صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Those very principles which could alone justify their conduct, would probably have been disclaimed by them with utter repugnance, had they been presented under the different modifications of which they are susceptible. No ordinary degree of moral intrepidity is requisite, to dare all the consequences of admitted truths.

The principle upon which Luther was ultimately driven to take his stand, although he was far from having, at first, any distinct perception of its general bearings,--the principle upon which alone he was able to maintain his ground, was, the sufficiency and exclusive authority of the HOLY SCRIPTURES, as the sole standard of religious truth. This cardinal article of Protestantism was his fortress; he found it impregnable; and thus intrenched, he was able to bid defiance to the leagued powers of darkness. To the authorities of popes and councils, to the dogmas of the schools, to the decisions of the beatific doctor, and to all the sophistry of the casuists, he opposed simply the Bible, that sole umpire, that only ecclesiastical authority in matters of faith. This was the weapon, "the sword of the Spirit," with which he achieved the greatest moral victory that has been won since the establishment of Christianity.

Among a large class even of Protestants,

however, this grand truth, although bearing all the marks of clearness and certainty which characterize the principles of science, is far from being recognised as entitled to an unqualified assent. Like other general truths, in the absence of those circumstances which necessitate their being resorted to as the immediate rules of action, it is admitted in speculation, and then laid by in the mind's dormitory, among the rusty weapons and obsolete armour of intellectual warfare. There seems to prevail, indeed, in many cases, a secret dread of its being brought into use, as a rule of universal application; there is, at least, a strong propensity to stop short of its full development, as if, when pushed beyond a certain extent, it became unsafe to follow it out in practice. A principle true in itself, cannot, however, lose the character of truth, in consequence of its being carried too far, unless it can be proved that in its application it involves a contradiction of some other equally certain principle, which prescribes its limitation. The sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, cannot be shewn to have the least hostile relation to any truth of equal authority; the limitations by which it has been attempted to fetter its application, rest entirely on human policy. Various methods have been adopted to deprive Protestants of the free use and full benefit of this fundamental

principle of the Reformation, among which the following are the grounds upon which its application has been most plausibly resisted.

not an au

rule.

§2. First, The sufficiency of the Scriptures Tradition has been impugned, on the ground that eccle- thoritative siastical tradition is, on certain points, a necessary guide. This is the plea of the Romanist, who contends for the equal authority of Apostolic tradition, as orally transmitted through successive ages, without interruption, by the Church of God; it being a matter of indifference, according to his argument, whether the doctrines originally given by Divine Revelation, are to be found in the written records, or have been thus delivered by word of mouth. Protestants professedly reject this notion with abhorrence, as subversive of the only solid basis of faith. It has been, indeed, the fruitful source of the grossest impositions ever practised upon the credulity of mankind. Under similar pretences, the Jewish doctors contended for the authority of the Mishna, as imbodying the oral law; making the commandments of God of no effect by their traditions: "In vain do they worship me," said our Saviour, "teach

66

[ocr errors]

ing for doctrines the commandments of men." Yet, although in contending with the Papist, a due jealousy has been manifested for the exclusive claims of the Scriptures, as the only inspired authoritative standard of faith, human au

thorities have been on other occasions appealed to, as possessing a force little short of what the Church of Rome ascribes to tradition. It is in a spirit not very different from that of Popery, that the authority of antiquity, the authority of the fathers, the authority of the Church, are called in by Protestant controvertists, in support of opinions and practices, for which the sacred volume affords no sanction. There is, indeed, an obvious sense, in which these may be regarded as authorities, but it is a sense essentially different from that in which the term is employed to express the claims of Divine Revelation. There is the authority attaching to a human record, which consists simply in the internal marks of veracity; but the authority of the Divine records partakes of the authority of a law. With regard to the one, belief is reasonable, but it is at our option to believe; with regard to the latter, there is superinduced upon the reasonableness of believing, the highest obligation to the exercise of faith. When it is asserted, that the Scriptures are the only standard in matters of religious duty, it is not implied that they are the only possible source of information with regard to such subjects as are connected with our faith or our practice, but that the Divine testimony in the Scriptures is the only basis upon which belief can, as a religious duty, rest; the only

legitimate evidence by which the truth of what is proposed to our reception as the matter of *faith, can be established. The highest degree of credibility which belongs to human records, when ascertained to be genuine, amounts only to this, that in the judgment of men of competent understandings, yet fallible in their decisions, and limited in their opportunities of knowledge, things were so; but, without any impeachment of their veracity, there is still room to consider them as mistaken. With respect to the rule of faith, the veracity of the human witness is accompanied with the infallibility of inspiration, and hence results the certainty that what is recorded as revealed, is true.

The three points usually referred to, as warranting the notion of the validity of the authority of Tradition, are, the integrity of the Canon of Scripture, the obligation of the Christian Sabbath, and the practice of Infant Baptism. Each of these, it is imagined, rests upon evidence distinct from the Scriptures; and that, therefore, the practice of every church involves a tacit admission of the necessity of some collateral or auxiliary authority, to supply the deficiencies of the inspired standard.

exception as

[1] The genuineness and integrity of the Objected New Testament records, are not, however, the to the Canon matter of faith, but a previous question deter- of Scripture.

« السابقةمتابعة »