Page images

interpreters was founded high by the Catholic writers; and the clamour was so great and so popular, that the Protestants knew not how, consistently with their own principles, or even in mere decency, to decline the appeal which was thus confidently made to that tribunal. The Reformers, too, piqued themselves on their superior skill in antient literature; and were ashamed to have it thought that their 'adversaries could have any advantage againft them in a dispute, which was to be carried on in that quarter. Other considerations had, perhaps, their weight with particular churches: But, for these reasons, chiefly, all of them forwardly closed in with the proposal of trying their cause at the bar of the antient church: And, thus, shifting their ground, maintained henceforth, not that the scriptures were the sole rule of faith, but the scriptures, as interpreted by the primitive fathers.

When the state of the question was thus changed, it was easy to see what would be


the issue of so much indiscretion. The dispute was not only carried on in a dark and remote scene, into which the people could not follow their learned champions; but was rendered infinitely tedious, and, indeed, interminable. For those early writings, now to be considered as of the highest authority, were voluminous in themselves ; and, what was worse, were composed in so loose, so declamatory, and often in so hyperbolical a strain, that no certain sense could be affixed to their doctrines, and any thing, or everything, might, with some plausibility, be proved from them.

The inconvenience was sensibly felt by the Protestant world. And, after a prodigious waste of industry and erudition, a learned foreigner [?], at length, shewed the inutility and the folly of pursuing the contest any further. In a well-considered discourse, On, the use of the Fathers, he clearly evinced, that their authority was U M. Daillé.


[ocr errors]


much less, than was generally supposed, in all points of religious controversy; and that their judgement was especially incompetent in those points, which were agitated by the two parties. He evinced this conclusion by a variety of unanswerable arguments; and chiefly by shewing that the matters in debate were, for the most part, such as had never entered into the heads of those old writers, being, indeed, of much later growth, and having first sprung up in the barbarous ages. They could not, therefore, decide on questions, which they had no occasion to consider, and had, in fact, never considered; however their careless or figurative expression might be made to look that way, by the dextrous management of the controverfialifts.

This discovery had great effects. It opened the eyes of the more candid and intelligent inquirers : And our incomparable Chillingworth, with some others [m], [m] Lord Falkland, Lord Digby, Dr. Jer. Taylor, &c.


took the advantage of it to set the controversy with the church of Rome, once more, on its proper foot; and to establish, for ever, the old principle, THAT THE Bible, and that only, (interpreted by our best reason) IS THE RELIGION OF PROTEST


Thus, one of the two pillars, on which the Protestant cause had been established, was happily restored. And, though Mr. Mede, about the same time, fucceeded as well in his attempts to replace the OTHER, yet, through many concurring prejudices, the merit of that service hath not, hitherto, been so generally acknowledged. Whether the Pope be the Antichrift of the prophets, is still by some Protestants made a question. Yet, it seems as if it would not continue very long to be so: And it may not be too much to expect, that this institution will, hereafter, contribute to put an end to the dispute.

The Reformation will, then, be secured against the two invidious charges of Schism


and Heresy (for neitber of which is there any ground, if the Pope be Antichrist, and if the fole Rule of faith to a Christian be the canonical scriptures) and will, thus, stand immoveably on its antient and

: proper foundations.

In saying this, I do not, however, mean to assert, that the Reformation has no support, but in this principle that the Pope is Antichrift. There are various other confiderations, which are decisive in the controversy between us and the Papifts. So that, if the prophecies should, after all, be found to suit any other person or power, better than the Roman Pontif, we shall only have one argument the less .to urge against his pretensions, and the Protestant cause, in the mean time, ftands fecure. But, on the supposition that the prophecies are rightly, and must be exclusively, applied to the church of Rome (of which every man will judge for himself, from the evidence hereafter to be laid before him)


« PreviousContinue »