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Wirtemberg, was found to be deceitful at Geneva, and thus every man who felt himself called upon to labour in the Reformation, began by making his own telescope. And not only this; every individual is furnished with a pocket spy-glass-by which he has a right to judge the doctrine of his minister, and see whether it is conformable to the discoveries of the great telescope, contained in the “ Confession of Faith”—to judge of the confession itself, whether it is conformable to the Bible—and to judge of the Bible, and see whether it is conformable to his--spy-glass--that is, private interpretation.
Thus, Rev. Sir, thus it was that you judged of the Catholic doctrines of Christianity in your letter which gave occasion to this con troversy. You say it is our faith that is contrary to the doctrines of Christ: I say it is not our faith, but your spy-glass; and I protest against your mensuration of either Catholic or Protestant doctrine, until you shall have proved that your instrument of measurement is the “infallible rule of faith established by Christ,” as expressed in our articles of agreement. Now the Westminster Confession of Faith, to which, some will contend that you pay greater deference than to the Bible itself, declares that “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.” But be it remembered that this is the enactment not of the Bible, but of a number of men, assembled at Westminster, Anno Domini 1647, by order of Parliament, to make a religion for the united kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. And I leave it to any man of common sense, if this rule of interpretation, which they call infallible, is not a mere sophismseeing that the Scripture to be interpreted, and the Scripture by which it is to be interpreted, are both equally subjected to the pocket-glass of the reader's private interpretation. Would it not be absurd to say that the laws of this commonwealth expound their own meaning, without a judge? The same Confession of Faith says, that “the supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures.” But this is only begging the question, and does not reach the difficulty : Seeing that the subject of dispute turns precisely on this question, what does the Holy Spirit say ? —"speaking in the Scriptures."
You will observe, Rev. Sir, that I have said nothing on the subject of the Catholic rule of faith—which, however, cannot but be considerably, though indirectly strengthened, if my arguments against the Protestant principle cannot be met by evidences stronger on the other side, than those I have put forth. It only remains for you to show that the Protestant rule of faith, is that “infallible rule established by Christ to guide us in matters of religion, and to determine disputes in his church.”
The Scriptures are indeed the inspired word of God; as such they have been guarded and vindicated by the church. God forbid that I should ascribe to them, the errors of those who claim to walk under their guidance. The only object I have had in view, is to show that the rule of faith adopted by Protestants, is a rule which will lead infallibly to the abuse of the Scriptures, and to the destruction of the revealed doctrines of Christianity. The Bible alone, in other words,
private interpretation may serve the purpose of the Presbyterian against the Catholic, but it will equally serve the purpose of the Socinian against both.
In the course of this letter I have spoken with entire freedom of the principles of Protestant doctrine. If any one should be offended at this, I beg such a person to remember that you invited me to the discussion; and that, having accepted the invitation, it would not be generous to find fault with me for speaking the truth, and the whole truth, provided I give facts and reasoning to prove that I may speak nothing but the truth.
Yours, very respectfully,
P. S. In your last letter, published under the head of private correspondence, you introduced several topics which are certainly foreign to the occasion of this controversy. The first is, quotations from your letter in the Christian Advocate, to show that you were obliged to answer the difficulties presented to you in the Baltimore manuscript. Now, in reference to this, I have already stated that I professed to know nothing of the matter, until your letter published in August and September made it public, that you had challenged, " Priests and Bishops,” to this discussion, the whole field of controversy.
The second is, that you represent me as having, in a letter addressed to the editor of the Philadelphian, arraigned the clergy of some half a dozen of protestant denominations for manifesting a spirit of retreat during the Cholera. This may, of course, enlist the feelings of those clergymen against me as a public accuser; but I appeal to the letter itself, and to the recollection of this community, to say whether I preferred any charge of my own against them. On the contrary, I took up the charges as they had been preferred, by a correspondent of the Philadelphian, signed a “Presbyterian," against the Protestant clergy, for abandoning their posts at such a time. It was in the act of replying to these charges of his correspondent, by the editor, that the unfortunate insinuation was made against the moral purity of the Catholic clergy, which, after all, may have been a lapsus pennæ. This being the case, how could you represent me as the person framing accusations against the clergymen of all the denominations mentioned somewhat ostentatiously, in your last letter? Now, however, I assert, that the testimony of the physicians who attended in the Cholera hospitals, and who periled their lives in the duties of their profession, would go far to establish the charge as suggested by a "Presbyterian."
Lastly, you take great pains to show in all your letters how much you have to do, and how much leisure, “sanctuary quietude,” remains on my hands, intimating thereby the advantages which my situation gives me over you in the conducting of this controversy. Be assured, Rev. Sir, that if I thought the public could be interested in the detail of my avocations, I also, could make out a tolerable list of duties ; enough perhaps to turn the scales of comparison. But to make your mind easy on the subject of your official occupations, I beg to state that I am prepared, if God give me health, to sustain the Catholic
argument against any or all the clergymen of the Synod or General Assembly, provided he or they write with your signature, and adhere to the rules. I make this remark not by way of boasting, but because you allude to, and dwell, as I think, too emphatically on the multitude of your official duties. My confidence is not in my own abilities, that would be a poor and pitiful reliance, but it is in my cause-truth, and her eternal evidences.
New-York, February 2d, 1833. TO THE Rev. JOHN HUGHES,
Sir,- It is one of my principles neither to seek nor to shun controversy. Of the origin of this discussion the public will judge; and I am willing to abide by its impartial decision. In the work of the
ministry, it has been and still is my happiness, to enjoy the most - peaceable and pleasant communion with my brethren of those deno
minations of Christians, whom Protestants are accustomed to call evangelical. As controversy is now clearly my duty, I think myself happy that it relates to a system, against which all such Protestants are united, and with whose rise or final overthrow, in the opinion of them all, the most precious hopes, and the highest interests of men and nations, as well as the supreme honour of Jesus Christ, are inseparably blended.
And now in the outset, I would inquire by what right you say, “In this whole controversy, every inch of ground which is not disputed by you shall be looked upon as so much given up to the cause of Catholicity and truth ?" Is it then presupposed that you are the representative of the universal church in this matter? Is the residuum of truth with you?—But passing this, I only remark that, whatever you may arrogate, I shall confine myself as far as possible, to prominent points, and hope to show so clearly your fallacy in them, that what may be left, will not be worth contending for. I shall of course pursue my own order in replying to your strictures and queries. But where you repeat, I shall not be expected to answer twice the same thing, and where you confuse the question before us for want of order, you must not expect me to follow your example.
The first point for discussion is the Rule of Faith. It is agreed 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.” I regret that you did not define your own rule of faith. Ours is “ The Word of God as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.” We own no judge of controversies but God. Your rule of faith is “the Old and New Testaments, with the books called Apocrypha, as contained in the old Vulgate Latin edition, and unwritten traditions interpreted by a visible, infallible judge of controversies, according to the unanimous consent of the fathers.” (See Council of Trent, 4th Sess. Decree on Tradition and the Scriptures; and Creed of Pope Pius IV.)
You introduce your attack on our rule, by the broad assumption, that the principle of private interpretation has been the cause of all the divisions, heresies, and other evils, which distract and weaken the church of Christ. You bring against it 2 Pet. i. 20, “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,” and you say, “ Now the Protestant rule of faith utterly reverses this declaration, and makes all Scripture of every private interpretation." In this you follow your standards, certainly; for the Catechism of Pius IV. refers to the same passage of Scripture in answer to the
question, "Why may not every particular Christian have liberty to interpret the Scripture according to his own private judgment?” &c. &c. The exposition given by the Pope is an infallible commentary on Peter's Epistle. But what says the passage. “Knowing this first that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”—(vs. 20, 21. English translation.) Here we remark, 1. That Peter tells the people, in a previous verse, that they do well to take heed unto the more sure word of prophecy. 2. It is important to be noticed by you that it is the prophecy of the Scripture, not the Scripture, that is obscure. 3. Should your interpretation be correct, the apostle is made to argue thus—“The Scriptures are infallibly revealed or inspired, and ye do well that ye take heed to them, therefore they are obscure, too obscure for private explanation.” A strange inference, and one forcibly against yourself—for you contend for the clearness of your church's interpretations, because they are infallibly guided by God. 4. The vulgate is the only authorized version in your church. Yet you and the catechism of your church, follow here, our English translation! The reason is obvious. It appears to favour you. The vulgate is “ Prophetia Scripture propria interpretatione, non fit.” “ The prophecy of Scripture is not made by a man's own interpretation ;” or “no prophecy of Scripture is its own interpreter”-if you please. IIere the interpretation refers to prophecy-and to the prophets, not to Scripture at large, nor to the reader, at all. As if he had said--Prophets do not prophecy their own inventions, nor are their predictions to be taken singly; or in an insulated way—but every prophecy is dictated by the Holy Ghost as a part of a whole, as a link in the great chain of prophecies. And yet an infallible judge, followed by a distinguished priest, would make this passage go against “private interpretation" of the Bible! It is almost as defective a use of Scripture as one once made, (he was a Protestant,) who was arrested in the act of striking another, by the timely recollection of Paul's injunction to Timothy, “ Lay hands suddenly on no man.” It is here remarkable that the Apostle Peter, claimed by you as the I. Roman Pontiff, in his last epistle, bidding farewell to the church before his decease, and looking down with a shepherd's love, and a prophet's eye into future ages, while giving an infallible rule for determining the sense of prophecies, (See Horsely on this place) says not one word about an infallible judge. Yet surely had there been one, there could not have been so fit a man, or so fit a place to make at known.
In the course of your remarks, you seem to claim merit to your rule, from particular difficulties charged by you on the Protestant rule, yet yours may be chargeable with the same, or equal, or still greater difficulties.
You profess to bring one of these formally to view in the 10th head; yet as this is a sort of subtle thread that runs through your argument, let us cut i here, and thus disentangle the subject from that error. Take then for example the charge of uncertainty, brought against us at the close of tha: 10th head, as follows, " The Protestant rule of faith, so far from being the fountain of in.