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intelligent part of mankind, and capacity could hear his most fahis company was much coveted miliar discourses, without great by persons of quality. He was advantage, or great negligence. honoured with the friendship of To place religion in a morose the Lord-keeper Bridgman. The sourness was far froin his prac: Lord Chancellor Finch, and the tice, judgment, and temper. earl of Nottingham had a partic. But his mind was most intent on ular respect for him. Archbish- divine.things; and his discourse op Tillotson held him in high es- on other subjects was interwoven teem, and maintained an intima- with religion, and centered in it; cy with bim to the end of his life. especially what is most vital and if interest would have jaduced essential to it. “I never knew hiin to conformity, he could not any one (says Mr. Howe) more have wanted a temptation. He frequent or affectionate in the Inight have had any bishopric in admiration of divine grace, upon the kingdom, if he would have all occasions, than he was, as deserted his cause. His integri.e none had a deeper sense of the ty, modesty, and peaceable tem- impotence and depravity of huper are conspicuous in the close man nature. Into what transof his farewel sermon, Aug. 17, ports of admiration of the love 1662, (the Sabbath preceding the of God have I seen him break general ejectment of the dissent. forth! How easy a step did he ing clergy by the act of uniform- make it from earth to heaven! ity)" I knoy you expect me With what flights of thought and to say something as to my non- affection was he wont to speak of conformity. 'I shall only say the heavenly state! Even like a thus much ; it is neither fancy, man more akin to the other faction, nor humour, that makes world than this." me not comply ; but merely the He was ejected from St. Dun. fear of offending God. And if, stan's in the west, London. He after the best means used for my was many years one of the Tuesillumination ; as prayer to God, day lecturers at Salter's hall, discourse, and study, I am not where he preached to a thronged able to be satisfied concerning assembly. In the latter part of the lawfulness of what is require life he exercised his ministry at ed, it be' my unhappiness to be Hackney with great success. in error, surely men will have He died in 1699, aged 74. Mr. no reason to be angry with me Howe's funeral sermon for him in this world, and I hope God (founded on John xi. 16. Let us will pardon me in the next." also go, and die with him) contains
His piety was very conspicu- a inost passionate lamentation ous, and his private conversation over him, in a strength of lanso instructive and quickening, in guage characteristic of that great reference to religion and godli- writer. ness, that no man of ordinary
SURVEY OF NEW ENGLAND
to an enlightened conclusion on this subject, it is necessary to
consider, that the perfection (Continued from p. 365.) of the Scriptures consists in their
being completely adapted to the ANOTHER argument against ends, for which they were inconfessions of faith will now be tended. Their perfection must investigated.
not be made to consist in the ut. Objection II. Confessions of most degree of any one quality, faith are inconsistent with the ab- or in their being fitted to any solute perfection and sufficiency of one particular purpose ; but in the Holy Scriptures. It is in the the adaptedness of the whole to inspired writings only that we can the complex design of revelation. be sure to find the genuine doc. That complex design is to fur. trines of Christianity expressed nish mankind with a universal with perspicuity and a just ex- rule of faith and practice. Such tent. No phrases can be so well a design requires fulness, and adapted to the nature of divine perspicuity. There is a perfect things, or 80 well calculated to fulness in the Scriptures, if they preserve the purity of religion, reveal all that is necessary for us as those which the Holy Ghost has in the present state. And as to seen fit to use. And, therefore, their perspicuity, it is sufficient creeds, consisting of words of to answer all the cavils of infidels, man's wisdom, are a great disree - if they reveal necessary truths spect to the sacred writings, and with such plainness, that persons an affront to the divine Spirit of every capacity may attain the which inspired them. At the same knowledge of them, by a dilitime they show a presumptuous gent and pious use confidence in man, as if he could pointed means.
The perfection devise more proper expressions, of the Scriptures does not imply, than those of Scripture ; or as if that divine truth is always exthe purity of faith could be better pressed in the most obvious manmaintained by human inventions, ner, or that plainer expressions than by a steady adherence to our could not possibly be used ; but infallible standard. In short, that it is expressed so plainly, confessions are evident en- that every devout inquirer may croachment upon the authority of understand it, as far as God sees the Bible, and lead men to neglect to be necessary. The perspicuiits holy contents, and thus tend 10 ty of Scripture, it must be reundermine the foundation of reli- membered, is calculated for diligion.
gence, and not for sloth. Though Thís objection, which is almost the necessary truths of revelathe only one that remains to be tion may be easily understood by considered, claims for its support the attentive and impartial mind, the perfection of the Scriptures. they may be greatly misappreNow in order that we may come hended by a mind biassed with
prejudice, puffed up with pride, a mere man.
Two men may or clouded by any evil passion. subscribe certain passages of
Now if it can be made to ap. Paul's writings, when from those pear that confessions of faith, in very passages they derive differtheir nature and design, are by ent and irreconcileabie doctrines. no means incompatible with the Whence it clearly follows, that, perfection of Scripture, the ob- in the present state of things, a jection, stated above, will lose its person's owning his belief of the. force.
Scriptures, and assenting to par Let it, then, de constantly kept ticular passages is not, in itself, in mind, that creeds are to be the least proof of the sentiments considered neither as a substitute he embraces. for Scripture, nor supplementary This fact is easily accounted to it, nor as a rule, conformably for. It ought to be most thankto which Scripture ought to be fully acknowledged, that the sa: measured and understood by the cred oracles are adorned with a people, nor in any degree as a noble simplicity, and, considered standard of truth and falsehood in in themselves, are free from ar, matters of religion. So that the tifice and ambiguity. They are question before us is precisely an open, plain, and impartial re this ; whether creeds may be presentation of the doctrines con drawn up in any words, but those tained in them; so that, without of Scripture, not as rules of faith, any addition or explication, they but as deciarations of our own sen, may be truly, though not perfecte timents, and means of discovering ly understood by all, who sincere. the sentiments of others.
ly apply their minds to the disIn order to show the proprie, covery of divine truth. And ty and necessity of creeds, fram- whenever we speak of the plained and used in this manner, it is ness and perspicuity of Scripture sufficient to prove, that we can- phrases, we mean to consider not make a satisfactory declara- them, as they lie in the Scription of our own sentiments, or a tures, and as they are expresclear discovery of the sentiments sions of God's mind to his crea, of others, so long as we confine tures. But the words and phra, ourselves to the precise words ses of Scripture have, by one, and expressions of holy writ. party or another, been greatly The reason of this may soon ap- perverted from their true sense. pear. But whatever the reason, People ascribe different means the fact is plain.
ings to them, and whenever they Take a particular text. Two use them, intend to express difs persons may subscribe it, and yet ferent notions. As they are used contradict one another with res and understood by mankind, they pect to the very article which it are of an ambiguous and indetery 'contains. A Socinian will readi- minate signification. Hence it is ly assent to any passages of plain, they are not clear express Scripture, which assert the di- sions of a person's faith, even as vinity of Christ; and at the same to the most essential articles of time we know that, according to Christianity. If churches, fully the gloss which he puts upon persuaded that certain prevailing them, they represent Christ as sentiments are inconsistent with
the gospel, were about to judge isfaction can thus be given to any of the qualifications of a minister, discerning man concerning our they could obtain no definite idea belief? By such a subscription of his opinions, merely from his or assent to a scripture phrase, assent to scripture phrases. As we impose upon our thoughtless circumstances are, it is absolute; neighbours.' Unless we explain ly impossible, by the use of our meaning, we do nothing but scripture phrases only, to declare conceal our sentiments. Indeed our faith to others. This is not it is the very practice we are opcharging any imperfection upon posing, to which they resort, the word of God. For confes. who mean to disguise their relisions of faith, strictly speaking, gious opinions. They form the are not designed to give an ac- language of Scripture into a corcount of what the Holy Ghost ert under which they can hide, a says concerning any articles of shelter to which they can retreat faith, but of what we believe. from the region of light and And when we would determine, truth. whether any particular terms are It is in vain to urge the perspi, proper to be used in creeds ; the cuity of scripture language, by question is, whether they will ex- which we allow it is perfectly press, with sufficient clearness, adapted to be a universal rule of the real belief of those who assent faith and practice. Whatever to them.
men's speculations on the subAs scripture phrases, however ject may be, it is, I repeat it, a clear and determinate in them- well known fact, that the use of selves, have become of an ambig- scripture phrases does not deteruous signification, they are not mine what a man's sentiments suited to the purpose of confes- are, even on the most important sions. And to say that no con- points in religion. So that the fessions should be composed or scheme, which the adversaries of assented to in any language, but creeds undertake to found on the that of Scripture, is to say, we perfection of Scripture, is calcumust be entirely uncertain, lated to break down all the fences, whether those, with whom we which secure the church from join in church fellowship, and danger, and to let in all manner those whom we elect for ininis-, of errors and corruptions. It ters, believe the doctrines of our affords a hiding place to the most religion, or not.
pernicious deceivers. It tends It follows from this unreason- to confound all religious socieable notion, that we should nev. ties, and to destroy the very beer make an explicit confession of ing of church communion, which Christ and his gospel before is founded on one faith, one hope, men. For how can we give a one baptism. testimony to the faith of the gos, It may be said, that creeds are pel in a decliving age, or profess liable to the same abuse as scripour firm adherence to the truth ture phrases ; that others may by subscribing a proposition, understand them in a different which they who reject the doc- sense from what we do ; and that trines we believe, are as ready to dishonest men 'may please them: subscribe, as we are? What sat selves with subtilties, by the help of which they fancy they can sub- they give to their schemes. By scribe our confessions, while attending to such things,, the they reject the obvious sense. enlightened friends of truth may, It is readily acknowledged, that at every period, construct creeds, there is no absolute security a- which will answer the double gainst human error and deceit ; purpose of declaring their own and that after all our vigilance sentiments, and of discovering we may be imposed upon. But the sentiments of others. this sense of danger should ex- They, who place so much decite the greater caution, and en- pendence on a mere assent to gage us to use those methods scripture phrases, are evidently which seem least liable to mis- chargeable with superstition. take. We already know that Words in themselves, are nothscripture phrases are used by ing. They are arbitrary signs different
persons in a different of our thoughts, and derive all sense. Some men think the their meaning froin common plainest passages in favour of a usage. The words of Scripture particular truth ought to be so are no more valuable, or worthy explained, as to mean quite the of regard, than any other words, contrary. If after knowing this, if we abstract them from the we should consider a person's sense or doctrine which they are assenting to or using those pas- designed to express. The whole sages, as a satisfactory declara- value of words consists in the lion of his faith, we might justly meaning, which the speaker or be charged with the weakest writer intends to convey by them. credulity. On the contrary, we So far, therefore, as any words perceive that men of erroneous or phrases are without a detersentiments generally refuse to minate sense, they are worthless. subscribe orthodox confessions. He that uses them, without exIn this case they cannot so easily planation, might as well say nothsatisfy themselves with evasive ing. If scripture phrases are distinctions. But if the expres- understood by the world in differsions used in any creed should, ent senses, and he, who uses in process of time, be so applied them, refuses to inform others as to become ambiguous, church- in what sense he uses them, he os might consistently make al- inocks those who wish to know terations, and use other expres
his sentiments. For example. sions of more determinate sig. A man pretends to satisfy us, nification. For, while the Holy concerning his faith by assenting Scriptures are designed for a to a passage where Christ is universal and perpetual rule of called GOD; though he chooses faith and manners ; confessions not to tell us, whether by the of faith are of a limited nature,
word GOD he means the suand must be framed with refer- preme, sell-existent Being, or a ence to the particular state of na- metaphorical deity, as the Socintions, to the heresies which pre
ians consider it. In such a case, vail, to the various arts and sub- he does not give us the least terfuges of deceivers, to the knowledge of his belief, and sense in which they use words, might as well use a Chinese and the particular cast which word, as the name of God. To