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subsequent transcripts and printed editions. But the Spirit which leads to truth cannot be corrupted, neither is it easy to deceive a man who is really spiritual: 1 Cor. ii. 15, 16. "he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man: for who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ." xii. 10. "to another discerning of spirits." An instance of a corrupted text pervading nearly all the manuscripts occurs in Matt. xxvii. 9. where a quotation is attributed to Jeremiah, which belongs only to Zechariah; and similar instances are to be found in almost every page of Erasmus, Beza, and other editors of the New Testament.
Previously to the Babylonish captivity, the law of Moses was preserved in the sacred repository of the ark of the covenant; after that event, it was committed to the trust and guardianship of the priests and prophets, as Ezra, Zechariah, Malachi, and other men taught of God. There can be no doubt that these handed down the sacred volumes in an uncorrupted state to be preserved in the temple by the priests their successors, who were in all ages most scrupulous in preventing alterations, and who had themselves no grounds of suspicion to induce them to make any change. With regard to the remaining books, particularly the historical, although it be uncertain by whom and at what time they were written, and although they appear sometimes to contradict themselves on points of chronology, few or none have ever questioned the integrity of their doctrinal parts. The New Testament, on the contrary, has come down to us (as before observed) through the hands of a multitude of persons, subject to various temptations; nor have we in any instance the original copy in the author's hand'writing, by which to correct the errors of the others. Hence Erasmus, Beza, and other learned men, have edited from the different manuscripts what in their judgment appeared most likely to be the authentic readings. It is difficult to conjecture
3 Mill, who collated about one hundred and twelve MSS., has noted 30,000 different readings in the New Testament, to which additions have been made by Kuster, Bengelius, &c. The variations, however, are mostly minute, and not such as to affect our belief in important articles. See Millii Prolegomena in Nov. Test. Hey's Lectures, Vol. i. p. 44. Edit. Cambridge, 1822.
See Horne's Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures, Vol II. p. 385. Note 2.
the purpose of Providence in committing the writings of the New Testament to such uncertain and variable guardianship, unless it were to teach us by this very circumstance that the Spirit which is given to us is a more certain guide than Scripture, whom therefore it is our duty to follow.
For with regard to the visible church, which is also proposed as a criterion of faith, it is evident that, since the ascension of Christ, the pillar and ground of the truth has not uniformly been the church, but the hearts of believers, which are properly "the house and church of the living God," 1 Tim. iii. 15. Certain it is, that the editors and interpreters of the New Testament (which is the chief authority for our faith) are accustomed to judge of the integrity of the text, not by its agreement with the visible church, but by the number and integrity of the manuscripts. Hence, where the manuscripts differ, the editors must necessarily be at a loss what to consider as the genuine word of God; as in the story of the woman taken = in adultery, and some other passages.
The process of our belief in the Scriptures is, however, as follows: we set out with a general belief in their authenticity, founded on the testimony either of the visible church, or of the existing manuscripts; afterwards, by an inverse process, the authority of the church itself, and of the different books as contained in the manuscripts, is confirmed by the internal evidence implied in the uniform tenor of Scripture, considered
5 In the forty-two Articles agreed upon in the convocation held at London in the year 1552, is the following clause (omitted at the subsequent revision ten years afterwards), which is directly in opposition to Milton's opinion as expressed above. 'Illi non sunt audiendi qui sacras literas tantum infirmis datas esse perhibent, et Spiritum perpetuo jactant, a quo sibi quæ prædicant suggeri asserunt, quamquam cum sacris litteris apertissime pugnant.' Welchman's Articuli Eccles. Anglican. Append. p. 66. It is singular that Milton should have fallen into this error, which is that of the Quakers. Once admitted, it opens the door to any wild conceit which the imagination can frame.
6 For the authenticity of the passage alluded to, John vii. 53. and viii. 1-11. see Whitby, Mill and Lightfoot in loc. Selden, Uxor. Heb. III. 11. Simon, Crit. Hist. of the New Testament, I. 13. Michaelis, Part. I. Chap. vi. Sect 11. Against its authenticity, see Beza, Grotius, Wetstein, Hammond and Le Clerc in loc. The principal writers on each side of the question are enumerated by Dr. Townshend, in his Chronological Arrange ment of the New Testament, I. 315.
7 As, for example. Mark xvi. 9-20. John v. 4. xx. 24. to the end. So Grotius in loc.
as a whole; and, lastly, the truth of the entire volume is established by the inward persuasion of the Spirit working in the hearts of individual believers. So the belief of the Samaritans in Christ, though founded in the first instance on the word of the woman, derived its permanent establishment, less from her saying, than from the presence and discourses or Christ himself, John iv. 42.8 Thus, even on the authority of Scripture itself, every thing is to be finally referred to the Spirit and the unwritten word.
Hence it follows, that when an acquiescence in human opinions or an obedience to human authority in matters of religion is exacted, in the name either of the church or of the Christian magistrate, from those who are themselves led individually by the Spirit of God, this is in effect to impose a yoke, not on man, but on the Holy Spirit itself." Certainly, if the apostles themselves, in a council governed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, determined that even the divinely instituted law was a yoke from which believers ought to be exempt, Acts xv. 10, 19, 28. "why tempt ye God?" much less is any modern church, which cannot allege a similar claim to the presence of , the Spirit, and least of all is the magistrate entitled to impose on believers a creed nowhere found in Scripture, or which is merely inferred from thence by human reasons, carrying with them no certain conviction.
As the Samaritans believed Christ, first for the woman's word, but next and much rather for his own, so we the Scripture: first on the church's word, but afterwards and much more for its own, as the word of God; yea the church itself we believe then for the Scripture.' Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes, Prose Works, II. 528.
..... From that pretence Spiritual laws by carnal power shall force
On every conscience; laws which none shall find
Left them inroll'd, or what the Spirit within
Shall on the heart engrave.
.... for, on earth,
Who against faith and conscience can be heard
'With good cause, therefore, it is the general consent of all sound Po testant writers, that neither traditions, councils, nor canons of any visible church, much less edicts of any magistrate or civil session, but the Scripture only, can be the final judge or rule in matters of religion, and that only in the conscience of every Christian to himself.' Treatise of Civil Power, &c. Prose Works, II. 524.
Paradise Lost, XII. 520.
CHAP. XXX.] OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
We are expressly forbidden to pay any regard to human traditions, whether written or unwritten. Deut. iv. 2. "ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it." Prov. xxx. 6. “add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Rev. xxii. 18, 19. "if any man shall add unto these things, &c. .... and if any man shall take away from the words," &c. Isai. xxix. 13, 14. "their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." See also Matt. xv. 3. 9. Gal. i. 8. " though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you—." 1 Tim. vi. 3. “if any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words." Tit. i. 4. " not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men, that turn from the truth." 1 Tim. i. 4. “neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith." Col. ii. 8. "beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
Neither can we trust implicitly in matters of this nature to the opinions of our forefathers, or of antiquity.2 2 Chron. xxix. 6. “our fathers have trespassed." Psal. lxxviii. 8, &c. "that they might not be as their fathers.". Ezek. xx. 18. "walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers." Amos, ii. 4. "because they have despised the law of Jehovah, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked." Mal. iii. 7. “even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from minę
1. He hath revealed and taught it us in the Holy Scriptures by inspired ministers, and in the gospel by his own Son and his apostles, with strictest command to reject all other traditions or additions whatsoever; accord ing to that of St. Paul, Gal. i. 8. and Deut. iv. 2. Rev. xxii. 18, 19.' Of True Religion, &c. Prose Works, III. 509. Compare Tillotson's Rule of Faith, and Burnet On the Sixth Article.
2. If we turn this our discreet and wary usage of them into a blind devotion towards them, and whatsoever we find written by them, we both forsake our own grounds and reasons which led us at first to part from Rome, that is, to hold to the Scriptures against all antiquity.' Of Prelatica Episcopacy, Prose Works, II. 435
ordinances." Eccles. vii. 10. "say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely respecting this." Jeremiah also admonishes the people to ask for the old paths, in order to see where is the good way, and to choose that alone, vi. 16.3 for in any other sense the argument may be as justly employed to defend the idolatries of the heathen, and the errors of the Pharisees and Samaritans. Jer. xliv. 17. "to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes." Matt. xv. 2, &c. "why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?" where Christ opposes to their tradition the commandment of God, v. 3. “ why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" See also Mark vii. 8, 9. John iv. 20. " our fathers worshipped in this mountain."
Even to the venerable name of our mother church itself we are not to attach any undue authority. Hos. ii. 2. " plead with your mother, plead; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband; let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight:" unless by this expression we understand exclusively the mystical church in heaven; Gal. iv. 26. "Jerusalem whch is above is free, which is the mother of us all."
CHAP. XXXI.-OF PARTICULAR CHURCHES.
THUS far of the UNIVERSAL VISIBLE CHURCH. A PARTICILLAR CHURCH is a society of persons professing the faith, united by a special bond of brotherhood, and so ordered as may best promote the ends of edification and mutual communion of the saints. Acts ii. 42. "they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
'Remonst. He that said I am the way, said that the old way was the good way. Answ. He bids ask of the old paths, or for the old ways, where or which is the good way; which implies that all old ways are not good, but that the good way is to be searched with diligence among the old ways, which is a thing that we do in the oldest records we have, the gospel.' Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence. Prose Works, III. 66.
See, on the first part of this chapter, Stillingfleet's Irenicum; Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity; Bp. Hall's Episcopacy by Divine Right asserted ; Bp