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Mahommedans with regard to both Testaments, there has never been a greater multitude agreeing in any single article of religion, this only excepted, that there is a God. Secondly, On account of the excellences of those who agree in this; the wisdom particularly, the learning and piety, &c, united in many Christians; for it is not probable either that so many wise and learned men can have been so shamefully in error, or that God has permitted so many pious men to be so grossly deceived. Thirdly, On account of the matter itself, in the belief of which they agree, the divinity, namely, of books which propose to man things, not only at first view foolish, but most disagreeable to the flesh, nay, exceedingly painful to be believed—which books, however, so many of the wisest among men, far from rejecting, have constantly reverenced as divine. Fourthly, On account of the sincerity of the faith in these books which they possessed, seeing that so many and eminent individuals have not only uniformly professed their belief of their divinity, but have placed their sole pleasure in reading them and meditating on them—have lived agreeably to their strictest injunctions--and, with this view, have renounced all the comforts and pleasures of life. Fifthly, On account of the incredible constancy of such a multitude in the belief of this; neither fraud, nor punishment and torture being able to root out of their minds this conviction, to which so many have died martyrs; men, too, than whom better never existed, the enemies of Christianity themselves being witnesses; whom nothing but love to God and zeal for his glory has, if their faith has been vain, rendered most miserable--a thing which none can believe the goodness of God would permit. Sixthly, On account of the miraculous commencement of this conviction in the church, its astonishing progress amidst numerous persecutions, and its wonderful duration, See the wise counsel of Gamaliel, Acts v. 38, 39.

From this a twofold argument for the divinity of the Scriptures may be deduced. The first is artificial; for this almost miraculous consent cannot be viewed otherwise than as some, thing divine, which argues the finger of God, as any special effect does its cause. The second is inartificial; for, considering the wonderful character and magnitude of this cloud of witnesses, we cannot help mentally attributing to them a high degree of authority. This double argument may successfully be employed both to urge unbelievers to the perusal of the sacred books, and to confirm believers, when they learn the number and the character of those whose views and feelings in perusing the Scriptures are the same with their own.

To prevent the supposition, however, that, by this mode of arguing, we overthrow what, in opposition to the doctors of the church of Rome, we have established, we must remark that it is altogether different from that which has been employed by them. For they, by the term church, in this matter, understand merely the doctors and pastors of their own church, and these, too, of any period of time. We include in this appellation all Christians of every age and country. They, before they have ascertained what is the word of God, regard their doctors and pastors as the true church of Christ; and, under this designation, attribute to them not only the authority which is given to them by the word of God, but infallibility also, which they cannot prove from it. We not only ascribe no infallibility, nor even the authority which pertains to the true church of Christ, to all the Christians of every age and place, before it has been ascertained what is the word of God; but we ascribe nothing else than should be ascribed to them by every person of sound mind who considers the number and character of the witnesses. They affirm that the testimony of the church begets a divine faith in the minds of men. We deduce from it merely an argument of the highest probability: They assert that the divinity

of Scripture cannot be ascertained in any other way than by the testimony of their teachers. We affirm that the consent of all Christians is not the only, nor an essential, nor the chief argument by which this may be de monstrated; nay, that unless it be supported by others, it is no argument at all. They rest in this argument. We are by it urged to seek after the stronger proofs which have produced this agreement in so many individuals. In a word, their argument is a petitio principii, a circle; nay, a pure contradiction, in which all testify what none of them individually sees. In ours there is in every thing the most perfect coherence, for all bear testimony only to that which they individually see.

We have thus pointed out the importance which pertains to the argument for the divinity of Scripture, arising from the consent of all Christians, which we denominate the consent of the church. But as there are other offices of the church, with regard to the Scriptures, which are frequently in this matter confounded with those of which we have been speaking, it will be proper, before we leave this subject, briefly to take notice of these.

We acknowledge, then, that the church is, and to the majority of Christians has been, the Indicator of the divine word,

* Isaiah xxx. 21.

by which individuals have first of all been told that the book, denominated the Scriptures, contains a divine revelation. If any one point out to us a precious treasure hid in some particular place, and we by following his direction discover the object of our search, we do not suppose that we are in possession of a precious treasure, because our informer had declared that such a treasure was there concealed, but because we see with our own eyes its great value; so, in like manner, if an individual, on the advice of the church, both searches after and discovers the word of God in the Scriptures, it is not to be affirmed that he believes that he has found the word of God in it, because his informer, the church, had told him so, but because, with the eyes of his own understanding—for he has no further need of those of others—he sees that he has not been deceived by his informer. But as the information given by the church, if it cannot be said to be the cause of our faith and salvation, has, nevertheless, been the first occasion of them, the deepest gratitude is due to it by every Christian. The church is to be honoured as the indicator of this precious treasure, but is not to be preferred to the treasure itself.*

We may also denominate the Church the Depositary, or, if you prefer it, the Supplier of the word of God; for the treasure of which we speak is entrusted to it, and is given to be used by it. This is a high privilege conferred on the church, for God “hath not dealt so with any nation.”! On this ground, that society of men which he has thought worthy of such peculiar honour should be highly esteemed by us. But as the church derives all its glory from the word of God, the depositary must not be valued above the deposit; on the contrary, we may forsake any society of men, however magnificent it may be, whenever it forsakes the word of God. For, when we affirm that the word of God is committed to the church, we do not mean that the truth is inseparably linked to the Romish, or the Greek, or any other particular church, whatever may be its amplitude. These are churches as long as they follow the word of God; when they forsake it, they no longer deserve the name. Let us not, therefore, look for the church, that we may discover the truth in it; this is absurd : a great name, or external splendour, may fascinate our eyes. But let us look for the truth that we may discover the church with which we should unite. “ If the church,” says Augustine, “is marked out among all nations by the most indubitable testimonies of canonical Scripture, whatever they

who

say, * 1 Cor. üi. 5. † Rom. ii. 2.

| Ps. cxlvii, 20.

Let us

Lo! here is Christ, or, Lo! he is here, may have alleged, and in what place soever they may have repeated it, let us listen rather to the voice of our pastor saying, Believe not. search for it in the canonical Scriptures.

We reverence the church, moreover, as the diligent Guardian of sacred writ, by whose care this precious treasure has been transmitted to us pure and uncontaminated. This vigilance of the church we indeed gratefully acknowledge, and employ as a not inconsiderable argument to prove the integrity of Scripture; an argument taken, not from I know not what imaginary infallibility of any particular church, but from the known diligence of pious and learned men in the church, who may indeed, as every thing human is chargeable with defects, be occasionally remiss in their duty. We cannot, however, entertain any doubt that God himself has watched over his word, and that his providence has supplied whatever deficiency may be occasioned by the negligence of men.

We also view the church in the light of a Historian, who gives us information respecting the origin and the various circumstances of the Sacred Scriptures; who, by a succession of writers of different periods, declares to us by whom and at what time the different books of Scripture were written, which of them were most generally received, which were for a time regarded as doubtful, and which were rejected as spurious; and who furnishes an account of the life and death of some of the sacred penmen, their doings and sufferings, the manner in which they or their disciples sealed the religion contained in these books with their blood, the influence of these books and of the principles they reveal in effecting the conversion of the world, the esteem in which they have been held, the testimony which adversaries have borne respecting them, and the state of the religion they comprise since the apostolic age, what has befallen the confessors of Scripture, and also its enemies and despisers. This and other useful information, which tends not a little to confirm us in the faith that we yield to the Scriptures, is furnished to us by the church. We do not deny that it is our duty to testify gratitude to it for this diligence, carefully to peruse its writers, to collect from them whatever may help to strengthen our faith, and to yield to their histories the same credit which we never refuse to other historians worthy of credit, when we find in them the same marks of truth. No infallibility, however, is in these matters to be ascribed either to single individuals, or to a number of them collectively; bu • De Unitate Ecclesiæ, cap. 3.

† 1 Tim. iii. 15.

credit is to be given to them only in so far as they appear to be faithful and diligent delineators of the facts which they relate—men of talent, of whom it cannot be presumed that they have either wished to deceive or have been deceivedsome of whom were eye-witnesses or contemporaries of the events they record, or received them from those who were so. Much importance should particularly be attached to the agreement of all, or at least of most ages, to the confession of adversaries themselves, and other things of the like nature. The credit we give to the church with regard to these facts, though but human, is, as to some of them, so firm and free from doubt, that the assent which mathematical demonstration obtains cannot be called stronger. For, although there were nothing else to convince us that there existed in former times a Matthew who wrote the book which we denominate the Gospel of Matthew than the constant tradition of seventeen centuries, yet no man of sound mind would be led seriously to entertain doubts respecting it any more than about a mathematical theorem. Nor, to produce this conviction, is there a necessity for erecting any where in the church an infallible chair, or for assembling a council which cannot be deceived. For, though there is no Pope, no Ecumenical Council, which has at any time authoritatively declared that there once lived in Rome individuals of the name of Livy and Virgil—the first of whom has written a Roman history, and the second the Æneid-yet no sane person has at any time questioned the truth of these facts.*

The church is still further to be regarded by us in the light of a Sacred Critic,inasmuch as, by the teachers of so many ages, among whom have been those who were next to the times of the apostles, it has distinguished, and still distinguishes, the genuine books of Scripture from the spuriousthe canonical from the apocryphal; and thus, we do not say determines by its own authority the true canon of Scripture as a legislator, but as a critic, by its diligence and discernment sets it forth, and recommends it in a correct form to the pub lic. Neither is there in this any indescribable infallibility at

[We fear the author attaches too much importance to the centuries succeeding the primitive age. Every classical scholar looks chiefly to the attestation of Livy, Virgil, and others, by contemporary writers, or those who lived near the period in which they flourished. But he feels that, in reading ese, he must admit the existence of the attested, or deny the existence of the whole.-T.]

| Heb. v. 14.

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