« PreviousContinue »
Jesus were not indeed the Christ: and would he be content, like the apostles, to rest the issue upon their decision? If he would not, he virtually confesses, that those pretended catholic doctrines cannot be discovered in the Bible without the aid of a Roinish pair of spectacles.
2. How then, it may be asked, do Protestants view the matter : and why do they employ a body of men to expound the Bible to the people, if they contend that the Bible itself is the sole rule of faith?
(1.) Nothing is more easy than to answer such a question : because nothing is more easy than to perceive the difference, between authoritatively imposing an exposition as INFALLIBLY right, and using those helps with which we are amply provided to ascertain the real sense of Scripture.
From defect of education or from inherent dulness of apprehension, many are incapable of following an argument or of understanding a critical discussion. To them no doubt, when with humble prayer we have used the best means in our power, we must propose many things dogmatically: but to those, who are as capable of judging as ourselves, we must propose them with an earnest exhortation, to search the Scriptures whether those things be so, and not to receive our statements on our bare word alone, Nay, in many cases, the same exhortation
be profitably addressed even to the most uninstructed, provided only they can read : and it always ought to be addressed to them, when it can. Meanwhile,
common sense itself shews, that they, who specially devote themselves to a particular line of study, are likely to know more about it than those who do not. This preëminence in theological knowledge we Protestants ascribe to our Priesthood: but why do we ascribe it? Not because episcopal consecration or sacerdotal ordination operates as a charm; making a man at once “ more wise, more just, more learned,
more every thing :” but simply because the subjects of those rites either have, or ought to have, qualified themselves to be teachers by fervent prayer and diligent study. Any well educated layman, if he think fit for his own private satisfaction to read as a divine, is in our opinion just as well qualified to pronounce upon the mind of Scripture ; though, without a special and canonical designation to the holy work of the ininistry, we Protestants (at least of the Anglican Church) hold him to be not warranted in taking that work upon himself: for, though a man out of office may be as well qualified to be an ambassador as the person who is honoured with the commission of his sovereign; that man, we apprehend, cannot lawfully assume the function of an ambassador unless the sovereign give him authority.
(2.) In short, when we say that the Bible is the SOLE rule of faith, we mean theologically just the same as an Englishman means politically, when he says that the common law of his country is the sole rule of obligation. But would any sober man infer froin this, that the law required no exposition, or that one person was just as well qualified to lay it down as another? Or again, on the opposite hand, because he conceded all due authority to the learned in the law, would he think himself therefore bound to put a mere commentary, even if written by an ermined judge, upon the same footing as the law itself? Would he admit an exposition, on however high authority it might rest, which was plainly contradictory, or which palpably militated against cominon sense? Because some points are of less clear explication, does it therefore follow that no moral certainty can be attained ?
Thou shalt not commit murder ; says the law of the land. Now, if any body of men were to lay it down as the undoubted sense of the law, that it was illegal indeed to shed blood, but that it was perfectly justifiable to confine a man until he was starved to death : should we receive their comment, and forthwith deem all those lawyers heretical and schismatical who presumed to differ from them?
Thou shalt not worship the similitude of any thing; either celestial or terrestrial or aquatic; says the law of God. “ True,” replies an orthodox teacher of the Romish school, “ nothing can be more im“ pious and more abominable than idolatry; but,
provided only you call the statue of a saiut an “ image and not an idol, you may pray to it as long " and as often as you please : this is the sense of the
Catholic Church ; and, according to the golden " rule of St. Vincent, you must apply it to the Scrip“ duct us in this labyrinth of opinions : if however you
tures, as a rule to a line, and as a clue to con
66 duct * " You accuse the Catholics of idolatry," says Pope Gregory to the mistaken Leo Isauricus; “ and, by the accusation, you “ bétray your own impiety and ignorance. To this igno
will not receive this catholic exposition of the very obscure and ambiguous text before us, you are a manifest heretic and sehismatic."
To so luculent a gloss upon what we must all confess to be a locus vexatissimus, a gloss for which I believe (but I speak with due submission to the better informed Romanist) the Catholic Church is indebted to no less a personage than Pope Gregory II*: to this soluculent gloss we protestant interpreters car only reply, that, though we venture not to deem our, selves infallible expositors .of Scripture, yet moral truth does sometimes approximate so closely to mathematical, that we know not how to deem ourselves mistaken in supposing a prohibition to worship ANY thing beside God, a prohibition too which specially particularises the bowing down before any species of statuary; in supposing this identical probibition to mean, that the statue of a saint or of the holy Virgin or of Jesus Christ, provided only it be called an image and not an idol, may be safely and even laudably worshipped *
rance we are compelled to adapt the grossness of our style 6 and arguments.
What then are the formidable arguments, which are to cover the undiscerning iconoclast with confusion ? Neither more por less than these.
The pagans were undoubted idolaters; because they wor. shipped certain statues, which the sense of the Catholic Church denominates idols : but Gregory, and his adherents were clearly not idolaters; because they only worshipped certain statues, which the sense of the Catholic Church denominates images. Gregor, Epist. apud Act, Concil. Nicen. vol, viii. p. 651-674. cited by Gibbon.
Whether the ingenious pontiff were absolutely the inventor of this irresistible argument, which must needs put every
obsti. nate heretic to the blush, I cannot positively affirnı: but he had certainly the merit of using it, with no small dexterity, against his imperial opponent.
* The modern Papists, like Gregory of old, deny the accusation of idolatry. This they can only do on Gregory's plea, that to worship an image is quite a different thing from worshipping an idol : for the orthodoxy of image-worship was established by the council held under Pope Stephen III; and, as Bp. Walmesley assures us, “ when a dogmatical point is to be ter. * mined, the Catholic Church speaks but once, and her decree “ is IRREVOCABLE.” Gen. Hist. p. 224. The decision of that theopneust council ran, as follows.
“ The holy images of Christ, the blessed Virgin, and other “ saints, ARE WORTHY OF HONOUR AND WORSHIP
Accordingly, that sound expositor of Scripture, James Naclantus bishop of Clugium, thus undertakes to elucidate St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans.
“ Therefore it is not only to be confessed, that the faithful in " the Church do worship before an image (as some too cautious “ souls may perhaps be inclined to speak), but THEY LIKEWISE
WORSHIP THE VERY IMAGE ITSELF WITHOUT ANY SCRUPLE OR DOUBT AT ALL. Nay more: they worship the image
WITH THE VERY SAME KIND OF WORSHIP as its original pro“ totype. So that, if the prototype be worshipped with
LATRIA, or THAT PECULIAR AND SUPRENE WORSHIP WITH
WHICH JEHOVAH IS ADORED ; the image must also be wor• shipped with LATRIA: if with Dulia or Hyperdulia, that is to