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New York, February 18th, 1833. TO THE REv. John HUGHES,
Sir, --It would appear from your exultation at the delay of my reply, that you were writing against time. I assure you that the force of your reasoning did not occasion that delay; as I think my answer sufciently evinces. When you gravely attempt to turn such an event to your own advantage, it must convince the public of the weakness of your cause; and it will more fully explain to you the reason and propriety of my bringing so distinctly to view, in our preliminary correspondence, the nature of my occupation.--If I had been in Philadelphia at the press, my reply would have appeared in its proper order as to time. As, however, you seem to intimate that there is merit in despatch, let me inform you that I have to-day, [the 18th February,] received your letter, No. 3; and that the time allowed me for reply, extends only to Thursday the 21st, when the manuscript must be mailed, in order to be in season for the next paper.
In regard to the terms " Papist and Romanist,” which you call ** nicknames,” it is proper here to remark, that truth requires their use. You assume the rank and name of “ Catholic,” that is, “ the universal Church," and all who are not in communion with you are heretics, doomed to perdition by your anathemà, now in full force, unless they repent and return. You beg the question, therefore, which is now in discussion, by the very name. Roman Catholic, in strict speech, is an absurdity, being equivalent, “ particular universal.” Protestants, as members of the universal Church, claim to be catholic; and it is as proper to call you “Papists," as us“ Protestants.”—The one name defines those who hold to the supremacy of the Pope ; the other those who protest against that system. If you are Roman Catholics, we are Protestant Catholics. I regard names then as signs of things; and use them for truth, not reproach. I shall feel no pang if you call me heretic, "for after the way you call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers ;” and with this explanation, I will hereafter endeavour to oblige you in the use of names.
What you say of Volney is not even an illustration, much less an argument; for it is not true that the doctrine of the Saviour's divinity contradicts our senses, or that He was in any way made, or his divinity destroyed by man; all of which are true. The ribaldry of Volney is one thing, and the exposure of bad theology is another. I meant no reproaches in what I said. But it seems impossible to define this doctrine without offending those who hold it. Perhaps you are not aware that John Huss wrote against the following sentiment of a Bohemian Priest : “ that a Priest before he says Mass is the Son of God, but afterwards he is the Father of God, and the creator of his body.” I charge nothing evil to the intentions of those who hold this doctrine ; I only show its inconsistencies and its tendencies.
But to proceed–The candid must be forcibly struck with the peculiar manner in which you pass by every argument brought by me against your rule of faith. Thus you say, “We are discussing the
rule of faith; and the parties adhere strictly to the subject of discus sion for the time being, and to admit of no second question until the first shall have been exhausted.” And again you say, “ Now the state of the question, as laid down in my first letter, required you not to attack my rule by anticipation, but to defend your own."--This indeed is strange reasoning. Is not the whole subject of the rule of faith before us? But the following paragraph explains your design in this course. “ If I prove, by unanswerable argument, that the Protestant rule fails, in all these heads, then it will follow, by the very tenor of our agreement, that the Catholic rule must be the true rule appointed by Christ.” This is saying, in other words, that your Church is the residuary legatee of truth. If the Samaritans are wrong, then must the Jews be right! It is like the claim once set up by a wily shepherd. All the flocks of the surrounding fields met at the brook on a summer's evening. The lambs were tender, and were not yet marked with the several shepherds' marks. When the flocks were separated, he claimed all the lambs. The others expostulated, one saying this is mine, and another, this is mine. But he replied, “ each of you have a mark for your sheep; these lambs have no mark upon them, and cannot be yours; therefore, they are mine.” In the spirit of this extraordinary plan of argument, you continue in this, as in your former letter, to keep your own rule wholly out of view; and you decline, in so many words, to answer my many objections to it. While you thus pass by all discussion of it, the inference is irresistible, that your hope of success rests upon the plan, of keeping out of view the defects of your system; and in seeking to perplex the general question before the public mind, by scholastic subtilties, when the subject calls for manly argument.
In view of these things, I feel myself called on to pursue, in the first place, the line of discussion with which I closed my former letter This course is on every account demanded; for your letter of the 14th inst. is only a second edition, head for head, of that already answered by me.
I. I have shown that your rule is not infallible.. I will now prove that it is the parent of UNCERTAINTY.
1. The authorised version of the Bible is in Latin, as well as the prayers, &c. of the church service. The Vulgate, with all its errors, was adopted by the Council of Trent as authentic and correct : yet a corrected edition was ordered by the same council, and it was printed under the care of the Pope, and published with his Bull, prohibiting any alteration in it. But so many errors were detected in it, that the edition was suppressed! These are statements you will hardly deny. 2. The ponderous acts, decisions, &c. of the infallible church are deposited in the following works, and in an unknown tongue. Archbishop Manse's Councils, 31 vols. folio ; Great Book of Bulls, 8 vols. folio ; Acta Sanctorum, 51 vols. folio; Decretals, about 10 vols. folio ; total 100 folio volumes, and then 35 folio volumes of the Fathers, whose unanimous consent is a part of the testimony. These are the fountain, but who of the people can get at it? What is drawn thence is transfused through the fallible and uncertain minds of innumerable priests, before it reaches the people. Yet these are the helps to understand the Bible! 3. The Church
of Rome is utterly silent about many doctrines ; as whether the Vir. gin Mary was born sinless. There have been fierce contests about it in your communion. But the oracle is dumb. Every Protestant child can decide this question. As to the very seat of the boasted infallibility, she was silent at Trent, and is now divided and uncertain ; and so of some other doctrines. 4. According to the doctrine of intention, (see Council of Trent, Sess. 7. Canon 11.] the efficacy of the sacraments depends on the intention of the officiating minister; some of these sacraments, of which you make seven, are necessary in order to salvation, and all. of them necessary in their places, to certain states in life. Thus marriage is not valid, if performed without the intention of the priest. Baptism and penance are not valid without his intention; and on these depend salvation. But who can be CERTAIN of the intention of the Priest? If the Bishop who ordained that Priest, lacked intention in the act, then the ordination is invalid, and, of course, all that Priest's acts are invalid. But who can be certain that in this chain of ages some link is not wanting? Who then can be certain of salvation in the Romish Church ? Yet the Duke of Brunswick, assigning his fifty reasons for becoming a Roman Catholic, says, “The Catholics, to whom I spoke concerning my conversion, assured me that if I were damned for embracing the Catholic faith they were ready to answer for me at the day of judgment, and to take my damnation upon themselves; an assuranee I could never extort from the ministers of any other sect, in case I should live and die in their religion.” While such daring impiety discovers the absence of all right feeling, it also evinces a desperation peculiar to a cause which needs propping at any price. Now if these statements be put together, they will show that your system is shrouded in uncertainty. But you contend in the first and second editions of your 10th head, " that a rule which is the parent of uncertainty, cannot be that infallible rule established by Christ, to guide us in matters of religion.”
II. The unwarrantable liberties of your church with the word of God, show her fallible to a deplorable degree. 1st. We have seen on a former occasion the liberty taken by your church in adding to the word of God the Apocryphal books and unwritten traditions. 2d. We see how she takes away from the Bible by her treatment of the Decalogue. The catechism of the Council of Trent repeats only four words of the second commandment, and closes with an expressive et cætera. A strange way to give a divine law, especially to a people who are deprived by the church of the word of God! The version used in the Highlands of Scotland (by authority) mutilates it almost in the same way. The version used in Ireland entirely omits the second commandment! The Doway Catechism is wiser, as it was to circulate where the omission would not be borne ; but it plainly perverts the commandment “ thou shalt not adore nor worship images," whereas the true translation is “ thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them." The reason for the change is very plain. 3d. The evidence adduced in proof of the sacrament of extreme unction by the Council of Trent, is no less than a literary, or, if you please, a pious fraud ; and I am prepared to prove it. The Rhenish and Bordeaux translations have been signalized by their numerous
and glaring frauds. 4th. Your church has added to the word of God new articles of faith, and even new sacraments to the institutions of Jesus Christ. Leo X. condemned Luther for saying, it is not in the power of the church or the Pope to constitute new articles of faith. Divers writers, as the Abbot of Panormo, Ancona, &c., contend that the Pope is the measure and rule of faith, and can make new articles. "The Bull of Pius IV. appended to the decrees of the Council of Trent, makes a new creed-including many new articles of faith, to be sworn to by all ecclesiastics ; and all are cursed who reject them. Among these innovations, brought in at different times, was transubstantiation, as young as A. D. 1215-purgatory-depriving the people of the cup in the Eucharist-indulgencies—the worship of images--prayer in an unknown tongue. It is of this that some one has remarked that your faith like the new moon, is crescent, with this difference, however, (let me add,) that it is not like hers, the growth of light. Bellarmine we suppose means this, when he says of one article, “ferde de fide” (de concil. auth. 1. 2. c. 17. s. 1.) * almost a matter of faith ;” a probationer for a seat in the creed ! If this be not “ teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, and making void the law of God by your traditions,” I know not what is. How true it is that“ Rome was not built in a day.” Here then your church both innovates upon the doctrine, and usurps the rights of God; and by this, she proves herself both fallible and guilty before God.
III. Your rule, if observed, requires implicit faith in the decretals and interpretations of fallible men, which is subversive of the very nature and end of religion in the soul. Faith supposes knowledge, conviction on evidence, and trust in God, founded on a belief of divine truth. But your rule requires unconditional subinission to the dicia of the church, in the lump. The “ Carbonaria fiiles,” or faith of the collier, is the very faith required.. It is as follows; When asked, “ What do you believe ?" He answered, “I believe what the church believes.” " What does the church believe ?!! Answer, " What I believe." “ Then what do you and the church together believe ?” Answer, “ We both believe the same thing." This is the grand catholicon for believing everything without knowing any thing. In this soil grew the maxim that “ignorance is the mother of devotion.” It is believing by proxy, or rather not believing at all, in the true sense. Here is the secret of the unity of your church. That this is not my bare assertion may be seen in the creed of Pope Pius IV., when it is said, “I admit the Holy Scripture according to the sense which the Holy mother Church, (whose right it is to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, hath held and doth hold.” The catechism also declares, that we avoid the damnation of our souls, " by taking the meaning and interpretation of the Scriptures from the same hand, from which we received the book itself, that is the church.” (Chap. 2. ques. 2.)
(Chap. 2. ques. 2.) Now I argue from these facts, that the operation of your rule is to annihilate inquiry, knowledge and faith, properly so called ; and shows it to be a most vicious and fallible rule.
IV. The means which have been resorted to by your church in support of her rule, most clearly show that she is fallible, and that
your rule is utterly indefensible. I mention only a few specimens. ist. We have seen in my IIId head, letter No. 2,) that by supreme, binding, infallible law, the circulation and perusal of the Scriptures are restricted as follows: No layman has a right to read the Bible without permission from a priest; and then, no Bible not translated by a Roman Catholic. The priest is the exclusive judge of the question, whether or not he is fit to read the Roman translation Even if permitted to read it, he is by no means to think for himself, but as the church thinks. If he reads without license, he cannot get absolution of sin, until he delivers up his Bible--that is, for the time he is under the curse of unpardoned sin. And all this is on the assumed ground that God's word will injure the great mass of men if they read it. Again, all printers selling to those not licensed to read, are to lose the edition printed, and otherwise be dealt with;and all this is now binding on all, as well American citizens, as others : and those who reject these laws are anathematised heretics. 2d. A permanent committee, styled the “Congregation of the Index,” has charge, by authority, of the work of watching the press, and prohibiting the reading of any books they disapprove. “ Their Index," which enrols these books, has swelled to a great volume. The American reader will be surprised to hear that Locke, Bacon, Sir Matthew Hale, Addison, Robertson, (Charles V.) Walton, (Polyglott) Saurin, Young, (Night Thoughts,) are actually prohibited; some wholly; others in chief part! (See the “ Ten Rules of the Index," approv . ed by Pope Pius IV.) 3d. Beside this, Pope Clement VIII. in the year 1595, published a decree that all Roman Catholic authors, written since 1515, (the era of the Reformation,) should be corrected, so as not merely to blot out doctrines not approved, but to add what was necessary. These are his very words: “In libris catholicorum recentiorum, qui post annum christianæ salutis 1515 conscriptisint, si id quod corrigendum occurrit, paucis demptis aut additis emendare posse videatur, id correctores faciendum curent; sin minus, omnino deleatur.” And worse than all, the process of expurgation has reached even to the “Fathers.” Johannes Pappus and Franciscus Junius published an edition of an Index Expurgatorius, prepared by the Inquisitors, under a commission from the king of Spain. From that it appears, that the works of Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Augustine, had passages purged from them, which were supposed to be unfriendly to the Roman Catholic faith. Such passages, for example, as these, are struck out; "there is no merit but what is given us by Christ.” “God alone is to be worshipped,” (see Bishop Taylor's dissuasive from Popery, chap. 1. for further reference.) Now we say, that by such a process, we may prove any thing we please. The church which restricts the use of the Scriptures; which sits enthroned upon the ruins of human liberty ; which forbids men to read, to print, and even to think, except as she shall dictate; which amends, changes, and tortures the writings of the living and the dead, and in support of her system, ventures to approach with her reforming hand even the testimony of antiquity-has evinced to all men that she is not a safe depository of the truth ; that she is utterly fallible ; that she does by these acts confess and prove it; and however she may by