Page images
PDF
EPUB

nor lowered to the mere negative purpose of excluding error; but they are instruments of teaching, of Catholic teaching, being, as far as they go, heads, as it were, of important chapters in revealed truth. And it is under this view of them that we put them before the young, not by way of ascertaining their Churchmanship, but as the particular forms under which we teach the details of faith, the basis on, and out of which, the superstructure of theology may be most conveniently raised.

Such, then, seems to be the light in which we are to regard our Articles; and till they are imposed on all our members as terms of communion, they are quite consistent with the doctrine held, as we have seen, by Antiquity concerning the Apostolic Creed, quite distinct from the tyrannical enforcement of the Tridentine Articles on the part of Rome.

LECTURE X.

ON THE ESSENTIALS OF THE GOSPEL.

I TRUST that the foregoing Lectures have disposed us to take a more cheerful view of what the Protestantism of the day considers a hardship. It considers it a hardship to have anything clearly and distinctly told it in elucidation of Scripture doctrine, an infringement on its right of doubting, and mistaking, and labouring in vain. And the violent effort to keep itself in this state of ignorance,—this unnatural “stopping of its ears," and

throwing dust into the air,” after the pattern of those Jews who would not hear the voice of Apostles and Martyrs,--all this it dignifies by the title of defending the sacred right of Private Judgment, calls it a holy cause, a righteous battle, and other large and senseless epithets. But I trust that we have learned to glory in that which the world calls a bondage. We do boast and exult in bearing Christ's yoke, whether of faith or of obedience ; and we consider His Creed, not as a tyrannical infliction, (God forbid !) or a jealous test, but as a glorious privilege, which we are ready to battle and to suffer for, yea, much more ready, (so be it ! through His grace), than they for their low, carnal, and despicable licence to reject it.

And as they are eager to secure their liberty in religious opinions as the right of every individual, so do we make it every individual's prerogative to maintain and defend the Creed. They cannot allow more to the individual in the way of variety of opinion, than we do in that of confessorship. The humblest and meanest among Christians may defend the faith against the whole Church, if the need arise. He has as much stake in it and as much right to it, as Bishop or Archbishop, and has nothing to limit him but his intellectual capacity of doing so. The greater his attainments the more serviceably of course and the more suitably will he enter into the dispute; but all that learning has to do for him is to ascertain the fact, what is the meaning of the Creed in particular points, since matter of opinion it is not, any more than the history of the rise and spread of Christianity itself. No persons properly qualified, whatever their own opinion may be, can doubt, for instance, in what case the articles of the Creed concerning the Son of God, are contradicted; all that can come into dispute is, whether those articles are necessary or essential to the Gospel.

Now then, having considered in general what the saving faith is, let us proceed to examine some of the principal objections which are taken to us.

1. First then, it may be urged, that the Creed, which I have stated to be the abstract of saving faith, does not include all doctrines which are essential; especially it does not include any acknowledgment that Scripture is the word of God. It has been asked of us, is belief in Scripture a fundamental of faith or not? if it is, it follows that there are fundamental doctrines besides the articles of the Creed; if it is not, what becomes of the popular notion that the Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants ? I answer as follows:

If the Romanist asks, whether belief in Scripture is an essential part of the faith, which he is apt to do, I ask him in turn, whether the Infallibility of the Church is or is not in his system an article of faith. It is nowhere so declared; how then is it less defective in Romanism to omit so cardinal a doctrine, than in our own system to omit the inspiration and canonicity of the Scriptures? Whatever answer he gives in his own behalf, will serve for us also. If he says, for instance, that the whole of Romanism implies and is built upon the principle of Infallibility, that the doctrines which it holds as fundamental could not be such, were not the Church an infallible oracle, that every truth must have some truth beyond it until we come to the ultimate principles of knowledge, that a Creed never could recount all the previous steps by which it became a Creed, and that after all the doctrine in question is at least indirectly expressed in Pope Pius's Creed, I answer that much the same pleas may be offered in defence of Scripture not being recognized in the Apostolic Creed. It may be something more than a fundamental of faith ; it may be the foundation of the fundamentals, and may be passed over in the Creed, as being pre-. supposed and implied in it. This might be said in explanation. But in truth it is really recognized in it as the standard of appeal; viz. in those articles which, after St. Paul's pattern, speak of our Lord's resurrection as being “according to the Scriptures." What happens to be expressed in one instance is a kind of index of what is tacitly signified throughout. This, indeed, is no proof to a Romanist, who denies that the Bible was considered by the original framers of the Creed, as the fundamental record of the Gospel: but it goes as far as this, to show the Bible may have been so considered by them, to show that our doctrine is consistent with itself. As far as the facts of the case go, that may be, which we say really is. The indirect manner in which Scripture is alluded to in the Creed, while agreeable to the notion that the Creed contains all the fundamentals, seems also to imply that Scripture is their foundation.

This is no singular case. I refer to the parallel of Romanism, not as a mere argumentum ad homi

« PreviousContinue »