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with that superiority of evidence which Protestants associate with their belief, you go round it, asking yourself questions and answering them: “what then, you say, are the Scriptures ?" Permit me again, Rev. Sir, to give the answer. They are the written word of God. Are they the only rule of faith? they themselves, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation do not say that they are. Why then do Protestants believe, that the Bible alone is the rule of faith, when the Bible itself does not say so? I leave you, Rev. Sir, to answer this question.
But in fact your language indicates an abandonment of the undertak. ing. You say ingeniously, that the “presumption from the admitted fact of the Bible's being a revelation is, that it is the rule of faith." Now I ask you, can that be the rule of faith appointed by Christ, which, according to your own acknowledgment, rests upon a mere
presumption ?" A presumption is an unequivocal basis for the Protestant's belief in time, and his hope in eternity !!
As to your subdivisions under this head, they all belong to another part of the subject, and certainly do not prove, that the Protestant rule of faith is authorized by any single text of the sacred writing. It is true you attempt to strengthen the "presumption" by a text of Scripture ;-not from the Gospel, but from the prophet Isaiah viii. 20. " To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to them, it is because there is no light in them.” The prophet in this verse, was not pointing out a rule of faith, but reminding the people that it was forbidden in the land, (Deut. xviii. 10.) to consult false oracles, which was natural enough. But to infer that this text constitutes a divine warrant for the Protestant rule of faith, is indulging private interpretations, with a vengeance. The next passage that is brought forward, is that in which St. Paul approves Timothy, (2 Tim. ii. 15, 17.) for his knowledge of the Scripture. You first quote the passage entire--and then, as if conscious of its inconclusiveness as to the Protestant rule of faith, you take it apart, and weave, from the fragments, a chain of reasoning favourable to your “presumption,” but in which, be it noted, that for every link furnished by the Apostle, two are added, of your own fabrication. Allow me to quote a specimen. “ The Scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation," says the text; “ without any human judge or help,” adds Mr. Breckinridge. But, Sir, if this addition be true, what will become of the clergy, who live by judging “and helping to explain the meaning of Scripture. Will they not say, in the words of another text, “a man's enemies are those of his household.” But, so far as the Scripture is conceri
erned, it is manifest that the presumption," on which the Protestant role of faith depends, must remain what it is.
III. My third argument was,--that the Bible alone, is a misnomer in theology,-in as much, as we can know nothing of it except through the medium of interpretation. And, as this medium is, in all cases, consessedly fallible, according to your rule of faith, it follows necessarily, that no Protestant can be certain, whether the doctrines which he believes, and on which he grounds his hope of salvation, are contained in the Bible. Be assured, Rev. Sir, that our readers will lind something more “profound” in this argument than you have
seen fit to acknowledge. You say "my God, my Bible, and my mind are supposed in my rule of faith :” precisely,--and for that reason it is, that the opinions and prejudices of your" mind," receive a fallacious authority with the people, by being put forth and accepted, as emanating from the pure word of God, the Bible alone! Has not the Episcopalian, the Baptist, the Methodist, the Moravian, the Swedenborgian, the Unitarian, the Arminian, and the Universalist, each “ his God, his Bible, and his mind !”'-—and will you for a moment, pretend to say that they are guided by the rule of faith which you and they equally profess to follow, the Bible alone. It is not the Bible alone ;—but the Bible, twisted into harmony with the Confession of Faith, ---viewed through the Westminster Telescope --which constitutes your rule of faith. As to the silly argument which you are pleased to ascribe to me, under this head, I must beg leave to disown it. It is the child of Presbyterian “ logic,” and is quite too young to sustain my “claim to infallibility.”
IV. My fourth argument was, that the Protestant rule of faith actually undermines the authority of the Scriptures, by extinguishing the proofs of their authenticity and inspiration, and consequently terminates in moral suicide. Just imagine to yourself an ordinary will or testament, written but twenty years ago ;--purporting to be the last will and testament of a wealthy deceased relative, and designating you as heir, but without either signature or probate ;-and ask yourself what it would be worth? Could such a document establish its own authenticity ? And yet, this is precisely the situation to which the Protestant rule of faith reduces the Scriptures, in rejecting the collateral testimony of the church, by which, and by which alone, their authenticity could have been established. St. Augustine, of whom Presbyterians are sometimes wont to speak with respect, declared that it was the testimony of the church which moved him to believe in the Scriptures. But now, the order of belief is “reformed.” Men pick up (pardon the phrase) the sacred volume, as they find it, floating on the sea of two thousand years, and by one great, but gratuitous, act of belief, which flings all intermediate church authority and tradition to the winds, they say, “ the Bible is the Bible, and we are its interpreters,” every man for himself.
Is it not a fact, Rev. Sir, that Protestantism rejects tradition, and adopts the Bible alone as its rule of faith ? and if so, what other testimony is left in the universe to establish either the authenticity or inspiration of the Bible ? When you say, therefore, that my latent meaning in all this argument is, that we need the church to tell us what is Bible and what is not,” you express my meaning exactly, and it is “ latent” no longer. It is now incumbent on you to show how a Protestant, by the Bible alone, can be assured that the Scriptures are authentic and inspired.
V. My fifth argument was, that Christ neither established nor intended the Bible alone to be the rule of faith, because it was not universally known until the end of the fifth century, what books were to be regarded as inspired Scripture. The argument which you here raise against the church, for not making known what books were Scripture, until the period referred to, I shall answer in its proper place. In the
mean time, the fact is an everlasting proof, that the Bible alone was not the primitive rule of Christian faith. You have given authority indeed, to prove that some of the books of Scripture were certain ; this I never denied ; but you have admitted, that even as late as the Council of Laodicea, 364, some were doubtful, and this is quite sufficient for my argument. These some prove that the Protestant rule of faith was not complete, even “at the death of the last apostle,” nor for 264 years afterwards, and consequently was not established by Christ : therefore it is a false rule.
But besides, the condition of the world at that period renders it absurd to suppose, that the Bible alone was even thought of as the rule of faith, 1st, Because of the multitude of languages into which it would have been necessary to translate the Bible : 2d, Because of the multitude of pens necessary to transcribe copies, so as to furnish be. lievers with a rule of faith : 3d, Because of the multitude of schools and schoolmasters necessary to teach the people of every nation how to read. And this is the argument which you call a “ quibble !"
VI. My sixth argument was, that as the true rule of faith was established " to determine disputes in the church of Christ,” it cannot be the Protestant rule, because, it is a fact, that, since the beginning of Christianity until the present hour, no dispute has ever been determined by that rule, the Bible alone. Are you then still prepared to say, that a rule which, in no single instance, has accomplished the end of its institution, is the rule appointed by Christ? Does the Bible - determine the dispute" between you and the Episcopalians on the institution of bishops-between you and the learned editor of the Christian Index, on the subject of Infant Baptism--between you and the Unitarían on the divinity of Jesus Christ--between you and your Rev. Brethren of the Second Presbytery in your own church.
VII. My seventh argument was, that the Protestant rule of faith, so far from "determining any dispute," has given rise to all the heresies that exist. By that rule the Bible is made to prove the divinity of Christ in one pulpit, and to overthrow the belief of it in another ;--10 prove the eternity of torments, and the non-existence of hell. And can that be the rule appointed by Christ, which gives the same warrant of authority to him that “plants, and to him that plucks up that which had been planted ?" Is there a more palpable proof of this argument, than the multitude of sects and the endless contradictions among Protestants, on the subjects of doctrine ? Aster stating this argument, you turn round and exclaim, “Poor Bible, what a transgressor thou hast been!" and then avenge yourself on my reasoning, by saying that “our rule has worked worse than yours.
That is not now the question. Neither do I charge the “transgression” on the Bible, as you insinuate. God forbid ! But I assert boldly, that it is not the abuse, but the use of the Protestant rule of faith, which has produced all the sects that claim to be guided by it. It is indeed the abuse of the Bible ;—but the regular use of the rule.
VIII. My eighth argument was, that the Socinian has the same persuasion of being right in his belief, that you have in yours; and consequently, that you are both under the guidance of a principle, which can impart certainty to neither. But you yourself have admit
ted that the true rule of faith, “must give to those, who abide by its decisions an infallible certainty:" and therefore, te judice, your rule is not the true one: since, under its operation, the divinity of Jesus Christ, agitated between you and the Socinian, becomes a doubtful tenet, on which each of you may entertain or express his opinions, but nothing more. You have not even attempted to wrestle with this argument.
As to the assertion that “ Joanna Southcote and the Shakers use our rule of faith;" it is a piece of information, with which, I believe, history was altogether unacquainted before. I deny the fact, however ; and í should be sorry to see my “logic hanging' on any such admission.
IX. My ninth argument was, as you say, a practical illustration of the above. In order to make it clear, I supposed (by hypothesis) that the Presbyterian doctrine was the true doctrine of the Bible. I supposed four clergymen of that denomination, no matter who, in searching the Scriptures, to become persuaded that Unitarianism, Universalism, Swedenborgianism, or Catholicity is the religion of the Bible.
I ask you whether, in that case, they would not be bound before God, to quit the true religion of Christ, represented by the Presbyterian church, and embrace the heresies ;-—and whether, in doing this, they would not act in strict conformity with the Protestant rule of faith ? 'I say they would: and I submit to your own reason, and that of our readers, whether a rule, which would thus drive men from the true faith, and compel them to embrace heresy, is likely to be that infallible rule, “ which Jesus Christ established to guide us in matter of religion, and to determine disputes in the church.” Genebrard's “Chronicles” will not, I assure you, furnish you a solution of the difficulty.
X. My tenth argument was, that the doctrines of Christ were delivered to mankind as positive truths, facts about which there could be no grounds for disputation. That the object for which an infallible rule of faith was established, was to guard those eternal and unchangeable truths of God, from being lost or confounded with the opinions of men. From this I argued, that the Protestant rule of faith is not the rule which Christ appointed: because every doctrine which is tried by the Protestant rule, is changed by the very test, from a fact or positive truth, into a mere opinion. What is it that has so multiplied creeds among Protestants ? What is it that has never ceased to evolve one sect out of another from the days of the “ Reformation,” so called ? It is the Protestant rule of faith. Why is it that Protestants are in everlasting controversies among themselves ? It is because their rule of faith has robbed them, all alike, of certainty, as to the truth of their respective doctrines. What is the character of their warfare? It is the battle of opinions, about the meaning of the Bible, in which the privilege of private interpretation furnishes the Unitarian and the Universalist, with the same weapons which it bestows upon the Presbyterian and Baptist. Now, sir, I again assert, that Christ never inculcated the belief of an opinion! I assert, on the other hand, that the human mind, under the influence of the Protestant rule of faith, never has held, and never can hold, one single doctrine of Christianity, except by the dubious tenure of opinion-and I challenge you to disprove either of these assertions.
RULE OF FAITH.
You say you have refuted this argument in your introduction, but I appeal even to our Protestant readers, whether, from the beginning to
the end of your letter, they will not look in vain for a refutation. You · have indeed, attempted to show that Catholics are equally destitute of
certainty, but when we come to speak of the Catholic rule of faith, I shall show how easy it is to prove the contrary.
As the rest of your letter is about every thing," you cannot ex. pect me to notice it, since we are both equally forbidden by our rules, to travel out of the subject “under discussion for the time being." This is, perhaps, a circumstance which, on the whole, you ought not to regret; as it will give you an opportunity of reviewing your authorities. Remember that Archbishop Usher was a Protestant, and yet you once quoted him to prove that Catholics are idolaters :--and, added, addressing the young lady in Baltimore, "of Usher's authority among Romanists we need not speak.” However, you have since explained it, as some strange mistake of printing. It was indeed very strange; and such mistakes ought to be guarded against in future, for your authorities, as well as arguments, are, henceforward, to be under the inspection of many a scrutinizing eye. But for the present, I shall not pluck out a single gem of authority, nor controvert a single proposition in the multifarious matter of your epistle. When the time shall have come, however, I bind myself to prove that several of the former are spurious, and several of the latter, false. The actual question now under consideration is, The PROTESTANT
It cries out for a defender--for one, who will prove it to be “infallible ; established by Christ ; competent to guide us in matters of religion; and to determine disputes in his Church.” It demands to be vindicated by its own evidences, which cannot be wanting, if it was established by Christ-and it scorns to triumph by the hand, which, instead of protecting it with the shield of its own evidences, strikes at a defenceless rival. Think you, Reverend Sir, that I accepted this controversy, for the pleasure of playing a mere polemical chess-game with him who offered it? God forbid! I accepted it with a view to drive the ploughshare of reason, evidence, and argument, through the radical delusion, the "origo malorum,” of Protestantism. I reflected, that possibly, in the inscrutable providence of God, the salvation of souls might depend on this controversy—and looking, I trust, with some portion of the charity of Christ, at the wanderings of my Protestant brethren, I determined to expose the fundamental delusion, by which, since the unhappy separation, they have followed their clergy, their parents, their prejudices;-whilst all three, perhaps, conspired to persuade them into the erroneous supposition, that they were following, forsooth, the "pure” word of God, the “ Bible alone."
Now, sir, I again request you to “adhere strictly to the subject of discussion for the time being," as we have agreed in our rules ;-to prove, if you can, the “ Protestant rule of faith," and, by close, positive, and pertinent arguments, to overthrow, article for article, those . which have been laid down against it, whilst I remain, very respectfully, &c.