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that he can with any equity prescribe to others to believe his interpretations in places of controversy or ambiguity. A man would think that the memorable prophecy of Jacob, that “the sceptre should not depart from Judah till Shiloh come," should have been so clear a determination of the time of the Messias, that a Jew should never have doubted it to have been verified in Jesus of Nazareth; and yet for this so clear vaticination, they have no less than twenty-six answers. St. Paul and St. James seem to speak a little diversely concerning justification by faith and works, and yet to my understanding it is very easy to reconcile them : but all men are not of my mind: for Osiander, in his confutation of the book which Melancthon wrote against him, observes, that there are twenty several opinions concerning justification, all drawn from the Scriptures, by the men only of the Augustine confession. There are sixteen several opinions concerning original sin; and as many definitions of the sacraments, as there are sects of men that disagree about them.
7. And now what help is there for us in the midst of these uncertainties? If we follow any one translation, or any one man's commentary, what rule shall we have to choose the right by? or is there any one man, that hath translated perfectly, or expounded infallibly? No translation challenges such a prerogative to be authentic, but the Vulgar Latin; and yet see with what good success : for when it was declared authentic by the council of Trent, Sixtus put forth a copy much mended of what it was, and tied all men to follow it : but that did not satisfy; for Pope Clement revives and cor. rects it in many places, and still the decree remains in a changed subject.-And, secondly, that translation will be very unapt to satisfy, in which one of their own men, Isidore Clarius, a monk of Brescia, found and mended eight thousand faults, besides innumerable others which he says he pretermitted.—And then, thirdly, to shew how little themselves were satisfied with it, divers learned men among them did new translate the Bible, and thought they did God and the church good service in it. So that if you take this for your precedent, you are sure to be mistaken infinitely: if you take any other, the authors themselves do not promise you any security : if you resolve to follow any one, as far only as you see cause, then you only do wrong or right by chance; for you have certainty just proportionable to your own skill,
to your own infallibility. If you resolve to follow any one, whithersoever he leads, we shall oftentimes come thither, where we shall see ourselves become ridiculous; as it happened in the case of Spiridion, bishop of Cyprus, who so resolved to follow his old book, that when an eloquent bishop who was desired to preach, read his text, “Tu autem tolle cubile tuum et ambula;” Spiridion was very angry with him, because in his book it was “tolle lectum tuum,” and thought it arrogance in the preacher to speak better Latin than his translator had done : and if it be thus in translations, it is far worse in expositions: “Quia scilicet Scripturam sacram pro ipsa sui altitudine non uno eodemque sensu omnes accipiunt, ut pene quot homines, tot illic sententiæ erui posse videantur,” said Vincentius Lirinensis'. In which every man knows what innumerable ways there are of being mistaken,-God having in things not simply necessary left such a difficulty upon those parts of Scripture which are the subject-matters of controversy, "ad' edomandam labore superbiam, et intellectum a fastidio revocandum,” as St. Austin gives a reason 5; that all that err honestly, are therefore to be pitied and tolerated, because it is or may be the condition of every man, at one time or other.
8. The sum is this : since Holy Scripture is the repository of divine truths, and the great rule of faith, to which all sects of Christians do appeal for probation of their several opinions; and since all agree in the articles of the Creed as things clearly and plainly set down, and as containing all that which is of simple and prime necessity; and since, on the other side, there are in Scripture many other mysteries, and matters of question, upon which there is a veil; since there are so many copies with infinite varieties of reading; since a various interpunction, a parenthesis, a letter, an accent, may much alter the sense; since some places have divers literal senses, many have spiritual, mystical, and allegorical meanings; since there are so many tropes, metonymies, ironies, hyperboles, proprieties and improprieties of language, whose understanding depends upon such circumstances, that it is almost impossible to know its proper interpretation, now that the knowledge of such circumstances and particular stories is irrevocably lost : since there are some
i In Commonit.
& Lib. 2. de Doctr. Christian. c. 6.
mysteries which, at the best advantage of expression, are not easy to be apprehended, and whose explication, by reason of our imperfections, must needs be dark, sometimes weak, sometimes unintelligible: and, lastly, since those ordinary means of expounding Scripture, as searching the originals, conference of places, parity of reason, and analogy of faith, are all dubious, uncertain, and very fallible,--he that is the wisest, and by consequence the likeliest to expound truest in all probability of reason, will be very far from confidence; because every one of these, and many more, are like so many degrees of improbability and uncertainty, all depressing our certainty of finding out truth in such mysteries, and amidst 80 many difficulties. And therefore a wise man, that considers this, would not willingly be prescribed to by others; and therefore, if he also be a just man, he will not impose upon others; for it is best every man should be left in that liberty, from which no man can justly take him, unless he could secure him from error: so that here also there is a necessity to conserve the liberty of prophesying, and interpreting Scripture; a necessity derived from the consideration of the difficulty of Scripture in questions controverted, and the uncertainty of any internal medium of interpretation.
Of the Insufficiency and Uncertainty of Tradition to erpound
Scripture, or determine Questions. 1. In the next place, we must consider those extrinsical means of interpreting Scripture, and determining questions, which they most of all confide in, that restrain prophesying with the greatest tyranny. The first and principal is tradition, which is pretended not only to expound Scripture "(Necesse enim est propter tantos tam varii erroris anfractus, ut propheticæ et apostolicæ interpretationis linea secundum ecclesiastici et catholici sensus normam dirigatur) :" but also to propound articles upon a distinct stock, such articles, whereof there is no mention and proposition in Scripture. And in this topic, not only the distinct articles
b Vincept. Lirinens. in Commonitor.
are clear and plain, like as the fundamentals of faith expressed in Scripture, but also it pretends to expound Scripture, and to determine questions with so much clarity and certainty, as there shall neither be error nor doubt-remaining, and therefore no disagreeing is here to be endured. And, indeed, it is most true, if tradition can perform these pretensions, and teach us plainly, and assure us of all truths, which they require us to believe, we can in this case have no reason to disbelieve them, and therefore are certainly heretics if we do, because, without a crime, without some human interest or collateral design, we cannot disbelieve traditive doctrine or traditive interpretation, if it be infallibly proved to us that tradition is an infallible guide.
2. But here I first consider that tradition is no repository of articles of faith, and therefore the not following it is no argument of heresy; for besides that I have shewed Scripture in its plain expresses to be an abundant rule of faith and manners, tradition is a topic as fallible as any other: so fallible that it cannot be sufficient evidence to any man in a matter of faith or question of heresy.
3. For first, I find, that the fathers were infinitely deceived in their account and enumeration of traditions : sometimes they did call some traditions such, not which they knew to to be so, but by arguments and presumptions they concluded them so. Such as was that of St. Austin, “Ea quæ universalis tenet ecclesia nec à conciliis instituta reperiuntur, credibile est ab apostolorum traditione descendisse'.” Now suppose this rule probable, that is the most, yet it is not certain; it might come by custom, whose original was not known, but yet could not derive from an apostolical principle. Now when they conclude of particular traditions by a general rule, and that general rule not certain, but, at the most, probable in any thing, and certainly false in some things,-is it wonder if the productions, that is, their judgments and pretence, fail so often. And if I should but instance in all the particulars, in which tradition was pretended falsely or uncertainly in the first ages, I should multiply them to a troublesome variety; for it was then accounted so glorious a thing to have spoken with the persons of the apostles, that if any man could with any colour pretend to it, he
Epist. 118. ad Januar. De Bapl. contr. Donat. lib. 4. c. 24.
might abuse the whole church, and obtrude what he listed under the specious title of apostolical tradition; and it is very notorious to every man, that will but read and observe the Recognitions or Stromata of Clemens Alexandrinus,where there is enough of such false wares shewed in every book, and pretended to be no less than from the apostles. In the first age after the apostles, Papias pretended he received a tradition from the apostles, that Christ, before the day of judgment, should reign a thousand years upon earth, and his saints with him in temporal felicities; and this thing proceeding from so great an authority as the testimony of Papias, drew after it all or most of the Christians in the first three hundred years. For besides, that the millenary opinion is expressly taught by Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Origen, Lactantius, Severus, Victorinus, Apollinaris, Nepos, and divers others famous in their time; Justin Martyr in his Dialogue against Tryphon says, it was the belief of all Christians exactly orthodox, και εί τινές εισι κατά πάντα όρθογνώμονες Χριστιανοί; and yet there was no such tradition, but a mistake in Papias; but I find it no where spoke against, till Dionysius of Alexandria confuted Nepo's book, and converted Coracion the Egyptian from the opinion. Now if a tradition, whose beginning of being called so began with a scholar of the apostles (for so was Papias), and then continued for some ages upon the mere authority of so famous a man, did yet deceive the church: much more fallible is the pretence, when, two or three hundred years after it, but commences, and then by some learned man is first called a tradition apostolical. And so it happened in the case of the Arian heresy, which the Nicene fathers did confute by objecting a contrary tradition apostolical, as Theodoret reportsk; and yet if they had not had better arguments from Scripture than from tradition, they would have failed much in so good a cause; for this very pretence the Arians themselves made, and desired to be tried by the fathers of the first three hundred years, which was a confutation sufficient to them who pretended a clear tradition, because it was unimaginable, that the tradition should leap so as not to come from the first to the last by the middle. But that this trial was sometime declined by that excellent
k Lib. 1. Hist. c. 8.