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great difficulty be allowed, but also in order to understand the meaning of the words contained in it; which I do not see how it can be proved; but we will grant this also, provided they will acknowledge that all men, who read the books of the New Testament with a religious mind, intent upon the truth, are afforded this Spirit by the goodness of God; there is no need of contending for anything more than this. Every one, therefore, may wisely and safely gather his knowledge of the Christian religion from these books; yet making use of those helps, that are necessary or profitable for the understanding of such books ; which we will not now inquire aster.
Whoever therefore believes, that the revelation of the will of God made by Christ, is faithfully related in the books of the New Testament, such an one must of necessity embrace all things which he there meets with, according as he understands them, as matters of faith, practice and hope ; for whoever believes in Christ, ought to receive with a religious mind everything which he thinks comes from him; he cannot defend himself with any excuse, whereby to admit some and reject others, of those things which he acknowledges to come from Christ. And such are those doctrines I before explained, and concerning which all Christians, as I said, are agreed.
As to the rest, about which they contest, since they are not so very plain, a religious and pious man may and ought to deliberate concerning them, and withhold
his judgment till they appear more evident to him. For it is very imprudent to admit or reject anything, before it sufficiently appears to be either true or false. Nor is eternal salvation, in the books of the New Testament, promised to any one, who embraces this or that controverted opinion ; but to him who heartily receives in his mind, and expresses in his actions, the sum of the Christian religion, as we have described it.
Nothing else ought to be imposed upon Christians,
but what they can gather from the New Testament.
This therefore is the only thing that can justly be imposed upon all Christians, viz. that they embrace whatever they think is contained in the books of the New Testament, and obey those things which they find there commanded, and abstain from those things which are there forbidden ; if anything further be required of them as necessary, it is without any authority. For would any fair judge require a Christian to believe a doctrine came from Christ which he does not find in the only faithful and undoubted records, in which all are agreed the revelation of Christ is derived down to us? Let other doctrines be true; let us take this for granted a little while; they cannot however be esteemed as true by him, who, amongst the different sorts of Christians, follows the middle way, and allows of no certain record of the revelation of Christ, but the books of the New Testament. Whilst he believes this, nothing else can justly be required of him ; and he will believe this, till it shall be made appear to him by plain arguments, that the knowledge of Christianity is safely to be had somewhere else, which I believe will never be done.
If any one, therefore, attempts to take away from Christians the books of the New Testament, or to add to them such things as do not appear to be true, we are by no means to hearken to such an one; because he requires that of us, which no prudent man will allow, viz, that we should believe that which we are not certain of, or neglect that which all own to be the sure record of the revelation of the Gospel. There is no need of examining all controversies singly, and one by one ; which would be an endless thing, and cannot be done but by very learned men, who have abundance of leisure. Whoever imposes anything upon us, as necessary to be believed, which we cannot believe, he drives us from himself; because belief cannot be extorted by force ; nor will any one who fears God, and is a lover of truth, suffer himself to profess what he does not believe, for the sake of another.
But they who differ from this, object, that if every one be left to their own liberty, in judging of the meaning of the books of the New Testament, there will be as many religions as there are men, and truth, which is but one, will immediately be oppressed by a multitude of errors. But I think, that before an opinion,
which is established upon solid arguments, be opposed by objections, the foundation upon which it is built ought to be overthrown ; because so long as that remains firm, the whole superstructure raised upon it cannot be shaken, as. we see here. For if any
inconvenience should follow from what has been said, it is nevertheless true, till it be made appear not to be fixed on a firm bottom. But to pass by this now; it is false that the revelation of the New Testament is so obscure, that the sum of the Christian religion cannot be truly learned from it, by any one of a sound mind, who is desirous of truth. It is evident from experience, that it may be truly learned from thence; for all Christians, as has been already shewn, agree in the principal parts of it; which was observed by Grotius. We have no regard here, to a few simple or wicked men; since whole societies of Christians, who in other respects, out of their too great eagerness of contention, are apt to differ from one another, and to run into the contrary extremes, are here agreed.
The Providence of God, in preserving the Christian
Doctrine, is very wonderful. In this particular, as in numberless others, which relate to the government of human affairs, the divine providence is very wonderful ; which, notwithstanding so many differences, as were of old, and are at this day amongst Christians, yet hath preserved the books of the New Testament entire, even to our times; that the Christian doctrine may be recovered out of them, as often as it happens to be corrupted. Nor has it only delivered down to us this treasure entire ; but also, in the midst of the hottest differences, has so secured the Christian doctrine itself, that the sum of religion has never been forgotten amongst Christians.
No inconsiderable number of Christians at this day contend, that many errors, in former ages, crept by degrees in amongst the sects of Christians, which, when others denied in the sixteenth century after the birth of Christ, that famous separation in the west was made upon that account, by which Christianity was divided into two parts, not very unequal. Yet in those ages, (whose errors are reproved by that part of the Christians, which made the separation I now nientioned, and whose faults were highly aggravated by both sides, and that not without grounds,) the sum of the Christian religion, before drawn up by us, was all along maintained. There is no age so thick clouded with ignorance and vice, but the forementioned articles of faith may easily be collected from their writings that remain. It must not indeed be dissembled, that many things, foreign and unknown to the books of the New Testament, have been added and thrust into the Christian Theology; whence it is, that the true wheat of the sower, in the Gospel, hath not brought forth so much fruit as it would