« PoprzedniaDalej »
His last reason, as applied to doctrine, is altogether untrue,-let him show the particulars.
Upon his quotation from Bishop White, I shall make but a passing observation, that if I admit his principle in the concluding remark, it will establish all for which I care to contend. I believe the legislature and courts of any civilized nation to be fully competent, not only to declare that the statutes and usages which are by them recognised as law are the law; but I believe that it is only by their authority they are known to be such. And this was the sense of St. Augustine, when he declared that he would not believe in the Gospel, but upon the authority of the church; that it is perfectly reasonable, is plain from the fact, that the church pre-existed to the Gospel, and that she taught her doctrines before the Gospel was written, and that it was only by her testimony, the fact of their inspiration and divine authority has been established. Her public tribunals give this testimony not only to the written Gospel, but to more than is written in the Gospel. I believe with Bishop White, that there is no species of evidence more generally acted on, or less liable to be deceptive.
My complaint against the Catechism and against your correspondent is, for having misrepresented what we mean by tradition; and for having misrepresented us in the attempt to show that we preferred it to the Scriptures.
I shall add one remark upon his note. He says that “there is no need of considering tradition to be kept right amongst the great body of the faithful by an extraordinary divine influence over the mind."My answer is, if God promised to preserve the knowledge of truth amongst the great body of the faithful by such influence, it is necessary to believe that he will fulfil his promise. If this tradition be of “high and inestimable importance” to ascertain “the sense in which the Apostles, and so forth, held the words of Christ in relation to his mission, offices, and nature," and so forth, if the having true doctrine upon those subjects be so necessary as to cause the Son of God to vouchsafe to become our teacher: this extraordinary divine teaching must have been considered necessary by God; and when he declares he will be with those who teach this doctrine by his commission “always, even to the end of the world,” (Matt. xxviii. 20), and keep the Spirit of truth “to abide with them" "for ever,” (John xiv. 16, 17), it has the full appearance of evidence that such influence upon the general mind of the great body of the teachers, was not only necessary, but assured; and such assurance is the only guarantee which men can have, for the perfect certainty essential to faith. “The supposition of such an influence is attended with insuperable difficulties." I acknowledge, gentlemen, that to a Protestant, if he desire so to continue, it must; for if such influence be once admitted, he must become a member of "the great body of the faithful.” But to a Roman Catholic it presents no difficulty, but it removes all doubt, and creates perfect repose in his certainty of the guidance of the spirit of truth.
The topic in his paragraph 57 is not worth a remark.
The fifty-ninth adduces motives to prove that the statement in fiftyeight is not a misrepresentation. I shall briefly advert to them.
If it be a denial of the free use of the Scriptures to use proper care that the editions and translations be correct, then the charge against us is true.
If it be a denial of the free use of the Scriptures to declare that the meaning of the books and passages is that which the great body of the faithful have, by the proper use of tradition, known it to be, then the charge is true. But if it be an abuse to deviate from “that sense in which the Apostles held the words of Christ in relation to his mission, offices, and nature," and from “that sense in which the first Christians held the words of these Apostles as to such and other points spoken of, or referred to in their writings,” we only guard against that abuse. And as “the account furnished by tradition” is on those points by Protestants regarded as of high and inestimable authority,” and this account can only be known by the unanimous consent of the fathers, and the constant and undeviating judgment of the church, it is to be hoped that in preventing an abuse, we shall not be charged with taking away the free use, unless free use and abuse be synonymous. If they are, we plead guilty.
The rule of the Index is not a general law of the church, and has no force, except in those places where it has been adopted, which are, comparatively speaking, very few. The note here is, therefore, an untrue statement.
Pope Leo XII. only did his duty in admonishing the pastors of the church to warn their flocks against imagining your Bibles to be either accurately translated or perfect copies, because they are neither.
My object not being a controversy upon the merits of the question, but a vindication of my former statements, I shall not proceed, as I might, to show that, in the English Protestant Church from which you are sprung, the same principle exists and is frequently enforced. Why do you call other Protestants heretics, for merely making the free use of their own judgment in the interpretation of the Scripture? The Unitarian only makes free use of the Scripture, yet you condemn him with
equal decision, but not with equal scurrility as we are condemned for merely the free use of our own judgment, in determining how we may best arrive at the sense of the words which the sacred volume contains.
You will not allow a person to belong to your communion who professes that, in the exercise of his judgment, he cannot believe Jesus Christ was an incarnate God. You tell him to read the Scriptures, and make free use of the Bible; he tells you that, after having done so, he cannot understand those texts as you do; neither can he, after that free use, see why you assert that bishops are superior to priests, or that pres. byterial ordination is invalid, or that the administration of the sacraments should be confined to a privileged order; neither can he see it is conformable to God's ordinances that a formal liturgy should be used: yet he claims to be a member of your church. He is a good moral man, zealous for the free use and distribution of the Bible, of splendid intellect, of winning manners, of estimable and extensive benevolence, desirous of officiating for a vacant church of yours, by the great body of whose members he is held in high esteem. Will its pulpit be open for him? Yet he addresses you. “Gentlemen, it is true, you tell me, that I am free to use the Scriptures, but not my understanding in order to know what they teach and require.” “Can any” Protestant Episcopalian “on earth deny this to be true, and the only true account of the matter ?”
Gentlemen, whatever the effect of the restriction may be, one effect of the abuse of the Scriptures certainly has been more sectarian hatred, animosity, ill-will, malice, misrepresentation, strife, envy, contention, and falsehood, than has proceeded from any other cause that I know of. The simple questions ought to be, “Can all the contradictory meanings attributed to this book be correct?" No one will assert that they can. “Has it any true and consistent meaning?" We agree that it has. “How shall that correct and consistent meaning be ascertained ?" We answer, by the same mode by which the meaning of any ancient public document can be ascertained: by the testimony of the tribunal which was charged with its preservation, its interpretation, and with the execution of its provisions, supported as it is by the collateral testimony of all the sages who expounded it from the earliest times, and the nations which have been led by its regulations. “No, no!” you answer, “let everybody interpret for himself, and act upon his own interpretation." You have thus flung the document abroad, and proclaimed the license: why will you condemn those who act upon your principle? Why condemn even us, who take the document and judge for ourselves ? Gentlemen, you may declaim against our ignorance as your correspondent does in paragraph 60, but you mistake: the Bible is better known amongst Catholics than is any other book in existence, and it is more attentively read. And from your own books, and from your own acts, Catholics, in those countries in which Protestants are found, know your tenets, your principles, and your arguments, with infinitely more accuracy than you know those of our church. In other countries, where Protestants are not found, it does frequently happen that the great body of the people have as little knowledge of your particular tenets, of your special discipline, and of the nature of your institutions, as the members of the American Protestant Episcopal Church, or of the Church of England, have of the tenets, discipline and institutions of the Nestorians, the Eutychians, or any other of the Eastern, Christian separatists from the great body of the faithful. Yet this ignorance is compatible with a knowledge of their own religion, and of the contents of the Bible. Nor would a study of the Bible supply a knowledge of the nature and practices of a church whose characteristic peculiarities are mere denials of what those persons believe to be authorized by that religion which the Bible upholds.
I shall endeavour to conclude my remarks next week, and remain, gentlemen, Your obedient, humble servant,
But this, whatever evil she conceived,
Yet this in all her words might be perceived,
For whatever good by any said,
How to deprave, or slanderously upbraid,
To hark what any one did good report,
And if that any ill she heard of any.
And take great joy to publish it to many,
CHARLESTON, S. C., Sept. 21, 1829. To the Editors:
Gentlemen :-There now remain but few topics to be disposed of; and upon those few topics there is not much discussion required by the principle under which I act, for the misrepresentations which they contain are comparatively few and easily rectified. The sixty-first paragraph of your correspondent well and pathetically laments the conse quences of your principle; and naturally resolves itself into the doctrine of infallibility as the only efficient remedy. We say that the Saviour of the world was influenced by the view of those consequences to provide thus against the evil: we have, on our side, the example of the precept given by God in Deuteronomy xvii. to the people of Israel; as well as of the precept given by the Saviour himself in Matthew xviii. 17, together with the promises of his special abiding to preserve his church in truth all days to the end of the world, and many other evidences which it is here unnecessary to adduce. But your correspondent is pleased to say, that “it were vain, perhaps, to expect, in the present day, to secure the attention of any intelligent reader to an argument either for or against the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church's infallibility.” I, of course, will call this prejudice, or judgment made up before its grounds are examined; he will, perhaps, give it some other name. Is he aware of the anathemas used by St. Paul ? (1 Cor. xvi. 22; Gal. i. 8, 9). I need not go to any higher authority to support the declarations of the church, that whosoever corrupts the doctrine of Christ is anathema. The church condemns no one to eternal penalties, because she has no such power. But she does declare, for she is commissioned by Christ so to do, the doctrine which he taught, and the penalties under which he commands it to be received; and she would be unfaithful to her commission, if she did not proclaim what she was commanded to teach all days to the end of the world. If she proclaims a falsehood, it is folly to believe that God will be bound to execute the judgment which she declares; the eternal or temporal penalty, in a future state, must be enacted and inflicted by God, and by him alone. The church claims no such power. Your curious correspondent adds to his misrepresentations when he asserts she does. Let him adduce the laws which enact temporal penalties. There is no such law of the Catholic Church. Catholic nations and Protestant nations have had such laws. Does he desire their abolition? Let him begin amongst ourselves. Let him make North Carolina and New Jersey cease to be a reproach amongst us. Catholics first introduced the principle and the practice of religious liberty upon our consecrated soil; let Protestants complete what Catholics began. Let them tell the North Carolinan Catholic, and the New Jersey Catholic, that they shall no longer pay the penalty of exclusion from office for the profession of their faith.