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they found what he delivered to be agreeable to the scriptures; and it was not a slight, but diligent and deliberates search, they took time to examine things thoroughly; for it is said they searched the scriptures daily. And here in the text St. Paul puts the case, that if he, or any other of the Apostles, concerning whose divine commission and assistance they were so fully satisfied should deliver any thing to them contrary to the gospel which they had formerly preached, they were to reject it with the greatest abhorrence and detestation ; and this necessarily fuppofeth a liberty to examine what was delivered, even by those whom they believed to be infallibly assisted, and a capacity to discern and judge whether what they said was agreeable to the gospel at first delivered to them, or not.
And after this, shall any person or church (what claim soever they may make to infallibility) assume to themselves an authority to dictate in matters of faith, and that their dictates ought to be received with an absolute submission, and without liberty to examine whether they'be agreeable to the faith once delivered to the saints and though they add new articles to the Christian faith, and of which there is not the least footstep or intimation in any of the ancient creeds of the Christian church, and do plainly impose upon Christians the practice and belief of several things as necessary to salvation, which the gospel never declared to be so, yet no body shall judge of this, but every man ought without more ado, to believe blindfold, and to resign up his understanding and judgment to the directions of this visible infallible judge?
But surely this is not the reasonabte obedience of faith, but the forced submission of slaves to the tyranny of their masters. Christians are exprefly forbid to call any man father or master upon earth, because we have one father and master in heaven. Now to make an absolute submission of our understandings to any upon earth, so as, without examination, to receive their dictates in matters of faith, is surely, if any thing can be so, to call such a person father or master because a greater submission than this we cannot pay to our father who it in heaven, even to God himself. I come now to the
VI. and last observation from the text, that whosoever teacheth any thing as of necessity to salvation, to be believed or practised, besides what the gospel of Christ hath made necessary, 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 os Christ, and preach another gospel. For the reason why he chargeth the false Apoltlcswith^reÆcAing another gospel, and those that were seduced by them, as being removed from him that called them into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel, is plainly this, that they had changed the terms of the Christian religion, by adding new articles to it, which were not contained in the gospel; that is, by making it necessary to believe it to be so, because they taught so. Now St. Paul expresly declares this to be preaching another gospel, because they plainly altered the terms of salvation declared in the gospel, and made that to be necessary to the salvation of men, which the gospel had not made so.
And whatever person or church does the fame, does incur the fame guilt, and falls under the anathema and censure here in the text; yea, though he were an Apostle or an Angel: And I am sure no Bishop or church in the world can pretend either to an equal authority or infallibility with an Apostle, or an Angel from heaven.
Let us then hear what St. Paul declares in this case, and consider seriously, with what earnestness 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 accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 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 considerable, and every way more worthy of our regard and dread, than all the anathemas of the council 0} Trent, which, in direct affront and contempt of this anathema of St. Paul, hath presumed to add so many articles to the Christian religion, upon the counterfeit warrant of tradition, for which there is no ground or warrant fro.a the scripture, or from any ancient creed of the Christian 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 isauthorifed to interprete the true fense and meaning of the canons and decrees of that council and consequently 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 itself; because the Pope, it seems, and no body else, understands the true mean* in° of that council, at least is thought fit to declare h. And therefore one may justly wonder at the presumption of those, who after this declaration of the council, have taken upon them to expound the catholick faith, and to represent that religion to us, as it is defined in that council; because if there be any controversy about the meaning of its definitions (as there have been a great many even betwixt those who were present at the council when those 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, transubstantiation, the worship of images, the invocation of saints, the communion in one kind, and that the church of Rome is the mother and mistress of all churches, and that there is no salvation to be had out of It; and several other points, all which have either no foundation in scripture, or are plainly contrary to/ it, and none of them evepesteemed as articles of faith in the ancient Christian church for the f rst five hundred years; and yet they are now obtruded upon Vol. V. chri" Christians as of equal necessity to salvation, with the twelve articles oj the Apostles creed, and this under a pretence of infallibility, which St. Paul tells us would not have justified an Apostle ot an Angel from heaven, in making such additions to the Christian religion, and the imposing any thing as necessary to salvation, which is not so declared by the gospel of Christ.
And all that they have to say for this is, that we do not pretend to be infallible; but there is a necessity of an infallible judge to decide these controversies, and to him they are to be referred. Which is just as if in a plain matter of right, a contentious and confident man should desire a reference, and contrive the matter so as to have it referred to himself, upon a sleeveless pretence, without any proof or evidence, that he is the only person in the world that hath authority and infallible skill to decide all such 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 worship of images in the second commandment? whether our Saviour did institute the sacrament in both kinds J whether the people ought not to read the fcripturesj and to have the publick service 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 imposed these things upon Christians, and made , these additions to' the gospel of Christ, is that infallible judge. But if sheiwere as infallible as she pretends to be, even as an Apostle, or an Angel from heaven, St. Paul hath denounced an anathema against her, for preaching another go/pel, and making those things necessary to the salvation of men, which are not contained in the gospel of Christ.
The inference from all this discourse in short is this, that we should contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and not suffer ourselves, by the confident pretences of seducers, to be removed from him that hath called us through the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. The necessary doctrines of the Christian religion, and the common terms of salvation are so plain, that if any man be ignorant of them, it is his own fault; and if any go about to impose upon us any thing as of necessity to be believed and practised in order to salvation, which is not declared to be so in the holy scriptures, which contain the true doctrine of the gospel, what authority soever they pretend for it, yea, though they assume to themselves to be infallible, the Apostle hath plainly told us what we are to think of them; for he hath put the case as high as possible 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 accursed.
I will conclude all with that counsel which the spirit of God gives to the churches of Asia, Rev. iii. 3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and holdfast; and chap. ii. 10. Tear none of those things which thou shalt suffer, be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Honesty the best preservative against dangerous mistakes in religion.
John vii. 17. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doUrine, whether it be of Cod, or whether I speak of myself.
SINCE there are so many different opinions and apprehensions in the world about matters of religion, and every sect and party does with so much confidence pretend that they and they only, are in the truth ; the great difficulty and question is, by what means men may be secured from dangerous errors and mistakes in religion. For this end some have thought