Page images
PDF
EPUB

pothesis which is a supposed truth, or on a fact which is a real one, and many systems of theology have been unwarily framed on the former model, to suit every man's bent of mind, and frame of constitution. The indolent, the active, the enthusiastic, the phlegmatic and the saturnine, have all their correspondent theories,—thus, the greatest dispute in the world is, which is the true religion? for as the apostles upon Christ's declaration that one of them should betray him, every one asked, is it I?. so does every religion in the world, upon this question, which is the true religion, answer, it is I. The Jew says, his; the Catholic, his ; the Protestant, his ; one Protestant, his manner of worship and profession is best ; another, his; and a third,

his.

How is it possible to determine this controversy, concerning which, there have been such numerous altercations, and so many volumes written?

The decision lies in a narrow compass -it calls but for one steady look, in order to comprehend it completely. To distinguish

true religion from that which is erroneous, we must bear in mind, that a successful search after religious truth, can be only expected, when we erect our system upon facts, acknowledged facts, as they are recorded in sacred scripture. “'Tis not for me,” says St. Austin, “ to appeal to the council of Nice, nor you to that of Rimini, and to dispute under a prejudice.--I am not obliged to the authority of the one, nor you to the authority of the other. It is my opinion we should seek the church, not in our own words, but in the words of him who is truth itself. Let nobody tell me, I say this, or thou sayest that, but let them rather say, see what our Saviour saith-have we not the books of the Lord ? and are not both sides agreed upon their authority ? we believe them, and we submit to them, therefore, there it is, that we must search for the church, and there debate the cause. Let us set all aside that is alledged, both by the one and the other, bating only what we have urged, from canonical scripture, for I must have the church proved, not by human rea

оо

son, but by the Divine oracles."* De Unitate Eccles. Cap. 2.

* The rule of faith of the reformed episcopal church is the written word of God. That of Romanists, to use their own words, is scripture and tradition.

I confess that the unwritten word was the first rule of chris. tians; and in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, the observance of verbal, no less than of written tradition, is enjoined by St. Paul. But at the time when that Epistle was written, the canon of the New Testament was so far from being completed, that most probably, not one of the four Gospels, most certainly not all of them, had been published. At the same period also, the Acts of the Apostles, the Revelation, the Epistles to the Corinthians, and Romans, and Colossians, and Ephesians, and Hebrews, and Timothy, and Philemon, by St. Paul, the Second Epistle by St. Peter, the Epistle by St. James, and the three Epistles by St. John, were not in existence. The canon of the New Testament, upon the most liberal calculation, could not have contained more than the followiug Books ;--the Gospel of St. Mathew, the First Epistle of St. Peter, the Epistle to the Galatians, the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, the Epistle to Titus, and the Epistle of Jude.

The doctrines of Christianity were therefore first preached, and a church formed, before the Scriptures ; but the apostles, conscious how easily a thing is forgotten, which is not reduced to writing, how soon what depends upon memory becomes uncertain, and is variously represented according to the passions or prejudices, or interests of the reporters, thought fit, under the immediate

With respect to faith, the reformed church maintains,

inspiration of God's Spirit, to consign to writing, that word, which was first spoken by mouth. Thus St. John expressly says, that his Gospel was written_" that we might believe that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through his name;" (John xx. 31.)

The Romanists themselves attempt to prove their peculiar doctrines from the scriptures, and admit that whatsoever is contrary to them, ought not to be received for divine truth. Do they not acknowledge by this, that all necessary articles are contained in them ? if they say that all their doctrines can be proved by plain scripture evidence, then they must reject the necessity of unwritten traditions, and acknowledge the scriptures to be a complete and perfect rule of faith. St. Paul exhorts all christians, to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints”; and this particle, once, must condemn all additions, or why doth St. Paul say to Timothy, the scriptures are able to make bim wise unto salvation ? Why doth St. Austin say, quæ manifeste posita sunt in sacris scripturis omnia continent, quæ pertinent ad fidem moresque vivendi ?" Why does every one of the four evangelists, entitle their book, the Gospel, if any necessary or essential part of the Gospel were left out of it? Can we imagine that either they omitted something from ignorance, not knowing it to be necessary; or knowing it to be so, intentionally concaled it; or out of negligence, did the work they had undertaken, by halves? If none of these things can

[ocr errors]

that man is a fallen, depraved, and ruined creature, involved in guilt, pollution, and misery

without blasphemy be imputed to them, (considering they were assisted in this work by the Holy Spirit,) it clearly follows, that every one of them writ the whole Gospel of Christ; I mean all the essential and pecessary parts of it,

Further, by what means can the true church be now known without the scriptures ?- see ą company of men who call themselves a church; but a church must have a divine origin, and therefore there is no ascertaining a church, without seeing its charter ; for there can be no note or mark of its being a pure and un• corrupted church, but its conformity to the most ancient church of all, that is, the primitive and apostolic.

Traditions were highly esteemed among the Jews. They were styled law by the mouth, in opposition to law in writing, and they were said to be lineally deduced from Moses and God himself, by a succession of oral deliverers. These traditions as they related to Christ, were of the following import. 1. When Christ cometh, no man can know, said tradition, whence he is. John vii. 27. But we, the Jews observed, are well acquainted both with this man's birth and parentage. 2. When a voice from heaven declared Christ to be the Son of God, in the presence of St. Peter, James, and John, they object against it, the tradition of the scribes-that Elias must first come. Matt. xvii. 10. 3, There was a general tradition, that Messiah was to abide for ever ; but Christ declared, that he was to be lifted up, and die an ignominious death.

« PreviousContinue »