Imágenes de páginas

(1.) An appeal is made to the Scriptures as the standard for deciding controversies. The Old Testament was delivered to the whole nation of the Jews, and read in the synagogues before all classes, who were to take their doctrine and rules from it. And though the prophecies were dark, and hard to be understood, yet the proofs urged upon the question of the true Messiah, were altogether chosen from them. No appeal was here made to Church authority, except by the enemies of our Saviour; whereas he and his disciples urge these passages in their true sense, and in the consequences that arose out of them. And in this they appealed to the rational faculties of those they addressed. In the same way, the New Testament was delivered to the poor and illiterate, and even the Epistles, which are the hardest to be understood, were addressed to all classes of Christians, and read in their assemblies. Now it may be asked, were these writings clear in that age, or were they not? If they were not, it is unaccountable that they should be addressed to the whole body. If they were, they must be equally intelligible to us. And indeed if the Old Testament was so clear, that David could magnifya the light with which they were blessed even in that darker state, we have reason to conclude, that the new dispensation, which is opposed to the old, as the substance to the shadow, should be much brighter, and that if there was no need of a certain expounder of Scripture then, there is much less at present. But besides, there are no intimations given in Scripture where to find a sure gnide to interpret it. This omission proves, that no such guide is necessary.

a See Ps. 19 and 119.

(2.) The errors objected to have not arisen from the proper use of men's judgment. God has dealt in the same way with our understand. ings as with our wills. He proposes our duty to us with strong motives to obedience, and promises to aid and accept our sincere endeavours. Yet this does not hinder many from perishing eternally, because he has left our wills free, and does not constrain us to be good. He deals with our understandings in the same manner; he has set his will and the knowledge of salvation before us, in writings that are framed in a plain and simple style, and we have every reason to conclude, that if a man reads them carefully and with prayer, and follows sincerely what he apprehends to be true, then he shall find out enough to save his soul, and any involuntary errors into which he may fall, shall be forgiven him by the infinite mercy of God. All

a See Chillingworth's Religion of Protestants, c. 2. Part 1, and Tillotson's Rule of Faith.

the false doctrines, therefore, which are pretended to be proved by Scripture, arise only from an ill use of it, and show us the danger of studying with a biassed or corrupted mind, but do not weaken its authority or clearness.

Having thus proved that whatever is necessary for salvation is contained in Scripture, it follows that the converse of this proposition must likewise be true, that “ Whatever is not contained in Scripture cannot be necessary for salvation,” and cannot therefore be “ required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith.” Hence we are justified in seceding from the Roman Church, the errors of which not only defile the worship of Christians with idolatry, but are rendered still more intolerable by being imposed as necessary articles of faith, on all that are in her communion.

II. The article asserts, that the books which we receive are the only canonical Scripture. This proposition is evidently resolvable into two. Ist. The books which we receive are canonical, and 2d. None others are canonical.

1st. The books which we receive are canonical. The criterion proposed by the article in order to prove this assertion, is “there never was any doubt of their authority in the Church.”a To

a That is, in the Universal Church; for the authenticity of some parts of our present canon was doubted by particular Churches and persons, as we shall see hereafter.

To this criterion we shall apply in establishing,

1. The canon of the New Testament.

The genuineness and authenticity of the books which compose it, appear from the evidence of competent witnessess.a

Papias,who conversed with the disciples of the Apostles, says St. Matthew's Gospel was written in Hebrew, and that St. Mark's was composed from St. Peter's preaching.

Irenæus says St. Luke wrote his Gospel by the direction of St. Paul, which seems to be confirmed by the similarity between some passages in that Gospel and in the Epistles of the latter. The same writer speaks at large on the Gospel of St. John.d

Tertullian and Origen mention the four Gospels in order. The latter writer gives also a catalogue of the New Testament, agreeing with our canon. A similar catalogue is given by Athanasius, and by the Councils of Laodicea and Carthage in the fourth century. To these au



See Paley's Evidences of Christianity in his Works, v. 3. p. 106. Ed. Lond. 1821.

o In Euseb. Hist. 1. 3. c. 39.c. 25. apd I, 2. c. 15.

Particularly the account of the Lord's Supper in Lake xxii. 19, and 1 Cor. xi. 23.

d L. 3. c. 11. e Tert. Cont. Marc. I. 4. c. 1. Orig. Apud. Euseb. I. 6. c. 25. f Athan, in Synop. Conc. Cac. 60. Cartha. iii. c. 47.

thors, others might be added, but their testimony is sufficient.

The value of this testimony is greatly increased by the following considerations : 1. The books of the New Testament were read in all their churches and at all their assemblies. This, therefore, is a point on which the authors we have mentioned could make no mistake. 2. It is probable, that the originals of the Apostles' writings were preserved at the time to which the preceding testimony refers. 3. The Jews and Gentiles knew that these were the books in which the faith of the Christians was contained. 4. There happened to be constant disputes among Christians, from the second century downwards, on doctrinal points. Both sides appealed to these books, and though there might be some variations in readings, yet no doubt was ever made concerning the canon or authenticalness of the books themselves. 5. Some doubts were raised as to the authenticity of particular books, because there was not the same degree of certainty about them as about others, yet upon fuller inquiry all acquiesced in them. These were the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of St. James, the se. cond of St. Peter, the second and third of St. John, that of Jude, and the Revelations. With respect

a Instin. Dial cum. Trypho. See Lardner's Jew, and Heath. Test. v. 2. p. 274, vi 3. p. 166, and Michaelis Introd. v. 1. sec. 8. Ed, Marsh. 1793.

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