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might to some Persons be difficult, even at first: and more are doubtless become so by Length of Time. But that the Main of the New Testa. ment is intelligible enough cannot be with
any Modesty denied. And for the rest, what at first Sight is difficult, may with due Consideration of our own, and Help of others, be made easy; what is obscurely expressed in one place, may be clearly expressed in another; and what is clearly expressed in no Place, we may for that very Reason conclude it is not necessary for us to understand or believe.
But allowing the Scriptures to have been at first sufficiently intelligible, how do we know they are come down to us uncorrupted ? I answer, by all the same Arguments which prove the Incorruptness of any other ancient Book in the World, and by this Argument farther, that these Books having many more Copies of them, being much wider dispersed and much more carefully read, and warmly disputed about, than any other whatever ; it is in Proportion more incredible that either Chance or Design should alter them in any Thing considerable without Discovery from some Quarter, even were no particular Providence to watch over Writings so worthy of its Care. And accordingly in Fact
amidst all the various Readings which such a Number of Copies must produce, there is not one that affects the least Article of our Religion. But if ever so faithfully preserved, Atill 'how thall the Unlearned know when they are faithfully translated ? Why, most Passages all Parties agree in, and on those they disagree about, common Sense, Comparison of other Texts, Confideration of what goes before and after, and consulting, as Opportunity offers, judicious and honest Persons of different Persuasions, will enable any person to pass a sufficient Judgement, so far as he is concerned to judge, which is right and which is wrong, which is clear and which is doubtful. Indeed there is in general but little Danger of any gross Impositions upon Men being attempted, much less succeeding for any Continuance, in a Land of Knowledge and Freedom, whatever may be or hath been under Popith Tyranny and Darkness. Since therefore the Scriptures contain a full and clear Account of Christianity written by the very Apostles and first Disciples of our Lord himself, and honestly delivered down into our Hands, we have plainly such a Rule for our Faith as all Men in all Cases are ever satisfied with, nor have we any Need to look farther. And yet the farther we do look into other pretended Rules, the better
we shall be satisfied with that we have already.
Article of Faith. Those Converts again, knowing it to be their indispensable Duty, could not fail to instruct with the same Diligence, Ministers their Flocks, Parents their Children, every Christian his Neighbour. And thus, by a continued Succession of teaching, all the Doctrines of Religion are handed down in their Church, they tell us, uncorrupted to this Day. Whoever either added, omitted or changed any Thing, must, they think, by every one round him, be immediately charged with a Mistake; and, if he persisted in it, convicted of a Heresy, whilst the rest were confirmed in the ancient Truth. And therefore to hold what the Church holds is a Rule that can never mislead us. Now it must be owned indeed that our Saviour delivered his Doctrine to the Apostles, and they to all
the World by Word of Mouth; and this Way of Delivery at first was sufficient, and therefore St. Paul exhorts the Thesalonians to hold fast the Traditions he had taught them, whether by Word or by Letter d. But then in the Nature of Things how long could this last? Suppose but the easiest common Story were to be told from one Person to another, without being written down for only 100 or 200 Years, and let each Person as he received it have never so strict a Charge to tell it in the same Manner : yet, long before the End of that Time, what Security could we possibly have that it was true at first and unaltered still? And you cannot but see there is much less Security that a considerable Number of Doctrines, especially such as compose the Popish Creed, should be brought down fafe for 1700 Years together, through so many Millions of Hands, that were all liable, through Ignorance, Forgetfulness, and Superstition, to mistake them, or, through Knavery and Design, to alter them. But it will be said, in a Case of such Importance as Religion, Men would be more careful in de livering Truth than in others. Undoubtedly they ought: but who can be secure that they would ? It is of equal Importance to be careful in
practising it too; yet we all know how this hath.
• 2 Thek. ii. 15.
been neglected in the World: and therefore have Reason to think the other hath been no lefs fo. But whoever made the first Change, they fay, must have been immediately discovered. Now fo far from this, that persons make Changes in what they relate without discovering it themselves; Alterations come in by insensible Degrees: one Man leaves out, or varies, or adds one little Circumstance: the next, another: till it grow imperceptibly into a different Thing. In one Age a Doctrine is delivered as a probable Opinion, the following Age speaks of it as certain Truth : and the third advances it into an Article of Faith. Perhaps an Opposition rises upon this, as many have done : some have said such a Doctrine was delivered to them, others that it was not: and who can tell whether at last the right Side
prevailed ? Only this is certain, that which foever prevails, though by a small Majority at first, will use all Means of Art and Power to make it appear an univerfal Consent at laft; and then plead uninterrupted Tradition. such Things as these may possibly be done in almost any Age, yet they are easy to be done in fuch Ages, as were five or fix of those, that preceded the Reformation ; when, by the Con