Billeder på siden

even darkness itself is grown so impudent as to impute its inability to see, to the insufficiency of the light, he would be pleased to cause it to shine out of darkness, that it might plead the excelleney of its own divine nature in the consciences of men and women, against the scorns and detractions, that even too many of the great professors of christianity stick not to fling upon it. So ill are they principled, and so unchristianly employed. Which proves to me how little they are professors of the true, pure, and undefiled religion, whatever place their cunning devices may have given them in the hearts of weak, simple people. My soul pitieth their opposition, and feareth the consequences of such resistance, and desires they may see the very vanity of their endeavours against the light, repent of them, and be converted, that God may yet heal them.Which sincere prayer is my return for all their hard speeches and ungodly sayings against us in general, and myself in particular.






Greatly importing all those who desire to take right measures of faith, and to determine (at least to themselves,) the numerous controversies now on foot in the world; being an appendix to the first part of the Christian Quaker.



“For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumci

sion, but a new creature : and as many as walk according to this rule, peace

be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” Gal. vi. 16. “ But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit : for the Spirit searcheth

all things, yea, the deep things of God. - The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. —He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” 1 Cor. ii. 10,

11, 15. “But ye have an unction from the Holy One; and ye shall know all things."

1 John ü. 20.


SINCE there are so many faiths in the world, and perplexed controversies about them; and that it greatly behoveth every man, if to contend for, then first to know the true faith that overcometh the world ; it may not be unnecessary to say something of the general rule of faith and life, and judge of controversy, at this time. And indeed I am pressed to it from this weighty consideration, that men perish for want of it, and can no more arrive at truth without it, than the distressed mariner can gain his port who sails without either star or compass.

I shall begin with an explanation of the terms rule and faith, of which we shall first treat, that we may as well express wbat we intend by the one, as what we mean by the other, which will be a proper introduction to the whole discourse.

By general rule, &c. we understand, that constant measure or standard, by which men in all ages have been enabled to judge

of the truth or error of doctrines, and the good or evil of thoughts, words, and actions.

By faith we understand an assent of the mind, in such manner, to the discoveries made of God thereto, as to resign up to God, and have dependence upon him, as the great Creator and Saviour of bis people; which is inseparable from good works.

That men, in all ages, have had a belief of God, and some knowledge of him, though not upon equal discovery, must be granted from that account that all story gives us of mankind in matters of religion. Several have fully performed this. Of old, Justin Martyr, Clemens Alexandrinus, Augustine, and others. of latter times, Du Plessy, Grotius, Amiraldus, L. Herbert, and above all Dr. Cudworth. And indeed the relics we have of the most ancient historians and authors, are a demonstration in the point. Now the scripture tells us, that “no man knows the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son reveals him.” Mat. xi. 27.–And as “ none knows the things of man, save the spirit of man; so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.” 1 Cor. ii. 11 - Hence we may safely conclude, that the creating Word that was with God, and was God, in whom was life, and that life the light of men, and who is the quickening Spirit, was He by whom God in all ages bath revealed himself; consequently, that light or Spirit must have been the general rule of men's knowledge, faith and obedience, with respect to God. And thus much Pythagoras, who lived about six hundred years before those words were spoken or written, laid down for a maxim, viz. That no man can know what is agreeable to God, except a man hear God himself, and that must be within ; for that was his doctrine. To which the apostle and prophet thus agree: 1. In that " wbatever makes manifest is light.” Eph. v, 13. 2. That " whatever might be known of God was made manifest within ; for God, (who is light, 1 John i. 5,) had shown it unto them.” Rom. i. 19.And, * God hath shown unto thee, O man, what is good, and what God requireth of thee,” &c. (Mich. vi. 8.) which could not be without the light of his Son shining in man's conscience ; therefore the light of God in the conscience must needs have been the general rule, &c. It was by this law that Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedeck, Abimelech, Job, Jethro, &c. walked and were accepted, as saith Irenæus and Tertullian : « They were just by the law written in their hearts.” Iren. 1. ii. c. 30.-Tertul. con. Jud. p. 184. Then was it their rule to and in that just state.

Obj. It seems then you deny the scriptures to be the general rule, &c.

Answer. How can they be the general rule, that have not been general? That which was both before, and since they

were in being, must needs be more general than they. But that was this light in the conscience, the law and guide of those patriarchs, (for the scriptures began long after, in the time of Moses) consequently that must be the general rule, &c.

Obj. But granting that the light within were so before seripture was extant, yet since the writings of holy scripture, the scripture, and not the light, hath been the general rule.

Answer. That cannot be, unless Palestina, or Canaan, a little province of Asia, was the whole world, and that the Jews, a particular people, were all mankind. For at what time those writings were among the Jews, other nations were only left to the law and light within. This the apostle confirmeth in that passage, “For the Gentiles, which have not the law, (that is, the outward law, or law written upon stone,) do by nature the things contained in the law, which showeth the work of the Jaw written in their hearts." Rom. ii. 14, 15.–And the Gentiles themselves called it, “ The immutable law, the everlasting foundation of virtue; no lifeless precepts, but immortal ; a sacred good, God the overseer; the living rule, the root of the soul, that which makes the good man.” Thus Thales, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Plotin, Hieron, Philo, Plutareh, as cited. And saith Sophocles, “God grant that I may always observe that venerable sanctity in my words and deeds which these noble precepts, (written in man's heart,) require. God is their father, neither shall they ever be abrogated; for there is in them a great God that never waxeth old.” More reverent epithets than our opposers can afford, as their books too openly witness ; yet they would go for christian men, though mani. festly short of heathens.

Thus it is evident that the scripture was not the general rule, after it was given forth.

Obj. But bath it not been since, and is it not now the general rule, &c.

Answer. There hath been since, and is now the same impediment. For before Christ's coming in the flesh, and since, where the scriptures never reached, there hath been the same light. And though nations, by “not glorifying God as God," when they have kuown him, have been given up to all manner of iniquities, insomuch as their understandings have been greatly veiled, yet did not the light within so entirely lose its ruling exercise among them, as that they lived without any sense of such a thing. Therefore still the scriptures have not been, neither are the general rule ; do not so much as of any age, since in no age can it be proved that the whole, or greatest part of the world had them. But had they been so for some one or two ages, as they never were; yet the

granting it will not reach our question, where the word general implieth the nature of the thing itself, respecting mankind from the beginning of the world to this day, and so to the end.

Obj. But is not the scripture the rule, &c. of our day?

Answer. If the rule, then the general rule. For whatsoever is the rule of faith and life, excludeth all other from being general, they being but particular in respect of itself. Therefore not the rule, (though a rule,) of faith and life.

But besides their not being general, I have several reasons to offer, why they cannot be the rule of faith and life, &c.

* 1. If now the rule, then ever the rule. But they were not ever the rule ; and therefore they cannot now be the rule.That they were not ever the rule is granted. But that they are not therefore now the rule may be by some denied ; which I shall prove thus. If the faith of God's people in all ages be of one nature, then the rule but of one nature. . But clear it is, (Heb. xi.) the faith has been but of one nature, consequently the rule but of one nature. In short, is the holy ancients bad faith before they bad or wrote scripture, they had a rule before they had or wrote scripture ; for where faith is, there is a rule for that faith. And if the faith be of one nature, the rule is of one nature also. And since the faith is in

Justin Martyr saith, “That all are christians who live with Christ, as Abraham and Elias; and amongst the Greeks, as Socrates, Heraclitus, &c. See Scultetus on him, who also saith, that some at this day are of his judgment, who have taught that Melchizedeck, Abimelech, Ruth, Rachab, the queen of Sheba, Hiram of Tyre, Naaman the Syrian, and the city of Ninevah, are in the catalogue of Christians.””

Eusebius Pamph. in his Ecclesiastical History, saith, that Abraham and the ancient fathers were christians : and defines a christian to be, one that by the knowledge and doctrine of Christ excels in moderation of mind, in righteousness and continency of life, and strength of virtue and godliness towards one only God. See Scultetus on him.

Clemens Alexandrinus saith, the law of nature and of discipline is one.And Moses seems to call the Lord the covenant : for he had said before, the covenant was not to be sought in scripture ; for that is the covenant, wh ch God, the cause of all, setteth, whence his name in Greek is derived. And in the preaching of Peter, thou mayest find the Lord called the Word or kea. .son, and the Law. See his 1 book Strom. at the end. And before, page 333, he saith, the law and the gospel is the operation of one Lord, who is the virtue and wisdom of God : and the fear which the law had bred, is merciful to salvation : and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That she, (that is, wisdom,) that ministereth providence, is mistress and good and the power of both procureth salvation : the one chastizing as mistress ; the o her being bountiful, as a benefactor. For one must pass from darkness to life ; and applying his ear to wisdom, first be a servant, then a faithful minister, and so ascend into the number of sons, and be brought into the elect adoption of sons. That the law works to make them immortal, that choose to live temperately and justly. And again, evil men do not understand the law ; but they that seek the Lord, do understand every good thing. And the whole first book of the Stromata is especially to prove the antiquity of the one true religion, or philosophy as he calls it.

« ForrigeFortsæt »