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so large a volume, should not as plainly tell us what is necessary to salvation, as fewer words! The Scripture hath not less than the creed, but more.
Quest, exLii. What is the best method of a true catechism or sum of theology?
Answ. God willing I shall tell the church my opinion of that at large, in a peculiar Latin treatise, called, " Methodus Theologiae," which here I cannot do. Only I shall say, that among all the great variety of methods used in these times, I think none cometh nearer the order of the matter, (which is the true commendation of a method,) than those which open theology, 1. In the breviate of the baptismal covenant. 2. In the three explicatory sums, the creed, Lord's prayer, and decalogue, with the added Gospel precepts. 3. In the largest form, which is the whole Scripture. And that our common English catechism, and Paraeus or Ursine, and many such who use that common easy method, are more truly methodical, than most that pretend to greater accurateness; (though I much commend the great industry of such as Dudley, Fenner, Gomarus, and especially George Sohnius.)
Quest, Cxliii. What is the use of various church-confessions or articles of faith?Answ. I will pass by the very ill use that is made of them in too many countries, where unnecessary opinions or uncertain are put in, and they that can get into favour with the secular power, take advantage under pretence of orthodoxness and uniformity, truth and peace, to set up their opinions and judgments to be the common rule for all to bow to, though wiser than themselves: and to silence all ministers, and scatter and divide the flocks that will not say or swear as they do, that is, that they are wise men, and are in the right. The true and commendable use of various church professions, or confessions of faith is, 1. To be an instruction to the more ignorant how to understand the Scriptures in most of the most weighty points. 2. To be an enumera
, tion of those doctrines, against which no minister shall be allowed to preach, and according to which he is to instruct the people. 3. To be a testimony to all neighbour and foreign churches in an heterodox, contentious, and suspicious age, how we understand the Scriptures, for the confuting of scandals and unjust suspicions, and the maintaining communion in faith, and charity, and doctrine.
Quest, cx Li v. May not the subscribing of the whole Scriptures serve turn for all the aforesaid ends, without creeds, catechisms, or confessions?
Answ. 1. By subscribing to the Scriptures you mean either, generally and implicitly that all in them is true and good, (though perhaps you know not what is in it). Or else particularly and explicitly, that every point in it is by you both understood and believed to be true. In the first sense, it is not sufficient to salvation: for this implicit faith hath really no act in it, but a belief that all that God saith is true; which is only the formal object of faith, and is no more than to believe that there is a God, (for a liar is not a God). And this he may do, who never believed in Christ, or a word of Scripture, as not taking it to be God's word; yea, that will not believe that God forbiddethhis beastly life. Infidels ordinarily go thus far. In the second sense (of an explicit, or particular actual belief), the belief of the whole Scripture is enough indeed, and more than any man living can attain to. No man understandeth all the Scripture. Therefore that which no man hath, is not to be exacted of all men, or any man in order to ministration or communion. While, 1. No man can subscribe to any one translation of the Bible, that it is not faulty, being the work of defectible man. 2. And few have such acquaintance with the Hebrew, and Chaldee, and Greek, as to be able to say that they understand the original languages perfectly. 3. And no man that understands the words, doth perfectly understand the matter. It followeth that no man is to be forced or urged to subscribe to all things in the Scriptures, as particularly understood by him, with an explicit faith. And an implicit is not half enough. 2. The true mean therefore is the ancient way, 1. To select the essentials for all Christians, to be believed particularly and explicitly. 2. To collect certain of the most needful integrals, which teachers shall not preach against. 3. And for all men moreover to profess in general that they implicitly believe all which they can discern to be the holy canonical Scripture, and that all is true, which is the Word of God; forbearing each other even about the number of canonical books and texts. And it is the great wisdom and mercy of God, which hath so ordered it, that the Scripture shall have enough to exercise the strongest, and yet that the weakest may be ignorant of the meaning of a thousand sentences, without danger of damnation, so they do but understand the marrow or essentials, and labour faithfully to increase in the knowledge of the restk.
Quest, Cxlv. May not a man be saved that believeth ail the essentials of religion, as coming to him by verbal tradition, and not as contained in the Holy Scriptures, which perhaps he never knew?Answ. 1. He that believeth shall be saved, which way ever he cometh by his belief; so be it it be sound as to the object and act; that is, if it contain all the essentials, and they be predominantly believed, loved, and practised. 2. The Scriptures being the records of Christ's doctrine delivered by himself, his Spirit, and his apostles, it is the office of ministers, and the duty of all instructors to open these Scriptures to those they teach, and to deliver particulars upon the authority of these inspired, sealed records which contain them. 3. They that thus receive particular truths, from a teacher explaining the Scripture to them, do receive them in a subordination to the Scripture, materially, and as to the teacher's part; though not formally, and as to their own part: and though the Scripture authority being not understood by them, be not the formal object of their faith, but only God's authority in general. 4. They that are ignorant of the being of the Scripture, have a great disadvantage to their faith. k 1 Cor. viii. 1—3. xiii, 1—i. Rom. viii. 28.
6. Yet we cannot say, but it may be the case of thousands to be saved by the Gospel delivered by tradition, without resolving their faith into the authority of the Scriptures. For, 1. This was the case of all the Christians (as to the New Testament) who lived before it was written; and there are several articles of the Creed now necessary, which the Old Testament doth not reveal '•
2. This may be the case of thousands in ignorant countries, where, the Bible being rare, is to most unknown m. 3. This may be the case of thousands of children who are taught their creed and catechism, before they understand what the Bible is. 4. This may be the case of thousands among the Papists, where some perverse priests do keep not only the reading, but the knowledge of the Scriptures from the people, for fear lest they should be taught to resolve their faith into it; and do teach them only the articles of faith and catechism, as known by the church's tradition alone.
Quest, Cxlvi. Is the Scripture Jit for all Christians to read, being so obscure?
Anew. 1. The essentials and points necessary to salvation are plain. 2. We are frequently and vehemently commanded to delight in it, and meditate in it day and night; to search it; to teach it our very children, speaking of it at home and abroad, lying down and rising up, and to write it on the posts of our houses, and on our doors, dtc. 3. It is suited to the necessity and understanding of the meanest, to give light to the simple, and to make the very foolish wise".
4. The ancient fathers and Christians were all of this mind. 5. All the Christian churches of the world, have been used to read it openly to all, even to the simplest; and if they may hear it, they may read the same words which they hear. 6. God blessed the ignorant Ethiopian eunuch when he found him reading the Scriptures, though he knew not the sense of what he read, and sent him Philip to instruct him and convert him. 7. Timothy was educated in the knowledge of the Scriptures in his childhood. 8. That whichis written to and for all men, may be read by all that can: but the Scripture was written to and for all°, &c.
1 Matt. xvi. 16. m Rom. x. 9,10. 13—15.
° John v. 39. Psal. i. 2. Dcut.»i. xi. Psal. xix. t—11. J Tim. hi. 15. Psal. cxix. 98. 106. 133. 148. Acta Kvii. 11. ttli.
Object. 'But there are many things in it hard to be understood.'
Aiisw. 1. And there are many things easy to be understood. 2. We never said that men should not use the help of their teachers, and all that they can to understand it. 3. Were not those teachers once ignorant? And yet they did read it by the help of teachers; and so may others. 4. As the king for concord commandeth all the schoolmasters to teach one grammar; so God maketh it the minister's office to instruct people in the Scriptures. And were it not a question unworthy of a schoolmaster, to dispute,' Whether the scholars must learn by their book, or by their master?' Yea, to conclude that it must be by their master, and not by their book: or that they must never open their book, but when their master is just at hand to teach them The doctrine of the Papists who tell us that the Scriptures should not be read by the vulgar, it being the rise of all heresies, is so inhuman and impious, as savoureth of gross enmity to Scriptures, and to knowledge, that were there no other, it would make the lovers of religion and men's souls, to pray earnestly to Christ to save his flocks from such seducers, who so Jewishly use the key of knowledge. Object. ' But many wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction, and what heresy is not defended as by their authority v?
Answ. 1. And many thousands receive saving knowledge and grace by them. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. All Scripture is profitable to instruction,
'• S Tim. iii. 15. Rom. xr. 4. Matt. xii. 21.
<- t Pet. iii. 16. Psal. xix. 3.8—10. 2Tim. iii. 16. 1 Pet. i. 23.