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Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.
This canon is the mother of all canons against heresies. The cause of error is twofold: ignorance of the will of God, and ignorance or superficial consideration of the power of God. The will of God is more revealed through the Scriptures : Search the Scriptures ; his power more through his creatures: Behold and consider the creatures. So is the plenitude of God's power to be asserted, as not to involve any imputation upon his will. So is the goodness of his will to be asserted, as not to imply any derogation of his power. True religion therefore is seated in the mean, between Superstition with superstitious heresies on one side, and Atheism with profane heresies on the other. Superstition, rejecting the light of the Scriptures, and giving itself
up to corrupt or apocryphal traditions, and new revelations or false interpretations of the Scriptures, invents and dreams many things concerning the will of God which are astray and alien from the Scriptures. Atheism and Theomachy rebels and mutinies against the power of God; not trusting to his word, which reveals his will, because it does not believe in his power, to whom all things are possible. Now the heresies which spring from this source appear to be more heinous than the rest: for in civil government also it is a more atrocious thing to deny the power and majesty of the prince, than to slander his reputation. But of the heresies which deny the power of God, there are, besides simple atheism, three degrees; and they have all one and the same mystery (for all antichristianism works in a mystery, that is under a shadow of good); namely to discharge the will of God from all imputation of evil. The first degree is of those
. who set up two equal and contrary principles, at war with one another, one of good the other of ill. The second is of those who think it too injurious to the majesty of God to allow of an active and affirmative principle being set up against him; and therefore reject such boldness; but nevertheless bring in a negative and privative principle in opposition to him. For they suppose it to be the inherent natural and substantive operation of matter itself and the creature, to tend and fall back of itself into confusion and nothingness : not knowing that it is no less the work of omnipotence to make nothing of something, than to make something of nothing. The third degree is of those who limit and restrain the former opinion to human actions only, which partake of sin : which actions they suppose to depend substantively and without any chain of causes upon the inward will and choice of man ; and who give a wider range to the knowledge of God than to his power; or rather to that part of God's power (for knowledge itself is power) whereby he knows, than to that whereby he works and acts; suffering him to foreknow some things as an unconcerned looker on, which he does not predestine and preordain : a notion not unlike the figment which Epicurus introduced into the philosophy of Democritus, to get rid of fate and make room for fortune ; namely the sidelong motion of the Atom; which has ever by the wiser sort been accounted a very empty device. But the fact is that whatever does not depend upon God as author and principle, by links and subordinate degrees, the same will be instead of God, and a new principle and kind of usurping God. And therefore that opinion is rightly rejected as treason against the majesty and power of God. And yet for all that it is very truly said that God is not the author of evil ; not because he is not author, but because not of evil.
OF THE CHURCH AND THE SCRIPTURES.
Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the con
tradiction of tongues. Contradictions of tongues are found everywhere out of the tabernacle of God: turn which way you will therefore, you will find no end of controversies unless you betake yourself thither. True, you all say — namely to the unity of the Church. But observe. In the tabernacle was the ark, and in the ark was the testimony or tables of the law. Why do you talk to me of the tabernacle, which is the shell ; without the testimony, which is the kernel ? The tabernacle was ordained for the custody and handing down of the testimony. In like manner to the Church is committed the custody and handing down of the Scriptures : but the soul of the tabernacle is the testimony.