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there is there ; but unless
re.no our umpire tousm
of all, Mr. Mlength, hallenge'ching the is no" ; but unless
THE SCRIPTURES any testimony, whether of the Scripture or the Fathers ; but unless we would bring in universal scepticism, there is no reason why Antiquity may not be our umpire touching the disputed sense of doctrinal Scripture.” The challenge made to Augustine is then stated again at greater length, and an answer to it is required from the Reviewer or Mr. M'Neile.
Last of all, Mr. M‘Neile has stept in to defend his own statement. He naturally complains that Mr. Faber should have as. sailed his work before he had read it, and then shows that, by merely substituting Antiquity for Scripture, Mr. F.'s own words will completely abolish Mr. F.'s argument. He next refers to his work itself, and reminds us that he had reasoned there from Mr. Faber's own witnesses, to show that three of them affirmed the very doctrine, which the consent of Antiquity was to overthrow. He then narrows the question about them to this one point, whether ens 805ay should be translated, to ecclesiastical privileges, as Mr. F.'s argument requires, or simply, to glory, as Mr. M'Neile himself affirms.
We must now sum up, as briefly as we may, the whole discussion. It has arisen chiefly from the haste of our excellent friend, Mr. Faber, in censuring Mr. M ́Neile's work in the dark, before he had seen it, and from a real inconsistency-he must forgive us for saying-in his own views and statements on the subject in debate. We agree with Mr. M`Neile in his assertion of the doctrine itself, but on this point we have no wish to enter at present. We shall merely repeat our opinion, that his statement, with regard to the true laws of evidence, by which we are to ascertain Divine truth, is “ clear, forcible, and conclusive.” : 1. The newtor feudos of Mr. Faber's argument lies, we thought and still think, in a secret assumption that the Scriptures are quite ambiguous, and the Fathers comparatively free from ambiguity. Our friend renounces the sentiment, and we rejoice in his hearty disclaimer. But then he ought, at the same time, to retract the statements of his former letter, which have no meaning on any other view. Mr. M`Neile had reasoned from Scripture in favour of the doctrine of personal election. He had shown forcibly that if such reasonings may be set aside without inquiry, as private opinions, all appeals to Antiquity may be set aside on the very same ground. Mr. Faber, however, before he has read a sentence of the work, affirms that the whole must be a mere paralogism; that this is not to argue, but to dogmatize; that Mr. M. builds on his own “ gratuitous interpretation of Scripture," while his, Mr. F.'s, work is “ a strictly evidential treatise on the testimony of Antiquity." The facts here speak for themselves. Direct reasonings on Scrip
ture, to fix its sense, even before their particular nature is known, are declared to be quite worthless, a gratuitous private opinion, which can never determine its true meaning. On the contrary, the passages from the Fathers are so plain, that they prove, not Mr. Fi's private opinion on their meaning, but the meaning itself; and, by à further consequence, decide the true sense of Scripture also. This implies clearly just what we said, that the Scriptures are quite ambiguous, the Fathers nearly, or quite, free from ambiguity. “No proposition in Euclid, we think, can well be plainer. Since our friend rejects the principle, he must surely admit that his charge of paralogism against Mr. M‘Neile was entirely groundless. Mr. M. may have reasoned on Scripture amiss; but no one could have a right to assume that those reasonings must be worthless, before he had read them, unless the word of God be hopelessly obscure. And, unless the Fathers are free from all ambiguity, no one may assume it for self-evident that Mr. McNeile is wrong in his construction of Clement, Ignatius, and Hermas, or Augustine in his construction of Cyprian, Gregory, and Ambrose. If Mr. Faber had not tried to set aside Scriptural reasoning entirely, as beside the question, and worthless, the discussion would not have arisen. He has now denied the only principle on which that assertion can ever be justified, and thus retreated from the dangerous position taken up in his first letter, to more defensible ground.
2. What now is the new position of the argument ? Mr. M'Neile has reasoned from the texts of various Scriptures, and Mr. Faber from the texts of various Fathers. Each line of argument, we believe, is lawful in its own place; unless we yield to the scepticism of “determined quibblers,” and deny that words have commonly a definite meaning. We believe, with Mr. M`Neile and Mr. Faber, that the Scriptures have a fixed sense, which may commonly be ascertained; and, with Mr. Faber and Mr. McNeile, that the Fathers have the same character, only in a lower degree. So far both authors are in the right. But here is the great difference. Mr. M'Neile goes at once to the fountain. head. His arguments are drawn from the word of God itself. In our opinion they prove what is the true sense of Scripture; and if so, since the Scripture is inspired truth, they decide the question at once. Mr. Faber prefers the lower maxim—"rivulos consectari.” He would prove, by quotations, the consent of the early Fathers before Augustine to a different view. If this were proved, it would be only a strong presumption, and not like the other, a real proof. Here also it would be only a negative presumption. Mr. M. holds the very doctrine of ecclesiastical election, which Mr. Faber proves most of the Fathers to have held. That they positively rejected a further doctrine, quite consistent, in Mr. M.'s view, with the former, can never be proved merely from their silence. Finally, we agree with Mr. M'Neile that even this negative presumption fails, and that Clemens, Ignatius, and Hermas, on the only natural construction of their words, assert the very doctrine, which the silence of all the Fathers is said to disprove. And thus the reasonings, which Mr. Faber would set aside as worthless, are, in three respects, better and more forcible than his own. They appeal to Scripture itself, and not to fallible writers. They are direct arguments, that the doctrine is affirmed by inspired apostles; and not indirect presumptions, from the mere silence of a few uninspired men. And, finally, they leave to words their natural sense, while our friend, to sustain his negative presumption, must interpret doga in Ignatius, and som alwusos in Hermas, by the weak paraphrase-ecclesiastical privileges; or “ an election into the pale of Christ's Church."-(Vide p. 715.)
3. Let us now meet the difficulty which our correspondent lays in our path, and which he seems to think insurmountable. “On all essential points the Scriptures are abundantly clear to a really honest inquirer. Still the naked fact is plain, that very different interpretations are put upon them. What then is to be done in this case ?”
Surely no Edipus is needed here to find an answer. Refer at once every “really honest inquirer" to that abundantly clear evidence which Scripture supplies. Even where doctrines are less plainly revealed, still refer the honest inquirer to the same source of truth, and place its evidence in the clearest light its nature allows of. Reason from the context, compare Scripture with Scripture, and passage with passage. If you convince him, you have gained your brother. If not, exercise mutual forbearance. Remember our common blindness, and wait for the hour, when we shall see eye to eye, and know even as we are known. Whereunto you have attained unity of judgment, walk by the same rule, mind the same things; and perhaps in due time, where you are variously-minded, God will reveal even this unto you. But, above all, do not deceive yourself with the fancy that differences of judg. ment, which the word of God cannot cure, will be healed at once by an appeal to the Fathers.
But what is to be done with dishonest inquirers? The first thing to be done, we answer, is to get rid of the vain hope that we can cure their dishonesty, or silence their quibbles, by changing the venue from the Bible to the early Fathers. Dishonest minds have thus only a wider jungle in which they can play at hide and seek with the truth. The next step must be, to awaken their conscience, by a sense of their sin and danger in the sight of God.
This done, every thing else would follow in due time, and the promise be fulfilled, “ The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way.” And bere the word of God must have far greater power than all the volumes of the Fathers. “ What is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord ? Is not my word a fire, saith the Lord, and a hammer to break the rock in pieces ?”
Lastly, when conviction is hopeless, and our sole aim is to silence gainsayers, we must use all the evidence that exists, and place it in its strongest light, but be careful not to exalt any beyond its due importance. We must show the direct proofs of the doctrine in Scripture, and confirm them by the fact of its general reception by those who lived nearer the time of the Apostles, and had the earliest access to the New Testament. We may thus leave those without excuse, who dare to cast it aside, without a most serious, cautious, humble, and prayerful inquiry. Where such a consent plainly exists, we should omit one powerful means of impression, were we to exclude it from our appeal. But if we urge this alone, and neglect all the direct evidence of the word of God, we are guilty of a far more dangerous and fatal omission. This consent of the early Church just fulfils the part of the cypher in numeration. When proofs from Scripture go before, it may add greatly to their practical force on the minds of men ; when used to supersede those proofs, it is utterly vain and worthless.
We do not, then, refuse the testimony of antiquity in its own place. We only restrain and limit this appeal by two conditions, without which it may soon become worse than useless. First, it must be employed only to fortify and confirm direct Scriptural evidence, and never to displace or exclude it. And secondly, it must be of a positive, and not of a negative kind. It can only confirm the probable truth of a doctrine by its general reception in early times; but it can never prove its falsehood, because it has been passed over in silence. The reason of this maxim is plain. A doctrine could scarcely be received by all early writers, on the faith of Scripture, unless the Scriptures had really taught it. But there may be a thousand truths, less evident or vital, contained in the same Scriptures, which few Christians, or none, might recognize in those first ages. The fountain of truth, in the Word of God, is always the same. The actual apprehension of it, like the river from the sanctuary, may go on enlarging perpetually from age to age. Mr. Faber, we think, has transgressed both of these rules, and Mr. M`Neile, on the contrary, has faithfully observed them.
4. Beside the difficulty we have now removed, Mr. Faber thinks us guilty of a non sequitur ; as if we had reasoned, that on this
point there is no ambiguity in Scripture; therefore Mr. M`Neile's view must be right, and Mr. Faber's must be wrong.
Here again, the logical confusion, we submit, is entirely on the side of our venerable friend. We have said nothing that could give a just ground for his charge. How then has it arisen ? Merely from the fact that Mr. Faber sees no medium between self-evidence, and total, helpless ambiguity. We never pretended that the doctrine, held by Mr. M'Neile, was so plainly the doctrine of Scripture that no honest mind could doubt its truth. We are sure of the contrary, that many sincere and pious men do more than doubt, and positively disbelieve it. But neither can we admit that Scripture is so vague in its statements, as that no valid arguments, on either side, can be based upon them. Mr. Faber, because good and honest men differ about a doctrine of Scripture, would infer that all Scriptural reasonings upon it are worthless. In our opinion this is just the case in wbich they are of the highest value. Where truths are self-evident, argument is needless; and where nothing has been revealed, it is hopeless. But where much has certainly been revealed, and still its meaning is not selfevident to all honest minds, there reasoning, like that of Mr. M'Neile, has its right place. To express our judgment that his argument was forcible and conclusive, was our evident right, and with our convictions, a plain duty. We claimed no infallible wisdom, and never dreamt of settling, by one stroke of our pen, a question which has vexed the Church of Christ for long ages. But we dreamt as little that either friend or enemy could interpret the remark into such a foolish syllogism as,-Scripture is self-evident, and therefore Mr. M`Neile must be right and Mr. Faber wrong. Our real view was sufficiently plain from our words, and may be stated as follows. “Scripture is here not self-evident, or else argument would be superfluous. Neither is it utterly and hopelessly ambiguous; or else neither early fathers nor later divines, neither Mr. Faber nor Mr. M`Neile, could ever arrive at more than a baseless and utterly uncertain opinion. Its true meaning needs care to ascertain it, but still it may be ascertained. Mr. M'Neile has therefore done well to use Scriptural arguments, and Mr. Faber has done ill to set them aside. The former has also, in our own opinion, reasoned well, and come to just conclusions. We do not repeat his reasonings, nor expect our Arminian brethren to agree at once in our verdict. We merely refer those who have doubts, and desire to have them relieved, or who reject the doctrine, and wish to see what reasons may be urged in its favour, to the work itself, which is well worthy of their serious and attentive perusal.” This, we submit, is perfectly clear, and logically consistent. But to say, as