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THE TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH IS NOT THE ONLY NOR THE CHIEF REASON OF OUR BELIEVING THE SCRIPTURE
TO BE THE WORD OF GOD.
They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”—LUKE xvi. 29.
As everlasting blessedness-men's greatest and most desirable good is that which God only can bestow, and the way to it, that which he only can discover (who knows the Lord's mind like himself? who is so sure a guide in the way, as he who is himself the end ?-nature can neither direct us to, nor fit us for, a supernatural happiness); so it is not only our interest to seek it, but likewise to see whether what pretends to be the rule of our walking, in order to our obtaining of it, be indeed the right one: which we can no otherwise be assured of, than by seeing that it be such an one as is given us by Him to whom alone it belongs to prescribe us the way, and who, being infinitely good, as well as infinitely wise, will no more deceive us than he can be himself deceived. Now, the holy scripture of the Old and New Testament, is that which we profess to own as the rule of our faith and life, in relation to our future glory. It is, then, the wisdom of every Christian to inquire upon what account he receives this rule;why he believes it, and submits to it;—whether he be persuaded that it is of God by God himself, or only by men. For if he can find indeed that he receives it upon the authority of God, he may be secure of the truth and sufficiency of it; but if only on that of men, they, being liable to mistakes, may lead him into error; and so he can never be sure that what he owns as his rule is indeed the right one, and of God's own prescribing. Or admit [that] it really be so, yet if it be not received on right grounds, he will be exposed to innumerable fears and fluctuations, and never walk comfortably nor constantly in his way, when he doubts whether it be the right or a wrong one. The superstructure cannot be better than the foundation; and a well-ordered and comfortable conversation will never be VOL VIIL
the effect of an ill-grounded belief. It is good, therefore, in the beginning of our course, to be secure of our way,—to see both what we believe, and why; lest, otherwise, we be either forced to go back, or else upon as light grounds swerve from the way as we were at first persuaded to engage in it. Our great inquiry, then, in this discourse,
, will be,
Upon what account we believe the Scripture to be the word of God; whether upon the authority of God, or the church? which I ground upon these words, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them."
In this parable, whereof these words are a part, we have an account of the different estates of a wicked man, Dives, and a good man, Lazarus, both in this life and the other. In this life, Dives had his "good things,” the whole of his happiness, all the portion he was ever to enjoy; and Lazarus had his “ evil things,” all the sorrow and
" misery he was ever to endure. And in the other life, we have Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, a place and state of rest,"entered into peace,” Isa. lvii. 1, 2; and Dives in hell, a state of misery, and place of torments; where, finding so great a change, and being deeply affected with his now woful condition, he is (though in vain) desirous, if not of release, as despairing of that, yet at least of a little ease; and therefore, addressing himself to Abraham, he entreats him that Lazarus might be sent to “dip” but even “the tip of his finger in water, and cool his tongue,” verse 24; but this is denied him as impossible, verse 26. Seeing that would not do, he desires, however, [that] his torments might not be increased by his brethren's coming to him; whom we may suppose to have been his fellow-sinners, and partakers with him in his riot and luxury. Or, if you will believe so much charity to be among the damned, his request is, that Lazarus might be sent to them, to admonish them for their good, that so they might be brought to a timely repentance, ere they came to an untimely end, and then to endless torments. But this is denied him too, as altogether needless and unprofitable, verse 31; and he is told, that God had made sufficient provision for them,-given them the most effectual means whereby they might be brought to repentance, in that he had given them his written word, “Moses and the prophets;" by whose writings if they were not persuaded to repent, a miracle would not persuade them. Lazarus rising from the dead would no more be believed than “Moses and the prophets," whose writings were among them; and therefore to them Abraham sends them, as a means sufficient for the end pretended, at least, by Dives to be aimed at: “ They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." As if he had said, “The will of God concerning thy brethren's duty, and the truth of God concerning future rewards as the great motives 10
it, are clearly enough laid down in the Scripture; and if they believe not these things, and are not persuaded to repentance upon the authority of God in his word, much less will they be moved by the testimony of one coming from the dead.” Hence I infer, that the holy Scripture, or written word of God, is sufficient in itself, and most effectually able, to convince men of the truth of those things which are contained in it. It was so then; why not now? Moses and the prophets” were so; why are not the apostles and evangelists? Is all the whole Scripture grown Old Testament, and so old as to be decayed ? When and by what means did it lose that life and power, that authority and efficacy, it sometimes had ? It had formerly more virtue to convince men than a miracle itself; and
now, belike, it hath less than a council! It could have done more than a man “ from the dead;" and now it can do less than a dead man, a sinful pope! For his Holiness of Rome may be very wicked, the Papists themselves being judges.
From the former proposition it will undeniably follow, that the Scripture is sufficient in itself to convince men of its own divineness, or its being itself the word of God, that being one truth it doth so often assert. The general must comprehend the particular; and therefore, if the Scripture be sufficient to satisfy the minds of men as to all that it affirms to be truth, it must needs be able to satisfy them as to this too,—that the whole of it is the word of God.
But this our adversaries will not allow; and therefore, instead of taking it for granted, or resting on this single proof, we must here put it to the question, from whence the Scripture hath its authority, or upon what grounds we are to believe it to be the word of God. If
you will give the Papists leave to answer, they will presently tell you, “Upon the sole authority of the church;" or, “Because the church declares it to be the word of God;" and that “without the determination of the church, it hath very little authority or weight in it," and you are " no more bound to believe the gospel of Matthew, than the history of Livy.” Nay, one says plainly, that "but for the church, you are no more bound to believe the Scripture than Æsop's Fables." And
you may be sure the man was in earnest, when you do but consider how many incredible things another of them (alleged at large by our learned Whitaker) musters up out of the Scripture, which he would fain persuade the world would never be believed if the church did not interpose her testimony; and yet, as broad as the blasphemy mentioned is, another of the same party minceth the matter, and says [that] the words might be “piously spoken.” And if a private doctor of the Church of Rome may thus transubstantiate blasphemy into piety, or make that pass for pious which is really blas
Surdis. apua Chamierum.
phemous, I see no reason why a pope might not add his authority, and make it canonical too. But, that we may give the best account of the controversy before us,—I. Some things must be premised by way of explication, for the better understanding of terms. II. The state of the question must be laid down. III. The truth confirmed. IV. Popish objections answered. V. Some application made.
I. For explication of terms, let us see, —
1. What we mean by the Scripture. By that, therefore, is understood “the word of God,” declaring his mind concerning men's happiness and duty, or teaching us what we are to believe concerning God, and how we are to obey him; as it was at first revealed by himself to the apostles and prophets, and by them delivered by word of mouth; and afterward, for the perpetuity and usefulness of it, committed to writing, as we now have it, in the books of the Old and New Testament. So that “the word of God” and “the Scripture” are the same materially, and differ only in this, that “the word of God” doth not in itself imply its being written, nor exclude it, but may be considered indifferently as to either; whereas “the Scripture” signifies the same word, only with the addition of its being committed to writing.
2. What is meant by authority, when we inquire whence the Scripture hath its authority.' Authority in this business is a power of commanding or persuading, or, as some phrase it," convincing," arising from some excellency in the thing or person vested with such authority. Whatever hath authority de facto, so far forth hath esteem and honour, or reverence, yielded to it; as whatever hath authority de jure, hath such esteem or honour of due belonging to it, and answering it as its correlate. And both the one and the other are founded on some excellency sometimes of nature, both in
persons and things; sometimes of office and dignity; sometimes of knowledge; sometimes of virtue and manners; sometimes of prudence, as in persons: according to each of which, a suitable respect and honour is due to the authority therefrom arising. man excels in any of these, so he hath authority in that, though he may not in other things. Thus, he that excels in the knowledge of the law may have authority in that, though he may have none in physic or divinity, in which he may not excel; and an honest man, that excels in morality, may on that account have the authority of a witness, though not of a judge. Now, when we speak of the authority of the Scripture, and ask from whence it hath it, we do but inquire whence it is that the Scripture persuades, convinces, or binds us to believe it, or commands us to assent to it, as the word of God; or whereon its power of so doing is founded, whether it be
· Camero De Verbo Dei.
And as any