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persuaded himself is the true one; I naturally require him to prove, by adequate historical testimony, that his proposed exposition sets forth the real import of the passage: for, however satisfactory, to his own mind, may peradventure be the result of his own private judgment; most clearly the declaration of his private judgment is no proof to me, that he has struck out the true interpretation. What I require from him, is tangible evidence, not mere bold gratuitous assertion. Let him shew, that the primitive Church, from the declared teaching of the Apostles, interpreted as he interprets and I have done. But, if he cannot shew this; and, still more, if, upon inquiry, the primitive Church shall be found to have adopted, professedly from the Apostles, a totally different mode of exposition: then, in the first case, his projected interpretation, to say the very least of it, is of no authority; and, in the second case, this same projected interpretation must be at once discarded, as absolutely false and erroneous. When matters
turn out to be thus circumstanced, to appeal, in the exposition of Scripture, to his own private judgment, is to talk absolute nonsense. No new-fangled interpretation can, on the plea of private judgment,
be for a moment received, when it shall appear, that this private judgment is either unsupported by or contradicted by the well ascertained voice of the really primitive Church apostolic. A man might as well claim to determine, by his own insulated and uninquiring private judgment, the sense of a classical allusion, in neglect or defiance of the voice of classical antiquity: as he might claim to determine, by a similar crude exercise of his naked and uninformed private judgment, the sense of a now disputed passage of Scripture, in neglect or defiance of the voice of ecclesiastical antiquity.
I. The principle here insisted upon (the wise and rational principle, as your lordship well knows, enforced by Irenèus and Tertullian and other primitive doctors of the Catholic Church) I have in a former Work, applied to the peculiarities of Popery and it is not among the least of the startling Difficulties of Romanism, that that system has been found unable to abide the test of sober historical inquiry.
1. Doubtless, many popish doctrines may be traced up to a considerable height of relative antiquity but this is insufficient to establish their
claim to the authority of assured apostolicity.
In every instance of romish peculiarities, the chain of connection, between our own age and the age of the first inspired teachers of Christianity, is too short. We vainly try to stretch it, beyond this certain point, or beyond that certain point. At its distant extremity, the links, which ought to have united it to the Apostles, are uniformly wanting.
2. Nor is even this deficiency the worst part of the matter.
Not only, negatively, do all traces of popish peculiarities fail us, as we penetrate deeper and deeper into antiquity: but also, positively, we often find, in the occurrence of primitively received doctrines which stand forth in direct opposition, a distinct and unequivocal testimony against them.
3. Hence, clearly, the scheme, which, in one comprehensive word, may be termed Popery, is convicted of an origin posterior to the time of the Apostles.
It is convicted, therefore, through the unexceptionable medium of historical evidence, of being a mere human invention: and, as such, agreeably to the canon of Tertullian, it must, because later than the beginning, be rejected as adulterate.
II. If, by way of yet further illustrating my proposed line of argument, the same principle be applied to yet another theological system: that system will, if I mistake not, be found equally deficient in the grand essential of historic testimony.
1. The scheme of interpretation, now familiarly, though perhaps (if a scheme ought to be designated by the name of its original contriver) not quite correctly, styled Calvinism, may be readily traced back, in the Latin or Western Church, to the time of Augustine.
But here we find ourselves completely at fault. Augustine, at the beginning of the fifth century, is the first ecclesiastical writer, who annexes, to the scriptural terms elect and predestinate, the peculiar sense which is now usually styled Calvinistic. With him, in a form scarcely less round and perfect than that long subsequently proposed by the celebrated Genevan Reformer himself, commenced an entirely new system of interpretation previously unknown in the Church Catholic.
What I state, is a mere dry historical fact. Nor can it be safely said, by way of invalidating this fact, that evidence, now unhappily lost, once
notoriously existed: evidence, I mean, by which Calvinism, or (to speak more correctly) Austinism, might have been distinctly traced up to the apostolic age. The illustrious Augustine himself has for ever silenced any plea of this description.
When, toward the close of his controversy with the Pelagians, he entered largely and systematically into his own peculiar views of election and predestination (views, which, in one place at least, he somewhat incautiously acknowledges himself to have diligently sought out and discovered; while he tells his opponents, that, if they differ from him in such views, God will reveal those views to them, provided they walk in the light to which they have attained): when, I say, he at length entered largely and systematically into his own peculiar doctrinal views; it was, even by those who concurred in the general drift of his previous antipelagian treatises and whose soundness in regard to the doctrines of free grace and original sin he himself freely admits, immediately and unequivocally objected to him, that he was now superfluously advancing a scheme of doctrine, hitherto unknown and unheard of; a scheme of doctrine, contrary to the opinion of all antecedent Fathers and contrary to the sense of