Page images
PDF
EPUB

As I perceive that I have already detained you much beyond what the proportion of my subject already discussed might seem to warrant, I shall be obliged to condense considerably what remains of my discourse; and I cannot dwell at length upon the consideration of much that is important : such as the examination of those serious difficulties which prevent ordinary readers from understanding even the easier parts of Scripture. For I will not speak of sublimer passages ; of those divine Psalms, which are acknowledged to be lyric poetry of the highest order—a class of writing difficult to most readers in their own language, often almost unintelligible in the profane authors of antiquity, and still more in the Scriptures, from the greater boldness of the figures, and the greater conciseness of the speech. I will not dwell upon the mysterious imagery of the prophets' visions, and the obscure language in which it is recorded : I might select ordinary passages of Scripture, and show you the difficulties that exist in the way of arriving at a proper conception, or any understanding thereof. And this might still be farther confirmed, by stating the elaborate commentaries, and the immense mass of conflicting opinions of Protestant expositors, when attempting to clear up the obscurity of passages, which many of my hearers have, perhaps, read again and again without perceiving that they contained a difficulty. And this happened not because there was no difficulty, but because they looked with a superficial eye on the words of the text, so as best to accommodate them to pre-conceived opinions, or else because they wanted acuteness sufficient even to discover a real difficulty where it exists. But this is a subject on which I need not touch. It is sufficient to look over the collections of commentators, to count the number of their volumes, and measure the bulk of matter written on almost every verse of Scripture, to satisfy yourselves that it is not so easy a book.

Such, therefore, are the difficulties regarding the application of this rule: a difficulty of procuring and preserving the proper sense of the original by correct translations; a difficulty

of bringing this translation within the reach of all; a difficulty, not to say an impossibility, of enabling all to understand it.

III. I have thus treated of the grounds of the rule, and of its application. I shall now say a few words regarding its end. What is the end to be attained by the use of any rule ? Uniformity of thought and action, in those matters which it regulates. What is the end of any law, but that all men should know what their conduct ought to be in any given case, and what will be the result and consequence, good or evil, of a different course? Of what use is a code of regulations, drawn up by any body or society, but that all its members should act in the same manner, and so procure that union which is the necessary basis and bond of every society? And if God has given us a rule, or code of principles, is it not that all should be brought to know the same duties, and to practise the same virtues ?-Is it not that all should be brought to entertain the same faith ?

And has this rule of faith proved equal to that only end? Most avowedly not. It is not necessary to go far from the ground on which I am standing, to see many places of worship maintaining conflicting doctrines, and all professing to be taught on the authority of that one book. Here one man will denounce, as contrary to the Christian faith, the doctrines of Calvinism; there another, with equal zeal, upholds them as the most essential groundwork of Christianity. In one you will hear the divinity of the Son of God, and the sublime mystery of the Trinity, decried as a human device; and in another, you will hear a creed recited, wherein all those who deny those doctrines are condemned to eternal loss. And yet all hold the same book in their hands, and quote almost the same passages, while they profess an almost endless variety of conflicting and contradictory doctrines.

And is not this result, this solution of the problem, a satisfactory evidence of the insufficiency of the proposed rule ? Suppose that a law were passed, and that, as we have often seen,

within the last few years, in these realms, it were found, that, in one part of the country, the magistrates, with it in their hands, are led to one course of proceeding, and in another, - follow an opposite line, so that contradictions arise, and men know not how to act upon it; is it not considered inadequate for its purposes, and is not a new one brought in to correct and amend that which has been found deficient? Because a law is, in every system of jurisprudence, considered inade. quate to its end, if it does not bring men to a uniformity of action. And this, by analogy, being the end of a rule of faith, to bring men to a uniformity of faith, that rule must be insufficient that does not answer such a purpose.

Thus much may suffice regarding the Protestant grounds of faith, considered merely in themselves. I have endeavoured to show you the necessity of every Protestant satisfying himself, not only of the truth of his doctrine, but of the very rule on which he bases it; and I have exposed to you, not only the difficulty, but the impossibility, on his principles, of arriving at a clear definition of this rule ; then, the difficulty which acpanies its application, and its insufficiency for its end. :

As I have spoken so much of the word of God, and as I fear that some present, misled perhaps by feelings infused into them by education, may have been tempted to think, that we universally, and myself in particular, speak with unbecoming disparagement thereof; I wish, before closing this portion of iny subject, to state what is the practice and belief of Catholics, regarding the Scriptures.

We are told that the Catholic loves not the Scriptures ; that his Church esteems not the word of God; that it wishes to suppress it, to put the light of God under a bushel, and so extinguish it. The Catholic Church not love and esteem the word of God! Is there any other Church that places a heavier stake on the authority of the Scriptures, than the Catholic ? Is there any other Church that pretends to base so much of rule over men, on the words of that book? Is there any one, consequently, that has a greater interest in maintain

[ocr errors]

ing, preserving, and exhibiting that Word? For those who ' have been educated in that religion know, that when the Church claims authority, it is on the holy Scriptures that she grounds it; and is not this giving it a weighty importance, beyond what any other Church will attempt. And not only has she ever loved and cherished it, but she has been jealous of its honour and preservation, so as no other religion can pretend to boast. Will you say that a mother hath not loved her child, who has warmed and nursed it in her bosom for years, when nothing else would have saved it from perishing—who has spent her blood and her strength in defending and rescuing it from the attempts of foes and rivals on its life; who has doated on it till scoffed at by others, lavished treasures on its embellishment, and done whatever her means would allow, to make it seem beautiful and lovely, and estimable in the eyes of men—and if you would say this, then may you also say, that the Church hath not cherished and esteemed the word of God.

For first she caught up its different fragments and portions, as they proceeded from the inspired writers, and united them together. To those who pretend that the Catholic Church extended not so far back, I will say, that it was the Catholic principle of unity, which alone could have enabled Churches to communicate to one another, the respective books and letters addressed to them by the apostles; and it was only on the communication of the authority, which their testimony gave, that the canon of Scripture was framed. Did she not afterwards keep men by hundreds and thousands, employed in nothing else than in transcribing the Holy Word of God; aye, in letters of gold, and upon parchment of purple, to show her respect and veneration for it? Has she not commanded it to be studied in every religious house, in every university, in every ecclesiastical college, and expounded to the faithful, in every place, and at all times? Has she not produced, in every age, learned and holy men, who have dedicated themselves to its illustration, by erudite commentaries, and popular expositions ? Were there not, in what are called the darkest ages,

men like Alcuin and Lanfranc, who devoted much of their lives to the detection of such errors, as had crept into it by accident ? And is it not to all this fostering care we are indebted, that the Word of God now exists? And while we have copies of it, so splendid, as to attest the immense labour devoted to their production, we have others in the cheapest and most portable form that could be procured from the pen, to show that they were evidently in the hands of all, who could possibly be supposed, under such circumstances, able to obtain them: but every copy was the work of the penman, and could not be so easily produced, or so widely circulated.

But not only, do I say, that the Catholic Church has been always foremost in the task of translating the Scriptures, but also in placing it in the hands of the faithful. It is but a few months since I was shocked,- I will not say scandalized, but truly and deeply grieved,-to see the whole country roused by the trumpet of bigotry, to celebrate what was called the Jubilee of the Reformation, and that was dated, from what was announced, as the first complete translation of the Bible into English. I was grieved, I say, to see, in the first instance, that any

Church could be so deluded as to consider a duration of three hundred years a motive for triumph—that any

Establishment, purporting to be based upon the rock of ages, and to exist by the unalterable decrees of Divine Providence, professing to hold the purest and most enduring doctrines, should think 300 years worthy to be made a date of universal rejoicing, while we can count hundreds upon hundreds ; nay, the two thousandth year shall come, without our signalising it in any manner, but by the discharge of our duty, in giving our daily praise and thanks to the Almighty. In the second place, I was grieved to think, that all this excitement was created—I will not say by falsehood—but by misapprehension; that an attempt should be made to bring crowds together, to commemorate an event as giving rise to a certain period, which yet had no connexion with it.

For it is well known, or ought to have been known by.

« PreviousContinue »