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tures - The Word will never meet with credit in men's minds, till it be sealed by the internal testimony of the Spirit, who wrote it. Much the same we meet with in the publick Confessions of faith set forth by the reformed Churches; for instance, in the Dutch Confeffion, published in French in 1566, in the name of all the Belgian Churches, after having recited a catalogue of the Scriptures, These, say they, we receive as the only sacred and Canonical books, not because the Church receives them as such, but because the Holy Spirit witnesseth to our consciences, that they proceeded from God, and themselves testify their authority.
The Gallican Church, in their Confession, go somewhat farther u; not only declaring their faith in the Scriptures to depend upon the testimony and internal persuasion of the Spirit, but that hereby they knew the Canonical from Ecclefiaftical: j. e. Apocryphal books. I should proceed no farther in citations to this purpose, were it not for the zealous assertions of a Divine famous among us in England, whose own words are w, The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament do abundantly and uncontroulably manifeft themselves to be the word of the living God; so that merely on the account of their own proposal to us, in the name and majesty of God as such, without the contribution of help or asistance from tradition, Church, or any thing else without themselves, we are obliged, upon the penalty of eternal damnation, to receive them with that subjection of foul, which is due to the word of God. The authority of God Mining in them, they afford unto us all the divine evidence of themselves, which God.is willing to grant to us, or can be granted to us, or is any way needful for us. Such have been the assertions of the Reformers, and many great men after them ; which, for my part, I freely own, seem to be of a very extraordinary nature. For though I would by no means detract, either from the dignity of the Canon, or from the influences of God's
Holy Spirit (to whom we certainly owe more than we commonly imagine), yet I can by no means think the doctrine of our Reformers in this matter to be very evident and clear ; for neither by the internal evidences of the Scriptures themfelves, nor the testimony of the Spirit attending them, do men generally believe, that the Scriptures of the present Canon are the word of God. To consider each distinctly;
1. As to the internal evidences of the Scriptures, I readily grant, they are such as bespeak them plainly to be the most excellent books in the world; but that these are such as will prove, or ought to extort our assent to, their divinity, upon pain of eternal damnation, without any other arguments, feems to be a very unguarded and groundless, position. Were the great number of Apocryphal books and Epistles, under the names of the Apostles, now extant, and had they happened to have been put in and continued in the Canon till now, is it likely, is it possible, that every Christian, who now believes the Scripture to be the word of God, would have distinguished between these and the books we now receive, by the divinity and majesty that appear in the one above the other ? Can it be supposed, that out of a hundred books, or, as we may well suppose, out of ten thousand (for the argument will be just the same with the largest allignable number) that private Christians, or even our most learned Reformers, should by any internal evidence, agree precisely, on the number of twenty-seven, which are now esteemed Canonical, induced thereto by some characters those books contain, of their being written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost ? Especially when we consider, how various and divided the sentiments of Christians are, who now agree in the fame Canon? If of these books claiming and pretending to inspiration under such names, we are to judge of their inward evidences, without any external arguments from tradition, it is most certain each party would be proportionably fond of any book, as it more or less favoured their particular scheme of notions; and those which we now know to be Apocryphal books, must have been judged Canonical above others, as they had more evidences of what they reckoned the mind of God, than others.
If men therefore are stript of all other ways of determining, to me it seems very clear, that, considering the zeal of the contending denominations of Christians for their particular opinions, feveral of the books of the present Canon wculd have been rejected, and perhaps most of them in their turns by one party or other; and so nothing could ensue but perpetual quarrels and disagreement. This will appear more probable, because it was really matter of fact, in a great measure, in the first ages of Christianity. It is well known that the hereticks of those times, disregarding the true testimony or tradition of the Church, and other rational arguments, wonderfully cried up their spurious pieces under Apostles' names, because they favoured their peculiar systems. Thus, for instance, the Manichees rejected many of the books of the New Testament which we now receive, and substituted * others in their room ; because the former agreed, and the latter disagreed, with those ridiculous ideas they had formed of Christianity; and so contemned all other proofs, that were brought by good testimonies, &c. to evidence that our present books were the only rule of faith. But the folly and madness, as St. Austin calls it, of this sort of reasoning, is so well confuted by that Father y, that I need say no more. Those therefore who are zealous for this sort of proof, would do well to consider, that this argument alone, without other external ones, does certainly make the Canon of Scripture uncertain, and lay men under a necessity of continual brangles and disputes. St. Paul tells us, there were in the Church of Corinth false Apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the Apostles of Christ : and no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed inta an angel of lightz : such who would artfully imitate their doctrines. And if such as they had published their books under the Apostles' names, imitating their style and doctrine, would it not have been exceeding difficult, yea, almost impoflible, without some rational arguments, for the common Christians at Corinth to have seen the clear evidences of divinity in
* Auguft. cont. Fauft. Manich. 1. 32.c. 2.
Ý Ibid. l. 11, c. 2. et I. 33.
z 2 Cor. xi. 13, 14. E .
the the one, which were not in the other ? Could they, without some other assistance, have been assured, that the first and second Epistles, wrote to them under Paul's name, were his, and the third was not? Sure I am, St. Paul did not put the Chris. tians, to whom he wrote, upon this method of knowing the genuineness of his Epistles. Though he knew them to be from God, though he proposed them as such, yet he did not apprehend the evidences of their divinity were such, as would always manifest them to be such, and infallibly direct the Christians to distinguish them from all spurious writings under his name: else what need of the caution he gives then against counterfeit Epistles, and a particular mark, which he made use of in all his Epistleś, to distinguish his real ones from all supposititious ones a? This was certainly needless and fuperfluous, if the books themselves would extort afsent from those who read them. And if it be, as Calvin fays, preposterous to endeavour, by any folid arguments, to beget a solid credit to the Scriptures, distinct from their internal evidence ; then it was certainly preposterous in St. Paul to add that mark to his Epistles, as an evidence they were his. But perhaps it will be urged, that it is not the inward characters of the Scriptures alone, but the inward testimony of the Spirit along with them, that manifests them to be genuine and of divine authority. Some indeed there are, who join these two arguments together as one, but generally they are made distinct; I shall therefore consider,
2. How fur the opinion of our Reformers, and others after them, concerning the testimony of the Spirit to the truth of the Scriptures, is to be depended upon. What their opinion is, may be seen from their own words, produced at large above : the substance is, that we are to have recourse to some secret illumination or testimony of the Spirit, by which alone we can be convinced rightly, what Scriptures are the word of God. That the influences of the Holy Spirit are necessary to produce such a faith in divine things, as shall effectually transform the heart, and powerfully incline the soul to a due
• 2 Theff. ii. 2, &c.
ii. 17. See above, p. 24, 25.
obedience to the Gospel, can be reasonably denied by none, who own the account the Scripture has given of his offices to be true. To open our eyes to see that evidence of Scriptureverity which is already extant, to remove our blindness, and, by farther fanctifying, to remove our natural enmity to the truth, &c. is a testimony of the Spirit, which every good Christian ought to hope and pray for D. Some have thought this was all our Reformers meant, among whom is Dr. Calamy, in his excellent Sermons of Inspiration : but the palsages above make it evident, as Mr. Baxter observes “, that it is another kind of testimony than this, which many great Divines resolve their faith into; in short, no other than an immediate revelation or inspiration, like that of the Prophets or Apostles. But concerning this I observe,
1. That if any are made happy with this argument to convince them, it can only be an argument to himself, and cannot be made use of to convince another ; because he may justly except either against the judgment or veracity of him who pretends to it. This is only an argument (fays Bishop Burnet:) to him that feels it, if it be one at all. If therefore we attempt to reconcile a Heathen, Jew, or unbeliever, as all men once were, to the belief of the Scriptures, it must be by some other arguments.
2. To assert, the Scriptures only can be proved by the testimony of the Spirit, is very likely to introduce such enthusiasm among Christians, as will infallibly render the Canon of Scripture uncertain and precarious. For as every person is, and must be, judge of this testimony, it is not strange if men should urge it for other books, which are not commonly received: and if they do so, how can these Divines answer them? Will they say, the Spirit never does nor can give his testimony, but to books of his own inspiration, and consequently not to any but the books of our present Canon? This would be plain trifling, because it supposes the thing, which is to be proved, for granted; it first supposes the books are inspired,
Saint's Reft, Par. 2. c. 2. $. 3. « Serm, 2. p. 40.