« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
which I am sure you will respect. It is the doctrine and practice of your own church, laid down in the Westminster Confession.
The first is the Baptism of INFANTS, sanctioned by the teaching" of the Pastors of the Church, but certainly not susceptible of proof by any text of sacred Scripture. (Page 159.) The second is the violation of the Sabbath, commanded by God to be sanctified, (Exodus xx. 8.) and the substitution of Sunday, (without the AUTHORITY of any single text of Scripture ; but in accordance with the constant " teaching” of the Pastors of the Church. (Page 132.) 'The third is, in the mutual promises exacted both from the minister and the congregation in the ceremony of ordaining, when the former is obliged to promise “ submission to the discipline of the church,” and the latter, both “ OBEDIENCE and submission unto the new minister, as having RULE OVER THEM in the Lord.” (Page 590.) Is there any Scriptural evidence to show that St. Paul required such promises, from either Titus or Timothy, previous to ordination? I use this reference not as an argument, but rather as a commentary; which, considering its source, is no small compliment to the Catholic rule of faith, at the expense of your own. I may add also, that in the year 1729, the Synod of Philadelphia passed an act, called the " adopting act," by which not only candidates, but professed ministers, were obliged” 10 adopt the Westminster Confession, as containing the summary of the Scriptural doctrine;-by way, I suppose, of proving the sufficiency of the “ Bible Alone; interpreted by each individual for himself.” (See Dr. Miller's 2d and 6th letters to Presbyterians.)
My first conclusion, then, is, that the Catholic rule of faith was instituted by Christ; that it is the rule, which prevailed, except among the deluded votaries of heresy, in all the former ages of the Christian Church--and finally, that it is the principle to which the Presbyterians are obliged to have recourse, on a variety of occasions. The reader of course, must judge, whether the facts and the reasoning authorize this first conclusion.
II. Is it infallible ? If the foregoing conclusion be correct, it must be infallible, according to your own definition-since “it was established by Christ.” At this stage of the comparison and investigation of the two rules, let us pause and compare notes. You say that the Scriptures are infallible: and I agree with you entirely in this belief. --But, then, you will agree with me, that the infallibility of the Scripture consists IN THE SENSE and not in the ink, binding, or paper of which the volume is composed. Itself declares that the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The Protestant principle, therefore, is not rational, for this reason, that, although the Book be in every case infallible, the private INTERPRETATION of the book is, in every case, confessedly the reverse. If you hear a Unitarian quote Scripture, to prove that Jesus Christ was a very good man, but nothing more ;--a Swedenborgian, to prove that this “ very good man” was Jehovah the eternal God, and ihat the idea of two other distinct persons in the Deity is an error ;--if you hear the Episcopalian quoting it to establish the distinction between bishops and presbyters,—the Universalist,-indulging his charity, for the honour of the Almighty,
and the comfort of the human race,--quoting it, to disprove the existence of a devil or a hell, which he regards as superstitious, that not even the light of the resormation was capable of expelling—what do you say in all these cases? You say that the individual has, indeed, the ink, paper, book, and even the words of Scripture, but that the sense and true meaning are wanting. Then--EVERY THING IS WANTING. Where then, I would ask, is the security on which either they or you can depend, unless the interpretation, as well as the text, be infallible ? But this you have given up--and methinks I hear you solving the difficulty by the all potent interrogatory—“ in what is your rule better ?"
It is better in this ; that according to our rule, the Scripture, so far as doctrine and morals are concerned, has but one sense and one meaning, through all the ages of the church, and all the nations of the earth. With us, it is a principle of religion and of common sense, that the Holy Ghost does not contradict himself either in the Scripture, or in the interpretation of it; and consequently the meaning is the same now, that it was before the Reformation, and up to the days, when the church received the Divine Book from the hands of the inspired authors. But you will say we are forbidden to read the Scriptures. Indeed, Sir, we are not. But if they were liable to the same abuse, by our rule, as they are by yours, we should not only accept but even solicit the prohibition.
Here you will say, or rather you have said in your objections, that our rule is also fallible, “in as much as I can never be more certain, in learning the doctrines of the church, than you are in your interpretation of the Bible.” To this I reply, that I can—and I will show you in what way. According to the Catholic rule of faith, the doctrines of Christianity are not abstract speculations ; they are "positive truths, facts," unchanged and unchangeable, as they came from the lips of Jesus Christ and his inspired apostles. But, being public truths, or facts, they were taught by the pastors of the church, and believed by the people in all countries, and in every century since the establishment of the church. Consequently, I can verify them with the same certainty, which I have that such an event as the battle of Waterloo, the decapitation of Charles I., or the council of Nice, took place in the world. In neither case is a divine or personal infallibility necessary. When I say that 2 and 4 make 6 ;--that Charles X. was expelled from France ;--that Luther had a misunderstanding with Leo X.;-that John Huss was burned to death at Constance, and Michael Servetus in Geneva ;-I assert propositions which are infallibly true. But when I take up the words of Jesus Christ, “ This is my body," and assert their meaning to be “this is not my body ;" the case is entirely changed. And why? Because, in this I utter a mere speculative proposition-an opinion. Now, according to the Protestant rule of faith, every text of Scripture, connected with doctrine, must go through such an ordeal of SPECULATION : and is it to be wondered at, that, under the guidance of such a principle, men should be divided off into parties and opinions ; for, and against, every doctrine ;-from the “ washing of feet,” up to the Saviour's divinity? The situation of a Catholic is very different :-
when he is a child, he is instructed in the summary of the Christian doctrine, by his parents and his catechism. This is the order of nature as well as of religion. When he grows up, he finds his imme. diate pastor inculcating, and developing from the pulpit, the same dogmas of belief which were laid down in his catechism. He finds his pastor teaching the same DOCTRINES which are taught by all the other pastors, monks, friars, doctors, cardinals, bishops, including the Pope--and believed, by all the Catholic people and pastors in the whole universe! If he be a gentleman of leisure and fortune, and fond of travelling, he may visit France, Scotland, Germany, Greece, Spain, Egypt, Palestine, China, Italy, Ireland, Peru, Canada, and our own Republic-and in every island, and on every continent, in every country under heaven, he will find the pastors of the Catholic church teaching, and the people, with the pastors, believing identically the same DOCTRINES. If he be a scholar, the pages of universal history are before him. He may consult antiquily, and he will find that the DOCTRINES, which are now taught by the pastors, and believed by both pastors and people, were taught and believed by pastors and people in every age since the birth of Christianity. If he be a linguist and a biblical critic, he may consult the writings of the fathers, and the sacred volume, either in the original text, or as we have it, and he will find that Jesus Christ made the promises of infallibility to the succession of teaching, and, not to writing, reading, or private interpretation.
But what, you ask, if he be a "collier ?" Why, in that case, his mother will have taught him the Lord's prayer; the angelical salulation, commonly called the “ Hail Mary!"--and the Apostle's Creed, in which he says, “I believe in the Holy Catholic church”-a profession of faith, which includes every article, believed (with more accuracy of conception, indeed, and distinctness of definition) by the most learned doctor or bishop of the church. But besides, his mother will have taught him to make the sign of the cross, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to signify, by this sign, his faith in the redemption of Christ on the cross; and by the words, his belief in the adorable Trinity--and now, I will send him down to the mines, at the age of ten years, furnished with a more orthodox creed, than some of your Protestant ministers profess, after having “ worked” by the Protestant rule of faith for forty years. Neither God, nor common sense requires him to read the 101 folios, which you have been pleased to compile for his use.
But if he be a Protestant "collier,” what then? He must wait until he is able to regulate his belief according to the “ Bible alone." Of course, he must read all, to make the rule complete. But if some passages seem to contradict others? Why, then he has to compare parallel passages, and explain one text by another. But he cannot read. Then he must hear it read. The first chapter of the gospel of St. John, is not more than half finished, when he exclaims, “ I am a poor uneducated man, and I really do not understand what you read. Just tell me, in plain language, what the book says.” “ It says, that Infant Baptism is sufficient,” replies my learned opponent. -"No," retorts the Baptist, you must believe and be baptized, and
that by immersion.". - The baptism of the spirit is sufficient,” says the Quaker.--Why, gentlemen," cries out the collier, “ you startle me!" “ You must repent and avoid hell,” continues the Me. thodist. “ There is no hell in the Bible,” says the Universalist, “ it is a bugbear invented by priestcraft.”—“ You must worship Christ," says the Lutheran.
“ If you do,” says the Unitarian, “you will commit idolatry; for Christ is nothing more than a mere creature, according to the Scriptures-- the Father alone is God.” “Oh! how you blaspheme," exclaims the Swedenborgian, " The Son alone constitutes the Deity; 'The Father"-"Stop, gentlemen,” interrupts the collier; “pray whence did you get this book?"_“From the Saviour of the world,” answer all." And for what purpose?”—“ Why, as an infallible rule of faith,” says Mr. Breckinridge, “ to guide us in matters of religion, and to determine disputes in the Church of Christ.” —“ But by what rule do you interpret it?”—“We are Protestants," answer all," and the Bible alone, interpreted by each individual · for himself,' is our rule of faith."- Well, gentlemen, I am, as you perceive, a plain, uneducated collier ; but if God has given me an ounce of common understanding, whereby to form a judgment, my judgment, from what I have seen and heard, is this either, that Jesus Christ was a juggler; or, that your rule of faith is false;-or, that I am DERANGED. You are all learned men—and you will select whichever of these three alternatives you may prefer. Farewell.”
The case of the collier is one that has an important bearing on the general question, and I am glad you reminded me of it. It furnishes the illustration, and proves the truth of a remark I made at the commencement of my first letter
that the “ tendency of the Protestant principle of private interpretation is to sap the foundations of the Christian religion.” Will you, then, Rev. Sir, still say, that admitting your rule to work badly, ours works worse ?”
Having disposed of the collier, I must now proceed to answer the objections, so called, which you have brought forward against the Catholic rule of faith.Their name is Legion.” If the foregoing facts and reasoning of this letter be correct, however, then the largest portion of the brood has already been “eaten up,” in the arguments. The rest are founded on a misconception of the real state of the question, and disappear as soon as they are understood.
1st. Then, it is a principle of our belief, that the dogmas of our Church were originally revealed by Christ, and taught by his apostles : that these dogmas, or articles of faith, and morals, are the only objects for the definition and transmission of which, in the teaching of the pastors," the divine promise of infallibility is recorded in the Scripture, claimed by the church, or necessary in the revelation of revealed truth. The obstinate rejection of one or more of these articles of faith -by following private opinion, in opposition to the teaching and belief of the whole church, is what constitutes the crime of heresy; and the man who acts thus, ceases to belong to our communion. But as the individual has no right to reject what has been always, and is everywhere taught and believed, --so neither does the church claim, nor has she ever exercised the right of creating, or imposing on him the belief of new articles of faith. You mistake, then, Rev. Sir, the
language of definition for the words of creation, whenever you say that any of our doctrines began in ** such a year,” or in ** such a century :" until which time it had been, as you suppose, “a probationer for a seat in the creed.” However, in thus confounding the definition, with the creation of doctrine, you only follow the example of a learned Protestant, and they say, a very benevolent and moral man-I mean Dr. Priestly. In his * History of Early Opinions," he argues, that the Divinity of Christ, never dreamt of, as he supposes, in the life of the apostles, “crept in," as an “opinion” a short time afterwards, spread silently, and waxed strong, until it was finally ExActed into an article of faith in the council of Nice, A. D. 325.
2d. Besides doctrines-articles of faith--and morals—which are immutable, there is discipline, for which infallibility is neither claimed nor necessary. Discipline is different from doctrine; it may be adapted to the circumstances of different ages and countries. It is the mere livery of faith : and obvious as is the distinction, we have heard Protestant Doctors, if they can detect a single button, more or less in Spain or Italy, than they have been accustomed to see in our own country, exclaim, “Lo ! what is become of the boasted infallibility ?” Answer, It is watching, as a guardian angel, by the side of those “positive truths,” “ facts," " doctrines,” which Jesus Christ revealed to his apostles, and commanded them to teach to “all nations,” in “all days,” even to the end of the world. Discipline may vary--doctrine is always the same-just as a man may change his garment, without forfeiting his personal identity.
3d. There are besides doctrine and discipline, opinion,-but they are not about the “ Divinity of Christ,” or the “real presence. They are on questions, concerning which no positive revelation has been given by the Saviour, or preached by the apostles. That these opinions have been warmly and uselessly discussed and agitated, is a fact that I am as willing to proclaim as you are. Catholics may hold either side in any of these opinions, without ceasing to be Catholics -precisely because they are opinions, and not doctrines. This distinction is not new. St. Augustine referred to it, when he said, " In necessariis unitas ; in non necessariis libertas ; in omnibus, charitas.”—“In matters of faith, unity ; in matters not of faith, liberty; in all matters, charity.
4th. There are besides these, local customs and habits peculiar to different countries and ages.
Now, Rev. Sir, I defy human ingenuity, to extract from all you have written, one single genuine argument against the Catholic rule of faith. You present, indeed, in each of your letters, a crowd of assertions against local customs and free opinions of Catholics : against the discipline or doctrines of the church, with which doctrine alone is the infallibility of the Catholic rule of faith connected ; and condemning our doctrines by your confessedly fallible principle of guidance, you arrive at the easy conclusion, that our rule of faith is not the true rule! Have you attempted to show that it did correspond with your own definition of the irue rule !--That it was not " established by Christ ?” — That it is not competent “to guide us in matters of religion"--or “ to determine disputes in the Church of Christ ?" No!