Page images

proposed to us, together with all that is necessary to be believed and practised by us in order to our obtaining it; or, in other words, that the holy scripture is a sufficient rule both of faith and manners to guide and direct us to eternal happiness. And this is one article of the faith of the church of England, which we are required to explain to the people; for so in her sixth article our church professes, “that the “ holy scripture containeth all things necessary to “ salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein,

or may be proved thence, is not required of any “ man that it should be believed as an article of

faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to sal“ vation." Now to make the scripture a sufficient rule as to all things necessary to salvation, there are two things necessary; first, that it should be full; and secondly, that it should be clear: both which the holy scripture is in an eminent degree, as containing in it all that is necessary to be believed and done in order to eternal life. And this will evidently appear from these three following propositions:

1. That the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the scripture with all that is necessary to eternal life.

2. That they preached to the world all those necessaries with which the Holy Spirit inspired them.

3. That all those necessary truths which they preached are comprehended in those sacred writings of theirs, of which the holy scripture consists.

1. That the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the scripture with all that is necessary to eternal life. For first, our Saviour, by whom they were originally instructed, declares, that as the Father loved him, and shewed him all things that himself did, John v. 20. so he had made known to them all things that he had heard of his Father, John xvii. 8. And then, when he went from them, and ceased to instruct them in his own person, he promised that by his Spirit he would teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance, whatsoever he had said unto them, John xiv. 26. and that by the same Spirit he would guide them into all truth, John xvi. 13. If therefore the Spirit did perform this promise to them, (as there is no doubt but he did,) then we are sure that he did teach them over again whatsoever Christ had taught them before; and if Christ had taught them whatsoever he had heard of his Father, (as he declares he had,) then it is certain either that he taught them all things necessary to eternal life, or that he himself had not heard from his Father all things that are necessary thereunto.

2. That as they were taught by the Spirit all things necessary to eternal life, so what they were taught they preached and delivered to the world. For so our Saviour commanded them to go forth into all the world, and teach all nations to observe all those things which he had commanded them, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. which injunction of his they strictly observed; for so we are told, that in obedience to it, they went forth, and preached every where, Mark xvi. 20. And that their preaching extended to all things necessary to salvation, is evident from their own testimony: for thus St. Paul tells the Ephesians, that he had not shunned to declare unto them the whole counsel of God, Acts xx. 27. And to be sure in the whole counsel of God all that is necessary to salvation must be included. And concerning that gospel which he had preached to the Corin



thians, he thus pronounces, By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain, 1 Cor. xv. 2.

, But how could they be saved by that gospel he preached to them, unless it contained in it all things necessary to salvation ? And this very gospel which the apostles in their constant ministry proposed to the world, St. James calls the engrafted word, which is able to save our souls, James i. 21. And for the same reason it is also called the word of reconciliation, 2 Cor. v. 19. the word of salvation, Acts xiii. 26. and the word of life, Acts v. 20. and the savour of life unto life, 2 Cor. ii. 16. and also the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes, Rom. i. 16. Neither of which it could be justly styled, supposing it to be defective in any thing necessary to the eternal happiness of men.

3. And lastly, That all those necessary truths which they preached are comprehended in those writings of theirs, of which the holy scripture consists. It is true, before the Christian doctrine was collected into those scriptures of which the New Testament now consists, it was all conveyed by oral tradition from the mouths of the teachers to the ears of the disciples; but in a little time those holy men who first preached it found an absolute necessity of committing it to writing, as a much surer way of preserving it uncorrupted, and transmitting it down to all succeeding generations ; for thus Eusebius tells us ”, “ That the Romans, not being satisfied with St. “ Peter's preaching of Christianity to them, earnestly “ desired St. Mark, his companion, that he would “ leave them in writing a standing monument of

• Hist. Eccles. I. ii. c. 15.


" that doctrine which St. Peter had delivered to them

by word of mouth; which was the occasion,” says he, “ of the writing of St. Mark's gospel : which thing “ St. Peter understanding by a revelation of the Spirit, · being highly pleased with their earnest desire, he “ confirmed it by his own authority, that it might af“ terwards be read in the churches.” It seems in those days the Romans did not think oral or unwritten traditions a sufficient conservatory of divine truths, nor did their bishops then forbid the reading of the scriptures to the laity in their own language. After which he tells us, that “St. Matthew and St. “ John were the only disciples of our Lord who had “ left written commentaries of the things which they “ had preached behind them; and it was,” says he,

necessity that impelled them to write. For Mat“ thew having preached the faith to the Hebrews, " and intending to go from them to other nations, “ wrote his gospel in his own country language, that

thereby he might supply the want of his presence “ to those whom he left behind him. And after

wards, when Mark and Luke had published their “ gospels, John, who had hitherto only preached the

gospel by word of mouth, being at length moved

by the same reason, betook himself to write. And “ the three former gospels,” says he,“ arriving to the “ knowledge of all men, and particularly of St. John, " he approved them, and with his own testimony “ confirmed the truth of them.” From which relation it is evident, that that which moved those holy men to commit their gospels to writing was this, that they judged it necessary for the conservation of the Christian doctrine, that so these in their absence



c L. ii. c. 24.

might be standing monuments of the faith, to preach that gospel to men's eyes which they had preached to their ears; and if they wrote to preserve the faith, to be sure they would leave no necessary or essential part of it unwritten. There are several propositions in these gospels which, though very useful, are far from being essential parts of Christianity; and càn we imagine that those holy men, who wrote on purpose to conserve Christianity, should take so much care to write many things which are not necessary parts, and in the mean time omit any things that are? Eusebius tells us of St. Mark in particular, évòs γάρ εποιήσατο πρόνοιαν του μηδεν ών ήκουσε παραλιπείν, ή ψεύσασθαι τι εν αυτοίς, i. e. « he took great care of this “ more especially, not to pretermit any of those things “ which he had heard, (even from St. Peter,) nor “ to affix any thing to them that was false :” and if he were so careful not to omit any thing, to be sure he would be particularly careful not to omit any thing which he judged necessary to the eternal happiness of men. But what need we depend upon human authority, when as, if we consult those sacred writings themselves, (which, so far as they go, all Christians allow to be the word of God,) we shall find they give this testimony of themselves, that they comprehend in them all things necessary to eternal life. For thus the writers of the New Testament testify of the Old, that they are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ, 2 Tim. iii. 15. And if the Old Testament alone was able to do this, then much more the Old and New together: but how could they make men wise to salvation, if they were defective in any article that is necessary to salvation ? And then the same author goes on and tells

« PreviousContinue »