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eternal salvation depends, that no book, if such men say true, should be so obscure, or subject to so many various, nay, contradictory, constructions. Name me one author, Heathen, Jew, or Christian, that ever wrote with that obscurity and seeming inconsistency, which some gladly pretend to find in the holy scripture, that they might have the use and keeping of them from the vulgar, and make their own ends by it. Is, then, every body's book to be understood but God's? Was that writ not to be understood? In short, one of these two things must be true; either that God intended not to be understood, or to be understood, in what he commanded to be written. If he resolved not to be understood, it had been better there had been nothing writ; for then there had been no doubts about the meaning of it: but if it was his purpose to be understood of men, it must be supposed that what he caused to be written, was plain enough for men to understand, or he missed his own aim and end, and writ it to no purpose; which were too low and absurd a thought of the infinite goodness and wisdom.

If it should be told me, That it is not denied but that the scriptures may be understood by some body, but not by every body; for that the great, visible judge must needs understand them, because it belongs to his office to resolve those doubts, and determine those controversies that may arise about understanding them; but not every one that reads them.'

Answ. I must also say, that this is not true in fact: for it is ridiculous to imagine, that Luke did not make Theophilus his own judge in the reading of what he writ to him; or that the apostles, in writing to the several churches, as Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, &c. to whom they directed their epistles, did not intend that they should understand what they writ; or that they erected any such officer in the church, as an expounder of their epistles to the assembly to be necessarily believed. For we know, in those days, the people made the church; they were the xλngós, the clergy, however it came about that it be now engrossed into fewer hands; as you may see in the Greek of Peter, I Pet. v. 4. Mnd s καλακυριευονίες τῶν κλήρων; which κλήρων; is translated heritage in all our bibles. But this is as if the priests only were the Lord's heritage; which cannot be, for a reason obvious to all; namely, that they have long reigned as lords over God's heritage, or clergy, forbid expressly by Peter; therefore not the heritage and clergy over which they so rule like lords; by no means. I will say no more but this, it is no convincing proof to me of their humility. But to shut up this argument about the difficulty of understanding the scripture, and


pretended necessity of a visible judge; I say, Whatsoever may be spoken, may be written: Or thus; Whatsoever a visible judge can now say, the holy penmen, by God's direction, might have written and what an omniscient and omnipotent God did know, and could do, for man's salvation, an omnibenevolent God, that tells us, "He delights not in the death of one soul, but rather that he should be saved," would certainly have done for man. And because God is as omnibenevolent, as omniscient and omnipotent, we must conclude he has done it and it is great presumption, and a mean shelter to ignorance or ambition, to raise a credit to human devices, by beating down the true value of the scriptures.

They are dark: What follows? They must not be read.' What follows then? Why then such teachers may do as they list with the people. But did the Pharisees, with their broad phylacteries, know God's mind better than the prophets? Or could they deliver it clearer? No such matter it is by the same strange figure that the schoolmen know the mind of Christ better than the apostles; and that the council of Trent can declare faith more clearly than the Holy Ghost in the scripture hath done: and yet this is the English of their doctrine, that hold to us those lights to read the scripture by : and that would have us search their canons and decrees, to find out the mind of the Holy Ghost in scripture.

The confusions that are pretended to follow such an inquiry, are but the wretched arts of selfish men, as much as in them lies, to keep light and truth out of the world. When the net was cast into the sea, there came some good, some bad fish; it was not the fisherman's fault they were no better. Enquiry is not to be blamed, for the ill use weak, or worse men, make of it. The Bereans might not all believe, though they might all search; for men do not enquire with equal wisdom, love, and good desire. "Some seek and find not, some ask and receive not;" James iv. 3. Must none therefore ask or seek after that which is good? Or, because some ask or seek amiss, will it follow that the thing itself is naught? If superstition, error, idolatry, and spiritual tyranny be detected, and truth discovered, will it not more than make amends for all that weakness and folly some men have brought forth by the liberty of such an enquiry? The enemies of light may be as rhetorical as they please upon the excess or presumption of some, bolder than wise, and more zealous than knowing; but if they had nothing to lose by the discovery, they would never be the enemies of a Chris

tian search. It is to be feared, such get that obedience and subjection by a blind devotion, which no man could yield them upon better information: and is it reasonable that men of that stamp should secure their empire by the ignorance of the people? Ignorance ought to be the mother of devotion with none but those that cannot be devout upon better terms: it is the glory of a man that he is religious upon reason, and that his duty and sacrifice (Lev, xxii. 18. 29.) are not blind or forced, but free and reasonable. Truth upon knowledge, though vexed with schism, wise and good men will choose, before ignorant religion, and all its superstitious effects, with uniformity. Enough of this.

But this notion of an infallible visible judge, is as false in reason as in fact. For, first, it takes away the use of every man's reason; and it is a contradiction to have any, unless he were such an interpreter, and such a judge, as would conclude us by conviction, and not by authority: that would be the most welcome person in the world. But to over-rule my own sight, to give the lie to my own understanding, say, black is white, and that two and three make ten; thus subjugare intellectum in obsequium fidei; to yield my understanding to such an in-evident way of faith, nay, which is worse, to believe a lie, (for so it is to them, to whom the thing to be believed appears untrue) is most unreasonable.

If we must be led, it had been easier for us to have been born blind; we might then have better followed the dog and the bell; for we could not mend ourselves: but to see, and to be led; and that in ways we see to be foul or wrong, this is anxious. Here lies the dispute: and truly here the question might fairly end, Either put out our eyes, or let us use them.' But if we have eyes for our minds as well as for our bodies, I see no reason why we should trust any man, or men, against the eyes of our understanding, any more than we ought to confide in them against the sense and certainty of the eyes of our bodies.

Where is the poorest mechanic that would be paid for his labour in base coin or silver, by either pope or bishop? And can we be so brutish, as to think our nobler part void of distinction, about that treasure which is of eternal moment? For though Peter was to feed the sheep, yet the sheep were not to follow Peter, but Christ. "My sheep hear my voice," says he, " and follow me, and a stranger they will not follow," John x. 14. Here is no mediator betwixt Christ and his sheep; nor does any body else hear his voice for them; but they hear his voice themselves.

And though the shepherd may have many servants, yet "he only is their shepherd, and they are only the sheep of his fold."

But there are three places of scripture, that come fresh into my remembrance, that are very pertinent to the present occasion. The first is this, Rom. i. 19. “That which may be known of God, is manifest in men, for God hath shewed it unto them :" that is, "The spirit of man, being the candle of the Lord," Prov. xx. 27. God hath enlightened it, to manifest unto man what is necessary for him to know both of God and himself. Here is no need of wax candles, or tapers, or a visible guide and church; for still, "he that believes, has the witness in himself.”

Another passage is this: "Be ye followers of me, even as I am also of Christ." 1 Cor. xi. I. In which the apostle is so far from setting himself up a judge over the church at Corinth, that he makes his appeal to them concerning his doctrine and conversation, regulating both by that of his Lord Jesus Christ, and making them judges of the truth of his conformity to that example. "Be ye followers of me:" how? After what manner? What! Absolutely, without examination? Must we believe thee without any trial, and take what thou sayest for granted, without any more to do? No such thing. "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ:" I submit myself to be judged by you according to that rule; and all men and churches are to be thus measured, that lay claim to the name of Christian: the text will bear it.

The third passage is in his second epistle to the same church of Corinth; it is this: 2 Cor. iv. I, 2. "Therefore Î, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Here is the utmost imposition the apostle makes us of: he requires not men to receive him without evidence, and refers himself to that of their own consciences in the sight of God. This was the way of making Christians then; it must be the way of keeping and making men Christians


Conscience, in the best sense of the word, has ever been allowed to be a bond upon men of all religions: but that religion, whoever holds it, which, under pretence of autho rity, would supersede conscience, and instead of making men better (the end of religion) make them worse, by confounding all sense and distinction betwixt good and evil, and re

solving all into an implicit faith and blind obedience unto the commands of a visible guide and judge, is false; it cannot be otherwise. For to admire what men do not know, and to make it a principle not to enquire, is the last mark of folly in the believer, and of imposture in the imposer. To be short, a Christian implies a man; and a man implies conscience and understanding: but he that has no conscience nor understanding, (as he has not, that has delivered them up to the will of another man) is no man, and therefore no Christian.

I do beseech you protestants, of all sorts, to consider of the danger of this principle, with respect to religion. Of old it was the fool that said in his heart, "There is no God?" But now, upon this principle, men must be made fools, in order to believe there is one. Shall folly, which is the shame, if not the curse of man, be the perfection of a Christian? Christ, indeed, has advised us to become as "little children," but never to become such fools; for, as the proverb is, this is to be led by the nose, and not by our wits. You know that God hates the "sacrifices of tools;" Eccles. v. 1. "I will pray with the spirit and with the understanding also," saith the apostle. 1 Cor. xiv. Let us commend that testimony, which we believe to be true, to the consciences of men, and let them have the gospel privilege of examination. Error only loses upon trial. If this had been the way to Christianity, (with reverence be it spoken) God had not made our condition better, but worse; for this translates our faith and dependance upon God, to man; and the possibility, if not probability, of man's erring, exposes us to a greater insecurity than before: for where I never trusted, I never could be deceived: but if I must abandon my own sense and judgment, and yield myself up to the faith and authority of another, (to say no more of the blindness and lameness of such belief and devotion) what security can I have, that the man or men whom I trust, may not err, and deceive me? And that deceit is irreparable.

Again; since man is a reasonable creature, and that the more reasonable he is in his religion, the nearer to his own being he comes, and to the wisdom and truth of his Creator, that did so make him; a religion without reason, imposed by an unaccountable authority, against reason, sense, and conviction, cannot be the religion of the God of truth and reason for it is not to be thought that he requires any thing. that carries any violence upon the nature of his creature, or that gives the lie to that reason or sense with which he first endowed him. In short, either convince my understanding by the light of truth and power of reason, or bear down my

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