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we can have no better guide than the Holy Scriptures themselves. For if we discover what is the meaning of any word by perusing the various passages in which it occurs, so as to be in any way applicable to the interpretation of the one under examination, every one will agree that we have chosen the most satisfactory and plainly true method of settling the sense intended by our Lord. We have a twofold investigation to make : first, with the aid of other passages to ascertain the exact meaning of the phrases in themselves ; and then to see in what relation they stand together, or, in other words, what is the extent of the commission which they imply.'
“ Here the Doctor adduces a passage of Scripture to prove the Church infallible. And he arrives at this meaning, not by church authority, but by private interpretation. He says: “It is plain that there must be a certain criterion-a sure way to arrive at a correct knowledge of our Saviour's meaning. What shall we now think of all that has been said and written against private interpretation ? Dr. Wiseman asserts that it is a certain criterion, a sure way; and if it is not, he knows of no better rule. Is he infallible in his conclusion ? If not, infallibility is founded on fallibility. If what he says is true, an important principle of Protestantism is established. And if he can prove the doctrine of infallibility by private interpretation, why may he not understand any other doctrine of Scripture in the same way? If he can, an infallible guide is unnecessary. It is true, Dr. Wiseman, in many of his Lectures, opposes the very rule which he here establishes, and Dr. Milner violently denounces it. But when both argue with Protestants, or when they address the common sense of mankind, they are compelled to use the very thing which they elsewhere condemn."
And it can be no matter of surprize, -that as the boasted infallibility of interpretation is a dream,-an illusion,-so it turns out, that the desired unity and uniformity of faith is not, in point of fact, obtained :
“ The rule of the Papist's faith is the scripture as interpreted by the Church, and imposed by her authority upon her people. Well, then, if this be a sufficient rule, it must have produced uniformity of faith, consent of interpretation, and prevention, or extinction of all heresy and schism in the Church of Rome. And if you believe Dr. Wiseman, it has operated, and must operate unfailingly to this effect. But how ? . The moment,' says he,'any Catholic doubts, not alone the principle of his faith, but any one of those doctrines thereon based; the moment he allows himself
Elliott's Delineation of Romanism, pp. 14, 15.
to call in question any of the dogmas which the Catholic Church teaches, as having been handed down within her, that moment the Church conceives him to have virtually abandoned all connexion with her. For she exacts such implicit obedience, that if any member, however valuable, fall away from his belief on any one point, he is cut off without reserve!! By this process, if enforced, no doubt, unity will be maintained in the Roman Church; maintained, however, not by producing or preserving it among all who have been members of her body, but by separating from her communion all who submit not to receive her creed. A notable power, truly, yet in no wise peculiar, but claimed, and exercised, we believe, to the same effect by every Christian sect. And is this the boasted idea of Catholic unity ? or if it is ought else, then how does the past history or the present state of the Catholic Church verify it ? Every Papist and every Popish priest, it is true, professes to receive the scriptures, only according to the unanimous interpretation of the fathers. But every man knows that no such interpretation exists, or has been produced, but that, in truth, there is full as much disagreement between ancient as between modern expositors of the word of God. Then in regard to the unity of creed, unless it will be held, that all saving faith is comprised in believing the supremacy of the Roman see, how can any man pretend that harmony obtains in the Popish Church, more than in the Protestant Churches ? The fact is familiarly known, that almost the same varieties of religious opinions which prevail in different denominations of the one, are held by the different orders of the other. "Arminianism,' says Townsend, is the doctrine of the Jesuits ; Calvinism of the Jansenists; Quakerism of the Franciscans ; Socinianism, in all its gradations, from Arianism to Belshamism, was taught by the authors enumerated in the Roma Racoviana of Jameson. The fanaticism of new sects among us was the same with that of new orders among you. With regard to heresies, Bishop Hall, in his Peace of Rome, reckons up two hundred varieties of doctrine in the writings of Bellarmine alone. And then in regard to schisms or divisions in this indivisibly one church of one faith, Bellarmine enumerates twenty-six. Pavinius thirty, of which some lasted ten, twenty, and even fifty years. In short, to adopt the statement of Chillingworth, which be substantiates by details, ' There have been popes against popes, councils against councils, councils confirmed by popes against councils confirmed by popes; the church of some against the church of other ages."'1
! Glasgow Lectures on Popery. pp. 23, 24.
This living, availing, standard of faith, and infallible interpreter, then, is a fiction. It has no existence ;-it never had any ;-it never can have any.
Mr. Wells flies to Rome, and is rather applauded than blamed by Mr. Wray for so flying, in quest of some “ authoritative expositor of truth.” Where will he find it ?
Shall he go to Dr. Wiseman, and say to him, “ Tell me, what is truth ? I repose myself in your hands,-on what you declare I shall venture my soul.”
Would this be less than madness ? Who has told him that Dr. Wiseman,-any more than Dr. Pusey, or Dr. Conquest, or Mr. Prince, is the mouth-piece of God's Holy Spirit, and can be to him an infallible guide ? The fact is, that there is no living man upon earth, nor has there been for eighteen centuries, upon whose simple word we may safely venture our souls. Infallibility, or preservation from error, is the lot of none. The wisest and best man upon earth may attempt to give us a solution of a difficult passage in God's word, and may furnish us with an erroneous one!
Dr. Wiseman, then, is not to be Mr. Wells' infallibility, if Mr. Wells would be safe. Where, then, will be find “the authoritative expositor” whom he seeks ?
Will Dr. Wiseman tell him of “the Church.” But the Church is an abstraction. Where is Mr. Wells to find her ?- from what lips is he to gather her decision ?
Shall he go to the existing records of her councils, and the writings of her doctors ? Here is a maze, a wilderness, indeed ; but how shall Mr. Wells be certified, that infallibility resides in these hundred and fifty folios? What? shall I leave the ONE Book written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, because it is so obscure that I want an interpreter ;-and shall I plunge, for greater ease and clearness, into all the multitudinous vagaries of «« the Seraphic Doctor," or the contradictory decisions of fifty conflicting councils ?
But has not the Church spoken at Trent; and may not Dr. Wiseman rest upon those decisions, and Mr. Wells accept them, as sufficiently “ authoritative expositors” of divine truth ?
Certainly, if Mr. Wells chooses to do the most irrational thing that can be conceived, he is at liberty to do so. But what can be said of a man who ventures his soul on a notorious fraud and falsehood ?
The Church spoke, the Church decided, at Trent! What Church, that we in England have anything to do with ? A body of bishops was indeed got together at Trent, between the years 1545 and
that “ertainly, if sauthoritati decisions,
1563. They professed to represent and to legislate for, the whole Catholic church. They might with nearly as much shew of reason, have called themselves the representatives of the empire of China.
The council was composed of a few Spanish bishops, and a great many Italian ones. Germany, France, and England, were either wholly or almost entirely unrepresented at the council. Some of its principal decisions were adopted while only about fifty prelates were present; most of whom were creatures of the Pope, who made, and sent to the council, as many bishops, from time to time, as were needful to serve his purpose !
And a packed convention like this, held at the other end of Europe, by people with whom England had nothing in common, is to be imagined to constitute“ an authoritative expositor " or rule of faith, for Englishmen in the nineteenth century!
No, there is not,-nor ever will be, till the great HEAD OF THE CHURCH returns to reign, any living or infallible expositor of truth, -any Rule of Faith, in short, save that one which Tractarians shrink from, but which true Churchmen love,—that “ All Scripture was given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
1. DOCUMENTS RELATIVE TO THE ERECTION AND • ENDOWMENT OF ADDITIONAL BISHOPRICS IN
THE COLONIES: with a short Historical Preface.
Rivingtons. 1844. ; 2. A HISTORY OF THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL
CHURCH IN AMERICA. By SAMUEL WILBERFORCE,
don: Burns. 1844. 3. THE EARLY LIFE AND PROFESSIONAL YEARS OF
BISHOP HOBART. By John McVICAR, D.D., Colombia
in Ordinary to the Queen. Oxford: Talboys. 4. HISTORICAL NOTICES OF THE MISSIONS OF THE
CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN THE NORTH AMERI. CAN COLONIES, previous to the Independence of the United States : chiefly from the Manuscript Documents of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. By ERNEST HAWKINS, B. D., Fellow of Exeter College, and Secretary to the Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel. London: Fellowes. 1845. 5. THE MISSIONS OF THE CHURCH : a Review of the
Past and Prospective Extension of the Gospel by Missions to the Heathen: considered in Eight Lectures, delivered before the University of Oxford in the year 1843. By ANTHONY GRANT, D.C.L., Vicar of Romford, Essex (now Archdeacon of St. Alban's, and Prebendary of St. Paul's). No. 3. English Review. 1844. London: Rivingtons.
“ LORD BATHURST told me," says Sir James Mackintosh,' “ that the members of the Scriblerus Club being met at his house at dinner, they agreed to rally Berkeley, who was also his guest, on his scheme at Bermudas. Berkeley, having listened to the many lively things they had to say, begged to be heard in his turn, and displayed his plan with such an astonishing and animating force of eloquence and enthusiasm, that they were struck dumb; and after some pause, rose all up together with earnestness, exclaiming, 'Let us set out with him immediately.'” It was when thus be
, Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy, (pp. 209, 210), quoted by Mr. Hawkins. Historical Notices, pp. 172, 173.