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from the contradictory doctrines which individuals, equally learned, equally sincere, equally pious, often derive from the same text, according to their respective private views and interpretations of it. Do not those who believe the Trinity, and those who deny it—those who believe the divinity of Christ, and those who deny it—those who believe the necessity of baptism, and those who deny it—those who believe the real presence, and those who deny it-all learn their contradictory doctrines from the Scripture? What then! Is the Scripture in contradiction to itself? Surely not. It is essentially consistent in its true sense; but, the interpretations of its meaning, given by those who follow the rule of private judgment, are evidently contradictory.

Where, then, are certainty and truth to be found, amidst these contradictory interpretations of the sense of the Holy Scriptures? How can it be truly ascertained by them, what Christ really taught, instituted, and commanded, and what conditions of salvation Christ really prescribed ?

CHAPTER III.

CONSEQUENCES OF FOLLOWING THE PRINCIPLE OF PRIVATE

JUDGMENT, AND PRIVATE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE, AS THE RULE AND MEANS OF DETERMINING WHAT ARE THE DOCTRINES, PRECEPTS, AND ORDINANCES, WHICH WERE DELIVERED BY CHRIST.--Divisions in Faith.-Contradictory religious Opinions. - Inconsistent religious Observances.Vain Attempts to restore Unity and Uniformity.The Invention of Fundamental and Non fundamental Articles. - The Authority of Synods.-The Intervention of the Civil Power.-The Reading, and private Interpretation of Scripture, were not appointed by Christ, as the means of communicating the certain knowledge of all that he taught and ordained to be believed and observed by Men.

From this principle of private judgment, and private interpretation of Scripture, adopted by the leader of the Reformation, such a diversity of religious opinions soon flowed, as tended to make every thing uncertain in Christianity. As the judgment of one man differed from that of another, or as each man varied in his own private interpretation of Scripture ; so, in consequence of this principle, did the belief of the uniform and immutable doctrines of Christ become different in different people, and undergo frequent changes in the minds of the same individuals. This was noticed, with concern, at an early period of the reformation, and every means was employed to preserve that unity in faith, among the followers of the new religions, which is a characteristical property of true Christianity.

With this view, a distinction was invented between the fundamental and non-fundamental articles of faith, in order that unity might seem to be preserved in the belief of those articles, which were called fundamental; although it was never de fined, what articles were included in that description. H

of the individual concerning the truth of the doctrine would be opposed to the judgment of the Son of God himself!

But the present inquiry is, not whether the doctrine is true or false; but whether in fact it was or was not revealed by Christ.

Suppose then that some individual, a inan of learning and piety, has inquired into this fact, and is come to the conclusion that the doctrine of the Trinity, for instance, was not taught by Christ: will his private judgment be to him a reasonable ground of certitude that this doctrine was not revealed; if his judgment is found to be opposed to the uniform judgment of many thousands of men, in every Christian country, and in every age from the beginning of Christianity, men distinguished by their learning and piety, and who were all convinced by the strongest evidences of testimony, that the doctrine of the Trinity was really taught by Christ? Surely, with such a weight of general affirmative judgment against him, on this matter of fact, the individual must doubt the accuracy of his own private negative judgment; he cannot reasonably adhere to it as a prudent and certain judgment of his mind.

But, fairly to settle the point in question, we must consider whether the private judgment, even of every individual in the great mass of mankind, of every artisan and husbandman, is competent to determine, with certainty, whether the doctrine of the Trinity, or of any other article of Christian faith, was or was not revealed by Christ; in short, to determine what was revealed by him, as necessary to be believed in order to salvation ? And, whether this ignorant individual can reasonably and safely rest on his own private judginent, that the doctrine of the Trinity, or of any other article in question, was not revealed, although the article has been uniformly believed and professed by all Christian churches, from the first establishment of Christianity to the sixteenth century, and is still believed and professed by far the greater majority of Christians, as a revealed doctrine? Will any reasonable man say, that the private judgment of the individual, in this case, can be to him a ground of certitude? If, moreover, we consider the ordinary results of private

judgment

judgment and individual opinion in common life, we shall see that they often lead to uncertainty and error. Leave an individual merely to the lights of his own mind on many doctrinal and moral subjects, without any guirlance whatever from authority, or direction from the judgment of other men; how does he wander in opinions, and grope as it were in the dark for truth! How uncertain is he in his judgment! And is a judgment so uncertain, when left to its own lights, a sure guide to certitude in matters of divine revelation? What contradictions do we not daily observe, between the private judgments of individuals on the most ordinary questions, that occur to be examined by them? How difficult is it often for twelve men to come to an uniform judgment, on the same subject? Must there not be error, amidst these contradictory individual judgments and opinions ? What reasonable man, then, would ever admit, that the private judgment of every individual is a basis and rule of certitude, in determining what are the doctrines, precepts, and institutions of Christ; or what are the dispositions and conditions of salvation, which were prescribed by him, and on the knowledge, and observance of which the eternal happiness of every individual de

pends ?

Is the private interpretation of Scripture a more sure rule of certitude, in determining these points of fact? Is it not, in reality, the same thing, in its principle and consequences, as private judgment?

I will not at present inquire, whether the authenticity of the Scripture, as a revealed book, or the integrity of its text, or the faithfulness of its translation, can be ascertained without the extrinsic testimony of the church of Christ. I will not inquire whether all those things which Christ taught, ordained, and commanded, are contained in the Scripture : though these are important points. But, waving these points, I will only consider whether the private interpretation of authentic Scripture is a sure rule of certitude, in determining the objects of the proposed question of fact.

Private interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, like private individual judgment, is uncertain, and leads to error. Its uncertainty is manifest from the variety of discordant interpretations of the same texts, which the same individual often adopts at different times. Its erroneous tendency is evident

from the contradictory doctrices which individuals, equally learned, equally sincere, equally pious, often derive from the same text, according to their respective private views and interpretations of it. Do not those who believe the Trinity, and those who deny it-those who believe the divinity of Christ, and those who deny it—those who believe the necessity of baptism, and those who deny it—those who believe the real presence, and those who deny it-all learn their contradictory doctrines from the Scripture? What then! Is the Scripture in contradiction to itself? Surely not. It is essentially consistent in its true sense ; but, the interpretations of its meaning, given by those who follow the rule of private judgment, are evidently contradictory.

Where, then, are certainty and truth to be found, amidst these contradictory interpretations of the sense of the Holy Scriptures? How can it be truly ascertained by them, what Christ really taught, instituted, and commanded, and what conditions of salvation Christ really prescribed ?

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