworth (Dialog. 2. $ 7.) says, that
disputative scholars do find means daily to explicate " the plainest words of an author to a quite different “ fense.” And that the world might be furnished with an advantageous instance of the possibility of this, Raynaudus, (De bonis & malis libris), a writer of their own, hath made a wanton experiment upon the Apostles creed ; and, by a sinister, but possible interpretation, hath made every article of it herefy and blafphemy, on purpose to Thew, that the plainest words are not free from ambiguity. But may be Mr. S. can outdo the Apostles, and can deliver the Christian doctrine so clearly, that he can demonstrate it impossible for any man to put any other sense upon any of his words than that which he intended. I do not what know may be done: but, if Mr. S. doth this, he must both amend his style, and his way of demonstration.
Is Mr. S. fufficiently assured, that there is such a part of the world as America ? and can he demonstrate this to any man without carrying him thither ? Can he shew, by any necessary argument, that it is naturally imposfible that all the relations concerning that place should be false? When his demonstrations have done their utmost, cannot “a searching and sincere wit at least maintain “his ground of suspence with a Might it not be other“ wise ? ” p. 27.; and with an Is it not possible, that all men may be liars, or that a company of travellers may have made use of their privilege, to abuse the world by false reports, and to put a trick upon mankind ? or that all those who pretend to go thither, and bring their commodities from thence, may go to some other parts of the world, and, taking pleasure in abusing others, in the same manner as they have been imposed upon
themselves, may say they have been at America ? Who can tell but all this may be so ? And yet I suppose, notwithstanding the posibility of this, no man in his wits is now possessed with so incredible a folly as to doubt whether there be such a place. The case is the very same as to the certainty of an ancient book, and of the sense of plain expressions. We have no demonstration for these things; and we expect none, because we know the things are not capable of it. We are not infallibly certain, that any book is so ancient as it pretends to be, or that it was written by him whose name it bears, or that this is the sense of such and such passages in it. It is possible all this may be otherwise ; that is, it implies no contradiction : but we are very well afsured that it is not; nor hath any prudent man any just cause to make the least doubt of it. For a bare poflibility, that a thing may be, or not be, is no just cause of doubting whether a thing be or not. It is possible alt the people of France may die this night; but I hope the possibility of this doth not incline any man in the least to think it will be fo. It is possible the sun may not rise to-morrow morning; and yet, for all this, I suppose that no man hath the least doubt but that it will.
$ 3. But because this principle, viz. “That in mat
ters of religion a man cannot be reasonably satisfied “ with any thing less than that infallible assurance which “ is wrought by demonstration," is the main pillar of Mr. S.'s book; therefore, beside what hath been already faid, to shew the unreasonableness of this principle, I fhall take a little pains to manifeft to him, how much he is contradicted in this by the chief of his brethren of the tradition, viz. Mr. Rushworth, Dr. Holden, Mr. Cressy, and Mr. White ; who, besides Mr. S. and one I. B. are, so far as I can learn, all the publick patrons that ever this hypothefis of oral tradition hath had in the world : and if Mr. White, as I have reason to believe, was the author of thofe dialogues which pass under Rushworth's name, the number of them is yet less. Now, if I can shew, that this principle, esteemed by Mr. S. fo fundamental to this hypothesis, is plainly contradicted by the principal afferters of oral tradition, I shall hereby gain one of these two things; either that these great
patrons of oral tradition were ignorant of the true foundation of their own hypothesis, or that this principle is not neceffary for the support of it. Not that I would be so understood as if I did deny, that these very persons do sometimes speak very big words of the necessity of infallibility. But if it be their pleasnre to contradict themselves, as I have no reason to be displeased, so neither to be concerned for it; but shall leave it to Mr. S. to reconcile them first to themselves; and then, if he pleases, afterwards to himself.
$ 4. I begin with Mr. Ruthworth, of immortal memory, for that noble attempt of his, to persuade the world, that, notwithstanding he was the first inventor of this hypothesis of oral tradition, yet he could prove, that the church had in all ages owned it, and proceeded upon it as her only rule of faith. He, in his third dialogue, $3. & 4. when his nephew objects to him, “ That perhaps
a Protestant would say, that all his foregoing discourse
was but probability and likelihood; and therefore, to “ hazard a man's estate upon peradventures, were “ fomething bard, and not very rationally done,” replies thus to him : What security do your merchants,
your statesmen, your foldiers, thofe that go to law,
nay, even those that till your grounds, and work for “their livings; what security, I say, do all these go
upon? Is it greater than the security which these
grounds afford ? Surely no; and yet no man esteems “ them foolish. All human affairs are hazardous, and “ have some adventure in them: and therefore he who
requires evident certainty only in matters of religion, « discovers in himself a less mind to the goods promi“ sed in the next life, than to these which he secks here " in this world upon weaker assurance. Howsoever, “ the greatest evidence that can be to him that is not
capable of convincing demonstrations, which the greatest part of mankind fall short of, is but con
jectural.” So that, according to Mr. Rushworth, it is not reason and discretion, but want of love to God and religion, which makes men require greater evidence for matters of religion than for human affairs; which yet, he tells us, are hazardous, and have some adventure in them,” and consequently are not capable of