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after im partial examination, that we give you no evidence of the truth of the Gospel? You must not believe every man that saith he hath a letter to you from such a friend, or a pardon of some offence from the prince. But if you see it under his hand and seal, which no man can counterfeit, must you not then believe it? You must not believe every man that saith such or such a law was made by the parliament, which you must obey; but if all the heralds and messengers of the commonwealth do proclaim it, and the commonwealth acknowledge it, and they produce sufficient proof that the parliament did enact it, and tell you by what records you may prove it yourselves, if you will be at the pains, as they have been, and no man hath any thing of weight to say against it, should you not believe such a report? You are bound to believe every man that gives you evidence of the truth of his report, or shows you sufficient reason why you should believe him: but so do the preachers of the Gospel, ergo, &c.
Obj. 6. Christ saith, “ If I had not done the works that no man else could do, ye had no sin ?”
Answ. But he doth not say, if you had not seen them, you had no sin. The revelation of them by any sufficient means, will leave an unbeliever without excuse.
Obj. 7. But why should we be obliged by miracles unseen, any more than the Jews in Christ's time?
Answ. Because we have sufficient proof of them, though not the sight: and if the Jews had had such proof of them, it would have obliged them, as to this day it doth.
Obj. 8. By that rule Christ need not to have done miracles in any place but one, and then have sent word of it to the rest of the world, and consequently all the miracles of his apostles should be needless : but Christ did them not needlessly, ergo, they are needful to us.
Answ. If God so far condescended to our infirmity, as by multitudes of miracles to make his seal so evident, that we may be put out of doubt that none can counterfeit it, should his creature be so ungratefully impudent as to require yet more, and tie him to satisfy his unreasonable expectations. What, if six or eight of the plagues of Egypt had been a sufficient means to have left Pharaoh inexcusable; if he would not believe, may not ten plagues leave him yet more inexcusable? And shall no man be thought inexcusable that hath not as many? This is to make foolish sinners the rulers of the world, yea, of God himself, and they must teach him what to do. Yea, ungrateful wretches are
so quarrelsome with his very mercies, that they will not be pleased. If God work but few, the seal is supposed questionable and obscure, because, perhaps, there might be some deceit in them : if he work many to put it out of doubt, then either they must be pronounced needless, or else every man must see the like.
Obj. 9. But there are contradictions in the Scripture, and great weaknesses in style and method; how then can we believe that they were sealed by God?
Answ. 1. So ignorant men do think of other writings, or of any science, when they do but half understand them. They that understand them are able to see the falsehood of this objection. Were men but any whit huinble, they would rather suspect their understandings of mistakes, than the Scriptures of contradiction. When one showeth these self-conceited infidels the plain sense of the words, and how easily they are reconciled, which they thought contradictory, they have then nothing to say, but be ashamed of their rash and ignorant conclusions.
2. If we could not free the text from every charge that in smaller things is laid upon it, and if we could not prove the writers infallible, and free from all mistakes in their writings, yet might we be sure that the doctrine of Scripture, in the main, is God's word, and that the christian religion is of God. Obj. I will not believe him in any thing, that speaks falsely in one. Answ. An ignorant answer. If a man mistake in a doubtful matter, will you not believe him in a matter that hath evidence beyond doubt ? All historians are fallible, and liable to error; and if they describe to you such or such a fight, or the acts of such a parliament, they may easily err in some smaller circumstance, as the just number of the slain, the particular terms of every act, &c.; and yet the main part of their history may be of infallible verity that such a fight there was, and who conquered, and that such and such laws were enacted. We are certain of many of the reports of heathen historians, who yet may err in some things; much more of the reports of godly, conscionable men, when it is clear they could not be deceived, or deceive. So that all the credit of the Gospel and christian religion doth not lie on the perfect freedom of the Scriptures from all error: but yet we doubt not to prove this their perfection against all the cavils o in fidels, though we can prove the truth of our religion without it.
The like may be said of the supposed weaknesses of Scripture,
in method and terms, which is but the censure of proud ignorance: it was not agreeable to the design of Scripture, or the occasions of its writing, that it should be written in an exact, logical method ; neither histories, laws, nor epistles, are used to be so written, and such are the Scriptures : and it was necessary that the language should be suited as to the matter, so to the capacity of the generality of the readers. It is God's great wisdom and mercy, that he will rather offend the proud, than lose the weak.
Moreover, if we could only prove that the Holy Ghost was given to the penmen of holy Scripture, as an infallible guide to them in the matter, and not to enable them to any excellency above others in the method and words, but therein to leave them to their natural and acquired abilities; this would be no diminution of the credit of their testimony, or of the christian faith. Indeed, as God's word is not given to men to repair their understandings about mere natural common things, (unless, on the by, it may do this in physics,) but in spirituals, so doth it suppose both reason, and the necessity of common arts and sciences, for the rectifying and helping of reason in naturals, which Scripture and grace do then teach them to improve for the highest and noblest ends.
Obj. 10. But there are in Scripture such improbable things in the history of some miracles, and in the threatenings of hell, &c., that we cannot believe that they came from God.
Answ. All things seem improbable, that are beyond the understanding of the reader, and contrary to his former conceits. Is there any thing that is too hard for God; or any thing that requireth a greater power than the making of the world; the motion of the sun, and the upholding of the frame of nature in its vigour and course, &c. : if we knew the power that did it, as well as we know the difficulty of the work to a human power, we should not think it improbable to God.
And for the necessity of the punishing of impenitent sinners, I have spoken of it sufficiently elsewhere,
Obj. 11. But you are not agreed which is the canonical Scripture : the papists take in all the apocryphal books, which you reject.
Answ. That is no diminution of the authority of those that we are agreed on : and the whole christian religion is contained in those. Nor do we differ about any book of the New Testament.
Obj. 12. It was long ere the Scriptures were gathered into one book, and before some of the books of the New Testament were received; some of the primitive churches received them not.
Answ. 1. It is not binding them in one book that adds to their authority, nor binding them in many that diminisheth it; else the bookbinder might make or mar the Scripture at his pleasure. 2. When the epistles were written to several churches at a great distance, there must needs be some space of time before the latter writings could be communicated to all others, by those churches to whom they were written: and till they were communicated with sufficient evidence for their reception, no wonder if they were doubted of. And that cautelousness of the church doth the more confirm us of their care in the rest. 3. It was but James, and 2 Peter, the two last epistles of John, and the Revelations, that were doubted of, and some light question of the epistle to the Hebrews. And the doctrine of Christianity is so much contained in all the rest, that if they be received, it cannot be doubted of. Believe those books that all received; for the objection reacheth not them.
Obj. Clemens' epistle to the Corinthians was a while read in churches, as Eusebius saith.
Answ. 1. Not as canonical, but as some yet read the Apocrypha. 2. There is nothing in that epistle, but what is consonant to the apostles' doctrine, and therefore confirming to the christian faith.
Obj. 13. But it was many years after Christ's resurrection be. fore the Scriptures of the New Testament were written. Where then was your religion, and your bible ?
Answ. The living preachers that had seen Christ's miracles, and wrought more to confirm the doctrine which he taught them were instead of books; and so were the daily miracles that were wrought, and the laws that were written in the hearts of the disciples : but when the apostles were to be taken from earth, as they left a succession of Christians, of preachers, and of church ordinances, which might by tradition preserve to posterity the substance of the christian religion ; so did they leave their doctrine more fully in writing, as a more certain and perfect means to preserve, not only the substance, but the whole ; which writings are by infallible, human testimony or tradition, brought safe to our hands, being free from all wilful or material depravation : for which, to God be glory in his churches,
Obj. 14. There are as confident reports of miracles wrought since, yea, and some of them for the confirming of error, as those of the Scriptures, which you so much build upon; and yet you give not so much to these : for example, 'Augustine De Civitate Dei,' lib. xxii. cap. 8, hath very many; whereof some are said to be done before many witnesses; some in the public assemblies, and in his own presence. See also his “ Retract.' lib. i. cap. 13; and 'Confess.' lib. 9. cap. 7; and “De Unitate Eccles. cap. 10; and “Serm. De Divers.' xxxix.: and · Ambros. epist. lxxxv.; and 'Serm.' cxci.; ‘Sidonium Apollinar.' lib. 7. epist. i.; 'Gregor. Turonens.' lib. 1; Mirac.' cap. 47, attest the same miracle.
And that error was confirmed by it, it is clear, in that most of them were done at the memories or shrines of Stephen, or some other martyrs, and some of them upon prayers to the martyrs, and, as Augustine thought, upon the procurement of those martyrs; and some were done by the sign of the cross, as Innocentia, an eminent woman in Carthage, is said to be cured suddenly of a cancer in her breast. Athanasius, and many others, mention the ejection of devils by the sign of the cross.
Answ. 1. There is so great a difference between these miracles and those of the Gospel, for frequency, greatness, evidence, and unquestionable certainty, and also between the certainty of the attestation and tradition of the one and the other, that the one is only probable, or morally certain, the other hath a certainty that may well be called physical, and is clearly infallible. The curing of a disease, or the raising of a dead man, attested by a few witnesses, or by a congregation, is not like an age of miracles, whereof some were done before thousands, and by which so many countries were convinced and made disciples.
2. Yet I further answer, that even these miracles are attested by so many and honest witnesses, such as Austin, and many of the fathers, that they are credible to reason; and though they have no such certainty as those mentioned in Scripture, yet are they strongly probable, and morally certain. Both, therefore, may well be believed, but with a different belief, according to the different evidences.
3. And that these latter were not wrought in attestation of any error, but of the truth of Christianity, is evident in the professions of those that wrought them, and those that report them. It was not to attest any undue worship of the martyrs or the cross, but to attest the truth of that faith which the martyrs