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General Rule of Faith and PRACTICE,
A N D
JUDGE or CONTROVERSY.
Greatly importing all those who desire to take right Measures
of Faith, and to determine (at least to themselves) the numerous Controversies now on foot in the World.
By the fame Author.
For in Christ Jesus, neither Circumcision availeth any Thing, nor Uncircumcifion,
but a NEW Creature . And as many as walk according to THIS Rule, Peace
be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. GAL. vi. 16. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all
Things, yea, the deep Things of God.--The Things of God knoweth no Man, but the Spirit of God. He that is spiritual judgeth all things. 1 Cor.
ii. 10, 11, 15. But ye have an Unction from the Holy One; and ye shall know all Things.
i John ii. 20.
Published in the Year 1673:
DI S COURSE
GENERAL RULE of FAITH and PRACTICE.
INCE there are so many faiths in the world, and
greatly behoveth every man, if to contend for, then first to know, the true faith that overcometh the world; it may not be unnecessary to say something of the general rule of faith and life, and judge of controversy, at this time. And indeed I am preffed from this weighty consideration, that men perish for want of it, and can no more arrive at truth without it, than the distressed mariner can gain his port, who sails without either ftar or compafs.
I shall begin with an explanation of the terms, rule, and faith; of which we shall first treat, that we may as well express what we intend by the one, as what we mean by the other; which will be a proper introduction to the whole discourse.
By GENERAL RULE, &c. we understand, that constant measure or standard, by which men, in all ages, have been enabled to judge of the truth or error of doctrines, and the good or evil of thoughts, words, and actions.
By FAITH, we understand, an afsent of the mind, in such manner, to the difcoveries made of God thereto, as to resign up to God, and have dependence upon him, as the great Creator and Saviour of his people; which is inseparable from good works,
That men, in all ages, have had a belief of God, and some knowledge of him, though not upon equal discovery, must be granted from that account that all story gives of mankind in matters of religion. Several have fully performed this; of old, Justin Martyr, Clemens Alexandrinus, Augustine, and others ; of latter times, Du Plessy, Grotius, Amiraldus, L. Herbert, and above all Dr. Cudworth: and indeed the relicks we have of the most ancient historians and authors, are a demonftration in the point. Now the scripture tells us, that “no man knows the Father at but the Son, and he to whom the Son reveals « him:*” and “ as none know the things of man, " save the spirit of man; so the things of God knows “ no man, but the Spirit of God."" Hence we safely conclude, that the creating Word that was with God, and was God, in whom was life, and that life the light of men, and who is the quickening Spirit, was be by whom God in all ages hath revealed himself; consequently, that light or spirit must have been the general rule of mens knowledge, faith, and obedience, with respect to God. And thus much Pythagoras, who lived about fix hundred years before those words were spoke or writ, laid down for a maxim, viz. “That no man can know what is agreeable to • God, except a man bear God himself,' and that must be within; for that was his doctrine. To which the apostle and prophet thus agree: 1. In that “ whatever « makes manifest is light." 2. That “ whatever
might be known of God was made manifest with. « in; for God (who is light, 1 John i. 5.) had shewn it unto them: and, “ God hath shewn unto thee, O
man, what is good, and what God requireth of " thee, d” &c. Which could not be without the light of his Son shining in man's conscience: therefore the light of Christ in the conscience must needs have been the general rule, &c. It was by this law that Enoch,
• Mat. xi. 17.
bi Cor. ii. 11. Eph. v. 13. Rom. i. 19, Mic. vi. 8.
Noah, Abraham, Melchizedeck, Abimelech, Job, Jethro, &c. walked and were accepted, as faith Irenæus and Tertullian; ' They were just by the law < written in their hearts :e' then was it their rule, to and in that just state.
Obj. It seems then you deny the scriptures to be the general rule, &c.
Answ. How can they be the general rule, that have not been general ? That which was both before and since they were in being, must needs be more general than they: but that was this light in the conscience, the law and guide of those Patriarchs (for the scriptures began long after, in the time of Moses) consequently that must be the general rule, &c.
Obj. But granting that the light within were so before scripture was extant; yet, since the writings of holy scripture, the scripture, and not the light, hath been the general rule.
Answ. That cannot be, unless Palestina, or Canaan, a little province of Asia, was the whole world, and that the Jews, a particular people, were all mankind. For at what time those writings were among the Jews, other nations were only left to the law and light within. This the apostle confirmeth in that passage, " For the Gentiles, which have not the law (that is, " the outward law, or law written upon stone) do by “ nature the things contained in the law, which shew" eth the work of the law written in their hearts.” And the Gentiles themselves called it, the immuta• ble law; the everlasting foundation of virtue; no
lifeless precepts, but immortal; a sacred good, God " the overseer; the living rule ; the root of the soul ; s that which makes the good man.' Thus Thales, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Plotin, Hieron, Philo,
Iren. 1. 2. c. 30. Tertul, con.
Jud. p. 184.
f Rom. ii. 14, 15