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CONTROVERSY. No. V.
RULES. The undersign&d 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 pub. lished 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 continue 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 moreover agree, that after giving their views of the Rule of Faith, they shall proceed to discuss the question, “Is thc Protestant religion, the re. ligion 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 re. view the abandoned topic, as long as he shall choose ; subject, however, to be answered, if he introduce new matter,
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.
February 28, 1833. TO THE Rev. John BRECKINRIDGE,
Rev. Sir,-I am delighted to find that the pressure of your “official duties” has not prevented you, in this instance, from replying to my letter, within the time prescribed. But writing and reasoning are not the same thing ;-and if you had replied not merely to my letter, but to my arguments against the Protestant rule of faith, you would, in my humble opinion, have rendered a better service to the cause in which you are engaged, at the same expense of postage and of presswork. The rapidity of transportation, as well as of composition, has probably contributed its share to the confusion, in which the topic returns from New York. When I last had the pleasure of addressing you, I requested you, by the respect you entertain for your own sig. nature at the head of this letter, to confine yourself to the actual subject of discussion for the time being, and to bring forward no
second question, until the first shall have been exhausted.” The reader, who will take the trouble to cast his eye over the first two or three pages of your reply, will perceive with what elaborate fidelity you have violated your own regulation. I can hardly think of a subject, that has been omitted in your enumeration ;-except original sin, the foreknowledge of God, and the covenant of election. It would seem, that you had copied the whole theological index--the entire table of contents. For my own part, I do not find the space allowed us, ample enough for the multiplied evidences, appertaining to the single question at issue between us. It is true the fifth rule allows you to “follow me according to the dictates of your own judgment.” But the fifth rule cannot warrant the violation of those which precede it. Your judgment, in this case, seems to prefer the instinctive, but wily logic of the bird, which is observed to quit the nest at the first approach of the truant school-boy, and to flutter about in
every other direction. For having adopted this course, I am willing to grant you the merit of sagacity. If the Protestant rule of faith is founded neither on reason, nor revelation, but a manifest delusion, which prejudice alone has consecrated, then you did well to abandon its defence. This will account for the impatience of your pen, and your premature attack on the Catholic rule, in which, by introducing the old catalogue of “ questions," you seem determined to bear me down, if not by the quality of your reasoning, at least by the quantity and confusion of your matter.
You are, indeed, correct in saying, that the rule of faith is the subject of discussion. And although I asked you to meet me in the investigation of the Protestant principle first, as the natural order of proceedings : yet I am candid enough to admit your right to deny this request. The argument of comparison seems to be your favouriteand the Panacea of religion, which you have provided for the acknowledged infirmities of the Protestant rule of faith, is the everlasting assertion, that “our rule works worse than yours.”. Since, however, you insist upon it, that both shall be placed side by side, for simultaneous investigation and comparison, I shall proceed to comply with the requisition.
The parties agree that there is an infallible rule of faith, established by Christ, to guide us in matters of religion, and to determine disputes in his Church.” This, Rev. Sir, is the standard, by which, according to your own agreement, the true rule of Christian belief is to be determined. Now the professed principle of Protestantism is “ the Bible alone, interpreted by each individual for himself.” (If I mistake the Protestant rule, I request you to correct me.) I have given under ten distinct heads, the reasons, which make it manifest to my mind, that the Protestant principle, though specious in its theory, and flattering to the self-sufficiency of the human mind, is found to be a delusion in practice, and does not correspond, in a single properly, with the definition of the rule instituted by the Redeemer of men. The Protestant rule is flattering to human pride, by teaching the most unlearned individual, that God has given him a Bible and an understanding, and that, by the application of the one to the other, he cannot be deceived, since it is the Almighty himself that speaks in the
text. But who speaks in the understanding ?-By this principle, however, he is bound to frame his own creed ; and though all Christendom should agree in pronouncing his belief a heresy, he is bound to hold that all Christendom is in error, and that he alone is right, since he follows the infallible word of God, the Bible alone! This principle is the more delusive and dangerous, because it carries with it a seeming air of respect and reverence for the inspired writings ; whilst in fact there is not a text in the sacred volume, which it does not give up to be broken on the wheel of private interpretation. It entirely overlooks the distinction, that it is not the book, but the truc meaning of the book, which constitutes the word of God. It is thus, that Protestants, by following out their own rule of faith to its legitimate consequences, have walked, under the pretended guidance of the Bible alone, into the doctrines of Socinianism. This has been called "the grand heresy of the Reformation;"—but how bitterly may its professors retort on their Protestant brethren of other denominations. “ You have proclaimed,” they may say, “ that since the Reformation every man has the right to interpret the Scripture for himself, and when we exercise this right, you stigmatize us with the brand of heresy! You are truly consistent, gentlemen! You tell us to interpret the sacred record for ourselves, and when we follow your advice, we are heretics, forsooth.” Can this then, Rev. Sir, be the RULE appointed by Christ? But you will ask me, as usual, in what is the Catholic principle better? And it is but reasonable that I should endeavour to satisfy your inquiry.
Our rule of faith is laid down in the apostles' creed. “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.” This rule, you perceive, does not exclude, but comprises the belief of the Holy Scriptures.
By the Church, I understand, that visible society of Christians, composed of the people, who are taught, and the Pastors who teach, by virtue of a certain divine commission, recorded in the 28th chapter of Saint Matthew, addressed to the apostles and their legitimate successors, “ until the end of the world.” “Go ye, therefore, leach all nations : baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the worlıl.” 19, 20. By consulting the pages of the New Testament, not as an inspired book, if you choose, but as an authentic historical document, in which sense it is admitted even by Deists, I find that Jesus Christ proved the divinity of his mission and of his doctrine by evidences which it required the power of the Deity to exhibit. After having thus proved himself to be infallible, he required that men should believe his doctrines under puin of eternal ruin. “ He that believeth not shall be condemned.” Mark xvi. 16. Now, you have agreed, that the rule, by which our belief is to be guided, was appointed by Christ himself, and is therefore infallible-since it would be blasphemy to say, that Christ has appointed a principle of guidance, capable of leading astray. In my first argument against the pretension of the Proiestant rule of faith, I showed that Christ did not establish it. That he did establish the Catholic rule, is what I shall now proceed to demonstrate.
I. In the commission referred to above, all nations and all days, even to the end of the world, are included. Therefore, the fulfilment of the Saviour's injunction required that the apostles should have successors in the ministry of “ teaching ;” since the term of human life, which remained to them, bore no proportion of the extent of the “commission," which was limited only by the boundaries of the universe all nations”-and of time--- all days, even to the consummation of the world.” I defy you, Rev. Sir, to detect error, either in the premises or conclusion of this reasoning. Since, then, Christ appointed a perpetual succession of pastors in his Church, for the purpose of “ teaching all nations,” during wall days,” it is not by exercising an unfounded or arbitrary prerogative, but in simple obedience to the injunction of Jesus Christ, that Catholics hearken to the voice of the church, and the teaching of its pastors. I called on you in a former letter, to show that Christ established the Protestant rule ; and those, who never before suspected the delusion of that principle, must have been disappointed, and pained at the lame manner, in which you endeavour to escape from the difficulty. They were obliged to suppose, that the commission," instead of extending to "all nations and all times," as Christ had said, EXPIRED with the apostles ;-and to suppose that every believer had the inspired instructions of some one of the “twelve," and a copy of the Old Testament;-and to suppose that the latter, together with the last“ apostle,” (after the death of the others,) constituted what you call “ the equivalent to the Protestant rule of faith,” during the interval between the ascension of Christ and the death of St. John. And, finally, they were obliged to suppose, that from the moment of his decease, all liv. ing authority of teaching” was supplanted, by placing the Bible alone in the hands of each individual ; leaving him to infer, that the dreams of private interpretation constitute the rule of Christian belief, appointed by the Saviour himself!! And all this on your authority! -And all this, in opposition to testimony, which Protestants profess to respect. For, besides the “ commission to teach," the Son of God has declared to the same effect, “ I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you FOREVER, the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Faiher will send in my name : He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.' John xiv. 16, 26. “He, that heareth you, heareth me.” Luke x. 16. In the same manner has he pledged his veracity, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church”-that, “ He himself will abide with it FOREVER"-and St. Paul tells us, that “faith comes by HEARING, and hearing by the word of God”—and that Christ has “ given some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.” Eph. iv. 11. The same apostle elsewhere says of the church, that it is “ the pillar and ground of truth.” Will you, then, Rev. Sir, impugn the veracity of the Saviour, by asserting, that when, in these texts, he said " forever,” he meant only " till the death of the last apostle ?" If you say so, the Universalist will come
prehend the value of the admission; and he will borrow your key to explain everlasting punishment.
The question is not now, Rev. Sir, whether it is to the pastors of the Roman Catholic church, or to those of the Protestant churches, that belongs the inheritance of this divine commission and of these immortal promises. The question is not now, what are the marks of the true church ;-but the question is the true rule of faith. The texts of Scripture adduced above, prove that the Catholic principle has the first property of the true rule ; viz. “it was established by Christ.” But this is not all. To prove that, in the primitive church, these texts were understood in the sense in which I have used them, I will take the liberty of quoting briefly the testimony of two credible witnesses. St. Irenæus, the disciple of St. Polycarp, says: “supposing the apostles had not left us the Scriptures, ought we not, still to have followed the ordinance of tradition, which they consigned to those to whom they committed the churches ? It is this ordinance of traditions, which many nations of barbarians, believing in Christ, follow, without the use of letters or ink.” Iren. adv. hæres. L. iv. Č. 64. Tertullian, who lived two hundred years after Christ, says in his book of Prescription, pp. 36, 37: “ that doctrine is evidently true, which was first delivered ;--on the contrary, that is false, which is of a later date. This maxim stands immoveable against the attempts of all late heresies. Let such, then, produce the origin of their churches : let them show the succession of their bishops from the apostles or their disciples. If you live near Italy, you see before your eyes the Roman church. Happy church ! to which the apostles left the inheritance of doctrines with their blood! Where Peter was crucified, like his master; where Paul was beheaded, like the Baptist. If this be so, it is plain, as we have said, that heretics are not to be allowed to appeal to the Scripture, since they have no claim to it.” Similar to this is the testimony of St. Vincent, of Lerius, in the fifth century. “It never was,” says he, “or is, or will be lawful for Catholic Christians to teach any doctrine, except that which they once received : and it ever was, and is, and will be their duty, to condemn those who do so. Do the heretics, then, appeal to the Scriptures ? Certainly they do, and this with the utmost confidence. You will see them running hastily through the different books of Holy Writ, those of Moses, Kings, the Psalms, the Gospels, &c. At home and abroad, in their discourses and in their writings, they hardly produce a sentence, which is not crowded with the words of Scripture.--Let us remember, however, that Satan transformed himself into an angel of light. If he could turn the Scriptures (referring to St. Matt. iv. 6.) against the Lord of Majesty, what use may he not make of them, against us poor mortals.-Finally," he continues, " the divine text is to be interpreted according to the tradition of the Catholic church.” Now, let me inform you, that the word “tradition," in all these passages, means simply, the doctrines transmitted from the apostles, in the ministry of teaching by the Pastors of the church.
The next evidence I shall produce in support of the Catholic rule of faith, and against the Protestant principle, is derived from a source,