Images de page

some manifest rule to determine, amongst the immense variety of contradictory doctrines imputed to Christ, which is the one true faith he revealed, and by which alone we shall be saved. Is it, indeed, consonant to the idea we must have of the love and of the wisdom of Christ;-can we persuade ourselves, that he came down from heaven;that he clothed himself with our nature;-that he engaged himself in three years of painful ministry;-that he sealed his doctrines with his blood;-that he gave to his Apostles instructions and injunctions that they should make the preaching of the word the principal object of their ministry;-and yet entertain so unworthy an idea of his wisdom and goodness as to suppose that-knowing the obscurity of human judgment, foreseeing the infinite variety of interpretations which would be put upon an obscure rule, and how unavailing such a rule would be to the salvation of men, he should not have appointed either some visible authority to determine the meaning of that rule, and to confine the wandering judgments of men, or that he should not have given a rule so clear, so precise, and so comprehensive as to suit the humblest capacity? We contend that, when Christ appointed the rule of faith, he did also establish a visible authority, determining the meaning thereof. Protestants deny the establishment of any such visible authority, and contend that the Bible alone is the rule of faith. Now, looking around you, and viewing the immense variety of contradictory sects, that disfigure the fair face of Christianity, all of which claim to derive their doctrines from the same rule of faith, which faith can be but one, do you not feel a presumption, at least, that Christ would not have established that obscure rule, which I shall shew the Scriptures alone to be, without some authority to determine its meaning? But I am anticipating my argument.-In order that we may enjoy the benefits of the redemption of Christ, and of the revelations which he communicated to men,-that we may escape that damnation which it is declared shall be the lot of those who reject any of the doctrines which he came to reveal, (provided those doctrines are manifested to them,) all are agreed that there must be some rule determining what are the doctrines of revelation. But in assigning this rule commences the difference between us. The sixth article of the thirty-nine of the Established Church declares

"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that

whatsoever 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 the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."

All Protestants, I believe, with the exception of the Quakers, subscribe to this doctrine, and the Reformation Society has added, that upon the meaning of the contents of Scripture, every meanest outcast of society is commanded to exercise his judgment. But this is a point on which I am not allowed to touch, and I will endeavour to keep clear of it.

We too maintain that Scripture is the unalterable word of God; we maintain (notwithstanding what that infamous publication Popery Unmasked may have insinuated and expressly stated, notwithstanding those false persuasions which have been attempted to be impressed on your minds, that we prefer the decisions of Popes and Councils to Scripture), we maintain that Scripture is entitled to our profound reverence, as being the unalterable word of the Almighty. The imputations against us, that we treat not the Scriptures with respect, the insinuations that we prefer the decisions of councils to the express declarations of the Holy Scriptures, these are some of the calumnies which have ever been directed against the Catholic Church. It has been acknowledged by many liberal Protestants that the Catholic Church has been assailed by the most cruel calumnies, and amongst them this is not the least. I will read to you a few of the opinions of liberal Protestants with respect to the calumnies which have been circulated against us. The Rev. Mr. Wix, Vicar of St. Bartholomew the Less, in his Reflections on the Expediency of Councils, with a view to the accommodation of the religious differences between the Church of England and the Church of Rome, in the seventh page of his preface says:

"The Roman Catholics, it is believed, are greatly misunderstood, and cruelly calumniated. Truth requires this statement."

The present Bishop of Norwich, in a speech he delivered in the House of Lords on the 27th of May, 1808, expresses himself thus :

"It is not a little singular that we will not allow the Catholics to know what their own religious tenets really are. In vain they most explicitly and most solemnly aver, that they hold no tenet whatsoever, incompatible with their duties either as men or as subjects. In vain they publish declaration upon declaration, in all of which they most unequivocally disavow those highly exceptionable tenets which are imputed to them, and not only do they disavow, but they express their abhorrence of them. Notwithstanding all this, a concealed jealousy of Catholics still lurks about by far too many of us-a

jealousy, in my opinion, as unworthy of a frank and enlightened people, as it is injurious and cruel towards those who are the objects of it."

The late Lord Donoughmore, in a speech delivered in the House of Lords in 1817, thus expressed himself on the Catholic question :—

"The Catholics have to complain that they are grossly calumniated; that they are shamefully misrepresented. The Catholics have to complain that their enemies have not hesitated to malign their character. The Catholics have to complain of abominable falsehoods, which are actively circulated against them. I have myself been furnished gratuitously with a collection of pamphlets on this subject, and from their tone and temper one would think it was the intention of the writers to revive those riots that disgraced the metropolis some years ago. These tracts have been industriously handed about to the Members of Parliament; and no means left untried to excite the public prejudice, and to rouse the popular feeling."

This state of things-the calumnies which have been directed against the Catholic Church, are what that Church ought to expect, which is the Church established by Christ; for we hear him declare in Matt. v. verse 12

"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for so persecuted they the Prophets who were before you."

Again, Matt. x. verse 22

"Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake."

Now it is not true that we hold the Scripture in irreverence. We consider it as the unalterable word of God; we prefer not to its doctrines the decisions of Councils or of Popes; and we admit no doctrine which can be shewn to be contrary to the declarations of Christ, as manifested to us in the written word. In what then is the difference between Protestants and Catholics on this head? Before I proceed farther, allow me to observe, that, if it should happen, in any thing which I may offer, that I cause any offence, whether it be to the feelings, or prejudices, or the conscientious belief of others, I shall give utterance to those expressions with regret. I was, as I said, unwilling to enter into public discussion; nothing but necessity could make me do so; and I am determined, as far as possible, to avoid any expression or argument which may justly be offensive to my present hearers.

Protestants maintain that the Bible alone is the rule of faith we maintain that all absolutely essential doctrines are expressed in the Scriptures; either in the conclusions themselves, or in the principles whence they are deduced. This may, my friends, surprise some of you, but I will support it by references to the authority of some eminent theologians of the Catholic Church.

"The main and substantial points of our faith," says Fisher, Ap. White, p. 12, "are believed to be apostolical, because they are written in Scripture." "All those things," says the oft calumniated Bellarmin (De verbo Dei non scripto, 1. iv. c. 11.) "are written by the Apostles, which are simply necessary for the salvation of all."-The celebrated brothers de Wallenburch (in tract, Gen. de Controv. p. 239,) write thus: "It is true that the sacred Scripture contains all things necessary for faith and morals, if this be understood of those things which are necessary for all and every one."-" What article of faith is there," asks the learned Abraham Woodhead, in his rational account of the doctrine of Roman Catholics, p. 138, "except that concerning the canon of Scripture (which Protestants also grant cannot be learnt out of Scripture), and excepting those practicals wherein the Church only requiring a belief of the lawfulness of them, it is enough if they cannot be shewed to be against the Scripture, I say, what speculative article of faith is there, for which Catholics rest merely on unwritten tradition, and do not, for it, allege Scripture, I mean that canon of Scripture which Protestants allow."

But, whilst we hold that almost every doctrine of religion is contained in the Scriptures, yet we maintain that there are some few doctrines which are not expressly contained therein; and that there are many others contained therein which are obscure. Of this we have a proof in the immense diversity of opinions which we find amongst those who make Scripture their only rule. We maintain, therefore, that Scripture is not the only rule of faith; that there are some few doctrines handea down to us exclusively, and others more expressly manifested, by the unwritten word, forming a part of the good tidings which Christ. came from Heaven to communicate;-and this is called tradition. These two parts complete the rule of faith of the Catholic Church; of which we infallibly learn the true meaning, when that Church, with the teaching ministers of which Christ promised to abide, to the consummation of the world, after a rigorous investigation shall propose its doctrines to our belief. Yet even these traditionary doctrines may, in one sense, be said to be contained in Scripture, according to the explanation of St. Augustin

"We follow in this matter," he writes, "even the most certain authority of canonical Scriptures... But although there be verily brought no example of this point out of canonical Scriptures, yet, even in this, the truth of the same Scriptures is held by us, when we do what is approved of by the whole Church, which the authority of the Scriptures themselves doth set forth; so that since the Holy Scriptures cannot deceive, whosoever is afraid of being deceived by the obscurity of the question, let him consult that Church, which, without ambiguity, the Scripture doth demonstrate to us."-Aug. lib. i. contra Crescon,


32 and 33.

In this sense there is no doctrine that we hold of which we do not find proofs in the Holy Scriptures.

Having entered into this detail for the purpose of clearing aside the misconceptions and prejudices which are in the way of my farther arguments, I proceed now to the

main business for which I stand before you; viz. to prove that the Protestant rule, not being clear and comprehensive, and certain (not in respect to the rule itself, but to the weak judgments of those who derive their faith from it), this cannot be the only rule established by Christ. To complete my purpose, I should next proceed to shew that private interpretation is not the means for understanding the rule instituted by Christ; but upon this point I am debarred from entering.

I shall accomplish the task I have undertaken, if I show you, first, that the Protestant rule is not substantiated by proofs either evident or presumptive; secondly, if I show you that it is contrary to the express declarations of Scripture itself; thirdly, if I convince you that it is denied in practice even by Protestants of every sect; and, fourthly, if I satisfy you that it is surrounded by many other insurmountable difficulties.

In the first place, therefore, I maintain that the Protestant rule is not substantiated by any proofs, either evident or presumptive. The Protestant rule having been opposed, not much more than three centuries ago, to the rule of the universal church, and being at this day opposed to the rule of by far the greater number of Christians, it is of the highest importance that its proofs should be most unexceptionable. So clear should they be in Scripture, that being the only infallible authority which Protestants acknowledge, as to be incapable of any solution. For, as Protestants admit that there is no visible authority, whereby the real and true sense of Scripture may be determined, "the very fact," to use the words of a distinguished member of the Reformation Society, Mr. Gordon, on a former occasion, "the very fact that it can be shewn that there is any doubt with regard to the meaning of the texts adduced, cuts away the foundation on which they rest."

Now what are those manifest proofs that Scripture alone is the rule of faith, the only rule instituted by Christ? The Rev. Gentleman who addressed you before me, entered somewhat at length into this subject; but if you will examine privately the proofs he adduced (you will see them laid before you soon in the printed Report), you will indeed find those proofs demonstrative that Scripture is useful in many points; that it is the word of God; that it is recommended to the perusal of all mankind; that it conducts to wisdom; that it contains lessons of faith and morality; and administers to the comfort of the heart of man. But these are

« PrécédentContinuer »