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delivered verbally? If Christ and his Apostles could only be understood by a chosen few, why did they speak to all that would hear them ? why did they preach promiscuously to all, and yet the very same words, when reduced to writing, and when a far better opportunity of studying, at leisure, their full import, is afforded, must not be read promiscuously by all, because, on account of their great obscurity, they can not be understood by all? The cause of misapprehension, therefore, can not be the ignorānce or the weakness of the people, else these doctrines never would have been preached to them promiscuously, as we have shown they were. But the cause must be in the inherent obscurity of the scriptures themselves; and if the Scriptures themselves be so unintelligible, how does the church come to understand them? If it is only by human means, together with the ordinary assistance of the Holy Ghost, why is the knowledge of them confined to the clergy ? Has not every

humble and devout reader of the sacred word the same assistance ? But if the church (by which is to be understood the clergy) have extraordinary divine assistance, she must at least have the inspiration of superintendance, for between this, and the ordinary influences of the spirit there is no medium. Now if they have this inspiration, I see no use for the Scriptures at all, for God could make his revelations to the church without a writtten rule as well as with one.

But how are we to be assured that the church expounds by inspiration, or by this supernatural guidance? The Apostle tells us not to believe every spirit, but to try the spirits. But how shall we try the church of Rome? There are but two ways, by miracle or by scripture The church of Rome does indeed profess to work miracles, but unfortunately they never convince any but those who would believe her dogmas without miracles,

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or any other kind of proof. With this engine also, says the learned and pious Calvin, the simplicity of the vulgar was assailed by the Donatists, who abounded in miracles. We therefore give the same answer now to our adversaries (the Papists) as Augustine gave to the Donatists, that our Lord has cautioned us against these miracle-mongers by his prediction, that there should arise false prophets, who by various signs and lying wonders, should deceive, if possible the very elect.” And

“ Paul has told us that the kingdom of anti-christ would be " with all power, and signs and lying wonders.” But these miracles they say, are wrought, not by idols, or sorcerers, or false prophets, but by Saints, as if we were ignorant, that it is a stratagem of Satan to transform himself into an angel of light. What shall we say then, but that it has been, and ever will be, the most righteous vengeance of God, to send those who receive not the love of the truth, strong delusions, that they should be lieve a lie."'*

But if the church of Rome does really work miracles, let them be wrought openly and not in a corner, and let these miracles appeal for. conviction and confirmation to the senses of men, as did every miracle wrought by our Lord or his Apostles. For surely that miracle can prové nothing, that carries with it no evidence of its own existence, such as transubstantiation: we must believe without evidence that this is a miracle, before it can be used as proof of any thing else: But how are we to know that the elements are changed ? Our senses do not tell us, but plainly contradict it: what evidence therefore have we but the church's own word ? The miracle is mentioned as proof that what the church says is true: But the whole evidence of the miracle depends upon what it was intended to prove, namely, the truth of the

• Calvin's Inst. ded. p. 15.

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church. The miracle therefore proves the church, and the church, to return the favor, proves the miracle.' We must try the church of Rome by more evident-mi: racles than this ; and if she decline the attestation of her dogmas by miracles, Scripture is the only rule teft by which to judge of her pretences to supernatural guidance and assistance. If she agree to be thus tried, then there is a way of understanding the scriptures without this extraordinary assistance: For we must not admit the use and authority of the church's inspiration in the interpretation of texts, when the proof of that inspiration is the thing we are in search of, and which depends upon that interpretation. For if we must underderstand the scriptures by inspiration, and inspiration by the scriptures, we at once get into a circle of false reasoning; and it is really in this circle that papists are constantly whirled round : while attempting to prove from scripture that the Romish Church is the true church. For if the true church is to be known only from the scriptures, and the scriptures are unintelligible till the church expounds them; then the church is to be known by the scriptures and the scriptures by the church. To know the church we must first understand the scriptures; and to understand the scriptures we must first know the church: So that both must be first known or we can not understand either.

This leads us to the consideration of another objection to the promiscuous reading of the scriptures ; namely, that it makes private reason the rule of Scripture.

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CHAPTER VI.

THE PROPRIETY OF WITHHOLDING THE SCRIPTURES

CONTINUED.

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“ From a child thou hast known the Scriptures."

Paul to Timothy.. : “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.”

Paul. “I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren."

Paul. “ These (the Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were

Acts xvii. 11. Another objection urged by papists, to the promiscuous reading of the Scriptures is, that * It makes private reason the rule of Scripture.It was on this account that the Council of Trent decreed that no man presume to interpret Scripture contrary to the sense of the church and the unanimous consent of the Fathers. But what is meant by judging of Scripture by private reason? Is it not to use our reason and judgment and capacity of every kind, with what helps we can get, in ascertaining the true will of God as contained in his written revelation ? And is this forbidden by God? Is it not expressly enjoined as a duty? In Isaiah v. 3. does he not make the people the judge of his righteous and mera ciful dealing ? (and now 0 Inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard, &c.” Is not here a direct appeal to private reason ? Again in Acts iv. 19. when Peter and John were commanded by the Jewish Council to refrain from preaching, they answered and said unto them " whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.Is not here ano

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ther direct appeal to private reason ? Did Pope Peter issue a bull of excommunication against the whole Sanhedrim for presuming to judge whether what he taught was contrary to, or in accordance with the Scriptures ? Does he not here call upon them to judge? also our Saviour addressing the multitude, and telling them that they could judge of the signs of the weather and discern the face of the sky and of the earth, says, “yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right ?»* This is plain, pointed and easy to be understood.

Again, Paul, after giving the Corinthians an exhortation says, “I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say." How could they judge what he said without the use of private reason? In John (x. 37, 38.) our Saviour makes as direct an appeal to the private judgment of the people as could possibly be made. -“If” says he, “I do not the works of my father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works, &c. now I appeal to every man's good sense, if Christ does not here leave it to the private reason of every one to judge whether or not he did the works of his Father. He does not roundly and positively and dogmatically assert that he did his Father's works, but appealing to private reason and private judgment, he says, if I do not, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works. which you see me do." What can be plainer than this ? and indeed the greater part of our Saviour's discourses are by way of reference or appeal to private

We often find him, as well as the Apostles, speaking interrogatively; which would be ridiculousif the persons

addressed were not to exercise their own private

It is on this account that interrogation is sometimes the strongest affirmation. · It is a confident appeal to private reason ; so confident is the speaker or writer *Luke xii. 57.

reason.

t1 Cor. x. 15.

reason.

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