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it so explain one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so, beside the same, ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation.'
"Scripture, then, being our first witness as to the faith of the Gospel, we may next appeal to primitive antiquity, either for information in regard to things indifferent, or illustration of things not clearly revealed. We must suffer the Saints of the first ages to declare ‘what form of doctrine had been delivered unto them;' what was generally believed and practised in their day; and the natural presumption will be, that this belief and this practice were derived from the Apostles. Their testimony to facts we deem it reasonable to receive; their opinions we would test with caution. The first rests upon the basis of their unimpeached honesty, and actual observation, and, consequently, may not be consistently rejected; the latter may be erroneous, for they themselves were not infallible. Thus then, brethren, would we arrive at a knowledge of the faith of the Gospel, by a reference to Scripture as the standard of doctrine; to primitive antiquity as a model of practice. With us, the Bible is authoritative; and other evidence admitted is but collateral or confirmatory. This, brethren, is the ground assumed by the Church of which we are members, and it is precisely that high and vantage ground, on which she can be safe from the assumptions of Papal power on the one hand, and the fury of untempered innovation on the other. Let then, the Church be the witness and keeper of Holy Writ; for so hath God ordained. Let her have authority to judge and determine in controversies of faith; not that absolute authority which is predicated on the claim of infallibility, not that authority which would fetter the minds and consciences of her members; yea, fetter the word of God; but that authority, which, resting upon the possession of concentrated wisdom and piety, and upon the peculiar benediction of her Divine founder and head, is all that she arrogates to herself, inducing her not ‘to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either less or more.' Give to her less than this, and you make her a mere nullity; give to her more than this, and you then make the Bible the mere creature of her will: you magnify the ark itself above the law and the testimony, which it only enshrines. Scripture, then, in connection with the testimony of the first ages, having guided us, to what we, as a body, deem the faith of the Gospel, the faith, as it once was delivered to the Saints,' the question next occurs, whether we are to strive for this very faith, and it only, in opposition to any other modifications of it? In other words, whether the obligation we are under, to contend for the faith of the Gospel, generally, should constrain us to contend particularly, also, for each one of its doctrines ? Unhesitatingly we answer, that it should. And for this reply, we urge the plainest considerations of necessity and duty.
“Proceeding on the principle, that it is commendable to strive for the Gospel as a whole, but to be indifferent to its specific doctrines; and it is no improbable supposition, brethren, considering the proneness of man to novelty, that if we strove at all, it would be for something in which there was not one feature of the original Gospel left. If you strive not for the integrity of the parts, what, my brethern, is to become of the whole? Let each attack that doctrine or duty which is exceptionable in his eyes; and what part of the body of doctrine will not be wounded ? Let one level the doctrine of the Saviour's Deity; another, that of his atonement; another, that of the influence of the Spirit; another, that of our present depravity; another, the justice and impartiality of God; another, the fact that the Church is a divinely constituted body, the ministry and ordinances of which owe their efficiency solely to the appointment of Christ. Stand by, calm spectators, while different enemies thus take fortress after fortress, suspending your efforts because in each case it is only a part and not the whole of the Gospel that is assailed; and assuredly, brethren, your spiritual weapons will not be brought into exercise, until there is nothing left for them to protect, or defend. No, brethren, it becomes us not thus to act. All doctrines or duties may not possess precisely the same importance, but it is dangerous to prefer one thing to another; to dwell upon the distinction between greater and minor points in Christianity. All its truths are sacred. Each one of them is worthy of notice and of maintenance. For each one of them are we bound to strive. The popular voice may condemn all attachment to the peculiarities of system; but, he, who, unconvinced would sacrifice at the shrine of popularity, one doctrine, or one view of doctrine honestly held, might well be expected to sacrifice more, if not all, at the same shrine. If he is not faithful 'over few things,' how shall he be faithful over 'many things?' My brethren, if we would not go all lengths in seeming liberality, until it terminates in indifference, or absolute infidelity, we must firmly maintain even the smallest known truth; we must strive for every ‘jot and tittle' of the Gospel.”
In the first part of this, Reverend Sir, I understand you to mean that they who believe generally in the truth of the Christian Revelation, but differ from each other as to what are many of the peculiar doctrines of that revelation, ought each to contend in his own way, that God revealed the Christian system; that when they meet, they will have to settle
between themselves much of what that system is because, in truth, their differences are very numerous. Next, however, you inform us, that they all agree that whatever the system may be, it is to be found in the Bible: but when asked what doctrine the Bible contains, again they unfortunately have a conflict of opinions. You next approach to a solution of the difficulty, by saying, that the Bible must be interpreted by enlightened reason, and you complain of the evils which have been caused by neglecting this mode of interpretation; but you avow that under no circumstances could it be expected that all persons should agree as to what are all the peculiar doctrines contained in this book; and you say that as Popery teaches, that by receiving the authorized interpretation of the Bible from the Church, there would be an end to this conflict of opinions respecting the peculiar doctrine which God has revealed; we must never be driven back to this main error. the 20th Article of your Church protests against this main error of Popery. That is, Reverend Sir, you say it is a main error, to assert “that the Church is the authorized interpreter of the Scriptures”-and that your article protests against the same. I would feel happy, for many reasons, at your avowing that your last assertion was hasty and inconsiderate, because obviously, the article as quoted by you does not protest against, nor in any way contradict, the error as described by you; and it should be very well to allow it to be supposed that you did not know the force of your own articles, though you might be excused from knowing the meaning of mine.
Scripture, (which even with the aid of enlightened reason you said was insufficient to give full information as to the peculiar doctrines which God had revealed,) being the first witness, we may now, you say, appeal to primitive antiquity, to be informed concerning indifferent things—and to have illustration of what was not clearly revealed. The Saints are competent to inform us what doctrine they received and knew to exist. You distinguish between their testimony of facts, which you deem it reasonable to receive, and their opinions, which you test cautiously. The Bible is authority—other evidence is only collateral or confirmatory.
The Church is the witness and keeper of the Scripture, having authority to judge and determine in controversies of faith; but not authority founded upon infallibility-not authority to fetter minds and consciences. The authority which it has is authority to give the word of God and not to give more, nor to give less.
We are bound to keep all the doctrines of God, for all truths are sacred—it is dangerous to make distinctions between greater and minor points of Christianity-we are bound to strive for them all—we must firmly maintain the smallest known truth-we must strive for every jot and tittle of the Gospel.
Such, Reverend Sir, are your assertions. I have been tedious, but it was necessary. The more I reflect upon your mass of contradictions, the more I am at a loss to know what could have led you unnecessarily in the maze of your perplexity to lay so lustily upon Popery, unless it was yielding to a disposition which is very common, when we find ourselves disappointed, [under the influence of which] we feel an inclination to quarrel with those who have been more fortunate than ourselves. Perhaps, Sir, you do not yet believe that you have been palpably contradicting yourself. I shall, in my next, aid you to see it very clearly.
Yours, and so forth,
A ROMAN CATHOLIC.
CHARLESTON, S. C., July 31, 1826. To the Rev. Hugh Smith, A.M.
Rev. Şir,—The System of Christianity is nothing but the collection of the doctrines which Christ has taught to man; this collection of doctrines is the object of man's belief; the foundations of that belief are the truth and authority of Christ. Knowing that he can neither be himself deceived, nor deceive those to whom he speaks, man is perfectly certain that whatsoever Christ has declared must be infallibly and unchangeably true; there can be no possibility of error, and time cannot change the essence of truth. Knowing that Christ has authority to require his belief of what is in itself true, and has been proposed by the Creator to the creature for his belief, man feels that it is his duty to receive this truth so made manifest, or revealed to him. This dutiful belief is faith. Faith, then, is not founded upon the mere discoveries of unaided reason, but upon the authoritative declarations of God. But faith cannot contradict reason: for God, who is the source of truth, cannot contradict by revelation what he teaches us by our reason,
-the usual aid which he has bestowed on us for the discovery of truth. We, however, know by daily experience that our reason is very imperfect; and it is a self-evident maxim, that God's reason is perfect: hence, when man has the testimony of the perfect reason of God on one side, and the imperfection of his own opinions on the other side, the plain dictate of wisdom teaches him which deserves the preference.
The perfect reason of God, to which man's opinion should yield, can and does reach to the knowledge of many plain but sublime truths, to which our imperfect minds not only could not reach, but which to us would appear altogether impossible. You will agree with me Reverend Sir, in looking upon God's own eternity, his immensity, his simplicity, his unity, his trinity, and a variety of his attributes in this light. I will not presume to assert that your expanded mind cannot conceive them; but, I assure you, Reverend Sir, that mine does not; neither have I ever yet had the good fortune to meet with any person who admitted that he could comprehend any one of them, much less the whole; nor is the Unitarian one whit more fortunate in this respect than I am; for, if he can understand the nature of the eternal and self-existent Being in whom he believes, he certainly is more highly gifted than is your correspondent. Nor is the mathematician exempt from the difficulty, for it meets him in a thousand shapes, and in a multitude of cases. I shall instance only one amongst the most obvious. He believes that two lines can be continued to infinity, that those lines are perpetually approximating, and that, continued to eternity in this approximation, they will never meet; this he demonstrates most clearly, fully, and satisfactorily. Still, Reverend Sir, how many persons would exclaim that it is the assertion of a palpable absurdity.
I suppose, then, that we are agreed upon the admission, that the reason of Christ is perfect, and that of man imperfect; that, in consequence, since Christ has authority to teach, it is man's duty to believe his revelation; though the truth which he teaches not only surpasses man's reason, but even frequently appears to imperfect human beings to be an impossibility, perhaps an absurdity. Thus, you will, I trust, agree in my conclusion, that, when man knows that Christ teaches, it is his duty to believe the doctrine, without waiting to examine whether what the Saviour has so taught, will be approved of by man's own reason; because, if man was free to reject the doctrine, unless it was sanctioned by his own reason, the office of Christ would not be that of a teacher, but of a propounder; and man would be placed over Christ, as the judge who was to decide whether what the Saviour propounded, was true; so that man would, in fact, believe doctrines solely upon the authority of his own reason, and not upon the authority of his revealing teacher; and, in this case, it would be an absurdity for man to believe any mystery. In this case, there could be no fault.
Faith is, then, the belief upon the authority of God, of what reason cannot by its own force discover. Christian faith, or the faith of the Gospel, is the belief upon the authority of Chirst, of all that he has revealed. You, Reverend Sir, very properly reject upon this principle,