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the rest. Does the church determine whether there is a Christ, or an Holy Ghost? whether there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a life everlasting? Certainly the church neither does nor can pretend to determine any of these things for us; because where any thing is de. termined by authority, such authority must be superior to what it determines : to suppose which, in this case, would be equally false and presumptious. Therefore the truth of the mat. er is this ; . that the church does only declare that faith which it has received ; and instead of her imposing, this faith is imposed upon the church by tbe uncontrollable authority of God in the holy scripture, to which every private Christian is referred for the proper evidence of any particular doctrine, and for that of the trinity among the rest.
Those articles which are of a nature inferior to the church itself, are the only subjects of church authority. Thus, as the body is more than the raiment that is worn upon it ; so the life and being of the church is superior to those outward regulations, which serve only to the order, decency and well being of it ; and which the church may, for this reason, appoint, alter, and improve by her own authority. But if any man informs you, that points of faith, or moral practice, are imposed upon your conscien. ces by the same authority, he has either mistaken the case, or is himself endeavouring to im. pose upon your understanding.
II. But “the gospel,” they say, " was designed for persons of all capacities," and unless all persons of common sense are qualified to unders stand what the Lord requires of them, we must 6 charge almighty God with dealinz unfairly with his creatures."e Now if the gospel he so easy that nothing but bare common sense is wanted for the understanding of it, why do these authors write so many books to help you to un. derstand it in the Arian sense ? If you are able, as they flatter you, to instruct yourselves out of the gospel, then their practice is a contradiction to their principle, and their labour is su. perfluous by their own confession. My breth. ren, we do not argue in this manner;
we know that you have sense and ability to understand the merits of a cause, and are ready to hear reason, when it is plainly represented to you : but if you were able to make all things intelligible to your ownselves, we should neither preach to you nor write books for you.
When God appointed teachers in his church (1 Cor. xii. 28.) he certainly did not suppose that the congregation would be equally capable of teaching themselves. If this were true, then indeed God would seem to have dealt unfairly with Christian people, by appointing a ministry of learned men, and providing for their instruction, as if bare common sense, with the Bible in its hand, were not so sufficient as our adversa. ries would have you believe ; in opposition to ws, but not to themselves.
The duty of a Christian minister is to teach; bis studies are intended to qualify him, and his
Ibid. p. 2:
time is set apart for that purpose. For the bulk of people, God hath appointed labor and business of another kind, as necessary to support themselves and their families ; and their duty is to hear. But if God has required you to do our work and your own too, then your lot is liard in. deed, You will not, therefore, think it any reflection upon your common sense, that God has appointed an order of teachers in his church, who will never desire you to believe what they are not at all times ready to prove ; but wil. ra. ther beseech him that these teachers may be endued with faith and affection to fulfil the labot of love to which they are called, and courage to declare that truth which they have learned from the holy scriptures ; and by thus praying for the clergy, you will convince them, that God hath added grace to your common sense, and that you practise that Christian charity which is more aco ceptable in his sight than the attainmints of learning and knowledge ; for these are no more than temporary qualifications, and are to be used only as means; but charity is the end and persection of all.
III, They tell you, moreover, that people of all sorts have a right to judge for themselves in matters of religion.f As this principle very nearly affects the peace of the Christian world, and the salvation of individuals, I would advise you to inquire strictly into the meaning of these terms; and to consider how far they may be jus
tified, and how far they are to be condemned: Right is a pleasing thing, and liberty is an old temptation ; but if any Christian doth so assert his right against an human law, as to depart from his obedience and subjection to the divine law, such a right will do him no good when he has got it, because it will protect him under his re. ligious mistakes against the superior judgment of God; so far from it, that it is probably one of the chief mistakes he will have to answer for.
When they assert that you are to judge for yourselves, they must mean, either that you judge of truth by its proper evidence; or that by a certain prerogative of conscience, you are to guess for yourselves what is right or wrong, with out any evidence at all. If only the former of these senses is intended, they say no more than we all say, and what the church bath said ever since the reformation If the latter is also allow. ed, and unlearned people have a right to follow their conscience (that is, their inclination) with. out any evidence, or with some false and partial representation of it ; then it will follow, that the difference between good and evil is not real, but imaginary ; that truth and falsehood, like temporary fashions, are not the objects of reason but of fancy; which doctrines, if admitted in their full lattitude, would turn all reason and religion upside down : and I think they have done it in part already.
When they come to apply this principle, they take occasion to add, that if you are convinced : of such doctrines as they teach you, viz. that
God almighty is only one and the same person ; that the Holy Ghost is first minister in the gove ernment of the church; that he has angels to assist him ; that Christ is to be honored with medi. atorial worship, &c. “then you have a right to protest against the Athanasian creed.”g But I say, neither you nor I can possibly have any such right as this, unless we are convinced by suffi. cient reasons. Our persuasion can never be turned into an argument; unless it be also maintain. ed, that a man who is persuaded can never be mistaken. The Mahometans are convinced, that their Alcoran is a divine revelation ; that all Christians are guilly of blasphemy in believing, and idolatry in worshipping, a trinity in unity : and that they have a right to protest against the foundations of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But as they are convinced of these things for very bad reasons, we pity the blindness of their un. derstanding, and only laugh at the right they have assumed, as one of those many groundless castles, which human vanity and bigotry have builded in the air.
But allowing that Arians thus convinced have a right of protesting, what are orthodox Christians to do on the other hand ? Have they no right? Does a persuasion confer a right on one side, and none on the other ? That would be very unreasonable. Therefore we, who are convinced that the creed of Athanasius is more agrico able to the scripture than the doctrines of Ariun
g P. 115,