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is the constancy and unerrableness he talks so much of? So that notwithstanding the constancy of this spiritual cause, the mind of man, of preserving scriptures entire; yet, in order to this, (as he tells us, p. 36.), “ so ma
ny actions are to be done, which are compounded “ and made up of an innumerable multitude of several “ particularities to be observed, every of which may be “ mistaken apart, each being a distinct little action in
its single felf; such as is the transcribing of a whole "book, consisting of such myriads of words, single let
ters, and tittles or stops, and the several actions of “ writing over each of these so short and cursory, that “ it prevents diligence, and exceeds human care, to " keep awake, and apply distinct attentions to every
of 66 these distinct actions.” Mr. Rushworth much outdoes Mr. S. in these minute cavils; for he tells us, (Dial. 2. $7.), that “ fuppofing an original copy of . Christ's words, written by one of the Evangelists in “ the same language, let him have set down every
word “ and syllable;. yet men conversant in noting the
changes of meanings in words, will tell us, that divers accents in the pronunciation of them, the turning of the speaker's head or body this or that way,
doc. may fo change the sense of the words, that they will “ seem quite different in writing from what they were “ in speaking." I hope that oral and practical tradition hath been careful to preserve all thefe circumstances, and hath delivered down Christ's doctrine, with all the right traditionary accents, nods, and gestures, necessary for the understanding of it; otherwise the omission of these may have so altered the sense of it, that it may
be now quite different from what it was at first. But to answer Mr. S. : We do not pretend to be assured that it is naturally impossible that the scriptures should have been corrupted or changed, but only to be fufficiently assured that they have not received any material alteration, from as good arguments as the nature of the subject will bear. But if his reason had not been very short and cursory, he might easily have reflected that oral tradition is equally liable to all these contingencies : for it doth as much
prevent diligence, and exceed human care, to keep awake, and apply distinct attentions to the distinct a
“ ctions of speaking, as of writing." And I hope he will not deny, that a doctrine orally delivered consists of words, and letters, and accents, and stops, as well as a doctrine written ; and that the several actions of speaking are as short and cursory as of writing.
95. 2 lly, He tells us, p. 38. “ Scripture, formally “ considered as to its significativeness, is also uncer"tain :" 1.“ Because of the uncertainty of the letter, ibid. This is already answered. 2.“ Because the certain “ sense of it is not to be arrived to by the vulgar, who
are destitute of languages and arts,” ibid. True, where men are not permitted to have the scriptures in their own language, and underitand no other : but where they are allowed the scriptures translated into their own language, they may understand them; all necessary points of faith and practice being fufficiently plain in any translation of the Bible that I know of. And that eminent wits cannot agree about the sense of texts which concern the main points of faith, p. 38. hath been spoken to already.
$ 6. As for the reverence he pretends to fcripture in the conclusion of his fourth discourse, he might have spared that, after all the raillery and rudeness he hath used against it. It is easy to conjecture, both from his principles and his uncivil expressions concerning them, what his esteem is of those sacred oracles. Probably it was requisite in prudence to cast in a few good words concerning the scriptures, for the sake of the more tender and squeamish novices of their religion; or (as Mr. Rushworth's nephew says frankly and openly, Dial. 2. $ 14.) “ for the satisfaction of indifferent men, that have “ been brought up in this verbal and apparent respect of “ the scripture;
who it seems are not yet attained to that degree of Catholick piety and fortitude, as to endure patiently, that the word of God should be reviled or flighted. Besides that in reference to those whom they hope hereafter to convert, (who might be too much alienated from their religion, if he had expressed nothing but contempt towards a book which Protestants and Christians in all ages, till the very dregs of Popery, have been bred up to a high veneration of), it was not much amiss to pass this formal compliment upon the Bible; which the wise of his own religion will easily understand,
and may serve to catch the rest. But let him not deceive himself, God is not mocked.
SECT. VI. That the properties of a rule of faith do not belong to oral tradition.
" that the $1. SEcondly, He comes to shew, : 41;
properties of a rule of faith belong to o66 ral tradition.' And, first, he gives a tedious explanation of the nature of this oral practical tradition ; which amounts to this ; that as, in reference to the civil education of children, “ they are taught their own and “ others names, to write and read, and exercise their “ trades ;” so, in reference to religion, “ the children 6 of Christians first hear sounds; afterwards, by de
grees, get dim notions of God, Christ, Saviour, hea“ ven, hell, virtue, vice, and by degrees practise what “ they have heard : they are shewn to say grace, and “ their prayers, to hold up their hands, or perhaps eyes, « and to kneel, and other postures. Afterwards they
are acquainted with the creed, ten commandments, “ and facraments, some common forms of prayer, and “ other practices of Christianity; and are directed to “ order their lives accordingly; and are guided in all “ this by the actions and carriage of the elder faith“ ful. And this goes on by insensible degrees, not by
leaps from a hundred years to a hundred, but from « month to month, and even less.” If this be all that tradition doth, this is nothing but what is done among Protestants, and that with greater advantage ; because we always teach children to say their prayers in a known tongue, so as they may. understand them. And we also teach them the creed, and ten commandments, and the sacraments, so many as Christ hath instituted, and no more. So that if this be so infallible a way of conveying the doctrine of Christianity, we have it among us.
And we do over and belides instruct them in the scriptures, which are the authentick instrument whereby Christ's doctrine is conveyed to us. But then we do not suppose, as his hypothesis necessariJy inforceth him to do, that the Christian doctrine is equally taught and learned by all ; but by some more, by
others less perfe&tly, according to the different abilities and diligence of parents and teachers, and the various capacities and dispositions of children : whereas his hypothesis falls, if all, or at least the generality of parents do not instruct their children with the like exactness, and if the generality of children do not receive this doétrine in the same perfection that it is delivered. For if it be taught or received with any variation, it must necessarily be so conveyed; and these variations will
grow daily. I had thought he would have told us how all parents do teach their children the whole body of Christ's doctrine, and explain to them every part of it in a hundred or a thousand several expressions signifying the same sense ; and not have instanced in two set forms, such as the creed, and ten commandments : for, according to Mr. White, ( Apology, p. 81.), “ that cannot be a tradition 66 which is delivered down in set words."
$ 2. Having thus explained oral tradition, he comes to Thew that the properties of a rule of faith agree to it. I have already shewed, that the true properties of a rule of faith are but two, viz." That it be plain and intelli“ gible; and, That it be sufficiently certain.” The first of these, That oral tradition may deliver a doctrine plainly and intelligibly, I grant him. All the difficulty is about the second property, whether we have fufficient assurance that the doctrine delivered down by oral tradition, hath received no corruption or change in its conveyance ? And all that he pretends to prove in this discourse is, That if this rule hath been followed and kept to all along, the Christian doctrine neither hath, nor can have received any change; that is, if the next age after the Apostles did truly, and without any alteration, deliver the Christian doctrine to their immediate successors, and they to theirs, and so on; then, upon this supposition, the doctrine of the present traditionary church must be the very
same with that which was delivered to the ApoNtles. All this is readily granted to him. But that this rule hath always been followed, nay, that it is impossible there should have been any deviation from it, as he pretends, this we deny, not only as untrue, but as one of the most absurd propofitions that ever yet pretended to demonstrative evidence.
In which Mr. Si's demonstrations and corol
laries are examined.
Sect. I. Considerations touching bis demonstrations ir
monstrations, I shall premise thef two considerations : 1. That, according to the principles of the patrons of tradition, no man can, by his private rea on, certainly find out the true rule of faith. 2. That, according to Mr. S. the way of demonstration is no certain way to find out the rule of faith. If either of these be made out, his demonstrations lose all their force. If the first be made good, then he cannot demonstrate the infallibility of tradition, nor, consequently, that that is the rule of faith. If the fecond, then the way of demonstration, which he pretends to take, signifies nothing,
§ 2. It, No man can, according to the pririciples of the patrons of tradition, by his private reason, certainly find out what is the rule of faith. Suppose a Heathen to be desirous to inform himself of the Christian faith; in order to which, he is inquisitive after some rule by which he may take a measure of it, and come certainly to know what it is: he inquires of Christians what their rule is, and finds them divided about it; some saying, that the scripture, others, that oral tradition, is the rule. In this case, it is not possible, without a revelation, for this man to find out the rule of faith, but by his own private reason examining and weighing the arguments and pretences of both sides. And when he hath done this, unless he can by his reason demonstrate, that the one is a certain and infallible rule, and the other not so, he hath not (according to Mr. S.) found out the rule of faith. But reason can never do this, according to Mr. S. For, speaking of demonstrating the certainty of tradition, he tells us, p.53. that “ tradition