« Prev Sect. IX. The third answer to Mr. S.’s second… Next »


The third answer to Mr. S.’s second demonstration.

§.1. DOCTRINES and practices which must be acknowledged to have been innovated, have made the same pretence 385to uninterrupted tradition. And of this, I shall give several instances; one among the Jews, the rest among Christians.

1. 1 shall instance among the traditionary Jews, whose persuasion in our Saviour’s time was, and still is, that their oral doctrine, which they call their cabala, hath descended to them from Moses uninterruptedly. Now here is the “existence of such a per suasion, as Mr. S. affirms to be “impossible with out tradition’s ever-indeficiency to beget it.” And this persuasion of theirs is most exactly parallel with the pretensions of the Romish church, according to Mr. S. For here is a multitude of traditionary Jews, manifoldly greater in proportion to the dissenters in that church, than the Romish church is in comparison to those Christians that dissent from her. Josephus tells us,221221Antiq. Jud. l. 13. c. 18. that “the richer sort were of the persuasion of the sadducees, but the multitude were on the pharisees side.” So that the pharisees had this mark of the true church (as Bellarmine calls it) common to them with the church of Rome—That they were the greatest number, and so they continue to this very day; insomuch, that although they do not call themselves the catholics, yet I am sure they call all Jews that do dissent from them schismatics. Now that the sadducees were for the written law against oral tradition, is, I confess, no credit to us; but that our Saviour reproved the traditionary doctrines and practices of the pharisees, because by them they made void the written law, is much more to the discredit of the assertors of oral tradition. Both Romanists and pharisees own alike a written doctrine, but then they both pretend the true sense and explication thereof to have descended 386to them by oral tradition. For just as the traditionary Christians do now, so Josephus tells222222Antiq. Jud. l. 17. c. 3. & de Bell. Jud. l. 1. c. 4. & l. 2. c. 12. us tge traditionary Jews of old, the pharisees, did pretend by their oral tradition “to interpret the law more accurately and exactly” than any other sect. In like manner he223223Antiq.l. 18. c. 2. tells us, that “all things that belonged to prayer and Divine worship, were regulated and administered according to their interpretations” of the law. And they both agree in this—to make void the word of God by their tradition; which the pharisees did no otherwise than Mr. S. does, by equalling oral tradition to Scripture; nay, preferring it above Scripture; in making it the sole rule of faith, and interpreting the Scripture according to it. Hence are those common sayings in the Talmud, and other Jewish books: “Do not think that the written law is the foundation, but that the law orally delivered is the right foundation;” which is to say, with Mr. S. that not the Scripture, but oral tradition, is the true rule of faith. Again, “There is more in the words of the scribes (viz. the testifiers of tradition) than in the words of the written law.” Again, “The oral law excels the written, as much as the soul doth the body;” which accords very well with what Mr. S. frequently tells us, that the Scripture without tradition is but a dead letter, destitute of life and sense. Hence, also, it is, that they required the people (as the traditionary church does now) to yield up themselves to the dictates of tradition even in the most absurd things, as appears by that common saying among them “If the scribes say that the right hand is the left, and the left the right, (that bread is flesh, and wine is blood) hearken to 387them;” that is, make no scruple of whatsoever they deliver as tradition, though never so contrary to reason or sense. And, lastly, the doctrines of the pharisees were many of them practical; such were all those which concerned external rites and observances, as “washing of hands and cups,” &c. So that these pharisaical traditions had also that unspeakable advantage which Mr. S. says renders their traditions “unmistakable,” that they were daily practised, and came down “clad in such plain matters of fact, that the most stupid man living could not possibly be ignorant of them.” Therefore, according to Mr. S.’s principles, it was impossible that any age of the Jews should be persuaded that these things were commanded by Moses and ever since observed, if they had not been so. And yet our Saviour denies these customs to have been of any such authority as they pretended.

§. 2. But I needed not to have taken all this pains to shew the agreement which is between the traditionary Jews and papists, their own writers so liberally acknowledging it. Mr. White indeed says, that224224De Fid. et Theol. Tract 1. sect. 6. “the faith of the Jews was not delivered to them orally, but by writing; than which nothing can be more inconsistent with his hypothesis. For if the Jewish faith was conveyed to them not orally but by writing, then either the Jewish church had no sufficient rule of faith, or else a writing may be such a rule. But other of their champions make great use of the parallel, between the traditionary Jews and the Romish church, to confirm from thence their own traditionary doctrines. Cardinal Perron hath a full passage to this purpose; “As this (says he225225Rep. to King James, obser. 3, c. 4.) is to preserve a sound and entire respect to the 388majesty of the ancient Mosaic Scripture, to believe and observe not only all the things which are therein actually contained, but also those things which are therein contained mediately and relatively, as the doctrines of paradise, &c. which were not contained therein but mediately, and by the authority which it gave to the deposition of the patriarchal and Mosaic tradition, preserved by heart, and in the oral doctrine of the synagogue; so this is to preserve a sound and entire respect to the majesty of the apostolical Scripture, to believe and observe all the things which it contains, not only immediately and by itself, but mediately and by reference to the apostolical traditions, to which in gross and gene rally it gives the authority of apostolical doctrines, and to the church the authority of guardian and depository to preserve and attest them.” Voysin, in his Observations upon Raymundus Martin,226226Pugio Fid. p. 145. tells us, “That as in the old law the great consistory of Jerusalem was the foundation of the true tradition, so (says he) the see of Rome is the foundation of our tradition. And as the continual succession of the high-priests and fathers among the Jews was the great confirmation of the truth of their tradition, so (says he) with us the truth of our catholic doctrine is confirmed by a continual succession of popes.”

§. 3. From all this it appears, that the pharisees among the Jews made the same pretence to oral tradition which the papists do at this day, according to Mr. S. And if so, then Mr. S.’s demonstration a posteriori is every whit as strong for the Jews against our Saviour, as it is for the papists against the protestants. For we find that in our Saviour’s time, it was then the present persuasion 389of the traditionary Jews, that their faith, and their rites, and the true sense and interpretation of their written law, was “descended from Moses and the prophets to them uninterruptedly; which we find was most firmly rooted in their hearts.” But the Jews had constant tradition among them, that the Messiah was to be a great temporal prince: and though the letter of the prophecies concerning him, might well enough have been accommodated to the low and suffering condition of our Saviour; yet they did infallibly know that their Messiah was to be another kind of person, from sense written in their hearts, from the interpretation of those prophecies orally brought down to them “from the patriarchal and Mosaic tradition preserved by heart, and in the oral doctrine of the synagogue, and from the living voice of their church essential;” that is, the universal consent of the then traditionary Jews. If it be said, that the Jewish tradition did indeed bring down several doctrines not contained in Scripture, of paradise, of hell, of the last judgment, of the resurrection, &c. (as Cardinal Perron affirms) but it did not bring down this point of the Messiah’s being a temporal prince: then, as Mr. S.227227P. 76. asks us, so the Jew does him; “By what virtue tradition brought down these other points?” and whether the same virtue were not powerful to bring down this as well as those?” Then he will ask him further, “Is there not a necessary connexion and relation between a constant cause and its formal effect?” So that if its formal effect be points received as delivered ever, the proper cause must be an ever-delivery;” whence he will argue from such an effect to its cause for any particular point, and consequently for this point 390that is in controversy between Jews and Christians, concerning the Messiah’s being a temporal prince, in case it be a point held ever delivered; but most certain it is, it was so held by the Jews in our Saviour’s time, and hath been held so ever since to this day.

I shall not trouble the reader with transcribing the rest of this demonstration, only desire him as he reads it over, to imagine instead of Mr. S. a pharisee demonstrating against one of Christ’s disciples the infallibility of the oral tradition of the Jews: and I doubt not but he will find this demonstration, and every part of it, (changing only the names) as forcibly concluding Christ not to be the Messiah as it doth infer any point of popery against the protestants.

§. 4. Before I leave this instance of the Jewish tradition, I shall briefly consider what Mr. White228228Apol. 123, &c. hath offered by way of answer to it; as, First, That the matter of these traditions is nothing else but explications of Scripture framed and invented by their own rabbins. So we say, that the popish traditions are innovations. But then Mr. White and Mr. S. tell us, that they can demonstrate them to be descended from Christ and his apostles, because it is the present persuasion of a multitude of Christians that they are so descended. In like manner, if this demonstration be good, the Jews can prove their traditions to be descended from Moses and the prophets. Secondly, He says, that the “form of these traditions is more ridiculous than the canting of gipsies, or the juggling of hocus-pocus, because it consists in inventing the sense of the Scripture from the mysteries, and numbers, and changes of letters.” This is a gross, inexcusable 391mistake. For though the Jews have such a cabala (called gematry) as this which Mr. White describes; yet that cabala which is argued in this instance, and which our Saviour reproves in the pharisees by the name of tradition, is quite another thing, and among the Jewish writers known by the name of the “unwritten, or oral law;” which they say was delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, and by him conveyed to Aaron and Joshua, and the elders, and successively delivered down from one age to another; and at last by Rabbi Jehudah compiled into one volume which they call Mishna, or δευτέρωσις. And this does not consist in the art of numbering, combining, or changing of letters, as Mr. White imagines. But suppose it did so, and were more ridiculous than he conceits it to be; the instance would be so much the more conclusive against them, if what they affirm be true; that oral tradition is infallible, and that the persuasion of a traditionary church in any age, that such a doctrine descended to them from Christ or Moses, be a demonstration that it did so; for if this be sufficient evidence, it is nothing to the purpose what the doctrine be either for matter or form: for if it be once demonstrated to have come from Christ or Moses, it is without any further dispute to be received as of Divine authority. So that Mr. White quite alters the state of the question; which was not, whether the Jewish cabala be absurd and ridiculous, but whether the general persuasion of the Jews in any age, that it descended to them by uninterrupted tradition from Moses, be a demonstration that it did so. If it be, then the Jewish cabala is as demonstratively of Divine authority as the oral doctrine of the papists. Thirdly, He says, “This 392cabala was a doctrine delivered to few, and that with strict charge to keep it from publicity, and so communicate it again successively to a select committee of a few, wherein (says he) you may see as fair an opportunity for juggling and cozenage, as in our case there is an impossibility.” This I think is true of the cabala, which it seems Mr. White had only in his view, but is a horrible mistake if he speaks of the oral law which was contained in the Mishna, and which this instance only intends. For of this Maimonides229229In Praefat. Sum. Talmud. says expressly, “That in every age, from the time of Moses to Rabbi Jehudah, who compiled the Mishna, the oral law was publicly taught: and that after Rabbi Jehudah had compiled it into one volume, the Israelites did generally write out copies of it, and it was every where carefully taught, for fear lest the oral law should by forgetfulness be lost among the Jews.” So that, upon account of the publicness of the doctrine, there is as great an impossibility of juggling and cozenage in the case of the Jewish as of the Romish tradition. Besides, was washing of hands and cups, which they also pretended to have come down to them from Moses, and to have been constantly practised in every age, a secret thing?” Was it not a practical tradition, and performed in a sensible matter?” If therefore no age can conspire to impose upon the next in a plain custom; and if an universal tradition of such a thing cannot come in without such a conspiracy: how could this be the persuasion of any age, that washing of hands, &c. was prescribed by Moses and practised in all ages, if it had not truly been so?”

§. 5. Secondly, As for instances among Christians, whereof many remain yet upon record; as, 393namely, the various and opposite traditions about the time of Easter, and concerning the baptism of heretics, and the apostolical tradition (as St. Aus tin calls it) concerning the admission of infants to the communion; all which have been frequently urged in this controversy, and none of them yet sufficiently answered; I shall, to avoid tediousness, passing by these, insist only upon that of the Chiliasts; which in Justin Martyr’s time was the per suasion of all orthodox Christians, that is (in Mr. S.’s dialect) of all the “holders to tradition.” For if, notwithstanding the persuasion of that age, that this doctrine was descended to them from the apostles, it was not really so descended; then the per suasion of Christians in any age, that a doctrine was brought down to them from the apostles, is no demonstration that it was so.

§. 6. To this instance Mr. White answers230230Apol. p. 78, 79, &c. by telling us, that Eusebius says that this tradition sprang from Papias (a good, but a credulous and simple man), who it seems was mistaken in saying that it was the apostles doctrine. But for all this Justin Martyr says it was received by all orthodox Christians in his time, as a doctrine descended to them from the apostles. And if Justin said true, nothing can make more against their demonstration of the infallibility of tradition, than the natural consequence from these two sayings of Eusebius and Justin, which is this: That the mistake of one simple and credulous man may in an age or two give occasion to the universal entertainment of a doctrine, as descended down to them from Christ and his apostles, when there was no such matter. Hath not Mr. White now done his rule of faith great service by this answer?” But 394it is according to his manner in all his writings, to say any thing to remove a present objection, though never so much to the prejudice of his main hypo thesis; than which, I do not know any quality in a writer which doth more certainly betray the want either of judgment, or of sincerity, or of a good cause.

§. 7. And whereas he says,231231Apol. p. 81. “That Irenaeus’s testimony proves it to be no tradition; for he sets down the supposed words of our Saviour, which plainly shews it is a story, not a tradition; a tradition being a sense delivered, not in set words, but settled in the auditors hearts by hundreds of different expressions explicating the same meaning.” When I consider this passage of Mr. White, I confess I cannot compliment him, and say (as he makes his nephew do in the dialogue232232Rushworth, dial. 4. sect. 4. between them) “I cannot but applaud your discourse, it hath so pleasing and attractive a countenance.” And again,233233Ib. sect. 5. “I am not able to oppose what you say by any weighty objection, your arguments being not only strong and nervous, but of so comely and winning a complexion,” &c. I cannot (I say) speak all this of his present argument; but I may deservedly apply to it the last part of his nephew’s compliment, That it is an argument so framed, “as if, without any evidence of its consequence, it would persuade men to believe it.” But to return an answer to this passage: it seems (according to Mr. White) that Irenaeus was mistaken in the very nature of tradition: and if so learned a father was ignorant in the common rule of faith, what can we (to use Mr. S.’s words)234234P. 39. “undertakingly promise to weaker heads?” Mr. S. 395instanceth in the Creed and Ten Commandments as the principal traditions which parents teach their children; but now Mr. White can shew plainly that these are no traditions but stories, because “tradition is a sense delivered not in set words,” &c. As if Christ and his apostles could deliver no doctrine unless they expressed the same thing a hundred several ways. But suppose they did so (which no man hath any reason to imagine, because a thing may be expressed as plainly by one way as by a hundred) can no man deliver this tradition who speaks it in any one of those expressions?” If one should employ a servant to carry a message, and (because Mr. White thinks this necessary) should settle the meaning of it in his heart, by telling him the same thing in a hundred several expressions; and the servant should go and deliver this message in one of those very expressions that his master used to him, and should say these were his master’s very words; would not this be well enough?”

No; if he had come to such a philosopher as Mr. White, he would soon have given him to understand that he was not fit to bring a message, or to be credited in it, who had so little wit as not to know that a message is a thing not to be delivered in set words. And now I would entreat Mr. White to reconcile himself in this matter to his friends. Mr. Rushworth says,235235Dial. 2. sect. 6. “It is impossible to put fully and beyond all quarrel, the same sense in divers words:”” which, if it be true, I would fain know what certain course Mr. White can prescribe “to explicate the same meaning by hundreds of different expressions,” and consequently, how tradition can be infallibly conveyed, by settling 396the sense of it in the auditors hearts by such variety of expressions. Mr. Cressy236236Exomolog. c. 10. sect. 4. likewise (a zealous asserter of tradition) does affirm, that “the primitive churches were even to excess scrupulous in maintaining the very phrases of traditionary doctrines;” which (according to Mr. White) “plainly shews” these doctrines “to be stories, not traditions, because tradition is a sense delivered not in set words.” The same author complains,237237Ibid. c. 19. sect. 2. “That few among their learnedest masters of controversy, propose the points to be disputed between them and the protestants in the language of the church.” By which, I suppose, he does not mean, that these controvertists were to blame in that they did riot settle the sense of these points by hundreds of different expressions explicating the same meaning, but that they did not keep to the words wherein the church had, in councils or otherwise (if there be any other way) declared her sense of those points. Again he says,238238Ibid. c. 27. sect. 2. that “St. Paul, referring to the doctrine settled by oral instruction, to shew the uniformity of it every where, calls it a form of wholesome words.” From whence we may conclude, either that St. Paul did not well to call the traditionary doctrine (as Mr. Cressy says he does) “a form of words,” or else (which is more probable) that Mr. White is mistaken in saying, that “a tradition is a sense not delivered in set words.” Furthermore, the same Mr.Cressy239239Ibid. c. 28. sect. 1. tells us, that St. Augustine was careful “not only to deliver traditional truths themselves, but the terms also in which those truths were conveyed to his times.” But now Mr. White could have informed St. Augustine, that this officious 397care of his, was not only superfluous, but pernicious to tradition.

§. 8. But to return to Justin’s testimony; to which the sum of Mr. White’s answer, is—that “Justin esteemed it not a point necessary to salvation, but rather a piece of learning higher than the common; since he both acknowledges other catholics held the contrary, and entitles those of his per suasion, κατὰ πάντα ὀρθογνώμονες, fight ill all opinions;” that is, wholly of his own mind.” It is not material to my purpose, whether or no Justin looked upon this as a point necessary to salvation, so long as it is evident that he looked upon it as a Divine revelation, and part of the Christian doctrine. And yet it seems he thought it a point of more than ordinary importance, because he joins it with the doctrine of the resurrection, and says that it was not disowned by any but those who also denied the resurrection. But whereas Mr. White says, that Justin acknowledges other catholics to have held the contrary, I hope to make it evident, from the scope and series of his discourse, that he acknowledges no such thing; but that the plain design of his discourse is to shew, that this doctrine was owned by all true Christians. For when Trypho asks him240240Dial. cum Tryp. p. 306. edit. Luter. 1615. whether the Christians did indeed believe that Jerusalem should be rebuilt, &c. he returns him this answer: “I am not such a wretch to speak otherwise than I think. I have told thee before, that myself and many others (as ye all know) are of the mind that this will come to pass. But, that many indeed of those Christians who are (not) of the pure and pious persuasion, do not own this, I have intimated to thee.” That the negative particle (though omitted in the copy) ought to be 398thus inserted, will be clear to any one that considers what follows: for after he had spoken of those who disown this doctrine, he immediately adds, by way of farther description of them, that though they are called Christians, yet in truth they are not Christians, in these words: “For of those (viz. the disowners of this doctrine) who are called indeed Christians, but are atheistical and impious heretics, I have shewed thee that they teach in all points blasphemous, atheistical, and absurd things. But that ye may know that I do not say this for you only, I will, according to my ability, compile all these discourses which have passed between us into one piece; in which I will, by writing, make profession of this very thing which I now declare to you. For I do not choose to follow men, or the doctrines of men, but God, and such doctrines as are from him. And though ye may have conversed with some who are called Christians, and yet do not acknowledge this; but even dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who also say that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that so soon as they die their souls are received into heaven: do not count these men Christians; no more than a man, that considers things rightly, would own the sadducees, and such like sects, to be Jews, &c. But I myself, and as many Christians as are thoroughly of the right persuasion, do both know that there shall be a resurrection of the flesh, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which shall be built, adorned, and enlarged,” &c. Can any thing be plainer than that Justin endeavours by this discourse to satisfy Trypho, that this point they were speaking of was a Divine doctrine, and owned to be so by all Christians; except such as did only 399bear the name and title of Christians, but were in deed blasphemous heretics and deniers of the resurrection?” By which character, that he intends to describe the impious sect of the gnostics will appear by and by. So that Mr. White must either allow the inserting of the negative particle, (which Mr. Mede241241Nov. edit. p. 664. proves to have been omitted in the copy) or else acknowledge that those who are “Christians only in name, but, in truth, are impious, blasphemous, and absurd here tics,” may properly be said to be of the pure and pious opinion of the Christians. And if only these be the other catholics, whom Mr. White says Justin acknowledges to have held contrary to the millenaries, I am contented he should make his best of them. If Mr. White should blame the inserting of the negative particle not into Justin’s text, as too great a boldness with the fathers; it were easily answered, that the sense evidently requires it: and in such a case it is no boldness, but such a liberty as the most learned of their own interpreters and commentators upon the fathers do frequently take. And as for Mr. S. if he takes offence at this, one may with reason (since the exigency of the sense plainly requires the inserting of it) demand of him (what he242242P. 31. unreasonably does of us in relation to all the affirmative propositions of Scripture) to demonstrate that the particle not was not left out of this clause of Justin by those who transcribed the book. But besides the exigency of the sense in this place, that the negative ought to have been inserted, will appear by the reference which Justin makes in this passage to some thing foregoing in the same dialogue. “I have (says he) declared to thee before, that myself and 400many others are of the mind that this will come to pass. But that many indeed of those Christians who are (not) of the pure and pious persuasion do not own this, I have intimated to thee. For of those who are called indeed Christians, but are atheistical and impious heretics, I have shewed thee that they teach in all points blasphemous, atheistical, and absurd things.” In these words he plainly refers to some precedent passage which, if it can be found, will be a certain key to open to us the sense of this place. I know that Mr. Mede243243P. 31. (perhaps not observing it) thought that passage to have been fraudulently expunged by the enemies of the millenary opinion: but it seems to me to be still extant; for I find towards the beginning of this dialogue, after that Jus tin had endeavoured to prove at large out of Scripture this glorious coming of Christ, and to refute those who applied the texts produced by him to that purpose to Hezekiah, and to Solomon, whose falling off to idolatry he occasionally mentions; whereupon Trypho objects to him, that many who were called Christians, did also communicate in the idol-feasts: to this I say, I find Justin returning this answer:”244244P. 253. First, He denies not that there are such as these “who own themselves Christians, and confess the crucified Jesus to be both Lord and Christ, and yet teach not his doctrines, but the doctrines of seducing spirits.” But, says he, “We who are the disciples of the true and pure doctrine of Jesus Christ, are from this very thing the more strengthened in our faith, and become more confirmed in the hope which by him hath been declared to us. For now we see those things visibly and effectually accomplished which 401he beforehand told us would be done in his name. For he said, Many shall come in my name,” &c. By which hope any one that reads the antecedents and consequents, will plainly see that Justin means the hope of the millenium, (which he had been speaking of before) and consequently of the resurrection, which he looked upon as having a strict connexion with the doctrine of the millenium; because (as he tells us afterwards) this doctrine was denied by none but such as also denied the resurrection. And of these men his description runs in these words: πολλοὶ, &c. “Many (saith he) both are and have been, and have come in the name of Jesus, and taught both to speak and do atheistical and blasphemous things; and are by us denominated from those men from whom each of their doctrines and opinions had its rise, (namely, as it follows, Marcionites, Valentinians, &c.) and all these in their several ways teach men to blaspheme the Creator of the universe, and the Christ whose coming was foretold by him, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But we have no communion with them, as knowing them to be atheistical and impious,” &c. This passage in hand, when I compare it with the text before quoted, and consider the words and characters of them both, I cannot but believe it the very same that he refers to in these words—“I have declared to thee, I have intimated to thee,” &c. If so, the matter in controversy is clear, that the doctrine of the millenium was universal: if it be not the same, I could wish to be shewed some other place in this dialogue where Justin makes any such declaration or intimation. In the mean while, by comparison of these places, it is evident there are but two sorts of men that Justin speaks of. 402First, Who believe the millenium; “We the disciples245245Τῆς ἀληθινῆς καὶ καθαρᾶς διδασκας. of the true and pure doctrine,” &c * viz “myself and many others;” again, “myself and as many Christians as are thoroughly246246Ὀρθογνώμονες. of the right persuasion.” Secondly, Who deny the millenium; “Many Christians,” saith Justin: but what Christians?” “Of a right persuasion. That (saith he) I have signified before τοὺς γάρ, &c. For I have shewed thee of them who are called Christians, but are, in deed, atheists and impious heretics; that they teach blasphemous, and atheistical, and absurd things:”” and true it is, he did shew before, that those who denied the millenium were “many in number, and were called Christians,” &c. “but were teachers of blasphemous and atheistical things,” &c. “and known to be atheists and impious,” &c. But he shewed it of none other besides these: so that if this doctrine were likewise denied by “many Christians of the pure and pious persuasion,” then Justin Martyr had foully forgot himself; but if not, then it is plain that the transcribers have wronged Justin, by leaving out a negative which ought to have been inserted. It is worth observing, by the way, how Mr. White pleases himself with false and frivolous criticisms upon the words πολλοὺς and ὀρθογνώμονες. False they are, as Mr. White shall know if he desires to hear any more of them; and frivolous they are rendered by my preceding discourse; for which reason I say no more of them. But I think he may do well hereafter (as Mr. S.247247P. 68. warily suggests) not to engage himself, nor be hooked by others, out of his own infallible way, but leave it wholly to the248248P. 69. “birdwitted heretics (as Mr. S. 403calls them) to perch upon the specifical natures” of words, as he does of things.

§. 9. Besides these instances I have given of doctrines and practices, which Mr. S. cannot deny to have been innovated, I might instance likewise in the chief points of popery, and shew, that for all their pretence to tradition, they are really innovations. But because this would engage me in tedious disputes about particular points, I will only single out one of their most fundamental doctrines, viz. that of transubstantiation; concerning which I shall shew, that notwithstanding it is the universal persuasion of the present Roman church, yet they have not, nor can have, any assurance that it was the doctrine of Christ, and that it is descended to them by an uninterrupted tradition. I shall not at all contend against the word transubstantiation (which is generally acknowledged to be new), but only the thing signified by it—a substantial change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. And this I might shew at large not to have been the doctrine of the ancient fathers. But because Mr. White and Dr. Holden, and Mr. Cressy, do so frequently and confidently tell us, that nothing is to be reputed a traditionary doctrine, the contrary whereof hath been publicly held by any catholic who continued after wards uncensured, and in the communion of the church: therefore I shall content myself at present with one clear testimony, and that of a very eminent person in the church, St. Theodoret, concerning whom Pope Leo (in an epistle to him, at the end of Theodoret’s works) gives this testimony, that “in the judgment of the apostolick see he was free from all stain of heresy.” The passage 1 intend is in his Dialogues between a catholic under the name 404of Orthodoxus, and Eranistes,249249Dial. 2. who sustained the person of a heretic. Eranistes,* maintaining that the body of Christ was changed into the substance of the Divinity, he illustrates it by this similitude: “As (says he) the symbols of the Lord’s body and blood are one thing before the invocation of the priest; but after the invocation, are changed and do become another thing: so the body of our Lord, after his ascension, is changed into the Divine substance.” To which Orthodoxus returns this answer: “Thou art caught in thine own net. Because the mystical symbols after consecration do not pass out of their own nature; for they remain in their former substance, figure, and appearance, and may be seen and handled even as before.” He does not only in express words deny the substance of the symbols to be changed, but the occasion upon which these words are brought in, and the scope of them (if they be of any force against the heretic’s illustration) renders them incapable of any other sense. When Mr. S. hath answered this testimony, I have more for him.

That which I mainly urge against this doctrine is, the monstrous absurdities and contradictions contained in it, together with the necessary consequence of them. Several of the absurdities of it are well brought together by Scotus,250250Distinct, i. 4. dist. 10. qu. i. n. 3. who tells us, That to prove the possibility of Christ’s body being contained under the species of bread and wine, many things must be proved which seem to involve a contradiction; as, “1. That one quantum (or extended body) may be together in the very same place with another. 2. That a less quantum may be together in the same place with a greater;” i. e. a body of less extension may occupy 405not only the same, but as much room as a body of greater extension does; which is to say no more but this, that a body less than another may be as great as that other even whilst it is less than it. “3. That a greater quantum may be together with every part of a less quantum,” i. e. a body that is greater than another, may be as little as the least part of that other body which is less than it. “4. That a subject may be without quantity;” i. e. there may be a body which hath no kind of magnitude. “5. That a body may be somewhere where it was not before, without changing its place?” i. e. a body may be removed to another place whilst it remains still in the same place. “6. That a quantum may be without any quantitative mode;” i. e. a body may be extended without any manner of extension. “The possibility of all which,” he saith, and I am very much of his mind, “it would be too tedious a work to prove;” and therefore he only attempts to prove the two last, which (in all reason) is work enough for one man. All these seeming contradictions (as he modestly calls them) are by his own acknowledgment involved in this doctrine. To these I might add many more; as, How a thing can be said to be changed into another thing which did exist before: How a body can be present in a place after the manner of a spirit: and yet this they affirm concerning the presence of Christ’s body in the sacrament: one might as well say that snow is black, but not after the manner of blackness, but in the way of whiteness, which is to talk nonsense after the manner of sense: How the whole body of Christ can be contained under the least sensible part of the species of bread, as is generally affirmed: nay, and Scotus251251Ibid. q. 1 n. 12. adds, that the whole body is under 406every little part in its full proportion; for he says expressly, that “the head and the foot of the body of Christ are as far distant from one another in the sacrament, as they are in heaven:”” as if one should say that a body, all whose parts lie within the compass of a small pin’s-head, may yet within that little compass have parts two yards distant from one an other: and, lastly, How the sensible species of bread, e. g. quantity, whiteness, softness, &c. can exist without any subject: to affirm the possibility of which (as generally they do) is to say that there may be quantities of white and soft nothings; for this is the plain English of that assertion, “that sensible species may exist without a subject;” which being stripped of those terms of art (species and subject) that do a little disguise it, it appears to be plain nonsense.

Now the proper and necessary consequence of this doctrine is to take away all certainty, and especially the certainty of sense: for if that which my sight and taste and touch do all assure me to be a little piece of wafer, may notwithstanding this be flesh and blood, even the whole body of a man; then, notwithstanding the greatest assurance that sense can give me, that any thing is this or that, it may be quite another thing from what sense reported it to be. If so, then farewell the infallibility of tradition, which depends upon the certainty of sense: and, which is a worse consequence, if this doctrine be admitted, we can have no sufficient assurance that the Christian doctrine is a Divine revelation. For the assurance of that depending upon the assurance we have of the miracles said to be wrought for the confirmation of it, and all the assurance we can have of a miracle depending upon the certainty of 407our senses; it is very plain, that that doctrine which takes away the certainty of sense, does in so doing overthrow the certainty of Christian religion. And what can be more vain than to pretend, that a man may be assured that such a doctrine is revealed by God, and consequently true, which, if it be true, a man can have no assurance at all of any Divine revelation?” Surely nothing is to be admitted by us as certain, which being admitted we can be certain of nothing. It is a wonder that any man who considers the natural consequences of this doctrine can be a papist; unless he have attained to Mr. Cressy’s pitch of learning, who, speaking of the difficult arguments wherewith this doctrine was pressed, says252252Exomolt c. 73. sect. 7. plainly, “I must answer, freely and ingenuously, that I have not learned to answer such arguments, but to despise them.” And if this be a good way, whenever we have a mind to believe any thing, to scorn those objections against it which we cannot solve; then Christian religion hath no advantage above the vilest enthusiasms; and a Turk may maintain Mahomet and his Alcoran (in opposition to Christ and his doctrine) against all that Grotius, or any other hath said, if he can but keep his countenance, and gravely say, “I have not learned to answer such arguments, but to despise them.”

§. 10. I will add one instance more in another kind, to shew the uncertainty of oral and practical traditions, and that shall be the tradition concerning Pope Joan; than which scarce any thing was ever more generally received in the historical kind. Many and great authors affirm it, as testifiers of the general fame. None ever denied it till the reformers had made use of it to the disadvantage of popery. Since that time not only the papists deny it, but 408several of our own writers cease to believe it. Phil. Burgomensis tells the story thus: “Anno 858. John the Seventh Pope, &c. The tradition is, that this person was a woman,” &c. Here is an oral tradition. He concludes thus: “In detestation of whose filthiness, and to perpetuate the memory of her name, the popes, even to this day, going on procession with the people and clergy, when they come to the place of her travail, &c. in token of abomination they turn from it, and go a by-way; and being past that detestable place they return into the way, and finish their procession.” Here is one practical tradition. “And for avoiding of the like miscarriages, it was decreed, that no one should thereafter be admitted into St. Peter’s chair priusquam per foratam sedem futuri pontificis genitalia ab ultimo diacono cardinale attrectarentur.” Here is an other with a witness. 253253Ennead. 9. l. 1.Sabellicus relates the same; and moreover says, that this porphyry chair was, in his time, to be seen in the pope’s palace. He adds, indeed, that “Platina thinks that this tradition of Pope Joan was not faithfully delivered to posterity. But however (says he), such a tradition there is.” Concerning the first practical tradition, Platina says, that he “may not deny it.” For the second, he thinks “the chair rather designed for a stool” for another use, &c. He concludes, “These things which I have related are commonly reported, yet from uncertain and obscure authors: therefore I resolved ^says he) briefly and nakedly to set them down, lest I should seem too obstinately and pertinaciously to have omitted that which almost all affirm.” It is no wonder that he says the authors of this report were “uncertain and obscure,” since so very few wrote any thing in 409that age. But suppose none had written of it, so long as he acknowledges it to have been a general oral tradition attested by a solemn and constant practice, it has (according to Mr. S.’s principles) greater certainty than if it had been brought down to us by a hundred books written in that very age. So that here is an oral and practical tradition, continued, we are sure, for some hundreds of years, preserved and propagated by a solemn practice of the popes, clergy, and people of Rome, in their processions, and by a notorious custom at the election of every pope; and in a matter of so great importance to their religion, (the honour of the see of Rome, and the uninterrupted succession from St. Peter, being so nearly concerned in it) that, had it been false, they had been obliged, under the pain of damnation, not only not to have promoted it, but to have used all means to have discovered the falsity of it. Therefore Mr. S. is bound by his own principles either to allow it for a truth, or else to give an account when and how it began; which may possibly be made out by “we metaphysicians,” (as he254254P. 340. styles himself, and his scientifical brethren,) but I assure him it is past the skill of255255P. 337. note-book learning.”

« Prev Sect. IX. The third answer to Mr. S.’s second… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |