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What are the traditions of the former class ?
They are those whose origin may be deduced from historical writings, or other authentic testimonies and sources of information, independent of the authority of the Church, and of the spirit, by which it is itself continually directed. For there is a certain medium between sacred scripture and what they call tradition.
What are the injury and danger resulting from the traditions of the latter class?
That they furnish occasion to draw men from divine truth to falsehood, and to fables of human device.
But the Papists appear to maintain these traditions on the authority of the Scriptures?
Some of the testimonies which they adduce from the Scriptures, in support of their traditions, do indeed demonstrate, that several things were said and done by Christ and his apostles which are not included in the sacred volume: but they by no means prove that those things are essential to salvation; much less, that they are the identical matters which the Church of Rome obtrudes upon our belief. Some of those testimonies, as evidently appears from several passages of Seripture, do not refer to traditions which were never committed to writing; but to such as were not written with an exclusive view to particular persons and seasons; but which, nevertheless, might have been written by the same individuals or by others, in respect of other times, and of other, or even of the same, persons. Moreover, though some traditions were to be admitted, those ought on no account to be received
which are repugnant to the written word of God, or to sound reason;
-of which kind are not a few main! tained by the Roman Church.
OF THE PERSPICUITY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
You have now shown that the Holy Scriptures are both authentic and sufficient ;-what is your opinion as to their perspicuity ?
Although some difficulties do certainly occur in them ; nevertheless, those things which are necessary to salvation, as well as many others, are so plainly declared in different passages, that every one may understand them; especially if he be earnestly seeking after truth and piety, and implore divine assistance.
How will you prove this?
By the following considerations :-first, that since it was the design of God, when it pleased him to give the Holy Scriptures to mankind, that they should from them acquaint themselves with his will; it is not to be believed that the writings he would furnish them with for this purpose, should be of so defective a kind, that his will could not be perceived and understood from them by all. Secondly, that the apostles, even at the very first promulgation of the Christian Religion, addressed their epistles, which comprise the chief mysteries of Christianity, to men of plain understandings.
Whence then arise such differences in ascertaining the sense of the Scriptures ?
These differences, so far as they relate to the parts of Sacred Writ which are necessary to salvation, are
not very numerous; though the contrary is commonly supposed. And where differences do really exist, although some of them may arise from the obscurity of particular texts, yet the greatest number must be charged to men's own fault. For either they read the Scriptures with negligence, or bring not with them a sincere heart, disengaged from all corrupt desires; or have their minds warped by prejudice; or seek not divine assistance with becoming earnestness ; or else, finally, are perplexed by their ignorance of the languages in which the Scriptures were written. This last circumstance, however, can hardly exist in reference to those particulars which are essential to salvation : for, if some of these be conveyed in more obscure, the rest are delivered in the plainest, declarations of Scripture. By what means may the more obscure passages
of Scripture be understood ?
By carefully ascertaining, in the first instance, the scope, and other circumstances, of those passages, in the way which ought to be pursued in the interpretation of the language of all other written compositions. Secondly, by an attentive comparison of them with sisimilar phrases and sentences of less ambiguous meaning. Thirdly, by submitting our interpretation of the more obscure passages to the test of the doctrines which are most clearly inculcated in the Scriptures, as to certain first principles; and adınitting nothing that disagrees with these. And lastly, by rejecting every interpretation which is repugnant to right reason, or involves a contradiction.
Are the same rules of interpretation to be applied to the predictions of the Prophets ?
Not altogether : for the meaning of the more obscure prophecies cannot be ascertained without the immediate aid of the divine spirit, unless men divinely inspired have furnished us with their proper explanation, or communicated to us the information by which we may be enabled to understand them ;-or unless their true interpretation have been shown in their accomplishment. This is what the apostle meant to assert, when he observed (2 Peter i. 20,) that “no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.”
If the proper mode of interpreting the Scriptures be such as you have stated, of what service are religious teachers ?
To propose and inculcate those things which are necessary to salvation, notwithstanding they may be already plainly declared in the Scriptures ;--since all men are not able, or, if able, are not of their own accord disposed, to peruse them; and since it will be easier to acquire a clear apprehension of these things after the detached passages relating to them, which are dispersed throughout the sacred volume, have been collected by such teachers into one view. Further, to excite men to maintain, and reduce to practice, the knowledge they have once acquired : and lastly, to assist them to understand those matters which are more difficult.
SECTION SECTION II.
CONCERNING THE WAY OF SALVATION.
THE REASONS OF THE REVELATION OF THE WAY OY
SALVATION. I ACKNOWLEDGE myself satisfied by you in respect to the Holy Scriptures : but, as you stated at the commencement, that the way which leads to immortality was pointed out by God, I wish to know why you made this assertion ?
Because man is not only obnoxious to death; but could not of himself discover a way to avoid it, and that should infallibly conduct to immortality.
But wherefore is man obnoxious to death?
On two accounts :-whereof the first is, that he was originally created mortal ;-that is, was so constituted that he was not only by nature capable of dying, but also, if left to himself, could not but die; though he might, through the divine goodness, be for ever preserved alive.
How does this appear?
First, because he was formed out of the earth : secondly, because, as soon as he was created, he had need of food : and thirdly, because he was destined by God to beget children :-neither of which circumstances can be affirmed of an immortal nature. Besides, if Adam had been created immortal, it would