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Romanists themselves are obliged to rest their faith in the church on human testimony. At last he appeals to the fact of the church's “perpetual and uninterrupted existence,” as alone sufficient to give her an “inviolable authority;" forgetting that this very fact is only proved by human testimony.
It is time that these disputes as to the credibility of human testimony should cease between professing christians. Those who deny its credibility must deny every fact of history. Those who act on it in all the concerns of life, cannot, without inconsistency, reject the overpowering mass of evidence which attests equally the truth of christianity, of the scriptures, and of all the articles of our faith. The opponents of human testimony should only be found amongst the followers of the infidels Tindal and Hume.
In controversies with professing christians we have a right to assume the truth of revelation, the authenticity, genuineness, and inspiration of scripture: if these be denied, we no longer argue with christians. Romanists, who in controversies concerning christian faith, call on us to prove the authenticity, genuineness, and inspiration of the scriptures, should be met by a positive refusal ; because this is not a point in controversy between us, and because their own authors adopt precisely our arguments in proving scripture against the infidels. Romanists themselves prove scripture eractly as we do: and it is contrary to the rules of grave and honest controversy, to question or deny what both parties have already unanimously proved and agreed on.
Let Romanists admit that the whole line of argument employed by Bossuet, Huet, Bergier, Hooke, Fraysinnous, La Mennais, &c. in
proof of scripture is invalid, and we may then meet them, but not as members of the Roman Obedience, not as believers.
The mode of argument adopted by too many Romanists after Petavius, the Walenburghs, and others, is, to throw doubt and uncertainty on every proof of the catholic faith, except those which are founded on the infallible judgments of the church. Thus they dispute all the usual proofs of the authenticity, inspiration, and uncorrupted preservation of scripture, in order to establish the necessity of believing the church. With the same intention Petavius denied that the fathers before the synod of Nice taught the doctrine of the Trinity *; and if Romish theologians of this school followed out their own principle, they would dispute the genuineness and uncorrupted preservation of all the monuments of catholic tradition ; would suggest that the decrees of the æcumenical synods may have been corrupted, and thus in fine, rest the faith of christians on an authority whose judgment there is no means of ascertaining. As I have already said, the scriptures, the monuments of tradition, and therefore the catholic faith and the catholic church stand or fall together. If the scripture be uncertain, tradition, the fathers, the councils are equally so: if tradition be uncertain, so is scripture.
It is stated on the authority Works, vol. y. p. 257. Oxford of Bossuet that Petavius retract. edit. ed this opinion. - Waterland's
ON THE ALLEGED NECESSITY OF EXAMINATION AS A
FOUNDATION OF FAITH.
It has been maintained by some persons among the opponents of the Roman church, that faith, in order to be real and saving, must be founded solely on individual examination of scripture. Hence they would send every individual to the scripture to form his own religion from it, without in any degree prejudicing his mind by human creeds and systems, as they call them.
We do not doubt that it is desirable for all christians to read the scriptures, for the confirmation of their faith and the increase of their knowledge: but I deny that it is essential to faith, that it be founded on personal examination of scripture; it is sufficient if by any testimony, the mind be convinced that the doctrines of revelation were in fact revealed, and believe them on the authority of God.
I have already proved that the testimony of the church is an ordinary means by which faith is produced: therefore personal examination of scripture cannot be the only essential means “. If it were, the
a See some most just obser- versity of Oxford, Sermon III. on vations on this subject in Dr. the Authority of the Church. llook's Sermons before the Uni
majority of mankind must at all times have been beyond the possibility of believing. The children of christians could have no faith until they were of age to read and examine the scriptures; they could not even believe the divine authority of the scriptures, before they had examined them. The christian ministry instituted by God himself, would be not only useless but injurious; because their instructions could not fail to interfere with the perfect freedom of each individual's examination. Creeds and articles of faith, and even the association of men in any christian society, must be also regarded as prejudicial; because the current notions of a society cannot fail to exercise an influence on the opinions of its members. It were easy to point out other evils and absurdities which would follow from this principle; but they will readily suggest themselves. I now turn to the proofs on which this error is sustained.
OBJECTIONS. I. Christ recommended to the Jews to found their faith on the scriptures only. “Search the scriptures, for they testify of me b.”
Answer. Our Lord admonished the unbelieving Jews to search the scriptures, that is, to examine the prophecies which spake so plainly of him. But besides these, he had just referred to other proofs of his mission; the testimony of John, his own miracles, and the Father's voice". Would not the Jews have had true faith, if without searching the scriptures they had already believed in Jesus for “his works' sake?” Certainly they would: and therefore our Lord did not mean that "searching the scriptures” was the only means of obtaining faith.
6 John v. 39.
c Ibid. 33–37.
II. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed .."
Answer. (1.) We read that three thousand souls believed on the apostle's words, therefore it was not essential to examine the prophecies before they believed. (2.) The Jews of Berea might well be called “more noble than those of Thessalonica,” for the latter had driven away Paul and Silas from their city'. They are praised, not because they founded their faith solely on an examination of the prophecies; but because they were willing to receive the word, and to employ every means for attaining the truth.
III. “ From a child thou hast known the scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus &.” Therefore the scriptures alone are a sufficient foundation of faith.
Answer. I admit that the scriptures are a sufficient foundation of faith, and that he who has truly faith in Christ Jesus, will be made wise unto salvation by the scriptures; but I deny that personal examination of scripture is the sole and essential foundation of faith, so that he who does not derive his faith from such examination, is devoid of faith.
IV. It is the principle of the Reformation that faith is only to be founded on scripture. The Church of
d Acts xvii. 11.
Acts ii. 41.
f Acts xvii. 5–10.