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Had I time, or were it at all necessary, to enter into detail, I could show you, from the very Reports of the Bible Society, from the acknowledgment of its members, that many versions, after having been diffused and extended, to a certain degree, among a number of the community intended to be converted to the faith, they have been obliged to withdraw them, on account of the absurdities, on account of the impieties, and on account of the innumerable inaccuracies which they contain. And this is the rule which they put into men's bands ! Does God make the propagation of his truth to depend upon such a complicated effort of human genius, in which, I will say, it is vain to attempt to proceed ? Look at the history of every version which we know has acquired any authority. I put aside those made in the first centuries, when they were made with a full knowledge of the meaning, handed down by tradition of those who wrote ; because, at that time, the evangelists were still living or nearly so ;-1 put aside those versions ; I will ask you to look at any modern version, read the history of it, and see how often it has been corrected ; hat a combination of able and learned men it required, to bring it into any thing like a tolerable degree of perfection. This is the first difficulty opposed to this being considered the simple and ordinary rule proposed by God; the more so as it is a rule dependent for its existence entirely upon the application of the abilities of individuals; and we do not find it, in any case, to be the providence of God, to entrust the most important of his blessings to man, merely to private or particular communities of men.
Then comes the difficulty of the diffusion. Oh, my brethren, could we look at this question, at this point, in another age from the present, you would understand what the difficulty was. You fancy now, because Bibles are multiplied by thousands, or rather, by millions, that, therefore, it is an easy and obvious rule ; that because it so happens, that there is one nation upon earth having the power and the will to diffuse it; that because it has ships that frequent every quarter of the globe; that because there are men willing to devote their time and their zeal to the publication and the diffusion of these books ; because, in short, there is a combination of political, commercial, and literary qualities, all tending, at this moment, to produce a certain effect-because this is the case now, you fancy that the rule is simple and obvious. But God does not make the rule of his faith according to the peculiar prosperity or commerce of any one country; he does not regulate it by the mechanical inventions of men. The gospel was not meant to be the rule of faith, because the press and literature, and even the strongest mechanical powers applied to the press, would be able to supply the Bible in abundance. He did not mean, that for one thousand four hundred years, man should be without the possibility of obtaining the rule of faith, because as yet, human genius had not ripened those inven
tions that were necessary to give efficacy to its establishment, and to his institutions. That is not the way in which the rule has to be judged; you must look upon it as the rule for all times, and all places, as coming into operation from the moment the Scripture was written, and lasting until the end of time. Thus, therefore, we cannot admit, as the only necessary rule of faith, that which depends upon the industry of men—that which requires, as it were, their co-operation; but look at the difficulties which existed for so many centuries before, and you will acknowledge, if this is to be the rule of the present time, it certainly could not have been the rule in former ages.
The difficulty, then, of distributing it—that is to say, of providing each one with this rule, to be examined individually by himself—is infinitely more increased, if we consider the understanding of this book. If it be the rule of faith, it is not sufficient that man should have it; it is absolutely necessary, that he should not only read it, but understand it. But who ever heard of the propriety or the wisdom of placing into men's hands, a code, or rule, which it was impossible for the greater part of them to understand ?
Now, as I perceive that I have already detained you much beyond what the portion of the subject I have treated on, will warrant ; as, indeed, I shall be obliged considerably to condense that which remains ; I cannot dwell upon the many considerations into which this point would lead me; that is to say, to examine the series of difficulties which stand in the way of ordinary readers understanding even the most obvious and ordinary books of Scripture. I will not speak merely of the sublime prophecies ; I will not speak of those divine psalms which we acknowledge consist mainly of poetry of the very highest order, and poetry difficult to ordinary readers in their own language --almost unintelligible in the more difficult authors of profane antiquity-and a thousand times more difficult in the language of Scripture, from the greater boldness of its figures, and the greater conciseness of its speech. I do not mean to speak of these : but I will engage to produce almost any of the ordinary books of Scripture, to examine them, and to show the difficulties wbich exist against arriving at a proper conception and understanding of them; and that can be easily proved, by showing you the elaborate commentaries—the immense accumulation of conflicting evidence, which has been brought by learned men, not of our church, but of the Protestant faith, in order to clear up obscurities in a passage which, I will be bound to say, many thousands of my hearers, have read over and over again, and not perceived, that there was a difficulty-not because the difficulty was not there, but because they were accustomed merely to look at the superficial words of the text-accustomed not to draw their faith from the text, but to accommodate the text to the opinions ordinarily embraced. They have not sufficient speculation, not
sufficient acuteness, to discover where the difficulty lay. But I am sure this is a subject on which I need not enter, because it would be quite sufficient for you to look over the catalogues of commentators - to look over their volumes, and to see the bulk of matter they have brought upon almost every verse of Scripture-to satisfy you, that the whole of Scripture is not an easy book. Such are the difficulties regarding the application of this rule ; that is to say, the difficulty of procuring a proper sense in any language but the original, by a correct translation ; the difficulty of bringing these translations within the reach of all; the difficulty-the impossibility rather, of enabling all to understand.
I have thus been treating of the grounds of this rule, and its application; and I have also to say a few words regarding the end. What is the end of any rule? To bring men to uniformity of action upon
that which is required. What are the objects of any law ? but that all men, by reading it, may know what must be their conduct in any given case; what inust be the result, or consequences of any defined act. What is the use of any code, or body, of regulations that unite men in any
state? It is, that they may all know, precisely, how to act in the same manner. This is, precisely, the union which is the necessary basis of every society; and, if God give you a rule, and, if he give you a code of principles, is it not, that we may be brought to know the same duties; is it not, that we may be brought to practise the same virtues ; is it not, that all may be brought to entertain the same faith? And, does this rule of faith prove equal to that only end? Assuredly, it is not necessary to go many steps from the ground on which we are standing, to see many places of worship, where the most conflicting doctrines are taught; and, in all, these are proposed to be taught upon the authority of that one book. You shall hear one man wbo denounces, as most contrary to Christian faith, the doctrines of Calvinism; and you shall find one who, with equal zeal, upholds it as the most essential groundwork of all Christianity. You will see, in one house, how the divinity of the Son of God is despised, and almost blasphemed, and this sublime mystery denied; and, in another you will be told, that all you hear is erroneous : and, in each, all those who deny these doctrines are condemned to eternal fire; and all, because they hold the same book in their hands, they quote the same passages, even from that book, in proof, almost, of their conflicting doctrines ? Is not this result--the solution, as it were, to the problema sufficient key to the insufficiency of the rule that is proposed? Would it not, supposing a law were passed—as it has been the case, again and again, within a few years—that a law was passed in this realm ; and it is found, that the magistrates in one part of the country, with that law in their hands, act according to a particular course, and that, in another part of the country, they think they are
bound to act in a precisely opposite manner of proceeding; there are contradictions, “and a man knows not how to act under it. What is the consequence? The law is considered inefficient, and a new one is brought into its place, to correct and to amend that which was wanting ; because no law is, in any system of jurisprudence, considered adequate to its end, if it bring not men to uniformity of action. And this, therefore, being the end of the rule of faith, to bring men to uniformity of faith, that rule must be pronounced inefficient and deficient which does not bring to that union.
So much, therefore, my brethren, regarding the Protestant ground of faith considered merely with reference to yourselves. I have endeavoured to show you the truth of what I before pointed out, namely, the necessity of every Protestant satisfying himself, not only of each individual doctrine, but of the ride on which he bases that doctrine ; and I have shown you the difficulty of the rule proposed; not, merely, the embarrassment which I pointed out, and the impossibility, almost, of arriving at a clear definition of this rule; but the difficulty that arises in establishing the grounds of this rule, its application, and its end.
As I have spoken so much of the word of God, I fear that, perhaps, some of you who are present, feeling the prejudices which may have been infused into it, will be inclined to think that we, in delivering our. selves on this occasion, individually speak, as it were, with an unbecoming disparagement of the word of God: I wish, therefore, before closing this part of the subject, merely to state what is the belief, and what is the practice, of Catholics regarding the Scriptures.
We are told, indeed, that the Catholic church loves not the Scriptures : that the church of Rome, that the Catholic church, likes not the word of God : that it wishes to suppress it, to extinguish it, to put it under a bushel, wherever it can, that it may not be seen. The Catholic church, my brethren, not love the word of God, and not esteem it! Is there any other church that places a higher esteem on the authority of that word than the Catholic church? Is there one church that claims greater authority than the Catholic church, and that rests so much, and that bases so much, upon it? Is there any one, consequently, who has a greater interest in maintaining, and in preserving, and even in exhibiting that word ? Those who have been educated in that religion know well, that while the church claims rity, it professes to claim it only upon the authority of the Holy Scriptures. And, is not this, not only giving it praise beyond what any other church does ; but, is it not showing, that it does more than love, than cherish it? Is it not showing, that we are, as it were, jealous for its honour, and for every word it contains, beyond what any other religion can possibly say? If you would say, that that mother has not loved her child, who has nourished it, and warmed it in her bosom for years, when nobody else
would have preserved it from destruction; who has spent her substance, and her time, and her health, and her leisure, in cherishing and preserving it in its weakly and distressed state; who has doated upon it, I may say, and done all that time would allow to make it beautiful, and recommend it to the attention and admiration of men-if you will say that, then say, that the Catholic church bath not loved and cherished the word of God. Who caught up, as it were, the different fragments of it, as they proceeded from the pen of the inspired writers ? For, I will say, that even those who will not allow that the Catholic church reaches back to those times when the canon of Scripture was published -but which I believe it does yet it is only the Catholic principle of unity which could possibly have enabled the church to collect one and another of the respective books, that the respective writers addressed to the disciples. It was only the mutual communication, that attracted one to the other the testimony that each gave, that could have formed the only rule upon which the canon of Scripture was raised; therefore, it is, essentially, the Catholic principle-if you do not say the Catholic church-that hath preserved them. And, after that-in spite of barbarians, in spite of all that was done to overthrow all learning-did it not keep for ages, men, many hundreds, many thousands of men, employed in nothing else but transcribing this holy word of God; transcribing it, I might almost say, in letters of gold on parchment of purple, to show its respect and veneration towards it? And, has she not, in every age, commanded that it should be studied studied in every religious house, studied in every university, studied in every school, and in every college --and expounded to the faithful in every place, and at every time? Has she not produced a number of men who have dedicated themselves to the work, and have written the most learned commentaries; some addressed to the erudite and instructed, and others intended for popular dissemination ? Did she not even appoint a commission of learned men to travel from country to country, to learn foreign languages, that they might be able to correct, or, at least, to amend, the text which we now possess? Were there not, from age to age, men who devoted the whole time of their lives to the accurate emendation of any errors which had crept in, in the course of time? Is it not to this alone that you are indebted for the word of God, as it now exists? Will any one say, that, while we have the most splendid copies of the Scriptures, showing the immense veneration and respect paid to them, we have not thousands of otbers in the cheapest and most portable form that could be produced by pen, evidently showing that they were in the hands of such persons as could not otherwise possibly have procured them? For, you must allow, that it was impossible that the Bible could be so diffused, as it now is, when every copy was the work of the penman. But, not only so, has not the Catholic church been always the foremost in the task of translating the