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fessed the Protestant religion, merely because they were born in it; because they have always heard it spoken of as certain and true, or because they are accustomed to hear every other religion rejected and rebutted, as absolutely untenable ; and I pointed out the clear distinction between this resaoning and the grounds on which that religion must justify itself. I observed, that a person might be a Protestant, on most of these motives
--and the great majority of Protestants are so on many of them—and yet, that not one of these touched upon, or led to, the fundamental principle which Protestantism proposes as its basis—the individual examination, and discovery of its doctrines in the Word of God; whereas, on the contrary, it was impossible for any man to be brought to the Catholic religion, or to adhere to it, upon any principle whatever, without, in the act of entering it, embracing, and identifying with his conscience and conviction, the fundamental principle of Catholicity. For, no one is, or can be, a Catholic, but by his entire submission to the authority of his Church.
The consequence I wished to draw from these reflexions was of an important character, namely, that, in all discussions upon this important topic, we have nothing to do with the motives which many give, why they are attached to, and love, their religion ; but only with the grounds whereupon they believe, whereupon they found their faith, and justify their particular profession; and this, therefore, leads us to the examination of what is the vital, fundamental, principle of the Protestant, and what of the Catholic, religion: so that the discussion of these two points will form the subject of the course on which I have entered. This evening, I shall confine myself, exclusively, to treating of that principle which is held, by Protestants, as the essential and fundamental principle of their faith. And having, thus, occasion to speak so largely of the Word of God, and wishing to complete that section of my subject, I will explain what is the doctrine of Catholics regarding it: but will proceed no farther with their belief, reserving to myself to open it more largely and completely at our next meeting.
There is nothing easier than to give the popular and ordinary statement of the difference between Catholics and those who dissent from them, regarding THE RULE OF FAITH. It is very easy to say, that Catholics admit the authority of the Church ; and that Protestants allow of no rule but the written Word of God. It is easy to make such a statement; but, if any one
will take the pains to analyse it, he will find it fraught with · considerable difficulties.
In the first place, what is the meaning of the Word of God, or the Scriptures, being the only rule of faith? Does it mean, that it is to be the rule for the Church, or for its individual members ? Does it mean, that the public instrument or symbols of the faith are based upon the Word of God; or, as ancient philosophers used to say, that each man is a microcosm, or, a little world, that so, likewise, he is a little Church, with the power of examining and deciding upon matters of religion ? Does it mean, that, in order to apply this rule, there is an individual light promised, or granted, by God, so that he is under the guidance and the infallible authority of the Holy Ghost; or, that, abandoned to those lights which he may possess, from his own learning or acquirements, his peculiar measure of mind and understanding is to be his rule and guide in the Word of God ?' But, to show that these difficulties are not imaginary, let us examine the Articles of the Church of England, and we shall find its rule of faith there laid down, which all the clergy must subscribe to, and teach, as their belief. In the Sixth Article it is said, that “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” In this passage there is not one word about the individual right of any one to judge for himself—it is, only, that no one is to be charged with the belief of any doctrine, no one can be required to give his adhesion to any article, which is not contained in the Word of God. But it is evident, here, that the rule is placed in other hands; that the rule is more to prevent
point; it is a lof some authibt, if we co
some one, not named, from exacting belief beyond a certain point; it is a limitation of the power to require submission to the teaching of some authority. That this authority is the Church there can be no doubt, if we compare the Twentieth Article. There it is said, that, “The Church hath power to ordain rites and ceremonies, and authority, in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing contrary to God's Word written ; neither may it so expound any passage of Scripture, as to be repugnant to another."*
This Article farther increases the complexity and confusion of the rule of faith, as laid down by the Established Church. It says, in the first place, that the Church has authority in matters of faith ; and then, that the Church cannot prescribe any thing contrary to Scripture. But, if it be thus determined, in these solemn documents, that the Church shall not enforce decrees, nor define systems, contrary to the Word of God, the very proposition recognizes the necessity of a superior authority to control its decisions, For, if we should say, that, in this country, the judges of the land have authority in matters of law, but yet shall not be allowed to decree any thing contrary to the statutes; I ask you, is it not necessarily implied in the very enunciation of that proposition, that an authority
* The reader will observe, that I overlook the important enquiry, whether this article, as far as “and yet,” is genuine or not. Dr. Burnet acknowledges that it is not found in the original manuscripts containing the subscriptions: and it is absent from the copy of those approved by Parliament. The bishop supposes it to have been added between the subscription and the engrossing; and fancies the engrossed copy to have perished at Lambeth. (Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles; Lond. 1695. p. 10). But this conjecture, as well as other arguments in favour of the clause, are ably confuted by Collins, in his “Priestcraft in perfection." Lond. 1710. To his arguments we may add, that, in the “Articles of Religion agreed upon by the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland, in 1615," Lond. 1629, the clause on authority in controversies of faith is omitted, though the articles are verbatim the same, with additions. In the “Copie of the proceedings of some worthy and learned Divines, appointed, by the Lords, to meet at the Bishop of Lincolne's, in Westminster, touching innovations in the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England,” Lond. 1641, we read, p. ), “Innovations in Doctrine, quære, Whether, in the Twentieth Article, these words are not inserted, 'Habet Ecclesiæ authoritatem in controversiis fidei. ” : give us ho w t o su boslq ei slui
somewhere exists, capable of judging whether those magistrates have contravened that rule, and of preventing their continuing so to act. When, therefore, it is affirmed, that the Church has authority in matters of faith, yet a rule is given whereby the justice of its decisions is to be determined, and no exemption from error is allowed to it, it is no less implied that, besides the Church, there is some superior authority to prevent its acting contrary to the code that has been put into its hands. Now, what authority is this, and where does it reside ? Is it each one that has to judge for himself, whether the Church be contradicting the express doctrines of Scripture, and, consequently, is each person thus constituted judge over the decisions of his Church ? If so, this is the most anomalous form of society that ever was imagined. For, if each individual, singly in himself, has greater authority than the whole col·lectively—for the Church is a congregation formed of its members--the authority vested in that whole is void and nugatory.
Wherever there is limitation of jurisdiction, there must be superior control: and if the Church is not to be obeyed when it teaches anything contrary to Scripture, there are only two alternatives,—either that limitation supposes an impossibility of its so doing, or it implies the possible case of the Church being lawfully disobeyed. The first would be the Catholic doctrine, and at open variance with the grounds whereon the Protestant Churches justify their original separation. The Catholic, too, will say that the Church cannot require anything to be believed that is contrary to God's written word; but then the word which I pronounced emphatically is taken by us literally: the Church cannot teach any such doctrine, because God's word is pledged that she shall not. The superior control exists in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But if the Church, not being infallible, may teach things contrary to Scripture, who shall judge it, and decide between it and those whose obedience it exacts ? “ If the salt lose its savour, with what shall it be salted ?".
If there is a tribunal of appeal from this fallible Church,
plain theme of the many of propou
where does it exist, in whose persons is its representation vested? Assuredly these are simple and obvious inquiries, resulting from this ill-conceived theory of Church authority.
But if I mention these things, I cannot be expected to explain them, nor is this my duty; I propose them merely to show some of the many difficulties which arise against the ordinary and popular way of propounding the Protestant rule of faith. Well then, we will take the rule with all its difficulties—we will take it on the terms on which it is commonly understood, namely, that it is the prerogative, the unalienable privilege, of every Christian, to establish for himself, the truth of his doctrines from that Book which God has revealed to man; nay more, that, according to Docter Beveridge's rule, which you will see confirmed by other and later authors, each individual is bound to look to the proofs of what he specifically believes, and obliged to be a member of his Christian Church, on grounds which he has himself verified. I will first take the principle in this general and broad view, and see how far it is possible to apply it as the basis of faith: to simplify the examination I will look at it under three different aspects. First, I will discuss the ground or authority for this rule; secondly, its application; and thirdly, its end.
1. I must suppose that the moment human authority is alluded to, in examining the doctrines of Christianity, there will be the greatest jealousy and reserve about allowing it, in any way, to interfere in the scale or range of argument, whereby the principle, exclusive of authority, has to be established. I must suppose that every Protestant, in examining the grounds of his religion, is most careful not to allow a single ingredient to mingle, which might seem to give the authority of man any weight among the grounds on which he believes. I am willing to suppose that he must have a method independent of this dreaded principle, whereby he can satisfy himself individually of the divine authority of the Book in which exclusively he believes : and there must be some train of reasoning, whereby he can assure himself that the written record,