Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

not some excellency inherent in itself, or whether it be only something foreign and extrinsical to it.

3. What we mean by faith, when it is demanded why we believe the Scripture to be the word of God. Faith, so far as it concerns the understanding (for in some acts of faith the will bears part), is an assent yielded to something proposed under the appearance, at least, of truth, built upon the testimony of another; and therefore, according as the testimony is, for the sake of wbich we believe any thing, accordingly will our faith be:-if it be the testimony of a man or men, our faith will be a human faith ; but if the testimony be divine, or we believe a thing because God himself asserts it, we call it“ a divine faith.” Only we must remember, that a truly divine faith hath always God for its author; so that three things concur to the producing the act of such a faith:-(1.) The truth believed; which is objectum materiale, “the object of it.” (2.) The testimony of God concerning that truth; which is objectum formale,“ the formal reason and ground” of this faith. (3.) The efficiency of God producing it or working it in the mind. Now, when we speak of believing the Scripture to be the word of God, we speak of a divine faith. A man may, upon the credit of his parents, of his minister, of a particular church, or of the church catholic, if such a testimony can be had, believe the Scripture to be the word of God; but the question will be, what kind of faith that is, whether such an one as God requires him to receive the Scripture with.

4. What we understand by the church in the question. "The church” may be taken either for the universality of believers in all places of the world, so as to comprehend private saints as well as public officers, people as well as pastors, and those of former ages as well as the present,-prophets themselves, and apostles, and penmen of the Scripture. Or we may take it for that part of the catholic church which lives together in the same age, (call it, if you please, "the present catholic church,”) comprehending in it all the believers, people as well as pastors, alive at the same time in the several parts of the whole world. Or else we may understand “the church” in the popish sense, only for the present church; and that, too, for the Church of Rome, which they call “ Catholic;" and that, again, only for the pastors of it, excluding the people; and they, again, may be considered either separately or in conjunction, as meeting together in a general council; and that, either by themselves without the pope,

a or together with him; or, lastly, as represented by him, or virtually contained in him: for this great name, "The Church,” dwindles at last into one only man. But, sure, he is no small one that contains so many in him; for, if we believe the Papists (not only, though especially, the Jesuits), the pope, in this controversy, is nothing else but

[ocr errors]

the church catholic compacted, and thrust into a single person, in whom all those several excellencies which are scattered among the members do, as in the head, collectively reside. And so the catholicness they vaunt so much of, is crowded into a narrow compass; for those, whether pastors or members of the church, that lived formerly, are first cut off, and the church is reduced to the present age; then the people, as excrescences, are pared away too, and the bulkiness of the church thereby lessened, the officers or pastors only remaining; and yet these, too, must be contracted into a council; and that at last epitomized into a pope, who is but the epitome of an epitome, and scarcely so much as a small synopsis of that voluminous thing" the church,” they talk so largely of.

II. For the state of the question, these things being premised, take it thus:--1. In some things we agree with them; 2. In some we differ from them.

1. In some we agree.

(1.) That the scripture of the Old and New Testament, which we own (who yet exclude the apocryphal books of one sort or other) is the word of God, is acknowledged by them as well as by us.

(2.) Consequently, that it is in itself true and of divine authority, and that it doth not depend upon the church, as to that authority and truth which in itself it hath, or that the testimony of the church doth not make it to be true, or to be the word of God,—the Papists themselves (at least the most wary among them) will (be sure, in words) grant. And therefore they have coined a distinction for the nonce: they tell us that the Scripture hath a twofold authority; one in itself, as it is true, and comes from God; the other in relation to us, as it binds us to receive and believe it. The former of these they own to be in the Scripture antecedently to the testimony of the church. The distinction is vain, when all authority is in relation to another, over whom either de facto it is, or de jure it ought to be, exercised. But let it pass.

(3.) That every Christian is bound, with a divine faith to receive the Scripture as the word of God, they grant as well as we do.

(4.) That the Holy Spirit hath a hand in men's believing the Scripture to be the word of God, allow the Papists their sense, and they will likewise yield no less than we. That the faith whereby men own the Scriptures (if it be a divine one, as they say it is) is wrought in the hearts of men by the Spirit of God, they do grant, and must, unless they will avow themselves to be Pelagians.

(5.) And, lastly, that the church (allow us our sense) may be a help to us, and furtherance to our faith, in receiving the Scripture as the word of God, we will grant as well as they. That the universal concurrence of all believers in receiving the Scripture, and [that] the

testimony they do, and in all ages have, in their way and capacity, given to it, is a strong argument to persuade dissenters to submit to the divine authority of it, we easily yield; and that it is the duty of the present church, during its time, to labour to preserve the Scripture pure and entire, and to hold it forth to others, and endeavour to persuade them of its divineness, and so to perform the part of a teacher, we are willing likewise to yield. And so, in a word, we

, acknowledge the usefulness of the church's testimony, as an external help, and that by which some benefit may be reaped by men at the beginning of their faith. For it is the foundation of a human faith, and sufficient for the producing of that.

And when a man hath so far yielded, as to receive the Scripture as God's word, though only on the credit of men, yet coming afterward to peruse and study it, and look more narrowly into it, he may then come to see better and more solid grounds for his belief; and, God working on his heart by the word, he may come to receive it with a divine faith, which at first he did only with a human; as, in John iv., the men of Samaria, who first believed Christ for the woman's words, did afterwards believe him because they heard himself. Thus far, therefore, there is some agreement between them and us. So that the question is not concerning the object of our faith, the thing to be believed; for both acknowledge it, in this business, to be the divineness of the Scripture: nor concerning the efficient cause of that faith; for both will own it to be the Spirit which works this faith in the heart: but concerning the medium or argument whereby the Spirit works it, and so the ground and foundation of our faith, that which is the formal reason why we believe the Scripture to be the word of God.

2. This, therefore, is the thing wherein we and they differ: something they affirm which we deny, and something we affirm which they deny.

(1.) They affirm the testimony of the present church (and that must be of Rome only now, for they count that only the catholic one)—that is, of the pastors of it convened in a general council, either with the pope, as some of them say, or without him, as others, or virtually in him, as others to be the only sufficient ground of men's believing the Scripture to be the word of God; and so tell us that the Spirit bears witness to the divinity of the Scripture by the testimony of the church, and makes use of that as the medium or argument by which he persuades men to receive the Scripture as the word of God; and that without that testimony, or antecedently to it, men cannot know, nor are bound to believe, the Scripture so to be. This we deny.

(2.) We affirm, on the other side, that the testimony of the Spirit of God in the word itself-witnessing it to be of God, by that stamp

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and impress, or, which comes to the same, by those notes and marks of divinity which everywhere appear in it—is the immediate and principal, and a suficient, reason of our believing it to be the word of God, and the medium the Spirit useth in working faith in us, or making us assent to the divinity of the Scripture. So that, as the Spirit, working inwardly in our hearts, moves as the efficient of our faith, so the Scripture itself, in its own intrinsical beauty, lustre, power, and excellency, is that which moves us, in the way of an object or medium, to yield our assent to its being of God. By this the Spirit of God, as the author of the Scripture, witnesseth it to be of God; and, by an internal application of this to our minds, induceth us to assent to its so being. The testimony of the Spirit in the word is open, public, general, to all, if they have but eyes to see it; whereas the inward application of it by the efficiency of the Spirit is only to believers

This they deny; and this we shall first, though more briefly, prove; and then disprove—as well as we deny—what they assert.

Argument 1. The Holy Ghost, in Scripture, calls us to the Scripture itself, and God's authority only in it, and not to the church, for the settling of our belief of its divinity; and therefore in the Scripture itself we have a sufficient argument to move us to believe its coming from God. In Isa. viii. 20, we are sent “ to the law and to the testimony.” The prophets generally propound what they deliver merely in the name and on the authority of God: their usual style is, “Thus saith the LORD,” and, "The word of the LORD.” They do nowhere send us to the church to know whether it be so or not; but leave it with us, as being of itself (that is, without the testimony of the church) sufficient to convince us; and if we will not believe it, at our own peril be it. So, in the text, Abraham (that is indeed Christ, whose mind Abraham in this parable is brought in speaking) sends Dives' brethren to “Moses and the prophets:” and our Saviour Christ sends the Jews to the Scriptures,-bids them “search” them, John v. 39; and so verses 46, 47. And Luke commends the Bereans, not that they ent up to Jerusalem to the church there, or waited for a general council, to assure them of the divineness of what was preached to them; but that "they daily searched the Scriptures, to see if those things were so," Acts xvii. 11. But all this would be in vain, our labour would be lost in searching the Scriptures, and looking into them for the confirmation of themselves, if there were not something in them sufficient to persuade us of their having God for their author, but at last we must have recourse to the church to assure us of it Why are we sent thus far about, if a nearer way be at hand?

Arg. II. Those properties which the Holy Ghost in the Scripture attributes to the Scripture will prove the same. It is light: "The coinmandment is a lamp, and the law is light,” Prov. vi. 23; "A

1

lamp to my feet, and a light to my path,” Ps. cxix. 105; “A light shining in a dark place," 2 Pet. i. 19. And, surely, that which is light may discover itself. He that needs another to tell him what is light, wants eyes. It “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword," Heb. iv. 12; it enters into the soul: and therefore by its own power and efficacy discovers itself to us as well as us to ourselves. It is "like as a fire, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces,” Jer. xxiii. 29. So likewise, 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25; and Ps. xix. 7, 8: from both which we may argue, That word which convinceth men, judgeth them, makes manifest the secrets of their hearts; that, again, which converts the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoiceth the heart, enlightens the eyes; is sufficiently able to discover itself to be of God, though the church should not give in her testimony; but such a word is the Scripture: therefore, etc. And, farther, why may not God's word discover its author as well as his works do? If “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handy-work,” Ps. xix. 1; if “ even the least creatures preach God to us,” they that bear not his image on them, yet have some vestigia, some“ footsteps” of him; and much more [if] his greater and more noble works, the glorious fabric of heaven and earth, and man, the most excellent of his creatures on earth, show forth that excellency in them which manifests itself to be from none but God; and [if] he hath, in a word, left such an impress of himself upon his works, as that they generally proclaim themselves to be his; why should it be thought incredible that God should leave the like notices of himself upon his word, and stamp that upon it which might plainly evidence it to be his? Nay, if men do commonly make themselves known by their works, --writers by their skill, artists by their curious pieces; if Apelles could have drawn such a picture, Phidias have cut such a statue, Cicero have penned such an oration, that any who had judgment in such things might have said [that] such a man, and no other, was the author of such a work; surely, then, much more may God in so lively a manner express himself in his word as clearly to notify to us that it is his. And if any should say, God could have done it, but would not, I desire to know a good reason why God, who hath left us so plain and conspicuous evidences of his wisdom, power, and goodness on his creatures, would not leave the print of himself in the like manner upon

his word. Arg. III. God's revealing himself to us in the Scripture is the first and highest revelation upon which our faith is built; and therefore that revelation is sufficient to manifest itself to us, even without the church's testimony. The reason of the consequence is, because faith

1 Præsentem clamat quælibet herba Deum, Vide Rob. Baron., Contra Turnebul.

a

« PreviousContinue »