Tradition -

Oh but, says one, tradition set aside,
Where can we hope for an unerring Guide ?
For since th' 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 , and cast in the Creed :
But if this Mother be a Guide so sure
As can all doubts resolve , all truth 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 doe;
Unless like Esdras , they could write it new:
Strange Confidence, still to interpret true,
Yet not be sure that all they have explain'd,
Is in the blest Original contain'd.
More Safe, and much more modest 'tis to say
God wou'd not leave Mankind without a way:
And that the Scriptures , though not every where
Free from Corruption, or intire, or clear,
Are uncorrupt, sufficient, clear, intire,
In all things which our needfull 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 needfull 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 th' 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 have been sav'd, and many may,
Who never heard this Question brought in play.
Th' unletter'd Christian, who believes in gross ,
Plods on to Heaven and ne'er is at a loss:
For the Streight-gate would be made streighter 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 Tenour of the Work Divine:
And plainlyest points to Heaven's reveal'd Design:
Which Exposition flows from genuine Sense ;
And which is forc'd by Wit and Eloquence .
Not that Traditions parts are useless here:
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 Authority's , next Rules , are best.
And still the nearer to the Spring we go
More limpid, more unsoyl'd, the Waters flow.
Thus, first Traditions were a proof alone;
Cou'd we be certain such they were , so known :
But since some Flaws in long descent may be,
They make not Truth but Probability .
Even 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,
Rouls down to us the Sacred History:
Which, from the Universal Church receiv'd,
Is try'd , and after for its self believed.
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