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and St. Paul executed, a most notorious piece of bypocrisy and dissimulation ; by which history (so far as the historian's authority is of weight) these Apostles are not only proved to be fallible peccable men, and, as such, are not fit absolutely to be relied
but also their errors in judgment and practice seem to stand upon record, as sea-marks ta give us warning ; and consequently, if their writings should be recommended as guides to our judgments and actions, then such theis errors afford a proper reason to us to admit those writings with caution, and under proper restrictions and limitations.
AFTER all, if it should be said, tho' it may seem that the Apostles erred both in judgment and practice, yet the charge is not just; because it is only grounded on the wrong translation of the books of the New Testament, which, if they had been justly and truly rendered from the original Greek into our language, then the Apostles would appear to be clear of this charge. Answer: If the books of the New Testament have really fuffered through the translation, as is here averred, of which I do not pretend to be a judge; then, this fully justifies what I have observed concerning them,
viz. that if, or when we admit those books to be guides to our judgments and actions, the nature of the thing obvioufly requires that we should do it with caution, and under proper limitations ; because, otherwise, we are in great danger of being milled, as those books have passed through the most dangerous medium in their way to us. For, if the books referred to have been greatly injured by those who translated them into our tongue ; then they may also have been greatly corrupted long before they came into those translators hands ; of which we have not any thing whereon fairly to ground a presumption that they were not ; but, on the contrary, there is the highest probability that they were.
We have received the books referred to (when considered as contained in, and held forth to us, of these latter ages, by the most ancient manuscripts) from that grand fountain of corruption the Church of Rome, who must have been naturally and almost unavoidably led to corrupt them, with other writings, as the case might require, thereby to have a better pretence far, and to justify herself in all her other corruptions and abuses; and who, as the had power and inclination sufficient to
enable and dispose her to it, so the gross ignorance of thofe times gave her the faireft opportunity ; and therefore, surely, those books could not pass through her hands without suffering greatly thereby. And this shews the great uncertainty the most learned men must needs be under, in the case under consideration ; tho', perhaps, there may not be that great disparity betwixt learned and unlearned men, in the present case, as is pretended. All the knowledge I have of what took place before my own time, must have been conveyed to me either by oral, or written tradition, or by both, seeing divine inspiration is what I am a stranger to ; and this is the very case of the most learned; all their knowledge is grounded upon the fame bottom ; only with this difference, viz. their superior learning and reading may extend their knowledge farther than mine, and their knowledge may require less trust, tho' great trust must be given with respect to both. Should, therefore, a learned man ask me, how do I. know that the Church of Rome has been the great corrupter of Christianity, or any other fact of like kind, when I am a stranger to the language in which the Roman
history, and all other books that relate to the subject, were originally written ? my answer should be, that I know it in the same way, and
upon the same grounds that he does, if he has any knowledge of the case referred to, viz. by tradition ; only his knowledge may, perhaps, be more copious according to his reading, and may require less trust than mine. He that reads the Roman history, in the language in which that history was originally written, takes every thing upon trust that he receives from it; and he that reads that history in an English translation does no more ; only the trust is greater in the latter than in the former case, as there is one person more concerned in the conveyance of that history who must be relied upon, viz. the translator. Let not then the learned man claim greater advantages, or greater reputation, than he has fairly a title to. Perhaps, it may be said, if the Church of Rome had greatly corrupted the books referred to, this would appear from the books themselves, as the corruptions of that church would be countenanced thereby ; but as that does not appear, therefore, it may fairly be presumed, those books have passed safely through their hands : To which
it may be answered, that the books themselves are not quite clear, as is here fupposed; there being many things, in •those books, which answer the purposes of the church of Rome, and which favour strongly of fraud and impohtion. Thus Yobn xx. 22, 23. And when he had said this, be breathed on them, and soith unto them, receive
ye the Holy Ghost, which, according to the history of the Acts of the Apostles, was not received 'till forty days after. , Whofesoever fins ye remit, they are remitted unto them ; and whosesoever fins ye retain, they are retained. A power, surely, most unfit to be trusted in human hands. To this, I may add the history of the sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, and other instances that might be produced.
To conclude this subject, I beg leave to obferve, that this is a weighty affair ; and therefore, if any thing is offered to us under the character of divine renselation, it calls for our most careful inspection, as well as our serious attention, lest we should be misled thereby. We are, by the author of our beings, made intelligent creatures ; and therefore, it may well be expected that we should not blindly follow every one who