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“ Though removed from Baltimore, I shall be near at hand [in the city of Philadelphia], and by God's grace, prepared for any respectful and intelligent communication of responsible character, on this subject."
In these passages you have the history of the discussion, prior to your taking it up. Let it speak for itself. I have already given you some of my reasons for its publication, and need not here repeat them. I freely own that the publication of my letter gave notoriety and in tensity to the call for a reply. But it did not begin the controversy -nor did it first publish, though it first printed it; for the whole matter had become a subject of conversation in Baltimore, and the manuscripts severally written, were so far read, as to constitute a publicly known issue. It is also a little remarkable, that the reasoning which you adopt, as to the Roman Catholic community, applied strictly to the congregation of which I was then pastor. It was known to many that I had been addressed ; that an answer was demanded of me; that I had at first declined to give one, sending only a book on the controversy, and that a written reply from me was then, with some triumph, insisted on. And it was not until nearly a whole year had passed, and many of my friends thought my own character, and even the cause of truth suffering from my silence, that I took up my pen. There is another fact which may cast some light on this subject In due time, a manuscript attempt at a reply to my letter was sent after me to Philadelphia. My alternative then became as follows, that is, according to your reasoning-I must reply to the Baltimore layman, or be silent. The former, I had pledged myself not to do; the latter would have been by construction, and almost by confession, a surrender of my principles, as incapable of defence. What then could I do? Honour forbade me to publish his communications, consistency and common sense forbade me to reply to them. The only course which remained for me therefore, was to publish my own letter, and thus transfer the discussion to a responsible author, if any such should choose to take it up. Yet when I do this, you claim the public sympathy as an injured defender of your faith, against the unprovoked attacks of a presuming Protestant! But sometimes an objector's consistency is best discovered by comparing him with himself. I have heretofore barely alluded to your publication, last autumn, in the U. S. Gazette. Before you saw what you term my challenge, you took occasion in reply to an article from the editor of the Philadelphian to speak in the following terms of Protestant ministers. “And what can they (the Roman Catholic Priests,] what can the public think, when they see the shepherds, who are all remarkable for their pastoral solicitude, so long as the flock is healthy, the pastures pleasant, and the fleece luxuriant, abandoning their post, when disease begins to spread desolation in the fold ?" And again, “How comes it then, that these objects (cholera patients] have been so generally forsaken by the Protestant clergy? It is not long since I read an account of eight missionaries, that is two missionaries (the rest being wives and children], embarking for the conversion of the distant heathen. The conversion of a single Gentoo is blazoned over the land, as a triumph of Christianity, and a victory above all value of money and labour ; and how comes it that the Protestant of Philadelphia, less fortunate
than the Gentoo of Hindostan, cannot find a clergy man of his own persuasion, who would whisper to him words of hope, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, from the moment that the fatal disease has seized upon him. I do not say that this was the case with all the Protestant clergy; but I do say it of some.”
You will not understand me as intending at all to defend the article to which you reply, or to find fault with you for answering it. But I present to you for your consideration, your most ungenerous, and unjust, and injurious aspersions of Protestant ministers. And is it true, then, that the body of Protestant ministers, Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational, &c. " generally" " though not all,” forsook the dying sufferers, after having lived on the fat of the land, and the sweat of the people's faces, when in prosperity and health ? And is it true that these Protestants with all their missionary efforts are so base, so hypocritical as this? If you can prove your charges, then we deserve your most faithful exposure, with all the reprehension and infamy which your statements, if well founded, are fitted to produce. But my principal object in this reference is, to show what liberties you take with Protestants, in contrast with your strictures on and complaints of my letter, published in the Christian Advocate ; I need not add that the very framework of your periodical publications involves the scheme of aggression on the religion of Protestants : that if we enter your places of public worship we are continually liable to meet with the denunciations applied to heretics alone ;--and that between propagandism and intolerance, in all countries where your worship is established by law, Protestants have no enviable lot. Let not the odium then attendant on unprovoked attacks be levelled at me ; and if at the proper time, I sustain with suitable evidence, the statements made in the Christian Advocate, may I not claim the universal privilege of pleading justification in the proof of the facts ? You will scarcely look for me to enter on this proof now.
As to archbishop Usher, however, you can hardly imagine that I wished to adduce his opinion of your doctrine as authority in your church. You know, however, that he has written on this subject, and stands high with Protestants. It was his quotations from the catechism of the council of Trent, &c. [having the originals before him, which I had not at the time,] which I intended to refer to as authority in your church. But by some strange error, a prince among Protestants was made a Romanist, a mistake which corrects itself, and does him only injustice. It is to the catechism we wished to referquoted by him. You mistake me when you suppose, that the reason of my insisting on an answer to my published letter, was my impression that it was so very conclusive as to preclude reply. I thought that the candid, natural, honourable course, for a scholar, a gentleman, and a Christian to pursue, and having heard of you as one of the most distinguished ministers of your church, supposed you the more likely to concur in so obvious a suggestion. It is also at a great sacrifice on my part, that I now conform to your wishes, and enter on the present mode of controversy. A connected discussion either oral, or from the press, would have been more convenient to me, on all accounts. Yet I have waived my rights ; I have in chief part adopted your rules; I have conceded to you the choice of questions, in the
two general propositions suggested as the basis of investigation: and you are to commence the discussion, and I am to defend the Protestant faith, though you call yourself the challenged person ; and while mine is the life of a traveller, yours is one of sanctuary, quietude, and literary leisure. Yet still I meet you with hearty satisfaction, having it as my chief source of regret, that whilst American Protestant Christians present a galaxy of great and good men, abundantly qualified to defend our precious faith, this momentous controversy has fallen into such poor hands as mine.
I fully reciprocate the wish that we may be enabled to pursue our investigation in the right spirit and to the best ends. I shall affect no false charity ; I pray that the God of truth and love may imbue us with that which is true.
I have only to add, that I admit no infallible rule of faith, or judge of controversy, but the revealed will of God. What that revealed will is, according to previous arrangement between us, is the question with which you are now to open the controversy. The delayed receipt of your last letter, it having reached me only the evening before I left Philadelphia for this city, is my apology for a corresponding delay in sending this.
I remain yours, respectfully,
P. S. In the event of inevitable interruptions, I shall claim the indulgence mentioned in a former letter, of a temporary suspension of the discussion.
The undersigned agreeing to have an amicable discussion of the great points of religious controversy, between Protestants and Roman Catholics, do hereby bind themselves to the observance of the following rules :
1. The parties shall write and publish, alternately, in the weekly religious papers, called the Presbyterian, and a Roman Catholic paper, to be furnished by the first of January. It being understood that the communications shall be published after the following plan :-One party opening the first week, the other party replying the next week, and every piece to be republished in the immediately succeeding number of the Roman Catholic paper. The communications not to exceed four columns of the Presbyterian, nor to continuo beyond six months, without consent of parties.
2. The parties agree that there is an infallible Rule of Faith established by Christ to guide us in matters of Religion, for the purpose of determining disputes in the Church of Christ. 3. They more
oreover agree, that after giving their views of the Rule of Faith, they shall proceed to discuss the question, “Is the Protestant religion, the religion of Christ?"
4. The parties agree respectively, to adhere strictly to the subject of discussion, for the time being, and to admit no second question, until the first shall have been exhausted. Each party shall be the judge when he is done with a subject, and shall be at liberty to occupy his time with a second topic, when he is done with the first, leaving to the other party the liberty of continuing to review the abandoned topic, as long as he shall choose ; subject, however, to be answered, if he introduce
5. Mr. Hughes to open the discussion, and Mr. Breckinridge to follow, according to the dictates of his own judgment.
JNO. HUGHES. Philadelphia, December 14th, 1832.
RULE OF FAITH.
January 21, 1833. TO THE REV. John BRECKINRIDGE,
Rev. Sir.--I am extremely happy to have this opportunity, not of my own seeking, to submit to your consideration and that of our readers, the reasons which prove the truth of the Catholic Religion, and the tendency of every other system to weaken the principles and sap the foundation of Christianity itself. In doing this, however, I shall be careful to abstain from the use of gross or insulting epithets. I shall make no appeal to prejudice or passion—but availing myself of those advantages which are peculiar to the cause of truth-Ishall address your reason, through the medium of rational argument found
ed upon solid principles and indisputable facts. I shall merely premise in addition to what I have stated, that I discriminate between the false doctrines of modern sects and the individuals whose misfortune it is to have been educated in the belief of them, without a knowledge, and sometimes without even a suspicion of their erroneousness. Ignorance of truth is criminal, only when it is voluntary, and when men, through party attachments, prejudice, or human respect, dread the consequences of investigation. But even then, God alone is the judge, before whose tribunal they shall stand or fall. . I judge no man
be the sect or denomination to which he belongs what it may.
When we reflect that there was a time when the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul, and contrast that period with the conflict of opinions, and the rivalship of creeds which have produced the present distracted condition of the Christian family, the lover of truth may find enough to make him weep for charity. Then, there was one Lord, one faith, one baptism ; constituting the unity of spirit in the bond of peace. Now, the baptism, the faith, and the Lord himself are become so many topics of dispute, watch-words of division, and signals of contradiction. Men, under pretence of reforming his church, have tampered with the integrity of Christian belief, and either blind or desperately indifferent to the consequences, have burst the ligament which bound the doctrines of Christianity together, and left them defenceless against the invading spirit of infidelity. The ancient land-marks of the Christian's belief have been removed the works of the citadel have been broken down, and the breach once made, Religion has been robbed, as far as it was in the power of man's perverted ingenuity to rob her, of the very privilege and principle of self-preservation.
What is the cause of this unhappy state of things ? What is the prolific principle that has produced such a harvest of creeds, in which the wheat of sound doctrines is scarcely perceptible amidst the tares and cockle of delusion? That principle, Rev. Sir, is private interpretation. The Presbyterian Church, like every other church that has adopted it, is too weak to sustain its
and is consequently falling apart, under its operation. That principle, or as it is regarded among Protestants, that privilege, is destructive of unity, by making doctrine, like matter, infinitely divisible. Let a sect be composed of only three individuals, and, if private interpretation be adopted as the cement of religious union, they will not long cling together. But the confessions of faith by which Protestants endeavour to preserve the unity of spirit in the bond of peace, is a practical proof that they themselves do not regard private interpretation as conservative of truth. Let it not be said that these remarks warrant the charge that the Catholic Religion is hostile to the dissemination and perusal of the Holy Scriptures. I protest against such an inference; all that I want to establish is contained in the spirit and letter of St. Peter's declaration, that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.”
Now the Protestant "rule of faith” utterly reverses this declaration, and makes all Scripture of every private interpretation. The Protestant rule of faith is, if I am not mistaken (and if I be, I will thank you for correction) the Bible alone.