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“ The Bible alone,” then, is, you suppose, “that 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,"' to the existence of which we have both subscribed our names.
Rev. Sir, here to remark, that whether you chose to recognise, or to deny the existence of an “ infallible rule of faith,” was to me, a matter of utter indifference. The cause of truth would have been vindicated as much by the denial, as it can be by the admission. In the former case you would have reduced the religion of Christ to a matter of opinion, and this is precisely what you do, not by admitting its existence, for in this you were right, but by restricting it as Protestants are obliged to do, to the Bible alone.
You have sufficiently defined the rule of faith by telling us that it was established by Christ, “ for the purpose of guiding us in matters of religion, and of determining disputes in his church.” Now it is altogether inconsistent with our belief of the personal character and attributes of Jesus Christ, to suppose that he would have established this “ rule of faith,” as a means, without having rendered it competent to the end for which it was established. As a rule, therefore, it must be practically as well as theoretically infallible.—Otherwise it would be incompetent to the end for which it was established, and could neither“ guide us in matters of religion, nor determine our disputes." It would be a mockery ; more worthy of the Arabian impostor, than of the Son of God. The “infallible rule of faith," then, which you have admitted in our regulations for this controversy, must be infallible not only in itself, but in its application to the purpose of its establishment, so as to give those who abide by its decision an infallible certainty that they abide in the doctrines of Christ.
Let us now examine whether the Protestant rule of faith-the Bi. ble alone-is competent by practical application, to the end for which such a guide was established by the Saviour of men. In other words, let us see whether your definition of that rule, as a Protestant, does not conflict with your admission of its existence as a Christian. I shall conduct the examination on the principles already laid down, which you are at liberty to refute if you can; but which, if you do not refute, shall be looked upon as conceded ;—for I wish you to be advised, that in the 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. And at the same time, I have to request of you, as an honourable adversary, that in attempting a refutation, you will take up my arguments in my own words and according to their context and meaning.
The question then is this: Is the Bible alone, that practical rule of faith, established by Christ, to guide us in matters of religion, and to determine disputes in his Church?
If it is not, then it will follow, that the whole Protestant system that is, the system of all who adopt the Bible alone to " guide them in matters of religion,” hinges on a principle which is vicious and defective. I will now proceed to state the reasons which should make it manifest to every unprejudiced mind, that the Bible alone, is not, and cannot be the infallible rule established by Christ for the purpose of
determining disputes in his Church. These reasons I will lay down in distinct paragraphs in order to make them convenient for the pur- 1 poses of reference, and to bring them more within the reach of refutation, number for number.
I. The Rule of Faith adopted by Protestants, is the Bible alone and that rule, you admit, was established by Christ, and infallible. The Bible includes all the books of the Old and New Testament, acknowledged by the Protestant canon of Scripture. Now if Christ established the rule of faith, it certainly was not the Bible; for it is. an historical fact, that no part of the New Testament was written for several years, and some of it, not until more than half a century after Christ's ascension into heaven. How could the Bible alone, then, be a rule of faith to those Christians who lived, and believed, and died in the first century, before the Bible was written? Had they no infallible rule of faith-for they had not the Bible ? Or did Christ establish two rules, one for them and another for us? And if he did, show us the evidence of the fact, from the Bible alone.
II. The belief that the Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith, is not only an article, but a fundamental article of Protestantism. Now as it is the peculiar boast of Protestants that they believe nothing but what is contained in the Bible, I ask you to point the chapter and verse which says, that the “ Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith established by Christ to guide us in matters of religion, and to determine disputes.” If there is no such text, then it follows that the Protestant rule is a mere gratuitous assumption, unauthorized by the very document from which they profess to derive all their doctrine. This assumption is the pedestal on which their system stands, and I ask what supports the pedestal itself? You will tell me that “ Scripture is profitable, for reproof,” &c. I admit it, but between that and its being the only rule of faith there is a wide difference. You will tell me that the Jews were recommended by our Saviour, and the Beræans by his apostle to read the Scriptures ; I admit it, but all that goes no farther than to prove that they are profitable, &c. St. Paul commends his disciple for having been acquainted with the Scripture from his childhood; I admit it, but St. Peter tells us that there are persons who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. Where then, I repeat the question, is the scriptural warrant, for making the “ Bible alone"' our rule of faith?
What do you mean by the Bible alone? Is it the Bible on the shelf of your library ? Or is it the Bible as you peruse it? The former cannot be your rule of faith, and the latter is not the Bible alone, But you and the Bible together. Do you then, Rev. Sir, look upon
yourself and the Bible together as constituting that infallible rule es? tablished by Christ?
IV. The Bible alone cannot be our rule of faith, because we are bound as Christians to believe that the Bible is an authentic and inspired book, and this I defy any one to prove from the Bible alone.
V. The Redeemer of the world never intended that the Bible alone should 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--consequently the Christians of the preceding ages
were destitute of that infallible rule which you admit was established by Christ; or if they possessed a rule at all, it certainly was not the Bible alone. Besides, consider the millions who believed in Christ and could not read, or could not possess themselves of a Bible, before printing was invented and since, were they on this accountare Protestants now who cannot read, destitute of a rule of faith?
VI. The Protestant rule of faith is not the infallible rule established by Christ-for, the object and end of that rule, was to “determine disputes in his church:” and it is an undeniable fact, that whilst this false rule has given rise to interminable controversy among the sects that have adopted it ;-since the origin of Christianity, not so much as one single " dispute” has been determined by the Bible alone!
VII. The Bible alone, or the Bible operated upon by private interpretation, has given rise to all the heresies that exist. The Socinian, the Universalist, the Swedenborgian, have as good a right to understand its meaning as you. They protest against the doctrines of the Catholic church as you do: they have the same rule of faith, the Bible alone; and is theirs the infallible guide appointed by Christ? His rule, you admit was infallible; can you say as much of theirs ? His rule was conservative of unity in his doctrine ; is yours?
VIII. Do you not admit that in holding the Presbyterian doctrine you may be in error ? If so, then you must admit the possibility of the Socinian's being right—especially as he follows the principle which you recommend to all, as the infallible rule of faith, established by Christ to guide us in matters of religion—the Bible alone. Now I ask, is it consistent for you to exclude the Socinian from the pale of Christianity, whilst you are compelled to admit by your own rule, that your belief may be false, and his
be true! I say you are compelled as a consistent Protestant, to make this admissionand I am prepared to prove it.
IX. If the Bible alone be the rule of faith, it must be the Bible according to each one's interpretation. Now, Rev. Sir, let me suppose a case to illustrate my meaning. I will imagine four Presbyterian clergymen reading the Bible--yourself being included in the number. The one becomes persuaded that Unitarianism is the doctrine of the Bible. The other that it is universal salvation ;-the third that the doctrine of Swedenborg, is the true doctrine, according to Scripture,
- I ask you whether these brethren would not be bound before God, as honest men, to quit your church and embrace respectively these different systems, which according to the Protestant rule of faith are found (relatively to them) in the Bible? I say they would—and I call on you for the proof of the contrary. But this is not all. What if a ray of divine light should break in upon your own mind—what if the scales of prejudice should fall from your eyes in the perusal of the sacred
should see, or imagine you saw, the evidence that Christ established a church to which he communicated the attribute of infallibility, and that this church can be no other than,-shall I say it?-the Roman Catholic church–I ask again, under such a persuasion would you not yourself be bound before God, to embrace the doctrines of that church-even at the risk of being called an idolator. I say you would. I mention these various operations of your rule of
faith, to show that the Redeemer never did establish—“to guide us in matters of religion and determine disputes in his church"--a principle which in application, is found to work the destruction, instead of the accomplishment of the ends for which it was instituted. For these reasons, then, I say it is impossible that the “infallible rule of faith" established by Christ should be the Bible alone. And consequently that the Protestant rule is false.
X. The doctrines of Christ were delivered to mankind, and believed as positive truths, or facts, about which there could be no ground for disputation. Now the object for which an "infallible rule of faith was established, by our Saviour, was to guard these eternal and unchangeable truths, or facts, from being confounded with, or lost in the erring speculations of men, who, he foresaw, would endeavour to supplant him, by substituting their opinions for his doctrine, and teaching error in his name. And this being the case, is it not as clear as noon-day, that the Protestant rule is not the rule established .by Christ. Why? Because instead of teaching the doctrines of Christ as positive truths, facts, it merely submits them to its votaries as opinions, held by the preacher, agreed to by those who drew up the confession of faith, and supposed to be contained in the Bible. But supposed by whom? by the members of the sect. And supposed how long ? just until a change comes over the spirit of private interpretation. Sir, the most vital tenet of Christianity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, if brought in contact with the Protestant rule of faith, will be dissolved by the very touch, into a matter of speculation and mere human opinion, whereas Jesus Christ never inculcated the belief of an opinion. Therefore, the Protestant rule of faith so far from being the fountain of infallible assurance as to what doctrines we should believe, is, on the contrary, the very parent of uncertainty, and cannot consequently be that “infallible rule established by Christ to guide us in matters of religion, and to determine disputes in his church."
I might still multiply these arguments, but it is unnecessary. The conclusions are fairly drawn, and I hold myself prepared to prove the premises and vindicate the reasoning whenever they are called in dispute. The question is not how many great and good men have been involved in the same delusion as yourself with regard to the rule of faith. The question is not how many brilliant minds have been warped, and turned aside from rectitude of judgment on the subject of religion, by adopting or inheriting from birth and education, a principle of guidance in religion, which principle, when examined, is found to be in itself repugnant to reason, unauthorized by Revelation, and in its practical consequences utterly subversive of the doctrines of Christianity, by reducing them to the uncertainty of mere opinion. But the question is, what is that infallible rule established by Christ to guide us in matters of religion, for the purpose of determining disputes in the church of Christ,”—whose existence you have recognized ?
The cause of truth requires that you should meet my arguments and refute them, article for article. What course you will adopt to accomplish this, it is difficult for me to conceive. But I am satisfied
that our readers will not be contented with that sliding system of controversial tactics by which the opponents of the true religion, are accustomed to “slur the notes” of an argument, which they cannot
One part of this system is, to draw consequences from our language which we never intended, and then refute their own deduc. tions, instead of taking up the real difficulty, and grappling with the reasons by which it is sustained. Another is, to appeal to party feelings, and touch the string of prejudice against the Catholic religion. I know that there are individuals, in every Protestant denomination, who are not to be operated on by any or all the resources of 'evasion. There are men of every denomination, who with a candid,
honest, and impartial mind, will judge our arguments according to their intrinsic evidence-I ask no more.
The importance of determining the question of the rule of faith must be manifest to all who have reflected on the subject. In controversy, it is like the standard of weights and measures used in the disposal of merchandise ; whenever the merchant uses false standards, he is certain to cheat his customers or himself. It is then, Rev. Sir, useless for you to condemn the doctrines of the Catholic church, until you shall have proved that the rule by which you judge them is the infallible rule. The doctrines of Christianity have been regarded by the Catholic church from the beginning, as fixed stars in the firmament of Revelation. She ascertained and certified their existence by the same infallible rule, (or if I be allowed to continue the figure,) the same telescope which she received from Jesus Christ himself, as the true, and only true medium of observation. By this means she knew them from the commencement, by this means she defined more clearly in her general councils, their existence, relative position, and influence, as occasion required,—and by this means also, she was enabled to detect the "new lights,” which men in every age attempted to plant in her firmament. Thus it was, that amidst the contending elements of heresy, on the right hand and on the left, she has pursued the even tenour of her way, imparting to all nations, and to all generations, as she passed, the knowledge of the doctrines which her founder, Christ, commanded her to teach and preach to every creature. Some fifteen hundred years after her establishment, a few individuals rise up in the might of private opinion, and assert that the church had fallen into error, begin to teach new doctrines, and reject others which had always been believed. This act is what is called in history by the specious name of Reformation. At first they professed their willingness to abide by the decision of the church, touching their opinions, but as soon as the church, by applying the proper medium of infallible discernment, had pronounced their opinions to be contrary to the doctrines of Christ, as soon as she had refused to raise their “new lights” to the dignity of fixed stars in the heavens of belief- from that moment, it was determined that they should declare themselves independent of the church, and that they should fabricate a “telescope" of their own. They have done so, but neither could this determine what were the fixed and immutable doctrines of Christianity. The German Reformer wished all men to see as he saw--but the medium of observation which was correct at