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fallible assurance, as to what doctrines we should believe, is on the contrary the very parent of uncertainty, and cannot consequently be that “ infallible rule established by Christ, to guide us in matters of religion, and to determine disputes in his church.”
Now let us look at your rule. If you have an infallible, visible judge of controversy, how do you get at the proof of his infallibility ? Is he not appointed by Christ ? You say he is.— Then you find the proof of it in the sacred Scriptures of course.
How then do you interpret those Scriptures, in discovering that there is such a judge ? Not infallibility, for the existence of any infallible judge is yet to be proved. And as regards his existence you are left, as you must admit, to decide from Scripture by your own unaided reason.
Your judgment on the subject is formed upon the same principles as ours. Can you then claim any more certainty for your opinion than we for ours ? If you can, show it, if not, your argument against our rule, if sound, destroys your own.
Again, when you are satisfied by private, fallible judgment, that there is an infallible judge, you must seek the true church, for in it alone is he to be found. Then how do you identify the true church ? By the word of God, as you acknowledge. You find out the notes of the true church. Of these notes Bellarmine numbers fifteen.—These are all to be proved from Scripture. By whom ? By fallible men, (for the infallible judge is yet to be found ;) by private interpretation ; for the public oracle is yet to be discovered after you have searched out from the word of God the notes of the true church, and applied them to find that oracle. Then having found him you go back to ask of him, what the word of God means.-Now is not this uncertain, and fallible? Yet this is the foundation on which your system of infallibility rests. It is more uncertain than our rule, by one remove.
We godirectly to the Bible for all our doctrines, and there stop. But you being fallible, take the Bible to find the infallible judge ; and then return with him to learn what the Bible means. But when you have got the decrees, confessions, bulls, &c. of this infallible judge, are they better or more clear than our Bible ? Can your judge be more lucid than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ? And after you have gotten these infallible judgments do not they also need an interpreter as much as the Bible ? So palpable is the defect here, that your writers own that you have no infallibility but only strong probability, “ PRUDENTIAL MOTIVES,” and “MORAL CERTAINTY" in finding out the true church, and the infallible judge in her. The Rev. Mr. M'Guire in the “ discussion,” &c. page 134, owns “ that the catholic has only lo exercise his private judgment upon the Scripture-proofs of the authority of the church; that once established, the catholic is enabled to make an act of faith upon divine authority.” Once established. But how establish it? Ah, here is the fatal gap! A house without a foundation ! If "private judgment" must find out your infallible judge why may it not also find out, what we need to guide us to God ? May we not as certainly determine the authority of the Bible and its true meaning, as you the notes of the church, and the infallible church ? May we not be as certain of " the divinity of Jesus Christ” as you of the true church? May we not rest as securely on the infallibility of this great and only
head of the church, and of his inspired apostles, as you on the infallibility of your judge of controversies? If, without infallibility, you can reach an infallibile judge, may we not without it also reach certainty and safety ?
I. But though there are points of sophistry which I had wished to expose on the threshhold, I will, for want of space, pass to meet your objections. The first is “ the Bible is the Protestant rule of faith. But the Bible was not written until more than half a century after Christ's death-therefore the Bible alone could not have been the only rule of faith established by Christ.”. (The reader is referred to the entire paragraph.) Do you mean then to say that the Bible was not written until fifty years after Christ's death ? A very small part of the New Testament was not. But it is a strong figure of speech to say the Bible was not written. The Old Testament canon was sanctioned by Christ and his apostles. Before the New Testament was written, and during the continuance of Christ and his apostles on earth, the Old Testament with their inspired instructions, whether spoken or written, attested by miracles, was the infallible rule of faith. Before the death of the last Apostle, the entire New Testament was written. Now
you will hardly say that the paper, ink, type, lids, &c. &c. of the Bible, make the Revelation, though they record it. · If not, then all who had the Old Testament and the inspired instructions of Christ and his apostles, had (essentially) our rule of faith—and if you prove yourself inspired by the same miracles they gave, we will take you too for our infallible guides. But they were to have no such successors, and their writings were intended to preserve and perpetuate their infallible instructions.Hence, either the Apostles did not write the same doctrines which Christ and they spoke, or else we have the same rule of faith with those who died before all the New Testament was written.
II. You call for the “Scriptural warrant for making the Bible alone the rule of faith” and require “ chapter and verse.” You concede that “the Scriptures are indeed the inspired word of God and as such have been guarded and vindicated by the Church.” What then are the Scriptures ? A revelation from God to man, written by inspired men-for the use of the race-containing infinitely important communications in which all are interested, addressed to the reason, conscience and affections of men—and as clearly intelligible (or will you dispute this ?) as other books.
What then can these Scriptures be but our rule of faith, and, as they are inspired, an infallible rule? And if no specific statement to the contrary be found in them, they must of course be regarded as the only one. Here then I remark, 1. The presumption from the admitted fact of its being a revelation is, that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith. 2. If it be not so, it is the duty of those who deny it to prove their statement. You claim a prescriptive right, to dictate to man what this revelation means, and what they shall believe. This is "a dominion over their faith” that Paul the inspired author of a large part of the New Testament, disclaims(2 Cor. i. 24.) It is a claim abhorrent from reason, at war with the rights of conscience, and a usurpation of the prerogative of God.
If not, you ought in all propriety to prove it, being a most unusual claim. 3. The only adequate proof that can be given of it will be a miracle-convincing the very senses as well as reasons of men, that have a power from God to rule our faith, and if it need be, add new Scriptures (see John iii. 3.)—I am happy to know that your church concedes this, by her pretended miracles, while her utter failure to work them explodes all claim to infallibility. Christ has thus attested his mission and his claims : so did his inspired apostles. You claim to succeed them in these respects. Then give the same proof of your claim. Until you do, the world cannot admit the pretension. It is absurd and most presumptuous. 4. But what proof have you from the Bible, “ chapter and verse," of such a right, viz. " that your church has in her, a human infallible judge of controversies, that the books called Apocrypha are part of the word of God, that “ unwritten traditions” are of equal authority with the Bible, and that all these, “ interpreted according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers,” make the true rule of faith ?-Produce it, chapter and verse, or else your rule is a mere assumption."
Here we might safely rest this head, for you are bound up inextricably.-But 5. We have proof, “chapter and verse," of what you require, and though not ipsissima verba, the very words you prescribe, yet equivalent words. See then, Isaiah viii. 20.-" To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to them, it is because there is no light in them.” 2 Tim. iii. 15–17. “ And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—You have given us a garbled extract from this passage, comprised in only four words. Here you have it in full. Here is 1. The Holy Scripture, all of which is inspired, and therefore infallible. 2. It is able to make wise to salvation—without any human judge or help, through faith in Christ Jesus. 3. It answers all the ends of a divine revelation, “ is pro-. fitable," and adequate “for doctrine," " for reproof,” or confutation as to all sin, error, &c. &c. “ for correction," " for instruction in righteousness.” Is any thing wanting here? 4. By it the minister of Christ, “the man of God,” as well as the private Christian, “may be perfect,” “ THOROUGHLY FURNISHED" without any but the Holy Spirit's teaching, "unto all good works." 5. Timothy was assured of all this; and needing no change, “should continue in these things.” If this does not constitute an infallible rule, for all uses, whether " determining disputes,” or “guiding us in matters of religion," I am at a loss to imagine what does. Here then the word of God is the “very standard” which you justly say, it is so important to settle ; and it is fully and infallibly sufficient as a rule of faith.
III. A rule of faith supposes a God to give and a mind to receive and use it. My God, my Bible, and my mind are therefore supposed, in my use of this rule. Now for your argument. It is profound indeed! It runs thus :-The Bible alone, * on the sheli,” is
one. A man reads it: that makes two; therefore the Bible alone is no rule of faith. And again :--The reader is fallible--the reader and the Bible make the rule of Protestants, therefore the rule is fallible! Such logic, dear Sir, will not soon assert your claim to infallibility:
IV. Under this head you say that the Bible alone cannot be the rule of faith, because we are all bound as Christians to believe that the Bible is an authentic and inspired book, and you defy any one to prove this from the Bible. So are we required to believe in the existence of a God, yet you do not go to the Bible for the proof of this great doctrine. "It is pre-supposed from the very existence of things. Just so, the authenticity of the sacred volume is assumed at the outset, when it is admitted as a revelation and a rule of faith. And yet you demand a proof of its being authentic, &c. from itself, or deny its being the alone rule of faith! Suppose an infidel were to argue thus with you: “Your revelation demands of you a belief of a Deity, but by the Bible alone the fact of his existence cannot be proved, therefore your revelation is defective." You would laugh him to scorn. How then will Protestants regard your application of the same reasoning to overturn their rule of faith? Admitting it to be, as you do, a Revelation from God, you ask for that proof of its authenticity, &c. which is inseparably connected with and presupposed in the very existence of a revelation! Your latent meaning in all that paragraph is, that we need the church to tell us what is Bible and what is not. Thus, by the true church, you would prove the authenticity of the Bible. And how do you verify the true church? By the marks--by the Bible. You will prove the church by the Bible, and then the Bible by the church; and thus your argument will run in a constant circle, proving nothing but its own absurdity.
V. Here you argue, (see the head,) that it was not universally known, until the end of the fisth century, what books were to be regarded as inspired Scriptures,-therefore, before that time, there was no infallible rule, or if there was, it was not the Bible' alone. I reply, if there had been an infallible living judge of controversy in the church at this time, who was authorized as you say your church is, to settle what books were “inspired Scripture," then how comes it that it was not universally known, which they were for five hundred years ? But if there were no such infallible judge, what becomes of your rule of faith? You say in the 4th head, “we are bound as Christians to believe the Bible is authentic and inspired," and again, that “ the doctrines of Christianity have been regarded by the Catholic Church, from the beginning, as fixed stars in the firmament of revelation.” “ She has ascertained and certified their existence, from the commencement,”' &c.; therefore it follows, that the church knew from the beginning which books were authentic, and taught (as one of her doctrines) which those books were. When Fou say then, they were not known, you contradict yourself. If you cover your retreat under the word “ universally," then either e church concealed what she knew, or wherever the church was ETT, this was known. But I deny that there was this uncertainty
about the canon of Scripture until the end of the fifth century. Some contend that it was settled by the apostle John. Origen, A. D. 210, Eusebius in 315, Athanasius in 315, Cyril, 310, Council of Laodicea, 364, &c. &c. give catalogues of the inspired books. Most of them give an exact catalogue of the New Testament. Some who were certain as to the rest, were doubtful only as to four of these many books. In the mean time, the churches had “ all the books ;” and these doubts of some, did not make it less truly the real and full rule. How strange, then, that you should speak of the Bible at large, as uncertain until near the end of the fifth century, when all the books of the Old, and all of the New Testament, except four, were certainly known before the death of the Apostle John. As to those who lived before the art of printing was invented," and those who “cannot read,” it is an unworthy quibble ; for I suppose you will not ceny, that in each case, they could as well understand the fallible interpretation of Scripture by a Protestant preacher, as the fallible interpretation of your decrees of councils, bulls, &c. by a Romanist?
VI. and VII. You say the Bible alone, or the Bible and private interpretation, have settled no disputes, but promoted them. They have also promoted heresy. But the infallible rule of faith is designed to settle disputes and promote unity. Therefore the Bible alone cannot be the infallible rule of faith. Poor Bible! what a transgresfor thou hast been! How right was it for the Council of Trent to lay thee on the shelf! 'To all you say on this point, I answer, your rule has worked worse than ours, to say the least, sor you have either to put an end to disputes by force, and so wanted not a rule but a ruler, or driven off church after church, and nation after nation
How did you settle the dispute with the Waldenses and Albigenses? How with the Greek Church, and how with the Reformers? Again, you argue from the abuse of a thing against its perfection : now when we say the Bible is an infallible rule of faith, and competent to settle disputes, we mean that it is a sufficient, not a compulsory means--nor do we say that it is incapable of abuse. Will you say this of your rule ? Has it not been abused ? When a rule is abused, it is the fault of men, not of the Bible. This you admit, when you say that an infallible rule must “ give to those who abide by its decision an infallible certainty,” &c. So we say.-But what if they will not abide ? Is there any remedy? I know of none but the Inquisition, and the like. If you are willing to take this ground, you are welcome to it. Once more-your argument would lead to this, that as no rule which can be abused is infallible, and some men will abuse the best rules, therefore a rule cannot be infallible.
Your VIIIth and IXth heads are only changes hung on the same fallacious reasoning exposed above. ('The reader will please examine them.) The sum of the argument is thism“Do you not admit, that in holding Presbyterian doctrine, you may be in error; if so, what confidence have you in the infallibility of your guides then you are compelled to admit, by your own rule, that you may he wrong, and the Unitarian right.” I answer, do you not admit