|« Prev||Sect. V. [The third answer to his demonstration.]||Next »|
[The third answer to his demonstration.]
§. 1. THIRDLY, This demonstration is confuted by clear and undeniable instances to the contrary. I will mention but two.
First, The tradition of the one true God, which was the easiest to be preserved of any doctrine in the world, being short and plain, planted in every man’s nature, and perfectly suited to the reason of mankind. And yet this tradition, not having passed through many hands (by reason of the long age of man) was so defaced and corrupted, that the world did lapse into polytheism and idolatry. Now a man that were so hardy as to demonstrate against matter of fact, might, by a stronger demonstration than Mr. S.’s, prove, that though it be certain this tradition hath failed, yet it was impossible it should 350fail; as Zeno demonstrated the impossibility of motion against Diogenes walking before his eyes. For the doctrine of the one true God “was settled in the heart of Noah, and firmly believed by him to be the way to happiness, and the contradicting or deserting of this to be the way to misery. 1 And this doctrine was by him so taught to his children, who were encouraged by these motives to adhere to this doctrine, and to propagate it to their children, and “were deterred by them from relinquishing it. And this was in all ages the persuasion of the faithful.” Now the hopes of happiness, and the fears of misery “strongly applied, are the causes of actual will.—Besides, the thing was feasible, or within their power;” that is, “what they were bred to was knowable by them,” and that much more easily than any other doctrine whatsoever, being short, and plain, and natural. “This put, it follows as certainly, that a great number in each age would continue to hold themselves, and teach their children as themselves had been taught, that is, would follow and stick to this tradition of the one true God, as it doth that a cause put actually causing produceth its effect. Actually, I say; for since the cause is put, and the patient disposed, it follows inevitably that the cause is put still actually causing.” This demonstration, which concludes an apparent false hood, hath the whole strength of Mr. S’s, and several advantages beyond it. For the doctrine conveyed by this tradition is the most important, being the first principle of all religion; the danger of corrupting it as great, the faculty of preserving it much greater, than of the Christian doctrine, for the causes before-mentioned. And yet, after all, it signifies nothing against certain experience, 351and unquestionable matter of fact; only it sufficiently shews the vanity of Mr. S.’s pretended demonstration, built upon the same or weaker grounds.
§. 2. Secondly, The other instance shall be in the Greek church, who received the Christian doctrine as entire from the apostles, and had as great an obligation to propagate it truly to posterity, and the same fears and hopes strongly applied to be actual causes of will; in a word, all the same arguments and causes to preserve and continue tradition on foot, which the Roman church had; and yet, to the utter confusion of Mr. S.’s demonstration, tradition hath failed among them. For as speculators, they deny the “procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son;” and as testifiers, they disown any such doctrine to have been delivered to them by the precedent age, or to any other age of their church, by the apostles as the doctrine of Christ.
§. 3. To this instance of the Greek church, because Mr, White hath offered something by way of answer, I shall here consider it. He tells us,173173Apology for Tradition, p. 51. that “the plea of the Greek church is non-tradition; alleging only this, that their fathers did not deliver the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Ghost; not that they say the contrary; which clearly demonstrates there are no opposite traditions between them and us.” But this was not the thing Mr. White was concerned to do, to demonstrate there were no opposite traditions between the Greeks and the Latins, but to secure his main demonstration of the impossibility of tradition’s failing against this instance. For that the Greeks have no such tradition as this, “That the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son,” is as good evidence 352of the failure of tradition as if they had a positive tradition, “That he proceeds only from the Father;” especially if we consider that they174174Phoc. Ep. 7. charge the Latin church with innovation in this matter, and say that the addition of that clause, of the procession from the Son also, is a corruption of the ancient faith, and a devilish invention. Why then does Mr. White go about to baffle so material an objection (and, I fear, his own conscience likewise) by a pitiful evasion instead of a solid answer?” What though there be no opposite traditions between the Greek and Latin church, yet, if their faith be opposite, will it not from hence follow that tradition hath failed in one of them?” I wonder that Mr. White, who hath so very well confuted the infallibility of popes and councils, and thereby under mined the very foundation of that religion, should not by the same light of reason discover the fondness of his own opinion concerning the infallibility of oral tradition, which hath more and greater absurdities in it than that which he confutes. And to shew Mr. White the absurdity of it, I will apply his demonstration of the infallibility of Christian tradition in general, to the Greek church in particular; by which every one will see that it does as strongly prove the impossibility of tradition’s failing in the Greek church, as in the Roman catholic, as they are pleased to call it. His demonstration is this:”175175De Fid. et Theol. Tract. 1. sect. 4. “Christ commanded his apostles to preach to all the world, and, lest any one should doubt of the effect, he sent his Spirit into them to bring to their remembrance what he had taught them; which Spirit did not only give them a power to do what he inclined them to, but 353did cause them actually to do it.” I cannot but take notice, by the way, of the ill consequence of this; which is, that men may doubt whether those who are to teach the doctrine of Christ will remember it, and teach it to others, unless they have that extraordinary and efficacious assistance of the Holy Ghost which the apostles had: if this be true, his demonstration is at an end, for he cannot plead that this assistance hath been continued ever since the apostles. He proceeds: “The apostles preached this doctrine; the nations understood it, lived according to it, and valued it as that which was necessary to them and their posterity, incomparably beyond any thing else.” All this I suppose done to and by the Greeks as well as any other nation. “These things being put, it cannot enter into any man’s understanding, but that the Christian [Greeks] of the first age, being the scholars of the apostles, could and would earnestly commend the Christian doctrine to their posterity; if so, it is evident that they did. So that the continuance of the purity of the faith in the [Greek] church is founded upon this: That fathers always delivered the same doctrine to their children which they had received from their fathers, and did believe it under this very notion and title as received; nor could any one [of that church] deliver another doctrine under this title, but he would be convinced of a lie by the rest; and if the whole [Greek] church should endeavour to deliver a new doctrine under that title, [and there is the same reason if they should leave out any article of the old doctrine,] that the whole age would be in their consciences condemned of perfidiousness and parricide. Now this is as impossible 354 as it is that all mankind should conspire to kill themselves.” And he afterwards176176De Fid. et Theol. Tract. 1. sect. 5. gives the reason why it is so impossible that tradition should fail, and it is a very bold and saucy one, “That if the tradition of the Christian faith be no more firm than the course of the sun and moon, and the propagation of mankind, then God hath shewn himself an unskilful artificer.” What is there in all this demonstration, which may not be accommodated to the Greek church with as much force and advantage as to the catholic?” Unless he can shew, that it is very possible that all the men in Greece may conspire to kill themselves, but yet absolutely impossible that all the men in the world should do so; which I am sure he cannot shew, unless he can demonstrate, that though it be possible for a million of as wise men as any are to be found in the world together, to conspire to do a foolish action, yet it is impossible that a hundred millions, not one jot wiser than the other, should agree together to the doing of it.
§. 4. From all this it appears, that Mr. White’s answer to this objection doth not signify any thing to his purpose. For if the procession of the Holy Ghost was part of Christ’s doctrine, then it was de livered by the apostles to the Greek church; if so, they could not fail to deliver it down to the next age, and that to the next, and so on; but it seems they have failed. Where then is the force of hopes and fears strongly applied?” Where are the certain causes of actual will to adhere to this doctrine?” Why is not the effect produced, “the causes being put actually causing?” If the apostles delivered this doctrine, oral tradition is so clear and “unmistakable, 355and177177P. 53. and 54. brings down faith clad in such plain matters of fact, that the most stupid man living (much less the Greeks, that were the flower of mankind) could not possibly be ignorant of it; nay,178178Ibid. it exceeds all the power of nature to blot knowledge thus fixed out of the soul of one single believer (much more of so vast a church), And179179P. 78. since no man can hold contrary to his knowledge, or doubt of what he holds, nor change and innovate without knowing he did so, it is a manifest impossibility a whole church should in any age fall into an absurdity so inconsistent with the nature of one single man.” And180180P. 86. since “it is natural for every man to speak truth, and grace is to perfect nature in whatever is good in it, it follows, that one truly Christian heart is far more fixed to veracity, than others not imbued with these heavenly tenets; and consequently, that a multitude of such must incomparably exceed in point of testifying, the same number of others unfortified by Christ’s doctrine.” And since181181P. 89. “such a thought cannot enter into the most depraved nature, as to harm another without any good to himself, and yet this must be if we put Christian fathers misteaching their children unreceived doctrines for received (and I hope, for the same reason, received doctrines for unreceived) contrary to their knowledge. For supposing sanctity in the (Greek) church, (and why may not we as well as in the Latin?”) that is, that multitudes in it make heaven their first love, and look on spiritual goods as their main concern,” &c. “it follows, that had fathers” of that church, “in any age, consented to mislead their posterity from what themselves (not 356only) conceited (but knew) to be true, they should do the most extreme harm imaginable to others, without any the least good to themselves: which is perhaps impossible in one single man, more in few, but infinitely in a multitude especially of good men.”
§. 5. Thus I might apply the rest of this ranting rhetoric (but that I am weary of transcribing it) concerning182182P. 90, 91. “the natural love of parents to their children” (unless we suppose the Greek church destitute of it), which must needs engage them to use the means proper to bring them to heaven, and save them from hell: as also concerning “the natural care men have of not losing their credit by telling pernicious lies.” And, not to omit the best part of his demonstration183183P. 93. (which was therefore prudently reserved to the last place), I might likewise shew how the principles of each science, arithmetic, geometry, logic, nature, morality, historical prudence, politics, metaphysics, divinity, and last of all the new “science of controversy,” (as he calls it) or the blessed art of eternal wrangling and disputing (the first principle whereof, he tells us, is, that tradition is certain), do all contribute to shew the certainty of tradition; that is, the impossibility that any part of Christ’s doctrine should fail in the Greek church any more than in the Latin. And surely arithmetic, geometry, logic, natural philosophy, metaphysics, &c. will all stand up for the Greek church in this quarrel; for, considering that Greece was the place where the arts and sciences were born and bred, it is not to be imagined that they should be so disingenuous and unnatural, as not to contribute their best assistance to the service of their country.357
§ .6. But it may be the Greeks cannot so justly pretend to oral tradition as the Latins. What if St. Peter, the head of the apostles, thought fit to share Scripture and tradition between these two churches, and laying his left hand on the Greek church, and his right hand on the Latin, was pleased to confer the great blessing of oral tradition upon the Latin church?” which being to be the seat of infallibility, it was but fitting that she should be furnished with this infallible way of conveying the Christian doctrine. And therefore it may be, that, as the Scriptures of the New Testament were left in Greek, so oral tradition was delivered down only in Latin. This, I confess, is not altogether without some show of reason: Mr. S. may do well to take the matter into his deeper consideration; he hath in his time improved as weak probabilities as these into lusty demonstrations. And if he could but demonstrate this, it would very much weaken the force of this instance of the Greek church: otherwise (for aught I see) this instance will hold good against him; and whatever he can say for the impossibility of tradition’s failing in the Latin church, may all be said of the Greek church; if he will but grant that the apostles preached the same doctrine to them both; that the arguments of hope and fear, which this doctrine contains in it, were applied as strongly to the Greeks as to the Latins. And yet, notwithstanding all this, tradition hath plainly failed in the Greek church. Let him now assign the age where in so vast a number of men conspired to leave out the article of the procession of the Holy Ghost, and shew how it was possible a whole age could conspire together to damn their posterity, or how the faith of immediate forefathers might be altered without 358any such conspiracy, and we are ready to satisfy him how the doctrine of the Latin church might be corrupted and altered, and to tell him punctually in what age it was done. And until he do this, I would entreat him to trouble us no more with those canting questions (wherein yet the whole force of his demonstration lies), How is it possible a whole age should conspire to change the doctrine of their forefathers?” And in what age this was done?” For if it be reasonable to demand of us, in order to the overthrowing of his demonstration, to assign the particular age wherein the Latin church conspired to change the ancient doctrine; with the same reason we require of him, in order to the maintaining of his demonstration, to name the particular age where in the Greek church conspired to alter the doctrine of Christ, (which was undoubtedly in the first age truly delivered to them by the apostles) and also to shew from the rational force and strength of tradition, how it is more impossible for the whole church to have failed in transmitting the doctrine of Christ down to us, or to have conspired to the altering of it, than for such a multitude of Christians as is the vast body of the Greek church. If Mr. S. or Mr. White shew this, they do something; otherwise, I must tell them, that unless they can manage these pretty things they call demonstrations better, they must shortly either quit their reason, or their religion; or else return to the honest old mumpsimus of the infallibility of the church from an extraordinary and immediate assistance of the Holy Ghost; or (to make the business short, and stop all gaps with one bush) come over to the Jesuits, and acknowledge the pope’s infallibility both in matters of faith and fact; by which means they may reconcile themselves 359to him, and prevent that direful stroke which threatens them from Rome, and is ready to cut them off from the body of the traditionary church.—And thus I have done with his first demonstration: and I take it for a good sign that the popish cause is at a very low ebb, when such stuff as this must be called demonstration.
|« Prev||Sect. V. [The third answer to his demonstration.]||Next »|