Page images

existence of which, the charge of the insufficiency of the Scriptures is founded. Meanwhile, in the absence of all legitimate proof of the divine authority of their Traditions, we must take the Scriptures as the sole Rule of Faith, until we are supplied with a better.-And so far from discovering in those Scriptures, any defect arising from their different parts having been composed with a distinct object, or from the whole being unsystematically arranged, we discern in these circumstances an internal evidence of their inspiration; the strength of which is in exact proportion to the improbability, that so many independent treatises, written with objects so various, should have conspired in the delivery of one consistent system of falsehood. Whilst, in the pretended additions to this Rule, alleged to be derived from the independent source of divine Tradition, we see nothing but plain marks of progressive error and misrepresentation; which prove to us, the insecurity of that mode of conveyance, by which these corruptions of "the truth as it is in Christ Jesus," have been transmitted to the Romish Church.


Analogical Arguments, founded on the supposisition, that the mode of teaching adopted by Jesus Christ and his Apostles, must have been similar to that of all other Legislators, and to the practice of Courts of Law.

But, in point of fact, the Romanists do not

themselves rely on Tradition, as a conveyance of truth, even in describing it as essential to the completeness of the Rule of Faith. They are obliged to introduce another supposition;that of the existence of a living and infallible oracle in the Church, as necessary to give permanency and strength to the otherwise fleeting and feeble form of Traditionary Doetrine. "Besides the Rule itself, (consisting of Scripture and Tradition,) He has provided in his holy Church, a living, speaking judge, to watch over and explain it in all matters of controversy." End of Controv. p. 56.—“ An unerring judge-the Church." Ib. p. 42. And the necessity of such a judge is supposed to be shewn by analogies taken from the example of Legislators, and from the practice of Courts of Law. "All written laws necessarily suppose the existence of unwritten laws, and indeed depend upon them for their force and authority.. .....In this kingdom, we have common and unwritten law; both of them binding, but the former necessarily precedes the latter." Ib. 79."-" The question arises," continues Dr. Milner, quoting the words of Blackstone, "how these customs, or maxims, are to be known; and by whom their validity is to be determined? The answer is-By the judges in the several courts of justice. They are the depositaries of the laws, the living oracles, who must decide in all cases of doubt, and who are bound by oath to decide according to the law of the land." Ib. 79, 80. "In supposing our

Saviour to have appointed his own written word for the Rule of our Faith, without any authorised judge to decide on the unavoidable controversies growing out of it, you would suppose, that he has acted differently from what common sense has dictated to all other legislators." Ib. 57.-Such is the argument.

But, the analogy will not hold. The unwritten law of the land is founded on human custom, on consent, and on principles of natural equity; which, it is true, necessarily precede Statute Law. The Law of the Gospel, on the contrary, is a Revelation of such truths, as could not have been discovered by natural reason; its authority is derived from no usage; it does not necessarily suppose the existence of any previous unwritten laws; it is itself the sole law, and may have been delivered at once, either by means of written documents, or by word of mouth;-the one mode is as supposable as the other.

The analogy equally fails, as to the necessity of an unerring judge, to decide in matters of faith, drawn from the necessity of a fallible judge, to decide in matters of law. In civil questions, men must come to some decision; and although the decision is often erroneous, and always acknowledged to be liable to error, yet it is made final, in order to avoid greater evils, such as the prevalence of crime, and the insecurity of property. In matters of faith and conscience, on the contrary, there is not the same necessity for decision; and with

out the supposition of infallibility, which is as yet unproved, there can be no final decision, until we all come before the judgment-seat of God, by whose sentence we must stand or fall.

Again, the functions assigned to the living oracle of the Church are of a different nature from those exercised by the Judges of the land. The civil Judge merely declares an opinion, which is subject to revision; but which from the necessity of the case, stands good in law until a more correct view be taken, and a sounder judgment pronounced. He sits to deeide controversy. An authority of thiskind, not only every civil, but every ecclesiastical polity possesses within itself, and delegates to its representative and judicial officers. The only difference between them is, that the subjects of the state cannot withhold obedience, though dissatisfied with the sentence of its judge: it is a part of the implied civil compact-Whilst the members of the Church may abandon its communion, if convinced of the falsehood of its determinations; because those determinations affect the conscience, which is bound solely by the law of God. Accordingly, the practice of our own Church cannot be urged against us, as analogous to that of the Church of Rome; for in the title of our Articles it is declared, that they were agreed upon by the whole representative clergy, "for the avoiding of diversities of opinion, and for the establishing of consent touching true religion." They are merely a standard of the Church of England's doctrine,

whereby it may be known to her own members, what she does, or does not, profess. And though in the body of those articles the Church properly asserts her authority in controversies of faith, it is only amongst her own children, and whilst they continue such :-she domineers not over their belief, nor exacts assent longer than it can be conscientiously afforded; and she affects no authority whatever over those who are without her pale. Her doctrines may not be true; but they come recommended to us by her deliberate judgment, and are the bond of union and the standard of opinion to all who continue in her fellowship. The sin of schism she arrogates not to herself the power of punishing. It falls within the cognizance of a much higher tribunal.

The living oracle of the Church of Rome, is declared to be necessary on quite different grounds. It is appointed not to decide controversy, like the civil judge; not for establishing consent, and avoiding diversities of opinion, amongst her own members, like our articles; but to define truth; and her decisions are supposed to be equally binding on the mem✩ bers of all communions, under the penalty of eternal damnation. The authority claimed by our Church is, analogous to that of civil tribunals. The authority claimed by the Church of Rome, is analogous only to that of God himself. When, therefore, the Romanists shall have proved the existence, and the necessity, of an infallible tribunal similar to their

Ꮮ .

« PreviousContinue »