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Plutarch, as cited. And faith Sophocles, God grant " that I may always observe that venerable sanctity in
my words and deeds which these noble precepts
(writ in man's heart) require: God is their father, s neither shall they ever be abrogated ; for there is in ' them a great God that never waxeth old. More reverend epithets than our opposers can afford, as their books but too openly witness; yet would go for Christian men, though manifestly short of Heathens.
Thus it is evident that the scripture was not the general rule, after it was given forth.
Obj. But bath it not been fince, and is it not now, the general rule ? & c.
Answ. There hath been since, and is now, the same impediment; for before Christ's coming in the Aesh, and since, where the scriptures never reached, there hath been the same light. And though nations, by not glorifying God as God, when they have known him, have been given up to all manner of iniquities, infornuch as their understandings have been greatly veiled; yet did not the light within so entirely lose its ruling exercise among them, as that they lived without any sense of such a thing: therefore still the scriptures have not been, neither are, the general rule; no not so much as of any age; since in no age can it be proved that the whole, or greatest part of the world, had them. But had they been so for some one or two ages, as they never were ; yet the granting it will not reach our question, where the word general implieth the nature of the thing itself respecting mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, and so to the end.
Obj. But is not the scripture the rule, &c. of our day?
Answ. If the rule, then the general rule: for whatsoeyer is the rule of faith and life, excludeth all other
from (a) Justin Martyr faith, that all are Chriftians who live with • Christ, as Abraham and Elias; and amongst the Greeks, as So.
from being general, they being but particular in respect of itself: therefore not the rule, though a rule, of faith and life.
But besides their not being general, I have several reasons to offer, why they cannot be the rule of faith and life, &c.
(a) If now the rule, then ever the rule; but they were not ever the rule; and therefore they cannot now be the rule. That they were not ever the rule is granted: but that they are not therefore now the rule, may be by some denied; which I shall prove thus. If the faith of God's people in all ages be of one nature, then the rule but of one nature: but clear it is, Heb. xi. the faith has been but of one nature. In Thort, if the holy ancients had faith before they had or wrote scripture, they had a rule before they had or wrote scripture; for where faith is, there is a rule for that faith. And if the faith be of one nature, the rule is of one nature also. And since the faith is in. ward, spiritual, begotten of the immortal Word, in which is life, and that life the light of men, and that this Word of life and light was the rule; then no book, writing, or engraving on visible and perishable matter, can be the rule now.
Again; Again ; such as the faith is, such must the rule be: but the faith is, as before, inward and spiritual, which no mere book can be.
crates, Heraclitus, &c.' See Scyltetus on him: who also faith, • That some at this day are of his judgment, who have taught that • Melchizedeck, Abimelech, Ruth, Rachab, the queen of Sheba, • Hiram of Tyre, Naaman the Syrian, and the city of Nineveh, • are in the catalogue of Christians.'
Eufebius Pamph. in his Ecclefiaftical History, faith, “That A
braham and the ancient fathers were Christians :' and defines a Christian to be, ! one that by the knowledge, and doctrine of • Christ excels in moderation of mind, in righteousness and conti• nency of life, and strength of virtue and godliness towards one only « God.' See Scultetus on him, Clemens Alexandrinus faith, ? The law of nature and of discipline
And Moses seems to call the Lord the Covenant :' for he had said before, the coyenant was not to be sought in scripture ; • for that is the covenant, which God, the cause of all, settleth, whence his nature in Greek is derived. And in the preaching of
. is one.
2. If the scriptures were the general rule, they must have always been a perfeet rule, ever since they were a rule: but this is impossible, since they were many hundred years in writing, and are now imperfect also as to number ; how then are they the perfe£t rule ?
That they were not the perfekt rule before they were written, must be granted: and that they were many hundred years writing, must also be allowed: and that they are imperfect now, as to number, I prove:
First, Enoch's Prophecy,” is mentioned by Jude, but not extant in the Bible. « The Book of the " Wars of the Lord,” Numb. xxi. 14. - The Book « of Jasher,” Josh. X. 13. 2 Sam. i. 18.
" The " Book of Nathan," 2 Chron. ix. 29. « The Book “ of Shemaiah, 2 Chron. xii. 15. « The Book of « Jehu: the Epistle of the apostle Paul to the Lao“ diceans," Colof. iv. 16. and several others mentioned in the scriptures, not now extant. And lastly, Luke fays, “ That many took in hand to re« late from eye-witnesses the things most surely be6 lieved, &c.”
• Peter, thou mayest find the Lord called the Word, or Reafon, and • the Law. See his ift book Strom. at the end. And before, page 353, he faith, " The Law and the Gospel is the operation of one • Lord, who is the virtue and wisdom of God: and the fear which 6 the law had bred, is merciful to salvacion ; and the fear of the • Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That she (that is, Wisdom) " that ministereth providence, is mistress and good; and the power of • both procureth salvation : the one chastising as mistress; the other • being bountiful, as a benefactor ; for one must pass from darkness
to life ; and, applying his ear to wisdom, first be a servant, then
a faithful minister, and so ascend into the number of sons, and • be brought into the elect adoption of fons. That the law works « to make them immortal, that chuse to live temperately and justly.' And again, · Evil men do not understand the law; but they that • seek the Lord, do understand every good thing.' And the whole first book of the Stromata is especially to prove the antiquity of the One true religion, or philofophy, as he calls it.
2. Now, it is taken for granted, that John wrote many years after Luke: some think Luke wrote before Mark. However, Matthew and Mark were not many, and to this day we see no more than those four in our Bibles; and therefore many such writings are loft: and if lost, then the scriptures, as aforesaid, are not perfect; and if imperfect, how can they be the rule of faith, since the rule of faith must be perfect?
3. My third reason is this; The scriptures, however useful to edification and comfort, seem not in their own nature and frame to have been compiled and delivered as the general rule, and intire body of faith, but rather written upon particular occasions and emergencies. The doctrines are scattered throughout the scriptures; insomuch that those focieties,' who have given forth verbal confessions of their faith, have been necessitated to tofs them to and fro, search here and search there, to lay down this or the other principle; and then as like the original text as their apprehensions can render it: whereas, were it as plain and distinct as the nature of a rule requires, they needed only to have given their subscription for a confession. Besides, here they are proper, there metaphorical: in one place literally, in another mystically to be accepted: most times points are to be proved by comparing and weighing places coherent; where to allude aptly, and not wrong the fense, is difficult, and requires a clear and certain discerning, notwithstanding the clamours upon us about infallibility. Now from all this, with abundance more that might be said, plain is it that the fcriptures are not plain but to the spiritual man: thus Peter faid of Paul's writings, that “ in many things “ they were hard to be understood ?" Therefore not such a rule, which ought to be plain, proper, and intelligible.
4. Again, the scripture cannot be the rule of faith, because it cannot give faith; for faith is the “
God, which overcomes the world : 8” neither of
& Eph. ii. 8.
1 John v. 4:
practice, practice, because it cannot distinguish of itself, in all cases, what ought to be practised, and what not; since it contains as well what ought not to be practised, as what ought.
This was the case of Christ's disciples, who had no particular rule in the Old Testament writings for thę abolishing of some part of the Old Testament religion: on the contrary, they might have pleaded for the perpetuity of it, because Christ said unto them, “ Do as they say that fit in Moses's chair,” more reasonably than many who make that a plea now-a-days for their invented worships. What then guided them in their declaring void and relinquishing those things? For instance, God gave circumcision “ as a sign for “ ever : b” And Paul tells the Galatians, “ that if they “ be circumcised, Christ should profit them nothing: was not this the spirit of truth, that leads into all truth, that the apostles made the judge and rule of their doctrine and practice? So said James, and the assembly of the apostles, when they told the believers, “ It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to “ us,” &c.
. These very men that say it is the rule of faith and life, deviate in their proof from their assertion ; for the scriptures no where say so of themselves. Here they fly to meanings and interpretations: the question arises not about the truth of the text, for that is agreed on all hands; but the exposition of it: if then I yield to that man, do I bow to the letter of the text, or to his interpretation ? If the latter, as manifestly I do, is the scripture, or that man's sense of it, my rule? Nay, the person so interpreting makes not the scripture his rule, but his own apprehension, whatever he may say to gain credit to his conceptions with others; then inine it must needs be, I consenting thereto.
6. How shall I be assured that these scriptures came from God? I am bound to try all things: if all
h Gen. xvii. 7.
i Gal. v. 1, 2.
k Acts xv. 28.