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largement : but brief as they are, they will furnish ample materials to the reflecting mind; and, with
my readers possessed of such a blessing, I now leave them.
HITHERTO, in discussing those branches of theological science which are held to be of chief and paramount regard in the christian church, I have merely referred to Scripture, as containing the revelation of God's will; it seems therefore expedient, that I should, before bringing these letters to a conclusion, devote a little of the reader's time and thought to an enquiry into the nature of that inspired record, which is of a truth the sure foundation of our faith, and the only source from which all saving knowledge ought to be, or indeed can be drawn.
By Scripture is understood the WORD OF GOD, written for man's learning at God's command, writ
ten under the immediate direction of God's holy Spirit, inspiring chosen men at different times, and in continued succession, from Moses to St John, and published and preserved by methods above the reach of human discovery, in order that the various messages, communications, instructions, precepts, promises, and threatenings, with which the great JEHOVAN ALEIM was pleased, from time to time, to favour the human race, might be handed down to the remotest ages, for the display of his covenanted love, and for the blessed purpose of training and educating man in the school of heavenly wisdom ; and by this means, of fitting him for regaining the gracious end of his original creation. The' volume
of the book, in which it is thus written' both of the ALEIM and of the ALUE, both of the Creator and of the Redeemer, is known by the distinguishing name of · The OLD AND New TESTAMENT,' and is pre-eminently the object of the christian's esteem and regard—the OLD TESTAMENT, as being the oriGINAL and AUTHENTIC RECORD ; the NEW TESTAMENT, as being an AUTHORITATIVE APPEAL to that RECORD, and an AUTHORITATIVE APPLICATION of its contents, to the purposes for which they were written. These two constituent parts of the great WHOLE of revelation are received, by the church, with equal reverence, and upon strength of evidence, both intrinsic and extrinsic, the most irrefragable—the former, as embracing proof, the most convincing, of their divine inspiration, from the subjects of which they treat, and from the man
ner in which those subjects are treated; the latter, as arising from prophecy accomplished, and from various testimonies bearing witness to their genuineness, and to the way and manner by which they have been handed down to us.
Thus it is by means of this happy conjunction of Divine evidence requiring, and of human evidence persuading, consent, that we believe scripture, in all points of faith and practice, to be sufficiently perfect in itself, to be generally clear in its construction, and to be, when promulgated, universally binding in its obligation ; insomuch that no man is found among the protestant professors of christianity, who is not ready to affirm, in the words of the VIth article of the church, that'whatsoever is • not read in scripture, nor may be proved thereby, • is not to be required of any man that it should be
believed, as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.' This is the ground, so sure in itself, and so suited to the dignity of scripture, on which those of the episcopal persuasion, not only build their separation from a church which, by its tyrannical impositions and traditions, had rendered the word of God of none effect, but on which they can justify their ecclesiastical constitution, in all its branches, against the objections of those who, although also separated from Romish tyranny, have contrived to reach the opposite extreme, (in which christian liberty degenerates into licentiousness), by putting the management of
into improper hands ; and by requiring from it more than it was designed to give, namely, the ipsissima verba, the erplicit laws of ecclesiastical polity ; whereas an apostle has summed up such laws in one general rule of observance- Let all things • be done DECENTLY, AND IN ORDER'. Surely, if words have a meaning, these are words which admit of a power in the apostolic and catholic church, to regulate the erternals and circumstantials of ecclesiastical discipline ; while the essentials of faith, of worship, and of government, we profess ourselves bound and obliged to receive, as written for our learning, in the hallowed code of revelation ; so that having on the breust-plate of righteousness,' and taking to us · the shield of faith,' the helmet
of salvation,' and • the sword of the Spirit,' (which is declared to be the written · WORD OF GOD'), we can, as a part, however small, of God's holy catholic and apostolic church, defend ourselves against any attack from the one church of the Pope, or from the MANY churches of the people.
Even Romanists themselves agree with us in this, that they acknowledge for scripture, all that we acknowledge, although, out of the plenitude of its power and infallibility, the Romish church has prevented our being completely of one mind,' even in this single instance. Thus the Council of Trent has taken upon it to enroll, upon the list of
I Cor. xiv. 40.
canonical Old Testament scripture, thirteen or fourteen ancient, but spurious books, which we, for reasons about to be adduced, reject as ' apocry* phal,' and uncertain ; and which are only permitted to be read for example of life, and instruction • of manners--but not to be applied to establish any • doctrine!! This addition to the divine code, which Romanists have made, upon no sort of warrantable ground, is without even an apparent view of public or private utility ; unless it be a matter of utility to display their church's infallible right to make canonical scripture of any thing, and thereby make human faith spring out of human fancy.
But Romanists have gone some steps farther than this. They have sealed up from general access what they admit as scripture, by imposing the Vulgate Latin translation upon the whole church; for the Latin being no longer a living language, the bulk of the people have no opportunity afforded them of reading, of marking, learning, and inwardly digesting, the things which make for their eternal peace. Nay, as the natural consequence of such presumption, in the case of scripture, they have not been slack to treat the public service of the church in the same way, and have restricted the performance of it to their favourite language. I will not say that this is done with the intention of keeping the people in a state of ignorance; but this I will
that 2 H
i See 39 Articles-Art. VI.