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the people ; and therefore since he hath directed them to both, this necessarily implies that it was his intention that both should read them. For if God had not directed them to men, neither priests nor people were obliged to read them; and therefore seeing the great reason why any men ought to read them is, because they are directed to men ; this reason obliges all men to read them, because they are directed to all men. For not to be highly concerned to know and understand what it is that God writes to us, is an argument that we have a very mean regard both of his majesty, and his mind, and will. But to be sure whosoever is highly concerned to know what such a writing contains, will, if he can, be very curious to peruse it with his own eyes at least, supposing that it is not unlawful for him so to do; because there is nothing gives that satisfaction to a man's mind, as the information of his own sense. So that for men wilfully to neglect reading the scripture which God hath so expressly directed to them, and thereby not only licensed but obliged them to read it, argues a very profane disregard both of the Author of it and of the matter it contains; and for any man, or society of men, to forbid the people to read what God hath written and directed to them, is not only to deprive them of a right which God hath given them, but also to acquit them of a duty which he hath laid upon them. For St. Paul, in those epistles which he wrote to the Christian people in general of such and such churches, still takes it for granted that they would read them, as being not only warranted, but obliged thereunto by his writing them; for so, Ephes. iii. 3, 4. speaking of that great mystery of the calling the Gentiles which God
had revealed to him, concerning which, saith he, I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. So also, 2 Cor. i. 13. We write no other things unto you, than what you read ; that is, than what you may at least, and are obliged to read by virtue of our writing them to you. And as for his Epistle to the Thessalonians, which he wrote to that whole church, he gives charge that it should be read to all the holy brethren, 1 Thess. v. 27. So also for that of the Colossians, iv. 16. When this epistle is, or hath been, read amongst you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans ; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. Where you see he all along either supposes or requires that what he wrote to all should be read by all and to all. If therefore this authority of St. Paul be sufficient to overrule the authority of any pretended successor of St. Peter, then it is certain that reading the scripture is still the duty of laymen, notwithstanding any papal prohibition to the contrary.
5. From the great concernment the people have in the matters contained in scripture, it is also evident, that they are obliged, if they are able, to read it, and acquaint themselves with it: for as for the matters which the scriptures contain, they are such as 'are of everlasting moment to the people as well as to the clergy. The articles of faith which the scripture proposes are as necessary to be believed by the people as by the clergy. The precepts of life which the scripture prescribes are as necessary to be practised by the people as by the clergy. The promises and threats with which the scripture enforces those precepts are as necessary to be consi
dered by the people as by the clergy: and seeing both are equally concerned in the great matters which the scriptures contain, what reason can be assigned why both should not be obliged to acquaint themselves with them? I know it is pretended, that it is the proper office of the clergy to study the scriptures for the people as well as for themselves, and that therefore the people are obliged to receive the sense of the scriptures upon trust from their teachers, without making any further inquiry. But I beseech you, are you sure that your teachers are infallible ? that they are not so is most certain, it being notorious that most of the prevailing heresies of Christendom were first set on broach by the teachers of the church, and it is impossible they should be infallible who have so often actually erred even in matters of the highest moment. Suppose then, what is fairly supposable, that your teachers should mislead you, and not only into dangerous, but damnable errors; are you sure that they shall be damned for you, and that you shall escape ? If so, then heresy in the laity can never be damnable, if they receive it upon trust from their teachers; and consequently their souls are as safe under the conduct of false teachers as true, provided always that, right or wrong, they believe what is taught them. But if yourselves must give an, account to God as well for your faith as for your manners, and are liable in your own persons to eternal damnation, as most certainly you are, as well for heresy as immorality; then it is the most unreasonable thing in the world, that you should in all things be obliged to believe your teachers upon trust; for at this rate a man may be eternally damned, merely for believing what he is obliged to believe. If it be said that the people are not bound to believe what their particular pastor teaches, but what the church teaches them, and the church cannot err, though their particular pastor may; I would fain know, how shall the people be otherwise informed what the church teaches them than by the expositions of their particular pastors, they being at least as incapable of informing themselves what the doctrine of the church is, as what the doctrine of the scripture is; and therefore, if their pastor should err damnably in expounding to them what the church teaches, as it is supposable he may, if he be not infallible, there is no remedy but they must err damnably in believing whatsoever their pastor teaches. But we are further told, that it is sufficient for the people that they believe in the gross that whatsoever the church teaches is true; and that as for the particulars, there is no necessity that they should be informed about them; because he who believes that all that the church teaches is true, implicitly believes all that is necessary, seeing the church teaches all that is necessary. But the mischief of it is, that this compendious way of belief is utterly insignificant, and doth no way comport with the design and intention of a Christian's faith. For God doth not require our faith merely for its own sake, but in order to a further end, that it may purify our hearts, and influence our lives and manners; that is, that the matters which we believe might, by being believed by us, affect our wills, and continually move and persuade us to abstain from all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; and if our faith hath not this effect upon us, St. James assures us that it is a dead faith, and will profit us nothing. But how is it possible that our believing such and such propositions should move and persuade us, if we do not know what those propositions are, and what is the true sense and meaning of them? What man can be persuaded by such proposals as he doth not understand, and of which he hath no manner of explicit knowledge? An heathen, that believes that whatsoever God teaches is true, doth implicitly believe that Jesus Christ came from God to reveal his will to mankind, because it is certain that God teaches this; but what is he the better for this his implicit belief? What influence can it have upon his heart and manners, who
perhaps never heard of Jesus Christ, nor of any one proposition which he revealed to the world ? And so he who believes that whatsoever the church teaches is true, doth implicitly believe that there shall be a future judgment, a resurrection of the dead, and an everlasting state of happiness or misery after death, because all these things the church teaches ? But if he never hear of them, or hath no explicit knowledge and belief of them, how is it possible they should operate on his will and affections, or ever persuade him to be the better man, or the better Christian? And the same is to be said of all the other articles of Christianity. So that either we must believe to no purpose, and content ourselves with an insignificant faith, that will not at all avail us, or take up our faith upon trust from fallible teachers, who may mislead us into damnable errors; and if they should, we must be liable to answer for it in our own persons, and at our own eternal peril; or, which is the truth of the case, we must be allowed to inquire and judge