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J. K. L.'s novel argument, in support of the divine authority of Tradition, founded on the allegation of a Secret Doctrine having been delivered by the Apostles.
The examination of "the undeniable facts," which have been adduced in support of Tradition, as a part of the Rule of Faith, might have ended with the preceding section, had not a writer of some notoriety, under the signature of J. K. L., and who is generally supposed to be Dr. Doyle, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, interposed with a kind of reasoning, which from its novelty and extraordinary character demands some animadversion. The style and manner of this writer are unquestionably his own,-affected and incorrect; his theological matter is generally a disfigured copy of what Dr. Milner has said before him; but, in what follows, he seems to have drawn from his own resources.
J. K. L. is ambitious of literary fame; and it may be of service to him to learn, that libellous and unfounded assertions will not, in these days, pass amongst men of sense for reasoning; nor a puerile display of commonplace quotations, impose upon scholors as erudition. I am not, however, about to enter with him into an unequal contest of controversial abuse; and I am willing to give him credit for
all the learning to which, as a theologian, he can lay claim-that which has been supplied by the indexes of Romish writers. J. K. L. is perhaps unconscious, that amidst his parade of quotation, there is an awkwardness in his very mode of citing and handling his authors, which betrays the secret, that he is not familiar with their contents. The scholar will smile to hear, that the fact of " the Apostles having delivered the Gospel, partly by writing, partly by word of mouth," is attested by Dionysius, supposed by some to be the Areopagite converted by St. Paul, lib. de Ec. Hier. cap. 1. Clem. Alex. lib. de Pasch., quoted by Eusebius lib. 6. Hist. Eccl. cap. 2. and again lib. Strom. 1. and 5. orig. Hom. 5. in num.”—and so on through a string of Fathers, appealed to for the same purpose, and in the same unscholarlike manner. It is a pity that J. K. L. should have wasted his erudition on these tell-tale references, in order to prove a point which nobody has ever called in question. The passage, however, is not unimportant, as it enables us to estimate this writer's just pre
The time and occasion of composing each of the Gospels, he takes the opportunity of stating with as much confidence, as if he had been present at the writing of them. In this he copies Dr. Milner almost verbatim. Is this Divine, then, three centuries, at least, behind his contemporaries in biblical literature, to as to have yet to learn, that the inquiry respecting the dates, and the
precise occasion of writing the Gospels, is replete with many difficulties; and that the spurious Dionysius is no longer supposed by any scholar to have been "the Areopagite converted by St. Paul" ?*
The jet, however, of the argument is this :that "the Gospels, and the divine Epistles of St. Paul, were written for particular occasions;" and from these premises, he jumps to this conclusion:-" so that the new Scriptures, like the old, were founded on Tradition, and given as helps to the Church, but by no means as a regular record of the Christian religion." P. 190, 191. He means, that they were not given as a complete record. The argument drawn from the occasional nature of many of the writings of the New Testament, has been already considered-it is Dr. Milner's. Again, that the great truths of religion were all preserved by Tradition to the time of Moses, (7th Letter on the State of Ireland, p. 188) is Dr. Milner's bold assertion;-an assertion, which it has been shewn, is perfectly unfounded;if by Tradition under the dispensation preceding Moses, be meant a mere unassisted viva voce communication.-That both the old Scriptures and the new were founded on Tradition, is a discovery of J. K. L.'s, and few will envy him the credit of it. Let us see first, how far it holds good of the Old Testament,
* The genuineness of the writings uuder his name, seems to be taken for granted in the Romish Breviaries; which contain many amusing stories, as authentic as the writings of Dionysius. See Blanco White's publication, for some instances.
Now, the Traditions of the old dispensation consisted, according to J. K. L.'s own statement, of the doctrines handed down and “ preserved by Tradition, to the time of Moses."
ib. p. 188.
They consisted, moreover, of "a secret meaning of the law" given on Mount Sinai; which secret meaning, "Hilary and Origen and all the learned Jews tell us, was communicated to Moses, (and that it had a secret meaning, St. Paul abundantly proves in his Epistle to the Hebrews) He was commanded to write the law for the people, but to impart the secret explication of it only to Josue, who in the same manner was to transmit it to the chief of the priesthood."-ib. p. 189. So that on the strength of this Rabbinical figment, which has been long exploded (for St. Paul, in explaining the spiritual and allegorical meaning of the rites of the Mosaic law, says not a word of any meaning studiously kept secret from the people, and confided to Moses and the priests alone,) we are to believe, that the Old Testament was founded partly on a Tradition, which, according to the Romanists, might as well have been preserved without being written, and which had actually been so preserved for 2,400 years; partly on a Tradition, which, according to J. K. L., was not after all contained in it: the whole of Tradition consisting by his account of what Moses had learned from word of mouth, and of what had been communicated to him, under a strict injunction not to write it! But what are the facts?
The Old Testament is a book consisting of many parts. Is then the law of Moses founded on Tradition? Certainly not. It was for the first time delivered on Mount Sinai, and was immediately committed to writing.-Is the credibility of the historical books written after Moses, founded on Tradition? It will be safer for J. K. L. to admit a superintending inspiration; otherwise it will be difficult for him to distinguish between these accounts, on which so much depends, and the confessedly erroneous relations of unassisted and prejudiced narrators. Were the prophecies founded on Tradition? It is absurd to say, that predictions of the future were mere relations of the past. If this be so, the greater, the far greater, part of the Old Testament was not founded on Tradition: no part, in short, can be supposed to have been founded on it, except the book of Genesis; and the argument by which it is attempted to be shewn, that the substance of this book was derived from such a source, will prove, if it prove any thing, that there was no occasion for the book ever to have been written. For, if the facts had been securely transmitted through the accuracy of mere human communication during the space of 2,400 years, and if there be no inherent defect in Tradition, which is the supposition of the Romanists, making it an insecure conveyance of truth, without such immediate Revelations as were vouchsafed before the time of Moses; then there is no reason to suppose, that they