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to cut off all intercourse between them but, on the contrary, it has become the high-way of commerce, and ships pass to and fro continually, interchanging the commodities of life, or bearing the rich freight of God's Holy Word. So in the case of the fall of man, all communion was apparently broken off between God and his creatures: for what fellowship could there be between light and darkness, or how could the vast gulph lying between sin and holiness be overpassed? Yet in this extremity, Infinite Wisdom devised a plan by which a yet closer communion was brought about between himself and his people : and in due time the Son of God
stepped down from his lofty throne to mingle with men, and assumed the endearing titles of brother and friend. The angels, whose songs of triumph at the creation of the world had been suspended by the sad spectacle of Adam's transgression, broke forth anew into singing, when, in the repentance of the sinner, they saw the blessed effects of that atonement into whose mysteries they desired to look: for by the scheme of the Gospel it has been shown that God may be just and yet the justifier of the sinner "who believeth in Jesus," and that though sin has abounded, grace can yet more abound."
THE RIGHT OF THE LAITY TO READ THE SCRIPTURES.
Most people know that last year the Pope of Rome issued an Encyclical Letter, intended for circulation throughout the world; wherein it was ordered that (wherever the authorities had the power,) they 66 are to seize out of the hands of the faithful, Bibles translated into the vulgar tongue," and "that no person, under any pretext, must venture to explain or interpret the divine writings contrary to the tradition of the Fathers or the sense of the Catholic Church ;"* which means that the laity are not to *See Encyclical Letter, translated by Sir C. E. Smith. Snow, London.
read the Scriptures in their own language, and that God's holy word cannot be understood by any but the clergy of the Papal Church. This has been the doctrine of Popery for hundreds of years, and is like every other of its decrees, unchanged. In England nothing is either felt or known of this arbitrary dogma, but in other countries, at this very time, the case is otherwise, and attended with much oppression and intolerance. In France and Belgium, the Colporteurs, who sell Bibles, are treated with great insult, and the Priests generally oppose their proceedings in every pos
sible way.* In Spain there is even less opportunity for circulating the Scriptures, for it is not long since Mr. Borrow was imprisoned in Madrid, for offering copies of the New Testament for sale.† In a small work lately published by Herschel, a converted Jew, he warns all travellers in Italy to be on their guard, as the waiters at inns, and those who attend upon strangers, are frequently spies, who, on pretence of wishing to obtain Bibles, &c., discover whether Protestants have any for gift or sale; and, in one instance, a friend of the author's, who had given a Testament to one of these inquirers, was kept in prison three months for no other crime than presenting a copy to the man who had thus treacherously obtained it! the Papal states no Bibles can be obtained; Ciocci (whose narrative of his own life, and escape from a monastery, has just issued from the English press,) states, that he was grown up ere he ever saw one, although he was placed in a monastery at seven years of age, with the intention of making him a priest. Thus it would seem that neither clergy nor laity either read or know anything of the sacred Scriptures; if their religion was found there such would not be the case, but as neither purgatory, transubstantiation, adoration of the virgin, prayers for the dead, &c., &c., &c., can be seen in the Old or New Testaments, of course they are of no value to the believers in such profitable inventions as all these things are.
In England, letters from the Pope are unheeded, and are only read as curiosities, or as showing the unvarying intolerance of the Romish faith; no Bulls or Decrees from the Vatican, influence this nation; but there are other means which may? The Tractarians have not openly and manfully declared their opinions upon this sub
ject, as their plan is to insinuate what they dare not at present speak, for sappers and miners do not go to work with sound of trumpets. No one can forbid the reading of the Scriptures, nor stay their circulation, nor prevent their use in public worship, but there are already those who teach the danger which the laity are in if they presume to peruse them without note and comment by the Church (which in other words signify themselves), and already they raise tradition as the only interpreter of the Bible, both as to doctrine and practice, and in this way virtually deny the power of God's holy inspired "word to make thee wise unto salvation."
The public have waited quietly whilst their chains have been forging: they are now ready-do they purpose wearing them? One evil creates another-one false doctrine produces a second, and so on, in an endless ratio. Deny the right of the laity to read the Scriptures, and you place them as an inferior grade among human beings, and by their allowing such a degradation, a foundation is laid upon which a huge superstructure of error and slavery is erected; the firststone of which is refusing them the right of private judgment, which is necessarily connected with blind obedience to those who arrogate infallibility as their godlike attributes.
When every part of the Protestant faith is assailed, it is time to furnish the indifferent, the ignorant, and the slothful, with arguments whereby they may repel the subtle poison which lurks in every tract, song, and story issued from the Tractarian and Popish presses; and perhaps the most important point to begin with, is to prove the universal right of the laity to possess the Scriptures.
Many persons are sure an inheritance is theirs, without knowing the precise terms by which it was first granted to their family, and a man may be certain of his rights, without understanding how to controvert a disputed claim, which would deprive him of them. To such as believe the "pearl of great price," and who wish to
retain it in their hands, without any misgivings as to their complete right in retaining, and their duty in examining it; the following plain and
short reasons are given for holding fast that only rule of faith which the Lord has left for his people.
"That thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein."
THE Scriptures are the sacred books
Between these compilations and the volume called the Bible, there exists an extreme difference in principles, opinions, and practices.
The Shasters are the composition of acute men who forged a chain of laws which have bound the inhabitants of Hindostan for thousands of years in abject superstition and idolatry of the greatest and most humiliating nature. The Koran propounds an improved faith, yet teaches impure morality, and makes the promised paradise a scene of sensual indulgence.
The Bible unfolds what never entered "into the heart of man to conceive," and gives an entirely different motive of action to any which have ever been set forth in other systems of theology. All false or corrupted religions make fear the ruling principle of their worship, whilst love is the one great and pervading idea of Christian virtue. "All Scripture is written for our learning," and evidently intended for the open and unfettered perusal of all mankind in every age and nation; and that which was given by inspiration of God for instruction in righteousness" must be for the benefit and universal edification of the world: for that which "is a light unto the path and a guide unto the way" can no more be hurtful to the souls of men, than the glorious sunshine can be destructive of life and vegetation. Where there is most of either moral or material
light, there is always the greatest manifestation of God's wondrous works, and neither of them can be obscured or hidden without loss of much that is good and great.
In the Old Dispensation it is very evident the entire law of God was to be made known to the Hebrew nation. When it had been given, God commanded that each and all should know and practise the whole; and said, "Thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine head, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." (Deut. vi. 7, 8, 9.) There could be no possible mistake amongst the Jews as to their ever supposing that any part of the word of the Lord should be concealed from them, or retained by the priests in mysterious secrecy. Long after the time of Moses, Isaiah refers the people "to the law and to the testimony," (viii. 20,) and desires them "to seek out of the book of the Lord, (xxxiv. 16.); and the Psalmist perpetually adverts to the statutes and words of God's commands. (cxix.)
In the Old Testament nearly all which relates to Christ is given in strong figures or metaphors; and although their meaning is now perceptible, yet in those days all was veiled in dark sayings and emblematical allusions. The Christ was ardently longed for as "the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent's head;" as "the Branch," under which Israel would repose; as "the Son of David," &c.; and under these and similar designations the people were to study the design and character of his coming. They saw through a glass darkly, and yet "he
who spake as never man spake," commanded the multitude " to search the Scriptures," because they testified of him. When all was wrapped in types and shadows, the Jews were expected and desired to read and learn for themselves; and is it then possible that when the Lord Jesus had fulfilled all these prefigured events, the volume of the Book in which his life and death, his atonement and mediation are alone revealed, should then for ever be closed and withheld from the great majority of mankind?
As Christ and his apostles spoke and wrote for (what can be proved) general use, it becomes clear that the laity have a positive right to have the whole Bible in free circulation. The canon of Scripture is closed by a book, in which is written in definite language, "Blessed is he that readeth;" (Rev. i. 3.) "for the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." (Ps. xix. 7.)
But when it is perceived that in the Old Testament not only were all the books of which it is composed addressed to the laity, but were for the most part written by the laity, there can remain no doubt that they were intended for the advantage and instruction of that class just as much as for the priesthood, and their right to possess and peruse them was never questioned under the Jewish economy. Until the Exode no separate order of priests had been established amongst the Hebrews; then the tribe of Levi was chosen to minister in holy things, and the family of Aaron appointed to the High-priesthood. But even when this was done by express revelation, the priests were never made lawgivers, nor rulers over God's heritage. Moses, a layman, was still the commander, and to him were granted continued inspirations upon all spiritual as well as temporal matters. Aaron never shared in this distinguished honour with him, and was always under the guidance and direction of Moses.
There is not one book in the Old Testament dedicated or addressed to the Priesthood, and therefore it becomes impossible to believe that what
was given to the whole nation was meant to be kept in close concealment from them. It is easily seen that the revelations of God generally were made to the laity. Moses wrote the first five books in the Bible; he was followed by Joshua. Esther is believed to have been written by Mordecai, Job by Elihu or Moses. David composed the Psalms, Solomon the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Isaiah, Daniel, Amos, and Zephaniah, were of the tribe of Judah. Jonah, of Zabulon. Haggai was not a priest, (ii. 11, 12.) Inspiration was also given to women, namely, Deborah and Hannah. The tribes and vocations of the seven minor prophets are unknown. There were but three priests who wrote sacred books, Samuel, Ezra, and Jeremiah.
This almost usual preference of the laity above the priesthood as seen under the Old Dispensation, was changed in the Christian; and the apostles, for the most part, were privileged to become the infallible writers of God's holy word. again, although in a different manner, the importance of the laity is distinctly acknowledged, for to them, with scarcely an exception, were particularly addressed the sacred oracles.
Upon such an important point as that of the right of the laity to enjoy the free use of the Scriptures, it becomes imperative to adduce the evidence upon which certainty is attained, that the New Testament was intended for universal circulation and perusal in every place and by every
No one can doubt, if a letter be addressed to himself, that its contents were meant to be kept from him; nor if a proclamation be issued by a government upon things closely affecting the liberties and privileges of a nation, that the people who have to obey its commands should not be permitted to see it, but that a part or more (as might happen) should be told or withheld by the functionaries whose sole office it was to teach, explain, and enforce the regulations of the rulers. None can say that the letter or the proclamation should be
concealed from those to whom it is sent: how then may any forbid apostolic gospels and epistles being read by those for whose eternal interests they were written? Thus, when the New Testament is examined, it will be found that nearly all its contents are specifically addressed to individuals or communities of the laity, and from that time have been the possession of the Church Universal. is desirable to be very explicit upon the subject, the volume of the New Testament can be referred to, when it will be perceived to whom each and every part is inscribed. Three of the Gospels have no superscription-that of St. Luke and the Acts also were sent to Theophilus, a Gentile layman, by Luke "the beloved physician." St. Paul wrote to the Romans, "To all that be in Rome called to be saints." 1st Corinthians, "To the Church, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ."* 2nd Corinthians, "Unto the Church, with all that are in Achaia." Galatians, "Paul, unto all the Churches that are in Galatia." Ephesians, 'Paul, to the saints who are at Ephesus."
Philippians, "Paul, to all the saints which are at Philippi, with the Bishops and Deacons.' Colossians, "To the saints and faithful brethren." 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, “Paul, unto the Church of the Thessalonians." Philemon, Paul, to Philemon, and to our beloved Apphia and Archippus, and to the Church in thy house." Hebrews, "To the Jews." James, "To the twelve Tribes." 1st Peter, "To the strangers scattered about Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia." 2nd Peter, "To those who have obtained like precious faith with us." 1 John, "I write unto you, little children, young men, fathers." 2nd John, "To the elect lady and her children." 3rd John, "The Elder unto the well-beloved Gaius." Jude, "To them that are sanctified by God the Father." Revelations, John, to the Churches of Asia."
*In the New Testament the Church is always spoken of as the redeemed out of every nation. Eph. i. 22, 23. v. 25.
The New Testament is divided into twenty-seven distinct parts; of these, twenty one are formally and specifically addressed to the laity. Three of the Gospels have no superscription, and the three Epistles to Timothy and Titus are written to them as sons," and not as constituting the Church of the place where they were residing.
A Church is a congregation of faithful men," and to such were the various portions of the Christian Scriptures sent, and not exclusively to the Bishops and Deacons; the latter were supposed to be included with the former, as without either the clergy or laity the constitution of a Church would be incomplete.
When St. Paul inscribed his Epistle to the Romans, "to all called to be saints," the phrase comprised in its meaning Priscilla, Julia, Mary, and others of their sex, (Rom. 16,) who could not have been ordained ministers. This circumstance plainly shows that even the most highly argumentative of the apostolic writings were intended for the free perusal of women. "The elect lady" was not in orders, and could not, in any sense, be called "the Church," and yet she was honoured by an Epistle from St. John. If Philemon and Archippus were either Bishops or Deacons, Apphia, a woman, was not; but to her with them was that epistle inscribed.
Were St. Paul and St. John ignorant of God's will, or of what the Church was when they sent their inspired epistles not only to the laity generally, but to women particularly?
Again, the Epistle to the Hebrews could not by any stretch of imagined authority be meant exclusively for the sole benefit, or to be kept in the custody of the Christian clergy, and be interpreted only by the permission of the Popes of Rome. Nor could the Epistle of James, addressed "to the twelve Tribes," by any possibility have been intentended by that apostle as a part of Scripture which might be accounted" dangerous for the laity to read," as is now set forth by the present Pontiff, Gregory XVI. *
*See his Encyclical Letter, 1844. 2 L