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The Scriptures - by Rev. John Hales

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Hales explains why miracles are so important in the doctrine of Scripture, and how we know God’s word is His word. In a word – miracles.

How come I to know the Works which we call Livie’s, are indeed his whole name they bear? Hath God left men to know the profane writings of men? Hath he left no certain means to know his own records?

The first and outward means that brings us to the knowledge of these books, is the voice of the Church, noticed to us by our teachers and instructors, who first unclapped and opened them unto us, and that common duty which is exacted at the hand of every learner. Oportet discentem credere. And this remaining in us, peradventure is all the outward means, that the ordinary and plainer sort or Christians know.

To those who are conversant among the records of antiquity, farther light appears. To find the ancient copies of books, bearing these titles to find in all ages since their being written, the universal consent of all the Church, still resolving itself upon these writings, as seared and uncontrollable, these cannot choose but be strong motioners unto us, to pass our consent unto them, and to conclude, that whether these writings are that which they are taken fro or nothing left us from Antiquity is true. For whatsoever is that gives any strength or credit to anything of antiquity left to posterity, whether it be writings and records, or Traditions from hand to hand, or what those else soever, they all concur to the authorizing of Holy Scripture, as amply as they do any other thing left unto the World.

Yea, but will some man reply, this proves indeed strongly that Moses and the prophets, that St. Matthew and St. Paul, etc., write those books and about those times which they bear shew of, but this comes not home, for how proves this that they are of God? If I hears St. Paul himself preaching, what makes me believe him that his doctrine is from God, and his words, the words of the Holy ghost? For answer. There was no outward means to persuade the World at the first rising of Christianity that it is infallibly from God, a but only Miracles, such as impossibly were naturally to be done. Had I not done those things (saith our Savior) which not man else could do, you had had no sin. Had not the world seen those miracles, which did unavoidably prove the assistance and presence of divine power with those who first taught the will of Christ, it had not had so, if it had rejected them. For though the world by the light of natural discretion, might easily have discovered, that that was not the right way, where in it usually walked. Yet. That that was the true path, which the Apostles themselves began to tread, there was no means undoubtedly to prove, but miracles. And it the building were at his day to be raised, it could not be founded without miracles. To our forefathers therefore, whose ears first entertained the Word of life, miracles were necessary, and so they are to us, but after another order. For as the sight of these miracles did confirm the doctrine unto them, so unto us the infallible record of them. For whatsoever evidence there is that the word once began to be –reached, the very same confirms unto us that it was accompanied with miracles and wonder, so that as those miracles by being seen, did prove unanswerably unto our forefather the truth of the doctrine for the confirmation of which they were intended, so do they unto us never a whit less effectually approve it, by being left unto us upon these records, which if they fail us, then by antiquity there can be nothing left unto posterity which can have certain and undoubted credit. The certain and uncontrollable records of miracles, are the same to us the miracles are.

The Church of Rome, when she commends unto us the Authority of the Church in dijudicating of Scriptures, seems only to speak of herself, and that, of that part of her self which is at some existent, whereas we , when we appeal to the church’s testimony, content not ourselves with any part of the Church actually existent, but add unto it the perpetual successive testimony of the Church in all ages, since the apostles time, viz., since its first beginning, and out of both these draw an argument in this question of that force, as that from it not the subtlest disputer can find an escape, for who is it that can think to gain acceptance and credit with reasonable men by opposing not only the present church conversing in earth, but to the uniform consent of the church in all ages.

So that in effect, to us of after-ages, the greatest, if not the sole outward mean of our consent to the Holy Scripture, is the voice of the church, (excepting always copies of the books themselves bearing from their birth such or such names) of the Church, I say, and that not only of that part of it, which is actually existent at any time, but successively of the church ever since the time of the blessed Savior. For all these testimonies which from time to tome are left in the writings of our forefathers (as most every age ever since the first birth of the Gospel, hath by God’s providence left us store) are the continued voice of the Church, witnessing unto us the truth of these books, and their authority well. But this is only fides humano judicio & testimonio ac quesita, what shall we think of fides infusa? Of the inward working of the Holy Ghost, in the consciences of every believer? How far it is a persuader unto us of the authority of these books, I have not much to say. Only thus much in general, that doubtless the Holy Ghost so work in the heart of every true believer, that I leaves a further assurance, strong and sufficient, to ground and stay itself upon. But this, because it is private to everyone, and no way subject to sense, is unfit to yield arguments by way of dispute, to stop the cautious curiosities of wits disposed to wrangle, and by so much the more unfit it is, by how much by experience we have learned, that men are very apt to call, their own private conceit, the Spirit. To oppose unto these men to reform them, our own private conceits under the name likewise of the Spirit, were madness, so that to judge upon presumption of the Spirit in private, can in no way to bring either this or any other controversy to an end.

If it should please God at this day to add anything more unto the Canon of Faith, it were necessary it should be confirmed by miracles.

Taken from The Golden Remains of the Ever Memorable Mr. John Hales, London, 1687, Pages 328-331.

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