Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

charging upon me the want of ingenuousness. By a reference to the introduction and close of that publication, you will find that this controversy was forced upon me: and that my reply did not originate the discussion, or embrace a challenge, but attempted to transfer a chal lenge already given to more equal and elevated ground, and to identify the investigation with the best lights and sanctioned defenders of

your faith.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

And now, sir, allow me to say, that it gives me hearty pleasure to find you disposed, in a manly form, to meet the question at issue between Protestants and Romanists; while at the same time I fully respond to the wish expressed in your letter, that any controversy which may hereafter be undertaken “may be conducted in a spirit of Christian charity, and a sincere inquiry after truth.”

As what you have been pleased to style my challenge was a written reply to a previous communication, which was also written, so a written answer from an accredited respondent was requested. The obvious course therefore for you to pursue, in meeting the spirit of this requirement, is to respond from the press, to the contents of my letter, which is now widely circulated through the country. And I, in my place, shall, by the grace of God, stand prepared to give your communications prompt and appropriate attention.

The terms in which you speak of arrangements for the discussion. " defining rules and conditions," are not explicit. If the above suggestion, therefore, does not meet your wishes, I shall be gratified to have them more fully expressed, as to the best method of using the press, to reach the desired end. And that you may be assured of my sincerity, and entire readiness to investigate this great and vital subject, I use this occasion to say, that there are several ministers of the Gospel in this city and vicinity, who stand prepared with me to meet yourself, and any number of your clergy that may be disposed to unite with you, in any way most agreeable to yourselves, that is consistent with decorum. and the grave and sacred nature of the themes.

I am yours, very respectfully,

JOHN BRECKENRIDGE.

The following rules were next sent to the Rev. Mr. Breckenridge, by the Rev. Mr. Hughes.

Whereas, the undersigned have agreed to enter on an amicable discussion of the great points of Religious Controversy between Catholics and Protestants,- and whereas such discussions cannot prove either profitable to the parties concerned, or edifying to the public at large, unless they are conducted in the language of decorum, and in a spirit of Christian politeness,-and whereas this object is best attained by adherence to certain rules and conditions mutually agreed to, there fore, the following shall be the rules of said discussion, to the observance of which each of the parties hereby binds himself.

1st. We agree respectively to adhere strictly to the subject of dis cussion, for the time being : and to admit no second question until the first shall have been exhausted.

[ocr errors]

2d. Each of the parties shall be the accredited interpreter of his own religion. And neither shall have the right to ascribe to his adversary doctrines, or explanations of doctrines, which the latter disclaims.

3d. The parties shall write and publish alternately in the same paper, never allowing any communication to exceed two columns.

4th. The controversy shall commence by a discussion of the rule of faith, to prevent it from being interminable and useless.

Signed,

John HUGHES. Oct. 23d, 1832.

Philadelphia, Nov. 7th, 1832. The Rev. John Hughes,

Sir,– I received by the hand of your friend on the 26th ultimo, a series of rules proposed by you as the basis of “ an amicable discussion of the great points of religious controversy between (Roman) Catholics and Protestants." When you called upon me yesterday, I informed you that I preferred to settle the preliminaries of the proposed discussion, in writing; and that although my answer to your proposals had been delayed by my absence from town, as well as other causes beyond my control ; yet it was in readiness to be sent, needing transcription only. In the extended conversation which was at your particular request then entered into, my objections to your rules were stated at large. I need not now repeat more than the substance of what was communicated then : viz.-1. Your proposals are entirely silent as to any rejoinder to my letter in the Christian Advocate, though in that you find the avowed reason of addressing me on this subject, and though it contains a number of objections to your system of faith and morals, to which answers are requested. 2. The manner in which you propose to conduct the discussion (rule 3d) seems very insufficient, breaking up, as it must do, into so many fractions every leading question, and requiring so much time to reach any adequate result. Besides, you are local, and may be always at hand to attend upon the continually recurring details of a controversy, carried on in the columns of a daily paper, for such you seemed, in your conversation yesterday, to prefer. But my present pursuits (I will not say that they were known to you in making out this rule) lead me to every part of our country, and frequently after very short notice. 3. Some of the rules are unfair. I speak not of your intention, but of their tendency. See, for example, rule second. This rule will put it in your power, by a forced construction, to suspend all argument on any question by a private explanation or special disclaimer. The symbols, decrees, bulls, and approved writers of the Church of Rome are now before the world, and many of them have been extant for ages. The distinguishing doctrines of the Reformation and the standards of the Presbyterian Church, have also been fully published to mankind. While due weight should be conceded to our respective explanations, yet the discussion of these doctrines must proceed on the principles of honest interpretation. I feel the more constrained to

be explicit here, because you charge me with being both unjust and dis ingenuous in the statements of my published letter, though they are all founded in acknowledged facts, and most of them on the authority of your standing symbols or accredited writers. I must also add that the explanations of this rule given by you yesterday were not satisfactory Again, the 4th rule, as interpreted by you yesterday, would appear to intimate that our discussion must stop if we cannot agree on what is the rule of faith. The tendency then will be to narrow the argument to this single question. For it is not very probable, however others may be affected by our controversy, that either of us will be convinced by the other.

In the deliberate review of these rules, my conclusion, as communicated to you verbally in our recent interview, is, that your alternative properly is, either to answer my published letter, or to meet me in a public oral discussion of all the leading subjects on which we differ.

You have, however, declined to adopt either of these methods; and you assume the right to choose the manner of conducting the controversy, upon the ground that the challenge came from me. This I disclaim in the sense in which you use it ; and refer you for explanation to my former letter. Yet that you may have no just cause for attributing to me the failure of the proposed discussion, I hereby agree to adopt the preample, with the 1st, 3d, and 4th rules--provided, 1. That after the rule of faith shall have been fairly and fully discussed, other topics, to be agreed on hereafter, be taken up in order. 2. That if either party be necessarily hindered by sickness or inevitable calls to be absent, the discussion shall for the time, upon due notice being given, be suspended ; and 3. That the paper called “ The Presbyterian," published in this city, be the medium of communication with the public.

It is my expectation, Providence permitting, to be stationary, either in Philadelphia or New York, for some months after the first of December. In the interval, though several short journeys will be necessary, not only in the discharge of my official duties, but also to prevent the interruption of the proposed discussion from that quarter, yet any communication from you will receive the earliest possible atten tion. I remain, sir, your ob't servant,

JOHN BRECKENRIDGE.

.

Nov. 12th, 1832. To the Rev. John Breckenridge,

Sir,—In your letter of the 7th inst. you have stated at length your ideas on the preliminaries of the controversy to which you had challenged the “ Priests and Bishops” of the Catholic Church. I shall brielly notice in order all those parts of your letter that seem to require attention.

You begin by setting forth that I should issue a rejoinder to your letter. To this I reply that the challenge is general, covering the whole of the disputed ground, and consequently an acceptance of it requires that we should commence with the beginning. Secondly, you object to the manner of conducting it, (as indicated in rule 3d,) and

2

hint, that as I am “ local," and you obliged to travel, this rule would give me decided advantage. Now so far as this rule restricts us to two columns and alternate communication, I hereby agree to withdraw it;-leaving you free on that subject. --But with regard to your “present pursuits," I am surprised that you allude to them, since you know that they are precisely the same as when you published your challenge.

You say the 2d rule is unfair. This must be owing to your misapprehension of its meaning. I will submit another in its stead, at the close of this letter, in which I trust you will find nothing " unfair.”

Rule 4th, you have adopted with a provision to which I agree. Your second provision had reference to that part of the 3d rule, which you objected to, and which I have agreed to withdraw.

The only difficulty that remains, has reference to the medium of communication with the public. I cannot consent to its being “the paper called the Presbyterian.” If we are to be judged by the public, it must be by the public generally, and not by a sectarian fragment of, the community—which is itself a party in the controversy. If I agreed to that provision, what would be my situation? Why, I should have a Presbyterian antagonist, Presbyterian judges, and receive my license to publish, in every case, at the hand of a Presbyterian editor! This sir, is asking too much :-and is not in good keeping with that courage which prompted you to challenge “ Priests and Bishops” to the discussion of these vital points, before the public.

Upon a review of your letter and my own, I find that we are agreed upon the preamble and the first rule without amendment. Let the second be expressed as follows :

“ Rule 2. 'The questions shall be confined to those points of doctrine and morals which are admitted by the parties, or found in the Symbols, Decrees, Bulls, Catechisms, approved writers, Standards, and Confessions of Faith of the churches to which the parties respectively belong. And such points shall in all cases be stated in the precise words or literal translation of the document from which they are extracted, and the reference given.”

If you agree to this, and will adopt the natural, obvious, and impar tial medium of a public newspaper-then am I ready to answer your challenge. If you prefer an oral discussion under the guidance of these rules, let it be in the presence of twelve enlightened gentlemen, neither Catholics nor Presbyterians—and again I am ready. But I cannot consent to exhibit myself as a theological gladiator for the amuse ment of an idle, promiscuous, curious multitude.

This, sir, is my last private communication on the subject. I shall await your decision on this letter. If you decline every thing I have proposed, then it strikes me that consistency and candour will suggest to you the propriety of offering a public apology for your challenge ; at least some explanation of the private circumstances which tempted you to publish it, and to wear laurels without the trouble of deserving them.

Yours, very respectfully,

John HUGHES B

Philadelphia, Dec. 3d, 1832. To the Rev. John Hughes.

Sir.-As I intimated to you in my last communication, I hope to be located in this city or New York for the chief part of the winter, and to enjoy sufficient rest to give you some attention. Having returned home on the evening of Nov. 29th, I now send my answer to your letter of Nov. the 12th.

If the cause you advocate is to be measured by the spirit of your reply, then it is still worse than I had even supposed it. The dignity and Christian decorum with which you prosessed yourself desirous of conducting the proposed controversy, have, I regret to say, strangely disappeared in the progress of our preliminary correspondence, giving place to severe invective, ungenerous taunts, and bad temper. If I patiently lend myself to these uses, the public will at least not think me aspiring ; and the laurels which you imagine me so desirous of possessing, without having won, will scarcely be worth wearing. But indeed, sir, you mistake me in supposing that I wish to wear laurels. Idesire victory for the truth of God, and the crown for Him whose right it is to rule—and whose prerogative has been usurped by him " who, seated as God, in the temple of God, exalteth himself above all that is called God.”-As this will probably be my last communication to you in this way, it is perhaps my duty once more explicitly to state the grounds on which we respectively stand in the matter now at issue between us.

Some two years since, (while a resident in Baltimore,) I was singled out, without provocation, by one of your leading laymen, and required to write a reply to his strictures on a Protestant work, with the alternative of appearing to an esteemed member of the church of which I was pastor (who had been perplexed by his subtlety, and was referred to me for a reply) to be unable to defend our avowed faith. I chose to reply in writing, and at the close, called for a written rejoinder to a number of objections stated in the reply; and insisted on one from a responsible author-stating my readiness at the same time, in view of these " objections," to meet such a person on the whole field of controversy between Roman Catholics and Protestants. In the autumn of this year I published that letter-impelled to it in part by the frequent, and sometimes insolent, attacks that were made upon the Protestant churches—and in part by the very unwarrantable course pursued at the consecration of the house of worship in which you officiate. You professed to believe yourself (among others) challenged by me orginally in this publication ; and you take advantage of that assumption to fix the terms, according to which, and which alone, the discussion must be conducted. I proposed to you the obvious and ordinary course, at once the most refined and best adapted to make permanent and wide impressions on the public mind--that you should reply to my letter in a connected form, from the press—promising to write again in answer when necessary. This you entirely and repeatedly declined, for reasons whose weight an impartial community will not find it difficult to estimate. I offered you the option of a public oral discussion. From this also you retreat

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »