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But what say we of the fathers, Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Cyprian, &c.? what shall we think of them, or what account may we make of them? They be interpreters of the word of God; they were learned men, and learned Fathers; the instruments of the mercy of God, and vessels of grace. We despise them not, we read them, we reverence them, and give thanks unto God for them.
They were witnesses unto the truth, they were worthy pillars and ornaments in the Church of God. Yet may they not be compared with the word of God.
We may not build upon them; we may not make them the foundation and warrant of our conscience; we may not put our trust in them. Our trust is in the name of the Lord.
And thus are we taught to es teem of the learned Fathers of the church, by their own judgment; by that which they have written, either for the credit of their own doings, or of the authority which they have thought due to the writings of others.
St. Augustine said of the doctors and fathers of his time, Neither weigh we the writings of all men, be they never so worthy and catholic, as we weigh the canonical Scriptures; but that, saving the reverence that is due unto them, we may mislike and refuse somewhat in their writings, if we find that they have thought otherwise than the truth may bear. Such am I in the writings of others, and such would I wish others to be in mine.' Some things I believe, and some things which they write I cannot believe. I weigh them not as the holy and canonical Scriptures.
Cyprian was a doctor of the church, yet he was deceived; Jerome was a doctor of the church, yet he was deceived; Augustine was a doctor of the church, yet he wrote a book of retraction; he acknowledged that he was deceived. God did therefore give to his church many doctors, and many learned men, which all should search the truth, and one reform another wherein they thought him deceived.
St. Augustine saith, Take away from amongst us any of our own books, let the book of God come amongst us; hear what Christ saith, hearken what the truth speaketh.' He is the wisdom of his Father,
he cannot deceive us. Again he saith, 'Hear thisThe Lord saith; not hear this-Donatus saith, or Rogatus, or Vincentius, or Hilarius, or Ambrose, or Augustine saith.' All these were learned, most of them were holy; yet, saith Augustine, we may not yield to that which is said by learned men, but we must yield our full consent and belief to the word of God.
Origen saith, We must needs call to witness the Holy Scriptures; for our judgments and expositions without those witnesses carry no credit.' Mark well, our words, and expositions, and constructions, unless they be warranted by the Scriptures, are not enough, they carry not credit. Augustine saith, We offer no wrong to St. Cyprian, when we sever any of his letters or writings from the canonical authority of the Holy Scriptures.'
Thus speaketh Augustine, a doctor of the Church, of Cyprian, another doctor of the church. Cyprian was a bishop, a learned father, a holy man, and a martyr of Christ; yet, saith Augustine, his word is not the Gospel, his word is not the word of God there is no wrong done to him, though his writings carry not like credit as the holy Scriptures.
I could shew many the like speeches of the ancient fathers, wherein they reverence the holy Scriptures, as to which only they gave consent without gainsaying; which can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this sort did Origen, and Augustine, and other doctors of the church, speak of themselves, and of theirs, and the writings of others, that we should so read them, and credit them, as they agreed with the word of God. This kind of writing is to be read,
not with a necessity of believing them, but with a liberty to judge of them.
St. Paul saith, (Gal. i.) “Though that we, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you otherwise than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Out of which place St. Augustine speaketh thus, Whether it be of Christ, or of his church, or of any thing else whatsoever, pertaining either to our life, or to our faith; I will not say if I myself, but if an angel from heaven shall teach us otherwise than ye have received in the books of the law, and in the Gospels, hold him accursed.'
Now to conclude this matter, the same father saith, The judges or doctors of the church, as men, are often deceived.' They are learned, they have the pre-eminence in the church, they are judges, they have the gifts of wisdom and understanding, yet they are often deceived. They are our fathers, but not fathers unto God; they are stars, fair, and beautiful, and bright, yet they are not the sun; they bear witness of the light, they are not the light. Christ is the sun of righteousness.
Christ is the light which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world. His word is the word of truth. He is the day-spring which hath visited us from on high; he came down from the bosom of his Father; he shall guide our feet into the way of peace. Of him God the Father spake, (Matth. iii.) "This is my well beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him."
He is the Lamb without spot; out of his mouth goeth a two-edged sword. This is he in whom all the ends of the world shall be blessed; hear him;
give heed to his saying, embrace his gospel, believe his word. Thus much touching the credit and authority which is to be given to the writings of ancient fathers.
St. Paul, speaking of the word of God, saith, (2 Tim. iii.) "The whole Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable to teach, to improve, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness:" to teach the truth, to improve falsehood, to correct all vice, to instruct in all virtue. Again, (Rom. i.) "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."
St. Basil saith, The Scripture of God is like an apothecary's shop, full of medicines of sundry sorts, that every man may there choose a convenient medicine for his disease.' There are salves and ointments to cure all maladies. Whosoever cannot be cured by the word of God, his disease is grown desperate and past cure.'
Many think the Apostle's speech is hardly true of the whole Scriptures-that all and every part of the Scripture is profitable. Much is spoken of genealogies and pedigrees, of lepers, of sacrificing goats and oxen, &c. These seem to have little profit in them, but to be vain and idle. If they shew vain in thine eyes, yet hath not the Lord set them down in vain. "The words of the Lord are pure words, as the silver tried in a furnace of earth fined seven times." (Psalm xii.) There is no sentence, no clause, no word, no syllable, no letter, but it is written for thy instruction; their is not one jot, but it is sealed and signed with the blood of the Lamb. Our imaginations