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they found what he delivered to be agreeable to the fcriptures; and it was not a flight, but diligent and deliberate fearch, they took time to examine things thoroughly; for it is faid they fearched the fcriptures daily. And here in the text St. Paul puts the cafe, that if he, or any other of the Apoftles, concerning whofe divine commiffion and affiftance they were fo fully fatisfied fhould deliver any thing to them contrary to the gofpel which they had formerly preached, they were to reject it with the greatest abhorrence and deteftation; and this neceffarily fuppofeth a liberty to examine what was delivered, even by thofe whom they believed to be infallibly affifted, and a capacity to difcern and judge whether what they faid was agreeable to the gospel at first delivered to them, or not.
And after this, fhall any perfon or church (what claim foever they may make to infallibility) affume to themselves an authority to dictate in matters of faith, and that their dictates ought to be received with an abfolute fubmiffion, and without liberty to examine whether they be agreeable to the faith once delivered to the faints; and though they add new articles to the Chriftian faith, and of which there is not the leaft footstep or intimation in any of the ancient creeds of the Chriftian church, and do plainly impose upon Chriftians the practice and belief of feveral things as neceffary to falvation, which the gospel never declared to be fo, yet no body shall judge of this, but every man ought without more ado, to believe blindfold, and to refign up his understanding and judgment to the directions of this visible infallible judge?
But furely this is not the reasonable obedience of faith, but the forced fubmiffion of flaves to the tyranny of their mafters. Chriftians are exprefly forbid to call any man father or mafter upon earth, becaufe we have one father and mafter in heaven. Now to make an abfolute fubmiffion of our understandings to any upon earth, fo as, without examination, to receive their dictates in matters of faith, is furely, if any thing can be so, to call fuch a perfon father
or mafter; because a
VI. and laft obfervation from the text, that whofoever teacheth any thing as of neceffity to falvation, to be believed or practifed, befides what the gofpel of Chrift hath made neceffary, does fall under the anathema here in the text; because they that do so, do, according to the mind of St. Paul, pervert the gospel of Chrift, and preach another golpel. For the reafon why he chargeth the falfe Apoftles with preaching another gospel, and thofe that were feduced by them, as being removed from him that called them into the grace of Chrift, unto another gospel, is plainly this, that they had changed the terms of the Chriftian religion, by adding new articles to it, which were not contained in the gofpel; that is, by making it neceffary to believe it to be fo, because they taught fo. Now St. Paul exprefly declares this to be preaching another gospel, becaufe they plainly altered the terms of falvation declared in the gofpel, and made that to be neceffary to the falvation of men, which the gofpel had not made fo.
And whatever perfon or church does the fame, does incur the fame guilt, and falls under the anathema and cenfure here in the text; yea, though he were an Apoftle or an Angel: And I am fure no Bishop or church in the world can pretend either to an equal authority or infallibility with an Apoftle, or an Angel from heaven.
Let us then hear what St. Paul declares in this cafe, and confider feriously, with what earnestnefs and vehemency he declares it; Though we (fays he) or an Angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accurfed. As we faid before, fo say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accurfed. St. Paul, you fee, is very earnest in this matter, and very peremptory, and therefore I cannot but think this declaration of his to be more confiderable, and every way more worthy of our regard and dread, than afl
the anathemas of the council of Trent, which, in direct affront and contempt of this anathema of St. Paul, hath prefumed to add fo many articles to the Chriftian religion, upon the counterfeit warrant of tradition, for which there is no ground or warrant fron the fcripture, or from any ancient creed of the Chriftian church.
And for the truth of this, I appeal to the creed of Pope Pius IV. compiled out of the definitions of the council of Trent; by which council the Pope only is authorised to interprete the true fenfe and meaning of the canons and decrees of that council; and confequently his interpretations must be of equal force and authority with that of the council itself. So that whatsoever he hath put into his new creed for an article of faith, ought to be received with the fame pious affection and veneration, as if the creed had been compiled by the council itfelf; because the Pope, it feems, and no body else, understands the true meaning of that council, at leaft is thought fit to declare it. And therefore one may justly wonder at the prefumption of those, who after this declaration of the council, have taken upon them to expound the catholick faith, and to reprefent that religion to us, as it is defined in that council; because if there be any controverfy about the meaning of its definitions (as there have been a great many even betwixt those who were prefent at the council when thofe definitions were made) none but the Pope himself can certainly tell the meaning of them.
Now in this creed of Pope Pius, there are added to the ancient creed of the Christian church, twelve or thirteen new articles, as concerning purgatory, tranfubftantiation, the worship of images, the invocation of faints, the communion in one kind, and that the church of Rome is the mother and mistress of all churches, and that there is no falvation to be had out of it ; and feveral other points, all which have either no foundation in fcripture, or are plainly contrary to it, and none of them ever esteemed as articles of faith in the ancient Chriftian church for the frst five hundred years; and yet they are now obtruded upon VOL. V.
Chriftians as of equal neceffity to falvation, with the twelve articles of the Apostles creed, and this under a pretence of infallibility, which St. Paul tells us would not have juftified an Apoftle or an Angel from heaven, in making fuch additions to the Christian religion, and the impofing any thing as neceflary to falvation, which is not fo declared by the gofpel of Christ.
And all that they have to fay for this is, that we do not pretend to be infallible; but there is a neceffity of an infallible judge to decide these controver fies, and to him they are to be referred. Which is just as if in a plain matter of right, a contentious and confident man fhould defire a reference, and contrive the matter fo as to have it referred to himfelf, upon a fleeveless pretence, without any proof or evidence, that he is the only perfon in the world that hath authority and infallible skill to decide all fuch differences. Thus the church of Rome would deal with us in things which are as plain as the noonday; as whether God hath forbidden the worthip of images in the fecond commandment? whether our Saviour did inftitute the facrament in both kinds? whether the people ought not to read the fcriptures, and to have the publick fervice of God in a known tongue these, and the like, they would have us refer to an infallible judge, and when we ask who he is, they tell us that their church, which hath impofed these things upon Chriftians, and made, thefe additions to the gospel of Chrift, is that infallible judge. But if he were as infallible as fhe pretends to be, even as an Apoftle, or an Angel from heaven, St. Paul hath denounced an anathema against her, for preaching another gospel, and making those things neceffary to the falvation of men, which are not contained in the gospel of Chrift.
The inference from all this discourse in short is this, that we should contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the faints, and not fuffer ourselves, by the confident pretences of feducers, to be removed from him that hath called us through the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. The neceffary doctrines
of the Chriftian religion, and the common terms of falvation are fo plain, that if any man be ignorant of them, it is his own fault; and if any go about to impofe upon us any thing as of neceffity to be believed and practifed in order to falvation, which is not declared to be fo in the holy fcriptures, which contain the true doctrine of the gospel, what authority foever they pretend for it, yea, though they affume to themfelves to be infallible, the Apoftle hath plainly told us what we are to think of them; for he hath put the cafe as high as poffible here in the text, when he fays, Though we, or an Angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accurfed. 3 I will conclude all with that counfel which the fpirit of God gives to the churches of Afia, Rev. iii. 3. Remember therefore how thou haft received and heard, and hold faft; and chap. ii. 10. Fear none of thofe things which thou shalt fuffer, be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Honesty the best prefervative against dangerous mistakes in religion.
JOHN vii. 17.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doEtrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
YINCE there are fo many different opinions and apprehenfions in the world about matters of religion, and every feet and party does with fo much confidence pretend that they and they only, are in the truth; the great difficulty and question is, by what means men may be fecured from dangerous errors and mistakes in religion. For this end fome have thought