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fundamental errors ; because there is good reason to believe, all circumstances considered, that they judged very rightly in both cases. But still since their judgment must finally be submitted to the test of Scripture and right reason, and cannot be admitted but as consonant thereto, it is very plain that the ratio of a fundamental rests not ultimately in their judgment or definition, but in the nature of the doctrine itself, and the credentials which it brings with it, by which all the rest must be tried. The definition therefore even of the primitive churches can never be justly looked upon as the proper or adequate rule.
As to the definition of any modern church, (the Roman for instance,) the pretences urged in favour of it are altogether frivolous and vain. To boast of infallibility against a thousand demonstrations that such church may err, and in fact has erred, and yet does err, is a ridiculous vanity at the best, not to call it by a worse name. And it is very odd to imagine that their definitions are an unerring rule, when they cannot be more certain, on one hand, that any such definitions were ever made, or are now extant, than we are, on the other hand, that they are false and wrong, and some of them even palpably absurdt.
II. There are those who take Scripture truths and fundamental truths to be tantamount and reciprocal, conceiving that every thing asserted in sacred Writ is fundamental, because the whole Scripture was written for our learning", and cannot be contradicted in any part, without giving the lie to the Holy Spirit of God. But this opinion, however pious in appearance, is none of the most solid or judicious. It confounds the truth or usefulness of what is said with the importance or necessity of it; as if there were no difference between the weightier matters and the matters less weighty. Scripture contains points of an inferior moment, as well as those of an high nature : and all the truths contained in it are neither equally clear nor equally importants. There are many incidental verities, historical, geographical, genealogical, chronological, &c. which common Christians are obliged rather implicitly to admit, or not to deny, than explicitly to know, or treasure up in their minds. There may be thousands or millions of these inferior truthsy in sacred Writ, which it may suffice to believe in the gross, under this one general proposition, Whatsoever Scripture declares, or teaches, is infallibly true and right. If any person, without any ill meaning, should dispute or deny many of those occasional inferior points, (misinterpreting the texts, and retaining all the while a just veneration for the authority of holy Scripture,) he might be thought a bad critic or commentator, rather than a bad Christian : but were the same person to dispute or deny the necessity of holiness, or the doctrine of a resurrection, or of a future judgment, (misinterpreting the texts whereon those doctrines are built,) he might be, and would be justly suspected as guilty of profane levity and heretical pravity, notwithstanding any pretended veneration for Scripture he might presume to boast of. And what is the reason of the difference in the two cases now mentioned ? plainly this : that in one case, the main substance of the Christian faith, worship, morality would suffer little or no detriment, but in the other case would suffer very much. Some truths are valuable for the sake only of greater, which they may accidentally be joined with, or resolve into; while those greater are valuable for their own intrinsic weight and worth. Hence it is, that creeds, catechisms, confessions, and other summaries of true religion, take in only the principal agenda and credenda, leaving out the truths of an inferior class ; though scriptural, and infallibly certain, and of the same Divine authority with the other. Those inferior points may by accident become fundamental”, if the denying them, in some certain cir. cumstances, should inevitably carry with it a denial of the Divine authority of sacred Writ: but that, and the like accidental circumstances excepted, they are of slight moment in comparison, neither would it be justifiable to break communion with any man for differing from us in things only of that kinda.
' If the reader would see more in clesiasticam necessaria ; nec omnia answer to this first pretence, he may pari necessitate fidelibus discenda et please to consult Bishop Stillingfleet, inculcanda: quod colligimus ex 1 Cor. Rat. Ac. part i. c. 2. p. 47, &c. Frid. iii. 10, 12, 15. Phil. ii. 15, 16. 2 Tim. Spanheim. Opp. tom. iii
. p. 1330. i. 13. 1 Tim. vi. 3. Tit. i. 1. Accedat Alphons. Turretin. de Fundament. hæc ratio, quod uti in omnibus discic. iii. p. 10, II.
plinis, sic etiam in Scripturis essenu Rom. xv. 4.
tialia et oikeia religionis, sive axiomata * Omnia quæ in Scripturis occur- sive præcepta, a commentariis sint runt non sunt æquead salutarem fidem, distinguenda. Multa enim ibi tracaut ad unionem ac communionem Ec- tantur occasionaliter, non ex professo, per cognitionem, ut vocant, divisivam, sect. 3. p. 172. in ordine ad Deum et spiritualia. “ Such as pastors are not bound to Voetius, Disput. 5. Conf. Hoornbeeck. “ teach their flocks, nor their flocks lib. i. c. 9. p. 188. Puffendorf. sect. “ bound to know and remember; no 60. Spanheim. tom. iii. p. 1330. Tur- nor the pastors themselves to know retin. p. 7, 11.
“ them or believe them, or not to disy “ Accidental, circumstantial, oc- “ believe them, absolutely and always, “casional objects of faith, millions “ but then only when they do see and “ whereof there are in holy Scripture : “ know them to be delivered in Scrip“ such as are to be believed not for “ ture as Divine revelations." Chil“ themselves, but because they are lingworth, ibid. p. 173. “ joined with others that are necessary
ż “ To acknowledge any propo“ to be believed, and are delivered by “sition to be of Divine revelation and “the same authority which delivered authority, and yet to deny or dis" these." Chillingworth, chap. iv. “ believe it, is to offend against this
I may further add, that the rule which I have been here considering appears to be faulty in defect, as well as in excess : for as every Scripture tenet is not fundamental, so neither does Scripture, strictly speaking, contain all fundamental truths. The certainty of the canon in general, and the authenticity of the sacred code,are fundamental articles, and are previous to those which Scrip. ture itself contains : and our obligation to receive them resolves into this fundamental principle of natural religion, that we are bound to receive with reverence whatever God shall sufficiently make known to us as his law, word, and will. But I proceed.
III. A third pretended rule for determining fundamentals is to admit every thing expressly taught in Scripture, and nothing but what is so: which differs from the former, as there is a difference between saying every thing taught, and every thing expressly taught. However this rule also is faulty, and that both in excess and defect. It is faulty in excess, as making many more fundamentals than there really are: for there may be thousands of very erpress verities in holy Scripture which in themselves are not fundamental, having no immediate connection with the Christian covenant, no direct concern with or influence upon faith, worship, or morality. It is faulty likewise in the other extreme, of defect, as not taking in all that is really fundamental. The sense of Scripture is Scripture ; and such sense may be certain and indubitable, when it is not erpress : and if the point of doctrine contained in it be of the important kind, nearly affecting the vitals of Christianity, it is a fundamental article. Some consequences are so direct, plain, and immediate, that they even
“ fundamental article and ground of a In loco Rom. xv. 4. et toto capite “ faith, that God is true. But yet a xiv. fuse docet Paulus infirmos in fide “ great many of the truths revealed tolerandos, neque alium in finem ad“ in the Gospel—a man may be igno- ditur, nam quæcunque scripta sunt &c. “ rant of, nay disbelieve, without quam ut documentis in Scriptura con“ danger to his salvation ; as is evi- tentis, ad mansuetudinem et toleran«*dent in those who, allowing the au- tiam Christianam erudiamur. Quod “ thority, differ in the interpretation ipsum ostendit dissensum aliquem in “ and meaning of several texts of capitibus non momentosis, quanquam “Scripture not thought fundamental.” Scripture traditis, haudquaquam caLocke, Reas. of Christianity, vol. ii. pitale esse. Turretin. p. 12. p. 540. fol. Compare p. 580.
force their way into every attentive and well disposed mind. It has been frequently manifested, and ought now to be acknowledged as a ruled case, that clear consequential proof is very little short of express text, (if it be at all so,) either as to value, or certainty: not to mention that express text, (or what some may call so,) may often mislead us, if we make not use of reason and argument, that is to say, of consequences, to draw out and ascertain the true and just meaning. It may indeed be allowed, that fundamental doctrines ought not to be rested upon consequences really obscure, or very remote: neither ought persons to be charged with capital errors for holding some tenets, which obscurely, or at a distance only, appear to strike at the foundation. Therefore Divines have distinguished fundamental errors into two sorts, as being either in the foundation, or near the foundatione; while those which are more remote, being besides the foundation, or distant from it, are reckoned among the non-fundamental errors, as not affecting the vitals, or essentials of Christianity, except it be in so distant or obscure a manner, that a person may reasonably be supposed not to see such consequence, or seriously to abhor it. But if any person holds a tenet which plainly, directly, and at first consequence, destroys a fundamental article, he is altogether as blamable as if he erred against the express text, in a point of like importanced. But I pass on.
IV. Another pretended rule is, that whatever Scripture has expressly declared necessary, or commanded us to believe under pain of damnation, or of exclusion from Christian communion, that is fundamental, and nothing else is. Now as to the first part, it is certain, that whatever Scripture has thus strongly bound upon us is fundamental: but it is not true, on the other hand, that whatever Scripture has not so bound upon us is not fundamental. So then this rule is faulty in defect, as narrowing the foundation more than is just or proper. God's plainly revealing any doctrine carries in it the force of a strict command to assent to it as true, whenever we think of it as revealed: and if such doctrine be found to bear an intrinsical or essential connection with the doctrine of the Christian covenant, that single consideration, added to the former, is sufficient to make out its importance, and to signify to every man of common discernment the fundamental nature of such article, without any additional declaration from sacred Writ. However it may perhaps be justly said, that, in a general way, all the essentials of the Gospel are declared to be necessary to salvation in one single text, which declares the belief of the Gospel necessary: "He " that believeth it not, shall be damned.” Mark xvi. 16. What are the essential articles must be learned from other places, or from the nature of the thing itself; but whatever they are, they are here declared to be necessary. But of this matter I have professedly treated elsewheree, and need not repeat; except you will give me leave, thus far, to say, what I there prove, that “ the importance of any doctrine is not to be judged of merely “ from the declarations of Scripture concerning its necessity, but “ from the nature and quality of the doctrine itself, and the rela“ tion it bears to the other parts of revealed religion, and from “ the mischiefs likely to ensue upon the opposing of it."
b Dallæus de Fidei ex Scripturis indirecte, et per primam consequentiam Demonstratione, par. i. c. v-xiii. p. thesis illa evertitur. 31–91. Hoornbeeck. Socin. Confut. Error super fundamento, vel præter p. 210, &c. Voetius, Disput. 5. Frid. fundamentum est, quo aliquid staSpanheim. tom. iii. p. 1337. Cum- tuitur quod per remotiorem aut obscuming, Dissertation of Scripture Con- riorem consequentiam, et eminus, pugsequences. Turretin. de Fundament.
nat cum thesi fundamentali, eamque p. 17.
plus aut minus lædit aut concutit, aut • Error in fundamento ille est, qui saltem radit ac tangit. Voetius, de directe aut plures, aut , unam thesin Artic. et Error. fundam. sect. 5. fundamentalem negat atque oppugnat. Conf. Hoornbeeck. Socin. Confut. p.
Error circa fundamentum est, qui 210. non negat directe thesin, illam tamen
d Vid. Turretin. p. 17. antithesin tenet qua stante et defensa,
V. Some very considerable Protestant writers', in their disputes with the Romanists, have often referred to the Creed called the Apostles', both for the rule and the sample of fundamentals. But then it ought to be observed, in the first place, that the most which those excellent persons intended by it is, that the Creed contains all necessary matters of simple belief : which if admitted, does not sufficiently answer our present purpose with respect to the question of Church communion : for fundamentals of worship and of Christian morality must be considered in this case, as well as fundamentals of mere faith. Add to this, that the Apostles' Creed rather supposes than contains the article of the Divine authority and inspiration of Scripture, and therefore is no complete catalogue or summary of fundamentals. Besides, it may be justly questioned whether it really contains or includes all the fundamentals of simple belief which
Importance of the Doctrine of the Calixtus, Chillingworth, Stillingfleet, Trinity, vol. iii. c. 3. p. 446-450. Tillotson, Whitby, &c.
Such as Petit, Usher, Davenant,