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Thus far my charity this path bath tried, (A much unskilful, but well-meaning guide) [bred Yet what they are, e'en these crude thoughts were By reading thiat which better thou hast read, Thy matchless Author's work; which thou, my friend, By well translating better dost commend : Those youthful hours, wlrich, of thy 'equals most In toys have squander'd, or in vice have lost, Those hours hast thou to nobler 'use employ'd, And the severe delights of truth enjoyd : Witness this weighty book, in which appears The crabbed toil of many thoughtful years, Spent by thy author in the sifting care Of Rabbins' old sophisticated ware From gold divine; which he wlio well can sort, May afterwards make Algebra a sport. A treasure, which it country curates buy, They Junius and Tremellius may defy; Save pains in various readings and translations, And without Hebrew make most learn'd quotations. A work so full with various learning fraught, So nicely ponderd, yet so strongly wrought, As Nature's height and Art's last hand requird; As much as man could compass uninspir'd: Where we may see what errors have been made Both in the copiers' and translators' trade; How Jewish, Popish interests, have prevailid, And where infallibility has fail'd.

For some, who have his secret meaning guessid, Have found our author not too much a priest : For fashion-sake he seems to have recourse To Pope, and councils, and tradition's force: But he that old traditions could subdue, Could not but find the weakness of the new.

If Scripture, though deriv'd from heavenly birth,
Has been but carelessly preserv'd on earth;
If God's own people, who of God before
Knew what we know, and had been proinis’d more
In fuller terms, of Heaven's assisting care,
And who did neither time nor study spare
To keep this Book untainted, unperplext,
Let in gross errors to corrupt the text,
Omitted paragraphs, embroild the sense,
With vain traditions stopt the gaping fence,
Which every common hand pulld up with ease,
What safety from such brush-wood helps as these?
If written words from time are not secur'd,
How can we think have oral sounds endur'd?
Which thus transmitted, if one mouth has failid,
Immortal lies on ages are intail'd;
And that some such have been, is prov'd too plain,
If we consider interest, church, and gain.

Oh but, (says one) tradition set aside,
Where can we hope for an unerring guide?
For, since the original Scripture has been lost,
All copies disagreeing, maim'd the most,
Or Christian faith can have no certain ground,
Or truth in church tradition must be found.'

Such an omniscient church we wish indeed;
Twere worth both Testaments, cast in the Creed;
But if this mother be a guide se sure,
As can all doubts resolve, all truths secure;
Then her infallibility as well,
Where copies are corrupt or lame, can tell;
Restore lost canon with as little pains
As truly explicate what still remains;
Which yet no council dare pretend to do,
Unless, like Esdras, they could write it new :
Strange confidence, still to interpret true,

Yet pot be sure that all they have explain'd
Is in the blest original containid !
More safe, and much more modest 'tis to say,
God would not leave mankind without a way;
And that the Scriptures, though not every where
Free from corruption, or entire, or clear,
Are nncorrupt, sufficient, clear, entire,
In all things which our needful faith require.
If others in the same glass better see,
'Tis for themselves they look, but not for me;
For my salvation must its doom receive
Not from what others, but what I believe.

Must all tradition then be set aside ?
This to affirm were ignorance or pride.
Are there not many points, some needful, sure,
To saving faith, that Scripture leaves obscure?
Which every sect will wrest a several way;
For what one sect interprets, all sects may :
We hold, and say we prove from Scripture plain,
That Christ is God; the bold Socinian
From the same Scripture urges he's but Man.
Now what appeal can end the important suit?
Both parts talk loudly, but the rule is mute.

Shall I speak plain, and, in a nation free, Assume an honest layman's liberty? I think (according to my little skill) To my own Mother-church submitting still, That many liave been sav'd, and many may, Who never heard this question brought in play. The' unletter'd Christian, who believes in gross, Plods on to Heav'n, and ne'er is at a loss : For the strait gate would be made straiter yet, Were none admitted there but men of wit. The few, by Nature form’d, with learning fraught, Born to instruct, as others to be taught,

Must study well the sacred page, and see
Which doctrine, this or that, does best agree
With the whole tenor of the work divine,
And plainliest points to Heaven's reveald design :
Which exposition flows from genuine sense,
And which is forc'd by wit and eloquence.
Not that tradition's parts are useless bere,
When general, old, disinteress’d, and clear :
That ancient Fathers thus expound the page,
Gives truth the reverend majesty of age ;
Confirms its force by biding every test;
For best authorities next rules are best;
And still the nearer to the spring we go,
More limpid, more unsoil'd, the waters flow.
Thus first traditions were a proof alone,
Could we be certain such they were, so known ;
But since sone flaws in long descent may be,
They make not truth, but probability.
E'en Arius and Pelagius durst provoke
To what the centuries preceding spoke :
Such difference is there in an oft-told tale;
But truth by its own sinews will prevail.
Tradition written, therefore, more commends
Authority than what from voice descends :
And this, as perfect as its kind can be,
Rolls down to us the sacred history,
Which from the universal church receiv'd,
Is tried, and, after, for itself believ'd.

The partial Papists would infer from hence
Their church, in last resort, shonld judge the sense.
But first they would assume, with wondrous art,
Themselves to be the whole, who are but part
Of that vast frame, the church : yet grant they were
The handers down, can they from thence infer

A right to’interpret? or would they alone
Who brought the present, claim it for their own?
'The Book's a common larges3 to mankind,
Not more for them than every man design'd;
The welcome news is in the letter found,
The carrier's not commission'd to expound.
It speaks itself, and what it does 'contain,
In all things needful to be known is plain.

In times o'ergrown with rust and ignorance,
A gainful trade their clergy did advance;
When want ot' learning kept the layman low,
And none but priests were authoriz’d to know :
When what small knowledge was in them did dwell,
And he a god who could but read or spell;
Then Mother-church did mightily prevail,
She parcell'd out the Bible by retail ;
But still cxpounded what she sold or gave,
To keep it in her power to damn and save:
Scripture was scarce, and, as the market went,
Poor laymen took salvation on content,
As needy men take money, good or bad ;
God's word they had not, but the priest's they had.
Yet, whate'er false conveyances they made,
The lawyer still was certain to be paid.
In those dark times they learn'd their knack so well,
That by long use they grew infallible:
At last, a knowing aye began to inquire
If they the Book, or that did them inspire ; [late,
And, making narrower search, they found, though
That what they thought the priest's was their estate;
Taught by the will produc'd (the written word)
How long they had been cheated on record.
Then every man, who saw the title fair,
Claim'd a child's part, and put in for a share;

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