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not I reduce all sins to the cognizance of a church-tribunal, as some men do directly, and Snecanus does heartily and plainly? If a man's principles be good, and his deductions certain, he need not care whither they carry him: but when an authority is intrusted to a person, and the extent of his power expressed in his commission, it will not be safety to meddle beyond his commission upon confidence of a parity of reason. To instance once more: when Christ in pasce oves, et tu es Petrus,' gave power to the Pope to govern the church (for to that sense the church of Rome expounds those authorities), by a certain consequence of reason, say they, he gave all things necessary for exercise of this jurisdiction; and therefore in pasce oves' he gave him an indirect power over temporals, for that is necessary that he may do his duty: well, having gone thus far, we will go farther upon the parity of reason; therefore he hath given the Pope the gifts of tongues, and he hath given him power to give it; for how else shall Xavier convert the Indians? he hath given him power also to command the seas and the winds, that they should obey him, for this also is very necessary in some cases. And so 'pasce oves' is accipe donum linguarum,' and 'impera ventis, et dispone regum diademata, et laicorum prædia,' and 'influentias cœli' too, and whatsoever the parity of reason will judge equally necessary in order to 'pasce oves.'-When a man does speak reason, it is but reason he should be heard; but though he may have the good fortune, or the great abilities, to do it, yet he hath not a certainty, no regular infallible assistance, no inspiration of arguments and deductions; and if he had, yet because it must be reason that must judge of reason, unless other men's understandings were of the same air, the same constitution and ability, they cannot be prescribed unto by another man's reason; especially because such reasonings as usually are in explication of particular places of Scripture, depend upon minute circumstances and particularities, in which it is so easy to be deceived, and so hard to speak reason regularly and always, that it is the greater wonder we be not deceived.
4. Fourthly others pretend to expound Scripture by the analogy of faith, and that is the most sure and infallible way, as it is thought: but upon stricter survey it is but a chimera, a thing in nubibus,' which varies like the right hand and left hand of a pillar, and at the best is but like the coast of a
country to a traveller out of his way; it may bring him to his journey's end though twenty miles about; it may keep him from running into the sea, and from mistaking a river for dry land; but whether this little path or the other be the right way, it tells not. So is the analogy of faith, that is, if I understand it right, the rule of faith, that is, the Creed. Now were it not a fine device to go to expound all the Scripture by the Creed, there being in it so many thousand places, which have no more relation to any article in the Creed, than they have to 'Tityre, tu patulæ?' Indeed, if a man resolves to keep the analogy of faith, that is, to expound Scripture, so as not to do any violence to any fundamental article, he shall be sure, however he errs, yet not to destroy faith; he shall not perish in his exposition. And that was the precept given by St. Paul, that all prophesyings should be estimated kar' dvaλoyíav πioτewse; and to this very purpose, St. Austin, in his exposition of Genesis, by way of preface sets down the articles of faith, with this design and protestation of it, that if he says nothing against those articles, though he miss the particular sense of the place, there is no danger or sin in his exposition; but how that analogy of faith should have any other influence in expounding such places, in which those articles of faith are neither expressed nor involved, I understand not. But then if you extend the analogy of faith farther than that, which is proper to the rule or symbol of faith, then every man expounds Scripture according to the analogy of faith;' but what? his own faith: which faith, if it be questioned, I am no more bound to expound according to the analogy of another man's faith, than he to expound according to the analogy of mine. And this is it that is complained of on all sides, that overvalue their own opinions. Scripture seems so clearly to speak what they believe, that they wonder all the world does not see it as clear as they do: but they satisfy themselves with saying, that it is because they come with prejudice; whereas, if they had the true belief, that is, theirs, they would easily see what they see. And this is very true: for if they did believe as others believe, they would expound scriptures to their sense; but if this be expounding according to the analogy of faith, it signifies no more than this, 'Be you of my mind, and then my arguments will seem concluding, and my authorities and allegations pressing and
e Rom. vi. 12.
pertinent:' and this will serve on all sides, and therefore will do but little service to the determination of questions, or prescribing to other men's consciences on any side.
5. Lastly consulting the originals is thought a great matter to interpretation of scriptures. But this is to small purpose for indeed it will expound the Hebrew and the Greek, and rectify translations. But I know no man that says that the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek are easy and certain to be understood, and that they are hard in Latin and English: the difficulty is in the thing, however it be expressed,-the least, is in the language. If the original languages were our mother-tongue, Scripture is not much the easier to us; and a natural Greek or a Jew, can with no more reason, or authority, obtrude his interpretations upon other men's consciences, than a man of another nation. Add to this, that the inspection of the original is no more certain way of interpretation of Scripture now, than it was to the fathers and primitive ages of the church; and yet he that observes what infinite variety of translations were in the first ages of the church (as St. Jerome observes), and never a one like another; will think that we shall differ as much in our interpretations as they did, and that the medium is as uncertain to us as it was to them; and so it is: witness the great number of late translations, and the infinite number of commentaries, which are too pregnant an argument, that we neither agree in the understanding of the words nor of the
6. The truth is, all these ways of interpreting of Scripture, which of themselves are good helps, are made, either by design or by our infirmities, ways of intricating and involving scriptures in greater difficulty; because men do not learn their doctrines from Scripture, but come to the understanding of Scripture with preconceptions and ideas of doctrines of their own; and then no wonder that scriptures look like pictures, wherein every man in the room believes they look on him only, and that wheresoever he stands, or how often soever he changes his station. So that now what was intended for a remedy, becomes the promoter of our disease, and our meat becomes the matter of sickness and the mischief is, the wit of man cannot find a remedy for it; for there is no rule, no limit, no certain principle, by which all men may be guided to a certain and so infallible an interpretation,
that he can with any equity prescribe to others to believe his interpretations in places of controversy or ambiguity. A man would think that the memorable prophecy of Jacob, that "the sceptre should not depart from Judah till Shiloh come," should have been so clear a determination of the time of the Messias, that a Jew should never have doubted it to have been verified in Jesus of Nazareth; and yet for this so clear vaticination, they have no less than twenty-six answers. St. Paul and St. James seem to speak a little diversely concerning justification by faith and works, and yet to my understanding it is very easy to reconcile them: but all men are not of my mind: for Osiander, in his confutation of the book which Melancthon wrote against him, observes, that there are twenty several opinions concerning justification, all drawn from the Scriptures, by the men only of the Augustine confession. There are sixteen several opinions concerning original sin; and as many definitions of the sacraments, as there are sects of men that disagree about them.
7. And now what help is there for us in the midst of these uncertainties? If we follow any one translation, or any one man's commentary, what rule shall we have to choose the right by? or is there any one man, that hath translated perfectly, or expounded infallibly? No translation challenges such a prerogative to be authentic, but the Vulgar Latin; and yet see with what good success: for when it was declared authentic by the council of Trent, Sixtus put forth a copy much mended of what it was, and tied all men to follow it: but that did not satisfy; for Pope Clement revives and corrects it in many places, and still the decree remains in a changed subject.-And, secondly, that translation will be very unapt to satisfy, in which one of their own men, Isidore Clarius, a monk of Brescia, found and mended eight thousand faults, besides innumerable others which he says he pretermitted. And then, thirdly, to shew how little themselves were satisfied with it, divers learned men among them did new translate the Bible, and thought they did God and the church good service in it. So that if you take this for your precedent, you are sure to be mistaken infinitely if you take any other, the authors themselves do not promise you any security if you resolve to follow any one, as far only as you see cause, then you only do wrong or right by chance; for you have certainty just proportionable to your own skill,
to your own infallibility. If you resolve to follow any one, whithersoever he leads, we shall oftentimes come thither, where we shall see ourselves become ridiculous; as it happened in the case of Spiridion, bishop of Cyprus, who so resolved to follow his old book, that when an eloquent bishop who was desired to preach, read his text, "Tu autem tolle cubile tuum et ambula;" Spiridion was very angry with him, because in his book it was "tolle lectum tuum," and thought it arrogance in the preacher to speak better Latin than his translator had done : and if it be thus in translations, it is far worse in expositions: "Quia scilicet Scripturam sacram pro ipsa sui altitudine non uno eodemque sensu omnes accipiunt, ut pene quot homines, tot illic sententiæ erui posse videantur," said Vincentius Lirinensis. In which every man knows what innumerable ways there are of being mistaken,-God having in things not simply necessary left such a difficulty upon those parts of Scripture which are the subject-matters of controversy, "ad ecomandam labore superbiam, et intellectum a fastidio revocandum," as St. Austin gives a reason "; that all that err honestly, are therefore to be pitied and tolerated, because it is or may be the condition of every man, at one time or other.
8. The sum is this: since Holy Scripture is the repository of divine truths, and the great rule of faith, to which all sects of Christians do appeal for probation of their several opinions; and since all agree in the articles of the Creed as things clearly and plainly set down, and as containing all that which is of simple and prime necessity; and since, on the other side, there are in Scripture many other mysteries, and matters of question, upon which there is a veil; since there are so many copies with infinite varieties of reading; since a various interpunction, a parenthesis, a letter, an accent, may much alter the sense; since some places have divers literal senses, many have spiritual, mystical, and allegorical meanings; since there are so many tropes, metonymies, ironies, hyperboles, proprieties and improprieties of language, whose understanding depends upon such circumstances, that it is almost impossible to know its proper interpretation, now that the knowledge of such circumstances and particular stories is irrevocably lost: since there are some In Commonit.
Lib. 2. de Doctr. Christian. c. 6.