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prétence to being directed by infallibility, ends in being led blindfold by men, confessedly as fallible as themselves. But all Christians are commanded, they say, to obey them that have the rule over them in the Lord*. And it is true, the teaching of the ministers of the Gospel ought to be attended upon : their doctrine followed in all clear cases, and their judgment respected even in doubtful ones. But still we are no more bound to follow our spiritual guides into opinions plainly false, or practices plainly sinful, than to follow a common guide down a precipice, or into the sea, let our knowledge of the way be ever so little, or the other's pretences to infallible skill in it ever so great. The rule therefore for the unlearned and ignorant in religion is this. Let each man improve his own judgment and increase his own knowledge as much as he can: and be fully assured that God will expect no more. In matters, for which he must rely on authority, let him rely on the authority of that Church which God's Providence hath placed him under, rather than another which he hath nothing to do with; and trust those, who by encouraging free inquiry, appear to love truth, rather than such as, by requiring all their doctrines to be implicitly obeyed, seem conscious that they will not bear to be fairly tried. But never let him prefer any authority before that which is the highest of all authority, the written word of God. This therefore let us all carefully study, and not doubt but that whatever things in it are necessary to be believed, are easy to be understood. This let us firmly rely on, and trust to its truth, when it declares itself able to make us wise unto salvation, perfect, and tho
• Heb. xiii. 17.
roughly furnished unto all good works *. Let others build on Fathers and Popes, on Traditions and Councils, what they will: let us continue firm, as we are, on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets ; Jesus Christ being the chief Corner Stonet. * 2 Tim. jii. 13-17.
1 PET. V. 12.
- Exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace
of God wherein ye stand.
The general rule of conduct for men to go by is reason : contrary to what this plainly teaches, we neither can nor ought to believe; but beyond what it teaches, on sufficient authority, we justly may. Persuasion founded on authority is called faith: and that which is founded on the authority of our blessed Lord, Christian faith.
Now the rule of this faith, the only means by which we, who live so many ages after him, can learn with certainty what things he hath required as necessary, and what he hath forbidden as unlawful, I have proved to be the holy Scriptures. For these, which confessedly give us a true account of Christianity, do also, as I have shewn to you, give us a full and sufficiently clear account of it; and there is none whatever besides that can be equally depended on. Other antiquity compared with that of Scripture is modern : tradition in its own nature soon grows uncertain : and infallibility is no where to be found upon earth. The only thing then we have to rely on in Christianity, is the written word of God. Whatever this forbids is sinful : whatever it requires as a condition of salvation is necessary: whatever it does not so require, is not necessary. By these rules therefore of reason and Scripture, let us now proceed, as
was proposed in the second place, to try the chief of those Doctrines which distinguish the Church of Rome from ours.
To begin with that which is naturally first, the object of worship. We worship God, and pray to him through the mediation of Jesus Christ. This they acknowledge to be right. The Saints in Heaven we love and honour as members of the same mystical body with ourselves. The holy angels we reverence as the ministers of the divine will. But as for praying to either, there being no argument for it in reason, nor precept in Scriptnre, nor indeed example in antiquity for at least 300 years after Scripture, it surely cannot be a thing necessary. Letting it alone is undoubtedly safe : whether practising it be so, the Church of Rome would do well to consider. They tell us indeed that they only beg the prayers of the Saints in Heaven, as we do those of good persons on earth. And were this true; (as I shall prove it is not ;) we desire our fellow Christians on earth to pray for us because we know they hear our desires : and surely it is reason enough not to ask those in Heaven to do it, because we do not know they hear us, nor have the least cause to think they do. For Scripture, which alone could tell us so, hath told us no such thing. But besides, if we can at all understand Scripture, it hath expressly forbidden all applications to the inhabitants of the invisible world, excepting the Supreme Being. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, says Moses, and him only shalt thou serve *. There is one God and one Mediator, says St. Paul, between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus t. Accordingly we find, that the Angel which appeared to St. John in the Revelation, forbids any religious honour to be paid him, even Matt. iv. 10.
+ I Tim. ïi. 5.
when present. See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant: worship God*. And when some among the Colossians had affected unjustifiable practices of this kind, St. Paul censures them as being in a very dangerous error. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of Angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen t. Yet does the Church of Rome intrude so much farther as to pay undue worship to beings far below angels : not only to the Saints in Heaven, but to some who were so wicked on earth, that there is great reason to fear they are in Hell, and to others that are mere fictions of their own imaginations, and never were at all. For the sake of these, and through their merits, they desire in their public and authorized prayers, God's mercy, sometimes quite omitting to mention the merits of Christ, and sometimes joining his and theirs together. Farther than this, they directly pray to them, in the house of God, and in the same posture in which they pray to God; and that not only to intercede with him for them, but, in so many words, that they themselves would bestowo grace and mercy upon them, would forgive the guilt of their sins, deliver them from Hell, and grant them a place in Heaven. What pretence is there now in Christianity for such things as these ? and what doth this tend to, but making the ignorant, especially, think their favourite Saint can do every thing for them, right or wrong? To him therefore they recommend themselves, not by a religious life, but by flattering addresses and costly presents : on his intercession they often depend much more than on our blessed Saviour's; and being secure, as they think, of the favour of these courtiers of Heaven, pay little * Rev. xix. 10. xxii. 9.
+ Col. ij. 18.