Imágenes de páginas

upon a seal, which is thereby made the instrument to im- · print the same on other things. Thus as the sun, the Gospel shineth, and proveth itself by its proper light. 3. The concomitant attestation of God, is that of multitudes of certain, uncontrolled miracles, done by Christ and his apostles, which proved the approving hand of God, and oblige all rational creatures to believe a testimony so confirmed to them. Among these, Christ's own resurrection and ascension, and the gifts of his apostles are the chief. 4. The subsequent attestation of God is, the power and efficacy of the Gospel, in calling and sanctifying unto Christ a peculiar people, zealous of good works, and directing and confirming them against all temptations and torments to the end ; producing that same image of God on the souls of his elect, which is (more perfectly) engraven on the Word itself: making such changes, and gathering such a people unto God, as no other doctrine ever did. And all these four attestations are but one, even the Holy Spirit, who is become the great witness of Christ and his Gospel in the world: viz. 1. The spirit of prophecy is the antecedent attestation. 2. The holy image which the Spirit hath printed on the Gospel itself, is the inherent evidence. 3. The miracles of the Spirit, is the concomitant attestation or evidence. 4. And the sanctifying work of the Spirit is the subsequent attestation, renewed and accompanying it to the end of the world. So that the argument runs thus, “That doctrine which hath this witness of the Holy Ghost, antecedently in such prophecies, inherently bearing his image so inimitably, accompanied by so many certain, uncontrolled miracles, and followed and attended with such matchless success in the sanctification of the body of Christ, is fully attested by God to be his own: but such is the doctrine of the Gospel ; Therefore, &c.' The major you are not to take upon trust from your teachers, though your esteem of their judgment may the better dispose you to learn ; but you are to discern the evidences of truth which is apparent in it. For he that denieth this, must by force of argument be driven to deny, 1. Either that God is the Governor of the world; or that he is the supreme; but say he is controlled by another. 2. Or that he is good and true; and must affirm that he either governeth the world by mere deceits, and undiscernible lies,

or that he hath given up the power to some one that so governeth it: all which is but to affirm that there is no God, (which is supposed to be proved before).

8. There now remaineth nothing to be taught you, as to prove the truth of the Gospel, but only those matters of fact which are contained and supposed in the minor of the two last arguments: and they are these particulars. 1. That there were such persons as Christ and his apostles, and such a Gospel preached by them. 2. That such miracles were done by them, as are supposed. 3. That both doctrine and miracles were committed to writing by them, in the Scriptures, for the more certain preserving them to the church's use 9. 4. That churches were planted, and souls converted and confirmed by them in the first ages, many of whom did seal them with their blood. 5. That there have been a succession of such churches as have adhered to this Christ and Gospel. 6. That this which we call the Bible is that very book containing those sacred writings aforementioned. 7. That it hath been still copied out, and preserved without any such depravation or corruption as might frustrate its ends. 8. That the copies are such out of which we have them translated, and which we shew. 9. That they are so truly translated as to have no such corruptions or mistakes, as to frustrate their ends, or make them unapt for the work they were appointed to. 10. That these particular words are indeed here written which we read; and these particular doctrines containing the essentials of Christianity, together with the rest of the material objects of faith.

All these ten particulars are matters of fact that are merely subservient to the constituting principles of our faith, but yet very needful to be known. Now the question is, How these must be known and received by us so as not to invalidate our faith? And how far our teachers must be here believed? And first it is very useful for us to inquire, How so many of these matters of fact as were then existent were known to the first Christians? As how knew they in those days that there were such persons as Christ and his apostles? That they preached such doctrines, and spake

9 Est enim admirabilis quædam continuatio seriesque rerum, ut alia ex alia nexa, et omnes inter se aptæ, colligatæque videantur. Cic. Nat. D. I. 9.

such languages, and did such works, and that they wrote such books, and sent such épistles to the churches, and that churches were hereby converted and confirmed, and martyrs sealed this with their blood; &c. ? It is easy to tell how they were certain of all these ; even by their own eyes, and ears, and sensible observation, as we know that there are Englishmen live in England ; and those that were more remote from some of the matters of fact, knew them by such report of those that did see them, as those among us that never saw the king, or court, or his restoration, do know that such a thing there was, and such a person there is. Thus they knew it then.

From whence I note, 1. That in those days it was not necessary to the being of true faith, that any supernatural testimony of the Spirit, or any other sort of proof, than their very senses and reason, should acquaint them with those matters of fact which they were eye-witnesses of. 2. That credible report or history was then the means for any one that saw not a matter of fact, to know as much as they that saw it. * 3. That therefore this is now the way also of producing faith. Some things we have yet sight and sense for: as that such bibles, and such churches are existent; that such holy effects this doctrine hath upon the soul (which we see in others by the fruits, and after feel in ourselves): the rest we must know by history, tradition, or report..

And in the reception of these historical passages note further, 1. That human belief is here a naturally necessary means to acquaint us with the matter of our divine belief. 2. That there are various degrees of this belief, and some need more of it by far than others, according to the various degrees of their ignorance?: as he that cannot read himself, must know by human belief in great part) that the

[ocr errors]

By all this it is easy to gather whether a pastor may do his work per alium. Saith Grotius de Imp. pp. 290, 291. Nam illud quod quis per alium facit per se facere videtur ad eas duntaxat pertinet actiones quarum causa efficiens proxima à jure indefinita est. Yet people should labour after such maturity and stedfastness, that they may be able to stand if their pastors be dead or taken from them by persecütion, yea, or forsake the truth themselves. Victór utic. saith of the people in Africa when their pastors were banished, and others might not be ordained in their steads : Inter hæc tamen Dei populus in fide consistens, ut examina apum cereas ædificantia mansiones, crescendo melleis fidei claviculis firmabatur. Quanto magis affligebantur, tanto magis multiplicabantur. Victor. p. 382.

preacher readeth truly, or that such words indeed are in the Gospel as he saith are there; but a literate person may know this by his eye-sight, and not take it upon trust. So he that understandeth not Hebrew and Greek, must take it upon trust that the Scripture is truly translated; but another that understandeth those tongues, may see it with his eyes. 3. History being the proper means to know matters of fact that are done in times past, and out of our sight, the same industry that is necessary to a thorough acquaintance with other history, is necessary to the same acquaintance with this. 4. That the common beginning of receiving all such historical truths is first by believing our teachers so far as becometh learners, and in the mean time going on to learn till we come to know as much as they, and upon the same historical evidence as they. 5. That if any man be here necessitated to take more than others upon the trust or belief of their teachers, it is long of their ignorance : and therefore if such cry out against their taking things on trust, it is like a madman's raving against them that would order him; or as if one should reproach a nurse for feeding infants, and not letting them feed themselves. • Oportet discentem credere. He that will not believe his teacher will never learn. If a child will not believe his master, that tells him which are the letters, the vowels, and consonants, and what is their power, and what they spell, and what every word signifieth in the language which he is teaching him, will he be ever the better for his teaching ? 6. That he that knoweth these historical matters no otherwise than by the belief of his particular teacher, may nevertheless have a divine and saving faith: for though he believe by a human faith that these things were done, that this is the same book, &c., yet he believeth the Gospel itself (thus brought to his knowledge) because God is true that hath attested it. Even as it was a saving faith in Mary and Martha that knew by their eyes and ears, and not only by belief, that Lazarus was raised, and that Christ preached thus and thus to them: but believed his doctrine to be true, because of God's veracity who attested it. 7. That it is the great wisdom and mercy of God to his weak and ignorant people, to provide them teachers to acquaint them with these things, and to vouchsafe them such a help to their salvation, as to

make it a standing office in his church to the end of the world, that the infants and ignorant might not be cast off, but have fathers, and nurses, and teachers to take care of them. 8. But especially mark, that yet these infants have much disadvantage in comparison of others, that know all these matters of fact by the same convincing evidence as their teachers; and that he that followeth on to learn it as he ought, may come to prove these subservient matters of fact, by such a concurrence of evidences, as amounteth to an infallibility or moral certainty, beyond mere human faith as such : as e. g. an illiterate person that hath it but from others, may be certain that it is indeed a Bible which is ordinarily read and preached to him ; and that it is so truly translated as to be a sufficient rule of faith and life, having no mistake which must hazard a man's salvation; because the Bible in the original tongues is so commonly to be had, and so many among us understand it, and there is among them so great a contrariety of judgments and interests, that it is not possible but many would detect such a public lie, if any should deal falsely in so weighty and evident a case. There is a moral certainty (equal to a natural) that some actions will not be done by.whole countries, which every individual person hath power and natural liberty to do: as e. g. there is no man in the kingdom but may possibly kill himself, or may fast to-morrow, or may lie in bed many days together. And yet it is certain, that all the people in England will do none of these : so it is possible that any single person may lie even in a palpable public case, as to pretend that this is a Bible when it is some other book, or that this is the same book that was received from the apostles by the churches of that age, when it is not it, &c. But for all the country, and all the world that are competent witnesses, to agree to do this, is a mere impossibility, I mean such a thing as cannot be done without a miracle, yea, an universal miracle. And more than so, it is impossible that God should do a miracle to accomplish such an universal wickedness and deceit; whereas it is possible that natural causes by a miracle may be turned out of course, where there is nothing in the nature of God against it (as that the sun should stand still, &c.). We have a certainty that there was a Julius Cæsar, a William the Conqueror, an Aristotle,

VOL. y,


« AnteriorContinuar »