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DISCUSSION AT DOWNSIDE.
First Day.-Wednesday, Feb. 26, 1834.
THE RULE OF FAITH.
Edwin T. CAULFEILD, Esq. of Bath, on taking the Chair, said, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have but few or rather no preliminary observations to make, in consequence of a paper which has been put into my hands. Usually the office which I am called upon to undertake, devolves on those whose services and ability do honour to the office ; on the present occasion I feel it is an office that confers honour on the individual who holds it. If I obtain your approbation, support, and indulgence, I have no doubt I shall be enabled to perform the office to your.. satisfaction and my own.
I will now read the paper written by Mr. Brown and agreed to by Mr. Tottenham : it is to this effect.
“At the Old Down Inn, on the 10th of January, 1834, a meeting of the Reformation Society was held, at which the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory was, by public announcement, to be compared with Scripture, intimation having been given, that any Roman Catholic Priest, pledging himself to abide by the rules which would be read to the Meeting, should be heard in defence.
“ Towards the close of the Meeting, a friend of the Rev. Mr. Brown, of Downside College, declared that Mr. Brown was willing to discuss, upon certain conditions, any of the points of controversy between Roman Catholics and Protestants, stating, however, that he had not been authorised to make this declaration by Mr. Brown, but that he could answer for his approbation.
“In consequence, two interviews took place between the principals, in the presence of their friends, at the latter of which Mr. Brown declared his readiness to accept the general invitation.
“ Accordingly a PUBLIC DISCUSSION was agreed to upon the following conditions :
“1st. That the audience shall be admitted by tickets, to be disposed of equally by each party.
“2nd. That no public indication of approbation or disapprobation be given by any one present.
“ 3rd. That the discussion commence each day at 11 A. M. and that no speaker address the Meeting for more than three quarters of an hour at one time.
"N. B. To this rule it was afterwards added, by mutual agreement, that the opening speaker on each subject might be allowed to take a full hour if he pleased.
* 4th. That the Meeting close on each day, after both sides shall have had an opportunity of addressing the Meeting three times.
“5th. That one subject only be discussed on each side.
“6th. That the subjects of discussion be, the “Rule of Faith," and the “SACRIFICE of the Mass :" - The Rule of Faith to be discussed first, and the discussion to be opened by the Rev. MR. TOTTENHAM—the discussion on the Sacrifice of the Mass to be opened by the Rev. Mr. BROWN.”
“Jan. 14, 1834." It is now my duty to call on the Rev. E. Tottenham.
THE REV. E. TOTTENHAM. Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,-There is a saying of the Apostle Peter, which I desire to place in the forefront of the proceedings of this discussion; and it is this :—“Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and with fear.” 1 Peter iii. 15. And whilst I hold, Sir, controversy to be, at certain times and seasons, a Christian duty, I trust I may ever maintain that that duty ought to be conducted “in meekness and in fear;" and I pray God that the proceedings, which may take place within these walls for several days, may be carried on in the spirit of kindness and of mutual charity.
For myself, Sir, I hope I may say that I do not enter upon this discussion trusting in my own sufficiency, but in the strength of that God who has promised to be with his
people in the hour of trial; and it is to me a matter of no small consolation to reflect, that “the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong;” and that God sometimes chooses “ the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty.”
I have only one word more of a preliminary nature to offer, and that concerns our friends who have assembled to hear this discussion. My dear friends, let me entreat of you, in affection and in earnestness, that you would, on this important occasion, divest yourselves, as much as possible, of every thing that savours of prejudice; and that, believing we are going to discuss subjects of vital and eternal consequence, you would come to the consideration of them in that state of mind which their supreme importance demands.
The subject, Sir, which we are met to discuss on this, and the two following days, is one which lies at the foundation of the whole controversy ; and it is one, therefore, on which we ought to possess true and accurate ideas, is the 66
RULE OF FAITH,” or, in other words, the standard by which we are to regulate our belief.
Now, before proceeding to the investigation of the subject itself, I shall, for our better understanding of the terms of it, take advantage of the clearness and perspicuity which I think has been displayed by Archbishop Tillotson in his definitions on this subject.
"A rule,” says he, “ (when we speak of a rule of faith) is a metaphorical word, which, in its first and proper sense, being applied to material and sensible things, is the measure according to which we judge of the straightness and crookedness of things; and from hence it is transferred by analogy to things moral or intellectual. A moral rule is the measure according to which we judge whether a thing be good or evil; and this kind of rule is that which is commonly called a law, and the agreement or disagreement of our actions to this rule is, suitably to the metaphor, called rectitude or obliquity. An intellectual rule is the measure according to wbich we judge whether a thing be true or false ; and this is either general or more particular. Common notions, and the acknowledged principles of reason, are that general rule, according to which we judge whether a thing be true or false. The particular principles of every science are the more particular rules according to which we judge whether things in that science be true or false. So that the general notion of a rule is, that it is a measure, by the agreement or disagreement to which we judge of all things of that kind to which it belongs.”
And arguing upon this principle, in reference to the faith of a Christian, the Archbishop says in conclusion:
"A rule of faith is the measure, according to which we judge what matters we are to assent to, as revealed to us by God, and what not.
And more particularly, the rule of Christian faith is the measure, according to which we are to judge what we ought to assent to, as the doctrine sevealed by Christ to the world, and what not.”- Tillotson's Rule of Faith, Part I. Sect. 1.
Having thus given a definition of a rule generally, and of a rule of faith in particular, we come to ask the question (and, O my friends, it is an important question), WHAT IS THE RULE ? On this subject, as on many others, there is a vast difference of opinion between Protestants and Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic has a compound rule, namely, scripture and tradition, or what he calls the written and unwritten word, proposed and explained by the church. This is the definition which has been given by Dr. Milner and others; so that you will perceive that the Roman Catholic holds a two-fold rule, SCRIPTURE and Tradition--and a Judge or Interpreter to explain it. The arguments upon this subject I shall have occasion to refer to in the course of the discussion. Protestants, on the other hand, hold the BIBLE ALONE—the written word alone (to the exclusion of those books which are commonly called Apocryphal) to be the rule of faith.
Now, Sir, let me here correct a mistake into which most Roman Catholic controversialists have fallen relative to the Protestant rule of faith. They conceive it to be the Bible alone, interpreted by each man's private judgment. At the outset of this discussion, and in order to remove difficulty, I beg leave at once to protest against such a definition of our rule; or if our friends on the other side will so explain our rule, then let them remember this, that I distinctly call for documentary evidence to shew their explanation to be correct. I maintain that the Protestant rule is not the Bible alone, interpreted by each man's private judgment, but it is simply the BIBLE ALONE: and private judgment is only that which is exercised on the rule, and is no more the rule itself, than the telescope through which we look at the heavenly bodies is to be confounded with the heavenly bodies themselves. To prove that I am correct in this definition of the Protestant rule of faith, I shall refer to the standard documents of some of the Protestant Churches. The first I refer to is the 6th Article of the CHURCH of ENGLAND:
“ Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation : so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that
should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do undepstand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.”
Then it gives a list of the books, excluding the Apocrypha. So far for the judgment of the Church of England