« VorigeDoorgaan »
speaking, I might say absolutely every attempt that had been made by others had proved a failure; that, however their hopes had been raised at the commencement, in every instance wherein time had been given for the proof to be brought out, it has ultimately failed. I, on the contrary, showed you how-not only in ancient times, churches which now have in themselves, self-existence, as it were, and are unsupported by foreign aid, were established during many succeeding ages, but coming down to our own time, I proved to you how churches that were established two or three centuries ago, are still existing, and possess a great number of individuals subject to their teaching and sway in spite of upwards of a century of unremitting persecution. I showed you, in some instances, even where that religion had been first planted, and an attempt had been then made for 150 years to substitute another, and where the force of civil persecution had been used to the utmost to effect this purpose; that yet, in spite of this, the first religion which was there preached, continued to flourish, and the moment the outward pressure, which kept men in connexion to that which was later introduced, was taken off, that instant the great mass either joined the older religion which had taken deep root there, and was not to be plucked up by any effort of persecution, or else relaxed into their primitive idolatry.
In this manner, therefore, I endeavoured to follow, step by step, those different classes of proofs, and to show you, by a certain, simple, and inductive system, how aptly and completely that form of church government-that ground-work of faith which we hold to have been established by Christ-corresponds from the first to the last-from the prophecy, until its latest fulfilment-with that which we read in God's infallible Word.
But then, my brethren, we have also examined, though not in the same detail, that conflicting system, if I may so say, which bases faith upon a totally different principle. In my second discourse, I entered fully into the natural and internal difficulties that seemed to accompany the system. I endeavoured to show you that it was essentially illogical n its reasoning, and, instead of proceeding from admitted principles, and then going gradually forward through propositions successively demonstrated, till it brought the inquirer into the full possession of his principle, or rule of faith; that there were breaks, that there were chasms which had to be leaped over, in order to arrive at the conclusion popularly established; and that there were such innumerable obstacles resulting from it, so inherent and essential to its very existence, such as were enough to disqualify it from being the rule of faith established by Christ to be the guide of the multitude, of the mass of mankind. But I did not submit it to the same minute tests which I had done the other -and for those reasons that I stated to you at the outset-that we do
not ground our religion upon the exclusion of other systems, but upon its own essential proofs and arguments; that therefore I conceived it to be the true way of proceeding by simply establishing our own rule, and establishing it as the only one constituted by Christ, thereby at once excluding the possibility of others standing in competition with it.
But it may perhaps have struck the minds of some, that I have shrunk from the same line of argument, in regard to it; that I have concealed those real grounds upon which it is proposed as the rule of faith by those who think not with us, and therefore it is that I propose, with exceeding brevity, merely to go over the same heads.
I did indeed remark, that, whereas in the old law we had an express provision made for a written code, that yet the most important doctrines, probably, which were known by the Jews, and which our Saviour found existing at his time, were not contained in that volume, but had been handed down by oral tradition. I showed this to be the case with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity; with respect to the doctrine of the Word of God being incarnate, and suffering for the redemption of mankind; I showed this regarding the doctrine also of a future state; and any clear apprehension of rewards and punishments in the next life. I might have added another very important dogma, especially as it is considered now-a-days, and that is, the doctrine of spiritual regeneration -for it is impossible to read our Saviour's discourse with Nicodemus, when Nicodemus objects, "How can a man that is old be born again ?" and to observe our Saviour's answer, "Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?" and not feel at once satisfied, that among the teachers of the Jews, that among the doctors of that nation, there was a dogma corresponding exactly to this; and that our Saviour consequently was justified in chiding Nicodemus for making an objection which he himself should have been able to answer. And so it is, in fact, that we find among the Jews precisely the same term, that of being born again, or regenerated, applied to those proselytes who become members of the Jewish faith, and perhaps, more particularly from a word in special use and favour among the pharisees. But in the old law, you will not find this doctrine ever laid down, you will not find it, I will be bound to say, even so much as alluded to at least, not so alluded to, as any one, without the key drawn from the New Testament, could have possibly discovered it.
Thus we find, on the one hand, in the written law of old, where provision was made for its existence, that yet the most important doctrines were handed down by tradition. This, therefore, is an important point to be contrasted with any rule of faith, which proposes to fill up the figures which were laid down in the old law; for I presume that no
religion which believes the connection of the two Testaments, will believe that any one can be the true Church of Christ which does not satisfy all that is foretold regarding it in the Old Testament, which does not find in itself the perfection and accomplishment of all that was there established.
Now, here we find there is at once a departure from this system, that there is a supposition quite on the contrary; that, whereas, the rule manifestly laid down in the old law was, that although in the written law many of the most important doctrines should be handed down from mouth to mouth, through successive ages, that the rule assumed as the basis of faith in the other is, that even where no provision has been made for a written law, there should be no oral one admitted. This stands in manifest and striking opposition with the system established in the preceding covenant.
But allow me to ask, where is there one of those characteristics which I have laid down before, as being answered to in the Catholic system? Where have we a provision made for a kingdom to be continued in a visible society, of men constituted even as the other was with regard to its external characteristics? Where have we a provision corresponding to the institution of prophecy—something that should be its perfection? Where have we any institution whereby men shall be better secured against error than they were of old? For though of old they might be allowed to err, yet there was a remedy which had a certain controul over their faith, and which did not allow any members of that nation to wander from it; whereas, on the contrary, if you suppose each individual left to his own erring judgment, and thus establish, as a fundamental position, that the union of these fallible elements cannot possibly constitute infallibility, so that we have a fallible church, consisting of fallible members, and have no provision whatsoever made for the durability and permanency of this system, as opposed to that of old, which was only passing and preparatory; for this system assumes the possibility of the entire fabric which our Saviour raised being insensibly reduced to ruins. Thus, therefore, if we apply that test, I cannot see on any side how these prophecies, how these foreshowings are to be considered as having been fulfilled in the Church of Christ.
But let us look at the positive provision of our Saviour, and here it is my duty to examine those passages of Scripture, by which it is assumed that the Scripture was to be the rule of faith in the new law, and not only so, but the exclusive rule of faith, a rule of faith such as at once necessarily renders, not merely useless, but absolutely ungrounded, any system of supposed authority.
It must be observed, that the line of argument which I have pursued in support of the Catholic doctrine, on the subject of faith, is necessarily such as to exclude every other; that is to say, the Catholic interpretation
of those texts which constitute Church Authority, and which promise the permanent and eternal assistance of the Holy Ghost of our blessed Saviour to teach therein, necessarily supposes that all men are to learn from that church; necessarily supposes that there is the security afforded by Christ upon earth against the possibility of error. We must have, to overthrow these, by as express declarations at least, in favour of the all-sufficiency of Scripture as a rule of faith, because the Catholic system does not in the least exclude Scripture, but admits it in its full authority. It allows, that whatever is revealed in Scripture is necessarily true; it believes that all the foundation of doctrine is ultimately to be discovered in Scripture. Thus, therefore, the Catholic doctrine cannot be impugned by any text that falls short of the denial of her system; so long as nothing can be brought which shall say, that Scripture alone is the rule of faith that men are to follow, their arguments are not impaired in favour of Church Authority, because, short of being the only rule of faith, they admit Scripture to the same extent. But those who maintain Scripture to be the only rule of faith, exclude necessarily the Church as a rule of faith; and, consequently, their texts must be so strong in favour of that only rule, as will overthrow all those at once, which are brought in favour of Church Authority; which will authorise us to consider that we must have, in spite of their obvious, in spite of their minutely discovered meaning, some other interpretation which can alone be considered compatible with the exclusive sufficiency of Scripture.
Now, in order to satisfy myself that I was not overlooking anything upon this head, I have carefully perused several treatises by learned Protestant divines, on this subject, in order to satisfy myself, if possible, what are the real grounds on which they base the sufficiency of the written word of God as the rule of faith. I was astonished in opening one, and in reading that portion which was headed," On the sufficiency of Scripture as a rule of faith and morals," to find that the author, after simply summing up the proofs in favour of the inspiration of Scripture, proceeded to say that, "The Scripture contains a full knowledge of all that was necessary for man; for it taught the unity of God and his Trinity; it taught that Christ had come on earth, and died for mankind; it taught us the way of repentance; it taught us the future state, and the resurrection of the dead;" and he concluded, therefore, that Scripture is sufficient as the only rule of faith and morals!
Now, I would willingly ask, what is the connexion between the consequence and its proofs? The Scripture teaches all these doctrines, therefore there are no other doctrines to be taught. That is the very question under discussion taken for granted; it is the very form of argument which I have so often deprecated-taking it for granted in the first place, that whatever is clearly laid down in Scripture is all that
need be known. It is assumed, therefore, that Scripture contains all that we ought to know, in other words, that it is the exclusive rule of faith; it is assuming as the premises, as the consequence, the very point whereupon we differ. Catholics say, that God having appointed another authority, they do not consider that what is in Scripture is sufficient; and the question is, whether that authority has been appointed. You intend to exclude the authority by the simple assumption, that what is in Scripture is sufficient, and, that consequently there is no need of that authority. God is master of his own institutions. If it were not even necessary in any way, and God chose to put our humility and our faith to the trial in submitting to an authority, that is quite sufficient; and no argument of analogy, and no sort of propriety, that we might seem to discover in the doctrines taught, would ever be sufficient to prove that God had not made such an establishment, or at least to answer the positive argument directed to prove its constitution. In all such cases, you must be content to take the system as it is established by God, and not as it appears to suit our idea of propriety. Now this, in one of the authors, was almost exclusively the line of proof which he adduced, I would ask any sober and serious Protestant, if he can possibly consider such an argument as this a sufficient ground to satisfy himself that God appointed the Scripture of the New Testament to be written in the first place; in the second place, that he appointed it to be read by all men, that it might be the rule of faith; and in the third place, that he has pledged himself, that in spite of the errors and frailties of the human mind, all men should be able to arrive at the truth by its means? Unless you can be satisfied, that in reasoning like this, all these propositions are included and demonstrated—unless you can satisfy yourselves that they are so included and demonstrated in that reasoning as at once to overthrow the interpretation, the natural and obvious interpretation, which we deduce from other parts of Scripture, from those passages wherein our Saviour appoints a Church to teach until the end of time, with his supernatural assistance, assuredly it must be allowed that this reasoning, at least, is not merely superficial, but is absolutely, however unintentionally, deceitful; for it places, manifestly, the ground of faith, the possession of the rule which is to guide men to the truth, upon a sophism, upon a false, illogical argument.
But there are texts of Scripture which are very often brought forward for the purpose of demonstrating that the New Testament is the rule of faith. Our Saviour, for instance, says to the Jews, "Search the Scriptures, for they are they that give testimony unto me." In the first place, allow me to ask, what were the Scriptures which our Saviour here desired the Jews to search? Where they the Old or the New Testament? Assuredly not the New, for it was not then written. Can it then be drawn from this, that because the Jews, whom I have