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8. THE TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH
The divine Omnipotence and Wisdom have principally employed these arguments, to prove the Divinity of this blessed word. But, that the Church might not defile herself by that basest vice, ingratitude of heart, and that she might perform a supplementary service in aid of God her Author and of Christ her Head, she also by her testimony adds to the Divinity of this word. But it is only an addition; she does not impart Divinity to it; her province is merely an indication of the Divine nature of this word, but she does not communicate to it the impress of Divinity. For unless this word had been Divine when there was no Church in existence, it would not have been possible for her members "to be born of this word, as of incorruptible seed," (1 Pet. i. 23,) to become the sons of God, and, through faith in this word, "to be made partakers of the Divine Nature." (2 Pet. i. 4.) The very name of "authority" takes away from the Church the power of conferring Divinity on this doctrine. For Authority is derived from an Author: But the Church is not the Author, she is only the nursling of this word, being posterior to it in cause, origin, and time. We do not listen to those who raise this objection: "The Church is of greater antiquity than the scripture, because at the time when that word had not been consigned to writing, the Church had even then an existence." To trifle in a serious matter with such cavils as this, is highly unbecoming in Christians, unless they have changed their former godly manners and are transformed into Jesuits. The Church is not more ancient than this saying: "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head ;" (Gen. iii. 15,) although she had an existence before this sentence was recorded by Moses in Scripture. For it was by the faith which they exercised on this saying, that Adam and Eve became the Church of God; since, prior to that, they were traitors, deserters and the kingdom of Satan—that grand deserter and apostate. The Church is indeed the pillar of the truth, (1 Tim. iii. 15,) but it is built upon that truth as upon a foundation, and thus directs to the truth, and brings it forward into the sight of men. In this way the Church performs the part of a director and a witness to this truth, and its guardian, herald, and interpreter. But in her acts of interpretation, the Church is confined to the sense of the word itself, and is tied down to the expressions of Scripture: for, according to the prohibition of St. Paul, it neither becomes her to be wise above that which is written;" (1 Cor. iv. 6,) nor is it possible for her to be so, since she is hindered both by her own imbecility, and the depth of things divine.
But it will reward our labour, if in a few words we examine the efficacy of this testimony, since such is the pleasure of the Papists, who constitute "the authority of the Church" the commencement and the termination of our certainty, when she bears witness to the scripture that it is the word of God. In the first place, the efficacy of the testimony does not exceed the veracity of the witness. The veracity of the Church is the veracity of men. But the veracity of men is imperfect and inconstant, and is always such as to give occasion to this the remark of truth, "All men are liars." Neither is the veracity of him that speaks, sufficient to obtain credit to his testimony, unless the veracity of him who bears witness concerning the truth appear plain and evident to him to whom he makes the declaration. But in what manner will it be possible to make the veracity of the Church plain and evident? This must be done, either by a notion conceived , long time before, or by an impression recently made on the minds of the hearers. But men possess no such innate notion of the veracity of the Church as is tantamount to that which declares, "God is true and cannot lie." (Tit. i. 2.) It is necessary, therefore, that it be impressed by some recent action; such impression being made either from within or from without. But the Church is not able to make any inward impression, for she bears her testimony by external instruments alone, and does not extend to the inmost parts of the soul. The impression, therefore, will be external; which can be no other than a display and indication of her knowledge and probity, as well as testimony, often truly so called. But all these things can produce nothing more than an opinion in the minds of those to whom they are offered. Opinion, therefore, and not knowledge, is the supreme effect of this efficacy.
But the Papists retort, "that Christ himself established the authority of his Church by this saying, "He that heareth you, heareth me." (Luke x. 16.) When these unhappy reasoners speak thus, they seem not to be aware that they are establishing the authority of Scripture before that of the Church. For it is necessary that credence should be given to that expression as it was pronounced by Christ, before any authority can, on its account, be conceded to the Church. But the same reason will be as tenable in respect to the whole Scripture as to this expression. Let the Church then be content with that honour which Christ conferred on her when he made her the guardian of his word, and appointed her to be the director and witness to it, the herald and the interpreter.
III. Yet since the arguments arising from all those observations which we have hitherto adduced, and from any others which are calculated to prove the Divinity of the scriptures, can neither disclose to us a right understanding of the scriptures, nor seal on our minds those meanings which we have understood, (although the certainty of faith which God demands from us, and requires us to exercise in his word, consists of these meanings,) it is a necessary consequence, that to all these things ought to be added something else, by the efficacy of which that certainty may be produced in our minds. And this is the very subject on which we are not prepared to treat in this the third part of our discourse
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