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Dr. Milner's own summing up of what he supposes himself to have proved, will best illustrate the confusedness pointed out in his enuntiation, and which pervades his whole argument. He sets out with proposing to make good one thing, and he ends with triumphantly telling us, that he has proved another. "I have shewn that the Catholic Rule, that of the entire word of God, unwritten as well as written, together with the authority of the living pastors of the Church in explaining it, was appointed by Christ; was followed by the Apostles; was maintained by the holy Fathers." Ib. letter 11th, p. 104. So that in p. 42, he presents us with an unerring judge of controversy, whose authority the Church of England denies; and in p. 105, he congratulates himself on having shewn the appointment of the living pastors of the Church, whose fallible authority in explaining the word of God, the Church of England admits. With the inaccuracy of his statement, however, we have but little concern.-It is the infallible authority of his particular Church which it was incumbent on him to prove, and which he meant all the while to prove; but, in whatever else he may have succeeded, in the proof of this, it is presumed, his failure has been shewn to be complete.
It is to be collected from the foregoing observations, that the matters in controversy tween the Churches of England and Rome, may be considered in two distinct points of view; and discussed, with a different object, in two separate modes of enquiry. In the one mode, we may examine the truth of the peculiar doctrines which distinguish the Romish creed; in the other, the justness of those principles, from which this peculiarity of doctrine arises. The former mode seems to be well adapted for confirming the Protestant in his adherence to the principles of the Reformation, by shewing the erroneousness of those conclusions, to which the opposite principles have led; the latter mode is, perhaps, the only one, in which the controversy with the Romanists can be successfully terminated.
With respect to the peculiar doctrines of the Romish Church, its advocates have of late endeavoured, as much as possible, to extenuate the existing diversity of opinion between them and us, and to bring down their own tenets to the standard of the Reformed Confessions. But, it has been ably shewn, and especially by Dr. Philpotts, in his letters to Mr. Butler, that on those very points, respecting which Dr. Doyle has so confidently asserted, that there is no essential difference between the (Roman) Ca
tholics and Protestants," the two Churches are still in their authorised creeds diametrically opposed to each other; and that whatever approximation there may be to the doctrine of Church of England, it has been produced in the minds of intelligent members of the Romish Communion, not by the reform of the Romish Church, but by the general improvement of intellect, and the reflected light of the Reformation. It might, also, have been shewn, that even in its softened features, the Roman Catholic religion exhibits a striking disfigurement of Christian truth; whilst in this country, at least, as appears from the sanctioned practices, and the professed tenets of the great body of the people, it retains the coarsest lineaments of the old superstition.
But, the issue of the controversy depends not, I am persuaded, on the discussion of particular doctrines. In all such discussions, the last resort of the Romish advocate, when confuted in his appeal to Scripture, and to primitive opinion, will be that of Dr. Milner ;-"the Church understands the passage differently from you, and, therefore, you mistake its meaning." It should seem, then, that before reasonable hopes of concord can be entertained, the Rule of Faith, by which opinions are to be determined, must be previously agreed on; and the nature and authority of the Church defined; which is now appealed to as an infallible judge by the one party, and not acknowledged as such, by the other.
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In addition to the Canonical Scriptures universally received, it has been shewn, that the Romanists have, without just grounds, established the Apocryphal Books of the Septuagint version, and the Traditionary doctrine of their own Church, as a part of the Rule of Faith. On the authority of this Rule, they have built most of their portentous doctrines. The determining of the Rule of Faith is, therefore, the first of the main subjects to be treated in controversy. But, on enquiring farther, we have seen, that the authority of the Apocryphal Writings, and of the Romish Traditions, depends on the alleged infallibility of the Church, pronouncing them to be a part of the word of God. The nature and authority of the Church of Christ, is thus, the second great point in difference. And, as the authority of the Rule of Faith, in fact, depends upon the authority of the Romish Church; so, the claims of that Church to exclusive Catholicity, are founded on its being in communion with the See of Rome. The controversy, therefore, when confined within its narrowest limits, or reduced to its primary elements, is resolvable into this question:-Is communion with the Bishop of Rome, as universal ecclesiastical monarch, and inheritor of the supposed prerogatives of St. Peter, essential to the being and unity of the Church of Christ? Thus viewed, the exclusive pretensions of theChurch of Rome turn on a mere point of ecclesiastical polity.
This being the statement of the main ques
tions in controversy, when freed from those circulating syllogisms, which perplex, but cannot advance, the enquiry; it will be seen, that Dr. Doyle's expedient for concord simply amounts to this:-" Admit the Supremacy, by divine right, and the remaining differences are to be got rid of, on the best terms we can; we have our satisfactory explanations in reserve; they have often been resorted to with success, and we doubt not their efficiency in the present instance." Where explanation failed, sacrifice of opinion would, no doubt, be made;—or at least, a politic reticency observed. What could not be obtained, must be abandoned. But, the Bishop of Rome's Supremacy, by divine right, on which the main question turns, is an article not to be called in doubt, Concession, and dereliction of principle, will go as far as his reserved prerogative will permit, and not one step farther.* This Supremacy of the Pope by divine right, it is felt, is the basis of the whole Romish superstructure, the SUMMA REI, as Bellarmine calls it; and whatever parts of the edifice may be destroyed, so long as this basis remains secure,
"I myself," says this conciliator, "am probably one of the most moderate Divines in the Empire; certainly I would wish, with the Apostle, to be separated for a time from Christ, for my brethren, whether Protestant or (Roman) Catholic; but I would, with the grace of God, suffer death a thousand times, were it possible, rather than assent to any thing regarding faith, which would not be approved of by the successor of St. Peter."-Letter to Mr. Newenham.