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Mr. S’s corollaries considered.
§. 1. As for his corollaries, supposing them to be rightly deduced from his former discourses, they must of necessity fall with them. For they signify nothing but upon this supposition, that his foregoing discourses are true. And yet this being granted, it were easy to shew that most of them are grossly faulty. For, First, Several of them are plainly coincident. The 2d, viz. “None can with right pretend to be a church, but the followers of tradition,” is the very same in sense with the 11th, viz. “No company of men hang together like a body of a Christian commonwealth or church, but that which adheres to tradition.” So likewise the 12th and 14th are contained in the 15th. The 16th and 17th in the 19th. The 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, in the 21st. And the 32d and 34th in the 31st. Secondly, Divers of them are manifestly absurd, as the 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th; the sum of which is, that there is “no arguing against tradition from Scripture, or the authority of the church, or fathers and councils, or from history and testimonial writings, or from contrary tradition, or reason, or any instances whatsoever:”” which is as much as to say, if this proposition be true, that tradition is certain, then it cannot by any kind of argument be proved to be false. But is this any peculiar consectary from the truth of this proposition?” Doth not the same follow from every proposition, that if it be true it cannot be proved to be false?” Yet no man was ever yet so frivolous, as to draw such a consequence from the 422supposed truth of any proposition. His 23d also is singularly absurd, that “there is no possibility of arguing at all against tradition rightly understood, or the living voice of the catholic church, with any show of reason.” These are large words. It might have contented a reasonable man to have said, that no good argument could be brought against it: but he is jealous of his hypothesis, and can never think it safe till it be shot-free; nor will that content him, but it must also be impossible for any one to make a show of shooting at it. This were, I confess, a peculiar privilege of Mr. S’s Discourses above other men’s, if they were (as he says) by evidence of demonstration so secured, that not only no substantial argument could be brought against them, but that even the most subtle school man of them all should not be able to come near them with so much as a videtur quod non. But it may be he means no more by this corollary, than what he said in the 18th, viz. “That no solid argument from reason can be brought against tradition:”” if so, then the sense of his 23d corollary must be this—that there is no possibility of arguing at all against tradition with any “solid show, or substantial shadow” of reason; which would be a little in convenient. I will instance but in one more, his 40th, which is this: “The knowledge of tradition’s certainty is the first knowledge or principle in controversial divinity;” i. e. without which nothing is known or knowable in that science. Which is to infer, that because he hath with much pains proved the certainty of tradition, therefore it is self-evident, i. e. needed no proof. Nay, it is to conclude the present matter in controversy, and that which is the main debate of his book, to be the first principle 423in controversial divinity; i. e. such a proposition as every one ought to grant before he can have any right to dispute about it. This is a very prudent course, to make begging the question the first principle in controversy; which, would it but be granted, I am very much of his mind that the method he takes would be the best way to make controversy a science; because he that should have the luck or boldness to beg first, would have it in his power to make what he pleased certain.
§. 2. Were it worth while, I might farther pursue the absurdities of his corollaries. For they are not so terrible as he makes show of, by his telling Dr. Casaubon292292P. 330. that “Sure-footing and its corollaries may put him out of his wits:”” which, though intended for an affront to the Doctor, yet it may be mollified with a good interpretation; for if the reading of wild and fantastical stuff be apt to disorder a very learned head, then so far Mr. S.’s saying may have truth in it.
It remains only that I requite his 41st corollary, not with an equal number, but with two or three natural consectaries from the doctrine of his book.
First, No man can certainly understand the meaning of any book whatsoever, any farther than the contents of it are made known to us by a concurrent oral tradition. For the arguments whereby he and Mr. Rush worth endeavour to prove it impossible without tradition to attain to the certain sense of Scripture, do equally extend to all other books.
Secondly, The memory of matters of fact clone long ago may be better preserved by general rumour than by public records. For this is the plain English of that assertion, that oral tradition is a 424better and more secure way of conveyance than writing.
Thirdly, That the generality of papists are no Christians: for if (as he affirms) tradition be the sole rule of faith, and those who disown this rule be ipso facto cut off from the root of faith, i. e. unchristianed; and if (as I have shewn) the generality of papists do disown this rule; then it is plain that they are no Christians.425
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