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inspired volume ?” And that it is not found there (that is, I mean not found as fully as it might be), seems to them proved at once by the simple fact, that all persons (as I may say, for the exceptions are very few),—all those who try to go by Scripture only, fall away from the Church and her doctrines, to one or other sect or party, as if showing that whatever is or is not scriptural, at least the Church, by consent of all men, is not so.
I am stating no rare or novel objection : it is one which (I suppose) all of us have felt, or perhaps feel : it is one which, before now (I do not scruple to say), I have much felt myself, and that without being able satisfactorily to answer : one which I believe to be one of the main difficulties, and (as I think) one of the intended difficulties which God's Providence puts at this day in the path of those who seek Him as He commands, for purposes known or unknown, ascertainable or not. Nor am I at all sanguine that I shall be able, in what I shall say, to present any thing like a full view of the difficulty itself, even as a phenomenon; which different minds feel differently, and do not quite recognize as their own when stated by another, and which it is difficult to bring out even according to one's own idea of it. Much less shall I be able to assign it its due place in that system which nevertheless I hold to be true, and in which it is but a difficulty. I do not profess to be about to account for it, reconcile it, and dismiss it as a thing which was in a man's way, but is henceforth behind him ;-yet, subdued as my hopes may be, I have too great confidence in that glorious Creed, which I believe to have been once delivered to the Saints, to wish in any degree to deny the difficulty, or to be unfair to it, to smooth it over, misrepresent it, or defraud it of its due weight and extent. Though I were to grant that the champions of Israel have not yet rescued this portion of the sacred territory from the Philistine, its usurping occupant, yet was not Jerusalem in the hands of the Jebusites till David's time? and shall I, seeing with my eyes and enjoying the land of promise, be over-troubled with one objection, which stands unvanquished (supposing it); and, like haughty Haman, count the King's favour as nothing till I have all my own way, and nothing to try me? In plain terms, I conceive I have otherwise most abundant evidence given me of the divine origin of the Church system: how then is that evidence which is given, not given, because though given in Scripture, it might be given more explicitly and fully, and (if I may so say) more consistently?
One consideration alone must create an anxiety in entering on the subject I propose. It is this:-Those who commonly make this objection which is to be considered, viz. the want of adequate Scripture evidence for the Church doctrine, have, I feel sure, no right to make it; that is, they are inconsistent in making it; for they cannot consistently object against a person who believes more than they do, unless they cease to believe just so much as they do believe. They ought, on their own principles, to doubt or disown much which happily they do not doubt or disown. This then is the direct, appropriate, polemical answer to them, or (as it is called) an argumentum ad hominem. “ Look at home, and say, if you can, why you believe this or that, which you do believe: whatever reasons you give for your own belief in one point, we can give for our belief in the other. If you are reasonable in believing the one, so are we in believing the other. Either we are reasonable, or you are not so. You ought not to stand where you are; you ought to go further one way or the other." Now it is plain, that if this be a sound argument against our assailants, it is a most convincing one ; and it is obviously very hard and very unfair if we are to be deprived the use of it. And yet a cautious mind will ever use it with anxiety; not that it is not most effective, but because it may be (as it were) too effective: it may drive the parties in question the wrong way, and make things worse instead of better. It only undertakes to show that they are inconsistent in their present opinions; and from this inconsistency it is plain they can escape, by going further either one way or the other,-by adding to their creed, or by abandoning it altogether. It is then what is familiarly called a kill-or-cure remedy. Certainly it is better to be inconsistent than consistently wrong, to hold some truth amid error, than to hold nothing but error, - to believe than to doubt. Yet when I show a man that he is inconsistent, I make him decide whether of the two he loves better, the portion of truth he already holds, or the portion of error. If
he loves the truth better, he will abandon the error; if the error, he will abandon the truth. And this is a fearful and anxious trial to put him under, and one cannot but feel loth to have recourse to it. One feels that perchance it may be better to keep silence, and to allow him, in shallowness and presumption, to assail oneself, than to retort, however justly, his weapons on himself;-better for oneself to seem a bigot, than to make him a scoffer. Thus, for instance, a person who denies the Apostolical Succession of the Ministry, because it is not clearly taught in Scripture, ought, I conceive, if consistent, to deny the Godhead of the Holy Ghost, which is nowhere literally stated in Scripture. Yet there is something so dreadful in his denying the latter, that one may often feel afraid to show him his inconsistency, lest, rather than admit the Apostolical Succession, he should consent to do
This is one of the great delicacies of disputing on the subject before us: yet, all things considered, I think, it only avails to the cautious use, not the abandonment, of the argument in question. For it is our plain duty to preach and defend the truth in a straightforward way. Those who are to stumble must stumble, rather than the heirs of grace should not hear. While we offend and alienate one man, we secure another; if we drive one man further the wrong way, we drive another further the right way. The cause of truth, the leavenly company of saints, gains on the whole more in the one way than the other. A wavering or shallow mind does perhaps as much harm to others as a mind consistent in error, nay, is in no very much better state itself; for if it has not developed into systematic scepticism, merely because it has not had the temptation, its present conscientiousness is not worth much. Whereas he who is at present obeying God under imperfect knowledge has a claim on His Ministers for their doing their part towards his obtaining further knowledge. He who admits the doctrine of the Trinity, in spite of feeling its difficulties, whether in itself or in its proof-who submits to the indirectness of the Scripture evidence on which it rests,-has a right to be told those doctrines concerning the Church, which are as certainly declared in Scripture, yet not more directly and prominently, and which will be as welcome to
him when known, as those which he already knows. It is therefore one's duty to leave the event to God, begging Him to bless, yet aware that, whenever He visits, He divides.
In saying this, I by no means would imply that the only argument in behalf of our believing more than the generality of men now do, is, that else we ought in consistency to believe less,far from it indeed ; but this argument is the one that comes first, and is the most obvious and the most striking. Nor do I mean to say,-far from it also,--that all on whom it is urged, will in fact go one way or the other; the many will remain pretty much where education and habit have placed them, and at least will not confess that they are affected by any new argument at all. But of course when one speaks of anxiety about the effect of a certain argument, one speaks of cases where it has effect, not where it has not. Where it has effect, I say, that effect may be for good or for evil, and that is an anxious thing.
Now then, first, let me state the objection itself, which is to be considered. It may be thrown into one or other of the following forms: that “if Scripture laid such stress, as we do, upon the ordinances of Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Church Union, Ministerial Power, Apostolical Succession, Absolution, and other rites and ceremonies,-upon external, or what is sometimes called formal religion,-it would not in its general tenour make such merely indirect mention of them ;—that it would speak of them as plainly and frequently as we now always speak of them; whereas every one must allow that there is next to nothing on the surface of Scripture about them, and very little even under the surface of a satisfactory character.” Descending into particulars, we shall have it granted us, perhaps, that Baptism is often mentioned in the Epistles, and its spiritual benefits; but “its peculiarity as the one plenary remission of sin," it will be urged, “is not insisted on with such frequency and earnestness as might be expected, -chiefly in one or two passages of one Epistle, and there obscurely" (in Heb. vi. and s.). Again, “the doctrine of Absolution is made to rest on but one or two texts (in Matt. xvi. and John xx.), with little or no practical exemplification of it in the Epistles, where it was to be expected. “Why," it may be asked, " are not the Apostles continually urging their converts to rid themselves of sin after Baptism, as best they can, by penance, confession, absolution, satisfaction? Again, why are Christ's ministers no where called Priests? or at most, in one or two obscure passages (as in Rom. xv.)? Why is not the LORD's Supper expressly said to be a Sacrifice? why is the Lord's Table called an Altar but once or twice (Matt. v. and Heb. xiii.), even granting these passages refer to it? why is consecration of the elements expressly mentioned only in one passage (1 Cor. x.) in addition to our Lord's original institution of them ? why is there but once or twice express mention made at all of the LORD's Supper, all through the Apostolic Epistles, and what there is, chiefly in the same Epistle? why is there so little said about Ordination? about the appointment of a Succession of Ministers? about the visible Church (as in 1 Tim. iii. 15.)? why but one or two passages on the duty of fasting ? In short, is not (it may be asked) the state of the evidence for all these doctrines just this, —a few striking texts at most seattered up and down the inspired volume, or one or two particular passages of one particular epistle, or a number of texts which may mean, but need not mean, what they are said by Churchmen to mean, which say something looking like what is needed, but with little strength and point, inadequately and unsatisfactorily? Why then are we thus to be put off? why is our earnest desire of getting at the truth to be trifled with ? is it conceivable that, if these doctrines were from God, He would not tell us plainly ? why does He make us to doubt? why does He keep us in suspense 1?—it is impossible it should be so. Let us, then, have none of these expedients, these makeshift arguments, this patchwork system, these surmises and conjectures, and here a little and there a little, but give us some broad, trustworthy, masterly view of doctrine, give us some plain intelligible interpretation of the sacred volume, such as will approve itself to all educated minds, as being really gained from the text, and not from previous notions which are merely brought to Scripture, and seek to find a sanction in it. Such a broad comprehensive view of Holy Scrip