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The following passage seems peculiarly full and explicit, and clearly to make Scripture the only source of all religious truth.
"The expressions used by the sacred writers, whether of the Old or New Testament, in speaking of the word of God, evidently go to the extent of asserting its perfection in itself, and its sufficiency for those on whom it was bestowed. The appeal to it also, whenever such appeal is made either by our Lord or his Apostles, is no less clearly grounded on the supposition that it was sufficient for the conviction and satisfaction of the persons whom they addressed. The Old Testament was sufficient to bring the Jews to the knowledge of the Messiah when he should appear, and to the reception of the Gospel when it should be promulgated to them. The Jews whom our Lord conversed with are considered on this ground as without excuse. The persons to whom the Apostles addressed their discourses or writings are also pressed by them with arguments drawn from the Scriptures then extant, which are always appealed to as fully sufficient to enable them to judge of the reasoning set before them. What writings of the New Testament, whether Gospels or Epistles, might be in circulation among the primitive Christians at the time when these references to Scripture were made, it is not material to inquire. Their gradual increase arose out of the immediate exigencies of the Church; and so long as the Evangelists and Apostles lived, accessions were made to the written word; and by the good providence of God so many of them as might be necessary for the edification of the Church in after times, have been preserved and transmitted from generation to generation. The argument therefore stands thus: that if the fewer portions of Holy Writ then extant; if the Old Testament alone, or accompanied with only certain portions of the New, were spoken of by the inspired preachers of that day as full, perfect, and sufficient for general edification, we may with unhesitating confidence affirm the same, xar' iox, of the entire collection as it now exists. Nay, we may no less confidently argue, that, since no evidence is adduced, nor even pretended, that there are any other books now extant, stamped with the same seal of Divine authority, we have, in the very cessation of these extraordinary means of instruction, an indubitable token of the Divine purpose in this respect. We learn from it that God in his infinite wisdom designed these to be a complete, entire, and sufficient revelation of his will, without any ulterior communications of a similar kind. Nothing can invalidate this conclusion but clear evidence from Scripture itself that unwritten traditions were afterwards to be admitted as supplementary to the Sacred Writings, and to be placed upon the same level with them in point of authority." (pp. 321, 2.)
And that he intended to include in these remarks points of practice as well as of faith, is sufficiently evident, by the follow
ing extract he has given from De Moor, as illustrative of his meaning. "Tradit Scriptura res Religionis perfecte et sufficienter. Bellarminus, lib. iv. De Verbo Dei, cap. 4. probare satagit, Quod Scripturæ non omnia ita contineant ut sufficiant Nos ex ipsæ sine alia traditione, vide tom. i. Controv. col. 211. adverso tenemus Scripturæ perfectionem, per quam illa sola sit regula totalis et adæquata fidei et morum." (p. 319.; and see a similar extract from Dr. Waterland, p. 309.)
On the subject of the fourth position we have the following testimony.
"The faith once delivered to the saints' was committed to writing by the Sacred Penmen, that we might believe' through their word. Nothing, therefore, is now necessary, but to bring to their elucidation the best human attainments, moral and intellectual, together with those ordinary aids of the Holy Spirit which the great author and finisher of our faith has promised to them who sincerely seek the truth." (pp. 91, 2. ed. 1815.)
Speaking of the erroneous pretensions to authoritative interpretation set up on behalf of tradition, human reason, and private illumination, he says,-" They all proceed on a supposition that there is some imperfection or insufficiency in the Scriptures, which is to be supplied by one or other of these infallible remedies. In these false conceptions of the subject each is equally reprehensible. Each confounds what ought to be carefully distinguished, the obscurity of the doctrines revealed in Scripture with the obscurity of Scripture itself; as if a doctrine αἰ. might not be laid down in a clear and distinct manner, though it be in itself above the full comprehension of the human faculties. Each is also equally defective in the remedy it proposes. For it is not oral tradition nor human infallibility, if such were to be found, nor the utmost perfection of human reason, nor such illuminations as enthusiasts rely upon, that can throw more light upon the doctrines than the Scriptures have already shed upon them. The same insurmountable barriers betwixt Divine and human knowledge will still remain, and by faith alone will the doctrines be received." (p. 95.) "A reputed saying of rabbinical writers, that there is no difficulty in their Law of which the Law itself does not afford a solution,' is applicable to the Scriptures in general, both of the Old and New Testament." (pp. 190, 1.) And hence he presses upon the reader the importance of interpreting Scripture by itself. "Difficulties," he says, "are to be removed in the first place by the help of Scripture itself." (p. 191. See the whole of Sermon 6, pp. 177, &s.)
"The Bible, though often profound and mysterious in its subject, does for the most part propose its truths in terms adapted to general apprehension." (p. 218.)
Speaking of the doctrines of the unity of the Godhead, the coexistence and co-equality of the Son and the Holy Spirit with the Father, and the union of the divine and human nature in the person of our Lord, he says,-" To a plain unprejudiced reader they are all indeed so evidently contained in Scripture, that were they not accompanied with acknowledged difficulties in reconciling them with each other, they would probably be universally received." (p. 210.) And instead of endeavouring to account for the prevalence of heresies and divisions in doctrine on fundamental points, from any obscurity in the word of God respecting them, he traces them at once to their true cause. "The main source," he says, " of all contentions respecting the sense of Scripture on points of fundamental importance, may be traced to a reluctance, on one side or the other, to renounce prepossessions militating against an entire reception of the truth. Men are led by partiality to their own opinions, or undue deference to those of others, not only to irreconcileable dissensions among themselves, but eventually to a departure from the plain and obvious meaning of the word of God." (p. 49.)
And finally he quotes, as illustrative of his views, the following, among other passages.
From Bandinel's Bampton Lectures as follows,-" The doctrines of Christianity are laid down in Scripture with a plainness and perspicuity sufficient and satisfuctory to every well-disposed mind." (p. 300.)
From Glassii Philol. Sacr. the following,-" Omnis fidei articulus in Scripturis alicubi ex professo propriis et perspicuis verbis est expositus, quæ illius articuli propria quasi sedes et domicilium est. Nihil est obscure dictum in Scripturis quod spectet ad fidem vel mores, quod non planissime dictum sit in aliis locis." (p. 396.) The italics are the bishop's.
And from Dr. Waterland he remarks, that "most of the abuses with regard to the interpreting of Scripture, when traced up to their fountain-head, will appear to have been owing to this, that some will fancy the plain and obvious sense unreasonable or absurd, when it really is not; and will thereupon obtrude their own surmises, conjectures, and prejudices, upon the word of God." (p. 404.)
On the subject of the fifth position we have the following testimony;
"The Canon of Scripture was determined by the Church upon evidence of its genuineness and authenticity; and to this the Church bears witness. The truth of Scripture rests on other grounds; on the witness of God' as well as the witness of men.'" (pp. 75, 6.)
I conclude the whole with the following decisive testimony of this last witness.
"THE DEFERENCE WHICH THE FATHERS ALWAYS PAID TO THE
HOLY SCRIPTURES AS THE SOLE AUTHORITATIVE RULE OF FAITH, IS SUFFICIENT TO GUIDE US IN THE DEFERENCE WHICH THEY WOULD HAVE ADMITTED TO BE DUE TO THEMSELVES.” (p. 344.)
Such, then, are the sentiments of the principal divines to whom Mr. Keble has referred as supporting his views of tradition; sentiments expressed in many cases, as we have seen, in the very works from which Mr. Keble has taken his extracts.
Mr. Newman is in precisely the same situation with Mr. Keble in this respect. Having interspersed in his Lectures several quotations from Taylor, Stillingfleet, Waterland, and Van Mildert, and applied them to the support of his views, he draws the conclusion that his "view of catholic tradition" is "received from and maintained by our great divines," and very coolly adds, "If it could be proved contrary to anything they have elsewhere maintained, this would be to accuse them of inconsistency, which I leave to our enemies to do." (p. 318.) Now if, as this sentence seems to intimate, Mr. Newman was conscious that they had elsewhere maintained views contrary to his, it would not only have been but fair in him to have stated as much, but have afforded sufficient ground for doubt whether he had not misinterpreted their views in the passages he has quoted. Their statements, when taken as a whole, are perfectly self-consistent; and I am not at all fearful of being reckoned their enemy, for having shown them to be opponents of the system under review.
Am I, then, speaking too strongly when I say, that the Tractators, instead of boasting any longer of the support to be found for their system in the works of our most learned and able divines, are bound to explain how it is that they have been so far misled as ever to make such a claim. I am far from asserting that there has been any intentional misrepresentation of the views of those quoted; much allowance is to be made for a prejudiced eye and imperfect information; but that they have been misrepresented is, I suppose, placed beyond contradiction, by the extracts which have just been given. In whatever way, then, we may be enabled to account for it, certain it is that truth hus been sacrificed, and the authority of great names pleaded in behalf of a system in no respect entitled to such protection. Nor is it possible to acquit those who had the means of information open to them, of culpable neglect in not ascertaining the real state of the case, in a matter of such importance, before they made use of the names of our most learned and esteemed divines as supporters of doctrines which they have expressly repudiated.