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tells us the quite contrary: These things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they, i.e. the Israelites in the wilderness, lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples : and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come, 1 Cor. x. 6-11. Whereas this objection urges, that there are sundry passages in scripture which, should the people read, would excite evil thoughts in their minds; the same St. Paul tells us, that all scripture is profitable, not only for doctrine and reproof, but also for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Tim. iii. 16. Whereas this objection pretends, that it would be very unsafe for young people especially to be allowed the scripture, because there are several amorous stories and passages in it which will be apt to suggest wanton thoughts to their gay and amorous fancies ; David, it is plain, was of a quite contrary mind; for wherewith, saith he, shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word, Psalm cxix. 9. than which two passages what assertions can be more contrary one to another?
4. And lastly, That supposing this objection to be thus far true, that there are some passages in scripture which may sometimes occasionally excite bad thoughts in men's minds, yet this is no just reason why the use of scripture should be forbid to the people. For every thing which the people occasionally make bad uses of, is for that reason to be forbid to them; even prayer and the sacraments, and the profession of Christianity, ought to be forbidden them as well as the scripture, seeing of the one as well as of the other many people do occasionally make very bad uses.
So long as the scripture is good in itself, and apt in its own nature to instruct and edify those that read it, this is sufficient, not only to warrant the people's use of it, but to enjoin and require it; and if it sometimes occasion corrupt thoughts in corrupt minds, this is no more a reason why the people should be deprived of the light of it, than some bad men's making ill use of the light of the sun is why the sun should be extinguished, or why the people should be for ever shut up from the light of it in dark and dismal dungeons. But as for those very passages in scripture, which do sometimes occasion ill thoughts in men's minds, they are so far from doing it of their own natures, that, as they are delivered in scripture, there is nothing more naturally apt to repress bad thoughts, and to arm and fortify men's minds against them. As for instance, the bad examples recorded in scripture are generally delivered with infamous characters, severe prohibitions, and dreadful instances of God's vengeance attending them, which render them much more apt to repress than to excite evil thoughts in men's minds; to quicken them to prayer and watchfulness against temptations, and, when at any time they have been overcome by them, to encourage them to repentance; or when they have overcome them, to stir them up to a grateful acknowledgment of that preventing and assisting grace of God, by which they have been enabled to resist and repel them. These are the natural uses of those bad examples recorded in scripture; and therefore if, instead of making these uses of them, some men pervert them to bad purposes, that is their faults, and not the scripture's. It is sufficient that the bad examples in scripture, as they are there recorded, are in themselves of excellent use to the people ; but should men be deprived of the use of every good thing they abuse, I would fain know what one good thing would be left free to their enjoyment. And now having proved at large the people's right and obligation to use and search the holy scripture, and answered the main objections against it, I shall conclude with these two inferences from the whole.
1. If the people are obliged to acquaint them-. selves with scripture, then they are obliged to receive, upon the authority of scripture, those divine truths which it proposes to their belief. For to what other end should we be obliged to read and consult the word of God, but only that we may learn from it what is his mind and will ? But how should we learn from scripture what God's mind is, if we are not to believe what he therein declares upon scripture authority? If I must not believe when I read the scripture that this is God's mind, because the scripture says so, it is impossible I should ever learn God's mind by reading it; and consequently I am obliged to read it to no purpose : for there is nothing can teach me what God's mind is, but that which gives me sufficient ground to believe that what it teaches is the mind of God. When therefore I read the scripture, and find such a proposition plainly asserted
in it, is this a sufficient ground or no for me to believe it to be the mind of God? If it be, then the authority of scripture is a sufficient ground for my belief; if it be not, then the scripture cannot teach me what God's mind is, because it cannot give me sufficient ground to believe any one proposition in it to be the mind of God. We are told indeed, that we are not to receive the sense of the scripture from the scripture, but from the church, who alone hath authority to expound it to us, and whose expositions in all matters of faith are infallible. But if this be so, to what end should we read the scripture, seeing the only end of reading is to learn the sense of what we read, which, according to this principle, is not to be learned from scripture ? So that though there be no other wise end of reading the scripture, but only to learn from it what it means, yet it seems for men to read it for this end is a perfect labour in vain ; seeing it is not from the scripture, but from the church, that they are to learn the meaning of scripture. For as for the scripture, if these men are to be believed, it is nothing but a heap of unsensed characters; so they expressly term it: but what do they mean by it? Is it that the scripture consists of a company of letters, and syllables, and words, that carry with them no determinate sense, that God Almighty hath written and published a book to the world that means nothing? If so, then when the church by its infallible authority pretends to expound the scripture, her meaning is not to expound the sense of it, but to impose a sense on it which was never in it; for how can she expound the sense of a book which hath no sense in it? If the church is to expound the sense of scripture, the scripture must have a certain
determinate sense in it before she expounds it: for to expound the sense of that which hath no sense, is nonsense: and if the scripture hath a certain sense in it antecedently to the church's exposition of it, why do they call it a parcel of unsensed characters ? If their meaning be only this, that the sense of scripture, as it is delivered in scripture, is so obscure and ambiguous, that without the infallible exposition of the church, we can never be certain what it is ; besides that this is notoriously false, the scripture in all necessary points both of faith and manners, being so very plain and clear, that any man that reads it with an unprejudiced mind, may be as certain of the sense of it, as he can be of the sense of any writing, and consequently of the sense of any written exposition of the church; besides this, I say, it is evident, that whatever these men pretend, it is not merely because of the obscurity of scripture that they oblige men to ground their faith upon the church, and not upon the scripture. For they own, as well as we, that in many things the scripture is very plain and clear, and yet they will by no means allow men to ground their belief of these things upon the authority of scripture, but all must be resolved into the authority of the church. By which it is evident, that if all the scripture were as plain as the plainest scriptures, they would still contend for the necessity of men's relying upon the church, and not upon the scripture; and consequently that the true reason why they contend for it is, not because the scripture is obscure, but because they are resolved to advance their church's authority. We own, as well as they, that where the scripture is obscure, men ought to be guided by the authority of