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therefore we had no reason to believe it with that degree of faith, wherewith we believe the Scrip
That it is unreasonable to think, that he that reads the Scripture, and uses all means appointed for this purpose, with an earnest desire, and with no other end, but to find the will of God, and to obey it, if he mistake the meaning of some doubtful places, and fall unwillingly into some errors, unto which no vice or passion betrays him, and is willing to hear reason from any man that will undertake to shew him his error; I say, that it is unreasonable to think, that a God of goodness will impute such an error to such a man.
Against the second it was demonstrated unto me, that the place I built on so confidently, was no argument at all for the infallibility of the succession of pastors in the Roman church, but a very strong argument against it.
First, No argument for it, because it is not certain, nor can ever be proved, that St. Paul speaks there of any succession. (Ephes. iv. 11-13.) For let that be granted, which is desired, that in ver. 13. by (until we all meet) is meant, until all the children of God meet in the unity of faith, that is, unto the world's end; yet it is not said there, that "he gave apostles and prophets," &c. which should continue, &c. "until we all meet," by connecting ver. 13. to ver. 11. But he gave (then upon his ascension, and miraculously endowed) apostles and prophets, &c. for the work of the ministry, for the consummating of the saints, for the edification of the body of Christ, until we all meet, that is, if you will, unto the world's end. Neither is there any incongruity, but that the
apostles and prophets, &c. which lived then, may in good sense be said now at this time, and ever hereafter, to do those things which they are said to do. For who can deny but St. Paul, the apostle and doctor of the gentiles, and St. John, the evangelist and prophet, do at this very time (by their writings, though not by their persons) do the work of the ministry, consummate the saints, and edify the body of Christ.
Secondly, It cannot be shewn or proved from hence, that there is, or was, to be any such succession; because St. Paul here tells us, only, that he gave such in the time past, not that he promised such in the time to come.
Thirdly, It is evident, that God promised no such succession, because it is not certain that he hath made good any such promise; for who is so impudent as to pretend, that there are now, and have been in all ages since Christ, some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; especially such as he here speaks of, that is, endowed with such gifts as Christ gave upon his ascension; of which he speaks in ver. 8. saying, "He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." And that those gifts were-men endowed with extraordinary power and supernatural gifts-it is apparent, because these words," and he gave some apostles, some prophets," &c. are added by way of explication and illustration of what was said before-and he gave gifts unto men. And if any man except hereunto, that though the apostles, and prophets, and evangelists were extraordinary, and for the plantation of the gospel, yet pastors were ordinary, and for continuance; I answer, It is true,
some pastors are ordinary, and for continuance, but not such as are here spoken of; not such as are endowed with the strange and heavenly gifts, which Christ gave not only to the apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, but to the inferior pastors and doctors of his church, at the first plantation of it. And therefore St. Paul, in 1 Cor. xii. 28. (to which place we are referred by the margin of the vulgar translation, for the explication of this) places this gift of teaching amongst, and prefers it before, many other miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost. Pastors there are still in the church, but not such as Titus, and Timothy, and Apollos, and Barnabas; not such as can justly pretend to immediate inspiration and illumination of the Holy Ghost. And, therefore, seeing there neither are, nor have been, for many ages in the church, such apostles, and prophets, &c. as are here spoken of, it is certain he promised none; or otherwise we must blasphemously charge him with breach of his promise.
Secondly, I answer, That if by dedit, he gave, he meant, promisit, he promised, for ever; then all were promised, and all should have continued. If by dedit be not meant promisit, then he promised none such, nor may we expect any such by virtue of or warrant from this text that is here alleged. And thus much for the first assumpt, which was, That the place was no argument for an infallible succession in the church of Rome.
Now for the second, That it is a strong argument against it, thus I make it good.
The apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, and pastors, which our Saviour gave upon his as
cension, were given by him, that they might consummate the saints, do the work of the ministry, edify the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of faith, that we be not "like children, wavering and carried up and down with every wind of doctrine." The apostles, and prophets, &c. that then were, do not now in their own persons, and by oral instruction, do the work of the ministry, to the intent we may be kept from wavering, and being carried up and down with every wind of doctrine: therefore they do this some other way. Now there is no other way by which they can do it, but by their writings; and therefore by their writings they do it: therefore by their writings, and believing of them, we are to be kept from wavering in matters of faith: therefore the Scriptures of the apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, are our guides: therefore not the church of Rome.
An Answer to some Passages in Rushworth's Dialogues, beginning at the Third Dialogue, §. XII. p. 181. Ed. Paris, 1654. about Traditions.
Uncle. Do you think there is such a city as Rome or Constantinople?
Nephew. That I do: I would I knew what I ask as well.
First, I should have answered, that in propriety of speech I could not say that I knew it, but that I did as undoubtedly believe it, as those things which I did know. For though (as I conceive) we may be properly said to believe that which we know, yet we cannot say truly, that we know that which we only believe upon report and hearsay, be it never so constant, never so general: for seeing the generality of men is made up of particulars, and every particular man may deceive and be deceived, it is not impossible, though exceedingly improbable, that all men should conspire to do so. Yet I deny not that the popular phrase of speech will very well bear, that we may say we know that, which in truth we only believe, provided the grounds of our belief be morally certain.
Neither do I take any exception to the nephew's answers made to his uncle's 2, 3, 4, and 5 interrogatories. But grant willingly as to the first, that it is not much material, whether I remember or not any particular author of such a general and constant report. Then, that the testimony of one or two witnesses, though never so credible,