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is, that in our opinion, the Scriptures clearly unfold a system of saving truth; while in that of the (Roman) Catholics they are obscure in every point, except the few passages which direct us to the church, (the only authentic and immediate source of saving knowledge.) “Her treatment of Scripture, almost reminds us of the fabulous history of Jupiter, who ascended to supreme power by the mutilation and banishment of his father.' "--Robert Hall.
We see then that your rule utterly fails as to the proof of itself. In the next place it wholly fails in its application. For either the Pope is infallible ; or the council ; or both united ; or the universal church. It seems not to be agreed among yourselves where infallibility is lodged, and therefore even at the threshold, a great difficulty arises. If the universal church be the seat, this is plainly useless, for you can never come at its decisions. If the Pope be so, the world must go to Rome; or die in darkness. If a Pope, and a general Council united make the infallible judge, (which is not selfevident, and must therefore be proved,) then as Roman Catholics commonly believe, you have the absurdity, that two fallibles make an infallible. Two negatives may make an affirmative in grammar; but it will not do so in religion--for if you add fallible to fallible forever, the sum is fallible still. But if the infallible judge, (which is your rule of faith,) be found in the Pope and Council united, still it is out of the reach of the people. Such a council has not been held for two hundred and seventy years ! But to answer any end, it ought to hold a constant session.--And not only so, but it ought to be omnipresent--for otherwise the millions of the people, which you speak of, in “ France, Scotland, Germany, Greece, Spain, Egypt, Palestine, China, Italy, Ireland, Peru, Canada, our own Republic, and in every island, and on every continent, and in every country under heaven”-cannot consult this oracle. All these millions are concerned to know its declarations ; yet cannot; and ruin ensues. For there are only two possible ways to reach the mass of men, viz., either by living.teachers, or by the decrees of councils. But both these methods are liable to error; you are therefore without a rule. No teacher is infallible, as you allow; the decrees of the councils which few possess and fewer read, are at least as obscure as the Bible. The private interpretation of the Bible you call the grand heresy of the Reformation;" surely then the private interpretation of decrees, is not less an evil! It appears then, that your boasted infallible rule is utterly inapplicable; and while you decry the Bible, in the hands of the people, as the rule of faith, you have no substitute ; and your cause is ruined
I remark next, that your reasoning as to an infallible rule of faith, if well founded, leads us to reject every system that does not make all men perfect. For you agree that Christ has established an infallible rule to “guide us in matters of religion,” as well as “settle disputes" in his church. You argue that a rule which does not “settle disputes” as to doctrine, is fallible, and therefore not Christ's rule. Now by parity of reasoning, a rule that does not regulate practice so as to make an end of sin, and make men perfect here, must be a fallible rule. For faith is in order to holiness and the rule
of faith looks finally " to the purifying of our souls even as Christ is pure." But your rule, I need hardly say, “ makes none of the , comers thereunto perfect.” On the contrary, one of your own distinguished advocates said that the generality of your writers on morals, seemed “ to have it as their great business, to teach how near a man might lawfully come, and yet not sin.” (Sir Thomas More.) Surely then if you are consistent, you should reject your rule. I do not see how you can retain it, and yet argue against the Bible as a rule of faith, because it fails to make those infallible who adopt it as such.
You take peculiar pleasure in associating the Protestant name and cause with infidelity and extreme heresies. The names of " Volney and Priestly," of " Universalists,” “Unitarians,” &c. &c. seem to fluctuate through your fancy in close alliance with liberty of thought, with the use of the Bible, and the freedom of the press. Now it is very certain that the Bible never made a Roman Catholic; and the sear expressed by one of the defenders of your faith in former days, that its free perusal made Protestants, ever haunts your loyal breast. Let me here remind you that Atheism has always flourished most, by the side of the Roman shrine; and where the Bible has been opened on the human mind, there truth and order, like the sun, has arisen and shone upon the people. Compare Scotland with Spain ; Holland with Italy; Prussia with Portugal ; England with France ; our own country with the Mexican or South American States. What has made the immense difference? The Bible, read without restraint, and multiplied without limit, and preached with boldness and fidelity to a thinking people. Having no space now for this topic, I promise, in future numbers, to give you ample proof of the intimate union between Romanism and infidelity, and Romanism and extreme heresy.
You slip the case of the collier” with far nearer approaches to profanity than right reasoning. It is possible “your rule of faith may be fallible ;” or your collier may be “deranged," when he begins to inquire and think, after the slumber of his faculties for some half a century, under the Roman anodyne of implicit faith. But surely it ought never to be made an alternative in a proposition, that • Jesus Christ WAS A JUGGLER!” Suppose, however, you apply the illustration to any other book, say the creed of Pius IV. or the “ Book of Bulls,” or “ The Fathers.” Has language not a fixed meaning ? Are there not plain rules for its interpretation? Can we not understand a book because one man says it means this, and another that, and a third something else? And must we call the Bible a fallible guide, because some men may, and will, wrest it? Must we pin our faith to the Pope's sleeve, because we are liable to error? Yet this is all you have to say in defence of implicit faith. The sum of it is this that the collier does (even as we have said,) believe what he is told, and because he is told it; but it is better to do so, than worse; and he will tlo worse if he thinks for himself!
You next attempt an oblique defence of your rule from the many objections which I have brought against it. In page 51, last paragraph, you say, " articles of faith and morals are the only objects of definition and transmission; neither does the church claim, nor
has she exercised the right of creating new articles of faith." Now I ask, did not the Council of Trent make new articles of faith? Did she not order a new Creed, containing these 12 articles, and binding all her communion to hold them, under pain of spiritual death? And were there not even new sacraments among these articles? I referred you for proof to the literary fraud by which “extreme unction" was attempted to be made a sacrament, in your church standards. You are silent about it! What I have said above about Leo X's condemnation of Luther, plainly shows that you differ from him, and that he claimer the right not only to “ define,” but “ create" articles of faith, and “impose them on men for their belief.” Transubstantiation, indulgences, taking the cup from the laity in the Lord's Supper, and five of your seven sacraments are palpable innovations; are new articles of faith, brought in by your church from age to age, and gathered up, and put into the creed, by the Council of Treni.
In your second answer “to objections,” page 52, you pass by the questions by saying " discipline may vary.”
I suppose it is a point of discipline to forbid the use of the Scriptures; to restrict the freedom of the press ; to claim the government of kingdoms; to establish the inquisition ; to burn heretics ; and encourage extended and bloody massacres ; as of the Waldenses and Hugonots ! Under this head too, I suppose you comprehend your apology for the “ambitious projects” of “individual Popes.” This is strange language ! “ Individual Popes !” And yet is this all you can reply to all I have rought from the Popes and from the councils, showing that your system is incompatible with personal and civil liberty? Your allusion to the Presbyterian minister now in the state prison of New York, is legitimate. We mourn over such men—we depose them from their office; for we do not think, with your church, that a man may, like Judas, be a good Pope, and yet a bad man. The history of your Popes is the blackest page of human story. The moral of " bad man and good Pope” reminds us of the Archbishop, (he was also a prince) who swore profanely in the presence of a peasant; the peasant exclaimed with surprise, “ Archbishop, do you swear?” ** No," he replied, “ I swear as a prince.” “ Then,” said the peasant, “When Satan comes for the prince, what will become of the archbishop."
I will refer to only one other evasion of yours. You answer my statement, that the Pope held a great anniversary at Rome, to bless all sorts of beasts (while he curses Bible societies) with an unworthy levity, about “à similar operation over a good piece of beef." I have been accustomed to think that such a service was thanking God, and asking his blessing on ourselves, not on the food we eat. But the superstition and darkness of that Pontiff who can encourage such an anniversary, and the degraded condition of " the Mother and mistress of churches," who can uphold such a celebration, remain still unexplained. If, however, the blessings were confined to dead beasts, and the anathemas removed from living men who circulate the Bible, it might be pitied, if not defended.
Your objections on the points of infant baptism, the change of the Sabbath, and the practices of our church as to the pastoral relation.
surely have little to do with the rule of faith. The 1st and 2d come appropriately under the subject of tradition, on which you yet are silent. I will here only say that we find satisfactory proof for all the three practices in the word of God; or we would discard them. We reject not testimony which sustains our doctrines ; (not opinions) but we look not to “unwritten tradition" for their support; and “ if the candlestick of the Roman angel were removed to-morrow," we lose not a jot of proof on any subject, except that of the depravity of man. But more of this hereafter, when, Providence permitting, we hope to satisfy you in still further defending and illustrating the true rule of faith, i. e. the Holy Spirit speaking in the Bible.
I have been informed that Bishop Kenrick did, on the 17th of February last, in St. Mary's church, (Philadelphia) publicly warn the people against reading this controversy. I ask, is this true or not? If it be, it is not only a manifest interfer ce, but a portentous intimation. I remain, Sir, yours, &c.
CONTROVERSY. No. VII.
RULE OF FAITH.
Philadelphia, March 15, 1833. TO THE Rev. JOHN BRECKINRIDGE,
Rev. Sir,— The first paragraph of your last letter, purports to be an epitome of our preliminary arrangements, and of the victories you have gained since the campaign has been regularly opened. In reference to the former I had thought, that our readers must have been sufficiently punished by the publication of a correspondence which was as tedious as it was puerile. Ten minutes' frank conversation would have settled the rules of this discussion. The perusal of those letters, like Swift's meditation on a broomstick, showed how much could be made of a trifle. Finally, however, we reached the goal ; the rules were arranged and signed by mutual agreement. If there is any thing more to be said on the subject, let it be reserved for the Appendix. But I cannot consent that these same rules which cost us so much trouble, should be construed into mere “modes and forms." You, indeed, have hitherto treated them as such, and thus compelled me to expose your violation of them. If I had compared the Protestant rule of faith, with Calvin's blasphemy, in asserting that God is the author of sin, and that Jesus Christ spoke ironically, when he directed the young man in the Gospel to keep the commandments, such reasoning would have been violating the rules. Because it would have been taking for granted, what you deny ; but you, on the contrary, have assailed all those doctrines of our church which Protestants have rejected ; and instead of comparing our rule of faith with your OWN DEFINITION of the TRUE PRINCIPLE, you appeal to the tribunal of prejudice where it had been already condemned! I say that the doctrines of the Catholic church are the true doctrines of Jesus Christ—and that Protestants, in rejecting them, have forsaken the fountains of living water, and digged to themselves broken cisterns. But I should be sorry to make this assertion the basis of an argument against your rule of faith. For you would very properly say, that I was begging the question by such a procedure. It seems, you find the strict principles of logic irksome, and all things considered, I am not surprised at it. Nevertheless, they are and must continue to be the polar star of this discussion.
But then your victories ! “ You have exposed our rule”'--"' you have proved its utter fallibility"-"you have shown that our church has varied in doctrine from age to age”-"you have shown that our rule is not only entirely fallible, but greatly evil,” not only “greatly evila--but it ** usurps the prerogatives of God”—not only “ it usurps the prerogatives of God," BUT IT “ IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH PERSONAL OR CIVIL LIBERTY," &c. In short, one is at a loss to imagine what it 's, that you have not “ shown.” And what was my reply to all these “ showings ?" Chiefly that they violate the rules!!!