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and enthusiast on the one hand, both of whom fondly imagine an elapse of the Spirit specially illuminating their minds, and guiding them into all saving truth (for according to the doctrine just laid down, though the illumination of the Holy Spirit, in the ordinary, not in the miraculous exercise thereof, be admitted to be absolutely necessary, it is only so in conjunction with the other external means which God has granted for our religious edification), and from those on the other band who would erect into an arbitrary and practically infallible tribunal, any one of those means in particular, to the exclusion as it were of the rest, which Mr. Faber appears to do by his new principle; new comparatively I call it, because if this is denied, I may take another opportunity of showing that it is only in his works written since the year 1830 he has adopted it. I will now state what appear to my mind the most striking objections to Mr. Faber's view.
A very acute and valuable writer of the present day, a general admirer (like myself) of Mr. Faber, whose name I will not mention, because he communicated it to me in a private letter, says respecting him as follows:-“In Mr. Faber there is a constant regard to “ the forms of logic; and his attention to these forms often “ deceive him into an impression totally erroneous as to the real s strength of his reasoning, which not seldom contains an “ unproved assumption in its very heart." Now if I mistake not, an unproved assumption is to be found in the proposition that “pure consenting primitive antiquity is the interpreter of doctrinal Scripture.”—“ Pure” and “consenting." Was doctrine in primitive times, “always, everywhere, and by all," pure and consenting ? St. Paul and St. John tell a very different story. See 2 Timothy ii. 17, 18, and the messages to the angels or churches of Asia in the Revelation. Of the writings of the really primitive age, the age immediately succeeding the Apostles, much has undoubtedly perished; no one in fact will dispute that by far the greater part is lost, since nothing of it remains to us but the Epistle of Clement, that of Polycarp, the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna on Polycarp's martyrdom, and the Epistles of Ignatius. Now how, I ask, are we to ascertain whether these few scanty documents of the really primitive age constitute a part of the pure or the impure portion of antiquity ? Will Mr. Faber reply that it cannot be supposed the Apostles would have appointed Ignatius or Polycarp or Clement to bishoprics had they been capable of inditing erroneous doctrine at the time of their appointment or subsequently? I answer, that the messages to five out of the seven bishops or angels of the churches of Asia Minor in the Revelation, show that the inspiration of the Apostles did not extend to the
selection of persons who in every case should be infallibly preserved from all subsequent error; nor can I think that Mr. Faber, if by God's providence he were called to suffer death for the faith, would express himself as Ignatius did, and say that if the wild beasts would not willingly devour them, he would compel them by provocation to do it, which is an act verging very closely on the confines of suicide, instead of calmly resigning himself into the hands of God, to be disposed of as He thought fit. I therefore again ask how the purity of these writings is to be tested except by an appeal and reference to Scripture ; and if the orthodoxy and truth of the doctrine contained in these patristical writings is to be tested by an appeal to Scripture, they cannot themselves alone constitute ihe test of Scripture doctrine : so that we are ultimately thrown back in the last resort on Scripture itself. Scanty then are the remains of what are called the Apostolical Fathers; few compared with those that have perished must be the remains of the whole second, and greater part of the third century; and again I say, that, except by the test of Seripture, we cannot know whether what is preserved to us is a part of the pure or impure section of the written tradition of the Church ; and as Whitby says, “ Before
we can know true tradition from false, we must know true faith “ from false; and if we must know this faith before we can know “ true tradition, we cannot need tradition to instruct us in the “ true faith :" Nor does this in any way hinder our accounting it comforting and confirming to our minds to find that the documents which do remain show that those who indited them agreed in the main and for the most part with ourselves; a widely different thing from setting them up as the only infallible (practically infallible) tests.
Again : let me notice another point so palpable that it seems almost impossible it should have escaped observation, but yet Mr. Faber never, anywhere that I have seen, notices it. Why is the stress always laid on “ doctrinal" Scripture only. If necessary in doctrinal, to prevent various and erroneous opinions, why not in practical, in the practical precepts of Scripture also ? Are these always and in every case so plain, that, by the reading the mere letter of them, every one must be of one opinion about them? Far from it. To hate our father, mother, and nearest relations; to give to every one that asketh us; not to resist evil, and to turn the left cheek to those who smite us on the right (precepts in the letter incompatible with the existence of property at all, and subversive of the order of society, rendering all law and police useless); the saving efficacy, I say, of these precepts by common consent is not to be found in the letter, but is vested exclusively in the spirit,
according to the saying of St. Paul: “ He hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit ; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
The practical parts of Scripture, therefore, are just as liable to be misunderstood by those who do not diligently use all the aids and assistances which God has been pleased to put into their power for the understanding of them, as the doctrinal; and the necessity of one single definite umpire from whose tribunal there is to be no appeal, may just as well be pleaded in the one case as in the other. As Mr. Holden has well observed, “ perfect unity in doctrine is as difficult of attainment as perfect virtue in practice; nevertheless both are to be diligently sought after to be obtained as much as possible ; " not by setting up a single imaginary test from which there is no appeal, but “ by every means in cur power.” And we may rest assured that when this is not only professed to be done, but is actually and faithfully and universally performed, a unity of doctrine in all essential and saving truth, and perfection of practice, with happiness thence springing up, such as the world has never yet seen, will be beheld and experienced.
Another objection to Mr. Faber's view. According to this view, it would be utterly impossible to hope to convert a single Jew to Christianity. Christianity, we all know, is founded upon a particular interpretation of the Old Testament. Now it will not be contended that if an umpire and test such as Mr. Faber sets before us be requisite for the interpretation of the doctrinal Scripture of the New Testament, it is not, to say the least, equally so for that of the Old. Where then is the “ pure consenting primitive antiquity," the “ unanimous assent” to which private opinion is to submit itself, which we can offer to the Jew? To point to the universal assent of Christians is of course a palpable “ petitio principii” with a Jew ; for his very point of dispute with Christians is about the right meaning of the Old Testament; and as for the unanimous consent of the Jews themselves, the librarians and keepers of the Old Testament, from whose hands originally we received them, we know that the great body of the nation did reject, and do yet reject, the Christian interpretation, while only a few comparatively received and propagated it.
Lastly, let us see how Mr. Faber's principle works in practice. Some years ago Mr. Newman and he disagreed respecting the Bible doctrine of justification : well, they agreed to refer their dispute to Clement, an umpire from whose judgment there could be no appeal, because as a witness to a matter of fact, viz. how the doctrine was received and understood by the primitive Church, as
incipii " voicassent of Co, we can ofsent
delivered by the apostles, he could not be mistaken; and any da. trine built upon an interpretation wholly unknown to, or directly contradicted by the Catholic Church from the beginning, must be a mere subsequent human invention. But, alas ! how is the dspute any nearer to a settlement ? “ Forthwith begins the interminable tug of wordy war.” Mr. Faber stoutly maintains that Clement means the Evangelical—Mr. Newman stoutly maintain he means the Roman or Tractarian view; it is found that it is a difficult to INTERPRET Clement as to interpret St. Paul; the Fo. thers as the New Testament; it is a mere shifting of the groue and scene of the combat from St. Paul's epistle to the Romans to Clement's epistle to the Corinthians. Allow me to add that there is little strength gained in the length of Mr. Faber's different catenas, when comprising the testimony of writers in the fourt and fifth and subsequent centuries, when many corruptions, and even idolatries, as he himself allows, had spread in the Church. ! have already adverted to the scantiness of the documents preserved to us of the really primitive age.
Allow me, in conclusion, to point out two small works which are extremely useful in showing the proper limits between private judgment, and the testimony and authority of the Church and a antiquity : I mean a treatise on Tradition by the late Bishop Shuttleworth, and another on the same subject by the Rer. George Holden ; especially the latter, where the subject is reasoned out in the most masterly manner, and the fallacy of Mr. Faber's vietos this particular point, as well as the Romanizing sentiments of the Rev. Edward Churton, now Archdeacon of Cleveland, acutely and convincingly pointed out. Private judgment in religious matters is, in the very nature of the case, unavoidable; used really and truly as well by those who pretend to reject, as in those who profess to use it; the true study is the means of exercising it ma healthy manner, making proper use of the means placed within 118 reach. It is evidently the dread of the abuse of private judgment (and I admit, with Mr. Faber, that when really “ insulated" its abused), which has led him to a morbid wish for a practically fallible interpreter, under the notion of a witness to matter of fac who could not be deceived; but he must surely now be convinced, that even did such exist, pride of intellect, vain speculation, the bridled imagination, selfish passions, may render it all nugator, by misinterpreting the interpreter, and so making it necessary i call in another, and another, ad infinitum.
I am, Sir, yours, Dec. 16, 1846.
A LAY CHURCHMAN.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHURCHMAN'S MONTHLY REVIEW. SIR,-I suppose there is no man who would attempt to justify either the spirit or the actions of many of those persons, who profited by the confiscation of ecclesiastical property in this country, at the time of the Reformation. There are few, however, I trust, who will not be shocked with the republication of Sir Henry Spelman's “ History of Sacrilege,” with dissertations and additions, bringing it down, as far as possible, to the present time.
One would imagine that our blessed Lord's instructions as to the interpretation of judgments (as they are popularly called,) in Luke xiii. 2, &c., and John ix. 3, would be sufficient to inspire caution in such matters into every believer in the truth of revelation : but this appears to be anything but the case with the editors (for they are two) of this, to my mind, most presumptuous and mischievous book. Every source, accurate and inaccurate, seems to have been ransacked by them, in order to prove that the possessors of church property, in whatever manner obtained, can never prosper; and county histories and county newspapers are alike brought in evidence to maintain their unscriptural position. An ancient house is burnt down-a noble family is extinct through the failure of male issue-a gallant young officer falls in battlewhatever calamity befals anybody, it sends them hunting in Dugdale for an explanation, and loud is the triumph if they can discover that a verdict of “ death, or destruction by possession of abbey-property” may be returned.
It is not my purpose to follow them into any of the details of slander, in which they indulge against persons, who, for all they know, may have died in the Lord, and whose memory is perhaps very sacred to their surviving friends.
I will only assert what I am fully prepared to prove, that, as to families in my own neighbourhood, they adduce as facts, in some cases the mere unfounded gossip of the grossest superstition; in others, statements so incorrectly represented as to lose the very semblance of truth. It would not be very interesting to your readers, who may not (and I by no means desire that they should) have the book before them, to go into these.
Let me rather give a sample of the doctrine and arguments upon which their conclusions are founded.
In the preliminary Dissertation it is contended, that it is not merely because abbey property has once been devoted to the Lord's