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Mr. S’s testimonies examined.
§. 1. THUS far in the way of reason and principles. The rest is note-book learning, which he tells us293293P. 337. he is not much a friend to; and there is no kindness lost, for it is as little a friend to him and his cause as he can be to it, I shall first examine the authorities he brings for tradition; and then produce express testimonies in behalf of Scripture. In both of which 1 shall be very brief: in the one, because his testimonies require no long answer; in the other, because it would be to little purpose to trouble Mr. S. with many fathers, who, for aught appears by his book, is acquainted with none but Father White, as I shall shew hereafter. By the way, I cannot much blame him for the course he uses to take with other men’s testimonies, because it is the only way that a man in his circumstances can take; other wise, nothing can be in itself more unreasonable, than to pretend to answer testimonies, by ranking them under so many faulty heads: and having so done, magisterially to require his adversary to vindicate them, by shewing that they do not fall under some of those heads, though he have not said one word against any of them particularly; nay, though he have not so much as recited any one of them; for then the trick would be spoiled, and his catholic 426reader, who, perhaps, may believe him in the general, might see reason not to do so if he should descend to particulars, which (as he well observes) would make his294294P. 161. “discourse to look with a contingent face.”
§. 2. I begin with his three authorities from Scripture; which when I consider, I see no reason why he (of all men) should find fault with my Lord Bishop of Down’s Dissuasive for being so295295P. 320. thin and slight in Scripture-citations. Nor do I see how he will answer to Mr. Rushworth, for transgressing that prudent rule of his, viz.296296Dial. 2. sect. 14. That “the catholic should never undertake to convince his adversary out of Scripture,” &c. For which he gives this substantial reason,297297Ibid. because “this were to strengthen his opponent in his own ground and principle, viz. That all is to be proved out of Scripture;” which he tells us presently after, is no more fit to convince, than “a beetle is to cut withal;” meaning it perhaps of texts so applied as these which follow:”298298Isa. xxxv. 8. “This shall be to you a direct way, so that fools cannot err in it.”299299Isa. lix. 21. “This is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit which is in thee, and my words which I have put into thy mouth, shall not depart from thy mouth, and from the mouth of thy seed, and from the mouth of thy seed’s seed from henceforth forever.”300300Jer. xxxi. 33. “I will give my law in their bowels, and in their hearts will I write it.” From which texts, if Mr. S. can prove tradition to be the only rule of faith, any better than the philosopher’s stone, or the longitude, may be proved from the first chapter of Genesis, I am content they should pass for valid 427testimonies: though I might require of him (by his own law) before these texts can signify any thing to his purpose, to demonstrate that this is the traditionary sense of these texts, and that it hath been, universally in all ages received by the church under that notion; and then to shew, how it comes to pass that so many of the fathers, and of their own commentators, have interpreted them to another sense: and, lastly, to shew how Scripture, which has no certain sense but from tradition, and of the sense whereof tradition cannot assure us unless it be the rule of faith; I say, how Scripture can prove tradition to be the rule of faith, which can prove nothing at all unless tradition be first proved to be the rule of faith. This I take to be as “shameful a circle,” as that wherewith Dr. Holden upbraids the generality of his brethren.
§. 3. I proceed to his authorities from fathers and councils; all which (not one of them excepted) he hath taken out of Mr. White’s Tabulae Suffragiales, without the least acknowledgment from whom he had them. And, that it might be evident that he had not consulted the books themselves for them, he hath taken them with all their faults, and with the very same errors of citation which Mr. White had been guilty of before him. So that, though he is pleased to say of himself that301301P. 239. he is “a bad transcriber,” yet I must do him that right, to assure the reader that he does it very punctually and exactly.
§. 4. He begins with councils, of which he tells us, he “will only mention three in several ages.”
The first, is the first synod of Lateran. One might have expected, after he had told us he would mention three in several ages, he should have produced 428them according to the order of time, and have begun with the council of Sardica, which was near three hundred years before the Lateran. But there was a good reason why the Lateran should be first produced; viz. because it is mentioned before the other in Mr. White’s book. Well, but what says this synod?” “We all confess unanimously, and consequently with one heart and mouth, the tenets and sayings of the holy fathers; adding no thing, subtracting nothing of those things which are delivered us by them; and we believe as the fathers have believed, we preach as they taught.” The force of which testimony Mr. S. lays upon the word delivered, as if that word, wherever it is met with in councils or fathers, must needs be understood of oral delivery; whereas, it is a general word indifferently used for conveyance, either by writing or word of mouth. In this place it plainly refers to the writings of particular fathers, out of whom a long catalogue of testimonies against the heresy of the Monothelites had been read just before this declaration of the synod. Now what signifies this to oral tradition’s being the rule of faith, that this synod declares her faith, in opposition to the heresy of the Monothelites, to be consonant in all things to those testimonies which had been produced out of the fathers?”
The next is the council of Sardica; out of an epistle of which council he cites these words: “We have received this doctrine, we have been taught so, we hold this catholic tradition, faith and confession.” Which are general words, and indifferently applicable to oral tradition, or writing, or both. But be they what they will, Mr. S. ought not to have been ignorant that this council was rejected 429by St. Austin, and other orthodox fathers, as302302Council. tom. 1. Binnius acknowledges; and, which is more, that the latter part or this epistle (out of which part Mr. S. cites these words) which contains a “confession of faith,” is by303303An. 347. Baronius (and after him by Binnius) proved to have been surreptitiously added. For though it be found in Theodoret, and mentioned by Sozomen, yet Baronius thinks that it was the Arian confession, composed by the false synod of Sardica, which sat at the same time; and Sozomen lighting upon it, perhaps mistook it for the confession of the orthodox synod of the same name. However that be, he proves out of Athanasius, and from the testimony both of the eastern and western bishops, that the council of Sardica “did not so much as add one word or tittle, no, not so much as explain any thing in the Nicene faith.” But Mr. White says nothing of this, and therefore Mr. S. could not, who is no speculator in these matters, but only as a testifier delivers down these authorities to us, as he received them by hand from Mr. White; and if the word “tradition” be but in them, they are “demonstrative.”
As for his testimonies from the second council of Nice, (which he calls “the seventh general council,”) who pretended their doctrine of image-worship to have descended to them by an “uninterrupted tradition,” and proved it most doughtily by texts of Scripture ridiculously wrested, by impertinent sayings out of obscure and counterfeit authors, and by fond and immodest stories (as is acknowledged by Pope304304Quodlibet. 6. cited by Espencaeus in 2da Ep. ad Tim. c. 4. Adrian the Sixth) of apparitions and women’s dreams, &c. for which I refer the reader to the council 430itself; which is such a mess of fopperies, that if a general council of atheists had met together with a design to abuse religion by talking ridiculously concerning it, they could not have done it more effectually: I say, as for his testimonies from this council, I shall refer Mr. S. to that western council under Charles the Great, which, a little after at Frankfort, condemned and also fully confuted the decisions of this council, calling their pretended tradition of image-worship (putidissimam traditionem) “a most stinking tradition.”
These are his authorities from council; “where (says he) we see general councils relying on the teaching of the fathers, or foregoing church, and on the church’s tradition, as their rule,”&c. Where does he see any such matter?” Or where does he see general councils?” Was the council of Lateran a general one?” Or was the council of Sardica?” If it was, let him shew how the second of Nice could be “the seventh general council.” Mr. White must write more explicitly, and say which are general councils, which not, otherwise he will lead his friends into dangerous mistakes.
§. 4. “After ancient councils (not so ancient neither) let us (says he) give a glance at fathers.” Glance is a modest word, and yet I doubt whether ever the fathers had so much as that from him. Be fore I speak particularly to his testimonies from the fathers, I shall mind him of what Mr. Rushworth says in general, viz.305305Dial. 3. sect. 13. “That he who seeks tradition in the fathers, and to evince it by their testimony, takes a hard task upon him,” &c. Again,306306Ibid. “As in other points, so even in this of the resolution of faith, as doctors seem to differ now-a-days, so might the 431fathers also.” If this be true, Mr. S. is not very likely, by a few testimonies out of the fathers, to prove that tradition is the sole rule of faith. But let us see what he has done towards it.
He begins with a saying of Pope Celestine to the fathers of the Ephesine council. “Now therefore we must act with a common endeavour to preserve things believed, and retained to this very time by succession from the apostles.” Binnius’s other reading (of διδαχῆς for διαδοχῆς) quite spoils the force of this citation, which Mr. S. puts upon the word succession. But read it how he will, why may not the Christian doctrine be said to come by “succession from the apostles,” when it is transmitted to us by Scripture, as well as when by oral tradition?” I am sure the same Celestine in an epistle to Cyril, commends him for defending the faith by Scripture: “This (says he) is a great triumph of our faith, to demonstrate our opinions so strongly, and to over throw the contrary, by testimonies from Scripture. And neither in this epistle, nor the other, does he make any mention of oral tradition.
Next he cites that known place in Irenaeus: “But what if the apostles had not left us the Scriptures, ought we not to follow the order of tradition?” &c. This makes clearly against him; for it implies, that now the apostles have left us the Scriptures, we ought to follow them. The other passage he cites out of Irenaeus, (lib. i. c. 3.) is a clear eviction that he did not consult the book. For he puts two sayings together which he had met with in Mr. White, immediately one after the other; and because Mr. White had cited lib. i. c. 3. for the first saying, and brought in the other immediately upon it with an (et rursus) “Again,” &c. therefore Mr. S. (who 432is of a right traditionary temper, which is to take things easily upon trust himself, and require demonstration from others) concluded that these sayings were in the same place, though in truth they are in several books. As for the testimony itself, there is nothing in it to Mr. S.’s purpose besides the word tradition, which Irenaeus does often apply to Scripture as well as oral tradition, and there is nothing in this place to determine it to oral tradition.
His testimonies out of Origen will do him less stead: for every one that hath been conversant in the writings of that father, knows what he means by “the church’s tradition preserved by order of succession,” viz. the mystical interpretations of Scripture, which, he says, were delivered by the apostles to the governors of the church, and, by them, down from hand to hand. If this be the tradition Mr. S. contends for, Origen is at his service; if it be not, I assure him he is not for his turn.
Next comes Tertullian, concerning whom (as also Origen) the papist upon occasion thinks it enough to reply in St. Jerome’s words,307307Advers. Helvid. “As for Tertullian, I have nothing to say of him, but that he is not a man of the church.” Whatever he was, these are his words: “If thou beest but a Christian, believe what is [traditum] delivered.” And here is nothing again but the word “delivered,” which, as I have said, is indifferent to written or oral tradition, if the circumstances do not determine it to one; as here they do (very unluckily for Mr. S.) to the Scripture. For he disputes here against Marcion, who denied the flesh of Christ, and who, to maintain that, denied his nativity, and308308His opinor con siliis tot originalia instrumenta Christi delere Marcion ausus est, ne Caro ejus probaretur. Ex qua, oro te, autoritate, &c. expunged the whole history of it out 433of the gospel: but, saith Tertullian, “by what authority dost thou this?” If thou be a prophet, foretel something; if an apostle, preach publicly; if apostolical, be of the apostle’s mind; if no more but a Christian, believe what is delivered.” And where delivered, but in those instruments or books of the gospel, out of which, as Tertullian immediately before tells us, Marcion had made bold to expunge this story?”
As for his testimonies out of Athanasius, the two first of them prove nothing but that faith comes down from our ancestors, or was by them delivered to us, which nobody denies: nor is there a word in either of them concerning oral, in opposition to written tradition. The third testimony is out of an epistle to Epictetus, to whom Athanasius, writing concerning those who held Christ’s body to be consubstantial with his Divinity, tells him this was so gross a conceit, that it needed no solicitous confutation; but that it would be a sufficient answer to say in general, “the orthodox church was not of that mind, our fathers did not think so.” From whence Mr. S. infers that “tradition is held by him a sole sufficient rule of faith, and the only answer to be given why we reject points from faith,” &c. But if he had consulted the book, he would not have inferred that this was “the only answer to be given,” &c. For it immediately follows, “But lest, from our being wholly silent, these inventors of evil things should take occasion to be more impudent, it will be good to recite a few passages out of Scripture,” &c. and from thence he confutes them at large. It was so gross an error, that he thought it might be sufficient, without bringing particular arguments out of Scripture against it, to say that it was contrary 434to the ancient faith; but yet, lest they should (if he had said no more) have taken boldness from thence, and thought that nothing more could be said against it, therefore he confutes it from particular texts of Scripture. And what, in his opinion, was the sufficient rule of faith, Mr. S. might have seen at the beginning of this epistle, from these words: “That faith which was professed by the fathers in that council (viz. the Nicene), according to the Scripture, is to me sufficient,” &c. It seems that Scripture was to him the rule and standard whereby to judge even the creeds of general councils.
Mr. S. says he will be shorter in the rest, and so will I. For what is to be said to testimonies brought at a venture, when he that brings them, had he read the books themselves, could not have had the face to have brought them?” Such is this out of309309Stomat. l. 7. Clemens Alexandrinus: “As if one of a man becomes a beast, like those infected with Circe’s poison; so he hath forfeited his being a man of God, and faithful to our Lord, who spurns against ecclesiastical tradition, and leaps into opinions of human election.” Mr. S. knows whose way of quoting this is, to pick a bit out of the midst of a text that sounds something towards his purpose, and leave out the rest, which would make it evident to be meant just contrary. Yet I cannot charge this wholly upon Mr. S, whose implicit faith, were it not for his culpable ignorance, might excuse him. But for his seducer, Mr. White, how he can acquit himself of so foul an imputation, I leave it to any ingenuous papist to judge, when I have nakedly set the whole passage before him. Clement, speaking of heretics who relinquish the Scripture, or abuse it, by wresting it to their lusts, says, “Men who deal in matters of highest importance, must need commit 435great errors, if they do not take and hold the rule of truth from truth itself. For such men, having once deviated from the right way, do likewise err in most particulars; probably because they have not the faculty of distinguishing truths and falsehoods, perfectly exercised, to choose what ought to be chosen. For if they had this, they would be ruled by the Divine Scriptures. [Therefore, as if any of mankind should become a beast in such sort as those who were310310φαρμαχθεῖσιν bewitched by Circe; even so he hath lost his being a man of God, and abiding faithful to the Lord, who hath spurned against the tradition of the church, and skipped into the opinions of human sects,311311Ἁιρέσεων.]” not “of human election,” as Mr. S. blindly following Mr. White, does most absurdly translate it; “but he that hath returned from his errors, and hearkened to the Scriptures, and conformed his life to the truth, is as it were advanced from a man to a god.” At the same rate he goes on for several pages together, taking the Scriptures for an in demonstrable principle, from which all Divine doctrines are to be demonstrated, and for the criterion whereby they are to be tried; and charges the heretics in such words as we cannot find fitter for our adversaries. “As (says he) naughty boys shut out their schoolmaster, so these drive the prophecies out of the church, suspecting that they will chide and admonish them; and they patch together abundance of falsehoods and fictions, that they may seem rationally not to admit the Scriptures.” Again, speaking of those heretics affronting the Scripture, he tells us, “they oppose the312312Θεῖᾳ παραδόσει. Divine tradition with human doctrines, by313313Δι᾽ ἑτέραν παρεγχειρήσεων.. other traditions [delivered from hand to hand] that they may establish a sect, or 436heresy.” Again he says, “They adulterate the truth, and steal the rule of faith, &c. but for their oral frauds, they shall have written punishments.” But enough of this; whosoever desires to see more of it, let him read on where these men, to their own shame, have directed us, and see whether any protestant can speak more fully and plainly in this controversy. The whole trust of the papists is upon the equivocal sense of the word tradition. Which word is commonly used by the fathers to signify to us the Scripture, or Divine tradition, as Clement here calls it; but the papists understand it of their underwritten tradition, and to this they apply all those passages in the fathers, where tradition is honourably mentioned. So Mr. S. deals with us in the testimonies I have already examined: and there is nothing of argument in those few which remain, but from the ambiguity of this word; which I need not shew of every one of them in particular, for whoso ever shall read them with this key, will find that they are of no force to conclude what he drives at.
§. 5. As for his citations out of the council of Trent, by which he would prove it to be the per suasion of their present church, that tradition is the sole rule of faith; I have already shewn that that council hath declared otherwise, and is other wise understood by the chief of their own writers. And therefore he did prudently to conceal in an &c. those choking words, in which the council declares itself to “receive and honour, with equal pious affection and reverence, the books of Scripture, and unwritten traditions.” And, after a deal of shuffling, what a pitiful account is it that he at last gives of that council’s putting Scripture constantly before tradition, viz. because Scripture, being interpreted by tradition, is of the same authority 437“as if an apostle or an evangelist were present, and, therefore, no wonder they honour Scripture testimony so as to put it before tradition;” which is to say, that because Scripture is subordinate to tradition, and to be regulated by it, therefore it de serves to be put before it. Besides, if Scripture and tradition be but several ways of conveying the evangelical and apostolical doctrine, why should he imagine an evangelist or apostle to be more present by the Scripture than by oral tradition?” especially if it be considered, that he supposes Scripture to be an uncertain, and tradition an infallible way of conveying this doctrine.
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